A Chapter of the California Council of the Blind

December 2019


EDITOR: Susan Glass,

COPY EDITOR: Beverly Clifford,

ADDRESS: P.O. Box 493, Mountain View, CA 94042

DEADLINE: for the January, 2020 issue: noon, December 26


VOLUNTEERS: Naomi Grubb,


MEMBERSHIP: Mike Keithley,


LEGISLATION: Mike Keithley,


PHONE: 888-652-5333




Legislative Hotlines, current issues for blind persons:

CALIFORNIA CONNECTION: 800-221-6359, after 5 PM and weekends

WASHINGTON CONNECTION: 800-424-8666, 3-9 PM and weekends


DISCLAIMER: This publication contains announcements from the Silicon Valley Council of the Blind and is also a forum for opinions relating to blindness issues.  Signed articles reflect the views, and research, of their authors.


STATUS: SVCB is a 501(c)3 non-profit, tax-exempt organization under the California Council of the Blind.


CHANGES OF ADDRESS: Contact Mike Keithley,


Monthly meetings are held at the Santa Clara Valley Blind Center (Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired San Jose).  Meetings run 9:30 AM to 1 PM the third Saturday of the month and are open to all.




* President's Message

* Membership Corner

* Fund-Raising Report

* * Letter to Santa

* Snack Shack

* Tidbits

* Event Calendar



by Susan Glass


I am writing this message at 7:30 AM on Friday, November 29, the day after Thanksgiving. Alice and Rob Turner joined John and me for a delicious Thanksgiving dinner at our home. Our meal was traditional except that we substituted prime rib for turkey, and apple pie for pumpkin. Cora and Omni alternately romped and napped throughout the afternoon, and Zeus slept, or wandered from person to person asking for head snuggles and ear rubs. I enjoyed serving our dinner on my mother's white china, and imagining her gentle guidance as Alice and I worked in the kitchen. My challenge was keeping all parts of the meal warm when delivering them to table. "Mom, I did not succeed." "Well, dear, it takes practice." "Yes, and Rob and Alice were gracious about my error, as good friends are."


I hope that all of you had a Thanksgiving day rich in family and friendship. As we age and beloved people depart, our friends become our family. Or perhaps they always were, but now we appreciate them more fully. I want to thank you, my SVCB family, for your steadfast presence in my life since I first joined you in 2005. We've shared picnics and holiday parties, inspiring programs, legislative advocacy, and community stewardship activities such as promoting braille literacy, volunteering at the Northern California Regional Braille Challenge, sponsoring people to attend CCB and ACB activities, and promoting our Barbara Rhodes Access Technology grant. It's been an honor to serve as your president for these last four years, and to learn and be inspired by each and every one of you. Life is most interesting when we live it together, rather than going it alone. Until I joined SVCB, I wasn't living my life in the presence of other blind people. I now am, and every day I am grateful.


The upcoming issue of The Blind Californian promises to be one of our richest, balanced between portrayals of our personal and community lives. Toni Eames, a new contributor to the BC, shares a delightful piece written from the perspective of her blind kitten. Jeff Thom summarizes CCB's legislative accomplishments for the year in an article called "No Rest for the Wicked." Bonnie Rennie writes movingly of being interviewed by Bob Acosta when, as a young college student, she applied for a CCB scholarship. Her piece is called "The Day I Learned It Was Okay to Be Blind." We also feature a profile of our state guide dog affiliate, GSGDHI. And Bev's "Active Shooter Drill" piece is a detailed elaboration on the story she told us during our World According to Us program at our October meeting.


I hope to see all of you at our holiday party on Saturday December 14. John is busily preparing old-time radio holiday programs for our entertainment, and the Armadillo Willy's food will be scrumptious. See you there.



by Mike Keithley


Well, this here column should be called Flu Corner. So much for the flu vaccine!  The flu came visiting anyway, caving in the door, the night after the November meeting, and King is just now convincing it to depart gracefully or else. "Flu is hard to get rid of. I think Master was just dreaming, saying he'd been vaccinated. For a while there it was touch-and-go with a cough and pneumonia, but now I have him almost no a normal schedule. Anyway, he's alive again!"


Yes, that's true, and hanging up the newsletter. "But no one's going to care, with Thanksgiving dinner and all, and you promised to give me most of yours as a thank you." Yes, I did, and well met!


As explained in the November Phone Tree message, most of the November meeting time was spent investigating the new accessible voting equipment we can use in the 2020 election. The ballot-entry device we saw was the same as displayed at the Vista Center meetings, but we heard a great deal more on how you'd actually do your entry. Unfortunately, we didn't have the one-on-one attention I hoped for. But I think you'll find the program interesting. It's at:


We used our little business meeting to elect the 2020 SVCB administration:


Rob Turner: President (first term)

Mike Keithley: Vice President (first term)

Gail Roe: Recording Secretary (first term)

Carol Silveria: Corresponding Secretary (first term)

Victor Clifford: Treasurer (unlimmited term)

Naomi Grub: Director (completes remaining year of Mike Keithley's term)


So there you have it. I'm sure that out-going officers Susan Glass and Alice Turner have found working in SVCB to be rewarding; they won't disappear, and they'll be around to help with heavy lifting.


And now for the party! Don't miss it! It'll be at Vista Center San Jose on Saturday, December 14. Do plan to come! The present count is 44, and 50 people is a working goal.


Registration is $20 for CCB/SVCB members, and $25 for guests. Register by bringing money to the party, or by sending a check to the address at the top of any newsletter. Put "Holiday party" on the memo line. The deadline to register is Monday, December 9.


Armadillo Willy's will be our caterer, so we'll have turkey and ham with trimmings--just like last year! And we'll have some old-time radio shows as entertainment. Be sure to check out the December Phone Tree message for the final update.


And don't forget your 2020 membership dues: They're now $20 a year. You can pay your dues by bringing them to the party, or by sending them to the P.O. Box address. Put "Membership dues" on the memo line.


Let's wish happy December birthdays to Celina Carey, Ruben Armenta, Lorraine Brown, Milton Quenzer, and William Tipton. And send encouraging words to Lorraine Brown: Her sister passed away recently.


You know, 2019 has only one month to live. Let's cheer it along (no colds, thank you), and make way for 2020.



by Michelle McGrew


Have you gotten your large print/braille calendar for next year? Or, would you like one to give as a gift? I currently have 12 left! These calendars, featuring artwork by blind and visually impaired people of all ages, cost $10 each. To reserve yours, please contact me by calling 888-652-5333 (leave a message to be forwarded to me, or look me up on our Membership List to call me directly), or send email to


Our November Cookies of the Month fund-raiser featured Spicy Fruit Drops, baked by Suzanne Smith. These delicious cookies contain holiday spices, candied fruit, walnuts, and molasses. You can find the cookie recipe in the "Snack Shack" article in this newsletter. Thanks to our supporters both at the SVCB meeting and at the Blind Center! We sold a total of 24 bags of cookies! Plus, we concluded our sales of extra snacks from our Old-Time Radio Show fund-raiser by selling another 49 bags of assorted snacks! So altogether, we raised $73 for our tech grant fund!


And, thanks to all who got tickets for our raffle featuring donated items at our November meeting! Prizes included beauty products, football-themed items, a makeup bag, a fondue set, a hummingbird pin in a small jewelry box, a Japanese trinket container, a scarf, a hat and gloves set, a pewter pin, a set of pillowcases with a cross stitch rose design, a wooden collapsible basket, a set of placemats with matching cloth napkins, a hoodie, and two sets of Christmas paper, bags, and cards. Congratulations to our winners: Kathy Hoag, Verne Smith, John Vandervort, Gail Roe, Irene Barker, and Rob Turner! We raised $116!


Looking for some great end-of-the-year thank-you gifts or stocking stuffers? SVCB has you covered! We are selling four-ounce bags of Meltaways from Bakers Candies in Nebraska for $4 each. Each bag contains about 13 individually-wrapped chocolates. I currently have the following flavors available: five kinds of dark chocolate (plain, mint, orange, cherry, and sea salt caramel), seven kinds of milk chocolate (plain, mint, peanut butter, coconut, raspberry, mocha, and caramel), and the assorted (mix of both dark and milk chocolates).


We've also restocked our candy bars! We have four kinds of milk chocolate bars (roasted almond, creamy caramel, crispy rice, and plain) and a limited number of dark chocolate with roasted almonds. The candy bars sell for $1 each.


Or, you may choose one of our other snacks! We're selling bags of nut mix as part of our Holiday Sale. These come with either sweetened dried cranberries or with chunks of dark chocolate. You can also purchase Kirkland Nut Bars (contains a sprinkle of salt and a little chocolate) and bags of Welch's Fruit Snacks (2.2-ounce bags of chewy fruit-flavored candies, in the following flavors: Mixed Fruit, Island Fruit, Apple Orchard Medley, Strawberry, and Berries 'n Cherries). The nut mixes, Nut Bars, and Welch's Fruit Snacks are all $1 each. To place an order for any of these items or for chocolate, contact me as listed above.


See you at our holiday party!



by Bev Clifford


Dear Santa,


Is it okay for grown-ups to send you a Christmas list? I sure hope it is, because I have a special request, only I'm not sure if the elves in your workshop can accommodate it. I mean, I know you make wonderful technology up there in the cold north, like accessible phones, and amazing radios, and braille displays, and magnifiers, and all that stuff many of us would love to own. But do you guys make specially designed robots? Here's the thing: I need some custom-made "volunteer robotts," ones that are capable either of baking, cooking, or purchasing delicious food items. They need to be engineered with discernment in mind, able to differentiate between excellent food offerings and mediocre ones. And, if possible, I need seven of them, to be delivered to me one at a time in the months of February, March, May, June, July, September, and November. Oh, and they will also need internal GPS modules of some sort, plus a built-in calendar system, so as each one arrives at my door, I can program it to show up at Vista Center San Jose, 101 North Bascom Avenue, on the third Saturday of its appointed month. Is this too demanding a task for your trusty elves? Or am I simply asking too much? I don't want to be a bother, when so many kids out there are looking forward to the joys of Christmas toys, and when other grown-ups are probably asking for world peace, Medicare for All, food for the masses, homes for the unhoused, and for everyone to have love in their lives. Look, Santa: Just in case you're too busy to handle this request, you can have one of your elves call me at 888-652-5333, or email me at Or have them use their elf magic to locate me on our SVCB Membership List to call or email me that way. Then we can talk it over and get the process rolling. Thanks ever so much, dearest Santa, if you can grant me this Christmas wish!



Bev (Just a kid at heart)




Spicy Fruit Drops

Submitted by Suzanne Smith


This recipe comes from one of Betty Crocker's numerous cookie books, but you can also find the recipe on




1/2 cup molasses


1/3 cup shortening (I used margarine)


1/4 cup sugar


1 egg


1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour


1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1 teaspoon ground mace (I used cloves)


1 teaspoon ground nutmeg


1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1/4 teaspoon salt


1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


1/8 teaspoon ground allspice


2-1/2 cups mixed candied fruit (about 16 ounces)


2 cups coarsely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)




Preheat oven to 325 degrees.


Mix molasses, shortening, sugar, and egg. Stir in remaining ingredients.


Drop by teaspoonfuls about 1 inch apart onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes. Makes about 6 dozen.


Note: If using self-rising flour, omit baking soda and salt.



by Mike Keithley


Aira's New Street-Crossing Policy is Now Live


Earlier this year, we announced we would be reviewing our Street-Crossing Policy at the request of many of our Explorers. We're proud to say that we have now made changes to the policy that go into effect as of November 4. Read on to learn what's changed. Alternatively, listen to this special episode of Airacast to hear all about it at:




In the past, the Street-Crossing Policy for Aira agents was to provide descriptions of intersections, but to then remain absolutely silent while the Explorer crossed the street, regardless of whether the Explorer asked for information, assistance while crossing, or if they started to veer.


The policy was created with input from Orientation and Mobility (O&M) Specialists and consumer organizations. To ensure that Explorers were free to use their O&M skills without any distractions, it was decided that agents would remain absolutely silent to avoid any kind of negative impact on situational awareness.


After collecting over four years' experience, Aira responded to requests from our consumer community to update our long-standing policy.


The New Street-Crossing Policy


Aira agents will now provide minimal, relevant information to Explorers who are actively crossing an intersection, when prompted by an Explorer and when circumstances change during the crossing.


So, what exactly does this mean? Agents will continue to provide full descriptions of an intersection as an Explorer approaches it. Once the Explorer reaches the corner and the agent has finished describing the intersection, instead of saying "I will remain silent until you have finished crossing," the agent will stay silent to give the Explorer the opportunity to ask for any additional details or to begin listening to their surroundings.


At this point, if an Explorer asks an agent before crossing to provide specific information relevant to the intersection (like "Let me know if I start to veer"), they will do so. If an Explorer requests information while actively crossing an intersection, or if circumstances change during the crossing, then the agent must provide this information while the Explorer crosses the street.


If circumstances change while an Explorer is crossing the street, an agent is allowed to provide relevant information such as, but not limited to:

If an Explorer is veering out of the crosswalk

If an Explorer is veering toward traffic or an active roadway

If an Explorer crosses an intersection diagonally

If a new obstacle (something not seen during the description of the intersection prior to crossing) has entered the Explorer's path


Please remember that agents can only provide information on what can be clearly seen through their dashboard video feed. If an agent cannot see the information requested, they will say so.


If an Explorer would prefer to have the agent remain completely silent while crossing a street, the explorer can simply inform the agent and the agent will not provide any additional information.


The information Explorers will receive while crossing an intersection will be brief and descriptive and only about the task at hand. Once on the curb on the other side of the street, regular conversation may resume.


Aira has given this policy change careful consideration and testing, and we hope that it will further improve the Aira experience.


If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Customer Care by email at:


Convention Preview: Chicago Pizza and Prohibition Tours


Taste the flavors of Chicago and learn about the most notorious era the Windy City is known for: Prohibition. Join the American Council of the Blind in Schaumburg IL on Monday, July 6 and Tuesday, July 7 for our city bus tour with a twist! You'll get a chance to literally eat your way through Chicago by sampling slices of its world-famous pizza at three culturally significant pizzerias. Along the way we'll educate the group about all things pizza, and since one of the pizzerias used to be an Al Capone-controlled speakeasy, we'll discuss that history as well.


Don't miss out on the fun: Make your hotel reservations today!


Room rates at the Renaissance Schaumburg are $94.00 per night (for up to four people in a room). This room rate does not include tax, which is currently 15.0%. For telephone reservations, call (800) 468-3571. This is a central reservations number, so please indicate you are with the American Council of the Blind 2020 Conference and Convention at the Renaissance Hotel in Schaumburg IL.


Rooms must be reserved by June 10, 2020 to guarantee the convention rate. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, either via phone (651) 428-5059, or by email


EVENT CALENDAR: December, 2019 Through January, 2020

Compiled by Mike Keithley




Tabard Theatre shows: To order tickets, call the Tabard box office at 408-679-2330 and speak to Marilyn Watts, or visit SVCB members and Blind Center clients should use Discount Code BC27 when ordering. Performances take place at The Tabard Theatre, 29 North San Pedro Street, San Jose.


Shows described by AudioVision: For all San Francisco productions (Golden Gate and Orpheum Theatres, tickets are generally on sale four weeks before the production opens. To charge tickets and reserve receivers, call 888-746-1799 (SHN Theaters), or fax your order to 415-581-2121 and ask for AudioVision tickets. If you have any questions, please email


The monthly "Let's Talk Low Vision" conferences from CCLVI can be accessed as podcasts at


Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors: Departs every Sunday at noon from Pier 40 in San Francisco. Call 415-281-0212 for information and reservations, or visit


Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program (BORP): BORP believes that everyone should have access to the unique challenges that outdoor recreation provides, and makes every effort to accommodate each person's needs, including providing transportation and volunteer support. For event listings, call Lori Gray at 510-843-4398, or visit




Dec 5, 7 to 9 PM: SVCB Board meeting; call-in 800-662-6992 with ID code 1184109. If you're not on the Board but wish to attend this meeting, please contact President Susan Glass.


Dec 6 through 22: A TAFFETA CHRISTMAS, Tabard Theatre, see notes.


Dec 14, 11 AM to 3 PM: SVCB holiday party, Vista Center San Jose (see Membership Corner in this newsletter).


Dec 16 at 2 PM: A BRONX TALE, descriptions by AudioVision, see notes.


Dec 18, 5:30 to 7 PM: Let's Talk Low Vision, iPhone apps and Jaws; 712-432-3447 with ID 145330#; see notes.


dec 21 and 22 at 8 PM and 23 at 2 PM: TUCK EVERLASTING, TheatreWorks, descriptions by the Visual Voice, Lucie Stern Theatre.


Dec 22 at 2 PM, BAT OUT OF HELL, THE MUSICAL, descriptions by AudioVision, see notes.


Dec 26, noon: January, 2020 newsletter deadline.


Dec 27 at 8 PM, 28 at 8 PM, 29 at 8 PM: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, TheatreWorks, descriptions by the Visual Voice, Lucie Stern Theatre.


January, 2020


Braille Literacy and Glaucoma Awareness months.


Jan 2, 7 to 9 PM (provisionary date): SVCB Board meeting. New administration takes office.


Jan 7, 5:30 to 7 PM: Breast Cancer Support Group; call-in: 605-715-4920; ID: 2776167. For questions, call Lori Scharff at 516-887-1336, or


Jan 10 through 26: A NEW BRAIN, Tabard Theatre, see notes.


Jan 18, 9:30 AM to 1 PM: SVCB meeting. 2020 administration takes office, approve 2020 Business Calendar, introduce Picnic Committee chair to recommend a site for August picnic.


Jan 23, noon: February newsletter deadline.