2023 Scholarship Application

Submit an application here!

The American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc. (ACBNY) is proud to award a one thousand dollar ($1000) scholarship and a five hundred dollar ($500) scholarship to qualified, deserving students.

Scholarship recipients must attend the annual ACBNY State Convention in Albany NY the weekend of September 28th-Oct.1st, 2023.  Expenses for travel, lodging and meals will be covered by ACBNY.

To be eligible for the scholarship, applicants must:

  • Provide evidence of legal blindness in accordance with the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) criteria: https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/cb/
  • Provide evidence of enrollment and good standing (passing grades) in a college, tech or trade school or other training program following high school graduation;
  • Present three (3) letters of recommendation (cannot be a family member);
  • Provide evidence of community involvement. This may be documented via one of your recommendation letters.  Said letter or document must be clearly marked as such;
  • Compose a 1000 word essay per the instructions below;
  • All finalists must participate in an interview process;
  • Applications and all documentation may be submitted by web-form, email or by regular mail in print or braille by June 15, 2023.

*ACBNY will not accept handwritten documents or incomplete application packages.

If you have any questions or comments regarding the ACBNY Scholarship application or submission process, please contact the scholarship committee chairperson, Ian Foley, at 716-892-1983 or by e-mail at scholarship@acbny.info.

Thank you for your interest in the American Council of the Blind of New York (ACBNY).  Our scholarship committee is composed of various professionals, including retired teachers.  Please practice diligence in composing your essay, and review it for accuracy and spelling.  We look forward to reviewing your application and reading your essay.

Good luck,
Ian Foley
ACBNY Scholarship Committee Chairman



The American Council of the Blind of New York (ACBNY) is a volunteer organization. Any and all questions should be directed to Legislative Co-Chairs:

Meghan Parker, (914) 417-8651, mparker@ilny.org

or Ian Foley: (716) 892-1983,  ianfoley206@hotmail.com

ACBNY strongly supports The Infant Vision Information, Education and Wellness Act S3255 (Sanders) and A5305 (Taylor).

ACBNY joins the Executive Board of NYSCB in calling for the State to establish a mandatory infant/early childhood vision screening program so that vision-related deficits that can result in significant developmental delays can be detected and prompt referral for vision-related early intervention services can be made. New York State mandates such screening with respect to hearing, but astonishingly, there is no such mandate for vision screening. Yet tools exist, whether medical or educational, to mitigate the potentially devastating effects of untreated vision loss on the infant, his/her family, and community. This bill would create an advisory board within the Department of Health to advise DOH on the creation of a system to screen each newborn in the state for vision abnormalities and a system to educate parents of each newborn and infant on the merits of having vision screening performed and receiving follow-up care. Visual problems discovered during infant vision screening are often indicators of other neurological issues, including autism. We believe that vision screening requirements should explicitly cover both newborns and children up to two years of age, as the best approach to assuring that vision-related issues not readily susceptible to detection at or near birth can nevertheless be detected as early as possible in a child’s life.

ACBNY strongly supports A5740 (Lupardo) and S3763 (Persaud), establishing licensing requirements for two categories of vision rehabilitation professionals, licensed orientation and mobility specialists and licensed vision rehabilitation therapists.

As New Yorkers age, the number of persons with significant visual impairments is increasing. There is also an increase in the number of babies surviving prematurity, low birth weight, congenital conditions and diseases. They often experience multiple disabilities including vision loss.

Orientation and Mobility (O&M) specialists provide people of all ages who are blind or visually impaired with instruction in the use of their remaining senses along with a prescribed white and red cane to enable safe navigation and independent travel in their environment. O&M specialists prepare people who are blind or visually impaired to attain mobility skills to qualify for a guide dog.

Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (VRTs) provide training in the reading and writing of braille, safe cooking techniques, childcare, medication management, instruction in keyboarding and the use of adaptive and other technologies and skills that enable people who are blind to manage independently at home, work and in the community.

Licensure increases the number of qualified professionals who are specifically trained to meet the unique needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. Licensure assures the provision of quality services through regulation and examination of these professionals. Licensure promotes consumer safety and ensures that individuals who are blind have access to trained professionals who have received specialized supervised training in working with people who are blind or visually impaired.

This bill was passed unanimously by the NYS Senate and Assembly in the 2015 legislative session but was vetoed by Governor Cuomo. The current version addresses the concerns outlined by the Executive.

ACBNY strongly supports A3181 (Steck) as well as S5092 (Kennedy), requiring counties to expand paratransit beyond ADA minimums.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), mandates all counties that have a fixed route system provide paratransit services to people with disabilities unable to take the fixed route bus. Service must be provided to locations within ¾ of a mile of the closest fixed route bus stop. While this is a minimum service, counties can and should provide transportation services to people with disabilities throughout their service area. As fixed routes get cut back, especially upstate, many people are left stranded with no transportation. As a result, blind people are too often isolated and unable to work, go shopping, or attend houses of worship, and the like, because they don’t have reliable transportation. There is a real need to ensure comprehensive paratransit services are provided throughout the State.

ACBNY strongly supports A3137 (Epstein) and S1629 (Skoufis), establishing goals for participation by individuals with disabilities with respect to state employment, state contracts, legislative employment, and judicial employment.

This legislation will help to employ people with disabilities in companies and organizations that contract with the State of New York, and help to level the divide of employment for people with disabilities in our state. ACBNY believes that supporting this legislation will enhance the state’s diversity goals while helping to employ qualified persons with disabilities throughout the state. ACBNY further supports this legislation because similar standards have already been enacted on the federal level. Incorporating legislation like this into the state will also assist companies and organizations who may want to pursue federal contracts as well.

ACBNY strongly supports A3130 (Steck) and S1836 (Skoufis), re-establishing an Office for the Advocate for People with Disabilities.

There is no single office that represents all people with disabilities, including blind people. However, New York State used to have the Office for the Advocate for People with Disabilities. This office, created under Governor Mario Cuomo, was responsible for advising and assisting the Governor in developing policies designed to help meet the needs of people with disabilities and serving as the State’s coordinator for the implementation of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (this would now include the Americans with Disabilities Act).

While blind people are served by the Commission for the Blind, this is a vocational rehabilitation organization and does not have a primary role in advising on policy development. Blind people need an office where we can bring access or policy concerns, and which will advocate effectively on our behalf. The Office for the Advocate would also help unite the frequently splintered disability service system by having one office that represents and understands the issues that impact people across all segments of the wider disability community.

Decorate your home with fresh wreaths and accessories from Lynch Creek and ACBNY


With the American Council of the Blind of New York

And Lynch Creek Farm

Bring a warm and festive feeling to your home with beautiful fresh
centerpieces, tabletop trees or garlands, plus other autumnal accessories.

ACBNY will receive 15% of items purchased. Funds will be set aside for
programs and initiatives benefitting the independence of our members.
To place an order, visit www.lynchcreekfundraising.com/c/251346 or call 1-888-426-0781 and use Campaign ID # 251346 To shop and support ACBNY.
Share it with friends and family on FaceBook: https://tinyurl.com/y39c4quk

We appreciate your support and hope Lynch Creek will brighten your spirits and décor for the 2020 holidays!

Campaign ends December 8, 2020.

Please visit ACBNY at www.acbny.info or contact secretary@acbny.info for comments or questions.

Lawsuit Challenges Inaccessibility of New York State’s Emergency Mass Notification System on Behalf of Blind Individuals

October 14, 2020 – White Plains, NY – Today, Disability Rights Advocates filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of blind New Yorkers and the American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc. against New York state entities, challenging the inaccessibility of “NY-Alert,” a Mass Notification System intended to warn New Yorkers and visitors of emergencies and other critical information in a timely manner to help save lives. Blind individuals who use screen readers to access visual information cannot independently use the NY-Alert website to register for urgent alerts or to choose how they receive alerts. Instead, these individuals must secure the assistance of a third party and give up the independence enjoyed by others who use NY-Alert. Further, many blind individuals live alone and/or do not have the means to retain sighted assistance, and so must forgo using the NY-Alert website and forgo receiving its notifications altogether, at great risk to themselves. Click here to read the complaint.

Hurricanes, floods, fires, winter storms, and nuclear disasters are a few of the many potential emergencies that New York residents and visitors face. Effective emergency preparedness and planning must include certain essential components, such as public notification and communication before and during emergencies. The failure to notify blind individuals about such emergencies via NY-Alert creates severe hardships for blind individuals and can be life-threatening to them during these emergencies. It is critical that blind individuals be warned of emergencies in advance and that they receive information on how and if they will be evacuated, where they will be sheltered, and how and if they will be transported to such shelter.

Blind individuals often walk and/or rely on public transportation to get around and thus face a distinct disadvantage when they encounter sudden route closures and other interruptions in transportation service that require them to deviate from the routes that they are familiar with navigating. Additionally, strong winds and other severe weather events can be extremely disruptive to blind individuals who use a cane to walk and to those who rely on their hearing for orientation. It is thus imperative that blind individuals receive weather and transportation warnings as early as possible, so that they can avoid dangerous or unfamiliar terrain.

Unfortunately, New York State has failed to make the NY-Alert website accessible, despite knowledge of the barriers faced by Plaintiffs and others who attempt to use the website, despite the clear guidance readily available on how to make websites accessible, and despite the urgency of such alerts, especially during the current pandemic.

Plaintiff Ann Chiappetta, who initially informed the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services about NY-Alert’s inaccessibility in July 2018, said, “Not being able to access the NY-Alert website and receive emergency notifications via my smart phone puts my health and safety at risk. I have a right to be notified just like my friends and neighbors who are not blind.”

Karen Blachowicz, President of American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc. said, “The NY-Alert system must be made accessible for blind and visually-impaired people in order to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Alerts are in place to protect the general population and the blind or visually-impaired population must have equal access.”

“Blind individuals are at great risk during disasters and face life-threatening consequences when governments fail to include them in communications about emergencies,” said Michelle Iorio, a staff attorney at Disability Rights Advocates. “New York cannot afford to wait for another disaster to strike before remedying the accessibility barriers on its Mass Notification System website that prevent blind individuals from receiving life-saving alerts.”

New York’s refusal to make the NY-Alert website accessible discriminates against blind individuals on the basis of disability under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. This lawsuit seeks injunctive and declaratory relief to require the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to make the website for NY-Alert accessible to individuals who use screen readers so that they can use the system equally, privately, and independently to register for critical alerts.


About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA): With offices in New York and California, Disability Rights Advocates is a leading nonprofit disability rights legal center in the nation. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with all types of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to education, health care, employment, transportation, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing. For more information, visit dralegal.org.


Court Decision will Dramatically Remake NYC’s Streetscape by Making Pedestrian Safety Accessible to People with Disabilities

Read the decision here

New York, NY – In a decision that will remake the streetscape of New York City and improve safety and accessibility for all New Yorkers, a federal court ruled today that New York City’s failure  to provide accessible pedestrian signals (APS) at 96.6 % of its signalized intersections violates the civil rights of people with disabilities. APS are push-button devices attached to crosswalks that convey visual crossing information in audible and vibro-tactile formats accessible to blind, low vision, and Deafblind pedestrians.

New York City has over 13,200 signalized intersections with signals for sighted pedestrians that convey critical safety information: WALK or DON’T WALK. Yet only 443 of those 13,200 intersections—less than 4%—have APS that convey this information to blind people. Blind and low vision pedestrians are put in danger every time they must cross a street without APS, because they may cross against the light, in the path of cars. Additionally, the lack of APS denies them their independence and dignity. Plaintiffs have been grabbed by well-meaning strangers attempting to help them across the street, and forced to cross only in crowds and wait several lights—sometimes as long as twenty minutes—to make sure they are crossing with others. Some have avoided walking altogether by taking buses and getting out a stop early or a stop late in order to avoid particularly unsafe intersections, or taking longer routes.

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) filed this class action lawsuit, American Council of the Blind of New York, et al. v. New York City, in June 2018 because this unlawful system denies blind and low vision pedestrians their independence to navigate city streets safely: to visit friends and family; go to work, school, or home; or shop or do business. On July 22, 2019, the Court certified a class of blind and low vision pedestrians harmed by these practices.

“For decades New York City has ignored the needs of blind and low vision pedestrians, while simultaneously touting its Vision Zero commitments to pedestrian safety,” said Torie Atkinson, Staff Attorney at Disability Rights Advocates. “The city has spent millions on pedestrian safety improvements, and now for the first time those improvements will be accessible to all New Yorkers. With accessible pedestrian signals, blind and low vision pedestrians can cross the street confidently, and we are thrilled with the dramatic changes that this victory will mean not only for those who are blind or low vision, but for all New Yorkers who want safer streets.”

“ACBNY has tirelessly advocated for decades to fix New York City’s widespread inaccessibility to blind and Deafblind pedestrians,” said Lori Scharff of the American Council of the Blind of New York, plaintiff in this case. “We are pleased that the Court’s ruling will help ensure that our blind and Deafblind constituents have equal access to the same information available to sighted pedestrians.”

“As someone who is Deafblind and requires tactile information to cross streets safely, I am thrilled by the Court’s ruling,” said plaintiff Christina Curry. “Up until now, at least once a day I almost get hit by a car because there is no APS telling me when it is safe to cross. This victory means that finally the city will have to install APS so that I and tens of thousands of Deafblind New Yorkers will have access to street crossing information and be able to travel safely, freely, and independently throughout the city.”

Plaintiffs do not seek money damages. They seek only that New York City’s street crossings be accessible to and safer for blind and low vision pedestrians.


About Disability Rights Advocates: With offices in New York and California, Disability Rights Advocates is the leading nonprofit disability rights legal center in the nation. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with all types of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to education, health care, employment, transportation, disaster preparedness planning, voting, and housing. For more information, visit dralegal.org.

ACB of New York Urges Governor Cuomo to Avoid Wasting State’s Limited Funds on a Single Cause By Vetoing A4161

New York, NY, September 23, 2011 – The American Council of the Blind of New York strongly urged Governor Cuomo to veto A4161 today. Commonly known as the Newsline bill sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind of New York and championed by former Governor Paterson who is a member of NFB of NY, this bill gives the unusual authority to the Director of the NFB of New York to tax every single New Yorker to fund one service and one organization.

“New York state’s Blind and visually impaired people appreciate the Newsline service,” said Pratik Patel, the President of ACBNY. “We, however, cannot stand by when seeing a perverted funding mechanism that only benefits one organization or one service,” continued Mr. Patel.

A4161 vests the authority in the Director of the NFB of NY in order to establish a monthly tax on telephone lines to fund Newsline. At the very least, $400000 is estimated to go to the NFB of NY without transparency. Millions of additional funds could go to the organization.

“We should not allow a funding mechanism that supports only one service at a cost significantly higher than the actual cost of running it,” said Mr. Patel. “We know for certain that Newsline only costs a little more than $100,000 to run on an annual basis. We have to wonder why the NFB of NY is seeking so much extra funding as a nonprofit by taxing New Yorkers.”

Documentation suggests that New York’s blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind residents have significant needs when it comes to making their lives independent and economically profitable for the state. Services like vocational and rehabilitative services through the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH) could be significantly improved.

“Why not spend this money when it will help New Yorkers to contribute back to the state,” asks Mr. Patel. “Many more worthy services could be funded if this funding mechanism were to be used to give money to CBVH, for example. We urge the Governor to truly look at how services are structured rather than responding to this politically driven process.”

American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating on behalf of all blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind residents of New York state. As an affiliate of the American Council of the blind, which is the largest consumer-based organization of blind and visually impaired Americans advocating for their rights. Comprised of members from across New York, ACB of New York is dedicated to making it possible for blind and visually impaired Americans to participate fully in all aspects of American society. For more information, visit http://www.acbny.org .

Coalition of Disability Groups Demand Access to New York’s Inaccessible Absentee Voting

UPDATE! Click here to read about the agreement made for June Accessible Absentee Voting Program!

Link to press release: https://acb.org/NY-inaccessible-absentee-voting-lawsuit

For Immediate Release 

Lawsuit Filed May 22, 2020 in Federal Court – Full Complaint 

May 22, 2020 – New York, NY – Today, a coalition of disability organizations filed a lawsuit against the New York State Board of Elections (“NYS BOE”) for excluding New Yorkers with disabilities as their Absentee Voting program expanded in response to COVID-19. The lawsuit charges the state agency with discrimination against voters who are unable to independently and privately mark a paper ballot due to print disabilities, including blindness and low vision, or physical disabilities such as paralysis, dystonia, and tremors. All New Yorkers deserve to vote safely and independently, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. 

The lawsuit and preliminary injunction were filed by a coalition of groups including, Disability Rights New York, the American Council of the Blind—New York, Inc., Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, National Federation of the Blind of New York State, Inc., and several New York voters with disabilities, including Rasheta Bunting, Karen Gourgey, Keith Gurgui, and Jose Hernandez. The National Federation of the Blind of New York is represented by Eve L. Hill Brown Goldstein & Levy LLP. The American Council of the Blind—New York, Inc. and Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York are represented by Disability Rights Advocates, a national nonprofit legal center. 

New York’s Governor Cuomo responded to the threat of COVID-19 on voters by expanding the Absentee Voting program to allow all voters in New York State to request an absentee ballot for the June 2020 Primary Election. This program requires voters to fill out a paper ballot and return the ballot by mail, providing no alternatives to accommodate individuals with disabilities who are unable to independently and privately read and mark a paper ballot from home. New York’s absentee voting program forces individuals with disabilities to choose between their health and their right to vote privately and independently from home. 

The plaintiff organizations have repeatedly informed the New York State Board of Elections about the inaccessibility of paper ballots, to no avail. New York offers military and overseas voters the option to receive an email ballot. Voters with disabilities could easily mark such a ballot electronically, increasing their privacy and independence in time for the June 2020 elections, but the Board of Elections has refused to offer this option to voters with disabilities. 

New York’s Absentee Voting program can be made accessible, as Maryland, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Ohio, and West Virginia have done. Defendants are aware of the need for accessibility and the availability of accessible solutions, including a free offering from the state of Maryland, and have refused to implement reasonable modifications to the program. 

“Lack of accessibility in voting has existed for decades. The time to fix it has long passed. This is just one more example of our clients, friends and family members being systematically disenfranchised from another fundamental part of life.” said Timothy A. Clune, Executive Director of DRNY 

“Voting is more important than ever for people with disabilities,” said Susan Dooha, CIDNY’s Executive Director. “New York State needs to step up to the plate to offer a tried and true solution to inaccessible paper ballots. We are about to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. What better way to celebrate than to enfranchise hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with disabilities?” 

“The New York State Board of Elections has a history of using outdated technology to discriminate against voters with disabilities, and it has to stop; pencil and paper aren’t good enough anymore.” said Christina Brandt-Young, Managing Attorney for Disability Rights Advocates 

“Just as all other New York residents have the right to vote via absentee ballot, the state must provide an accessible voting method that blind residents may use remotely,” states Dan Spoone, President of the ACB, headquartered in Alexandria, VA. “No voter in the United States, whether blind, or otherwise, should be compelled to reveal their vote when technology exists to enable them to complete all aspects of the voting process privately and independently.” 

“The National Federation of the Blind has fought successfully for blind and deafblind voters for decades – including for accessible absentee voting in Maryland– and this advocacy is more urgent during this pandemic,” said Mike Robinson, president of the National Federation of the Blind of New York. “The nation’s blind will not tolerate being treated as second-class citizens here or anywhere else.” 

This lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of New York under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Rather than monetary damages, plaintiffs seek reform to the systems and practices that discriminate against voters with disabilities in time for the June 2020 elections. 


About American Council of the Blind (ACB): The American Council of the Blind is a national grassroots consumer organization representing Americans who are blind and visually impaired. With 70 affiliates, ACB strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and to improve quality of life for all blind and visually impaired people. Learn more by visiting www.acb.org

About Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY (CIDNY): The Center for Independence of the Disabled, NY’s goal is to ensure full integration, independence, and equal opportunity for all people with disabilities by removing barriers to the social, economic, cultural, and civic life of the community. Learn more about our work at www.cidny.org

About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA): Disability Rights Advocates is a leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA has a long history of enforcing the rights of voters with disabilities, including their rights to accessible voting machines, polling places, and online voter registration. Visit www.dralegal.org

About Disability Rights New York (DRNY): DRNY is the designated independent non-profit Protection & Advocacy System empowered by Congress to investigate allegations of abuse and neglect and provide legal and non-legal advocacy services to people with disabilities in New York State. The Protection & Advocacy System was created by Congress as a direct result of the horrific conditions that were uncovered in the 1970’s at New York’s Willowbrook State School. DRNY is supported at tax payer expense by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, The Administration for Community Living; Center for Mental Health Services, Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration; U.S. Department of Education, Rehabilitation Services Administration; and, the Social Security Administration. This press release does not represent the views, positions or policies of, or the endorsements by, any of these federal agencies. Visit www.drny.org

About National Federation of the Blind (NFB): The National Federation of the Blind, headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. We believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about our many programs and initiatives at www.nfb.org

For Your Brewing Pleasure

Do you love the idea of coffee with easy and accessible packaging? Do you know someone who would love to receive a coffee gift with accessible labeling?

ACBNY has got a little secret: we know where to go for great tasting coffee with large print and braille labels.

White Cane Coffee offers a variety of traditional and flavored coffees including k cups, beans, samplers, and ground coffee.

The company is staffed by people who are visually impaired or who have other disabilities. We think the company name is just perfect. Click on the shopping link: https://whitecanecoffee.com/ref/treasurer/

10 % of Your purchase will be donated to fund the ACBNY M.J. Schmidt award which pays expenses for a person who cannot afford to attend a State convention.

We encourage you to share this offer with friends, family and colleagues. For comments or questions, please contact treasurer@acbny.info.

Your support of ACBNY means so much — Thanks and brew a cup on us!

ACBNY’s 2020 Legislative Weekend is going virtual!

Dear ACBNY members and friends,

Due to the current public health crisis and the closure of the state capitol building, ACBNY will not be holding our Legislative Weekend in person this year. However, the Legislative Committee is still planning a modified legislative weekend, to begin on April 18 with a board meeting and culminating on Monday, April 20 for a virtual legislative day using the Zoom platform. Everything is contingent upon the legislature being back in session by this date. Given so many rapid changes to public life, it is unclear if this will be the case. However, the Legislative Committee is moving forward with planning for the weekend.

ACBNY is planning to use Zoom to bring together ACBNY members for our training on Sunday, which will consist of a discussion of ACBNY’s 2020 legislative priorities to ensure ACBNY members are comfortable with the priority agenda. We will also provide training on Zoom. However, for those who want an excellent resource for using Zoom with a screen reader, go here to download this excellent resource for
free http://mosen.org/zoom

On Monday, April 20, we are hoping chapters will be able to schedule meetings throughout the day with their state legislators to meet via Zoom. This way, ACBNY members can still meet with legislators, but from the comfort of their homes. ACBNY Legislative Committee members will work to coordinate these meetings with their chapters in the coming weeks, once we have a better sense if the legislature will be back in session.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to one of ACBNY’s Legislative Co-Chairs:
 Meghan Parker at mparker@ilny.org, or 914-417-8651
 Ian Foley at ianfoley206@hotmail.com

Check back here for updates as plans are finalized.

ACBNY’s Legislative Committee

Spring 2020 Insight

Insight: The Voice of

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

Spring 2020

President, Karen Blachowicz

E-mail:  karenablachowicz@gmail.com

Editor: Annie Chiappetta

E-mail: editor@acbny.info 

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 Treasurer, 1403 Chadwick Court, Tarrytown, N.Y. 10591 Questions for our treasurer can be sent to: treasurer@acbny.info

Join the Monthly Monetary Support (MMS) program and support ACB National and ACBNY through the 2 for 1 program. Find out more about joining by going to http://acb.org/content/acb%E2%80%99s-monthly-monetary-support-mms-program

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

Insight is available through e-mail or via the ACBNY website at https://www.acbny.info/ .

Supporting organizations and individuals who are not ACBnY members can sign up for the ACBNY announcement email list to receive State convention highlights newsletters and legislative updates. To sign up contact erc@acbny.info

You can also find the most recent issue and back issues on our website or via NFB’s Newsline under New York publications.  If you wish to change your subscription, please notify the Newsletter Editor by sending an email to editor@acbny.info 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 – Karen Blachowicz

Editor’s Message – Annie Chiappetta

Go for The Gold Join ACBNY for the Big Fifty

Legislative Update

ACB Was in Rochester – By

Jean Mann

Chapter Round UP

News from the NYSCB – by Laura Murphy


My Mother was a Braille Transcriber

by Jean Mann

Upstate Update from the National Library Service


2020 ACB of NY Officers and Directors

President’s Message – Karen Blachowicz

I would like to begin by thanking Lori Scharff and all the outgoing officers and directors for all their dedication, hard work and service to the American Council of the Blind of New York. I would also like to welcome all officers and directors that stepped up into their roles on January 1,2020. I look forward to serving and working with all members, chapters and affiliates and board representatives.

January 9,2020 was the first official ACBNY 2020 board meeting 

The board of directors and myself clearly hear some of the issue’s chapters are expressing to the state. I asked all board directors and officers to bring one goal to the meeting and the one goal that stood out the most is transparency and bringing chapters and the state together.

To that end, the board has decided to begin a Presidents meeting and a member meeting together for all to join in.

I personally want to invite all the chapter presidents to the president’s teleconferences; I also want to invite the general membership to the membership meetings being offered via teleconference. Additionally, as part of promoting communication and transparency, all members are welcome to listen to the board meetings. board of directors are inviting all members to be aware and join in board meetings.  Board meetings will be announced via the membership email list from this point forward.

Furthermore, I will accept questions from members for the first ten minutes of each open board meeting. If we cannot answer your question at the meeting, I will direct your question to the right person to reach out and answer your question.

A little about me: I have spent most of my life doing mortgage assessments and corporate accounting.   I was finding my chosen career to be unstable and unsure as my vision started to diminish. I made a choice to go into the BEP of New York and have been a Blind vender on and off since 2010.  I am a mother and a grandmother. My youngest is visually impaired as well and is currently a student of the New York State School for the Blind in Batavia. I am a board member of RSVA, and I also sit on the committee of Blind venders for the state of NY and secretary for RSVNY.

I have an open-door policy. I am here to serve you — the members of ACBNY — to the best of my ability and I need your help to do that. We need open communication and one hundred percent transparency. I am hoping that by working together we can grow ACBNY and its chapters and move forward together in all advocacy efforts.

Editor’s Message – Annie Chiappetta

Hello ACBNY and supporters, Happy New Year. It’s our year, being 2020 and being our fiftieth year in existence, thanks to folks like us seeing clearly and advocating for change and equality in New York State. We are stronger than ever and being an ACBNY member means strength in numbers, support when we need it, and increased attention from legislators in matters and governance affecting us. It is an exciting time for us, welcoming new officers and directors, being mindful of the individuals who upheld our mission and who have moved on, and memorializing members   who have passed from this life. We have all made a difference and will continue to pass the torch.

Change is good, it helps us all focus on the future.  This edition is part of the focus on the future; I hope the articles are interesting and thought-provoking.  We have another article from the New York State Commission for the Blind, a convention update, legislative update, and much more.

Thanks for reading, contributing to INSIGHT, and being a member or supporter of ACBNY.


Go for the Gold

join ACBNY for the Big Fifty

The American Council of the blind of Western New York (ACBWNY) is proud to host the 2020 state convention beginning Thursday, October 15 and ending Sunday, October 18, 2020. The convention hotel is the    Buffalo Airport Holiday Inn, 4600 Genesee Street, Cheektowaga, N.Y. 14225.  Telephone: 866) 238-4218

Convention Room rate is $119.00 per night for up to four guests per room, upon registration.  Do not register with the hotel directly, to receive the convention room rate you must register with ACBNY. Transportation from the airport or the train station will be provided by the hotel.

Registration will be announced via the membership list and Face Book and Twitter, the cost of registration is $25, $35 after the registration deadline.

Cochairs for the convention are Ian Foley, President of the western New York chapter and our State President Karen Blachowicz. The entire western New York chapter is excited to host this year’s event and promises the convening of the fiftieth conference and convention   of ACBNY will be one to remember. 

Fifty years is a monumental milestone; we plan to celebrate it with the traditional ACBNY activities as well as highlighting our past success and sharing our hope for the future. Stay tuned for more information, announcements for the vendor and exhibit hall, meal costs and registration dates will be made as we get closer to the event.

Thursday, October 15 will begin with a white cane and guide dog walk through one of the local malls. Thursday evening, we are looking forward to another leadership seminar.

Friday morning, we will host the annual Town hall meeting with the New York State commission for the blind, followed by the annual business meeting and lunch.  Also, on Friday evening, another entertaining fundraiser dinner for the scholarship will be held.

Saturday will offer attendees    workshops hosted by ACBNY chapters and special interest groups, the   popular vendor and exhibit hall, and other interesting events still in the making.

The hospitality suite will be open during the convention offering hot and cold beverages and snacks. The guide dog relief areas are just outside the hotel and offer both hard and grass surfaces. 

We are also very pleased to announce that ACB National President, dan Spoon, has agreed to be the banquet speaker to help us celebrate 50 years in existence.

Our traditional board meeting will conclude the ACBNY 2020 festivities.

Tell Us Your ACBNY Story

We want to hear how ACB has supported and helped you throughout the years.

The western New York chapter is asking people to submit an essay, no longer than 500 words, to our chapter by September 1, 2020.  We are asking for the focus to be, what 50 years of Advocacy within ACBNY means to you or how it affected your life. Please submit your story in either braille or as an electronic document via email. Volunteers will read these stories throughout the convention.

Please send submissions via Email to ianfoley206@hotmail.com or surface mail to ACBNY story PO Box 304, Depew NY 14043


Legislative Update

The Legislative Committee is busy planning for this year’s Legislative Seminar in Albany.   Registration is now open. To register go to www.acbny.info .The committee has been working on this year’s ACBNY legislative priority agenda and lining up guest speakers.  The weekend’s activities will run from Saturday, April 18 to Monday, April 20th, 2020.  As in past years, the Board of Directors meeting will be held Saturday afternoon.  Legislative training and speakers will take place all day Sunday, allowing attendees to learn about the issues and gain insight about the process.  On Monday, we will travel to the Legislative Office Building (LOB) to attend meetings with your respective members of the Assembly and Senate to discuss our legislative agenda.

We will once again use the Ramada Plaza Hotel, 3 Watervliet Avenue, Albany, NY 12206.  Room rates are affordable at $84 per night, and Sunday lunch will be included.  In addition, the hotel offers a free breakfast buffet.  If you have never attended a Legislative Seminar weekend before, please join us and see first-hand how ACBNY can change the lives of blind New Yorkers through the legislative process.  If you have attended previous events, please join us again and share your experience for the benefit of all.  We look forward to a great event this year!

Please watch the ACBNY email list for updates and details.

Meghan Parker & Ian Foley

Legislative Committee Cochairs


ACB was in Rochester

By Jean Mann

During the week of July 5-12, 2019, blind and visually impaired people, along with their sighted relatives and friends from all over the country, as well as several foreign countries, made downtown Rochester their home as they attended the 58th Annual Conference and Convention of the American Council of the Blind. Many of our members attended all or part of the convention.

We used two hotels, the Rochester Riverside and the Hyatt Regency Rochester, as well as the Joseph a Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center. There were walkways indoors leading from one place to another, but we found it was much faster to go outside; the hotels were across the street from each other and the convention center was just down the block from the Hyatt Regency. Since we often went back and forth between the three venues there was lots of walking, and I suspect most of us got our ten thousand steps in each day!  

Since ACB of New York was the host committee, several of us began working on the convention almost a year before it happened with monthly conference calls. We gathered door prizes and items for the goody bags which were handed out at registration. We arranged for preconvention entertainment for a half hour before each convention session and clergy to handle religious services and invocations each morning. We arranged to have a keyboard which had belonged to a deceased ACBNY member, Sukosh Fearon, in the convention hall to be used during the week. We suggested tour sites and a couple of our members put many miles on their van driving convention personnel around to arrange them. Several of us also arranged for speakers for special interest affiliate meetings.

Finally, the time came. Sighted members and friends from buffalo and Albany loaded up their cars with door prizes, items for the goody bags, sweatshirts to sell, snacks and drinks for our hospitality room, and more. We settled into our hotel and prepared for a busy week.

On July 4, some of our members spent hours putting those goody bags together, and then about a dozen of us who went to school together were treated to a much appreciated picnic with barbecued pork sandwiches, homemade potato salad and baked beans, and cake at the home of one of our Rochester members.  

Tours began on Friday morning with a trip to the Genesee Country Village and an evening dinner cruise on the Colonial Belle. That tour sold out the first day registration was open, so those who couldn’t get on it had the option of attending the ACB of New York hosted Welcome to Rochester Party, with a disc jockey, snacks, cash bar, and door prizes.

The next six days went by in a flash. The exhibit hall was open every day with vendors like National Braille Press, Vispero (the old Freedom Scientific), HumanWare, AIRA, American Printing House, Vanda Pharmaceuticals, every guide dog school, and so many others. Special interest groups, including lawyers, teachers, students, people with low vision, library users, braille users, vendors, guide dog users, and others held meetings, workshops and mixers. Companies like JPMorgan Chase, AIRA, Google, and Microsoft held focus groups to show off new products, hold training sessions, and discuss future plans and get feedback from us.

There were tours every day, including one to Cooperstown, the Jell-O Gallery Museum and Historic LeRoy House, the Strong Museum of Play, Laughing Gulch Chocolates, the Susan B. Anthony House, the George Eastman House, the New York State School for the Blind, and on the Friday after convention, a trip to Niagara Falls. There were a couple city bus tours, and a “tasting tour”, which included two wineries, a brewery and a distillery, and I understand a lot of tasting was done!

The evenings were full of activities too. Our opening session was on Saturday night. Other evenings there was trivia, karaoke, a trip to Batavia Downs Casino, the Friends in Art Annual Showcase, ACB’s annual auction, the showing of the movie “Greenbook” with audio description, lots of parties, and of course, our final banquet.

Businesses in and around the hotels made out quite well. Dinosaur BBQ was not far away, and it was a big hit. So was Morton’s Steak House, which was in the Hyatt, although I don’t think many of us went there more than once; the food was delicious but just a bit pricey!

ACB of New York had a suite in the Riverside, which was the hotel where most of us stayed, so at night, when the evening activities were over and we should have gone to bed, many of us gathered there for more refreshment and fellowship.

The week wasn’t all fun and games. We had business to attend to and that’s how our mornings were spent. ACB convention sponsors, like Google, Microsoft, AIRA, Sprint, and JPMorgan chase, spoke to us.  So did the executive directors from APH and AFB, Fred Schroeder from the World Blind Union and Karen Keninger from the National Library Services for the Blind and Print Handicapped. We learned about a company called Blindfold Games and ObjectiveEd, which creates accessible computer games for fun and educational purposes. And there were others, too numerous to mention here. ACB officers and staff gave reports and we passed constitutional amendments and resolutions. We also elected new officers.

One of the most touching parts of ACB conventions is our “Angel Wall” presentations. Friends and families of deceased members eulogize them, and their names are placed on what we call our “Angel Wall”, a portable wall which is exhibited at every convention. Names are written in print and braille, and a book with a short biography and photo of each person on the wall is displayed. Unfortunately, we seem to be adding more and more names to this wall every year, and, having been an ACB member for some 45 years, I know way too many of our “angels”.

Finally, the week ended, and it was time to leave Rochester. We said goodbye to friends old and new, promising to see each other next year in Schaumburg, Illinois. We packed up our stuff and headed back to our homes and our daily lives. As with all conventions, we have memories of this one which we’ll talk about for years to come. We encourage all of you, whether you are a member or not, to attend an ACB Conference and Convention if you ever get the chance. It’s quite an experience!

All ACB sessions, most special interest affiliate programs, and many of the workshops presented at the conference and  convention were recorded, and they are all archived on ACB’s website, www.acb.org. Convention morning sessions and many other convention programs are also broadcast on ACB-Radio www.acbradio.org during conventions for those who can’t attend in person.

Chapter Round-Up

Capital district update

By Kathy Casey, President

The Capital District board has Developed a finance committee and is currently working on budgetary goals.  We had a guest Speaker from the Albany county sheriff’s office to talk about emergency planning. The topics were explanation of the Disability Access and Functional Needs Committee and how it works with the special need’s registry in times of evacuations or catastrophic events. Because of the presentation, eight new people registered.  

Our chapter Members participated in the annual people with disabilities awareness lobby Day coordinated by the New York State Assembly held at the Legislative office building in Albany.

We have Formed our first annual scholarship committee from the dinner in the dark proceeds. The scholarship will award $1000 to a first-year college student. More information will follow.  

Guide Dog Users of the Empire State (GDUES) by Annie Chiappetta

We are continuing to work on developing an outreach program focused on educating restaurants and business owners regarding service dog access laws, in part to help businesses to be aware of pet owners posing their pet as a service animal and to know when the team is legitimate. We plan to print postcards with the relevant information, thanks to a $1000 Mission Box grant. Next steps are how to organize an outreach plan for 2020.    We continue to attract new members and host workshops at the State conventions. We are planning two workshops this year in Buffalo, so stay tuned for more once we confirm the activities.

New York Council of Citizens with Low Vision (NYSCCLV) Update

By Kathy Casey

We are holding Monthly conference calls. We are planning a panel event for the ACBNY State convention about how to manage with low vision using technology.   We are also Seeking new members. If you or someone you know is interested in joining the group, contact   President Bob Cronin via email: charcro7011@verizon.net.

Westchester Council of the Blind of New York (WCBNY) 2019 – REMEMBERING WHAT WE DID TOGETHER

By Martin Cahill, Membership chair and Maria Samuels, President

Well, folks, it’s that time of the year when the Happy Holidays season is in the rear-view mirror and we take some time to reflect on our past year’s accomplishments.  There is nothing like a review to realize how much you’ve done and how far you still have to go.  For Westchester Council of the Blind of New York (WCBNY) there was work and there was fun and often a mashup of both.   So, join WCBNY in looking back at the year that was.

REV UP The Vote Westchester:  We actively participated in pursuing the rights of All People with Disabilities to vote privately and independently. For us it means making sure the Board of Elections has a working ballot marking device available at all polling stations. We registered new voters, educated many about the importance of voting at the polls and how vital it is for people with disabilities to use the polling sites.  In 2020 plans are already underway to make this vital campaign bigger and better.  Please feel free to let us know how your voting experience went, good or bad.  If something wrong happens to you, it happens to us all.

Apple iPhone/iPad/Apple Watch Accessibility Function Classes: We partnered with the Apple store in White Plains, and they provided two wonderful programs for us on how to use vision accessible features, including Voice Over (VO), available on their devices. Each program ran approximately 6 weeks. We hope to run more classes in 2020, depending on need and interest.

This was an election year not only for ACBNY but for our chapter too. All the officers were reelected including Maria Samuels, President, Annie Chiappetta, Vice President, Jim Pulsoni, Treasurer and Rich Laine, Secretary.  Two new Board Members, Martin Cahill and Jim Kiernan joined Rita Pulsoni, and

Dr. Joe Granderson as Directors.

State Convention:  At this year’s State convention, we proposed a motion from the floor requesting that the State form a committee of state and local chapter members to survey all ACBNY chapters regarding struggles and successes. The goal is to establish the best ways on how the State and local chapters can synchronize efforts to grow and serve our members’ needs effectively and efficiently. The motion was passed.

50 plus Technology grant: We presented two visually impaired people with $500 each to spend on any form of technology they felt would improve their lives. This grant was funded by past Dining in the Dark fundraisers held in partnership with the White Plains Lions Club. Winners were selected by a committee, and we had a wonderful presentation at the White Plains library.

Living with Vision Loss: We met with the Scarsdale and White Plains disability advisory boards, where we discussed daily living with vision loss. This is part of our awareness campaign to help people understand more about what vision loss is, advocate for the disability community, and get the word out that WCBNY is here and growing stronger every year.

Direct Support: We have been getting calls to our chapter phone line from people asking for assistance and some guidance. This is very important as losing vision can be scary and traumatic. The more recognizable we become the more support we can provide.

Westchester County Website: Finally, after years of hard work we were told in writing by the County that all Westchester County websites will be accessible by January 2020.  This was no easy task to start and had been advocated for by WCBNY past presidents Mike Golfo and Annie Chiappetta years ago. Maria, Annie and Rich continued the struggle in 2018 and were pleasantly surprised by the County’s positive press release last year. We are continuing to monitor the promise and because ACBNY signed on to this action with Disability Rights Associates (DRA), we will update the ACBNY President on future developments when available. 

Summer Picnic: We held our second annual summer picnic in July, what a fun time it was. This year we had to move the festivities indoors as the heat index was over 100 degrees that day. The food and games including a tough trivia were enjoyed by all. 

Our Holiday party:  This party is always a well-attended event.  And once again, a great time was had by all. Music, games, sing along with our special guests from Visions.  Visions Center on Blindness is a regional nonprofit that provides services for the local blind including O & M and VRT. One of their many successful programs is their rehab and workforce program for youth who are legally blind. Six young people from the program joined us and even led us in the sing-along. And there was food.  So much good food.

So, what’s next, you ask? Well, 2020, we hope it will be an exciting year.  Now that our membership has grown to over 30 members, we plan on hosting some fun/fundraising events. These are great ways for us to socialize and get to know each other.  Nothing is finalized yet, but we have some great ideas currently being explored. We welcome suggestions from our fellow ACBNY members and you are certainly invited to all of them. 

And I hope you noticed that not one 2020 pun has been used so far in our newsletter contribution, difficult to avoid considering who we are.  But here goes one just for the heck of it.  WCBNY is looking forward to this year with 2020 vision.  Pretty punny, right?

ACB of Western New York by Marie Lyons

 Publicity Chair

ACB of Western New York (ACBWNY) has new officers and board members. Our immediate past president, Karen Blachowicz, has assumed the role of president of the New York State affiliate. Our chapter wishes her all the best in her new post. Ian Foley is now our chapter president. He serves with Kathy Lyons, vice president, Karleen Fiorello, secretary and Alex Meister, treasurer. Richard Fiorello, Paul Jorge and Marie Lyons serve as board members.  Good luck to all in the coming year.


New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) news – Fall/Early Winter, 2019

The New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB) has held and participated in many events this season. 

NYSCB staff attended the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) Meeting in Troy on September 18th   through the 19th, followed by the Business Enterprise Program (BEP) State Commission of Blind Vendors (SCBV) Annual Meeting on Saturday, September 21st. 

Other meetings attended by NYSCB staff include the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Convention in Buffalo on October 18th and the American Council of the Blind’s (ACB) Convention on October 21st in Albany.

On October 16th, 2019, the NYSCB hosted a White Cane Awareness Day at the NYSCB Home Office in Rensselaer. Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) Commissioner Sheila J. Poole made the opening remarks and presented a Proclamation for White Cane Awareness Day. Other speakers at the event included Brian Daniels, Associate Commissioner of the NYSCB, who provided a history of White Cane Day, and described the services that NYSCB provides; NYS Trooper Kerra Burns, who spoke about the NYS Law Section 1153 which regulates the Yield to the Blind law at intersections; Christopher Burke from the Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany (NABA) who spoke about provider services; Mike Honan, NYSCB Orientation and Mobility Instructor, who gave examples of White Cane uses and also outlined the job description of a Mobility Instructor; Meghan Parker of the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) spoke about the independence she gained with the White Cane and also with her Guide Dog, Rizzo; Kathy Casey,  from American Council of the Blind (ACB), who spoke on the functions of the ACB;  Virgil Amaral, a BEP Manager in Albany who spoke on his BEP experience and Ann Gallagher-Sagaas and Madison Near from the NYSCB Albany District office who gave demonstrations on mobility assistance. 

On October 3, 2019, NYSCB BEP together with the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), celebrated the grand re-opening of a newly renovated BEP Express Stop at the AFRL location in Rome, NY. The manager of the Express Stop is Ted Worlock and he has been a BEP Manager for ten years and at the AFRL location in Rome for four years. The Express Stop services over 1,100 employees and contractors at the AFRL. 

On October 28, 2019, Paul Geraci, a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Children’s Consultant, in NYSCB’s Lower Manhattan District Office, received the prestigious Nat Seaman Recognition Award, which was presented by the NYS Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). This award is presented to a deserving individual who has made outstanding contributions and practices working with individuals who are visually impaired in New York State. Paul was nominated because of his tireless efforts and professionalism for educating children through the NYSCB. Paul received supporting letters from colleagues and other professionals who shared many wonderful statements about the contributions he brings to the field of visual impairment.

The following day, on October 29th, the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Counselor Meeting Award Ceremony was held in East Greenbush, where many awards were presented to deserving NYSCB staff. 

On November 7, 2019 the NYSCB participated with an informational booth at the Andrew Heiskell Community Culture and Technology Fair at the NY Public Library in Manhattan. NYSCB staff from the Manhattan, Harlem and Albany offices participated in this event.

NYSCB has also had their radio public service announcement (PSA) run on multiple radio stations throughout New York State. The PSA lists the services that NYSCB provides and includes the toll-free number and website to contact for further information. 

On November 20th, 2019, a presentation was made by Julie Hovey, a NYSCB Associate Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, to AmeriCorps employees and participants at their conference in Saratoga. The presentation focused on inclusion and hiring individuals with disabilities. AmeriCorps is a voluntary civil society program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors engaging adults in public service work with a goal of “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.

Other news from NYSCB is that their request for the “State Law – Yield to the Blind” signs at intersections where individuals who are blind cross on a regular basis, have been approved and installed in two locations in Manhattan, one location is at the office of the Catholic Guild for the Blind and the other location is at the Visions office. Another location, at the AIM Independent Living Center in Corning, NY has been approved, but not installed yet as of this writing. 

And lastly, NYSCB recently found out that OCFS has selected NYSCB to be the featured office for the CDPHP® Workforce Team Challenge t-shirt design. This 3.5-mile race will take place on Thursday, May 21, 2020 at 6:25 p.m. at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Each year thousands of runners, walkers, and volunteers from hundreds of organizations throughout the area gather with their co-workers to take part in the largest annual road race in the Capital Region. Everyone from the Office of Family and Children Services who participates in the race will wear this t-shirt making this a great outreach opportunity, as there will be thousands of people attending this event, as well as the media. There will also be a t-shirt competition, so we will enter that competition as well. This is exciting news and the t-shirt is currently in the design process with input from the entire NYSCB staff.       



My Mother Was a Braille Transcriber by Jean Mann

Four years ago, after both of my parents had passed away, my brothers and I began the sad task of cleaning out the house where they had lived for over 40 years. Among the things we found was an old braille slate and stylus, and a print book of braille rules for transcribers from 1958. My mother had learned braille before I started school and was a volunteer transcriber for a group in Buffalo, New York, where we lived at the time.

Before she married my father, my mother taught French and Latin. Since she was the only one in the group who knew French, most of the transcribing she did was high school and college French textbooks.  Until an area Lions Club bought me a braille writer when I was in third grade, she did all her work on that old slate and stylus.

I was her proofreader. I, of course, knew no French, so we went through each page, letter by letter, symbol by symbol. It was slow and painstaking, and I remember the frustration when she made a mistake we couldn’t fix, and she had to braille a whole page over again. Occasionally she got something in English, and it was a real treat to be able to read words and sentences and know what I was talking about.

When I was young, there were benefits to having my mother know braille. Instead of buying expensive decks of braille cards, she bought regular ones and brailled them herself. I spent hours with family and friends playing War, Go Fish, Hearts, Old Maid, and Uno. I took piano lessons; she’d braille my recital programs so I could follow along and know who was playing what. When I went to summer camp, I got braille letters from home, and she would tape a list of everything I brought with me in the top of my suitcase.

When I entered the ninth grade, I left home to attend the New York State School for the Blind.  I took my braille writer with me and wasn’t home very much. The group she volunteered for provided her with another braille writer so she could continue transcribing those French books. I never proofread for her after that. 

About this time, I wished she had never learned braille. We weren’t getting along very well in those years, so when a braille letter arrived, it meant she was angry with me about something. And then I discovered she occasionally read letters I received from my friends, sometimes before I saw them. I guess it was her way of trying to find out what was going on in my life. When I questioned her about it, she said she didn’t see anything wrong with it, and she knew mothers who read their daughters’ diaries. You can bet I never kept one of those!

Eventually my parents moved to another city because of a change in my father’s job. The braille writer went to someone else, and after 14 years, my mother’s days of braille transcription were over. The slate and stylus were put in a drawer, and made rare appearances, coming out once or twice so grandchildren could take them to school for show and tell when they were learning about braille. And one year I asked her to braille me a deck of Uno cards for Christmas. She told me later she got that rule book out and it took her three evenings to braille all those cards. I only found one mistake in the whole deck.

I made sure to bring that slate and stylus home with me, although I did get rid of the rule book. They’re in a drawer in my desk now. I may never use them, but they remind me of the many hours in those days when I was little, sitting at the kitchen table, proofreading for my mother. 



800-342-3688 TOLL FREE



The New York State Talking Book and Braille Library, NYSTBBL, is thrilled to announce the return of our newsletter, Upstate Update.

This newsletter will be delivered to your email inbox three times a year.

Our newsletter is also available for download on our website. If you are having trouble accessing the newsletter, please contact our office.

The Upstate Update is your source for NYSTBBL news. We will provide information about new and exciting initiatives at our library, best practices to enhance your library experience, and popular reads.

National Library Service, NLS, Changes its Name

The NYSTBBL is a regional library within a network of libraries coordinated by the Library of Congress’ National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, NLS. NLS provides audio and braille materials to the NYSTBBL, ensuring that library service is accessible to eligible residents of 55 counties in upstate New York.

On October 1, 2019, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped officially changed its name to the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled. 

The NLS and the Library of Congress made this change based on input and data from various stakeholders and interest groups. The name change replaces outdated language and is more inclusive, focusing on the individuals served by the library.

The National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled will continue to provide the NYSTBBL with books, magazines, and music materials in online, braille, and audio formats.

BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) Security Update

The National Library Service has made important security updates to BARD, Braille and Audio Reading Download. The BARD system now reviews library accounts daily, checking for patron activity. Any account that has not been used within six months will be made inactive.

If your account was made inactive and you would like to continue using BARD, please contact our office for help. We are happy to re-activate your account and reset your password.

Contact our office to request a BARD password re-set:
tbbl@nysed.gov or 1-800-342-3688

Register for BARD – Do You have a BARD account?

Braille and Audio Reading Download, BARD, is a web-based service from NLS that provides immediate access to audio and electronic braille books, magazines, and music scores. There are no waitlists and no books to return!

Reading materials can be downloaded using the BARD Mobile app, available for iOS and Android, or through the BARD website.

Contact our office for registration information!

2020 Census

April 1, 2020 is Census Day. By this date, every household will receive an invitation to participate in the 2020 Census. The census plays an integral role in determining how the seats in our United States House of Representatives are distributed and how government funding is allocated for valuable services in our communities. It is important that all community members participate in the census to ensure that every US resident is counted.

On March 12, the Census Bureau will begin mailing households an invitation to respond to the census. For the first time, households will have three ways to respond to the short questionnaire: online, by calling a toll-free number, or returning the questionnaire by mail. In May, census workers will begin visiting homes that have not responded to the census invitation to make sure everyone is counted.

The Census Bureau creates guides in many languages to help people complete the census. Help guides will be available in braille and large print. When these guides are available, NYSTBBL will notify our patrons through our newsletter or by request.

Although the census questionnaire will not be available in braille, individuals who are blind or visually impaired can utilize the accessible online questionnaire or the phone-in option available. Both the online and phone-in questionnaires will be available in English and 12 additional languages.

As we get closer to Census Day, NYSTBBL will share communications from NLS to help you stay informed about the 2020 Census. We will include information in upcoming newsletters and on our TBBL Facebook page.

For general census questions, please call 1-800-923-8282, or visit the federal Census help page.

Here are a few helpful links to census resources:

General Information about the 2020 Census from the Census Bureau

The 2020 Census is Accessible for Everyone, downloadable and printable fact sheet

Did you know? – Spanish Digital Talking Book Player

The NYSTBBL offers a Spanish language digital talking book player by request to Spanish speaking patrons. The player announces machine settings in Spanish. If you are interested in a Spanish language player or you would like to receive Spanish audio titles, please contact our reader advisors.

NYSTBBL can provide books in other languages by special request. Contact our office for more information. 

Need more books? Tips from our Reader Advisors

If you do not have enough books to read at home, these suggestions may help!

Call our office and request an increase in your book quota. Patrons in good standing, who return their books regularly, can ask our reader advisors for more books. Reader advisors will increase the number of books being sent to your home address.

When you are finished reading a book, send it back through the mail. Items can take a long time to travel through the mail, so it’s best to send books back as you finish them. When a book is returned to our office, we will send out another book.

Call or email our reader advisors with your book requests. Reader advisors can assign available books to you or add titles to your request list.

Consider changing your library account settings so you receive books on an automatic basis. Items will be sent to you automatically based on reading subjects that you enjoy. Please call our office to change your settings.

If you would prefer to receive books that only you select, consider regularly adding titles to your request list. When titles are returned, more titles from your request list will be sent out. The more titles you have on your request list, the better! Please contact our office to add titles to your request list or for directions on how to do this online.

Are you Moving? Let us know!

If you are moving permanently or temporarily, please let us know.  We can schedule an address change, so your service goes uninterrupted.

If you are moving out of state, or to New York City or Long Island, we can help transfer your library account to one of our other network libraries. There is no need to re-register with a new library.   

If your contact information has changed since registering with our library, please let us know so your library account is up to date.

Donations Made to the NYS Talking Book and Braille Library

When you give to the NYS Talking Book and Braille Library, your donation helps support equal access to reading materials for individuals who are print disabled.

If donations are made in honor of someone special, please include names and addresses of those to be notified. With your permission, we will acknowledge the names of donors and/or honorees in future newsletters.

Please note that the NYSTBBL is only able to accept monetary donations.

Thank you for your generous gifts to the NYS Talking Book and Braille Library.

Your News Source – NFB-NEWSLINE

NFB-NEWSLINE is a free audio news service for anyone who has difficulty reading standard newsprint. NFB- NEWSLINE offers access to more than 500 publications, emergency weather alerts, job listings, TV listings, and more.

Subscribers can access a variety of newspapers and magazines such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The New Yorker, AARP The Magazine, and Harpers just to name a few. Subscribers will also find a variety of local papers, such as The Times Union and Syracuse Post Standard.

Access to the NFB-NEWSLINE service is available in several formats including touch-tone phone, email, the web, or through a mobile app.

If you are interested in NFB-NEWSLINE, please call our office for a subscription or call the National Federation of the Blind at 866-504-7300.

Did you know that NFB-NEWSLINE subscribers can access the service through Amazon’s Alexa, Echo, and Echo Dot? NFB-NEWSLINE subscribers can listen to news, articles, and books through voice activated commands. The National Federation of the Blind can help provide instructions through their website or by calling 866-504-7300.

Religious Materials Through the Xavier Society for the Blind

We often receive requests from patrons for religious and spiritual reading materials, so we would like to highlight the offerings from the Xavier Society for the Blind. Xavier Society for the Blind provides Roman Catholic teachings, Mass readings, magazines, and other religious materials to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. Materials are available in both braille and audio formats. Audio CDs are available as well as audio cartridges that can be played using NLS’ digital talking book player. Materials are free of charge due to generous support from donors. For more information about Xavier, please call their offices at 212-473-7800 or email info@xaviersocietyfortheblind.org.

Talking Book and Braille Library
Cultural Education Center
222 Madison Avenue
Albany, NY 12230-0001



Lisa Helen Hoffman – March 30, 1965-September 23, 2019.

Entered heaven on Monday September 23, 2019. The celebration of Lisa’s life was held on Saturday, October 5. Mass was at St. Mary’s Church in downtown Rochester, followed by a celebration of Lisa’s life at the Geva Theater.

Lisa entered this world on March 30, 1965 with a smile on her face and never stopped smiling. At 14 months, she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma causing her blindness by the age of three. This challenge never slowed Lisa down or prevented her from living a life full of adventures. Lisa saw this world through her heart and her hands.

Lisa was a student at the original World of Inquiry School on Moran Street where she made lifelong friends. West Irondequoit school district welcomed Lisa and her love of learning with open arms.  Lisa’s love for music offered her the opportunity to play her violin in the school orchestra, with Dr. Suzuki and at the Shakespeare plays at Highland Bowl. Lisa loved to dance. She was a member of an English Country Dancing group and looked forward to designing her ball gown for the annual ball.  She loved it so much that she went by herself to an English Dance weeklong camp where she once again made lifelong friends.

Lisa earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Buffalo, in psychology and Spanish. While in Buffalo she joined with the Society for Creative Anachronism. Lisa loved participating in Pennsic.  Lisa’s proficiency in Spanish was put to the test when the family went on their annual trip to Puerto Vallarta (PVR) and she served as their interpreter. Lisa visited her Mexican family many times and was often complimented on how beautifully she spoke the language.

Lisa loved to read braille and had a voracious appetite for learning.

She became quite an Anglophile in her early years with the highlight coming in 1976 in New York City when Lisa was introduced to Queen Elizabeth! This was just one of her many adventures.

Lisa embraced so many things and loved all things tactile. Her creativity with jewels and stones inspired her to make her own jewelry. Many of her friends wear her jewelry on a regular basis. Her jewelry has been sold at the Memorial Art Gallery.

Lisa was featured in an episode of the TV show, “That’s incredible”.

Lisa was a committed advocate for people with disabilities specifically the blind. She was instrumental in the design of the pedestrian bridge over 490 connecting South Clinton with downtown. With a great love of the theatre, Lisa brought audio description to the Geva THEATRE where she worked as a consultant for 25 years. Through her advocacy Lisa received countless honors and accolades, too many to list.

The ripple effect Lisa had on those she touched will her big hugs and infectious laugh will continue for years to come.

Lisa is survived by her Dad (Dan), her “Momma” (Barbara), the “best sister in the world” (Susan), and her four-legged lover from Shakespeare’s, “As you like it” (Orlando).

In lieu of flowers, consider donations to the Geva Theatre or the Memorial Art Gallery in Lisa’s honor.

Note: Lisa has been memorialized on the ACBNY Remembrances and tributes page at https://www.acbny.info/remembrances-and-tributes/#content

Eleanor Eaton FAYE MD

FEBRUARY 15, 1923 – JANUARY 7, 2020

Eleanor Eaton Faye, MD, FACS, an ophthalmologist and a leader in the field of low vision, died on Jan. 7, 2020, in New York City. She was 96 years old. Dr. Faye received her medical degree from Stanford University School of Medicine in 1950, at a time when women in the medical field were still considered a rarity. Dr. Faye was the first woman resident at Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital, and was attending ophthalmic surgeon there for many years. She was Medical Director at Lighthouse Guild in New York until she was 91 years old in 2014, the culmination of an affiliation which spanned 60 years. (Dr. Faye served as Medical Director, Ophthalmological Advisor and Director of Lighthouse Guild Low Vision Services at various points in her career.) Founder and lead instructor with the Lighthouse Guild Continuing Education Program in Low Vision Care, Dr. Faye lectured at universities, hospitals and agencies and was a powerful influence in changing the perception of individuals who were blind or visually impaired with the publication of her first book in 1970 named The Low Vision Patient: Clinical Experiences with Adults and Children.

Dr. Faye’s leadership during her long and distinguished career played a pivotal role in shaping the field of low vision nationally and internationally. She was quoted in a 2006 New York Times article by Jane Brody titled, “Latest Technology Gives Life a Clearer Focus, Is Low Vision Limiting Your World?” in which she pointed out the challenges facing people with low vision.

One of Dr. Faye’s major career achievements was bringing together the professions of optometry and ophthalmology… the bringing together of ophthalmologists and optometrists with vision rehabilitation and occupational therapists… training leaders in low vision in optometry and ophthalmology

Dr. Faye was the author of numerous publications and her book Clinical Low Vision (Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1994) has become a classic text on low vision. Her many accolades and awards include two Merit Awards from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Distinguished Service Award from the American Optometric Association. She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the American Foundation for the Blind, Chair of the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Low Vision Standing Committee, and Chair of the Low Vision Clinical Society.

Eleanor Eaton Faye was born in Berkeley, California on Feb. 15, 1923, and in her youth moved to Hawaii, where she attended Punahou School. She also attended the Dana Hall Prep School in Massachusetts. She received her BA from Stanford University in 1945, and her MD from Stanford in 1950. She did her postgraduate training in ophthalmology at New York University and at the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital.

Dr. Faye’s maternal ancestor, Francis Eaton, arrived on the Mayflower as the carpenter 400 years ago in 1620. He was one of 41 people to sign the “The Mayflower Compact”, the first governing document of Plymouth Colony. Her grandfather, Hans Peter Faye II, left Norway in 1880 to eventually settle on the island of Kauai, in what was then the Kingdom of Hawaii, where he was a businessman, landowner and developer in the islands’ growing sugar industry. (Much of the remaining former sugar growing land has been d-versified and is partially a waterfront historic cottage resort.) In 1914, the Norwegian-Hawaiian family moved to Berkeley. Dr. Faye’s father, Hans Peter Faye III, met her mother, Charlotte Eaton of Yonkers, NY, during his time at Choate School and Yale, shortly before he left for military service during World War I.

Dr. Faye is survived by two sisters, Margaret Faye Morgan and Charlotte F. Sharp, as well as six nieces, two nephews and many grand- and great-grand nieces and nephews.

American Council of the Blind of New York, Inc.

2020 Officers and Board of Directors Contact List

The following is the most up to date list of members of the 2020 ACBNY Board of Directors.   Please contact your  President Karen Blachowicz karenablachowicz@gmail.com   or Secretary/newsletter editor, Annie Chiappetta at editor@acbny.info

Beginning January 1, 2020


Karen Blachowicz, President karenablachowicz@gmail.com )   

Maria Heinlein-gage, 1st Vice President maria.heinlein@gmail.com

Nancy Murray, 2nd Vice President nancy.murray1947@gmail.com

Michael Golfo, Treasurer mssg74@gmail.com 

Annie Chiappetta, Secretary anniecms64@gmail.com 

Board of Directors

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

Greater New York:  Fitz Martin fitzmartin@willpowerent.com

Guide Dog Users of the Empire State: Meghan Parker  mparker@ilny.org 

Long Island: Rosanna Beaudrie: rosannab40@aol.com 

Rochester: Ann K. Parsons akp@portaltutoring.info     

Utica: Carl Gage carlgage8@gmail.com 

Westchester: Rodney Stanford  Rodney.stanford@gmail.com 

NYSCCLV: Bill Murray:  billmurray52@icloud.com   

RSVNY: Alex Meister Alexmeister@verizon.net     

ACB of Western New York: Ian Foley  ianfoley206@hotmail.com 

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