Updated on Friday, January 23rd, 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 would also like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that January is National Braille Literacy Month. January was chosen to coincide with the birthday of Louis Braille, the inventor of the system of raised dots. Although it has been more than 175 years since the first book was published in Braille, millions of people who are blind or have low vision are communicating more effectively with its use today. Braille literacy has allowed these individuals to read and write for themselves with independence and freedom.

With the winter upon us, the MBTA would like to inform you of what steps will be taken by the T to remove snow from bus stops. Once the snow has stopped falling, MBTA staff will begin removing snow at subway stations. This includes station platforms, stairs, ramps, and busways. After clearing the snow at rail stations, MBTA staff will begin removing the snow from bus stops that are part of the “Key Bus Routes” program. According to MBTA officials, it takes approximately one to three days to remove snow from “Key Bus Route” stops. The MBTA will remove snow from stops that are not “Key Bus Route” stops. You may call 617-222-3200 or email snowandice@mbta.com to report a stop that has not been shoveled. When reporting a stop that has not been shoveled, please indicate that you are a person with a disability, state the bus route that serves the bus stop, and include the intersection where the stop is located. More information on snow removal can be found at www.mbta.com/winter/bus_status.

The Carroll Center for the Blind will once again be hosting the 15th Annual New England Braille Challenge at their Newton campus on Saturday, March 7th from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. This qualifying event is a regional program of the Braille Institute of America, and is open to all Braille students in grades 1-12 throughout New England. Students demonstrate their braille skills in reading comprehension, writing speed and accuracy, reading and interpretation of charts and graphs, proofreading, and spelling with the hope of becoming one of sixty finalists invited to compete in the final competition in Los Angeles in June. Parents and guests attend workshops, view exhibits, and make valuable connections to learn how to further their children’s education and lifelong success. The application deadline is Friday, February 6th. Additional information can be obtained at www.carroll.org or by contacting Sue Malone at sue.malone@carroll.org.

In an effort to help students prepare for the 15th Annual New England Braille Challenge, the Carroll Center for the Blind would also like to invite you to Braille Brush-Up Day, scheduled for Saturday, February 7th from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Help your students prepare for the competition with this fun and functional review! Even if your student is not participating in the Braille Challenge, Braille Brush-up Day is still a great way to review and improve braille reading and writing skills! Students will have the opportunity to practice their skills in braille reading, writing, spelling, and proofreading. Additionally, they will work on brainteasers, puzzles, word and number games, tactile graphics and speed brailling. The fee for attending is $100 per student, but limited sponsorships may be available. More information can be obtained at www.carroll.org.

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) annually awards approximately twenty scholarships ranging in amounts from $1,000 to $3,500 to vocational, entering freshmen, undergraduate, graduate and full-time employees (32 hours or more per week who are attending college part time) students who are legally blind, maintain a 3.3 GPA and are involved in their school/local community. Applications and all supporting materials must be received by 11:59 PM Central Standard Time on March 1, 2015. To read the scholarship application instructions and complete an on-line application, please visit: www.acb.org/scholarship.

The Perkins School for the Blind would like to take the opportunity to invite you to check out Perkins Perspectives, a full-length magazine with feature articles about all aspects of Perkins work with students, international, and assistive technology. This highly acclaimed publication has won journalism awards and is available in braille, digital cartridge, email, and large print formats. If you are interested in receiving this free publication, please email your format preference, name, address, phone number, and email address to Kim Charlson at kim.charlson@perkins.org.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) recently announced that applications are now being accepted for the 2015 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award program. Each year, NFB presents cash awards to individuals and organizations that have demonstrated exemplary leadership and extraordinary accomplishments in improving the lives of blind people in the United States. Dr. Bolotin, a physician who was blind, was widely known, respected, and recognized for his expertise on diseases of the heart and lungs. He was also an advocate for the employment of the blind and their full integration into society. Individuals or organizations are encouraged to apply on behalf of themselves or others. Applications are due by March 31, 2015. For more information and/or to apply online, please visit https://nfb.org/bolotin-award-main.

The New England ADA Center recently announced the launching of the ADA 25 Boston official website. The 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act is fast approaching, and as a part of the local efforts to recognize and celebrate that momentous day, the New England ADA Center has launched this website. Please visit www.newenglandada.org/ada25boston to learn more. The website includes the latest information about plans for a grand celebration on Wednesday July 22, 2015 on Boston Common with a march, speakers, and entertainment. Visit the website to learn how you can take part and support the celebration on the Boston Common!

Are you interested in learning American Sign Language (ASL)? If so, the Perkins School for the Blind would like to invite you to their ASL classes, which are offered twice a year, during the fall and spring. In collaboration with the Deafblind Program at Perkins, the spring 2015 ASL classes will begin on February 2, 2015 and run for ten weeks. Anyone age 16 or over may register. Registration is open until Monday, January 26, 2015. Classes are taught in Signed English and meet one session per week. Each class will be conducted by experienced ASL instructors and will be held at the Grousbeck Center for Students and Technology on the Perkins campus in Watertown. The registration fee is $100.00. A minimum of 10 registrations are required for a class to be held and the limit is 25 seats per class. Please visit www.perkins.org for additional information.

Are you an individual with a print disability looking for accessible books to use on your digital reader? Are you an educator looking for accessible books and technology for your struggling readers? Bookshare, the world’s largest accessible online library, provides readers with print disabilities access to more than 3000,000 ebooks and technology The Hadley School for the Blind is hosting a seminar titled, “Inspiring Lifelong Learning with Bookshare”. Join Seminars@Hadley on Thursday, January 29th at 3:00 PM as Kristina King Cohen, senior education program manager at Benetech Global Literacy, discusses how to acquire a Bookshare membership, find and request books, read Bookshare ebooks using a variety of assistive technology and how to connect with the broader community of members. Doug Anzlovar, dean of educational programs and instruction, will moderate this 60-minute seminar. Space in this seminar is limited. Please only register if you know you are available to attend so others are not closed out. A question and answer session will be included as part of the seminar, which is an audio presentation. To register, please go to: http://www.hadley.edu/Seminar_register.asp?sid=261. You can learn more about this and other seminars at www.Hadley.edu.

Thanks for reading this message and it will be updated again on Friday, January 30th.

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