May, 2012

Letter from the President

By: Sara Conrad, ACBS President

Dear ACB Students:

I am glad to be writing this letter to start off yet another issue of the Student Advocate and to give you an update about our affiliate. We have had a very busy year!

First, we of course have new board members for this school year, as we elect new members and appoint a few positions each summer. Caitlin Lynch joined our Executive Board as our Second Vice President and is therefore chairing our Convention Committee. The other position up for election was secretary, which is filled by Rose Martin. Michelle Gip has joined ACB Students as our Junior Representative, Zack Olson has become our editor, and Tyler Littlefield has assumed the role of our webmaster. These new members have integrated very well into our board and it has been a pleasure to work with them thus far.

I do want to take this opportunity to announce that we will have three Executive Board positions up for election this summer at convention. Those positions include President, First Vice President, and Treasurer. You do not need to be present at convention to run, although we certainly hope many of you will attend! More info will come in the next issue of the advocate about elections and voting.

Second, another perhaps more obvious change this year is that we changed our name! We are proud to be ACB Students, formerly known as NABS. The affiliate as a whole decided that the name change would identify us with our parent organization and would avoid any confusion in distinguishing group names. We also had a number of other changes in our Constitution, including a vote by proxy added for amendment voting for summer conventions. I will send more information about this voting procedure closer to convention.

Third, we are gearing up for exciting focus groups between our board and the leaders of ACB in order to brainstorm with them about encouraging student membership throughout the organization. We have many supporters and look forward to these calls in order to help the next generation of ACB.

In closing, I want to thank all of you who have joined ACB Students as members this year. We have a strong number of members, which gives us two votes on the convention floor this summer. I also want to thank everyone for many great discussions on the list. We enjoy the discussions in order to encourage students in all situations.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments about our affiliate, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Sara Conrad
ACB Students, President

ACBS Presence at Mid-Year Conference

By: Sara Conrad, ACBS President

I had the honor of representing ACB Students and the State of Michigan at the American Council of the Blind's Midyear Presidents' Meeting and Legislative Seminar held in Washington D.C. this February. Leaders from across the organization were present to join together on a variety of accessibility issues and to advocate for specific bills. We also had the pleasure as an affiliate of hosting our second annual trivia night and raffle which raised more than $700.

At the presidents' meeting, we discussed topics such as structured negotiations, pedestrian safety, the roles of affiliate officers, and accessible voting.
While many of these topics were continuations of previous years' presentations, there were many helpful updates given for leaders. The most beneficial piece of the meeting for me was the opportunity to be part of the community of other affiliate leaders, which reminded me of the deep support my fellow
leaders have for student involvement.

During the legislative seminar, not only did we cover two important legislative imperatives, but we also heard from speakers about special education, advocacy, how to have effective meetings with Congressional members, communications accessibility, and air carrier accessibility. We felt grateful for the support of the great speakers from outside of ACB who devoted their time to communicate upon these everyday issues in our lives.

During the legislative seminar, we discussed two legislative imperatives that we brought to Capitol Hill on February 28. The first of these surrounded HR
4087, a bill in the House about accessible prescription drug labels. The bill calls for the formation of a group made of pharmacists and drug companies
to form a list of best practices for making drug labels accessible for all. This would allow for all companies, from the small-town family-owned drug store
to the large mail order company, to both provide accessible prescriptions without requiring them to follow the exact same procedures for doing so. Some of these practices may include Braille, large print, or computer chips on the labels. In any case, the bill would eventually promote independent living
and safety for the blindness community.

The second legislative imperative deals with HR 860 for vehicle donation. Many charities, including ACB, once used vehicle donation as a great means of
fundraising. However, recent legislation has made it difficult to receive these gifts from donors due to uncertainty in tax refunds. The bill calls for our legislatures to review their previous legislation, understanding that some of the provisions made were necessary to decrease fraud while other means deeply hurt charities. We hope that in the future, the piece of this law that presses upon charities like ACB will be lifted.

While visiting Capitol Hill, I was honored to meet with my legislators. I was accompanied by Melanie Brunson, the Executive Director of ACB. We spoke with assistants from the offices of Congressmen Sander Levin, Dave Camp, and Fred Upton, as well as Senator Debbie Stabenow. The meetings went very well and I consider our discussions on both issues to be great successes. The legislators were receptive and engaged with our conversations, and I believe we will have great changes within these imperatives soon.

Once again, it was an honor to attend this conference on behalf of our affiliate and my own state. There is much work to do within the areas of leadership and legislation, and I encourage all of you to join ACB in speaking with your local representatives about accessibility issues. Together, through mutual involvement and hard work, we will have a more accessible future.

Having a Successful College Experience

By: Ardis Bazyn, ACB Students advisor

After I decided to attend college as a nontraditional student, I investigated how to accomplish getting a degree. However, I did not pursue all the areas that I should have. I did not understand the ramifications of all my decisions. I had to learn by trial and error the pitfalls that can and do occur during
a typical college experience. Even though I graduated with my BAs in four years and my MA two years later, I found several obstacles I could have bypassed had I known more information earlier.

Since choosing the correct college or university is paramount, I checked this topic first. I wanted a college near where I lived due to my family situation.
First, I chose a local community college and then a four-year college, also where I lived. Various reasons dictate where you should attend classes. It
is important for all prospective students to first select a major, if possible, and then understand and diligently pursue the process of admissions. If
you are interested in a very prestigious college or university, the way forms and essays are completed is crucial.

Applications for financial aid need to be completed simultaneously with your search for the right college. It is likely one of the criteria you may use
in evaluating your final college or university choices. Your decision may be determined based on the amount of loans you will need to accomplish your education.
I attended a community college my first two years primarily to save money. The community college also offered me a wider schedule of courses, which suited my busy family life.

The next two areas of exploration made me consider my personal needs. First, examine and identify your own special needs. You will also need to evaluate and use disabled student services to some extent. If you are aware of your needs and what the Department of disabled student services offers, you can determine where you might need assistance.

If you know the laws that affect you in college, you will be able to advocate more affectively for yourself. You must be able to document or show reasons
why specific services are necessary. Accommodation is expected in specific areas and you will be able to ask more easily if you understand and know the laws.

Training and recruiting readers and drivers is important since you will need many readers. You must know how to instruct readers to help you in the most efficient way possible. Also, you may need drivers to take you to get needed supplies that are not available on campus and/or to drive you home from time-to-time. You will want to discover tips on recruiting them.

I use a cane for my mobility and I found having someone walk me through campus before I started classes helpful. You may wish to ask someone with a guide dog to tell about their experience in working with one on campus. Your mobility aid, whether it is a cane or dog, is one of the most valuable assets on a campus. Students may guide you occasionally, but you ultimately are responsible for reporting to classes on time.

You might want to gather a list of organizations which you can call for tips and assistance in advocating for services and accommodations. This short article highlighted the information you would want to solicit before embarking onto the search for a perfect college or university experience. There will always be challenges; but, hopefully, you won’t make some of the same mistakes I made. Good luck!!

Ardis is the author of “A Guide to a Successful College Experience”, a resource booklet for anyone considering attending a college or university in the future. Check the ACB Student website for this resource:

Turning in to An Adult

By: Caitlin Lynch, ACBS Second Vice President

I'm twenty-three. Sometimes, I am bratty, jealous, and act like I am twelve. Other times, I am wise, overly serious, and feel like I'm forty. But I've never
really felt like an "adult" until this past year.

I graduated from a small school a little less than one hundred miles from home. I lived on campus, and was fairly self-sufficient. Because I hated the laundry room and I missed them, I saw my parents about once a month. I talked to them a few times a week, so I could tell them how I was, what professors I despised that particular day, or impart the antics of my crazy guide dog. They were always happy to hear from me and would get upset if too many days passed between my calls. When I graduated in 2010, I moved back home.

Upon graduation, I had lofty goals of getting a teaching job (I have degrees in English and Secondary Education), finding a place, and starting "my own"
life. The job market and my deplorable financial state made that goal entirely impossible. So I stayed at home all of last year, got a paying internship,
signed up to be the Student Advocate Editor, and started my volunteer job at the county crisis hotline where I still work a shift each week. I was all
about changes and making the best of a less than ideal situation. I also chose what I'd study in graduate school and where I'd pursue those studies. I
did this while living in the relative comfort of my bedroom, under the watchful eyes of my exceptionally loving, if overbearing parents. Though I was making choices that would impact my future, I didn't feel like an adult.

It wasn't until July 29th of this year, when my long-time boyfriend (if you've read the previous issue of the Student Advocate, you'll know all about him)
proposed that I started truly feeling like an "adult". I'm not saying that planning a wedding rockets you in to the adult world of taxes, baldness, and
the vagaries of corporate America, but it is a very real responsibility.

Planning a wedding is tough. You have to figure out where you want to get married, when you want that to occur, and which family members pick their noses so much that they won't make the list. Couple planning a wedding with planning a life, and you've got your start in the adult world right there.

Anthony, my fiance´, lives and works in Connecticut. I'm currently getting my MSW at a local university, two hours by car and 1.5 hours by ferry, from his
home. It's completely unfeasible to expect that I would move in with him and commute that distance just to finish up my degree. So we decided to hold off and get married in the spring of 2013, right after I've finished with graduate school. In the meantime, we need to find somewhere to live. He has the steady job and the sweet income, so we decided that it makes the most sense to settle in Connecticut.

I've never moved before. The house I was carried in to when I was two weeks old is the same house I sit in now as I type this narrative. I've never even
moved my bedroom; for twenty-three years, I've always been the room at the end of the upstairs hall with the light gray carpet. When Anthony and I discussed finding a house, I was terrified. I didn't know anything about money, anything about what an ideal home looked like, and I had no real clue what a short-sale vs. an estate meant. I learned quickly, though. I learned what was important to me as a blind woman to have nearby (sidewalks, friendly neighbors, and a bus stop) and what were luxuries that I enjoyed having (a fire place, a fenced-in yard for my guide dog to run, and at least one full bathroom).

We needed to find a house close to Anthony's place of business, but also one that was close to the ferry terminal, which would make it easier for me to
visit my family here in New York. We needed to find an area where taking the bus wouldn't create havoc on my life, and where the taxes didn't make us weep for mercy. As I was constructing this article, Anthony called and told me that we had gotten the house we put an offer on. It's not too expensive, there's a fence for Laser, sidewalks for me, two full bathrooms, and a friendly R.N. and her adorable daughters next door. There's even a fire place, and a cozy sunroom that I already am planning to transform in to my personal nook. For all intents and purposes, it is perfect. And, as a bonus, the taxes are low enough so we can eat dinner at least twice each week.

Planning a wedding, looking in to buying a house, getting a Master's degree, and balancing volunteer activities is not easy. I'm certain it isn't for everyone,
either. For the first time ever, I really feel like an adult. On the horizon, there are responsibilities that I will gladly undertake, to my husband and
to my new home. I live in the room with the gray carpet, under the watchful eyes of loving parents, still, but not for much longer. I am excited about
my new life as wife, homeowner, and maybe one day "mom", and I feel like I'm very ready. I also feel entirely exhausted with all the life altering decisions
that orbit me right now. Schoolwork, wedding planning, and now house-owning can really take a lot out of a person.

Each night, I am ready to enjoy the sound sleep I'm getting for the first time in a long, long while. Every night, I go to bed with something between a
sigh and a song caught on my tongue. If this is adulthood, I am thrilled.