August 29, 2011

Guest Post: Reflections on the 66th BVA Convention in Las Vegas

Image: BVA Logo

The 66th National BVA convention was held August 16th - 20th in Las Vegas, Nevada. Most people fly to Las Vegas, but Dale [my Husband] and I took Amtrak to Las Vegas!  It was a very interesting trip, leaving early in the morning, and arriving late Tuesday night.  Most of the trip was by train, but over five hours was on the bus which was extremely exhausting.  However, it was an adventure, and if you are wondering, yes, we flew back home. 

The convention was held at the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas which has been totally renovated with restaurants and shops.  Some of the cool new features of the Golden Nugget are the aquariums and the slide through the shark tank!  For those of you who are not familiar with Las Vegas, down town is the Old Fremont Street which is now covered and is a huge light show at night.

The convention kicked off with opening remarks by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki and other dignitaries from the state of Nevada.  The Secretary commented on the progress that has been made throughout his administration during the past two and ½ years including service claims, benefits, homeless veterans, and the role of women veterans.  He was very charismatic and enthusiastic as he spoke with bold straight forward remarks, and I was very proud to be a woman veteran of the United States Navy. After all of the fabulous speakers, the National BVA president, Dr. Roy Kekahuna called roll for all of the delegates representing each state and region and the convention was in full swing.

There were many sessions, research information, and vendors to keep each one of us very busy.  I attended the Father Carroll luncheon and Dr. Greg Goodrich was the key note speaker.  Gayle Watson also gave a very interesting and informative session about the role of the VA Blind Rehabilitation Centers, which was received with great enthusiasm.

One of the many highlights for me was meeting new veterans, reconnecting with many WBRC Alumni, and visiting the Hospitality suite. The Northern California BVA chapter was well represented by President Felipe Flores and other board members.  It was a great convention and very worthwhile to attend.  Next year the BVA convention will be held in Galveston, Texas.  If you would like more information about the National convention please visit the following web site:

CLICK HERE for a LINK to Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Eric K. Shinseki’s BVA Convention Opening Remarks


Guest Post By: Anita Stone, VRT
WBRC Living Skills Instructor
BVA Life Time Member, Northern California Chapter

August 25, 2011

Bookshare's Read2Go iPhone Application Now Available

Image: iPad with the Read2Go App
Logo displayed on the screen.

Attention Bookshare members.  Bookshare's long awaited Read2Go iPhone and iPad Application is now available. The following is an excerpt from the Read2Go announcement from the Bookshare Blog:

"Announcing the new Read2Go App, the DAISY reader for Bookshare on the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.  Read2Go is an accessible e-book reader that was developed by Benetech (the parent nonprofit for Bookshare),  in partnership with Shinano Kenshi Co. Ltd (best known for its PLEXTALK® brand of digital talking book players)...

This very easy-to-use app for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch connects directly to Bookshare for immediate on-the-go reading.  From within the app, individual users and schools supporting students can search, download, and read Bookshare books and periodicals and manage their books in a bookshelf. In addition, Read2Go reads DAISY 2.02 and 3.0 materials from some other sources...

Additional features, such as study tools, images, and multiple languages, will become be available in the coming months."

The Read2Go application is available from the iTunes Apple Store for 19.99.  You must be a Bookshare member to access this service.  If you have a condition such as vision loss/impairment you may qualify for Bookshare membership.

August 22, 2011

WBRC Alumnus Weds

WBRC Alumnus Jack Pelton
and his wife Louise Kastner were
married on December 26th, 2010
WBRC Alumnus Jack Pelton gave us a call to tell us that he was married just after Christmas 2010.  He and his wife Louise have had a couple of newspaper articles written about them that he was happy to share with us.  Please see the links to the articles below:

WBRC would like to offer warm congratulations to Jack Pelton and his wife Louise Kastner on their recent marriage.

August 18, 2011

VIST Group Meeting In Stockton CA August 25th

Image: VIST Logo

The next Stockton VIST group meeting will be held on Thursday August 25th, 2011 from 10:30 am to 11:30 am at the address below:

Stockton Community Center for the Blind
Conference Room
130 W Flora St
Stockton, CA 95202
(209) 466-3836

The Visual Impairment Services Team (VIST) group is open to all veterans, Active-Duty Service Members, family members and those interested in promoting the community of B/VI veterans in the region are welcome. We have varying presentations and discussions of new technology, special training and many subjects relevant to B/VI persons. All interested parties are welcome to attend.  Please call VIST Coordinator Patrick Finan at 650-493-5000 x 64368 for more information.

August 16, 2011

Open VIST Group Meeting August 18th

Image: VIST Logo

The Visual Impairment Services Team (VIST) group is open to all veterans, Active-Duty Service Members, family members and those interested in promoting the community of B/VI veterans in the region are welcome. We have varying presentations and discussions of new technology, special training and many subjects relevant to B/VI persons.

The next VIST group meeting will be held at the VAPAHCS Palo Alto Hospital, 3801 Miranda Ave, Palo Alto CA, Building 48 (WBRC), in room A208, from 1 pm - 2pm on Thursday August 18th, 2011.  All interested parties are welcome to attend.  Please call VIST Coordinator Patrick Finan at 650-493-5000 x 64368 for more information.

August 15, 2011

Double Vision Tandem Program

Photo: View from the 'Stoker' position of
a tandem bike, looking over the 'Captain'
and ahead at the bike lane and
a quad side by side bike.
Written by: Liz Jessen, VIST Coordinator
The WBRC Recreation Therapy program has a weekly tandem bicycling program for current WBRC Students and WBRC Alumni.  This 'Double Vision' Tandem program works with community volunteers and educates veterans in bicycle safety and maintenance as well as orienting them to the sport of tandem cycling.  Weekly rides are typically contained on the VA Palo Alto Hospital grounds, but occasionally there are longer tandem rides in the nearby community. 

On Saturday July 9th, 2011 the WBRC's Double Vision tandem program set out on a long community group ride. We had seven tandem teams, including one team on Wilma (our side-by-side quad) on the road heading to a local park called Rancho San Antonio.  It was a lovely summer day and everyone was excited to be out.  All went well and we all safely made it for lunch at Rancho San Antonio.  Most of the riders completed 16 miles of hilly terrain and had a great time. 

What is Tandem Cycling?
The tandem bicycle is a form of bicycle designed to be ridden by more than one person.  The term tandem refers to the seating arrangement, with the riders seated front and rear.  On conventional tandem bicycles the front rider is known as the ‘Captain’ and is responsible for steering as well as pedaling, shifting gears, and balance.  The rear rider is known as the ‘Stoker’ and is responsible for adding pedal power to the team.  Tandem cycling can not only increase health and well being, but also can improve teamwork, build trust, and add a sense of community, among many other benefits.

Getting Started with Tandem Cycling:
-   Be sure to be medically cleared by your health care professional prior to beginning any new physical activity.
-   Locate a tandem organization; checking with local bicycle shops and/or your parks and recreation organization could be a good start.
-   Get familiar with bicycle safety, equipment inspection, and rules of the road.
-   Make sure to make adjustments to equipment to meet your needs such as to helmet straps and your seat height, and check for loose clothing, pant cuffs, or shoe laces prior to starting to ride.
-   Connect with experienced riders and start practicing in a safe area, such as an empty parking lot.
-   Communicate with your captain; plan, discuss, and share the ride.  Good communication can make a world of difference.

Community Resources:
Learn more about Bay Area Adaptive Bicycling at:

Learn more about Tandem Cycling, Clubs, and Locating a Captain at:

August 11, 2011

Alumni Feedback: August CAT Skills Post

Image: Film Reel and Film
We received some great WBRC Alumni Feedback regarding our August 8th Blog Post titled 'CAT Skills: Dolphin Guide User Shortcuts'.  One WBRC Alumnus reported that he was interested in learning more about the Dolphin Guide Software program and e-mailed us a link to some Dolphin Guide Videos.  The Alumnus was so interested in the software program after viewing some of the demonstration videos that he is considering returning to the WBRC CATs program for additional training.  Thanks to our alumni for the feedback.

To provide feedback on this blog please feel free to leave a comment (a comment section is available for each post).

August 9, 2011

VAPAHCS Blind Rehabilitation Services Soar During Recent CARF Survey

Image: CARF International Logo

The VAPAHCS Blind Rehabilitation Service is proud to announce that we participated in a three day survey by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) August 3rd-8th, 2011.  The CARF representatives completed a thorough survey of our Blind Rehabilitation Services including a facility inspection, interviews with students and staff, examination of standards, memorandum, and policies, review of inpatient and outpatient programming, quality of services provided, etc. 

During the exit briefing the team leader and administrative surveyor Dolores Nickel and the program surveyor Mike Townsend began the session congratulating the staff - There were NO recommendations noted and 100 % compliance with all CARF standards met.

The exit briefing consisted of outlining the many strengths they found in the program.  Of note, the surveyors commented on:
·   The exemplary staff.  They noted the diversity of experience and the dedication of the staff to the mission and Veteran-Family centered care.  They commented on the dignity and the respect shown to the Veterans. They noted an exemplary culture of teamwork and how much the staff clearly liked their jobs.
·  The high degree of satisfaction of the Veterans interviewed with the program.  Veterans and their families described their experience as “magical, transformational, eye-opening”.  One Veteran commented that he wished he could “rate the magic that occurred here”. 
·  The cutting edge innovations they encountered in every program including the use of assistive technologies, the CNVR program and the leadership in research and the training program.
·  The continuous improvement culture- improvement being a part of everyday work and the exemplary outcomes measurement.
·  The clean and inviting environment of care.
·  The quality of the leadership.

What is CARF?
The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) provides accreditation services worldwide at the request of health and human service providers.  Through accreditation, CARF assists service providers in improving the quality of their services, demonstrating value, and meeting internationally recognized organizational and program standards.
The accreditation process applies sets of standards to service areas and business practices during an on-site survey. Accreditation is an ongoing process, signaling to the public that a service provider is committed to continuously improving services, encouraging feedback, and serving the community. Accreditation also demonstrates a provider's commitment to enhance its performance and distinguish its service delivery. 

August 8, 2011

CAT Skills: Dolphin Guide User Shortcuts

Written by: Susan Marshall, WBRC CATs Instructor

Image: Close up of a grey keyboard keys

Featured this month are general shortcuts for new or seasoned Dolphin Guide users.  The following list contains keys that you will use most when operating your Dolphin Guide software.
The important Keys
ü  Show Help Page for current screen: F1
ü  Move up in a list or menu: Up Arrow
ü  Move down in a list or menu: Down Arrow
ü  Select an option or move forward to the next page: Enter
ü  Close current menu or task and go back a stage: Esc

More Keys
ü  Show a full list of all shortcut keys: Ctrl+F1
ü  Highlight a portion of text that can then be amended: F2
ü  Read out text, sentence by sentence, backwards up a document: F3
ü  Read out text, word by word, backwards up a document: F4
ü  Read out text, word by word, forwards down a document: F5
ü  Read out text, sentence by sentence, forwards down a document: F6
ü  Open the Spell Checker (in documents / letters): F7
ü  Opens the Dictionary / Thesaurus: Ctrl+F7
ü  Start Guide talking again: F8
ü  Temporarily stop Guide talking: F9
ü  Speaks out current date and time: F10
ü  Increase voice speed: F11
ü  Decrease voice speed: Ctrl+F11
ü  Change voice (switches between all available voices): Shift+F11
ü  Increase Magnification for each screen: F12
ü  Decrease Magnification for each screen: Ctrl+F12
ü  Set Magnification level for all screens (from Main Menu): Alt+F12
ü  Set Magnification level for all screens: Alt+Ctrl+F12

August 4, 2011

New Issue of WBRC Newsletter Available Via Web

Image of the Spring 2011 WBRC Newsletter
The Spring 2011 WBRC Newsletter is now available on the web in a PDF format.  This issue of the WBRC Newsletter reviews the 2010 White Cane Walk, Alumni and Staff News, 2010 WBRC Statistics, WBRC 'New Faces', articles by WBRC Alumni, and more.  The newsletter will be archived on this blog on the right hand side menu under 'WBRC NEWSLETTERS'. 

August 2, 2011

WBRC Veterans Attend San Jose Giants Game

Written by Matthew Collins, WBRC O&M Specialist

Image of a base, baseball, glove and bat
On July 30th, some of the veterans of the WBRC attended a minor league baseball game between the San Jose Giants and the Lancaster JetHawks.  Kettlecorn, Ice Cream, and Churros were just a few of the snacks consumed during the mid-season match-up at the San Jose Municipal Stadium.  The family friendly event had fans of all ages cheering for their teams, and Rick Worlitz, a WBRC GPS student commented “It’s great to see the kids here have so much fun.” 

While the JetHawks put up a fight, the Giants won 4-3 in just a mere two hours.  The San Jose Giants, a farm team of the San Francisco Giants, have had many eventual big leaguers, including Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, and Pablo Sandoval play for the team.  Reserved seating, friendly parking staff, and plenty of volunteer help made for yet another successful event.  Go Giants!  

A few tips for baseball fans with vision loss:
  • Bring your glare control to the game, a hat with a minimum 3" brim and a good pair of sunglasses may help you follow the game more comfortably.
  • Bring your long cane or other mobility device, you never know when you may want to head to the restroom or concession stand on your own.
  • Bring your magnification devices: a monocular telescope could help you spot the batter and check the scoreboard independently, and a hand held magnifier or other device could help you access score sheet and prices in the souvenir shop.
  • Bring a small handheld radio and earphones: Many games are broadcast over the air so a radio and earphones can help you follow the action at the game without having to ask others what is going on. 

Are you a baseball fan with vision loss? has made it's website more accessible for users with vision impairments.  Learn more by CLICKING HERE for a LINK to the press release.