New Year – New Communications Program

Happy 2018! The Council is delighted to begin a new weekly email program to keep you up to date with everything taking place through our services, education and advocacy efforts.

A graphic features a white envelope with a piece of paper sticking out halfway that reads “email.” A blue arrow pointing to the right sweeps across the envelope.

Every Monday morning, you will receive an email from us. The first email includes the month’s upcoming events and highlights both Council events as well as events of collaborating organizations. The second features important legislative updates related to disability issues. You can find “On Sight,” our e-newsletter, in your inbox on the third Monday of the month. Our last piece, “Council News You Can Use,” arrives on the fourth week of the month.


As with any new program, we openly welcome thoughts and feedback. Please send your comments to info@wcblind.org.

Legislative Update: Importance of Understanding the Wisconsin Caregivers Tax Credit Bill

An elderly woman and young lady stand side by side, smiling.

Do you provide care for a family member with a visual impairment? If signed into law, the Wisconsin Caregivers Tax Credit Bill would help alleviate the financial burden for family members who care for people with vision loss and other disabilities.

The credit would reimburse half of what families pay, up to a total of $1,000. Expenses that can be reimbursed under this credit include: adapting a residence to make it more accessible, buying medical equipment, hiring a personal care worker, paying for transportation costs and acquiring assistive technology.

In order to qualify, the person claiming the tax credit must be a spouse or relative by blood, marriage or adoption, to a person with a disability for whom they provide care. The person receiving care must be at least 18 years old and require assistance with one or more daily living activities.

The Senate bill, SB 528, was authored by Sen. Patrick Testin, (R-Stevens Point). The bill’s hearing took place on January 10. It will need to be voted on out of committee by the Senate Committee on Workforce Development, Military Affairs and Senior Issues. Afterward, the full senate would need to approve the bill before it can be signed into law.

The Assembly version, AB 631, was authored by Rep. Ken Skowronski, (R-Franklin). The Assembly bill’s hearing was on December 12, and was approved unanimously by the Assembly committee on Mental Health on January 9. The bill will need to be approved by the full Assembly.

If you provide care for someone with a disability, you can play an important role in ensuring this beneficial piece of legislation makes it into the law books. Contact your state senator and state representative, and give them a brief summary of how this bill would positively impact you and your family.

To obtain contact information for your legislators, go to www.legis.wisconsin.gov. Once on that page, click on “Who are my Legislators” and enter your address to find the senator and representative nearest you.

For more information, and to see the complete text of the bill, click here.

February’s Assistive Technology Workshops Feature Ways for Better Books Access through iPhone and Amazon Tablets

iPhone and Amazon Kindle
Smart phones and e-book devices have opened the world of books to more people.

Reading is a great way to learn new things, sharpen your professional skills and explore fictional worlds. With the advances in technology and availability of books in alternate formats, it has never been easier to read alongside sighted friends and coworkers.

Accessing books is the theme for the Council’s February assistive technology classes.

“One of the benefits of this reading technology is that many books can be downloaded almost instantly,” says Jim Denham, Assistive Technology Specialist. “You will not have to wait for books to be shipped to you. You can join your friends in discussing their newest favorite book, and will no longer be the last one to read the next bestseller. In some cases, I’ve been able to find and read books before my sighted peers!”

On Wednesday, February 7, “Ways to Read with your iPhone” is taking place. The iPhone provides access to the National Library Service’s Braille and Audio Reading Download (BARD), Audible, iBooks and Kindle.

Later in the month, join Jim on Wednesday, February 21, for “Amazing Access with Amazon Tablets.” Various Amazon tablets, sold for about $50, are an affordable way to access books. Literature is available on the tablets from apps (otherwise known as applications) including Audible and Kindle.

Workshop participants are encouraged to bring their devices and Jim will assist in setting them up. Class sizes are small to foster a hands-on, group learning approach.

“I hope people walk away from these classes more confident with their ability to access the wide array of books and information available,” says Jim.

Both classes are from 3:00-5:00 p.m. and cost $20 per class.

Sign up for your workshop of choice or find out about scholarships available by contacting Jim. Call him at 608-237-8104 or email him at jdenham@wcblind.org.

For more information, click here. The deadline for registration is 4:30 p.m. on the Monday before each class, so don’t delay!

Student Spotlight:

Sean Whalen – Harvard Law School

Sean Whalen

Reflecting on one’s own experiences in life can bring about the motivation and desire to help others. This has been the case for Council scholarship recipient Sean Whalen, who is a first year law student at Harvard Law School in Boston. He is originally from Pewaukee, Wisconsin.

“I’ve wanted to study law since I was in seventh grade,” Sean explains. “It seemed like a very practical degree I could use to make a direct impact on people’s lives.”

Sean’s goal is to work as an attorney in the possibly in the fields of immigration, education or disability rights law.

“As someone who is blind and is part of a minority group, I have experienced discrimination firsthand,” he elaborates. “I believe this gives me an understanding of what others might be going through and I want to do what I can to open up opportunities for them to contribute to their families, communities and society.”

Sean spent all of 2016 in Nicaragua volunteering with an organization called “Empowerment Through Integration.” While there, he researched expanding training to blind and visually impaired people in the country through a local nonprofit. Sean still serves with this organization as an advisor, and grant writer for them as well.

Sean says he is grateful for the scholarship because the financial assistance will enable him to take out fewer loans to pay for his education. He explains he will not feel as much pressure to hold a position within a large corporation long-term, since he will have less debt to pay back after graduation. He is eager to be able to focus on getting a job in his field of interest sooner than would have been possible without the financial assistance of scholarships.

Applying for the scholarship introduced Sean to the Council and its advocacy. He is interested in being a part of our legislative work upon his return to Wisconsin.

“I want to work on issues I care about, and to have something be changed for the better because I was here on this planet,” he says.

In his free time, Sean enjoys playing the guitar, writing and recording music, reading, hanging out with friends and arguing about politics. He likes watching sports, and is an avid Green Bay Packers fan. He hopes to return to Wisconsin after finishing his degree.

The Outlook From Here

Stories About Blindness and Visual Impairment

The Outlook from Here Stories about Blindness and Visual Impairment logo

The Outlook from Here is a blog dedicated to sharing stories of living in Wisconsin with blindness, visual impairment, or disability. Beginning in October 2013, a small group of people from across Wisconsin began meeting over the phone to discuss how to tell stories about disability, blindness, and visual impairment. Many of us had never written about our experiences before but some of us had, and even one person had published. Together, we discussed the dire need to share stories of disability, the challenges of communicating about disability, and the hurdles to writing in general.

The writers group decided to share stories based on the following shared beliefs:

  • We believe that sharing stories is absolutely essential to creating a more accepting, inclusive society.
  • We believe that everyone experiences disability differently, even those with blindness and vision loss.
  • We believe in maintaining a strong sense of humor and hope in the face of challenging situations.
  • And we believe in the power of stories to connect, educate, and transform.

Please consider submitting your stories or making suggestions for topics or questions related to blindness, visual impairment, disability, and life in Wisconsin. You can submit your stories or ideas to info@wcblind.org.


Check out the most recent stories to the Outlook From Here:

Strolling with Sully: Transition from White Cane to Guide Dog, Part II

Have you ever taken into consideration all the responsibilities that go into becoming a guide dog handler? Janell Groskreutz discusses the commands, upkeep of training and work that went into forming the strong bond with her guide dog, Sully.

Baking with Braille

Katherine Corbett describes her use of braille throughout her life as she cooks. Read on to find the sugar cookie recipe she enjoys making for holiday gift boxes!

For our FEATURED SHARPER VISION STORE PRODUCT, the Money Organizer Wallet, go to:


For a list of our UPCOMING EVENTS, go to www.wcblind.org/events.

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