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The Council Courier


Contact information
754 Williamson Street, Madison, Wisconsin
800-783-5213 (Outside Madison)
608-255-1166 (Madison area)
608-237-8100 Direct Line, Sharper Vision Store
FAX: 608-255-3301 

The Council is a strong voice for blind citizens of Wisconsin. Its mission is to promote the dignity and independence of people in Wisconsin who are blind and visually impaired by providing services, advocating legislation and educating the general public. The Council is funded through proceeds of endowments established through bequests, grants, private gifts from individuals and corporations, and the White Cane Fund campaign.

Council Courier
Nona Graves, Editor
Kathi Koegle, Managing Editor
Judith Rasmussen, Braille proofreader and transcriber
Chad Nelson, CD Duplicator

Newsletter Committee
Deen Amusa
Nona Graves
Karen Heesen
Bruce Parkinson
Chris Richmond
Rhonda Staats Kathi Koegle (staff)

Editor’s note: Are you receiving multiple copies of the Courier unnecessarily? If so, please let us know. Call Ray at 608-237-8109, and we’ll make sure you get only one copy. We invite you to send us story ideas for future issues of this newsletter. Contact Kathi Koegle at or by phone at 608-237-8111.

White Cane Policy

Any Wisconsin resident who is blind or visually impaired may be eligible for one free white cane every 24 months. If you are a first-time cane user and not listed in our database, you are eligible to receive an additional back-up cane within the first two years of receiving your first one at half the retail cost. Available canes include the Ambutech adjustable support cane, Ambutech folding mobility cane and Ambutech folding ID cane.
You may be eligible if your vision is less than 20/70. According to Wisconsin State Statute 47.01 and the United States Code, 42 USC 1382 c(a)(2), legal blindness is defined as central visual acuity not greater than 20/200 in the better eye with correcting lenses or a visual field that subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees. Call 1-800-783-5213 or 608-255-1166 to learn more.

From the Executive Director
By Loretta Himmelsbach

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the American Printing House (APH) for the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, as part of the Vision Serve Alliance meeting. APH is the world's largest nonprofit organization creating educational, workplace and independent living products and services for people who are blind and visually impaired.

Founded in 1858 in Louisville, Kentucky, APH is the oldest organization of its kind in the United States. From 1858 until the Civil War began, APH organized its operation and raised funds to create embossed books. After the war, APH resumed operations and produced its first tactile books, which led to national scale printing by the early 1870’s. Significantly, APH received a federal mandate in 1879 when the Congress of the United States passed the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind. This act designates APH as the official supplier of educational materials to all students in the U.S. who meet the definition of blindness and are working at less than college level.
APH’s history is rich, and I encourage you to visit their website,, to learn more about them. They have a historian on site who is chronicling the history of blindness in the United States. In their Hall of Fame, they recognize leaders and legends of the blindness field. Among the people they have honored are Warren Bledsoe, Eleanor Faye, Morris Frank, William Hadley, and Josephine Taylor.
I was able to see firsthand how books are embossed and bound, how staff choose which geometric shapes are made tactile for a geometry text, and why it takes many weeks to receive an accessible hard copy book. I learned how the voices are chosen for Library of Congress audio books. (Hint: it’s a rigorous audition process.) I also witnessed a recording of a book in their studios. We were able to talk with the tech department and see how a new product is developed.
Today, APH continues this proud tradition by producing hundreds of textbooks in a variety of media -- braille, large type, electronic, and recorded form -- and by manufacturing and maintaining an extensive inventory of commercially-unavailable educational aids, tools and supplies.
Having our meeting at APH was indeed an educational highlight!

Recruitment for Council Board Positions
By Rhonda Staats

Have you always wished for an opportunity to give back to the community of blind and visually impaired persons? Do you have the interest and commitment to serve as a Council Board member? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, read on.

The Council needs to fill five Board of Directors positions for terms beginning in January 2015. Each of these terms is for three years, from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2017. The Council also has a one-year position, from January 1 to December 31, 2015, that needs to be filled due to the resignation of a current board member.

All applicants must be residents of Wisconsin and have a central visual acuity not exceeding 20/70 in the better eye, with best correction. They must be able to attend four quarterly, face-to-face Council meetings each year, plus additional conference calls or in-person meetings. Board members must also serve on at least one Council committee. All committee work and meetings are in addition to the Council’s quarterly meetings.

Applicants must have reliable access to a computer and an e-mail address, be able to open and read MS Word and Excel attachments, and be able to reply to electronic communications.

While a board position is a volunteer service, it also requires a special kind of commitment. It is important that applicants understand that they must respond to or follow through with requests from fellow board members, the Executive Director, or Council staff, since this is how the Council conducts business. Because we live in locations around the state, the Council Board must perform many tasks using the phone or e-mail. Timely response and access to wireless and e-mail are essential to Council Board service.

The application questionnaire is straightforward. You will be asked why you wish to serve the Council and to list your skill sets as they relate to the Council’s mission and strategic priorities. You will be able to tell us what the Council’s mission means to you and share your perceptions regarding the service needs and concerns of people who are blind or visually impaired. You will be able to list your education, work experience, skills and other abilities relative to the Council’s programs and services. Community outreach is important to being a Council Board member, so, if you enjoy meeting new people, presenting to groups and promoting the Council by telling our story, please apply.

To learn about the Council’s work and apply for a Board position, please visit If you need additional information or clarification, please call Loretta Himmelsbach, Executive Director, at 608-237-8103.
Applications must be received by September 15, 2014.

On the Lookout for Outstanding Award Recipients
By Kathy Brockman, Awards Committee Chair

In the April issue of the Council Courier, I invited readers to submit nominations for the Council’s 2014 awards. The Awards Committee has received a few, and we’re on the lookout for more suggestions. We don’t know everyone in Wisconsin, but we believe that there are many silent heroes are out there who are helping individuals with vision loss or are active on committees, projects and other special efforts. To help you think of worthy recipients, here is some award background.

The Louis Seidita Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals who work diligently on behalf of blind and visually impaired people in Wisconsin.
The person does not have to be (or have been) a Council Board member, but she or he should be very active in the community.

The Exceptional Accommodation Award recognizes an employer who has gone above and beyond providing accessible equipment, training or other assistance so the blind or visually impaired employee could perform all job functions effectively.

The Community Partnership Award is presented to an agency, government entity or organization that has worked effectively with the Council to promote programs or has helped significantly with one of our events.

The Legislative Award recognizes a legislator who has been involved with the Council’s efforts on issues of importance to people who are blind or visually impaired. Special assistance on a legislative proposal or other advocacy work is considered appropriate in this area.

Please help us acknowledge and celebrate the contributions and service of others by submitting your nominations by September 1 to the Council office, 754 Williamson Street, Madison, Wisconsin, 53703, or directly to me at  You can find the nomination form here. Thank you so much!

Building Your Future: 2014 Scholarship Luncheon
By Bruce Parkinson, Scholarship Committee Chair

On May 10, the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired welcomed scholarship winners, their guests, Council members and staff, and other guests to the 2014 scholarship luncheon, “Building Your Future.”

This year, there were 11 scholarship recipients. As Scholarship Committee Chairperson, I started the event by welcoming everyone. Council President Rhonda Staats served as emcee and scholarship presenter. The keynote speaker was Jacqui Sakowski, retired founder and president of Sakowski Consulting, LLC. Jacqui also served as a memorable and engaging guest speaker at our 60th anniversary event two years ago. Her remarks and reminiscences about education and living an authentic life were uplifting and inspiring, not only for the students, but also for the rest of us.

Each scholarship recipient gave a brief “thank you” and shared the name of their school and major. Three of the recipients will be freshmen. Jessica Diaz will attend Madison College and major in Liberal Arts and Spanish. Angelica McKittrick will attend UW-Oshkosh and major in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy. Kaitlyn Siekert is seeking a degree as a Child Life Specialist while attending Edgewood College.
Five students continue their studies as undergraduates. Ian Kloehn will be a sophomore at Marquette University, majoring in Biomedical Sciences and Spanish. Christina Alger, a junior at Beloit College, is majoring in English and Education. Another junior, Ashley Handrick, is majoring in Early Childhood Education at Edgewood College. Majoring in Religious Studies and Philosophy, Benjamin Nolan will be a junior at St. Norbert College. Nursing and Healthcare Management are the fields of study at Viterbo University for junior Lauren Smith.
Three recipients are working on post-graduate degrees. Justine Shorter will begin a Master’s Degree at SIT Institute majoring in Sustainable Development: International Policy and Management. Josephine Grove is pursuing a PhD in Higher Education Administration from the University of Phoenix. Annika Konrad is majoring in English with a minor in Curriculum and Instruction at UW-Madison.
Loretta Himmelsbach, Executive Director of the Council, offered this encouragement in her closing remarks, “Our wish for you, the 2014 scholarship recipients, is that you continue to construct your future as you advance your educational studies, live every day as an opportunity to give back to society, and hold on to your dream, allowing no obstacle to discourage you.”

Take Your Pills Safely!

Thanks to support from the Courtier Foundation, the Vogel Foundation, and an anonymous foundation, the Council sponsored several free presentations of “Take Your Pills Safely!”--a 60-minute program designed to help older adults.

These programs took place at a variety of senior centers, libraries and community rooms throughout Iowa County and bordering counties. Council staff presented different methods of managing medications, shared options for reading labels for individuals with low vision, and provided an introduction to new technology that could be useful. Attendees were invited to participate in a low vision evaluation and receive vision rehabilitation training in their homes, thanks to the generous grantors.
The Council also developed informational flyers and counter reminder cards for pharmacists and retail staff to help them better serve their blind and visually impaired customers.

White Cane Fund Donations Change Lives

“The Council did so much for my dad. This gift is a thank you for helping him adjust to losing his vision.”
“I receive 90 letters a month, all asking for money, but you are my chosen one.”
“Thank you for all you do!”
These heartfelt quotes are a sampling of the notes we receive with donations to the White Cane Fund. We appreciate the sincerity expressed and we are grateful for the gifts that allow us to continue our work.
The Council will use your gift to make a positive difference for people who are blind or visually impaired. Those who turn to us receive individual attention as we help them adapt their home environment and find the right products to keep them independent, safe and connected.
This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first national White Cane Safety Day. Please help us commemorate this with a gift to the White Cane Fund – online at or by mail to WCBVI, 754 Williamson Street, Madison, Wisconsin, 53703-3546.

Fall Online Auction Supports the Council’s Work
By Lori Werbeckes, Fund Development Director

From November 10 – 19, the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired will auction off fun and unique items to raise money in support of vision services for people who are blind and visually impaired. The auction will happen online at Watch for more details in “On Sight,” our monthly e-newsletter, and by email.

We would be very grateful if you would consider donating an item or service. 
Here are some top sellers from previous years:
- dining gift certificates or gift cards for personal pampering (spa, massage,

- lunch or coffee with a Madison-area notable, local artist, author,
legislator, CEO, athlete, musician
- tickets to Wisconsin sporting events (Badgers, Packers, Brewers, Bucks,
Road America, Tyrol Ski Basin, Cascade Mountain)
- unique experiences like a hot air balloon ride, golfing with a pro, Harley
ride, backstage pass to a concert

- services such as dinner cooked in (or delivered to) your home, lawn
mowing for a month, painting a room, cleaning a closet, driving for a
day of errands.
For questions about the auction or how to donate an item, contact Lori at 608-237-8114 or
All auction proceeds will be used to promote the dignity and independence of people in Wisconsin who are blind or visually impaired.

What Does a Vision Rehabilitation Teacher Do?
By Jean Kalscheur, Vision Rehabilitation Teacher

Sometimes, people I see refer to me as “Jean, the lady from the blind society.” They know my name, but not that I’m a vision rehabilitation teacher. They have not heard of this profession.

I work with adults who have low vision or are blind, and I see them in their homes or apartments. A loss of vision may be new, and finding different ways of doing activities is needed, or the person has made changes and becomes interested in learning additional skills, or discovers new technology. The need for vision rehabilitation services isn’t a one-time event. Services can enter and exit as needs change. Increased participation in valued activities is the common reason for seeking vision rehabilitation services.

People with vision loss can easily be referred for services. Referrals often come from the individual who needs services, and all family members can make a referral. I also receive referrals from ophthalmologists, case managers and professionals at social service agencies. To find a vision rehabilitation specialist, contact the Council or your county’s Aging and Disability Resource Center.
The most frequent reason people seek services is that they want to read in whatever way is possible. A second reason is to accurately use a telephone to keep connected to family and friends. More people are asking for help to use a computer, tablet, e-reader or smart phone. Other reasons to seek services are to find adaptations for preparing meals, managing a household, accurately taking medications, finding organizing strategies, and renewing involvement in recreation and leisure.
I specialize in finding adaptations for everyday activities. People aren’t aware of solutions that depend on touch or sound, don’t know where to access adaptive devices, or have no idea about alternate techniques. I’m often surprised at the impact simple changes can have. The use of tactile marks on the microwave can be transferred to tactile marks on other appliances, medication bottles and stair step edges. The use of a flashlight to set the thermostat, which many people discover on their own, can be transferred to the use of task lighting when preparing food or playing cards. A high-contrast surface that helps when taking medications can be applied to selecting a high-contrast drinking cup, identifying a light switch, or marking the spot where a button needs to be reattached.
Changes in or loss of vision are emotionally difficult. Adjustment is a process that requires time and attention. Vision rehabilitation services address the psychological and social needs of people. Success in initiating changes in behavior and habits comes when a person is emotionally ready and my recommended strategies fit the person and the situation. Watching someone enjoy greater independence is one of the things I enjoy most about my job as a vision rehabilitation teacher.

Council News and Notes

Mark your calendar now for the “Saving Sight Symposium: Fighting Back against Macular Degeneration and Diabetic Retinopathy” on Wednesday, October 8, at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. Once again, we’re teaming up with the University of Wisconsin Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences to offer this free educational program. The new format will offer presentations by experts on the latest treatments for Age-related Macular Degeneration in the morning and for Diabetic Retinopathy in the afternoon. Find more event details at or by calling the Council at 1-800-783-5213.

On October 29, we’re presenting our final webinar of the year. You’ll learn about adaptive products that can make life with vision loss easier. Check our website later this month for registration details.

We are pleased to introduce Nan Hoffman, the newest member of our staff. Nan is our grants specialist. She has a strong background in fund development, including writing and receiving large grants. She has served in the medical field all of her career, including nursing, community and public relations, quality and risk management, and as director of a hospital foundation and director of Home Health United Foundation. She is known in southern Wisconsin as a successful executive, committed to the missions of the organizations for which she has worked.
GW Micro, in collaboration with Microsoft, now provides people who are blind, visually impaired, or print disabled with a completely functional and free license of GW Micro's Window-Eyes, a screen reader for Windows PCs. Customers must have a licensed version of Office 2010 or later to download Window-Eyes. Learn more at

Calendar of Upcoming Events

September 1 Council office closed for Labor Day
October 8 Saving Sight Symposium
October 10 Fall Gallery Night
October 15 National White Cane Safety Day
October 29 Adaptive Products to Make Life with Vision Loss Easier (webinar)
November 1 9th Annual Euchre Tournament
Nov. 10-19 Fall online auction
November 14-15 Fourth quarter Council Board meeting and awards luncheon
November 27-28 Council offices closed for Thanksgiving

Please visit for program and event details.