2018 Scholarship Application

Submit an application here!




RE: 2018 Scholarship Announcement and Application
To: All Eligible Students

The American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc. (ACBNY) is proud to
award a one thousand-dollar ($1000) scholarship to a deserving

The winner will be expected to attend the annual ACBNY State
Convention in Rochester, NY the weekend of October 5‐7, 2018.
Expenses for travel, lodging and meals will be covered by ACBNY.
To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must:
 Be legally blind in accordance with the New York State
Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) criteria see NYSCB website:
 Be enrolled and in good standing (passing grades) in college, tech
or trade school or other training program following high school
 Present three (3) letters of recommendation (cannot be a family
 Show proof of community involvement. This may be documented
via one of your recommendation letters. Said letter or document
must be clearly marked as such.
 Applications and all documentation may be submitted by web-
form, email or by regular mail in print or braille by July 1, 2018.
*ACBNY will not accept handwritten documents.

All applicants must provide:
 Name (first and last)
 Address
 City, State and Postal Code
 Phone number
 Email address
 Date of Birth
 Best way to contact you
 Visual Status

Applicants must write a standard format essay of no more than one
thousand (1000) words encompassing two (2) of the following three (3)
1. Why did you choose your major or program of study? What future
goals do you have and how do you plan to accomplish these
2. Explain what methods you use for doing class work (reading and
writing assignments, taking notes, etc.) and why you use the
methods you do.
3. What does advocacy mean to you?
 ACBNY will not accept handwritten documents.
 ACBNY reserves the right to publish, post and / or share the
submitted essay in whole or in part.
All applicants should be aware that the top three (3) submissions will be
followed with a telephone interview by three (3) scholarship committee

Application Submission
Applications can be mailed, United States Postal Service (USPS),
e‐mailed to scholarship@acbny.info or submitted on the ACBNY
website form.

The mailing address for USPS submissions is:
Karen Blachowicz
29 Meridian St
Depew NY 14043.

All applications must be received by or postmarked no later than July 1,

If you have any questions or comments regarding the ACBNY
Scholarship application or submission process, please contact the
scholarship committee chairpersons, Karen Blachowicz at 716-510- 4560
or Mike Godino at 516-612- 3368 or by e-mail at
Thank you for your interest in the American Council of the Blind of New
York (ACBNY); we look forward to reviewing your application and
reading your essay.

Good luck,
Karen Blachowicz, Mike Godino
ACBNY Scholarship Committee Co-Chairs

Legislative Weekend 2018

Register here with Paypal!

Register here with Check!




March 5, 2018
Re: Legislative Weekend

Dear ACBNY Members and Friends:
It’s once again time to get registered for the annual ACBNY Legislative Weekend.
You are all invited to join us at the Albany Ramada Plaza, 3 Watervliet Ave. Ext.
Albany, NY, 12206, 518-438- 8431. The dates for this event are April 28, 29 and
30, 2018. Please join us and register today!

The annual Legislative Weekend will again be at the Albany Ramada Plaza. The
Agenda is:
 Saturday April 28, 2pm board meeting. Dinner will follow on your own.
 Sunday April 29, 9am training on the issues, organized group lunch,
followed by afternoon speakers on various topics. Dinner is again on your
 Monday April 30, 8am transport to the Legislative Office Building.

As in the past, the hotel offers a free shuttle service from the Albany Airport and
Amtrak station; please call the hotel when you arrive. There is a free full
breakfast with each night’s stay at the hotel. The room rate is $84 per night
payable to ACBNY when you register. The Sunday lunch is $22, the choices are:
Monty Crisco, Turkey BLT, Tuna Croissant, Chicken Caesar Salad, Grilled Veggie
Wrap. All lunches come with vegetable soup, Saratoga chips and dessert. Please
register and make your lunch selection today.

You can register online here by Paypal, or here by check, you can email a completed registration form to mikeg125@optonline.net, make your check payable to ACBNY and send it to Mike Godino c/o ACBNY, 104 Tilrose Ave. Malverne, NY 11565-2024. Click here for the registration form. Please get your registration in as soon as possible to ensure your place on the roster of attendees.

The ACBNY Board and Legislative Co-Chairs look forward to seeing you in Albany. Finally, the ACBNY Scholarship Chair, Karen Blachowicz, reminds all chapters to prepare and send baskets to be awarded in a drawing on Sunday of the Legislative Weekend. Thank you.

Thanks again,
Ian Foley and Mike Godino
ACBNY Legislative Co-Chairs

The M.J. Schmitt First-timer’s Award

The MJ Schmitt First Timers Award was created in March of 2008 to honor one of the founding members of the American Council of the Blind for her grass roots advocacy, lifetime commitment and inspirational leadership. MJ Schmitt, originally from Rochester, New York, has dedicated a lifetime of work toward improving the lives of blind and visually impaired Americans. For over forty years, MJ Schmitt has held numerous board positions and served on various ACB committees on a state and national level.

The purpose of this award is to enable members from across New York State to attend the annual ACBNY legislative seminar or state convention for the first time. The intent of this award is to provide members with an opportunity to gain the knowledge and inspiration to continue the work of the organization demonstrated by the ACBNY leadership.


Application criteria and guidelines



  • Applicants must not have previously attended the ACBNY annual Legislative Seminar or ACBNY State Convention, depending upon which award is sought, in any capacity.
  • Applicants must be a blind, vision impaired or deaf-blind member of an affiliate of ACBNY or a member at large for at least six months.
  • Applicants must be a New York state resident for at least six months.
  • Applicants must have a strong interest in advocacy and becoming a more involved, active member of the ACBNY state affiliate and local chapter or community. The applicant’s desire and explanation of this criteria will be highly considered for the award.


Applicants must submit a letter of interest, no less than 2 pages and no more than 5 pages, including:

  • Name, address, phone number and email address (if available)
  • A short autobiography including life experience with blindness, hobbies, school and/or work. Include involvement with ACBNY activities on a state or local level.
  • The reason for applying for the ACBNY M.J. Schmitt First-timer’s award for the Legislative Seminar or State Convention and expectations of the event in question.


Applicants must obtain a letter of recommendation based on membership status:

Affiliated members must obtain a letter of recommendation from their local affiliate President.

At-large members must contact the ACBNY delegate at-large and obtain a letter of recommendation from one of the following:

    • CBVH counselor
    • Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (VRT) or Orientation & Mobility Instructor (O&M)
    • Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI) or Itinerant Teacher
    • High School teacher or College Professor
    • Community leader
    • Boss or supervisor
    • friend or ACBNY member


ACBNY Legislative SeminarApplications will be accepted until February 1 of the year in which the seminar is held. ACBNY State Convention applications will be accepted until July 1 of the year in which the convention is held.

Application material will only be accepted in electronic format via email. If the applicant is unable, then another person is permitted to submit on the applicant’s behalf.

In the Subject line of email submissions, write the following: ACBNY MJ Schmitt First Timers Award application

Attach letter of interest and letter of recommendation and email to the ACBNY Awards Committee Chairperson, whose email address is: awards@acbny.org.


All awardees will be assigned a mentor to provide guidance and support before, during and after the ACBNY Legislative Seminar or State Convention. The mentor will contact the awardee within one week of award notification.


      • Maintain ongoing communication with mentor prior, during and after the event.
      • Obtain ACBNY Legislative Seminar or State Convention information and preregistration instructions.
      • Obtain, read and understand the Legislative Agenda or State Convention Program and any informational documentation provided before the event (to the best of the awardees’ ability).
      • Obtain, read and understand meeting Minutes from the immediate past ACBNY Board meeting.
      • Obtain, read and understand the ACBNY Board meeting agenda.
      • Plan to attend the ACBNY Legislative Committee meeting (at legislative seminars) and contact its chairperson about time and place of the meeting prior to the event.
      • Inquire about any expenses that are not included in the award. Plan to bring extra spending money.


        • Travel to the event and transportation reservations are the responsibility of the awardee
        • Awardees will not be reimbursed for door to door car service, or for trips otherwise accessible via public transportation

      li>Receipts must be submitted for transportation reimbursement within 1 week of the close of the event


      • Awardees are responsible for completing preregistration.
      • Complete the pre-regisration form including all meals and hotel room. Expect a roommate to be assigned whose name will be provided prior to the event.
      • Include the total cost and note MJ Schmitt First Timer’s Awardee. Do not pay.
      • Check in at the ACBNY registration table upon arrival to the hotel.

Expectations OF AWARDEE

      • Arrive to the hotel by 12pm of the first day of the event, check in and register.
      • Meet with mentor as previously planned.
      • Attend all scheduled meetings, training and activities.
      • Attend the ACBNY Legislative Committee meeting (at Legislative Seminars).
      • Attend the ACBNY banquet and accept the award certificate during a brief introduction.
      • Participate in all seminar advocacy activities, which may or may not include visits to legislators at the Legislative Office Building (at Legislative Seminars).
      • Write an article for Insight, the ACBNY newsletter about the Legislative Seminar or ACBNY State Convention experience as the awardee. Submit within one month of the event’s conclusion.
      • Continue advocacy efforts with local affiliate/community including visits to local legislators.


      • This award includes registration fees, hotel sleeping rooms, meals and travel to and from the event, excluding noted restrictions
      • Meal expenses are eligible for reimbursement
      • Total expenses that exceed $500.00 are the awardees’ responsibility
      • This award does not include expenses for alcoholic beverages, spa treatments, room service, or any extra amenities in the hotel or outside of the hotel.
      • Receipts must be submitted for transportation and meal reimbursement within 1 week of the close of the event
      • Awardees unable to fulfill the above award obligations, or who leave the event early for any reason are not guaranteed reimbursement. Each situation will be considered on an individual basis.
      • Preregistration is not permitted until a signed agreement is received.

The MJ Schmitt First Timer’s Award Committee
American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc.

The Paul J. Sauerland Braille Literacy Award

Guidelines and Procedures

The Paul J. Sauerland Braille Literacy Award is a memorial honor bestowed annually upon a member of ACBNY or a person of national prominence who is a Braille student or a student training to become a professional braille instructor or a professional residing or working in New York State whose career or volunteer endeavors has significantly promoted the cause of braille literacy amongst the public or within the educational or blindness rehabilitation systems. The recipient of this prestigious award has learned Braille or improved the lives of persons who are blind or visually impaired within New York State or nationally through effort or example by encouraging non-braille-readers to learn and use braille, or through administration of or direct instruction in the skills of reading and/or writing braille, or through transcription of braille reading material or through the development of the braille code itself or of technology used to read, write, transcribe, produce or distribute Braille, or is actively enrolled in an educational program which will lead to becoming a professional who will provide Braille instruction.

Nominations of candidates for the Paul J. Sauerland Braille Literacy Award may be made by ACBNY members in good standing, members of the committee administering the award, administrators or professionals in the field of education or rehabilitation, parents or guardians of students who are learning braille, or recent students of braille instruction professionals. Nominations will not be accepted from parents or students for their current braille teachers, nor from braille teachers for their current students. Parents and students are encouraged to nominate their former braille teachers and vice versa. This award is a once-in-a-lifetime honor. It may be awarded post-humously. Nominees may be submitted for consideration more than once, but only one time per annual award cycle per nominator. Nominators may make more than one nomination. Multiple nominations for the same nominee are acceptable from multiple nominators during a single award cycle, but will not improve the nominee’s likelihood to receive the award. Nominees for the Paul J. Sauerland Braille Literacy Award will be considered by the members of the ACBNY committee charged with its administration, who will select no more than one student nominee and/or no more than one professional nominee annually to receive the award. All decisions of the committee are final. The award will be presented to its honoree(s) at the ACBNY Annual Convention during the convention Banquet. Nominees who are not selected to receive the award may receive Certificates of Honorable Mention.

The Paul J. Sauerland Braille Literacy Award consists of a plaque or certificate accompanied by a braille slate and stylus and a modest honorarium to be determined by the committee charged with its administration.

Nominations for the Paul J. Sauerland Braille Literacy Award shall be submitted electronically or in writing and include the name, address and phone number and email address of the nominator, along with a description of his or her standing to make the nomination, i.e. ACBNY member or braille instructor or education /rehabilitation professional/administrator and his or her relationship to the nominee, i.e. former student, administrator, parent or guardian. Each nomination shall also include the name, address, telephone number and email address of the nominee, along with his or her title and the name of the organization under whose auspices he or she has advanced the cause of braille literacy as a professional or volunteer, or the age of the student nominee and the name of the school or agency or college which he or she attends or has recently graduated. Each nomination shall furthermore contain a description of not less than the length of one nor more than five standard typewritten pages detailing the nominee’s achievements in learning to read and write Braille or learning how to teach others to read and write Braille or his or her career or volunteer efforts and contribution to furthering the cause of braille literacy. This is the most important element of the nomination. Braille or electronic submissions via email are welcome and should be sent to the awards committee chair or the ACBNY Secretary. Nominations must be received by the awards committee chair no later than July 1 prior to the start of the convention at which the award will be presented. All nominating materials become the property of ACBNY and will not be returned. Nominations received by the committee will be acknowledged to the nominator.

The Paul J. Sauerland Braille Literacy Award is funded by the proceeds of the Paul J. Sauerland Braille Literacy Award Endowment held by the American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc. It was established by ACBNY at its 2008 annual convention to honor the memory of our long-time member, Paul J. Sauerland, who was a lifelong champion of myriad causes promoting the health, welfare, education, vocational training, employment and rights of people who are blind or visually impaired throughout New York State and the United States. Paul was an avid and highly skilled braille reader who used braille in all aspects of his daily personal and professional life.

This award is intended to promote braille literacy through public awareness of braille and the chain of professionals and volunteers involved in its instruction, production, and distribution and most importantly, use. It is furthermore intended to encourage the mastery of braille by students and a high quality of braille instruction through recognition of braille students and their instructors.

2016 Scholarship Announcement and Application








RE: 2016 Scholarship Announcement and Application

To: All Eligible Students


The American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc. (ACBNY) is proud to award a five hundred dollar ($500) scholarship to a deserving student.  The winner will be expected to attend our annual state convention in Buffalo, New York, the weekend of October 23-25, 2016. Expenses for travel, lodging and meals will be covered by ACBNY.


To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must:

ü  Be legally blind in accordance with the NYSCB criteria (see NYSCB website);

ü  Be enrolled and in good standing (passing grades) in college, tech or trade school or other training program following high school graduation;

ü  Present three (3) letters of recommendation (cannot be a family member); and

ü  Show proof of community involvement. You can use the same letter or documentation for your proof and a letter of recommendation. Said letter or document must be clearly marked as such.

ü  Applications and all documentation may be submitted by email or by regular mail in braille or large print by September 1, 2016.



All applicants must provide:

Ø  Name (first and last)

Ø  Address

Ø  City, State and Postal Code

Ø  Phone number

Ø  Email address

Ø  Date of Birth

Ø  Best way to contact you

Visual Status.


Applicants must write an essay of no more than one thousand (1000) words covering the following three topics:

  1. Why did you choose your major or program?  What future goals do you have, and why and how do you feel they are realistic?
  2. What does advocacy mean to you?
  3. Explain what methods you use for doing class work (reading and writing assignments, taking notes, etc.) and why you use the methods you do.


All applicants should be aware that the top three submissions will be followed with a telephone interview by three (3) scholarship committee members.

Applications must be e-mailed to the scholarship committee chairperson, Karen Blachowicz by September 1, 2016 at:


or mailed (postmarked no later than Sept. 1 2016) to:

Karen Blachowicz                                                                                                                              29 Meridian St                                                                                                                                        Depew NY 14043.


If you have any questions please contact Karen Blachowicz at Karenabc1970@live.com or 716-681-2730.

Insight Winter 2016

Insight: The Voice of

The American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc.

Winter 2016


President, Lori Scharff

E-mail: lorischarff@gmail.com



Editor: Annie Chiappetta

E-mail: ann.m.chiappetta@gmail.com


The American Council of the Blind of New York is the largest consumer advocacy and support organization of blind and visually impaired people in the state. Your financial contributions help ACBNY’s work to promote the educational, vocational and social advancement of blind and visually impaired people in New York. Send your tax-deductible donations to ACBNY, 104 Tilrose Ave., Malverne, NY 11565.


If you’d like to renew your membership or become a member, you can fill out our online membership form at www.acbny.org, or call 800-522-3303.


Insight is available through e-mail or via the ACBNY website at www.acbny.org.  If you wish to change your subscription, please let the Newsletter Editor know by sending an e-mail to ann.m.chiappetta@gmail.com or call 800-522-3303.


Follow ACB of New York on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ACBNewYork.

Follow our Twitter feed at http://www.twitter.com/acb_ny



President’s Message – Lori Scharff

Editor’s Message – Annie Chiappetta

Getting to Know You – Featuring Karen Blachowicz and Kathy Casey

Post State Convention Highlights – Kathy Lyons

The Work of the ACBNY Legislative Committee – Mike Godino

News from the National Library of Congress: Bookshare

On Veterans Day: The Hadley Institute for the Blind

Chapter Round Up

Potpourri (New) Cookies and Reindeer


Press Release for Ann Chiappetta’ new poetry collection

A Fond Farewell from Father John Sheehan



Officers and Chapter Representatives



President’s Message by Lori Scharff lorischarff@gmail.com

Greetings from The President

By Lori Scharff


I want to thank the Western New York chapter for putting together a fantastic convention. When we hold conventions above Albany, our numbers tend to be much lower for vendors and also for attendees. We had over 20 tables in the exhibit hall, and around 60 people in attendance.


ACBNY was able to present our first scholarship to a well deserving student. Our first scholarship recipient is Christopher Kchao, who attends Nassau Community College while also working part-time. Chris has been a member of ACBNY since 2013. While membership is certainly not a requirement, it is always nice to award a scholarship to a member who understands the mission of ACBNY.


I would like to thank the membership for believing in me and re-electing me for another term of office as president of ACBNY. It is an honor to serve as your president and as I told someone during convention, I am one of you so just call me Lori.


I want to thank the outgoing officers of the executive board for their ongoing support and dedication to ACBNY, Kathy Casey and Meghan Schoeffling (now Parker since her marriage in early October). Kathy and Meghan were a huge help during my first year as president. Both of them helped me immensely to make sure ACBNY continued to function while I was taking care of Evelyn Larson. This dedication and support continues during their service today.

I also would like to welcome onto the executive board Michael Golfo, First Vice President and Karen Blachowicz, Second Vice President. Bob White will continue to serve as Treasurer, and Nancy Murray will be continuing on as Secretary.


Chapters need to submit the person who will be their director, including the person’s contact information in to Nancy Murray by December 15. Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality documents need to be back to Nancy Murray by December 31.


At my writing of this message, a site has not been selected yet for the ACBNY 2017 state convention. But, the ACBNY board will be meeting on November 20th to choose a site from among the bids that were submitted.


Along the lines of conventions, the American Council of the Blind National Conference and Convention will be held here in Rochester, NY in 2019. The whole state will be working hard to ensure New York can be a most welcoming place to blind and visually impaired people from across the country and around the world.

In closing, I want to wish everyone a joyous Thanksgiving and a happy and healthy holiday season.


Lori Scharff

President ACBNY



Editor’s Message by Annie Chiappetta

Hello and Happy Holidays.

2016 is coming to an end and I predict 2017 will unfold into a very productive year for our affiliate. We have voted in a new team of State officers at the annual convention in Buffalo. Thank you to all the outgoing officers and directors for your time and dedication to our affiliate and the blindness community. I have worked with some of you and wish you all the best. We are also saying so long to one of our best and most compassionate members and contributors, Father John Sheehan, who will be stepping down as the Executive Director of the Xavier Society for the Blind and moving to Jordan. Father John, I hope we will be hearing from you occasionally and I wish you all the best.


While chatting with the other members at the State Convention I was pleased to hear many chapters are increasing membership. Our Western New York chapter did a fabulous job hosting the convention and the hotel staff were most helpful. It was great connecting and trading information and strategies pertaining to making our chapters stronger, which in turn, assists the State to become stronger, too.


We are still looking for contributions for the newsletter and the deadlines are June 1 and November 1. I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you, so please let me know if you would like to submit something or help with the newsletter.


Your Editor,


Annie ann.m.chiappetta@gmail.com



Getting to Know You

Beginning in this issue, we will post short biographies of our members. Thanks to Karen for being the first person to do this.

I am Karen Blachowicz and I was currently elected to the office of second vice president of ACBNY. I am also currently the president of ACBWNY (American Council of the Blind of Western New York) and I sit on the Erie County public library outreach committee. I am a mother of 2 children, both with special needs, and currently work part time doing bookkeeping and some light accounting.


My goal and primary mission is to get the proper education for our children. Literacy seems to be the forgotten subject in schools in how our children are being taught. I will do anything to see that TVIs (Teachers of the Visually Impaired) are doing their part in teaching our children all methods of learning, including but not limited to, braille and technology. A blind child can be anything they dream of   with the proper tools and opportunity. This is why I give 100% of my effort to the ACB, ACBNY and the Western New York chapter.


From outgoing First Vice President, Kathy Casey:

It has been a pleasure being your first VP for the past five years. The time has flown. I’ve helped run State sponsored conventions, represented ACBNY in various capacities such as Legislative Disabilities Awareness Day, among others. I would strongly encourage everyone to go to a National Legislative Weekend and leadership meetings because you can learn a lot.

I have enjoyed doing these activities and will continue to do what I can to support our organization. I would encourage anyone to get involved. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn how we operate as an affiliate.


I want to thank you all for your support.



Post Convention Highlights: 2016 Convention in Review by Kathy Lyons


As you probably all know, the Western New York chapter hosted the 2016 annual convention. A leadership session led by Karen Blachowicz and Lori Scharff took place on Thursday morning. That same afternoon, 10 of us went to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery for a gourmet lunch and art tour. We even had the opportunity to make art during the last hour of the program.

In the early evening, a group descended upon The Anchor Bar for their world-famous chicken wings. Not everybody ordered wings, as the menu has many tasty items.

To finish out the evening, several committees met.


On Friday after the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) Town Hall meeting, Frank Coumarate, the Erie County Advocate for Persons with Disabilities, welcomed us to Erie County. He then read a proclamation by the County Executive proclaiming October 21 ACBNY Day in Erie County. Following his presentation, the US Army presented the colors, including the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem.


After lunch, we held the annual business meeting which included election of officers. Friday evening there was a scholarship fundraiser for both Western New York (WNY) and ACB of New York (ACBNY).


On Saturday, many activities were happening simultaneously. The exhibit hall was open until 4pm. Many enjoyed the zoo-mobile. Others attended the low vision presentation. Still others joined Guide Dog Users of the Empire State. The first half of the session was given to instruct guide dog users with canine first aid. In the second half of the session a group of students from an organization called Leggo enjoyed learning about traveling with guide dogs. There was a children’s event and a parents group during this time as well.


In the afternoon, we heard a panel discussing games and leisure events.

The second presentation featured the superintendent of the New York State School for the Blind, the Director of Rehabilitation for the Department of Defense, and the Commissioner of the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB).

The final session dealt with pedestrian safety This topic keeps being challenged by new structures, such as round-abouts, that add to the difficulty of travel.


Later in the day, Father John Sheehan said Mass for a group of 15.

Saturday’s banquet speaker was a former Executive Director of ACB, Oral Miller. The Paul Sauerland Award was given to the Braille Group of Buffalo. The WNY chapter presented a lifetime service award to Vincent Tagliorino and to Jill Pariso of the Buffalo Braille Group.

The food was wonderful and the basket raffle was a great success. The hotel staff were helpful and patient but like all good things, the convention ended and we all went home, until next year.



The Work of the ACBNY Legislative Committee

By Mike Godino


It was a thrilling election season and now it’s over, thank goodness! I was beginning to think it would never end. However, now that the elections are in the past, it’s time to look at the future. The best way to manage that future is with legislative action.


In case you did not know, the Legislative Committee co-chairs, Terence Page and Mike Godino, have been busy thinking and talking about the legislative session. If you are a policy wonk, have an interest in how and why the laws work, or just want to know more about what it means to belong to an organization that has advocacy in its mission, this committee is for you.


The core mission of the American Council of the Blind (ACB), its affiliates and all the hundreds of local chapters throughout the country is advocacy. And, we must always keep in mind, all advocacy is local. ACBNY has a legislative committee that has at least one member from each of its state chapters. The Legislative Committee pulls together an annual legislative agenda for the organization. However, the committee is only as good as the people from within the organization who are out in the community acting as representatives to and with the folks that can make a difference.


Who are those folks, you might ask. First, there is you. Without you, we are just an organization. Think about the work you do in your chapter. You meet with transportation providers. You meet with local service providers. You attend local conferences to address issues confronting people who are blind within your community.


On the state level, we all have representatives in Albany; our assembly member, our senator, and at the top, our governor. Some of you may know these people; others of you may want to get to know them. They may have important positions, but remember that they are men and women just like you.


Finally, there is that other level, the national one. There we all have a congressional representative, two national senators, and a president. Visiting and getting to know these folks is somewhat tougher, but not impossible, and can be a whole lot of fun. However, it can be somewhat costly on Capitol Hill.

Working on the state level within the legislative committee says you are interested in assuring the independence and dignity of people who are blind throughout New York State. Together we will have the opportunity to read through and discuss the bills within the State Assembly and Senate that raise concern for the community of people who are blind. The discussion usually concludes with a vote selecting the three or four main issues we hope to address within the written legislative agenda and any number of issues we might want to discuss with others or talk about at the legislative training.


After the issues have been selected and the first drafts have been written, they are edited to make sure our positions are stated clearly and concisely as the legislators often know very little about our issues and why we are supporting or opposing them.


We then hold a Legislative Weekend that includes a board meeting, training on the issues, speakers, and of course a meal where we can gather and share in each others interests and work. Tensions may be high and the nerves of the first-timers  may be on edge, but we will all come together to prepare for and do the work of advocates.


We will wake up Monday morning, dress in our best business attire, and head out to the Legislative Office Building. We will visit legislators with whom we have appointments. We will share information, brochures and legislative agendas with everyone we talk to. We attempt to educate everyone we talk with about our issues and how making the changes in the ACBNY legislative agenda will make things better for all blind people throughout New York State. Speaking with legislators and/or their aides is not difficult. We all know how to talk, and who doesn’t enjoy moving others to our side.


So, it’s time to dig in and get really involved by joining the ACBNY Legislative Committee. It’s really easy; just contact Terence Page at terencebpage@gmail.com or Mike Godino at mikeg125@optonline.net.

There is never too much representation or too much attendance at the Legislative Weekend. So, come, have fun, learn about what we do and why we do it as you represent ACBNY and your local community on a state level. Come out, be a leader and make sure your voice is heard.


I am looking forward to working with you all on the committee and seeing you all at the Legislative Weekend in the spring.

See you there.



News from the NLS: Bookshare

Free Bookshare for TBBL members

Bookshare usually charges a fee for non-students, but the New York Public Library in New York City is now making it free to all NYPL library card holders with a print disability. All New Yorkers, including members of the New York State Talking Book and Braille Library, may obtain a New York Public Library card and thus gain free access to Bookshare.


The basic procedure involves first creating an account with the New York Public Library and then receiving your library card in the mail. The wait time will be about two or three weeks. Once you receive your card in the mail, complete the Bookshare part of this two-step process (see steps 1 and 2 below)

Step 1: Obtaining your NYPL library card

Apply for your New York Public Library card. Fill out the form on



Once you apply, the system is going to assign you a temporary bar code. You will immediately receive a confirmation email with a temporary bar code.

Write the number down and call 917-229-9676 or email the temporary bar code to the following email address patronaccounts@nypl.org

NYPL will send you the library card to the home address provided.

Please wait until you have received your card in the mail before providing validating identification to the NYPL Patron Accounts Management team by e-mail at patronaccounts@nypl.org or faxing (212) 621-0278.

For Help, see http://www.nypl.org/get-help

Step 2: 

How to get your free Bookshare account if you do not already have a Bookshare account

Bookshare: bookshare.org/signUpMember  First complete the application, then choose NLS Verification for your Proof of Disability. Once someone has an NYPL card they can call 917-ask-nypl to get the promo code to include in their Bookshare application to get it free. You will enter the promo code on the Bookshare application. If you have questions about Bookshare or their sign-up form, call their help center at 650-352-0198

Learn more: bookshare.org/cms/promo/nypl

If you already have a Bookshare account, simply send an email to promo@bookshare.org with the promo code NYPL16 and Bookshare will extend your subscription for free under this new agreement with the New York Public Library.



On Veterans Day: From the Hadley Institute for the Blind:

Dear Friends,


One of the hardest things for veterans to do coming home after active duty is to reconnect with their family, friends and the community.


When Eileen Vasquez came back after six years as a nuclear mechanic on the USS Enterprise air craft carrier — connecting was especially hard — now that she was blind due to radiation exposure.


Through Hadley’s Blinded Veterans Initiative, Eileen began taking courses that helped her find new hobbies and new skills. Her first course was container gardening and she soon progressed to taking several business and entrepreneurship courses.


Today, Eileen is the owner of Locavore Thyme, which brings organic food to the marketplace through the use of sustainable agriculture systems, such as aquaponics. This year she also captured the top spot in Hadley’s New Business Venture Competition, taking home $12,500 of seed money.


Eileen commented, “Because of the education Hadley has given me, I was able to connect with others and my community. I can’t thank Hadley enough for all they’ve done for me personally, and now helping my business.”


Every day, Hadley helps veterans across the country like Eileen who are blind or visually impaired. In fact, we have assisted veterans from World War I through the post 9/11 conflicts. Since the launch of our Blinded Veterans Initiative on this day 11/11/11 — five years ago — we have had nearly 1,300 veteran enrollments.


Today we ask you to remember all those who have proudly served our country. For more information on how Hadley helps veterans, visit hadley.edu/veterans. Thank you for your past support, which helped make our work possible.




Julie Tye

Hadley President

Julie Tye Jtye@hadley.edu | Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired 700 Elm St. Winnetka, IL 60093



Chapter Round UP


News from the Capital District by Nancy Murray

Hi from the Capital District Chapter. What has this chapter been up to the last six months? Well, we had a picnic at our home in July. We have an in-ground pool,  so many enjoyed swimming and tossing a giant ball around the pool. There was plenty to eat and drink as well. We all had a great time.


In September we sponsored a Dinner in the Dark. We had Stir Fry Chicken or Vegetable Stir Fry with rice. This portion of the dinner was served in the dark.  Anyone who had vision wore a blindfold so they could experience what it is like for someone who is totally blind to eat a meal. After the main course, the lights were turned on and while eating our dessert people could share their experience.  We also raffled baskets and even had a couple of mystery baskets that people bid on. The highest bidder won the basket. There was much laughter and a good time was had by all.


News from Guide Dog Users of the Empire State

By Annie Chiappetta

The first annual Guide Dog Users of the Empire State program took place at the ACB of New York convention from October 21 to 23, 2016. It was wonderful to travel together along with our dogs during the ride to and from Buffalo on the train. The Amtrak staff are always helpful and polite.

We held a board meeting Friday morning and began selling heart-shaped lollipops. The slogan is if you love guide dogs, buy a lollipop. At this point, we’ve done very well thanks to our canine companions and public support.

Saturday, we held our first annual in person business meeting. Following the meeting, we were joined by a cadre of youngsters who asked us, as guide dog users, what did we want help with in terms of technology and way finding. These girls were all very curious and helpful and we talked for an hour, exchanging ideas and information. Following this we were joined by two veterinary technicians from the Erie County SPCA and we learned about first aid for dogs. We learned how to find the pulse and heart beat on our own dogs as well as practice on a dummy dog. We also discussed bloat and other illnesses specific to our dogs.


We are hoping to do more next year, so stay tuned.

You can check out GDUES by going to www.gdues.org.


You can follow us by checking out our post on Facebook by going to Empire State Guide Dog Users.


News from WCBNY

Greetings from Westchester. Our members are staying involved in the various committees around our county. We regularly attend the Pparatransit Transportation Advisory Committee, Accessible Pedestrian Signal Coalition and the Disability Access and Functional Needs Emergency Preparedness Committee meetings. President Annie and board director Maria have also been accepted to join the White Plains Lions Club and Annie was recently appointed second vice president of the club.


A fundraiser is being planned to be hosted conjointly by the WP Lions and WCB and will be a dining in the dark event.

Additionally, one of our members is concerned about the following regarding one of our local cable providers and your input is welcome if your chapter has taken on any formal correspondence regarding this issue:

News 12 Westchester, the weather forecasting station for Cablevision/Optimum, one of the leading cable TV providers for the lower Hudson Valley region, has this week altered the format of its weather forecasting reports in such a way that the information it provides is no longer accessible to the blind and visually impaired. The channel has eliminated the verbal reports of a weatherman. Now, webcam pictures of cloud cover over various counties are flashed on the screen, with the projected local temperatures and weather conditions for the coming week superimposed graphically. No dialog describes any of this information. By adopting this format, News 12 Westchester has copied a similar change it previously implemented to its traffic and public transportation reports that also made the information they provide inaccessible to the blind and visually impaired.


Please email me at anniecms64@gmail.com if you have any constructive input as to how we could possibly proceed with this issue both on a local and state level.



Utica Council of the Blind

What’s Happening At UCB by Gail Hardy

Vice President, UCBf


Well, looks like we did it again, another successful fundraiser! On July 13, we put on an old-fashioned rummage sale right across the street from the Central Association for the Blind where many of our members work. Our sale also coincided with our weekly local Farmers’ Market and we hoped to attract buyers from there. The plan worked because we were able to take in $164 for the sale. Any remaining items were donated to a Veterans’ organization. Now we are getting ready to work internally, and, speaking of veterans, we’re planning to place a bench in our Memorial Park to honor blinded Vietnam vets, especially one of our own UCB members, John Harrison.

See you next time with more exciting news.



Do you have a useful or handy tip to share with other folks who are blind? We are seeking tips and advice on keeping independent and want to hear from you. If you have a tip that isn’t longer than 300 words, send it to ann.m.chiappetta@gmail.com.



Cookies and Reindeer

By A.M. Roman


My fondest yuletide holiday memory was of dreaming of reindeer. Sure, I wanted Santa to climb down our chimney and deposit gifts, but I wanted to meet his faithful hoofed servants even more. After all, I was an animal lover and I wanted to meet those gifted arctic antelope. I made sure we didn’t forget the carrots, which were placed alongside the milk and cookies on the kitchen table before going up to bed. It was torture trying to fight off sleep while waiting to hear the sled land on our roof.


The next morning I ran down the stairs to the kitchen table, delighted to see that the jolly man’s companions had left the end of the carrot, complete with bite marks. To me, the leftover carrot, cookie crumbs and gifts under the tree, proved Santa and his fuzzy friends had visited.


Fast forward a few decades and I found myself gnawing off the end of the carrot, leaving it on the plate in the dining room for my kids to discover. My husband, always blunt and often painfully honest, would say,

“You know that’s deceiving them into believing something that’s not real, right?”

I would always pick up the cookie and hold it to his mouth,

“Just eat the darn cookie and don’t be such a bah humbug.”

“What about the milk? I hate milk.”

I would snag a cookie and dip it into the milk as I ate it, smirking as he grossed out.


I’m not sure when, exactly, I made the dreaded discovery that Santa and his hoofed friends weren’t real. It wasn’t something I felt was horrible, but at the same time, I did wonder why people went to so much trouble keeping up appearances.


Later on, after the truth was out, I heard a myriad of explanations, like Santa was a marketing ploy for people to buy more Coke ™ products, or that Santa was created to be the non-denominational representation of the birth of Christ and God’s message, “good will” to agnostics and atheists. The best and most unique explanation I heard was that Santa was the American conglomerate of many sectarian/non-sectarian and cultural beliefs all rolled into one jolly belly, representing a worldwide icon for what’s best in us all. It didn’t matter what religion you practiced or who you worshipped, Santa transcended it. I think even my skeptical husband would agree with it. Christmas is a magical time of year and part of me still wants to hear the clattering of hoofs near my window.

Happy Holidays to all.






Contact Ann Chiappetta, Author 914-393-6605 ann.m.chiappetta@gmail.com


Local Author Publishes First Book


Sept. 14, 2016 — New Rochelle, NY   Ann Chiappetta, a new Rochelle resident who is blind, is  now a published author. The book, titled, “Upwelling: Poems”, is her first poetry collection. 23 poems are part of the 60 page soft cover edition and express a wide range of subjects and include  Chiappetta’s experiences of vision loss, counseling trauma victims and many other aspects of the human condition. She also writes of learning how to work alongside and trust a new guide dog. Ms. Chiappetta has been blind since 1993, the loss resulting from a rare eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. Two poems in the collection are about her vision loss and coping without the benefit of sight. From the publisher: guide dogs, death, and a disturbing dream. Marriage, memories, and intriguing mysteries. Eroticism, abortion, and a wonderfully poetic essay. In this collection of 23 of her short, highly accessible poems from several decades, Ann Chiappetta explores an enormous range of emotions and topics. Travel with her as she moves from illness, death, loss, and grief to renewed hope, security, and serenity.


Chiappetta says she was inspired to publish the collection after losing her Mom, Mary Coelho last July.

“Mom always wanted me to do it, and to honor her life, I did it,”


Ann is available for local signings and readings.


. To Purchase Chiappetta’s collection in e book or printed formats, go to http://www.dvorkin.com/annchiappetta/

To read Chiappetta’s  blog, go to: www.thought-wheel.com




I wanted to take a moment to write first to all those who were present at the ACB NY convention – thank you for all the nice words, for the traditional warm welcome, and for – as you have always done – making me feel most welcome. Actually the same thing is true for people who were NOT present, for I have always been made to feel welcome any time I have been in contact with the ACB.


I first came to the Xavier Society for the Blind in December of 2007. During my time there have been a number of major changes, including re-structuring operations, selling the building and finding a new home with the American Foundation for the Blind, and increasing exposure within the blind community and with many other groups as a chaplain or a member of the organization. I was always very proud of being known as the priest who works with the blind at the Xavier Society. Among my innovations were pilgrimages (to the Holy Land, to Greece & Turkey – In the Footsteps of St. Paul – and most recently, Ireland), the annual print calendar, the monthly ENewsletter and creating an active presence at national and state conventions for the NFB, the ACB and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. I learned a tremendous amount and I have to be honest, I met wonderful people and I had great fun.


I have officially and unofficially left the Xavier Society for the Blind. Those who were in Buffalo had a chance to meet Malachy Fallon, the new Executive Director, and I know he is going to be very good. I decided it was time for me to leave because I felt the XSB needed someone with a different skill set, and Malachy has great experience, an engaging personality and most important, a real desire to learn about and lead this important work. Several people have said to me that no one will ever be another Father Sheehan. I thank you for the compliment, but that was the point, to get someone who is very different from Father Sheehan.


I am starting to prepare for my move to Jordan in February. If all goes according to plan, I am supposed to become the Pastor of the English-speaking Church in Amman. In the interval I have doctors to see, about 85% of my personal possessions to dispose of, family to visit and my annual 10-day retreat. I hope to leave right after the Super Bowl.


For those in the New York area, or those who just like to travel, I will be presenting FATHER JOHN’S FAREWELL CONCERT on January 17 at Scandinavia House on Park Avenue at 38th Street. Concert at 7:30, discount tickets for senior citizens, but there will also be the option to have dinner before the concert. Scandinavia House has a wonderful restaurant. More publicity will be forthcoming – I had hoped to have a new website up but there seem to be complications. I’m hoping the address will be www.Basorundei.com.


When I was in Nigeria, I was given two chieftaincy titles, and one was Basorun – in the village and tribe where I am a chief, the Basorun is the war chief, so if my village ever goes to war, I have to go back. Dei is Latin – of God. So Basorundei means the war chief of God. I rather liked the idea so that is what I named the website.


So if I don’t see you before I leave, either at an event or my own concert, thank you one last time, and if you are ever in Amman, Jordan, please drop in. Who knows, the Xavier Society for the Blind might even decide to do a pilgrimage.


Fr. John R. Sheehan, SJ


Father John’s Farewell Concert

January 17 – Scandinavia House


Residence: Our Lady of Mercy

70-01 Kessel Street

Forest Hills, NY  11375

Cell: 646 853-1820

Blog: www.frjohnsj.blogspot.com




Inez A. D’Agostino Sept 6, 1922 to November 12, 2016

Viewing services took place on Wednesday November 16. Funeral services were held Thursday, November 17th, 2016, officiated by Rev. Peter M. Colapietro at St. Malachy’s Church/The Actor’s Chapel and she was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery, 501 East 233rd Street, Bronx, NY 10470.


Mary Ellen Cronin is passing the following information along from the D’Agostino family:

Inez’s family is asking that donations be given in her name to the following organizations:

The American Printing House for the Blind

Attention: Mr. Bob Belknap

1839 Frankfort Ave.

Louisville, Ky  40206



500 Greenwich Street,

Third Floor

New York, NY 10013





American Council of the Blind of New York

Board of Directors Contact List

November, 2016


The following is the most up to date list of members of the ACBNY Board of Directors. If there are any errors, please notify Lori Scharff at lorischarff@gmail.com and your newsletter editor, Annie Chiappetta at ann.m.chiappetta@gmail.com.


Lori Scharff, President: lorischarff@gmail.com

Kathy Casey, First Vice President: Kcasey03@nycap.rr.com As of January 1, 2017: Incoming VP is Michael Golfo, mssg74@gmail.com

Meghan Schoeffling, Second Vice President: meghanschoeffling@gmail.com (As of January 2017: incoming 2nd VP is Karen Blachowicz, karenabc1970@live.com )

Nancy Murray, Secretary: nmurray02@earthlink.net

Bob White, Treasurer: robertwhite11@verizon.net

Chapter Representatives

Capital District:  Michael O’Brien, m.obrien@samobile.net

Greater New York:  Terence Page terencebpage@gmail.com

Guide Dog Users of the Empire State: Meghan Parker, ne Schoeffling, meghanschoeffling@gmail.com

Long Island: John Jeavons  jeavons@optonline.net

Rochester:  Janet Wettenstein, jan64@frontiernet.net

Utica:  Maria Heinlein-gage, maria.heinlein@gmail.com

Westchester: Ann Chiappetta, ann.m.chiappetta@gmail.com

NYSCCLV Kathy Farina, kfarina1954@gmail.com (as of January 2017 Kathy casey, kcasey03@nycap.rr.com)

ACB of Western New York:  Karen Blachowicz, karenabc1970@live.com

Member at Large: Jean Mann, jmann40@nycap.rr.com.


End of the Winter 2016 edition of INSIGHT