The Heartlander Newsletter: Summer 2016

President’s Message, by Douglas Olender

Thank you everyone who attended the annual meeting in Branson and help make our meeting such an outstanding event. From our membership, Paul Mimms conducted the majority of the planning and execution of the event, Mark and Barb Wilson for spearheading sighted guide assistance, and Sandy and Gus Adams for crafting most of the door prizes and gift bags. Thank you to Dr. Law and the VIST Coordinators who learned and shared their experiences alongside ours, the guest speakers and vendors, and David Fox and Ed Echroft for their willingness to join us and aid in promoting the BVA.I consider this year’s annual meeting an resounding success due to the contributions from everyone, the active membership who attended, and the destination location of Branson providing attendees time to go beyond business meetings and enjoy each other’s company. While this newsletter contains a full summary of the meeting, here is a quick summary. Howard Adams, Paul Mimms, and myself were reelected to our respective positions of Vice President, Secretary/Treasurer, and President. The membership voted to host the annual meeting in Branson next year, regardless of any registration fee.

Life at the Waco VA Blind Rehab Center, by George Stroble

As winter started to fold into spring, I possessed the opportunity to attend the Waco Blind Rehab Center. For those living in the Heartland, the Waco BRC offers the same experiences as the Hines BRC, but in a smaller setting nested in central Texas. Overall, the experience was very pleasant with helpful staff. For Example, the Recreation Therapist took us to many interesting  places, museums, historical  sites, and other points of interest.

The purpose for attending Waco involves training on a Apple iMac, which consists of a single large screen with all of the computer components housed inside. Additionally, I received a Brother all-in-one office printer and scanner. Coming from the Windows world with ZoomText, the iMac provided a challenge for me but nicely meets my needs for a computer with built in accessibility options and keyboard navigation. The keyboard and trackpad utilizes many of the same gestures and key combinations I currently use with my iPhone, easing the transition. Though my instructor just started teaching Apple computers, the overall program was worth it.

Annual Meeting Summary, by Paul Mimms

the annual meeting of the Heartland regional group of the Blinded Veterans Association was convened at the Westgate Branson in the Woods Resort. This was the first annual meeting of the Heartland Regional Group set as a convention with business meetings, guest speakers and vendors, and hosted in a destination location.

Our President, Douglas Olender, called the meeting to order at 8:30 am on April 15, 2016. The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 913 presented and posted the colors. Following the pledge of allegiance, the resort’s management welcomed us and made us feel at home. The opening ceremonies concluded with the introduction of the six VIST coordinators , who conducted their own training alongside ours.

The morning part of the meeting featured presentations including the keynote by Dr. Candice Law, Chief of Optometry at the Kansas City VA Medical Center. Other presenters included Randy Custer from Missouri Rehab Services for the Blind, Sanford Alexander From Envision, Abby Rimel from Missouri’s Worffner Talking Library, and Brooke Lewis from Centers for Independent Living.

At 1400, Doug called to order the business meeting of the Heartland Regional Group. Members present were James Cohen, Howard Adams, Douglas Olender, Victor Press, Randy Talleur, Mark Wilson, and Paul Mimms. Guests attending but not members of Heartland RG included David Fox, District 2 Director, and Edward Echroft, BVA Field Service Director.

The minutes of the previous year annual meeting were approved as published. The Treasurer’s report covered from January 2015 to May 2016, and started with a balance of $4,891.63 in the Missouri Regional Group’s account and $5,969.46 in the Kansas Regional Group account. After Receiving the appropriations from BVA National, expenditures, and the merger of both accounts into the Heartland Regional bank account, we have an ending balance of $11,579.57.
Continuing the business meeting on Saturday, Edward Echroft of the BVA Field Service office provided a presentation on claims, benefits, and eligibility. Retired VIST Coordinator Gus McClelland was presented a plaque for his service to blind veterans.

Concluding the business meetings, the election of officers and delegates to the National Convention transpired. As no members outside the existing elected officers were nominated, the incumbent officers were re-elected by Acclamation. Mark Wilson was elected to be Heartland’s delegate to the 71st BVA National Convention. Paul Mimms was elected as Alternate delegate. Following a motion by Paul Mimms, and several seconds, the body assembled voted to provide $500 to support the delegate. Paul Mimms moved to return to the resort for the 2017 Heartland annual meeting. After second by Victor Press, motion passed.

Teleconferencing Services

Peer support is one of the greatest methods one learns to contend and overcome a disability. Unfortunately blindness restricts our ability to engage with our peers due to travel barriers. Below you will find a variety of teleconferences to participate. Each enables you to directly interact and learn from other blinded Veterans about topics like blindness information, what is happening in the area, using a guide dog, and technology. We encourage you to review the list and consider participating when available.

General Teleconferences

Heartland Regional Group Monthly Teleconference

  • When: Second Tuesday of each month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference is designed to discuss activities, actions, and ideas related to the Heartland Regional Group. It is open to everyone interested in furthering the Heartland’s Objectives.

Blinded Veterans Association’s Leadership Discussions and Training Teleconference

  • When: Second Monday of each month
  • Time: 1300 or 1:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference is designed to provide leaders, perspective leaders, or those interested the BVA the opportunity to share information, provide focused training opportunities, and bring together blinded Veterans from across the country. It is open to BVA Regional Group leaders, BVA general membership, and similar interested parties.

Council on Veteran Guide and Service Dog Handlers Monthly Teleconference

  • When: third Wednesday of each month
  • Time: 1100 or 11:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference provides blinded Veterans interested in service dogs the chance to talk about service dogs, legislation impacting service dogs, using service dogs in public and at the VA, and other topics. Participants includes blinded Veterans, representatives of guide dog schools, representatives from the VA, and similar parties.

Technology Specific Teleconferences

Blind Vet Tech Monthly Tech Talk

  • When: third Thursday of each month
  • Time: 1900 or 7:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference possesses three sections. Each teleconference starts with a presentation on a specific device, iOS app or feature, or other piece of technology employed by blinded Veterans. The second section is an open question and answer related to either the monthly topic or general discussion. The third section reviews technology news and related trends.

Blind Vet Tech MacOS Monthly Talk

  • When: Starting in September second Thursday of each month
  • Time: 1900 or 7:00 Pm Central Time
  • Phone Number: (866) 820-9940
  • Note: This teleconference will provide demonstrations and open discussions for using the MacOS with Voice Over and Zoom assistive technologies. Each month starts with a demonstration on a particular feature, app, or tool. This is followed by an open discussion and answer section. It is open to everyone interested in learning how to use a MacBook, iMac, or other computer with MacOS.

Hines Blind Center Alumni GPS and iOS Talk

  • When: first Tuesday of each month
  • Time: 1000 or 10:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (800) 767-1750
  • Access Code: 44125
  • Note: This teleconference is based out of the Hines Blind Rehab Center and moderated by alumni. It focuses on GPS, mobile devices, and smart phones. It is open to everyone.

Hines Blind Center Alumni Windows Computers Talk

  • When: first Thursday of each month
  • Time: 1000 or 10:00 Am Central Time
  • Phone Number: (800) 767-1750
  • Access Code: 44125
  • Note: This teleconference is based out of the Hines Blind Rehab Center and moderated by alumni. It focuses on Windows computers, ZoomText, and JAWS. It is open to everyone.

Quick Tech Tip, by Timothy Hornik

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) is how we as blind individuals take the printed text and turn it into an accessible format to read. While OCR has been around since the 1970’s, recent advances shrunk large machines into standalone devices for your desk, apps for your iPhone or Android smart phone, and a pair of glasses.

Leading the portable stand-alone solutions, the Optelec Clear Reader and Freedom Scientific Eye-Pal are standalone devices fitting nicely on your desk’s corner. You just need to place a newspaper or book under the camera, push a button, and in a couple of seconds a synthesized voice will begin reading the materials back.

If you are looking for a pocket sized OCR solution, your iPhone, iPad, and Android smart phones possess a plethora of possibilities. The KNFB Reader and Prizmo are the best options currently available. The benefit stems from the quality of cameras on even the cheapest smart phones surpassing other options mentioned in this article. The only downside involves actually capturing the image. You will need a steady hand or guide to increase accuracy. Once processing finishes, just use Voice Over or Talk Back to read the results.

New to the VA’s Blind Rehab Services, the Orcam takes the power of a standalone OCR solution and packages it into a wearable device. The Orcam consists of a camera sitting on the right arm of a set of glasses connected to the unit on your belt. Pushing a button or pointing at an object will start the OCR’ing process, facial recognition, or object identification.

should you require an OCR solution, contact your Visual Impairment Services Team coordinator and request to be trained on a OCR device. No longer will you need to wait for the NLS BARD to release a title or rely on sighted assistance to read a menu.

For more about tech or how to get more out of your devices, join me on Blind Vet Tech teleconferences, search for Blind Vet Tech in your Podcast searcher, or visit:

Heartland Regional Group and KAMO Adventures September Fishing Trip, by Timothy Hornik

In an effort to promote the wellbeing of blinded Veterans through outdoor and recreational activities, we have partnered with KAMO Adventures to allow six Heartland Regional Group members to participate in a weekend fishing trip. KAMOAdventures is a Kansas City based non-profit creating outdoor recreational programs, scholarships, and employment services for disable Veterans. As a 100% volunteer organization, they are committed to ensuring us Veterans possess the opportunities to succeed.

The fishing trip will start on Thursday, September 22nd and conclude on Sunday September 25th. KAMO Adventures possess a lodge around El Dorado, Missouri, and guides will take the six participants onto Stockton Lake. All equipment, lodging, and food will be provided by KAMO Adventures, but interested individuals will need to be able to use stairs, climb in and out of fishing boats, live in the Kansas City region, and no caregivers or dependents are allowed.

If you are interested in this trip, please email Timothy Hornik at or call me at (785)409-1838.

Final Note, By Timothy Hornik

Thank you for reading this newsletter. If you are interested in joining or renewing your membership with the BVA, contact the National headquarters at

  • (800) 669 7079

Without your support of the Heartland Regional Group or the Blinded Veterans Association at large, visually impaired Veterans will lose the only congressionally chartered Veterans Service Organization advocating for programs, services, and benefits for blinded Veterans. Ask yourself what can you do to assist another blinded Veteran, and not what can someone do for you.