Updated on Friday, December 12th, this is the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) Information Network. This information can be accessed on the MCB Voice Information System at 617-626-7660 and 800-392-6450. You can say “tape” or “telephone tape” into the phone. This message 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 Jillian DiBenedetto.

In the past, MCB has shared information about a partnership between the Perkins School for the Blind, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing regarding providing free currency readers. The time has come! The Perkins School for the Blind is now providing FREE currency readers to Perkins patrons who are having difficulty identifying paper currency visually. The ibill Talking Banknote is a compact device that announces a note’s value in one of three ways: voice, pattern of tones, or pattern of vibrations. Just insert a note into the device and press a button on the side to have the denomination identified. It operates on a single AAA battery, which is also provided. Registered Perkins Library borrowers may request a FREE currency reader by contacting them directly at 617-972-7240 or 800-852-3133. They can also be reached via email at Library@Perkins.org and the Currency Reader Program Distribution office will ship the bill reader directly to the patron via Free Matter at your mailing address within 6-8 weeks. This free Currency Reader Program is an interim phase of the U.S. Government’s Meaningful Access Initiative to make U.S. currency accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. The final objective in the Meaningful Access program is the addition of tactile markings to allow for identification of paper money by touch. Additional information about the Meaningful Access Initiative can be found at www.moneyfactory.gov/uscurrency/meaningfulaccess.html

On Wednesday, December 3rd, the United States House of Representatives approved legislation, called the Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, to allow Americans with disabilities to open tax-sheltered bank accounts to pay for expenses from education to housing and health care. First introduced in 2006, the legislation now lists an overwhelming 85 percent of Congress as co-sponsors, even after a conservative group criticized it as a "decisive step in expanding the welfare state." It would be the first major legislation for the disabled since the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Modeled after tax-free college savings accounts, the bill would affect as many as 54 million Americans born with disabilities, amending the federal tax code to allow states to establish the program. Families would be able to set up tax-free savings accounts at financial institutions to pay for expenses such as education, housing, transportation, job training and health care. The accounts could accrue up to $100,000 without the person losing eligibility for government aid such as Social Security disability payments; currently, the asset limit is $2,000. Medicaid coverage would continue no matter how much money is deposited in the accounts. You can learn more about this bill at www.house.gov.

The Association of Blind Citizens (ABC) would like to know if you are blind and have no light perception? Do you have problems sleeping or trouble with daytime sleepiness? Non-24-hour sleep wake disorder occurs in some individuals who are totally blind and lack the light sensitivity necessary to reset the "body clock". This can lead to problems with sleep and/or daytime excessive sleepiness. You can help researchers understand non-24-hour sleep wake disorder by taking a brief phone survey. In addition, you will have the opportunity to be informed of upcoming clinical studies recruiting in your area. Survey Participants Need to: be over 18 years of age; be blind with no light perception; and have sleep problems and/or daytime sleepiness. Collected information will be kept strictly confidential.

For each completed survey, a donation of $25 up to $50,000 will be made to the Association of Blind Citizens. If you want to participate in the survey, please call toll-free 1-888-387-0986 Monday-Friday between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM ET. ABC thanks you for your assistance.

December 14, 2014

The Association of Blind Citizens (ABC) will hold its annual Holiday Luncheon on Sunday, December 14th at the Fours Restaurant, located at 166 Canal Street in Boston. The Restaurant is a short walk from the MBTA’s North Station. The expanded luncheon menu will include a variety of choices sure to please all. A cash bar will be available so that you may enjoy your favorite adult beverage. The party will begin at 12:00 PM and end at 3:00 PM. Come and join us for a great lunch and be part of a traditional Yankee Swap. If you wish to participate in the Yankee Swap, you must bring a wrapped gift valued at $10.00. ABC's holiday luncheon is free to the blind community. Bring your friends and be part of this traditional holiday event. Please be sure to notify us regarding who will be attending and the number of guests in your party. Children under the age of 14 must receive specific approval from ABC to attend this event. If you are using the Ride, ask for a 12:00 PM arrival and a 3:00 PM departure. Register by calling 206.666.6832 and be sure to leave a telephone number in your message. You can also email your reservation at president@blindcitizens.org.

December 14, 2014

The Massachusetts Association for Parents of the Visually Impaired (MAPVI) is inviting you to their Annual Holiday Party, scheduled for Sunday, December 14, 2014 at the Pappas Horticultural Center at the Perkins School for the Blind. Come and enjoy the senses of the season from 10:30 AM to 12:00 PM at this multi-sensory holiday party. Santa will also be visiting the Allen Chapel in the Howe Building between 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM. Attendees will have the opportunity to explore the plants and fountains with their senses and win prizes, make their own mulling spices mixture, and create their own balsam or cedar scented sachets. Additionally they will be able to create their own moss wreath with horse chestnuts, pinecones, herbs, and dried flowers from the Perkins grounds and student garden and holiday decorations. This event is free for all MAPVI members, and $8.00 per child for non-members (maximum $24.00 per family). Non-members are invited to also consider becoming a member. Please RSVP to Amber Bobnar at amber@wonderbaby.org or by calling her at 617-923-1241.

The Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) is inviting you to visit the all-new American Council of the Blind (ACB) Mini Mall. Grab your credit card and head right over to the electronic ACB Mini Mall. You don’t need a car; you don’t need paratransit; you don’t have to wait for a cab or a bus. You don’t even have to get dressed to go shopping. Just go to ACB’s home page at www.acb.org or directly to the Mini Mall at https://mall.acb.org/. Several shops are now open in the Mini Mall. Browse the ACB Logo Shop, ACB Radio Wave, and the Cane Kiosk and more. More shops are coming soon, and more products will be added every day. Some products in the Mini Mall ship “Free Matter for the Blind”, while others are eligible for combined shipping. Tell your friends about the Mini Mall. Remember that every purchase supports the good work of the American Council of the Blind. If you have questions, comments, or suggestions, or wish to place an order by phone, you can email the Mini Mall at acbstore@acb.org or call 877-630-7190.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) will be, once again, teaming up with Santa to promote braille literacy. Santa will be enlisting the help of the elves at the NFB Jernigan Institute to get braille letters out to hundreds of girls and boys who are blind this Christmas season. Between now and December 19th, parents, relatives and friends can go to www.nfb.org and fill out a Santa Braille Letter request form, which can also be printed and faxed to 410-685-2340. Beginning on December 1st, the braille letters from Santa will start going out to boys and girls around the country who are blind. The braille letter will also be accompanied by a print copy (for sighted relatives to read). Requests for letters must include the writer’s name, the child’s name, birthday, gender, mailing address, a telephone number, and email address in case Santa’s helpers at NFB have questions. Braille literacy is the key to success and opportunity for the blind, but unfortunately too few children who are blind are learning it today. This program is a fun way for children who are blind to practice their braille skills while receiving a holiday greeting from Santa himself. Additional information about this program can be found at www.nfb.org.

National Braille Press (NBP) will be offering their inaugural holiday card, which has a simple, but elegant message: Joy. Three gold boxes appear horizontally across a cream-colored background, each containing deep blue dots, in simbraille, that spell J O Y. The same three letters in embossed braille appear directly below each box across the bottom half, the word JOY appears in a graceful, scripted blue font. Printed inside the cards, in print and braille, is the message: “Best wishes for a joyous season and a very happy new year.” The entire card is gold, with the NBP logo and website. Envelopes are white, with gold leaf inside. Sending out cards where print and braille stand side by side, as equals, conveys a powerful message. You can order these holiday cards at www.nbp.org.

Thanks for reading this message and it will be updated again on Friday, December 19th.

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