Get the Summer Scoop

By Sue Lichtenfels, President

Although the calendar hasn’t officially passed into summer as I write this article, Mother Nature has been serving up some sizzling summer-like temperatures. There’s nothing better than a cool scoop to help beat the heat. My favorite sweet treat of summer is an extra-large scoop of mint chocolate-chip ice cream atop a freshly made waffle cone from Dave and Andy’s, an ice cream shop in Pittsburgh. Of course, my husband’s yummy homemade chocolate milkshakes come in a close second and have become a weekly treat. If we’re talking sundaes, I could always go for a banana split with chocolate ice cream and all the toppings. Oh my, I think I’m getting brain freeze just thinking about all this cool deliciousness.

Let’s talk about another kind of scoop which could be just as cool but using different definitions for both words. As you’ll read in the pages of this newsletter, PCB has done and continues to do great work to promote independence and opportunities for people with vision loss. There is a lot going on though that isn’t covered in the various articles of this issue. Let me give you the scoop on the summer ahead for you and PCB.

All summer long, we are offering free annual memberships in PCB and ACB. We received a generous donation to sponsor 50 new, never-before members of PCB. With all that PCB has to offer with its discussion calls, annual conference, scholarships and subsidies, listservs, information line, accessibly formatted newsletter, local chapter opportunities, vision loss mentors, and more, there has never been a better time to join our peer network. Chapters, this is an amazing marketing opportunity to bring new people into your group. If you’re an individual member, encourage your friends who may have been sitting on the fence, or marching on the other side of the fence, to find out what they’ve been missing. Individuals interested in obtaining a free PCB/ACB membership need only complete the network membership form either online at pcb1.org/membership or by phone to the PCB office at 717-920-9999. Chapter treasurers, please assist your group’s newly interested individuals in completing the membership form and forward it to the PCB office for processing.

As we continue to work hard on bringing new individuals into PCB, we want to make sure we are bridging passive membership into active engagement. It’s hard to get involved if you are unsure of what membership includes and what the many ways are to participate in PCB. The Membership Development Team has created a Welcome Packet filled with all kinds of information about our organization. This comprehensive packet will go out to every new PCB member going forward. And, since many of us have never seen or received such a document when we joined the organization, this summer, we will distribute it to each of you in your preferred format, regardless of how long you’ve been a member.

Another exciting initiative on the membership front is the potential development of a PCB affiliate for guide dog users. Using data from our new membership form, individuals expressing interest in guide dogs were preliminarily contacted to see if there would be interest in such an affiliate. In response to this positive initial feedback, PCB will hold two organizing meetings to better gage interest and explore how such a group would operate. So, spread the news with your friends, both members and nonmembers across the Commonwealth. All with an interest in being a part of a PCB guide dog users affiliate should join the calls on Monday, August 6 at 7:30 p.m. and Wednesday, September 12 at 7:30 p.m. If you have unlimited long distance, call 605-475-4715 or for toll-free service, call 844-844-0414. Access the meeting with passcode 815419#. Should you have any questions about this initiative, please contact Mike Gravitt at 412-344-2313 or mgravitt2@gmail.com.

Over the last few years, the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services has undergone many changes in the way and to whom it provides vocational and vision rehabilitation services. PCB leadership is very concerned about the detrimental effect of these changes. We are looking to gather both anecdotal and data evidence that will help us determine the most prevalent problem areas with Pennsylvania’s blindness rehabilitation system. To that end, we are developing a survey that asks a variety of questions about the interactions and outcomes of those who have sought BVS-based services within the last five years. We are especially seeking responses from individuals who experienced difficulties or problems during the rehabilitation process. The survey will be available later this summer. Please look for more information on our listserv, through our announcement e-blasts, and via our telephone information line. With your feedback, we can take the first step on what will be a long journey toward improving rehabilitation services.

All too often I’ve heard stories from our peers about their experience when the doctor diagnosed their vision loss and then proceeded to dismiss them like a lost cause. Of course, I’ve also heard the stories of peers who, upon being diagnosed were told by doctor’s that they shouldn’t worry about white canes and blindness training because researchers would surely find a cure for their diagnosis in a few years. These are times when PCB peers can truly make a difference. I’ve provided a general outline and asked our Vision Loss Resource Team to develop a booklet that could be given out by doctors, nurses, and social workers when a person is newly diagnosed with vision loss. Targeted for the sighted friends and family, the booklet will be a collection of tips and strategies that we as peers can offer for ways to adapt experiences and environments, so they are more accessible for the person with vision loss. The goal is to provide ideas that can easily and immediately be implemented while awaiting formal rehabilitation training. The booklet will address such things as organizing, labeling, lighting, contrast, adaptive devices, sighted guide technique, medication management, available services, etc. Our target date to begin booklet distribution is August 1. Any assistance chapters and individual members can provide in getting the booklets into circulation would be greatly appreciated.

Whether it’s news or ice cream, everyone loves a good scoop. Now you’ve got five summer scoops to share with your friends and peers. And as you read on, you’ll learn about even more exciting work going on in PCB. So, call a friend, grab a spoon and start dishing.

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