Of Note


Organizations Promote Usher Syndrome Awareness


Usher Syndrome was the subject of a recent Capitol Hill legislative briefing organized and sponsored by the Foundation Fighting Blindness and the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research.

The February 5 event was held to increase awareness of the disorder and garner support for future legislation affecting research into its causes and cure.

“Usher Syndrome is a devastating, inherited disorder that initially causes moderate to severe hearing impairment, followed by a progressive loss of vision as affected people approach adulthood,” said Dr. William Kimberling, Director of the National Center for the Study and Treatment of Usher Syndrome at Boys Town National Research Hospital.

Dr. William Kimberling addresses the significance of genetic research and gene mapping studies in understanding Usher Syndrome at February 5 Capitol Hill briefing.
Dr. William Kimberling addresses the significance of genetic research and gene mapping studies in understanding Usher Syndrome at February 5 Capitol Hill briefing.

Nine genes are known to cause Usher Syndrome, with different genes involved in each type of the disorder. Usher Syndrome and its ensuing deafness-blindness has been, according to Kimberling, a largely neglected area of both research and funding due to a lack of an organized voice on its behalf.

Also participating in the briefing was Foundation Fighting Blindness Board Member Moira Shea, who, several years ago, was the first person ever to be accompanied by a guide dog when presenting oral testimony before Congress.

Obama Nominates Deputy Secretary


Pending Senate confirmation, W. Scott Gould will serve as Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Obama Administration. At the time of his appointment, January 30, Gould was vice president for public sector strategy at IBM Global Business Services.

He is a former intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve and has public service experience at both the Departments of Commerce and Treasury.

“Scott and I share a reverence for those who have served in uniform,” said Secretary Shinseki. “He is fully committed to fulfilling President Obama’s vision and my goals for transforming VA into a 21st Century organization, and he understands the fundamentals that will drive that transformation: veterans-centric, results-oriented, and forward-looking.”

Gould was Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Secretary for Administration at the Commerce Department. He was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Finance and Management at the Treasury Department during the Clinton Administration from 1994 to 1999. As a White House Fellow, he worked at the U.S. Export-Import Bank and in the Office of the White House Chief of Staff.

Prior to his job at IBM, Gould was Chief Executive Officer of The O’Gara Company, a strategic advisory and investment services firm, and Chief Operating Officer of Exolve, a technology services company.

Gould is a co-author and recipient of several public service honors and awards. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and both an MBA and a doctorate in Education from the University of Rochester.

Duckworth to Serve as Assistant Secretary


L. Tammy Duckworth is President Obama’s choice to direct VA’s public affairs, internal communications, and intergovernmental relations, the Administration announced on February 3.

Duckworth will also oversee programs for homeless veterans, consumer affairs, and special rehabilitation events.

“Effective communications with veterans and VA’s stakeholders is a key to improving our services and ensuring that veterans receive the benefits they deserve,” said Secretary Shinseki. “Tammy Duckworth brings significant talent, leadership, and personal experience to this important work.”

Duckworth is the most recent director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, having been appointed in 2006. In previous testimony before Congress, she expressed her commitment to veterans and the need for transformation of the Department.

“I have met and spoke with Tammy Duckworth and have been impressed with her interest in the eye wounded through a visit she made to the BRC at Hines,” said Tom Zampieri. “In 2007, I was present for her testimony before the Senate Committee, which included remarks about the Iraq eye wounded and TBI-related vision complications.”

As a Captain in the Illinois National Guard, Duckworth was deployed to Iraq. She was Assistant Operations Officer for a 500-soldier aviation task force and also served as a Logistics Officer and Company Commander. As a helicopter pilot flying combat missions in 2004, she suffered critical injuries when her helicopter was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, losing both legs and partial use of one arm.

Duckworth has managerial experience as the Coordinator for the Center for Nursing Research at Northern Illinois University. She earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Hawaii and a Master’s degree from George Washington University. She is the daughter of a U.S. Marine who fought in Vietnam and is married to OIF veteran and National Guard Major Bryan Bowlsbey.

Dale Tapped as Special Assistant


Vice President Joe Biden announced February 12 that Kareem Dale will serve as President Obama’s Special Assistant for Disability Policy.

The announcement was made at the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Boise, Idaho. It is the first time a U.S. President has had a Special Assistant focused exclusively on disability policy.

Dale, originally from Chicago and partially blind, will have direct access to the President and will coordinate the Administration’s efforts to see that people with disabilities are on a level playing field with all Americans. He served as the National Disability Director for the “Obama for America” campaign and on then Senator Obama’s Disability Policy Committee.

Research Seeks to Improve Safety at Traffic Circles


Researchers at the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) at North Carolina State University recently completed a major stage of a nine-year study to assist blind pedestrians safely cross single- and multi-lane roundabouts also known as traffic circles.

“Blind Pedestrians’ Access to Complex Intersections” is an interdisciplinary study conducted in partnership with Western Michigan University’s Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies and funded by a bioengineering research grant from the National Eye Institute.

The team presented its latest findings at the Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting on January 14 in Washington, DC.

Although research has revealed that traffic circles reduce vehicle crashes, improve traffic flow, and increase pedestrian safety for sighted individuals, the same studies show increased risk and challenge for the blind and visually impaired in such circles. The lack of signal control and a confusing auditory environment make it challenging for the blind to identify crossing opportunities in the form of gaps in traffic or yielding vehicles.

ITRE researchers seek to address the problem through development of an Automated Yield Detection System (AYDS). The technology reads live video feeds from an overhead point and sends the video to an image processor that then transmits messages to audible pedestrian signals at the pedestrian crossing.

A wireless signal triggers an audible message that informs the visually impaired pedestrian when vehicles have slowed to the point at which a crossing opportunity is created. The pedestrian is then able to confirm, through his or her own senses, if the vehicle has truly stopped and if it is safe to cross.

“We believe this study is of the utmost importance in providing access to pedestrians with limited or total loss of vision as well as preserving the very purpose of roundabouts, which is to keep traffic flowing,” said ITRE Director Dr. Nagui M. Rouphail.

APH History Available


An illustrated history book about the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), commissioned to celebrate the company’s 150th anniversary in 2008, is now available.

History in the Making: The Story of the American Printing House for the Blind was written by former APH Museum Director Carol Tobe of Floyds Knobs, Indiana. The 180-page work is packed with details about the origins of the organization and includes rich photography, tactile pages from vintage books embossed on original APH presses using original plates from as early as the 1880s, and an accessible MP3 audio book version read by APH narrator Jack Fox.

Tobe places the birth, growth, and development of the unique Louisville, Kentucky, manufacturer into the context of changing attitudes about people with disabilities. It also contains stories of people who guided the organization and of pioneer educators and students who developed standardized methods of reading and writing, and who devised methodology to make the written word available to those without sight.

“This book explores how an organization with one printing press in borrowed space in a school basement grew to occupy most of a city block and became an icon for generations of students, teachers, and adult consumers,” said Dr. Tuck Tinsley III, President of APH.

For more information about the book and its availability, call 800-223-1839 or click on www.aph.org.

APH has recently established a formal relationship with BVA, having begun recording and duplicating the audiocassette version of the BVA Bulletin last summer.

New Page for War Returnees


Service members coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan have a newly enhanced VA web page designed just for them.

Launched the week during the Presidential inauguration, the page offers tailored information on VA services and programs as well as Internet-savvy video features, stories, and even a blog. Section titles include “What VA Can Do for Me,” “How I Get Help,” “Welcome Home and Outreach,” “Family Support,” and “Guard and Reserve.”

To access the fresh information, visit http://www.oefoif.va.gov.

Research to Focus on Camp Lejeune Water


Individuals who resided at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune during 1957-87 are encouraged to register atwww.marines.mil/clsurvey to receive updated information and notifications regarding an ongoing water study. Registration can also occur by telephone at 877-261-9782, Monday through Friday, 8:30-5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

In the early 1980s, two solvents, trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE), both unregulated at the time, were found in two water systems serving the Tarawa Terrace and Hadnot Point areas. Certain drinking wells were identified as the source of the chemicals and taken out of service in 1984-85.

The Department of the Navy is funding two independent research initiatives. The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry (ATSDR) is determining if there is an association between exposure to the water and certain adverse health effects. The National Academy of Sciences is evaluating specific health risks associated with exposure.

Upon completion of the research, the Marine Corps will directly notify those on the registry through direct mail and email.

Camp Lejeune water meets all environmental standards today and is sampled monthly for volatile organic compounds.

Previous Issue Correction


The Autumn 2008 issue of the Bulletin mistakenly reported that the small community of St. Vincent, Arkansas, lost just one of 21 sons from 75 families who fought in World War II.

According to St. Vincent native and Arkansas Regional Group President George Myers, the one loss actually occurred in World War I and not World War II. He added that World War II resulted in several casualties among the St. Vincent natives defending the country.

The Bulletin regrets the error.