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FRG NEWSLETTER - November 2015

FRG President's Message: A year ago, in this space, I challenged Blinded Veterans (BV’s) to write an article for this Newsletter. It was hoped that BV’s would submit articles for consideration for the FRG Newsletter. In the past year, no articles have been submitted. I believe that writing about experiences that have made a difference in your life would be valuable to both the writer and the reader. I am bringing this up again in hopes that some of you will respond. For example, I would like to see evidence in this Newsletter that the Computer Access Training Program (CAT) is helping BV’s) to triumph over their challenges. I urge BV’s in Florida, who have gone through a VA Blind Rehab Center (BRC), to share their experiences at the BRC CATS and other training with their fellow BV’s on something that has made a meaningful difference in their life. Please write on any subject that you can share with passion and would be meaningful to other BV’s. The FRG is offering $50 to BV’s in the FRG who have not previously been published in the FRG Newsletter for a nonfiction article that is judged publishable by the FRG Newsletter editorial board. Please keep your article to between 300 and 500 words and send it by e mail to I believe that such an undertaking would be a positive accomplishment for the author, the readers, and BV’s everywhere. The Blinded veterans Association is both by and for BV’s. When the FRG-BVA can draw your attention toward compensatory skills or adaptive equipment that can help, we are at our best. If you have something that works in your daily life, why not share it with fellow BV’s? Writing it up could worth $50 if it is judged appropriate for inclusion in this Newsletter. Alternatively, get on the agenda upcoming luncheon, FRG Convention, or even a VIST support group. You will discover, as others have before, that the benefits of sharing with your fellow BV’s can be a two way street. At the end of this message, I have included the names, telephone numbers, and e mail addresses of the FRG Board. If you have questions about the FRG-BVA contact the Board member in your area. President - Mike Taylor Fleming Island (904) 264-0884 email; Vice President Russell Pollard, Tamarac (954) 735-5841 e mail; Secretary-Treasurer George Stocking - Miami (305) 446-8008 email; Past President Terry King, Punta Gorda (941) 505-7747 e mail; Northwest District - Mimi Robinson Tallahassee (850) 727-0330 e mail; Northeast -Jane Karp St. Augustine (904) 797-1389 e mail; Central East- Jeff Ebbers Oviedo (407) 473-5698 e mail; Southwest District -James Duda - Naples (239) 450-6007 email; Southeast - District Jim McCoy - Sunrise (954) 748-9428 email

FRG Meeting Notice: The next Informational Meeting of the Florida Regional Group will be held on Saturday, December 5, 2015 at "Capt'n Fishbone" Restaurant in the Shell Factory, 2787 Tamiami Trail in North Ft. Myers. The meeting will begin with a period of socializing at 11:30 AM, followed by lunch at noon. For lunch, you may select from the following three entries: half Roasted Chicken, or Broiled Fish with Lemon Caper Sauce, either with Baked Potato, or Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes, either of the 3 with Green Beans Almandine, Toss Salad, Rolls & Butter, Iced Tea or Coffee, and dessert. The cost of the luncheon will be $5 per person, including tax and tip.
FRG Past President Terry King will preside at the informational meeting following lunch. A National Legislative up-date will be presented. Representatives from the VA will be on hand to provide information of interest to BV's and their families. FRG activities for the coming months will be described. This is your opportunity to make suggestions and recommendations regarding the FRG activities.
The restaurant has asked us to notify them as to the number who will be attending and the type of luncheon desired by December 1. Please make your reservations prior to that date by calling FRG Past President Terry King at: (941) 505-7747, e mail or Southwest district Director James Duda at: (239) 450-6007 e mail You may also call Bob Walczak at (941) 875-9876 email in Port Charlotte. In Punta Gorda call Bill Stockslager at (941) 276-1561, e mail; John Thomas, St. James City, (239) 283-1708; Joseph Taylor Cape Coral (239) 823-0744; Laurie Charles Cape Coral VIST Coordinator (239) 652-1800 ex 20828. The restaurant needs the reservation information in order to prepare properly for our meeting.
To get to Capt'n Fishbone Restaurant, go North on I 75 to Exit 143, then Go West on Bay Shore (State Road 78) 6.3 miles to "Old" US 41. Turn right (North) about 1.5 miles to the "Shell Factory, which will be on the west side of Old US 41. Going South on I 75, take Exit 158 and go West on Tucker's Grade a short distance to US 41. Turn left (South) and go about 13 miles to the Shell Factory. Free Parking is available next to the restaurant. Check with your fellow Blinded veterans, family members, and friends and make plans to join us on Saturday, December 5 in North Ft. Myers.
Last year, a number of BV's made reservations but did not attend or cancel. Consequently the FRG had to pay for each reservation under our guarantee. Although you only pay $5 for the lunch, the FRG subsidizes it with an additional $14. If you make a reservation and can't come, please cancel, so the FRG won't have to pay the $19 for each reservation we guarantee. If you can't come, please call one of those listed above and cancel it before December 1.

US Legislative Up-Date: In February, Glenn Minney, BVA Director of Government Relations resigned from his position. Since then, he has been continuing, on a volunteer basis, to work on BVA legislation by telephone, e mail and correspondence. During the interim, the BVA National Office has been recruiting a replacement. On October 26, Melanie Brunson took up her duties as the new BVA Director of Government Relations. MS Brunson has had considerable experience working on legislation for blind Americans. She will continue to work with the PVA to get Congress to pass S 171 and HR 288, the BVA-PVA measure to provide beneficiary travel to Blind Rehabilitation Centers and Spinal Cord Injury Centers for Blinded Veterans and Spinal Cord Injured Veterans whose income is above the income threshold. In the House of Representatives, the key Representatives are: Chairman Jeff Miller representing District 1 from Pensacola telephone (850) 479-1183, Gus Bilirakis representing District 12 from the Newport Richie and Tarpon Springs area (727) 940-5860 and Corrine Brown representing District 5 from the Jacksonville area (904) 208-4998. The Re-presentatives will listen to their constituents more quickly than voters from outside their Districts. BV’s in those areas should contact them and urge them to support HR 288.

Long Cane Mobility Device: Richard (Dick) Hoover, prior to entering the Army during WW II, was employed as an instructor at the Maryland School for the blind. In addition to his work assisting blind students to adjust to their blindness, he was interested in finding new ways to promote that rehabilitation. He did research on mobility techniques and came upon a book published in England in 1865 which described a long cane mobility technique. The process never was implemented there. Since the Army and Air Force personnel who were transferred to the Valley Forge Army General Hospital in Pennsylvania, Dibble AGH in California and Navy, Marine Corps, and coastguard blinded veterans at the Philadelphia Navy Hospital, had been relatively successful in their lives prior to suffering blindness, Dick Hoover thought they could be taught the use of the long cane to make them more independent. The long cane mobility technique was taught at all 3 facilities. As time has passed, the long cane has been the accepted form of mobility device all around the world. The long white cane is a wonderful tool for mobility, if properly employed. However, like any other tool, the usefulness goes hand in hand with the user’s skills. Such canes extend one’s sense of feeling two steps ahead sensing changing conditions in the walker’s path giving the blind person the time to react accordingly. Obstacles in one’s path, changes in the surface or level, can be felt and with training and practice, individuals learn how to recognize signals and react. Training begins with learning how to hold and position the cane. The blind person extends their index finger along the grip and uses the other three fingers and thumb to hold the cane. The cane is carried with the carrying arm extended and centered on the body. The tip of the cane is moved to the opposite side of your leading foot, when walking, that is when you put your left foot forward, you move the cane tip to the right and when the right foot comes forward, the cane tip is moved across to the left which gives the blind person time to act accordingly. One of the first thing I was shown, when being instructed in the proper use of the long white cane, was to lift up the grip when the tips gets stuck. Years ago, tips got stuck frequently. It is not recommended for blind cane travelers to attempt to continue on their path with a stuck tip. Failing to lift up the grip with a stuck tip can result in the traveler being impaled. There have been many attempts to find designs and materials for tips that do not stick, but the ceramic tip is the best I have experienced. When one is lax in executing the proper techniques of cane travel, you can find yourself running into obstacles that are best avoided. Generally speaking, one is rewarded when using proper cane techniques by arriving at your destination without a lot of drama or mishap. Conversely, there are tragic stories of blind travelers that miss or ignore signals of hazardous conditions ahead. The long white cane has provided the least expensive solution for blind people to protect themselves when traveling independently, since Dick Hoover introduced the technique over 71 years ago. Long canes can be made from a variety of materials and are available in different configurations, including long rigid, collapsible with a stretchable cable inside, or telescopic. One might forgo the sturdiness of a rigid cane for the convenience of a folding cane for some or all applications. The type of cane you choose will be made better by the addition of a ceramic tip. Ceramic is clay that has been hardened by heat. While this process has been around for a long time, modern ceramics are strong enough to withstand conditions in a jet engine. Tips for canes for the blind are currently being made available and as a cane user for over 40 years, I have found them quite amazing. The ceramic tips last longer and stick less than any other tip in my experience. Resolving one’s mobility problems is important to a blind person’s success. Becoming proficient in using the tools available to move about safely are one of the first steps one must master to obtain or regain their independence. Independence lets you do things for yourself, in your time and in your way. If you are not as proficient and independent in your travel as you would like to be, I encourage you to seek out help. Resources are available through the VA for getting started or improving your technique with the long cane, but you need to seek them out. Training at a VA Blind Rehab Center is the best available and can assist you in improving your independence and quality of life. Contact your VIST Coordinator to assist you with VA BRC training. Your BROS may also be able to assist with brief refresher training. (FYI After WW II Dick Hoover completed medical school and then worked many years as an ophthalmologist at John Hopkins in Baltimore. He served on the BVA Advisory Council from its inception until his death.) Mike Taylor

New Miami VAMC VIST Coordinator: The October 2015 FRG Newsletter reported the retirement of Roberta Goldstein after 11 years as the Miami VAMC Vist Coordinator. The FRG has worked with Paul Russo, Director of the Miami VAMC to get Roberta Goldstein’s replacement as soon as possible. We are happy to report that all of the processing for that position has been completed and Wendy Briand, the new Miami VAMC Vist Coordinator, started work, on November 2. Wendy Briand was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida. After graduating from high school, she earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Florida State University. Then, she continued at FSU earning Master’s Degrees in Blind Rehabilitation Teaching and Orientation and Mobility. Following graduation, she interned at the West Palm Beach Blind Rehabilitation Center (BRC). In 2004, following her internship, she was employed at the West Palm Beach BRC as an O & M instructor, living skills, and low vision instructor. In 2007, she transferred to the BRC at the Birmingham, Alabama BRC, as a Computer Access Training (CAT) Program instructor. Since she was certified in several disciplines, she also worked in those fields when other instructors were on leave. Wendy Briand is married and her husband is a native Miamian. She says that she plans to be the Miami VAMC VIST Coordinator for many years in the future. The FRG welcomes Wendy Briand to her new position as the Miami VIST Coordinator and looks forward to working cooperatively with her for many years.

Meeting Reminder: We look forward to meeting you at the next meeting of the FRG at Capt'n Fishbone restaurant in North Ft. Myers on Saturday, December 5. Call one of those listed above to make your reservations. If you make a reservation and can't come, please call and cancel it before December 1. Come join us in North Ft. Myers on December 5 for an interesting and enjoyable afternoon.

FRG Meeting Schedule

December 5 FRG Meeting Cap'n Fishbone Restaurant in Ft. Myers
January 9 FRG Meeting Columbia Restaurant in Tampa
February 13 FRG Meeting at the Hilton in Ocala
March 19 FRG Meeting Tropical Acres Steakhouse in Ft. Lauderdale
April 28 - May 1 FRG State Convention Plaza Ocean Club in Daytona

Newsletter Staff
Mike Taylor FRG President
George Stocking Newsletter Editor