Saturday, December 5, 2009

Meeting dates set for January and February 2010


Our next VIP meeting is set for Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 6:30 pm. The meeting location is at the Kingwood Branch Library, 4102 Rustic Woods Drive, Kingwood, TX 77345.

The fine folks at the Kingwood Library also went ahead and let us schedule our February meeting, so you can mark that one on your calendar for Wednesday, February 10, 2010. That time is also 6:30 and the location is again at the Kingwood Branch Library, but the exact address might change as they are in a transition process. The library will soon be moving to a location near the Kingwood Fuddrucker's. Stay tuned here for updates on the exact address.

We look forward to seeing you then!

Recap of our December meeting


What a wonderful meeting this was. I’m still energized and pumped up about the fantastic resources that were shared among all of us as a group. I’m a big believer of knowing one’s resources and this meeting was living proof that we are each others’ best resources. Thanks again to each of you for coming and sharing with one another.

This meeting was special as it was our last one before the Christmas holidays. A big thank you to Julie and Karen Johnston for singing the inspirational and meaningful song, “Light A Candle,” and sharing their great CD with everybody as a personal holiday gift. A special thank you also goes out to Karen Eitel for sharing her awesome keyboarding skills on the holiday tunes she played for us. We are a blessed group to have these talented ladies amongst us! And, additional thanks go to Bob and Peg McAndrews, Laura Mulraney, and Linda Swanson for providing us with the tasty treats.

Here is a recap of what was shared at the “My Favorite Things” part of the meeting.

Rick Swanson showed us the VIP 1007 talking thermostat, a great tool for independent living. And, Rick also offered to help with installation for anybody who gets one. You can find out more about this product at:

Linda Swanson showed us the I.D. Mate II, a bar code reader with a database full of rich information about a variety of products. It is made by En-Vision America and can be bought through different distributors and even the Ebay online auction site. You can find out more about this product at:

Laura Mulramey demonstrated two of her favorite things. First, was the Braille Note, a useful electronic notetaker, manufactured by Humanware. You can find out more about this product at Humanware's
BrailleNote page.

She then demonstrated the JAWS screen reader for computers, using a Windows PowerPoint slide show she had created. You can learn more about this great screen reader at the
JAWS web page
on the Freedom Scientific web site:

Julie Johnston demonstrated the powerful Victor Reader Stream digital book player, manufactured by Humanware. You can learn more about this great piece of assistive technology at the Humanware site:

Also, Julie’s Victor Reader Stream was able to be heard by the entire room, which she said was because she had a great, portable speaker manufactured by MacMall. Their web site is:

And, finally Ron Graham demonstrated the portable System Access Mobile screen reader and magnifier, which launches from a U3 smart drive and runs on any Windows computer running any of the XP, Vista, or Windows 7 operating systems. You can find out more about this “accessibility anywhere” tool at the web site of its manufacturer, Serotek:
Ron also shared that Serotek makes the screen reader available for free to students in K-12 in their Keys for K12 program, and for free, as a web-based screen reader, to anybody who is on a public computer connected to the internet, such as in a library, school, or when visiting at somebody else’s house. This web-based version is available at the web site:

Two additional web sites which came up in conversations/demonstrations were:

The Movie Vault at the Blind Mice Mart. The web site
is a resource of its own for many blindness related items, but the link to their movie vault will open another window which is stocked with mp3s of the audio tracks of hundreds of full feature movies with the added narration to describe the visual scenes for the blind. Being these are mp3s, they will play on any digital music player or computer. And, the price of these movies is just right…they are free to download.

The final web site that was shared was
a web-based file sharing site. Drop Box lets users upload and store files and share them with others who can later come and download them.

In closing, I do want to remind you that, besides this blog, there is also a twitter site sset up online for our group. Our Twitter site is:

Okay, that’s it for the notes from this months meeting. I hope all of you have a rich and joyous holiday season and look forward to seeing you next year.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Second meeting will be "My Favorite Thing" theme

Being our next meeting is on Dec. 2, and will be our last meeting before Christmas, we're having a theme of "My Favorite Thing" for it.

Please come and share your favorite blindness-related resource, tool, or toy. This can be a web site where you like to shop for blindness-related items, your favorite piece of assistive technology, or just a fun toy you want to share with the group.

We understand that not everybody wants to speak up in a group, or might not have anything they want to share, and that's okay too. Sharing is voluntary Come to the meeting and see what everybody else has to share. There might be something you see here and want to add to your Christmas list.

And, keeping a focus on the nearness of Christmas, VIPs Julie and Karen Johnston have offered to sing a Christmas song for us. I've got their CD and, let me tell you, we're in for a wonderful treat when these ladies sing!

So, come on down to the Kingwood Branch Library on Wednesday, December 2, 2009, from 6:30-8:30 and join us for some seasonal fun.

See you there!

Monday, November 2, 2009

First meeting reflections and second meeting planned

The first meeting of the VIPs of SouthEast Texas was last Wednesday and is in the books. I thought the turnout represented a great beginning. There were seven of us who were visually impaired, one teacher of visually impaired students, three spouses, and even one mother.

The stories were as individual as each one of us, and that's saying a lot if you know the group that gathered. From the youngest to the oldest, everybody had a unique perspective on blindness to share.

There were no guest speakers present, but this was planned to be a meet and greet, so everybody could get to know one another. A roster of names with phone numbers and email addresses has been compiled and shared with everybody who was there, building our network, putting us instantly in touch with one another when we need that unique support.

Instead of meeting the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we have our next meeting scheduled for the first Wednesday in December. So mark your calendar with Wednesday, December 2, 2009 and plan on being at the Kingwood Branch Library once again at 6:30 pm. We hope to see everybody from last week there again and, hopefully, we will have even more people present.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

One week until first meeting

Just a reminder, we'll have our first meeting in just one week. I've heard from a few people and it sounds like it will be a good turnout.

Watch for the upcoming interview in next week's edition of our community newspaper, The Observer.

And, if you're coming and meet somebody interested in the group, then bring them along. This is a support group, with the key word there being "group. This is a group made up of its individual members. This means it is your group, so feel comfortable bringing your friends and family with you.

See you soon!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

You're invited to our first meeting

You're Invited!

Please make plans to attend the inaugural meeting of the Visually Impaired People of SouthEast Texas support group.

Our motto is that Visually Impaired People are Very Important People. So, remember that you're a VIP!

When: WednesdayOct 28 at 6:30 pm

Where: The Kingwood Branch Library
4102 Rustic Woods Drive
Kingwood, TX 77345

We're meeting here in Kingwood, but this meeting is open to anybody interested in a support group for blind and visually impaired people. We are targeting people in the surrounding areas of northeast Houston, such as Humble, Atascocita, New Caney, Crosby, and all points in between. For what its worth, even if you live in areas such as the Heights, Clear Lake, or even Katy, you're welcome, but we realize the commute is going to be challenging. If you're in the area, though, please stop by and visit with us. We want to provide a group where people can find support and resources from others who understand, because it is a fact of life for us as well.

Our first meeting will be more social, and let us get to know one another. Light snacks will be served. For future meetings, we will have guest presenters, so think of ideas you'd like to hear more about.

Contact information
Ron Graham
Phone: 713.825.9108