Letters to the Editor
Independence and Confidence Restored Through Learning Ally
I am reaching out to my fellow BVA members to ask for your assistance in getting the word out to other veterans who may not be able to read this. I lost my eyesight in July 2002 while serving in the Marines. I lost a lot of independence and confidence when that happened. It took a few people to help me find my way back onto my life's path.
While on that journey, I discovered that the world had been designed for, and managed by, the sighted. In particular, I found academia to be nearly impossible since I could not see my textbooks!
Another veteran introduced me to a nonprofit organization that makes books accessible for veterans like me and for others with print-related disabilities. That organization is Learning Ally (formerly known as Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic).
When I found out about the history of the organization, it really humbled me. It started in 1948 with volunteers recording books for veterans returning from World War II with visual impairment. As the GI Bill was making education possible for many, Learning Ally made it attainable for those with visual impairment.
I wanted to continue my service to veterans and give back to the organization that helped me to begin reading again. As a way to contribute to something I really believe in, I asked to represent veterans as an unpaid board member. I helped create a webpage specifically tailored for veterans who need access to Learning Ally audiobooks.
Learning Ally is a subscription service that is free. However, Congress has discontinued its funding, just as it has the funding of many national nonprofits. Learning Ally has now been forced to charge a nominal fee but, compared to the cost of purchasing individual audiobooks, the expense is minimal. In addition, a discount is offered to all veterans and their families. There are also waivers for individuals who cannot afford the service.
The effects of war leave hidden wounds far more often than they leave visible scars. It took my loss of eyesight and my attempt to attend college with a disability to realize that. The demon I see is that most folks think others have the greatest influence to effect change. They then never attempt to make their own mark and wait for others to do it all.
The reality is that ordinary people do extraordinary things. I'm asking you, therefore, to be that one person who helps other veterans find their way back by doing an extraordinarily simple thing: Pass this information along!
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and for reading it to someone who can't, and for passing it along to someone who can impact the life of a veteran. If you don't know someone with a print-related disability but would like to serve in a different capacity, please look at www.learningally.org for ideas and ways to help.
Submarine vs. Destroyer
I am a retired VIST working as a volunteer for blinded vets now. Reading the Spring 2012 BVA Bulletin, I noticed that the credit for the cover photo says it is a picture of a Gato class fleet submarine.
In actual fact, the picture is of a Destroyer Escort- DE 238. (I don't know the name of that specific DE.) I thought I would write as an "armchair historian" of World War II since it may be difficult for your World War II vets to make out the picture! I love keeping up on BVA and look forward to the Bulletin when I receive it.
Editor's Note: The error you point out is a most interesting but frustrating one. We took the photo, identified as the USS Cavalla, directly from the Galveston Island Convention and Visitor's Bureau photo gallery. Our description of the Cavalla as a Gato class submarine came after consultation with other sources that did not include another photo. As much as we'd like to place responsibility on the convention bureau, ultimate responsibility rests with our editing. We could have looked a little more closely at the photo to see that the Destroyer Escort pictured on the cover is clearly not a submarine! The ship is, in fact, the USS Stewart, named after Rear Admiral Charles Stewart. It is located in Galveston's Seawolf Park near the Cavalla. We regret the error and sincerely thank Gus and other BVA members who called or emailed to let us know about it.
Blinded Veterans Helping Blinded Veterans and More
I delivered a Dell Computer with Zoom Text and all of the associated hardware to a young person in Staunton, Virginia yesterday. She is an eighth grader in the middle school there. She also received a Merlin CCTV.
I received this equipment from Judy Allen, who lives in Virginia's Chesterfield County. Her husband, Bill Allen, is a World War II veteran. Until he entered a nursing facility recently, he was using the items. Both Bill and Judy wanted to get them to someone who could make good use of them. After meeting the student and her grandmother, I was assured that they would be very helpful to the young lady. She was very excited about having her own computer and also the CCTV.
Kenneth Carr, one of our members in the Richmond Chapter of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Group, also donated a CCTV that he was not using to the Rappahannock Central Regional Library near Fredericksburg. He also donated some books to the library. The CCTV will be available to anyone who comes to the library and needs to magnify library materials.
We are blinded veterans helping blinded veterans but we can still help everyone else. Donating items that can be of use elsewhere can encourage young and old alike to build hope and confidence in their futures. If you have equipment or low-vision items that you no longer use, or if you know of a family of a veteran who has passed away, please donate the equipment so someone else can use it.