Write-Up from Mississippi Department of Employment Services on MIB’s External Employment Program

Big Rock Cafe Youth Workers Graduate

Georgia Gowdy and Tichina Johnson, student workers in our MDES state office snack shop, were recently members of the 2013 graduating class at the Mississippi School for the Blind.  The two will be assisting Terry Lowery and Daniel Bennett this summer in the Big Rock Cafe at the state office.

Georgia, better known as Peaches, is a 21 year old from Byram who dreams of becoming a culinary artist.  she plans to attend Hinds Community College Raymond Campus in the fall.  After graduation from Hinds, she plans to attend Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School in Atlanta or Texas.  Her dream is to become a topnotch chef and run her own snack bars.  At MDES, Georgia runs the cash register, helps keep the dining area clean, and serves and assists the customers.

Tichina, known as Shina, is an 18 year-old native of Lexington and aspires to be a Music Engineer.  She plans to attend and graduate from Hinds in Raymond and Jackson State University.  She loves mixing rap music and making tracks that can be identified by ear.  Tichina stocks condiments and soft drinks, and makes sure everything is clean and running smoothly in the dining area.

Georgia and Tichina have received training and placement assistance from the Addie McBryde Rehabilitation Center for the Blind for the past two years.

Assistance is donated from the Mississippi Industries for the Blind for transportation and evaluation and the Business Enterprise Program which provides summer work for these students,’ said Rosie Gibson, Director at the McByde Center. These programs help us train and place eight legally or totally blind students each summer in positions to help them become successful, productive citizens.

Georgia and Tichina will work in the Big Rock Cafe from 8 a.m. till noon Monday through Friday this summer.

AutoMARK: Voter Assisted Technology Demo at MIB!

Have you ever thought about visually impaired voters at the polls on election day?:  Do people with visual impairments use the same touch-screen, voter technology that sighted individuals do?  And if so, do they have to be accompanied by another individual–spouse, family member, or even a precinct volunteer, in some cases–to the voting stall, thereby forfeiting their right to a private ballot?  
In a study conducted for the National Federation for the Blind after the 2008 presidential election, it was concluded that over 1/3 of the surveyed, visually impaired voters did not bother with the polls, but rather sent in their ballots as a means of voting.  And that out of the 2/3 who did decide to visit their local precinct, “more than a third (39 percent) relied on the assistance of a family member” at the poll (Chwalow).  While there is still room for improvement for voting accessibility, ADA compliant voting equipment is being installed in many areas around the country, including our own!  In an order given in a Special Meeting of the Jackson City Council this past February, the city authorized 90 new ES&S ADA devices to be placed at each voting precinct (respectively) in Jackson for the upcoming municipal elections.  And in an effort to help voters with visual impairments ready themselves for Tuesday’s primary, Jackson City Clerks, in collaboration with ES&S representatives, have been traveling to assisted living facilities and senior centers to introduce their new adaptable voting equipment, the AutoMARK Voter Assist Terminals.
In order to prepare our visually impaired employees who are registered to vote in Jackson, we too invited representatives from the City of Jackson and ES&S to MIB.  From 2-3:30 PM this past Thursday, the instructors not only introduced the AutoMARK voting machine, but they also allowed each person a hands-on trial of the equipment.   By putting on a provided pair of head phones and going through a list of computer-automated instruction before voting, the visually impaired voter is able to navigate the ballot without the assistance (or influence) from an on-looker.  With a key pad, also marked in braille, the voter with low vision is able to go scroll through the candidates, check and/or uncheck their selections, review their choices (going back if necessary), and print their final choices.  What a great opportunity for visually impaired voters!
Brenda from the City of Jackson prepares for the tech demo Thursday afternoon at MIB.

Mitch from ES&S helps MIB employee, Joyce Granger, navigate the AutoMARK voting machine.
MIB employees and visually impaired individuals from the community listen closely to the instructors during Thursday’s tech demo.

Delois reads aloud the braille on the machine telling her where to insert the ballot.
A BIG “Thanks!” to the City of Jackson for their work in this area.  We were very honored to host this technology demo at MIB thereby making it easier for our employees to vote in the city’s upcoming elections.  Know of a precinct in your area that does not have ADA compliant equipment?  Tell us about it!  Let’s hear your story:

"Wine with The Blind": A Fundraiser in the Works!

As you know, our mission at the MIB Foundation for the Blind and Visually Impaired is to provide support to Mississippi Industries for the Blind in order to expand employment opportunities and programs that promote independence and self sufficiency for people in our state who are blind or suffer from low-vision.  Because the foundation accrues vital funds to provide the adaptive equipment and training for existing and prospective employees at Mississippi Industries for the Blind, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to raise money, cultivate supporters, and heighten awareness for our cause.  Thus, it is our joy to tell you that at the MIB Foundation for the Blind and Visually Impaired we are working hard to organize our biggest fundraiser yet, and we would love for you to be involved! 

     On September 9th of this year we will be hosting a “blind wine tasting” event at Bravo! in Jackson, MS as a sustainable, annual function!  In anticipation of at least 200 attendees, we will be setting up a minimum of eight tables, each with a different wine and food pairing to be sampled while the guests peruse the silent auction and listen to live music from visually impaired musicians that work at Mississippi Industries for the Blind.  We plan to use the funds raised through this event to go toward expanding our cause and buying new equipment for visually impaired employees at our facility.  However, the only way we can obtain these goals is with your help!

     We are looking for artists, musicians, shop and restaurant owners, and everyone in between, to donate to our silent auction.  No item is too small or too large to donate!  By giving these items you will be providing for us a valuable avenue of fundraising to go toward our cause!  If you feel like you have no means to contribute to our silent auction, then just come to the event.  Tickets will only be $25, and we need as many to attend as possible!  AND once you buy a ticket, tell your friends.  Our biggest source of awareness is still word of mouth, and by telling your friends about us and our upcoming event we can hopefully sell all 200 tickets!  We’re counting on all of our MIB & foundation supporters to make this event a success!

So, mark your calendars and get ready for a great evening with the MIB Foundation for the Blind & Visually Impaired!

Credit for the “Wine for the Blind” logo artwork
goes to Ole Miss art student, Claire Whitehurst.  
Thanks for your help, Claire!
If you are interested in participating in either the event or the silent auction (or both!), please e-mail us at kmarx@msblind.org!  We appreciate your support.