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Board Applications Due Soon!

Consider lending your time and talents to the Council

Are you interested in changing the lives of residents in Wisconsin who are blind and visually impaired? Do you want to be a part of an organization that has received national recognition for its legislative advocacy? If so, consider submitting an application to be on the Board of Directors for the Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired.

The Council is seeking candidates who bring diverse perspectives, life experiences and talents/skill sets. Candidates with experience in at least one of the following areas are strongly encouraged to apply:

•       Fund Development

•       Finance & Investments

•       Relationship-building, Networking & Connections

•       Public Relations

•       Legislative Advocacy

•       Public Speaking/Outreach

•       Strategic Planning & Organizational Development

“I have most enjoyed being part of an effective and efficient governing board that has a significant impact at local, regional and even state levels with some recognition at a Federal level,” says Second Vice President, Steve Johnson. “Additionally, relationship-building has allowed the Council Board to be highly recognized and respected across the State including the legislature, department secretaries, business, industry, and most importantly, our blind and visually impaired peers.”

Karen Heesen states her favorite part of participating on the Council’s Board of Directors is working with a group of people who all understand the challenges of being blind or visually impaired in a world that is basically geared for the sighted.

“I enjoy working together to educate society, work on legislation that addresses our special concerns and those of other disability groups, and help to steer individuals dealing with vision loss to professionals/resources which will make their daily lives doable, easier, successful and rewarding,” she says.

As of August 2016, all Council board members serve at-large. Additionally, up to three board members may be sighted if they have a significant connection to blindness and visual impairment.

Council board members are expected to attend four in-person board meetings per year and serve on at least one committee and attend other meetings as requested. Committees tend to meet via teleconference. Committees include executive, nominating, legislative, scholarship, awards, personnel and finance.

“I think that learning the ins and outs of the legislative process has been my biggest learning experience,” says Bruce Parkinson. “Seeing how the Council is able to introduce a bill and encourage its passage should be of value to everyone who is a board member.”

Further opportunities to volunteer on committees, ad hoc work groups and at Council events are also available.

“I’ve been the longest serving board member at 32 years,” says Treasurer Kathy Brockman. “So much has changed over time but learning through the years about the ways business and nonprofits have changed and improved their operations has been very interesting. Also, just learning the roles and responsibilities of board members has been very important.”

All completed applications, submitted by the deadline, will be screened by the nominating committee. Recommended candidates will be invited to an interview, via teleconference, with two members of the nominating committee in October. The nominating committee will recommend a slate of qualified candidates to the board at the November meeting. All applicants will be contacted no later than December 1. Terms begin January 1, 2018, and last three years.

The 2017 Board Member Application Packet can be found at the Council’s website by visiting

“We need to spread the word across the state about the great resource the council is and the help it can provide,” says John Foulks. “Being on the board is a great way to do that.”

Board Secretary Rhonda Staats states that, to someone new to the board or thinking about serving, there is great joy and satisfaction in working together to support important services to people in our community.

“We may best assist individuals in adjusting to vision loss because we live with blindness/visual impairment every day, and most things that can happen, have happened to at least one of us,” she says.

If you have questions, please contact Denise Jess, CEO/Executive Director, by calling her at 608-237-8103 or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“I welcome any inquiries about board service, the application process and about the Council in general,” says Denise. “Please feel free to call or email me.”

Completed applications are due by September 15, 2017.


Legislative Update:

Opposing Special Needs Scholarship Expansion Proposals

In alignment with our 2017 Legislative Priorities, the Council joins 19 other disability and public education advocacy organizations in opposition to voucher expansion for students with special needs. The letter below was submitted to the members of the State Joint Committee on Finance, as well as Governor Walker, Senator Fitzgerald and Representative Vos on July 31.

FROM: Wisconsin Disability and Education Stakeholders

RE: Opposing Special Needs Scholarship Expansion Proposals

We are writing on behalf of our organizations that represent and support students, families, and public schools, to request that the Joint Finance Committee decline to take up the expansions to the Special Needs Scholarship Program that appear in the July 18 Senate budget proposal.

We support quality, inclusive public education for students with disabilities, in context of the full rights and protections afforded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  Under the IDEA, Wisconsin students with disabilities have the right to a free, appropriate public education, including the right to a legally-enforceable Individualized Education Program (IEP). 

However, when a student with disabilities attends a private school using taxpayer funding, such as the private schools in the Special Needs Scholarship Program, he or she must relinquish the rights and protections of the IDEA. This creates risk for the students and families who take special needs vouchers, in addition to the inherent risk in the fact that special needs vouchers are not, and have never been, a research-based solution for the educational issues faced by students with disabilities and their families.

Meanwhile, special education in the public schools, which are required to serve all students with disabilities under the IDEA, has been consistently underfunded on both the state and federal level. Any expansion of the Special Needs Scholarship Program further compounds the concern, diverting funding to private schools and leaving students in the public schools with lessened overall support.

As Wisconsin disability and education stakeholders, we oppose the expansions of the Special Needs Scholarship Program proposed in the July 18 Senate budget proposal:

  • Eliminating the prior-year open enrollment requirement for the special needs scholarship program
  • Eliminating the prior-year public school enrollment requirement for entering the special needs scholarship program 
  • For students determined to be eligible for special education services, eliminating the requirement that a student have an IEP at a public school
  • Adding a summer school payment component to the special needs scholarship program funding
  • Authorizing private schools in the special needs scholarship program to set up virtual education programs, in the absence of research evidence supporting such interventions

Taken together, these expansions are estimated to result in an additional aid reduction to public schools of $1,865,100 beyond that which would occur under current law, an amount that exceeds the entire total aid reduction from the 2016/17 school year.

We request that the Joint Finance Committee join us in opposing the detrimental proposed expansion of the Special Needs Scholarship Program.


Autism Society of South Central Wisconsin

Autism Society of Southeastern Wisconsin

Autism Society of Wisconsin

Citizen Advocates for Public Education, Lake Mills

Community Advocates for Public Education, Middleton-Cross Plains

Disability Rights Wisconsin

Mental Health America of Wisconsin

NAMI Wisconsin

Parents for Public Schools of Milwaukee

Saint Croix Valley Friends of Public Education

School Funding Reform for Wisconsin, Stevens Point

Stop Special Needs Vouchers

Support Sun Prairie Schools

Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations

The Arc of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Alliance for Excellent Schools

Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities

Wisconsin Council of Administrators of Special Services

Wisconsin Council of the Blind & Visually Impaired

Wisconsin Family Ties


White Cane Safety Day Planning Guide Available for

Building Awareness in Your Local Community


A close up of a person’s legs from the shins down walks down a paved road. To the right is the image of a white cane, featuring the red tip and white ball at the cane’s end.

Do you like bringing attention to the needs and concerns of people who are blind and visually impaired? Do you enjoy planning events in your community? Does educating the public excite you? If you answered “Yes!” to these questions, then consider planning a special event or spreading the word about White Cane Safety Day, celebrated this year on Sunday, October 15, 2017! Our White Cane Safety Day Toolkit is here to provide inspiration, examples and helpful hints as you plan for and promote this important day.

“Promoting White Cane Safety Day is so important because knowledge about white cane safety and the White Cane Law is not very widespread,” says Council CEO/Executive Director Denise Jess. “Only a small group of people know about it. If you talk to the average Wisconsin resident, he or she is unlikely to know what it is. While they might recognize the white cane as an identifier of a person with a visual impairment, they might not know what to do in the event they encounter someone who uses a white cane or guide dog. Supporting communities and having White Cane Safety Day events can help with the education of the average Wisconsinite so the world is more inclusive and safer for everyone.”

White Cane Safety Day acknowledges the law that is enforced year-round and is based on the following statute: S. 346.26 WISCONSIN STATUTES Blind pedestrian on highway.

  1. An operator of a vehicle shall stop the vehicle before approaching closer than 10 feet to a pedestrian who is carrying a cane or walking stick which is white in color or white trimmed with red and which is held in an extended or raised position or who is using a service animal, as defined in s. 106.52(1)(fm), and shall take such precautions as may be necessary to avoid accident or injury to the pedestrian. The fact that the pedestrian may be violating any of the laws applicable to pedestrians does not relieve the operator of a vehicle from the duties imposed by this subsection.

Educating people about this important law can be easier with the help of this resource. The Toolkit includes example press releases, a social media promotion plan, and event ideas. Toolkits are available in print, electronic format, or braille upon request. Contact Gale Hellpap, Director of Community Relations and Marketing, by calling 608-237-8113 or emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Remember that planning a well-orchestrated event can take a month or two, so request your kits as soon as possible.


GingeRootz to celebrate 5th Annual Dining in the Dark event on August 22

egg roll

An eggroll sits, cut in half, atop a bed of salad greens. The crispy appetizer is filled with fresh vegetables and seafood.

The Council is once again partnering with GingeRootz Asian Grille in Appleton as we celebrate five years of creating an unforgettable dining and education experience.

“GingeRootz has been an enthusiastic partner in the success of Dining in the Dark. The staff is willing to learn about vision loss and adapt the meal to give our diners the best experience possible. Their generosity has raised nearly $3,300 to help the Council provide services for people who are blind or visually impaired.”

This year’s event will take place on Tuesday, August 22. Dining in the Dark allows sighted guests to have an opportunity to experience dining on a multi-course meal without the use of their sight.

“It’s definitely one of our most exciting events of the year,” Lori says. “The staff at GingeRootz has always been a great partner with us and we’re hoping for another great night on August 22.”

Advance reservations are required and can be made by calling GingeRootz at 920-738-9688 or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Cost is $65 per person and an additional $15 with wine pairing. Families are highly encouraged to attend.

GingeRootz is located at 2920 N. Ballard Road in Appleton.

For more information, contact Lori at 608-237-8114 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Seeking Artists for Gallery Night

Gallery Night 2017

A collection of woodcarvings by artist Don McCall sits atop a green tabletop. Five brightly colored birds, two small figures and a crappie fish are represented in his work.

Are you an artist that is visually impaired? Do you know an artist with a visual impairment looking to display their work? We have a wonderful opportunity for you!

The Council is currently seeking 4-6 artists to display their work at our Madison-based office this fall as we once again partner with the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art for Fall Gallery Night. The evening reception will take place on Friday, October 6th with the work remaining installed through Friday, November 17th.

Student artists are encouraged to inquire as well.

For more details on how to participate, please contact Gale Hellpap, Director of Marketing and Community Relations, at 608-237-8113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Student Spotlight: Annika Konrad, UW Madison


Annika Konrad, center, talks with two attendees at the “Bright Sights: Six Ways of Seeing” art gallery reception, which took place in January. They stand facing each other, refreshments in hand, and converse in front of the colorful prints that adorn the wall.

Imagine having a struggle in your life, but no one with whom you felt you could discuss it. This was the reality for scholarship recipient Annika Konrad--until she found the Council.

“After communicating with almost no one about my vision impairment for nearly a decade, I attended a support group meeting at the Council,” says Annika. “At first I struggled to speak, but slowly I began to understand my impairment not as a personal flaw but as an opportunity to expand my purpose. Since then, I have developed a deep commitment to helping people face challenges of living with difference through my teaching, research, and service.”

Annika is a PH.D. candidate at UW-Madison, studying Rhetoric and Composition. She wants to be a college professor.

“I've always loved writing,” says Annika. “When I was a freshman in college I enrolled in a composition course and was immediately inspired to become a college writing teacher. I love helping people write, from personal creative projects to personal statements and academic research essays. Being a scholar of Composition and Rhetoric also allows me to research the complexity of human communication, and the combination of these two activities--investigating communication from a theoretical perspective and practicing on-the-ground work of helping people convey their ideas--is what motivates me and drives my curiosity.”

For fun, Annika likes to cook, shop at Madison farmers markets, listen to podcasts, read eBooks, drink coffee, hang out with old friends and meet new ones, ride her bike, travel, and walk along Madison's lakeshore paths. “I am also passionate about my Swedish heritage and cats,” she says.

“This scholarship is important to me because having a vision impairment and pursuing an advanced degree requires a lot of extra time and effort,” says Annika. “I spend time and effort securing accessible formats of reading materials, arranging accommodations, developing adaptive strategies, and arranging transportation, as well as advocating for access on a broad scale. Receiving this scholarship gives me an extra boost of support in knowing that a community of people who really know what living with a vision impairment is like support me and are rooting for my success.”

When asked if she had a mission statement for her life, Annika answered with the following inspiring advice: “Live a life of learning, enjoy the simple things, pursue your passions, have good conversations, show compassion toward others, extend a helping hand, and never assume that you know what life is like for others.”


Featured “Outlook From Here” Blog Post:

The Seeing Eye Dog Experience, Part I

By Chad Nelson


A guide dog in their harness stands facing the left as its owner sits surrounded by other people. The owner has her right hand placed on the dog’s back. This particular image is not that of Chad Nelson or his guide dog Laura. It is an example of what a guide dog looks like with their harness on.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on October 13, 2014 on “Vision View Point,” the predecessor to The Outlook From Here and has been edited to reflect updated content. 

About seven years ago, I had to put Pete, my first Seeing Eye dog, to sleep because of medical complications. I had been without a “friend” for several years at that point. After a long personal struggle to get some diabetic lab work under control, I was finally re-accepted into the Seeing Eye program in Morristown, New Jersey, to train with my second dog.

The first time I traveled to New Jersey, I was dropped off at the gate by my then wife, who was blind, and her mother. This time around, I was traveling all by myself and had to ask for sighted assistance from the check-in counter to the gate. I was a little nervous as to how I would get this help, but airport staff were very helpful in every regard.

When I arrived at the Seeing Eye, I was met by a trainer at the baggage claim area and then taken to the campus. Once there, I was met by everyone– from graduate services representatives, to trainers and other students.

During the first few days, not much happened except for working with the trainer around the campus and then in Morristown. The main thing we did the first two days was to go on what is called a Juno walk. This is where the trainer has one end of the harness, and the student has the other. The trainer simulates a dog. My particular trainer was walking down the street, and then she turned sideways and started sniffing, to simulate a dog that sniffs the grass or some other scent. The other reason the trainer took me on this walk was to judge my walking speed and determine the amount of pull the dog would put on the harness.

On the second full day in New Jersey, I received a beautiful two-year-old female Golden Retriever named Laura. She was very affectionate and she knew her job.

The first few days with Laura actually worked out well. I had to get used to working with a dog, since I had not worked with this type of dog for seven years. I made a few mistakes, and I had to relearn some techniques, but for the most part, the first week went very well. I was not used to walking two to three miles a day, so I had to deal with feeling very stiff for a while.

On Saturday, (five days after being on the Seeing Eye campus), we had the afternoon off to just hang out, play with the dogs, do laundry, or anything else we wanted to do.

In my next blog entry, I will describe more of what the Seeing Eye has to offer– as far as recreation and fitness facilities.

Being at The Seeing Eye wasn’t all work, although it was quite a bit of working with the dog to make her listen to me and start to bond with me. In the beginning, she was really focused on the instructor and didn’t really know who I was, but it didn’t take long to get her to listen and start to obey.


Featured Sharper Vision Store Product

Large Print Crossword Book


We offer several volumes of this Spiral bound book of 125 puzzles which each feature large print font and generously sized grids. Each puzzle spans over two pages for ample room.

These Thomas Joseph Large Print Crossword books have been approved by the National Association for Visually Handicapped.

Item # BL440, $15.50


Upcoming events

Upcoming events

Dining in the Dark – Appleton

When:        Tuesday, August 22

Where:       GingeRootz Asian Grille - 2920 N Ballard Rd, Appleton

Time:         6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Dining in the Dark is a unique event where guests experience what it is like to dine on a multi-course meal without the use of their sight. $65.00 per person, $15.00 additional for wine pairing (optional). Includes five course meal and donation. Call 920-738-9688 for reservations.

This is a family event - children are welcome to join us. Please mention if you have any food allergies at the time of reservation.

For more information, contact Fund Development Director Lori Werbeckes at 608-237-8114 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Self-Advocacy in Social Situations

When:        Saturday, September 16, 2017

Where:       WCBVI Office, Large Conference Room – 754 Williamson Street, Madison

Time:         10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Annika Konrad, PhD Candidate at UW-Madison, guide for The Outlook from Here blog and WCBVI Board member, will lead a discussion on self-advocacy and strategies in various contexts, such as at work, in social situations, and when in the community. She will suggest ways to help evaluate or read situations to determine appropriate self-advocacy strategies. The discussion will draw upon participants’ experiences to generate more strategies that others might use.

Please contact Jean Kalscheur at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you will be attending this discussion.

Featured Support Groups

Eau Claire VIP (Visually Impaired Persons) Support Group

When:        The Second Wednesday of each month

Where:       St. John’s Housing Dining Room — 815 Chapin St., Eau Claire (1 block from Perkins)

Time:         11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

The Eau Claire VIP Support Group is a wonderful emotional support and educational group serving low vision, visually impaired and blind people in the Chippewa Valley area. Family members and caregivers are welcome to attend as well. For questions or additional information, contact Norene at 715-835-3496 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sun Prairie VIP (Visually Impaired Persons) Support Group

When:        The Second Wednesday of each month

Where:       Colonial Club, 301 Blankenheim Lane, Sun Prairie

         Time:         1:00 p.m.

The Sun Prairie VIP Support Group meets to discuss vision, the aging eye and eye disorders. All are welcome to come and discuss personal and visual concerns. Family members and caregivers of those with visual impairments are encourage to attend as well. Presentations by professional providers of eye care and various resources will be offered. There is no charge for attendance and you need not be a member of the Colonial Club to join in these meetings. For questions or further information contact facilitator Arnold Tucker, RPh., Retired at 608-333-7654 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Madison Veteran Low Vision Support Group

When:        The Fourth Thursday of each month through November

Where:       First Unitarian Society of Madison - 900 University Bay Dr

Time:         10:00 a.m.

The purpose of the group is to offer a place for visually impaired veterans to meet with each other, find resources available and discuss issues related to vision loss. There is no cost to attend, and refreshments will be provided. To attend, please contact Amy Wurf at 608-237-8107 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Low Vision Support Group for Waukesha

When: The Fourth Friday of each month  

Where: Waukesha County Technical College - Room 110

327 E. Broadway St., Waukesha

Time: 11:30 p.m. -1:00 p.m.

Contact Name: Maria

Phone: (262) 547 6670

Do you participate in a community group or activity that should be shared in this newsletter? If so, contact Gale Hellpap, Director of Community Relations and Marketing, for more details! Gale can be contacted at 608-237-8113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..