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Open House a Grand Success

Grand Reopening

A lime green ribbon blocks the entrance to the brand new Sharper Vision Store. Both Store Manager Brent Perzentka and CEO/Executive Director Denise Jess approach the ribbon with pairs of gigantic scissors.

Seventy-five Council friends, old and new, gathered to celebrate the Grand Reopening of The Sharper Vision Store and 65th Anniversary during a lively, fun and educational open house event.

The event took place July 13, from 3-6 pm at the Council’s office in Madison. A ribbon-cutting ceremony kicked off the festivities at 3:30 pm, with speeches given by Council Board Chair Chris Richmond, CEO/Executive Director Denise Jess and Store Manager Brent Perzentka. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers spoke as well.

“The ribbon-cutting was very moving, standing on the bottom step of the stairs with staff behind us and the lobby filled with guests,” says Denise Jess. “Chris warmly welcomed everyone and I was honored to introduce our guest speakers. Tony Evers spoke eloquently about the Council’s dedication to legislative action, citing us, along with the Wisconsin Library Association, for our many years of commitment. Brent (Perzentka) spoke on behalf of the grand reopening of the store. His sentiments were so touching and heart-felt, reflecting on his relationship since childhood with the Council.”

Tours of the Council building, demonstrations of low vision products, and walkthroughs of the newly remodeled Sharper Vision Store occurred during the afternoon. Braille demonstrations were provided, and Council newsletters and other literature were made available for people to take with them. Cake and light refreshments were enjoyed in the large conference room upstairs, where guests talked and mingled.

“I was happy and proud of our organization in how smoothly the event went, and how well it was received,” says Store Manager, Brent Perzentka. “I did not hear one negative comment from anyone, and our guests really seemed to enjoy themselves.”

The event concluded with a drawing for a $25 Sharper Vision Store gift card, won by a long-time Council supporter.

“Please join me in warmly congratulating this talented and dedicated staff for all the work in planning the open house, redesigning the store, warmly welcoming our guests, taking photos, coordinating volunteers and all of the pieces, big and little, that led to our success,” says Denise.

The Council would also like to extend a thank you to Smith and Gesteland for sponsoring the event, and to Industries for the Blind, whose grant made the technology exhibits in The Sharper Vision Store possible. Most of all, the Council would like to thank each person who attended. Without you, the event would not have been nearly as successful!


Legislative Update:

The Importance of Understanding Administrative Rules

By Savannah Wery, Sierra Club intern

Administrative Rules

Savannah Wery states, “Administrative rules impact our daily life from the quality of the air that we breathe to the licensing of our dentists.” Two images depict this statement. To the left – an image of a sunny day. A grassy field is punctuated with puffy white clouds and bright blue sky. To the right – a dentist is inspecting a young African-American girl’s teeth. She smiles for him as he gentle places is pointer finger on her chin.

Editor’s Note: This story was originally submitted to and published by Community Shares of Wisconsin. Some editing has occurred for sake of our audience.

Some bills are wending their way through the state legislature but because they are a bit esoteric, they have not received a great deal of attention by the public. Yet they will have a significant impact on all our daily lives. These bills are concerning administrative rules - how they are promulgated, how long they will last and more. Several bills are at some point of the legislative process, and one has already passed both the Assembly and Senate. Most people do not realize how much they rely on various governmental entities for their safety and well-being and they particularly do not realize how much of that is done through administrative rules. Administrative rules impact our daily life from the quality of the air that we breathe to the licensing of our dentists.

As you know, the legislature passes laws that set policy; then, the executive branch, more specifically, the government agencies, must implement that law. Most lack sufficient specificity to be directly enforced. For example, the legislature could pass a law that simply states that doctors, lawyers, and optometrists must be licensed by the state. It’s up to the agencies to determine what it really means to be licensed by the state, what the requirements are, whether the license should be renewed, how often it should be renewed, and what this process would be; the agency writes administrative rules to come up with answers to these questions. Rules are also flexible in that an agency can change them to meet changing conditions. All agencies promulgate rules and there are hundreds of rules covering everything from licensing doctors to setting pollution standards to building codes.

The process to create rules is known as promulgation. Because of changes made in 2011, this process has gotten longer, taking 2.5 years or more. Promulgation consists of several steps, including a draft (which needs Governor approval); public hearings; modifications; and review by the legislature. The legislature can let the rule stand, hold a hearing on the rule, and/or ask for modifications. If the legislature does not object, the rule becomes effective when officially published. If they vote to suspend, the rule does not take effect and a bill must be introduced to permanently block the rule. If that bill passes and is signed by the Governor, the rule is permanently blocked. If the bill fails, the rule goes into effect.

We mention all of this to put in context the legislative changes being considered. Below are descriptions of two of proposal that we think are most troubling:

Senate Bill 15

This bill has passed both houses and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. Senate Bill 15 would require any proposed new regulation with estimated costs of compliance over $10 million over any two-year period to be approved by the state legislature, regardless of estimated benefits. Once it is determined that a rule will exceed the cost threshold, the agency needs to stop working on the rule until the legislation is passed. If it fails to gain approval from the legislature within 70 days, it would automatically fail.

We are concerned with SB 15 for several reasons. First, it is unnecessary, because the legislature already has oversight of administrative rules. Second, it only considers costs while potential benefits are completely disregarded. Third, $10 million over two years is not a lot of money when considering the entire state so this could affect many proposed rules. Fourth, rules tend to improve by going through the promulgation process because of all the input that is received. This bill prevents that opportunity. Finally, the bill would place a great burden upon the legislature to review and approve agency regulations on time and in a politically charged climate, and in many cases without necessary technical expertise that state agencies possess.

Rule Sunset Bill LRB 2593/1

This proposal would repeal all administrative rules on a rolling seven-year time frame. All administrative rules would expire every seven years; in the 6th year agencies will have to provide a list of rules to the legislature that they want to keep. If any member of the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules or the two standing committees objects a rule, it is repealed. The agencies would then have to go through the whole promulgation process again.

Like SB 15, this bill is also cause for concern. The breadth of this is enormous in that it covers all agencies and all administrative rules. This has the potential to knock out things like building codes; licensure requirements for day cares, nurses, doctors, attorneys, and engineers; pollution discharge restrictions, etc. It will also potentially create confusion on whether rules are in force or not. It allows a single member of the legislature to knock out an administrative rule. This almost certainly violates bicameralism and presentment of the state constitution. Not to mention, overlay with other proposals such as SB 15 means some rules will be gone for good just because a single legislator objects.

Examples of administrative rules that could be knocked out include administrative rules outlining professional standards and continuing education requirements for optometrists; administrative rules outlining pupil nondiscrimination standards and standards for children with disabilities; and administrative rules for the Department of Workforce Development, which includes civil rights, public accommodation, and fair employment standards.

The importance of administrative rules might be overlooked or unknown to the general public, but they play an important part in almost every aspect of our daily lives. They most certainly play a major part in advocacy, education, and other efforts put forth by non-profit organizations such as ours.

If you have any questions about these proposals feel free to contact Denise Jess, CEO/Executive Director, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 608-255-1166.


Student Spotlight: John Harrison, UW – Whitewater

John Harrison Photo 3

WICBVI Scholarship recipient John Harrison sits outside on a sunny day. He smiles as he holds onto a chain link with his right hand, giving the impression he is sitting on a swing. Behind him is a green grassy area.

Having the qualities of persistence, endurance and self-confidence will help anyone navigate life’s challenges. These traits were essential for Council scholarship recipient John Harrison as he overcame the obstacle of losing his vision during high school.

“Early in my sophomore year I was diagnosed with an optic pathway glioma,” John says. “I immediately started chemotherapy. Despite it exhausting me, I continued to keep up with my schoolwork. Then, when I switched to a different chemotherapy protocol that made me sick for days on end, not only did I maintain my GPA, stay active in FFA, and keep up my relationships with my friends, I also began to learn Braille and cane travel. When I had my first brain surgery, I kept up with my schoolwork and made sure to keep in contact with my teachers. Halfway through my junior year I had my second brain surgery, which left me blind. Instead of giving up and dropping out of school, I took three weeks off to recover and jumped straight back into my schooling. I quickly finished Braille, became proficient in cane travel, and learned how to advocate for myself. Despite these challenges, I even managed to pass my AP test that spring.”

John is a recent graduate of Watertown High School. He plans to attend UW-Whitewater this fall to study English. He says he wants to be an advocate for people with disabilities, or a grant writer for a nonprofit.

“I try to educate others whenever possible,” John says. “Whenever some good-hearted stranger asks me if I need help, I try to kindly yet firmly tell them that I know what I am doing. When someone turns to whoever is with me to talk for me, and treats me as if I have no voice just because I have no vision, I make sure that I speak for myself. I also leap at any chance I get to speak to others about being blind. I have given a talk to a class on disabilities in the classroom at UW-Whitewater. When I made my high school’s Academic Decathlon team, which is ranked 2nd in the state, I wrote my speech about stereotypes facing the blind, and how they are simply false.”

In his free time, John enjoys hanging out with friends, watching Netflix, and reading. He says John Green is his favorite author because, “…his books are so relatable. They’re about simple, everyday stuff, but they resonate on a deeper level.”

John says that if he had a mission statement for his life, it would be to help as many people as possible.

“I want to make the world a better place,” he says. “I want to make a difference. Receiving this scholarship is important to me because it’s enabling me to get an education and improve myself, so I can go out and better the world.”


Featured “Outlook From Here” Blog Post:

The Significance of the Slate and Stylus

By Katherine Watson


Katherine Watson sits at her desk. In her left hand, she lines up her slate on a white sheet of paper while in her right hand she grasps her stylus. To her right on her desk is her computer keyboard and to her left is the cord of her telephone.

It is an unfortunate misconception that the slate and stylus is slow to use, hard to learn, or has been rendered unnecessary due to technological advances. I have used a slate and stylus successfully throughout my academic and professional career, and I would like to argue that the slate and stylus is not only necessary, but is vital to being a successful, independent blind person in the world today for several reasons.

First, the slate and stylus is portable. When I took notes in class, I always used my slate and stylus. I found that I studied best using Braille, so I liked using the slate and stylus to take my notes because I could read the notes in Braille afterward. It is easy to carry a slate and stylus anywhere I go, so I brought it with me from classroom to club meeting. I didn’t have to worry about carrying around a laptop, or looking for an outlet to plug in said laptop if it were to die in the middle of class.

I often use my slate and stylus outside of college as well. It’s great for making grocery lists—which I can do on the bus while heading to the store. I also use it for writing down names and phone numbers, to-do lists, and quotes or funny things I hear people say throughout the day. I even use my slate and stylus to solve Sudoku puzzles. One trick I learned to make things even more efficient is to write longer items on 5-by-8-inch index cards so I can write things down on a piece of paper that is larger than an ordinary index card, but smaller than a full-sized sheet of paper. I used these index cards a lot when conducting interviews for the college newspaper because they were easy to carry.

As a professional writer, I use my slate and stylus regularly to write down important phone numbers, or other information, such as my printer passcode or phone extensions of co-workers. That way, I can look them up without having to move away from the document I’m working in to find the information on my computer. My boss and I have weekly check-in meetings, and I use my slate and stylus to write down notes from those meetings so I can quickly and easily refer to them when needed.

Second, contrary to common misconception, writing with a slate and stylus is fast. When I was in high school, I took the time to learn Grade 3 Braille. This is a step above Grade 2, and is, in essence, Braille short-hand. Over the years of practicing it, I developed my own short-hand to supplement for words I often write, such as abbreviations for the names of buildings on campus.

Third, the slate and stylus is easy to practice. I attended the Independence Training program at The Colorado Center for the Blind in 2008. While there, I increased my speed from 14 words per minute to 18 words per minute. Once I got to college, I used my slate and stylus to take notes and make lists in and out of classes. I didn’t even bring a Braille Writer with me to college, because I wanted to get as much practice with the slate and stylus as possible. I went back to Colorado to visit friends, and happened to stop by the Center. I asked my former Braille instructor to test my writing speed. I was initially worried that I had somehow decreased my speed, but found that I was writing faster than the 18 words per minute I had attained when I left the Independence Training Program.

I recommend the slate and stylus to anyone who wants to take notes independently and write things down on a portable device. It is so liberating to not have to rely on the notes of others, since everyone interprets things differently, and chooses different pieces of information as the more important ones that get written down. I can write when I want, where I want, what I want, and how I want. I even know people who keep a slate and stylus in the cases of their BrailleNotes and PAC Mates, just as a backup if their machines die. What’s the secret to getting faster? Practice, practice, practice.


Featured Sharper Vision Store Product:

Wilson Digital Recorder

Wilson smaller

The Wilson recorder is a simple to use digital device that can store up to 12 hours of recordings. It has 256 MB of memory. It's easy to add or delete messages. This device measures 3" high x 2 1/16" wide, 9/16" thick". It has a volume control, a detachable belt clip, and a single earbud. This recorder allows one to create notes, memos, and reminders. It is very user friendly for low vision and visually impaired users.

Item # CR430, $42.00


Upcoming Events

Upcoming events

Veterans Low Vision Support Group

When:        Thursday, July 27; Thursday, August 24

(4th 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 available resources and discuss issues related to vision loss. There is no cost to attend, and refreshments are provided. The topics of discussion are ultimately decided by the participants.  Some ideas include coping strategies for dealing with the challenges of vision loss, local resources available, guest speakers and product demonstrations.

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..


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. Watch future editions of On Sight, our website ( and our social media pages on Facebook and Twitter for more details on how to register.

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..