American Council of the Blind of Maine

Welcome to ACB of Maine

The future holds the hopes and dreams of those who continue to move forward, and who never forget to walk alongside an incredible family built on friendship, loyalty and inspiration.

 ACB of Maine would like to wish you the best with all your endeavors and invite you to join us as we move ahead towards a tomorrow filled with those special ingredients that makes us one of the best organizations around.

 Please feel free to look through our website, and while you’re at it, go grab yourself an ACB day!

October 1, 2020

Interim Agreement Reached and Accessible Absentee Voting for People with Print Disabilities Will Be Implemented in Maine for the November 3, 2020 Election Augusta, Maine – An interim agreement has been reached between the Maine Secretary of State’s Office (SOS) and named municipalities and Plaintiffs Lynn Merrill, Nicholas Giudice, Pauline Lamontagne, Cheryl Peabody, and Disability Rights Maine that provides Maine voters an accessible absentee ballot system for the upcoming November 3, 2020 general election. Following a lawsuit filed on July 15, 2020 by the Plaintiffs, the SOS agreed to develop and implement an accessible absentee ballot system for qualified voters with disabilities. This system will allow for accessible absentee ballots across all Maine’s municipalities.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Starting October 2, 2020, Maine voters with print disabilities can access an Accessible Absentee Ballot Request Form on the Secretary’s website to request an accessible electronically-delivered absentee ballot. Maine’s accessible ballot will allow voters to both receive and return the ballot electronically to the Secretary of State’s Office to be counted.

Print disabilities may include, but are not limited to, vision impairment or blindness; physical dexterity limitations; learning disabilities, such as dyslexia; brain injury or cognitive impairment; or early dementia, all which may prevent an individual from independently marking a paper ballot.

“No one should have to choose between their health in the pandemic and exercising the most fundamental and important right in a democracy-the right to vote.  We are pleased that the Secretary of State’s Office has taken steps to ensure that people with print disabilities will be able to vote privately, independently, and safely from their home for the November 3 general election,” says lead counsel, Kristin Aiello of Disability Rights Maine.

The terms of the agreement, which apply to the November 3, 2020 general election, include the following:

A new application is being added to the state’s existing Absentee Ballot Request (ABR) Service that will enable Maine voters who self-certify that they have a disability that prevents them from completing a paper ballot independently to vote by electronic ballot.

To obtain a ballot, qualified voters must complete an online request for an accessible absentee ballot and receive the accessible ballot from the Secretary’s Elections Division.

The application is accessible by standard screen reader text-to-speech software, and enables a voter who is blind or visually impaired to navigate the application and independently complete the form fields.

The Secretary is designing a welcome page on the SOS website for the accessible ABR Service.  The welcome page for accessible absentee ballot users will contain tips for each screen reader, which will walk the user through each step of accessing the ballot.  The welcome page will also contain a sample absentee ballot so people can practice prior to voting with the real ballot using their own operating system.

Once the voter’s application is approved, the voter will receive a secure log in and credentials to access the state ballot for the electoral districts in which they reside, as well as any local ballots.

The SOS will provide universally accessible pdf (UA/PDF) absentee ballots that voters with print disabilities will be able to download and review using a standard screen reader (JAWS, NVDA, or VoiceOver).

Voters will be able to mark their choices independently and confidentially, and then submit the ballot via a secure delivery system using the secure log in credential provided through the ABR service. Voters can track the status of the absentee ballot at every stage of the process.

To assist voters navigate the new system, the Secretary’s vendor has hired an expert in accessibility, Maria Delgado, formerly of American Printing House for the Blind, to troubleshoot any problems that occur when print-disabled voters are attempting to cast an absentee ballot.  Ms.

Delgado will work with each voter through the system if any problems should occur.  Information on how to contact her will be on the accessible ballot web page.

People with print disabilities will be able to submit their ballot requests via the online ABR service and obtain their ballots to cast starting on October 2, 2020, which is the same date that other voters will begin to receive their paper-based absentee ballots.

To request an accessible absentee ballot, voters with print disabilities should visit the Absentee Ballot Request Page online at https://apps.web.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/AbsenteeBallot/index.pl or contact the Secretary of State, Division of Elections at: (207) 624-7650 or email cec.elections@maine.gov<mailto:cec.elections@maine.gov

President’s message:

Although we are living in unprecedented times of uncertainty and change, it is also a time of deep reflection. I am reminded of all the special people that have been a part of our organization and their contributions which have made ACB of Maine the incredible organization it is today.

On April 12, 2019 we lost a very special member of our ACB family. Deon Lyons touched all our hearts in uniquely special ways. Deon was, and through his writings will always be an integral part of our lives and this organization. We dedicate this page in memory of our friend Deon whose warmth and kindness were felt by those he knew. Please join me in honoring Deon Lyons and all those whose dedication to ACB Maine will not be forgotten.    

Stay safe and healthy!

Sherry

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” Helen Keller

Anne Sullivan and her Contribution to the Field of VRT

Adapted from article by Steve Kelley CVRT, Recruitment & Retention Committee,

AER Vision Rehabilitation Therapy Division

Appearing in the Spring 2015 VRT Newsletter

 VRT Appreciation Week (the second week in April) which features the birthday of Anne Sullivan on April 14.

 Commemorating Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, as part of VRT Awareness, is a natural fit for the profession. Ironically, it’s been my observation that most individuals outside our profession have no idea what a Vision Rehab Therapist does, yet most people, of all ages, know that Anne Sullivan was a great teacher for her pupil, Helen Keller who became deaf-blind following a serious illness when she was 19 months old.

In 1887, Anne Sullivan was a recent graduate from the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts when she traveled to the Keller home in Tuscumbia, Alabama. At that time, she may have been considered a “Home Teacher” for her new student, 7 year-old Helen. Home Teacher was one of the earliest occupational titles for VRTs, and were individuals who traveled to consumer’s homes to teach skills related to vision loss, such as Braille, reading embossed books, crafts, and other activities we might call Adapted Daily Living skills today.

 Often, home teachers were blind or visually impaired themselves, as was the case with Anne Sullivan. Sullivan herself lost much of her vision in early childhood from a trachoma. As an adolescent, she regained enough vision from a surgical procedure to read print again, but would remain visually impaired the rest of her life.

 Professional preparation for VRTs is much different today, than in Sullivan’s time, often including a Master’s Degree and national certification. Sullivan’s preparation for teaching included her 6 years of schooling at Perkins, and studying the successful work Dr. Howe (former director of Perkins) undertook with another Perkins student, Laura Bridgman, who was also deaf-blind. Bridgman was also a resident at Perkins during the time Sullivan was a student so she was experienced communicating with her. Perhaps even more important experiences for teacher training, however, were the life lessons Sullivan learned growing up in profound poverty. The eldest daughter of Irish immigrants who fled the potato famine, she found herself at 10 years old alone and nearly blind, in the Tewksbury Almshouse (Massachusetts) with her younger brother Jimmie, who died shortly after their arrival. It was surely these lessons that helped Sullivan develop her persistence, creativity, and efficacy as a teacher.

 Over the years, there has been considerable debate about some of the facts surrounding Helen’s acquisition of skills and the details of Sullivan’s teaching methods. Much of this has to do with abridged letters in Keller’s autobiography from Sullivan to her former teacher and mentor Mrs. Sophia Hopkins, and Perkins Director Michael Anagnos. Regardless of the specifics it is evident that Sullivan’s efforts as a teacher were creative and focused on the goals of the student.

 in the following quote from the Perkins History Museum Web page (McGinnity, B. L., J. Seymour-Ford, and K. J. Andries. “Anne Sullivan.” Perkins.org. Perkins School for the Blind, 2004. Web. 23 Mar. 2015. http://www.perkins.org/about/history/anne-sullivan) on Anne Sullivan, it is clear that Sullivan set a precedent for the vision rehabilitation professionals who followed, that recognized the importance of meeting the student wherever they are and focusing on their goals.

 It was not long before Sullivan realized that the rigid routine did not suit her exuberant and spontaneous young pupil. Never one to be limited by rules, Sullivan abandoned the prescribed schedule and shifted the focus of her teaching. Sullivan decided to enter Helen’s world, follow her interests and add language and vocabulary to those activities.

 No doubt, the specifics of this debate will have some historical merit, but will not influence our recognition of Anne Sullivan’s great teaching ability and lifelong dedication to her student, Helen Keller. It is for this reason that the VRT Recruitment and Retention Committee has selected the week of Sullivan’s birthday to further recognize one of the pioneer teachers in vision rehabilitation therapy!