Updated on Friday, February 24th, this is the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Information Network. This information can be accessed on the MCB Voice Information System by calling 617-626-7660. You may also call 800-392-6450 and say either “tape” or “telephone tape” into the speech recognition menu. Lastly, this weekly update is also available on "Newsline," the accessible newspaper service by pressing number 2, the local Channel, and in the "Massachusetts Commission for the Blind" section of “Newsline”. This update is produced by Wayne Levy.

MCB, the Perkins Training Center, and the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) Southeast Region Training Council would like to invite you to join them at the 12th Annual “Focus” on Vision Impairment & Blindness Conference: Meeting the Needs of Individuals with Intellectual Disability & Vision Loss, to be held on Wednesday, March 8th at the Four Points by Sheraton, Norwood, MA. This year’s conference, which is scheduled to run from 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM, features opening remarks from MCB Commissioner Paul Saner, Keynote Speaker Susannah Rowe (Director, Exceptional Vision Service, Vice Chair for Patient Safety and Quality, and Assistant Professor at the Department of Ophthalmology at the Boston University School of Medicine), exhibitors, breakout sessions, lunch, award presentations, a raffle, and a special performance by the Wild Fire Girls. The Registration Brochure and Form can be downloaded from www.focusonvisionandvisionloss.org/conferences--workshops.html or contacting Lisa DiBonaventura at 508-384-5539 or Lisa.DiBonaventura@state.ma.us for questions regarding registration. All registration forms and fees are due by Friday, February 24th.

You are cordially invited to attend the 9th Annual Blind Legislative Informational Networking Day (B.L.I.N.D.), scheduled for Thursday, March 16th from 11:30 AM to 2:00 PM in the Great Hall, at the Massachusetts State House in Boston. The purpose of B.L.I.N.D. is to advocate for legislative support of the Governor’s proposed budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2018 that acknowledge the importance of specialized blindness services and their critical funding. Your participation is important! For questions or to register by phone, please contact Erin Fragola, B.L.I.N.D. 2017 Registration Coordinator, at 617-972-7247 or erin.fragola@perkins.org. For any accommodation requests, please contact Carl Richardson a6 857-400-5502 or via email at carl.richardson@state.ma.us.

The Carroll Center for the Blind will be hosting an informational session on the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System with Peter Y. Chang, M.D. from the Massachusetts Eye Research and Surgery Institution on Friday, March 10th from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM. Argus II is an FDA-approved eye implant that partially restores vision in patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) who have lost significant sight. Please join Dr. Chang in his presentation that will familiarize RP patients, their family and friends, and interested eye care professionals with this groundbreaking device. You can RSVP and learn more about this event by visiting www.carroll.org.

The Carroll Center would also like to invite you to a free lecture on “Living with Vision Loss”. Join Bob McGillivray, Certified Low Vision Therapist, for a series of free seminars on low vision devices, techniques and best practices. Bob began his career as a Research Engineer at the Carroll Center in 1970 working on research projects involving the first-generation CCTV video magnifiers and night vision devices. Today, Bob oversees and delivers low vision assessments, demonstrations and trainings to school-aged students, seniors and employees. Seminars begin at 10:30 with a 45-minute presentation followed by a Q&A. The next session, “The Apple of Your Eyes”, will be on Friday, March 3rd. Learn about the low vision techniques of getting the most of your iPad and iPhone. You can RSVP by contacting Maureen Foley at 617-969-6200, extension 225, or by email at maureen.foley@carroll.org.

What do tactile sign language, touch cues, gestures and pictures have in common? All are components of the Total Communication Philosophy practiced by the Deafblind Program at Perkins School for the Blind to maximize the communication potential of each child. On Thursday, March 8th, from 9:30 AM to 11:30 AM, The Perkins School for the Blind will be hosting “Now You're Speaking My Language! Effective Practices in the Use of Total Communication with Students who are Deafblind or Deaf with Additional Disabilities”. At this interactive forum and open house, you will learn more about this philosophy and how to individualize your child's communication system. The event will feature: Martha Majors, Assistant Education Director; Pamela Ryan, School Psychologist; and Wendy Buckley, Assistive Technology Specialist and Teacher. The program schedule call for coffee, tea and snacks from 9:30 to 10:00 AM; the forum on Total Communication from 10:00 to 11:00 AM; and time for discussion and tours for anyone who is interested from 11:00 to 11:30 AM. For more information contact: Kia Dunn at Kia.Dunn@Perkins.org or 617-972-7573. You can also visit www.perkins.org to learn more.

Have you heard that braille is becoming obsolete due to accessible technology? We are here to tell you that is just not true! Research shows that adults with visual impairments who are braille readers are both more employable and successful. Maybe your vision isn’t as good as it used to be. Maybe you now have very little usable vision or, as some may say, “just enough vision to get you in trouble.” If so, braille will be your buddy in every aspect of life, and technology will add an additional tool to help you live a fuller life. The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired invites you to join Seminars@Hadley on Thursday, March 2nd at 11:00 AM for “Braille and Technology: A Winning Combination for Life”. Panelists will discuss how technology and braille work together for a winning combination for life! Special guests Kathy Claus, professional storyteller and author; Kristen Witucki, the curriculum and content editor for Learning Ally’s College Success Program; and Susan Kennedy, a legal assistant and travel blogger, will share how they balance braille and technology in their everyday lives. Kim Walker, Hadley Instructor, will moderate this 60-minute discussion. A question and answer session will be included as part of this audio seminar, which is audio-only. Please note that space is limited. To register, go to www.hadley.edu/SeminarDetails.asp?sid=353. You can learn more about this and other seminars at www.Hadley.edu.

The Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) is announcing plans for their 2017 Spring Conference, scheduled to take place from Friday, March 24th through Sunday, March 26th at the Boston Marriott Burlington, located at One Burlington Mall Road in Burlington. The program Committee is finalizing the agenda and speakers, which will be distributed as the conference approaches us. Exhibitors and an auction will again be highlights of the convention. Registration, which is required by Friday, March 3rd, costs $104.00, but attendees also have the option of paying $30.00 for a single day at the conference without access to the banquet and $55.00 for access to the banquet only. For more information about the conference and to register, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bay-state-council-of-the-blind-2017-spring-conference-and-convention-tickets-30956915969. You can also call 617-923-4519 for more information.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is, once again, reminding students of the March 31st deadline for their 2017 Scholarship Program. To recognize achievement by blind scholars, NFB annually offers college students in the United States and Puerto Rico who are blind the opportunity to win one of thirty merit-based, national-level scholarships worth from $3,000 to $12,000. All scholarships awarded are based on academic excellence, community service, and leadership. To apply, you: must be legally blind in both eyes; must be residing in the United States, the District of Columbia, or Puerto Rico; must be pursuing or planning to pursue a full-time, postsecondary course of study in a degree program at a United States institution in the 2017 scholastic year, except that one scholarship may be given to a person employed full-time while attending school part-time; and must participate in the entire NFB national convention and in all of its scheduled scholarship program activities. In addition to a scholarship, each winner will receive assistance to attend the 2017 National Federation of the Blind Annual Convention which will take place July 10th through July 15th in Orlando, Florida, providing an excellent opportunity for high-level networking with active blind persons in many different professions and occupations. To learn more, and to apply, please visit www.nfb.org.

National Braille Press (NBP) recently announced the winner of its Louis Braille Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation winners. Thanks to the generous support of the Gibney Family Foundation, every year NBP selects an individual or organization that is supporting braille literacy. Last year, NBP had 18 applicants from the United States and abroad. After thorough deliberation, the 2016 Louis Braille Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation winner has been selected! The winner is John Hudelson for his submission of BELLA—the Braille Early Learning and Literacy Arcade, an educational software and hardware gaming platform using audio, visual, and tactile feedback to teach pre-braille skills, braille reading, and braille writing. NBP believes that this device truly encompasses what the Touch of Genius Prize stands for: innovation and accessibility. The BELLA is a great programmable tool for teachers to support students learning braille and braille literacy. Honorable mention goes to Mandy Lau’s Reach and Match Learning Kit and Inclusive Learning Program. This kit and its accompanying curriculum are designed for children with vision impairment as well as those with multiple needs to develop braille literacy and communication and social skills through tactile strategies and play-based activities. John and Mandy will be recognized during the California State University, Northbridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology Conference, which is scheduled for March 2nd at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego. Congratulations John and Mandy!

The Wheelock Family Theater, located at 200 The Riverway, in Boston, has announced Audio Described performance dates for Billy Elliot The Musical. There are two remaining performances: Friday, February 24th at 7:30 PM; and Sunday, February 26th at 3:00 PM. The inspirational story of a young boy’s struggle against the odds to make his dream come true, set in an English mining town. Follow Billy as he stumbles out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class, where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and community, and changes his life forever. Recommended for adults, teens, tweens, youth and children over 8 years old. Book and lyrics by Lee Hall, and music by Elton John. To learn more and purchase tickets, please visit www.wheelockfamilytheatre.org or call 617-879-2300.

Thanks for reading this message and it will be updated again on Friday, March 3rd.

This information is provided by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind.