A Day of Healing

As you all know, America has elected a new President.  For man of us in the disability rights community and other communities of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual preferences, this is a traumatic experience.   Across the country, many are gathering to support and grieve together.

This Saturday, the focus of our Thanksgiving meal will be on the support to each other that we all need at this time of immense challenge.   The theme “Gobble for Unity” is still the same, but now is even more important.

We have many RSVPs so far and a delicious meal planned.  Please, if you have not yet,  send an email to secretary@chicagodeafblind.org to confirm that you are coming, if you are bringing any foods, and also if you need a ride from Metra station.

We also will need more SSP volunteers. We have many now but we anticipate needing more due to this news.   If anyone wishes to be an SSP and join us in our community support and process, please do contact secretary@chicagodeafblind.org.


THank you,

Bryen M Yunashko — President, LeCOBDA

Gobble For Unity!

What an amazing 2016 so far.  But 2016 not over yet. Our Chicago Area DeafBlind Forum⊆ was a-m-a-z-i-n-g.   So much ove and support for each other.  This is just the beginning.

November 12 is our next LeCOBDA gathering.    This is an important meeting, because we will have lawyers from Access Living come to hear your concerns about paratransit and public transportation issues.  You all spoke out about it at the Forum and now people are listening to us.  This is positive move forward!

After the Paratransit Forum, we will celebrate with a special Thanksgiving meal called “Gobble for Unity!”   Why?  Because we want to remember the past and move for the future together.   In the old days, did you know LeCOBDA members would always potluck their meetings?   That is UNITY!   We want to remind you all that community means unity.

The officers of LeCOBDA will be making many turkeys and bring to the meeting.  We will CARVE the turkeys like a real thanksgiving dinner at our meeting.  Who will fight for wishbone?  We are asking you all to volunteer to bring your favorite side dishes, appetizers, or desserts.     Isn’t that fun?

Also, remember, at the forum, we said we want to support family and children.  The meetings are open and welcome to everyone, including your families and your children. We will have some activities to have fun times for the children.  So bring them with you.

We need to know how many turkeys we must make.  So please send an email to secretary@chicagodeafblind.org.   Let our secretary, Suzanne Salerno know how many people you will bring and what kind of dishes you want to bring.

The event starts at 11 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m.   Please arrange to have your transportation meet you after 3 p.m.   Address is Chicago Lighthouse at 1850 W. Roosevelt Road, in Chicago, IL.

Let’s Gobble!!!

The Officers of LeCOBDA

Don’t Forget to Vote!

We want to remind you that it is important to vote on or before November 8th.  You have right to be part of American Democracy!  Your vote means you are telling government what you want.

You can vote on Tuesday, November 8 at your official polling location near your home, or you can vote early.  Early voting can be through mail-in ballot or at special locations such as libraries.    Make sure you learn who are the candidates.  We are not just voting for President and Vice President.  We are also voting for Senator and House of Representatives and many important local elections.

Don’t know who is on your ballot?   Want to know where to go to vote?  Want to make sure you are registered to vote?  You can do all that by visiting www.vote411.com.   (Note:  This website is not tested yet for braille accessibility.  If you need assistance, you may contact one of us at LeCOBDA and we can get the information and e-mail to you. Just send an email to info@chcicagodeafblind.org and tell us your mailing address so we can match to your voting location.)


Be a proud DeaefBlind American!   Vote!

Stay tuned for more exciting news from LeCOBDA coming VERY soon!

The LeCOBDA Officers

Details on upcoming Chicago Area DeafBlind Forum

Only a few weeks left before the biggest event ever to hit the Chicago DeafBlind community…  our first ever historical DeafBlind Forum!   We can’t wait.  It is so exciting and already many allies and organizations will be there.

It is so important for you, as DeafBlind person, to be at this forum.  Express your concerns, your ideas, your wishes, your priorities, everything.  This is about YOU!   This is about empowerment!

You are not required to RSVP, but if you can let us know, it will be very helpful for planning purposes.  Send an email to hello@bryen.com to let us know if you have any questions or if you will go.

Here are important details for you and your transportation planning.

When:  Saturday, October 1, 2016

Where:  Columbia College, 618 S. Michigan Avenue, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL  on Stage Two.

Time:  10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Lunch included  (read more below)

The forum will begin at 10 a.m. sharp.  Please arrive before to give enough time to set up your SSP and interpreters.  We will open doors at 9 a.m.

From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., this will be DeafBlind ONLY with their SSPs.  No hearing or sighted people allowed. This is our own private discussion group.

From 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.  we will have lunch break.  There are many nearby restaurants you can pick.  You can go with your SSPs or in groups.  Every DeafBlind person and SSP will be given $10 to spend anywhere.  Bring more cash if you want a bigger lunch!   Smile.

1:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.   We will have the Allies Session. This is where many organizations and the public will come and hear what we discussed about in the morning and we will begin to plan ways to work together and be a more effective and stronger organization.  We already will see many guests from universities, colleges, organizations, blind groups, deaf groups, government agencies, etc.

It is important for you to be there. Please make every effort to come to this Forum.  We need your voices!

Please prepare transportation to arrive around 9:30 a.m. and leave around 4:15 to 4:30 p.m.

Thank you,

LeCOBDA Officers

President’s Message: End of Summer

Dear DeafBlind Community Members and Allies:


We are now entering the final weekend of summer before Labor Day weekend, and it has been quite a summer for many of us.  So many things going on everywhere, it seems like one of the busiest summers ever for some of us.   And LeCOBDA has been busy as well.    Let’s review:

In June, members of LeCOBDA gathered at the Thompson Center in Downtown Chicago for a candlelight vigil to demand that the state legislature and governor pass a budget so that important services affecting many communities do not shut down.  There were many different groups at this event, and LeCOBDA and the DeaefBlind community was one of the biggeer groups.   Awesome!   This was important because it showed that you all care and you want to see positive changes!

Then in July, we gathered again to join the Disability Pride Parade.  Vice President Jason Salerno made this amazing tactile banner to represent us, it was a large hand  as a fist holding a large cane.  It had to be carried by four people in the parade   Darrell Washington led us all in shouting “DeafBlind Rocks!  DeafBlind Rocks!”   About 30 people showed up.   As President, I want to tell you that I was so proud of all of you.  And Secretary Suzanne Salerno  did a lot of work helping to organize the event and the picnic afterward.   We had this wonderful private picnic at Millenium Park after the parade to celebrate and enjoy ourselves.

This represents a change for LeCOBDA.  We will become more actively involved in the community and show more leadership and involvement.  You are important.

The officers of LeCOBDA also made an important decision.  Beginning in 2017, we will no longer have closed months.  In the past, LeCOBDA did not meet in January, June or August.  We believe this is wrong and we are going to change that.  We are DeafBlind 12 months a year, it does not stop for 3 months!   We have the right and should get together and socialize and discuss important issues together.  No one should be stuck left alone during important holiday months.

There were also some tough moments that happened this summer.  Mindy Joy Mayer, who has been a huge activist in the LeCOBDA activities over the years, lost her mother to illness this summer.    Officers went to Shiva (a Jewish remembrance) to represent LeCOBDA and join Mindy and her family in prayer.

Then we lost another beloved member, Jerrie Lawhorn.  Jerrie was one of the founders of LeCOBDA 38 years ago and was treasurer for all those years until she stepped down in May. Less than 2 months later.  Jerrie passed away at the age of 99 and a half years young.    She has been sorely missed by many people around the country and within our own community.  Jerrie was laid to rest this weekend on August 27th at Glenwood Cemetery after a beautiful and moving service filled with song, poetry, speeches, and memories.  A LeCOBDA officer was present to represent the organization in grateful thanks to Jerrie for her many years of contributions.

Looking Ahead:

The Fall season is almost here and that means we have lots of new activities and meetings to plan.  Soon, it will be holidays and we will have our wonderful annual gatherings.

On September 10, Jason Salerno will organize an outing for those of you who would like to go to Farmer’s Market.  Jason will email you all with the details very soon this coming week about where to meet and what time.

On October 1, we will be hosting an historic event. The first ever Chicagoland DeafBLind Forum.  This is something you all need to attend.  It will be held at Columbia College on Saturday October 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.   Please mark your calendars for this super important event that needs your participation.   We will be sending more updates about the Forum after Labor Day holiday.

All of this is just the beginning.  The officers of LeCOBDA are in agreement that we must do more to empower our members, to get our members more involved, and to make our organization strong, healthy, financially secure, and bold!   We are going to build new relationships and allyships around the region.   We will become a modern organiztion that fights for your needs and still provides the important and enjoyable socialization time.

The beginning is HERE!


Bryen M Yunashko – President of LeCOBDA


Geraldine “Jerrie” Lawhorn: 1916-2016

Our hearts are heavy with great sadness that we announce the passing of Geraldine “Jerrie” Lawhorn, beloved co-founder and treasurer of LeCOBDA since its inception in 1978.  Jerrie remained treasurer, diligently keeping track of our finances and membership rosters for 38 years before finally stepping down in May of this year.

Jerrie was born in 1916 and lived for 99 and a half years.  Her longevity is a testament to the perseverance DeafBlind people throughout the ages,  defying the oppression throughout the United States against both DeafBlind Americans and African-Americans, triumphing in both personal achievements and a determined resolve to ensure the thriving of a DeafBlind community both locally in Chicago and nationally.

Jerrie was a ground-breaking pioneer in so many ways.  She was the first DeafBlind to have a guide dog,  a performing artist and musician, she was the first DeafBlind to perform at Carnegie Hall.  She was a long-time teacher at Hadley school, the school where so many DeafBlind first received material to learn how to read in Braille,   In 1966, she was awarded the Gold Medal from the Perkins School for the Blind.

In addition to being treasurer of LeCOBDA, she was also the long-time treasurer of Good Cheer, the famed newsletter that brought together DeafBlind from distant parts of the country in an age before technology existed.   In fact, she was part of a thriving community of DeafBlind who stayed connected through braille correspondence, calling this special community “Braille Land.”

Jerrie was an accomplished poet and author of a personal memoir “On Different Roads”, and proved that life does not end in later years, when she earned her degree from college in her 60’s from the University Without Walls institute.   Traveling around the country, she was a frequent presenter on the alphabet glove, an early form of communication, where letters were drawn on various knuckle-points of the hand and allowed non-signers to communicate directly with a DeafBlind person by tapping various parts of the glove in alphabetical sequence.

Jerrie passed on to the next life on July 3, 2016, but to her final moments kept DeafBlind and particularly LeCOBDA near and dear to her heart, constantly reaching out to ask for the latest updates about LeCOBDA.

Jerrie, you will be missed by all of us at LeCOBDA. While your absence at the end of that long table, ready to process the next membership application will be sorely missed, your spirit will remain true and strong amongst us all.  You were the personification of what was, is and always will be about LeCOBDA and we shall forever honor your memory.  Thank you for all you have done for us.

The Officers of LeCOBDA

Summer Pride – DeafBlind Style!

The Summer Holiday weekend is just around the corner, and we DID promise you we’ll come up with a great idea for our annual summer LeCOBDA gathering.  Promises are not made to be broken, so here it is:

On Saturday, July 23, LeCOBDA is proud to join the Chicago Disabiity Pride Parade.   This parade will walk from Harold Washington Library in downtown Chicago to the Richard M. Daley Plaza.    Vice President Jason Salerno is already hard at work designing an amazing tactile banner that is sure to make you all PROUD to be DEAFBLIND!

The parade starts at 11 a.m.    After the parade, we will walk over to Millenium Park for our very own special LeCOBDA Picnic.   A picnic in one of the greatest parks of Chicago.

Food and drinks will be given to all DeafBlind and their SSPs free.   This picnic is family forcused, so please feel free to invite friends and family to join you and celebrate with all of us the wonderful summer weather amongst great friends and social activity.

For guests, we ask only a $5 donation to help defray the cost of our picnic.

Are you an awesome activities planner?  Want to join the team in planning fun activities in the park?   Email us and let us know.    And we encourage everyone and their SSPs to explore the fascinating statues and monuments in Millenium Park.

We will send another email next week with exact meeting place and pickup address information for you.    If you are planning to come to the parade and picnic, please send an RSVP to hello@bryen.com and let us know if you have any special dietary needs.

Can’t wait to see you all.  This is going to be so much fun!   Stay tuned for exact address information next week, and again, don’t forget to send an RSVP email!

The LeCOBDA Officers

Light a Candle to Get It Done Illinois!

This is a call to action, and we need every one of you to support this important rally!


Did you know that the state of Illinois has not passed a budget in a year?  Many social services have been forced to cut back and some even closed down.   Many services that support the DeafBlind are under serious threat.   This includes independent living centers, DeafBlind training, and equipment programs.   Programs like ITAC and ICRE-Wood and Title XX may be under serious threat after July 1.   We do not know if the state will approve a new budget.  If so, many of these programs may be permanently cut until a new budget happens.


This is SERIOUS!  The new officers of LeCOBDA, including President Bryen M Yunashko, Vice President Jason Salerno, Treasurer Darrell Washington, and Secretary Suzanne Salerno stand united on this. We cannot allow the state of Illinois to miss the budget deadline on July 1.  Your quality of life is at stake.


On June 28th, there will be a rally of thousands of people at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago.    It will be a candlelight vigil starting at 6 p.m.    We need to make sure the DeafBlind community is REPRESENTED!    Do not ignore this. We need YOU!



On Tuesday, June 28th, all DeafBlind people will meet at PotBelly’s restaurant on State Street and Lake Street in downtown Chicago.  We are working hard to make sure there will be plenty of interpreters and SSPs ready to work with us.  We will then walk together to the Thompson Center.    You do not need to bring a candle if you do not want to.  We know it is hard to hold a candle and cane and tactile sign at the same time.  Important thing is, you are THERE!    Show your spirit, show you care!  We all care about each other,  does Illinois state government care about us?    Demand them to pass budget so our programs stay!

State and Lake streets are located easily near the Red, Green, Orange, Brown lines and two blocks near the Blue Line.    If you need assistance to get to that corner, please let us know, we will try our best.   We will also try our best to send SSPs to the Metra stations.

This is MAJOR.   Show you can do it!    See you on Tuesday evening!   We are together!

For more information, contact hello@bryen.com.


The Future is Empowerment

The newly elected officers of LeCOBDA are greatly humbledby te trust and support guiding the future of our club and are excitedto begin working.  It is our goal to create a new and excitingenvironment where all DeafBlind community thrives, supports each other, explore newopportunities and build strong allianceswith other advocacy organizations in our region.   The newLeCOBDA is about celebrating and pride as DeafBlind individualsand a communit.  Our identity will be strong and our passion for the greater things in life will rise.

The new officers are so enthusiastic that we have already held two Officer meetings to identify our immediate goals and we will no longer reject anyone who has not  made reservations to attend a gathering.  While we hope that you will let us know in adance if you are coming, we will not be strict and reject you if you simply arrrive.   LeCOBDA is for ALL DeafBlind people in the area!

We will also work h ard to keep you informed and be open and honest about the activities of the officers and the health of our organization. We will communicate with you  regularly and often.

What is next?

We are working hard now to organize a special first LeCOBDA picnic or BBQ, possibly to be held on July 23.   We will notify you asap when we have the details in the next few days.

This means that unfortunately, we will not be having a DeafBlind cruise on the lake in July. This is because the club does not have much money. We only have $3,800 in the bank and the cruise costs $2,900.   We simply cannot support making our beloved LeCOBDA go broke.     This is why we will have a great family picnic event soon.  It will be fun and very social and a lot of activities.

It is our responsibility to make sure that LeCOBDA is financially healthy and to begin efforts to fundraise.  We have not done enough fundraising in the past.  This will change.  We are going to work hard to develop a new plan.

We are also planning a very special and historic event for October 1.  This will be the first ever city-wise DeafBlind Forum.  More details will come soon, but during this Forum, we will have a morning session with all Deafblind people to discuss what it is YOU want LeCOBDA to be.   THen in the afternoon, we are inviting EVERY adovocacy and partner ally organization in the region to attend and listen to your concerns so we can all learn to work together and be able to interact with each other.   There is so much that Chicago has to offer, and it is time that we, DeafBlind people become a strong part of the Chicagoland area!

Thank you again for supporting us and we will do our best to do the right thing for and with you!

Sincerely, The Officers of LeCOBDA

Bryen M Yunashko – President

Jason Salerno – Vice President

Darrell Washington – Treasurer

Suzanne Salerno – Secretary