Of Note

RFB&D Reaches Out to Blinded Veterans

A nonprofit organization distinguished by nearly 60 years of service to individuals with print disabilities is expanding its outreach to include a greater number of BVA members and other blinded veterans.

Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic® (RFB&D®) was founded in 1948 to help soldiers blinded in World War II take advantage of the GI Bill, thus helping them obtain an education and rebuild their lives. RFB&D® has an extensive library of more than 30,000 digitally recorded textbooks.

According to RFB&D® Media Relations Associate Mark Zustovich, the organization is a lending library that charges only an annual nonprofit membership fee to provide access to the library’s resources. In a visit with Tom Miller, Tom Zampieri, and Steve Matthews at BVA National Headquarters in late November, RFB&D® Vice President of Government Relations Julie Moeller explained the potential benefits of the services to blinded veterans interested in furthering their education, both formally and informally.

Besides serving students with visual impairments, RFB&D® has clients with learning disabilities or physical disabilities that make reading standard textbooks difficult or impossible. Some 150,000 students from kindergarten through graduate school and beyond are the present beneficiaries. All of the accessible titles are recorded by more than 7,000 volunteers working in 29 RFB&D® recording studios nationwide.

“With the ongoing situation in Iraq and in other places around the globe, we feel our services are more relevant and important than ever,” said Zustovich. “Getting the word out to veterans about our audiobooks will help them begin or continue their education and follow other life pursuits with independence, confidence, and success.”

RFB&D® was originally known as simply RFB®. It was founded by New York City philanthropist Anne McDonald in the attic of the Yorkville Branch of the New York Public Library. Several letters from veterans blinded during World War II inspired the idea as they described their frustration at not being able to pursue a college education because college texts were not readily accessible.

For more information about RFB&D® services and membership, go to www.rfbd.org, call Barbara Zustovich at 609-520-8017, or write to Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic®, 20 Rozel Road, Princeton, NJ 08540.

Columbia Study Requests Help

A Columbia University study is examining the resources available to and used by individuals who have become blind in adulthood. The research also looks at the factors that play a role in helping individuals cope with becoming blind as adults.

As part of the study, researchers are conducting a survey through May 2007 that can be completed online in 15-30 minutes. The survey contains 47 questions and does not ask for any information that can identify respondents, nor is it possible for answers to be linked back to them. If respondents begin the survey and wish to stop, they may do so at any point by closing their browsers or leaving the site.

The survey may be completed using a screen enlarger or the Macintosh screen reader, “Voice Over.” At press time, Windows compatible screen readers will not work with the survey.

The purpose of the research, approved by Columbia’s Institutional Review Board, is to help Occupational Therapists and other health care professionals better understand how to help individuals with acquired blindness obtain the resources they need. This will help them function at their optimum capacity in their desired community roles.

To access the cover letter that explains the survey or to link directly to it, proceed to the What’s New at BVA page on the Association’s website, www.bva.org/news/. Interested parties may also call Professor Pam Miller, principal investigator of the study, at 212-305-3781, or email her at phm1@columbia.edu. Miller can also be contacted to request a copy of the study’s findings once they are complete.

Disabled Vets Again Take to Slopes

Recently wounded OIF and OEF veterans will be among the 350 men and women who ski the Rocky Mountains April 1-6 at the 21st National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colorado.

The event, held annually in late winter and co-sponsored by VA and the Disabled American Veterans, is a rehabilitation program open to all military veterans with spinal cord injuries or disease, visual impairments, neurological conditions, orthopedic amputations, or other disabilities, and who receive care at any VA health care facility.

“The daily courage and determination of these true American heroes are examples for us all,” said VA Secretary R. James Nicholson. “We are pleased to serve these wounded and disabled veterans on their way to recovery.”

Activities of the six-day program include Alpine and Nordic skiing instruction. Participants will also be introduced to a variety of adaptive activities and sports such as rock climbing, scuba diving, snowmobiling, and sled hockey. The U.S. Secret Service will also teach a course on self-defense for people with disabilities. As always, the clinic will offer a training and development program designed for top-level skiers.

Registration occurred throughout the autumn season and is now complete for the 2007 event, but further information of a general nature and about the 2008 event can be obtained by calling Teresa Parks at 970-263-5040 or at www.va.gov/vetevent/wsc/2007/default.cfm.

Website Assists JAWS Users

A website that has helped hundreds of the totally blind use and troubleshoot JAWS, an audible computer screen reading application, remains accessible online.

According to Dennis O'Connell, New York regional group, www.jfwlite.com was owned and maintained by Debbie Scales, who passed away on September 4, 2006. Because of overwhelming requests, her husband, Tom, has decided to keep the site active for the time being but will be unable to update the site to keep pace with future JAWS upgrades.

"Our JAWS users should be aware that "jfwlite" has been indispensable over the years," said Dennis. "Sooner or later, though, the information will be outdated, and I would like to see more of us use it before that happens."

Pages on the site include one featuring training and tutorials for JAWS users, one that explains JAWS programs, another elaborating on helpful hints, and still another that features a JAWS for Windows voice chat room. Anti-virus and hoax information are also provided.

Vets of WWI Press Forward

Once standing 4.7 million strong, American farm boys, factory hands, and tradesmen, all called by their country to fight “the war to end all wars,” the number of living veterans of World War I now stands at 12. At least that was the number available as of November 11, 2006, the 88th anniversary of the armistice that ended the war.

According to a report published in the November 15 issue of RAO Bulletin, 24 names appeared on an unofficial roster of known remaining veterans when 2006 began. Scripps Howard News Service confirmed, 11 months later, that the figure had dwindled to 12.

The average age of the group is 108, with Puerto Rican Emiliano Mercado del Toro, 115, receiving longevity honors as the world’s oldest living man and the longest-living U.S. veteran in history.

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