The 2014 Southeast Regional Meeting of PCB: An Unforgettable Day
By Ethel Siegel and Ed Facemyer
This year’s southeast regional meeting of the Pennsylvania Council of the Blind was held on Saturday, May 10 at the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Philadelphia. The theme was “Making Connections to the Future.” Philadelphia Regional Chapter President Shirley Brotman called the meeting to order at 9:33 a.m. After a moment of silence, the roll call established that over forty people attended. The Philadelphia Regional Chapter, the newly formed Philadelphia Metro Council of the Blind, and the Delaware Valley Council of Citizens with Low Vision each gave an affiliate report. Once introduced, Master of Ceremonies John Luttenberger started the day’s program.
The first speaker was PCB President Tony Swartz who spoke about PCB’s current advocacy issues. He called our attention to provisions of accessibly formatted materials by The Social Security Administration, The 21st Century Communications Act, accessible currency, and The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act. He said chapters should be developing transportation strategies, so as many members as possible can attend PCB conventions. He stressed the importance of chapters’ understanding their responsibilities to PCB.
John Horst, PCB’s Executive Director, brought us up to date on office activities. Chapters are being asked to submit their membership list by December instead of January to make sure PCB can meet the ACB reporting deadline.
George Holliday, Chair of The Advocacy and Governmental Affairs Committee, discussed the 2014 ACB legislative seminar held in Washington D. C. earlier this year. He covered the main points of The Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act and urged us to support The Medicare Low Vision Device Demonstration Act.
Glenda Such was our next speaker. She has had a career in the field of vision rehabilitation for twenty years, and is now President of The Delaware Valley Council of Citizens with Low Vision. In her speech, she touched on low vision, its characteristics and differences, and told us about aspects of low vision, which include contrast and glare. She provided an interesting perspective so that those who have never had sight gained an understanding of how the environment can either help or hinder people living with sight loss. She discussed coping with low vision and the value of carrying a white cane.
Our next presenter was Kevin O’Brian who serves on the New Payment Technology Team for The South Eastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). SEPTA will replace its present fare collection with electronic payment technology involving the use of smart cards which function much like the Easy Pass for drivers on the turnpike. This system will also work for senior citizens and people with disabilities when using the paratransit service.
Our final speaker of the morning was Lynn Heitz, District Manager of The Philadelphia Office of The Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. She discussed the office’s success in their delivery of services to children and their families. Although staff positions have been increased, caseloads are still large. Nevertheless, job placements have increased.
Ethel Siegel then gave the blessing in Hebrew and English before a delicious hot lunch was served. Following lunch, John Anderson awarded three door prizes. When the annual chapter awards were presented, Ethel Siegel received The Francis Williams Volunteer Service Award and The Nevilaires, a group of Blind and visually impaired singers who have performed throughout the community for many years, received The Mae Davidow Community Service Award. Joanne Davidoff is the President and Virtner Hynes is the Musical Director of the group. The Nevilaires then entertained us with several selections which included a musical medley of songs from “The Sound of Music.”
The day concluded with announcements. Carla McCollaumn talked about the Comcast pilot project to test talking remote controls. Ethel Siegel informed us of the availability of braille contraction booklets for sale by The Jenny Beck Chapter of the Braille Revival League.
The regional was enjoyable and informative. With his anecdotes throughout the day, our MC kept us all in good humor.