This is the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind Information Update, available on the M C B Voice Information System at 6 1 7, 6 2 6, 7 6 6 0 or 8 0 0, 3 9 2, 6 4 5 0 and you can say tape or telephone tape into the phone. This message is also available on the M C B web site at www.mass.gov/mcb in the weekly updates section. This update is produced by Wayne Levy.

The MBTA is in its budget preparation cycle for Fiscal Year two thousand and eighteen that begins July first, two thousand and seventeen. This process is moving very quickly and will be finalized by mid April. The MBTA will close Fiscal Year two thousand and seventeen with a fifty million dollar structural deficit. The MBTA Finance and Management Control Board, FMCB, has been directed to consider and approve only balanced budget proposals for Fiscal Year two thousand and eighteen. On Monday, March sixth, the MBTA management announced to the FMCB and Audit and Finance Committee that the major means to close this budget gap is the Suspension of Premium Service on the Ride and the elimination of weekend service on the Commuter Rail. Privatization of certain services is also being considered. The Ride defines Premium Service as any origin or destination address that is outside the core service area. The core service area, as defined by the A D A, is a three quarter of a mile corridor from the closest fixed route service; buses, subways but excluding the commuter rail, during the operating hours of that fixed route service. Patrons of the Ride pay a Premium Fare of five dollars and twenty five cents versus the A D A Fare of three dollars and fifteen cents. The MBTA has always defined the service area for the Ride by cities and towns and this practice predated the ADA. Life decisions have been made based on the existence of this service. Premium Service is the only transportation option for a significant number of the Ride Patrons. Suspending and or eliminating Premium Service without viable alternatives that work for everyone would have tragic results. There is no legal basis to fight the elimination of Premium Service with regards to the ADA. The ADA is crystal clear on the minimum standard for paratransit service; that is Paratransit is required to be provided within three quarter of a mile of the fixed route; bus, subway, excluding commuter rail. The Bay State Council of the Blind, B S C B, has been participating in a Task Force within the MBTA that includes Boston Center for Independent Living, Disability Policy Consortium, Massachusetts Senior Action Council, and the Access Advisory Committee to the MBTA. This Task Force has been very engaged in projects such as the Uber Lyft Taxi projects whose clear objectives are to improve customer service and have economic benefit to the MBTA. BSCB are very mindful that services like Uber and Lyft, while they are game changers, they do not work for everyone. The community cannot afford any service elimination without viable alternatives. This is a call to action for each of you to make your voice heard. You can do so by attending the weekly meetings of the MBTA FMCB and speaking during the public comment period at the very beginning of each meeting. Letters and phone calls to the Governor, Secretary of Transportation, and MBTA General Manager are also in order. It is extremely important that there be a significant presence from the blindness community at every FMCB meeting from here forward. These Board Meetings are held each Monday at noon at ten Park Plaza, the Transportation Building, in Boston. Public testimony makes a big difference and the lack of such testimony also is very telling to the Board. The meeting on Monday, March twentieth is especially important, it is when the details of the MBTA proposals regarding Premium Service will be presented to the FMCB. Rick Morin, as Chair of the Transportation Committee of BSC B will attend the FMCB meetings and testify. One voice on behalf of the organization is not enough, however. Please plan to attend the meetings and let Rick know which meetings you plan to attend so BSCB can provide you information regarding what is scheduled to be discussed at the FMCB meeting and how best to communicate our concerns. The board needs to hear the impacts this decision would have on you, members of your family, and friends. Please email Rick at Rick.Morin@Comcast.net or call him at 617-633-7947.

Believe it or not, tax season is here! There are plenty of resources that may be helpful to you as you prepare your two thousand and sixteen taxes. People who are unable to complete their tax returns because of a physical disability or are age sixty or older may be able to get assistance through the I R S Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, VITA, or Tax Counseling for the Elderly, TCE, programs. Find out more or find a nearby VITA or TCE location by calling 1-800-906-9887. Publication 9 0 7, which explains the tax implications of certain disability benefits and other issues, can be accessed by visiting www.irs.gov publications slash p 9 0 7 Hundreds of accessible federal forms and publications are also available and can be downloaded from the I R S Accessibility web page. You can choose from large print, text, accessible PDF files, e Braille, or HTML formats that are compatible when used with screen readers and refreshable Braille displays. Please visit www.irs.gov for additional tax information.

The Perkins School for the Blind and the Deafblind Extended Supports Unit at M C B would like to invite you to join them at the Massachusetts State House on Thursday, March thirtieth for Deafblind Awareness Day. This event, which will start at 10:00 A M, highlights the importance of fiscal resources, programs and services that enhance the lives of children and adults who are deafblind. Presenters will share their stories and highlight the vital impact of services on their lives. Organizations and agencies will showcase the critical services they provide to children, youth and adults in the Commonwealth who are deafblind. Following the one hour program, participants will be invited to visit with state representatives and senators to discuss issues that are important to them. If you need help identifying and contacting your legislator, you can email the Deafblind Contact Center, at dbccoffice@gmail.com. Should you have any communication access requests, please contact Carl Richardson, State House A D A Coordinator, at 6 1 7, 7 2 7, 1 1 0 0, extension 3 5 5 0 2 or via email at Carl dot Richardson at State dot M A dot U S.

The Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired recently announced that they are moving to a new platform for their Seminars at Hadley. Starting March twenty second, they will be using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, an accessible webinar platform by Blackboard. The new platform is completely Web based and does not require any add ons or plug ins for participants. It will bring better quality audio and a more streamlined experience for our seminar participants; however, Hadley will no longer be allowing voice feedback, but text chat will still be available for those who wish to comment or ask questions. In an effort to provide an opportunity to experience the new Blackboard Collaborate Ultra platform, Hadley will be holding an Open House Seminar Hadley on March twenty second at 11:00 A M. This audio seminar is audio only. Please note that space is limited. To register, go to www.Hadley.edu/SeminarDetails.asp question mark S I D equal sign 3 5 8. You can learn more about this and other seminars at www.Hadley.edu.

The next Perkins School for the Blinds Library Without Walls presentation will be taking place over the telephone on Tuesday, March twenty first from 2:00 P M to 3:00 P M. Library Without Walls is a program at the Perkins Library where patrons can join in a presentation or book club by telephone. The March guest speaker will be Steven Kurkjian. Former Boston Globe reporter and three time Pulitzer Prize winner, and the author of Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the Worlds Greatest Art Heist, will delve into the still unsolved mystery of the thefts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum a quarter of a century ago, when two men disguised as Boston police officers made off with an estimated half billion dollars worth of art, including pieces by Rembrandt and Vermeer. In Master Thieves, Kurkjian reveals how the two criminal gangs battling for control of the Boston under world knew of the museums poor security and that one gang had a motive to pull off the theft, to fashion an exchange that would result in the release of their leader from federal prison. You do not want to miss this presentation! To RSVP or listen to the upcoming Library Without Walls schedule held over the telephone each month, please call the voice mailbox system at 617-972-7852.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, would like to invite you to two events in April. First, the April Feeling For Form tour, which is scheduled for Sunday, April second from 1:00 P M to 2:30 P M, is Sense of Spring. What does the coming of spring mean for you? Newness? Young love? Easter Peeps? Fresh flowers? Mud? Birds and bugs return? This multisensory tour will explore new beginnings, changes in nature, and the scents and sounds that arrive in the spring. Secondly, April also means Art in Bloom. If you have not attended before, Art in Bloom pairs art objects with floral arrangers and garden clubs, who interpret the art they have been assigned into a floral arrangement. Guided tours for Art in Bloom are available on Friday April twenty eighth, Saturday April twenty ninth, and Sunday April thirtieth. To request an Art in Bloom tour, please provide your preferred date and approximate time or times that you are available. There are a lot of tours during this weekend, so the M F A asks that you submit your requests in early April if possible. You can R S V P for either event by emailing Hannah at HGoodwin@mfa.org or by calling 617-894-8807.

The Bay State Council of the Blind, BSCB, is announcing plans for their two thousand and seventeen Spring Conference, scheduled to take place from Friday, March twenty fourth through Sunday, March twenty sixth 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 third, costs one hundred and four dollars, but attendees also have the option of paying thirty dollars for a single day at the conference without access to the banquet and fifty five dollars for access to the banquet only. For more information about the conference and to register, please visit w w w dot event brite dot c o m slash e slash bay dash state dash council dash of dash the dash blind dash 2 0 1 7 dash spring conference dash and dash convention dash tickets dash 3 0 9 5 6 9 1 5 9 6 9. You can also call 617-923-4519 for more information.

The American Council of the Blind, A C B, is soliciting your feedback regarding accessibility issues and Weight Watchers. It has been almost four years since ACB worked with Weight Watchers to improve accessibility of the companies online tools, mobile application, and print documents. ACB would like to hear from current or recent Weight Watchers members who are blind about how the company is doing. If you have used the Weight Watchers website or mobile application in the last six months, please ACB know. If you are attending meetings or have requested print documents in alternative formats during this same time period, ACB would like to hear from you too. Please send feedback to Kim Charlson at Kim.Charlson@Perkins.org with a copy to Attorney Lainey Feingold at LF@LFLegal.com. ACB thanks you for your attention to this matter.

Thank you for listening to this message and it will be updated again on Friday, March twenty fourth.


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