January 29, 2010


Map of Parking Lots and Closures at VA Palo Alto Occurring Soon
(Double Click on Image to Enlarge)

Visitors to the WBRC, please note, some of the VA Palo Alto Hospital Parking areas will be closing shortly for construction needs.
VETERAN ONLY parking will remain available in Parking lots 100 North and 100 South. Lots 48 and 48A near the WBRC will also still be available to visitors, although they are also open for staff parking.
Parking lots scheduled for closure in the near future include lot 4, 4a, 49, and part of lot 101.


Photo of architect Christopher Downey's hands as he uses his fingers to examine a tactile architectural plan for the new Poly trauma and Blind Rehabilitation Center
at his San Francisco office.
Photo by Robert Durrell courtesy of the LA Times
(Double click on the photograph to enlarge)
Blind Architects Have A Real Feel For The Site Lines. In a front page story, the Los Angeles Times (1/12, LaGanga, 776K) profiled 47-year-old Northern California architect Christopher Downey, who "lost his vision" 22 months ago. According to the Times, Downey has been working as a consultant to the architectural team designing a Poly trauma & Blind Rehabilitation Center for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Palo Alto, California.

Click HERE for a Link to the LA Times Article


Talking GPS Helps Blind Travel Freely
December 20th, 2010

By: Carolyn Johnson

PALO ALTO, CA (KGO) -- Walt Sullens recently took an almost perfect stroll through downtown Palo Alto. If only the view had been better. "Right now, every day's a foggy day, even a bright sunny day," he told ABC 7.
That fog is the result of a condition called macular degeneration. "Macular degeneration blocks out your central vision. It's like trying to look through your fist," he described. "It makes it a little difficult to read street signs."
But, on this walk, Sullens got some help to find the street signs and his destination from a device more commonly found in cars. He is being trained to use a specialized GPS by an Orientation and Mobility Specialist at the WBRC Blind Center at the VA hospital in Palo Alto. The device, known as a Trekker, is adapted for use by the blind.
"What's different about it, is it's about the same size as a regular handheld device, but it's got a tactile keyboard overlay to allow them to access the information," explained Laura Koehler with the VA hospital in Palo Alto.
Using his sense of touch Sullens can cycle through a list of options. The GPS figures out where he is and he tells it where he wants to go. He demonstrated how he could get to Borders book store.
"I'm pushing enter to choose Borders bookstore," he said.
"Please head toward Waverly Street crossing Hamilton Avenue," the machine responded.
"And, off I go," said Sullens.
The device gave Sullens the street names and the layout of the intersections he was approaching, but he still had to navigate the traffic and red lights using his own hearing and white cane. As he walked further along, the GPS began describing the neighborhood, giving him a chance to learn it the way a seeing person would.
"Union Bank of California, nearby. Palo Alto Sports shop and Toy World, on your left. Michael's Gelato and Cafe, on your right," the GPS stated, indicating various details about the trip.
"It's very freeing to be able to walk down the street and just explore the environment, something we take so for granted," Koehler explained.
The software is geared toward walking, and steers away from freeways and busy expressways that a normal GPS might favor. In about half an hour, Sullens was closing in on his mark.
"You have reached your destination. Borders, on your right," said the GPS.
"It's right here," said Sullens. "And, it's a nice open place to be. Voila!"
Once he masters the technology he will take the device and a new found sense of freedom back to his home in southern California.
"This is letting me out of the bottle, to give me the freedom to walk around my town," he said.

Click HERE for a Link to the ABC News Clip

CLICK HERE for a Link to the TREKKER Website


Contact: Christine Tinberg
U.S. Blind Tandem Cycling Connection

U.S. Blind Tandem Cycling Connection’s Website is Live

Woodland Hills, CA January 27, 2010 - The website for the U.S. Blind Tandem Cycling Connection is live, providing an online resource for blind and sighted cyclists to team up for a bike ride. By creating a profile, riders can search for either a sighted pilot or a blind/visually impaired stoker in their local area. Profile questions help riders match up based on riding experience and cycling goals. Tandem experience is not necessary. The website provides a tutorial to teach the basics to new pilots and stokers.

The U.S. Blind Tandem Cycling Connection endeavors to increase the participation of individuals who are blind/visually impaired in the exhilarating sport of tandem cycling. Their vision is that everyone with a visual impairment has the opportunity to experience tandem cycling, with its’ feeling of freedom and sensation of speed.
“Riding a tandem has given me the opportunity to achieve physical, spiritual, social, and emotional wellness. Cycling makes me feel alive. I am so grateful to any pilot who shares the ride with me.” Ron Burzese, blind stoker, Austin, Texas

The U.S. Blind Tandem Cycling Connection is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. To create a profile and share the ride, visit

U.S. Blind Tandem Cycling Connection
P.O. Box 944
Woodland Hills, CA 91367

Click HERE for a link to the WEBSITE