Busy Week Ahead

Road Sign - Busy Week AheadThe Chicago DeafBlind community has some pretty busy and exciting things going on for the next week including advocacy and social interaction.  Here’s a look at what happens next week.

PACE City ADA Advisory Committee

PACE Bus logo



On Monday, June 17, the PACE transit authority will have its regular meeting.  This is for topics related to use of PACE within the city of Chicago.  If you use PACE buses or use Paratransit, you’ll want to attend this meeting to offer your insights as a DeafBlind person.  They want to hear from you!

June 17, 2013
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Willis Tower (Formerly Sears Tower)
Chicago Metropolitan Planning Agency
233 S. Wacker Drive, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL  60606

If you wish to attend this meeting, you MUST contact PACE to request an interpreter.  Call Linda Swedlund at voice/relay:847-228-4254 or send an email to her at linda.swedlund@pacebus.com.

Equip For Equality

Equip for Equality Logo



Equip for Equality is a legal organization dedicated to “Advancing the Human and Civil Rights of People with Disabilities in Illinois.”   This month they are hosting two meetings to discuss the agenda for the coming year on legal advocacy.  This is where you, as Chicago DeafBlind community members can make an important contribution to raise awareness of any legal issues or legislative improvements you wish to see happening in Illinois.

Friday, June 21, 2013
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
James R. Thompson Center
100 W. Randolph Street, Room 9-031
Chicago, IL  60601

A sign language interpreter will be present for Deaf attendees.  However, if you need special accommodations, you must notify Equip for Equality to make arrangements.  That means if you need a dedicated interpreter for your DeafBlind needs, don’t assume the general interpreter to be your personal interpreter.

To reserve your place at this meeting, you must contact Cecile at voice: 1-800-537-2632 or tty:1-800-610-2779.

Chicago Tactile Nights

As recently mentioned, the next Chicago Tactile Nights will be held on June 21.  Here’s the details in case you missed it:

Friday, June 21, 2013
6:30 p.m.
Potbelly’s on State Street
109 N. State Street
Chicago, IL

No reservations required.  But if you can let us know, we can anticipate how many tables to hold when we get there on Friday.

See you all at these many exciting events next week!


Mystic Blue DeafBlind Cruise

Mystic Blue Cruises logo

Mystic Blue Boat

The wait is finally over, and here are the details for the DeafBlind cruise aboard the fabulous Mystic Blue boat.  Let’s get to the details:


Cost is only $25 per DeafBlind person.  This is a savings from the full price of $44.90.   This includes:

  • Free Buffet Lunch
  • Coffee, Tea, or Soda
  • Dancing/DJ Music
  • You must pay for alcoholic drinks
  • One free SSP
  • View the Chicago Skyline at no extra cost.  🙂
  • Pre-boarding photographs will be taken by Mystic Blue crew.  If you want a copy, you must pay $25.00

You must notify Joan Rushing no later than June 17 to reserve your ticket.  You must send your check or money order to arrive no later than June 21.  Send check or money order to:

Joann Rushing
c/o Chicago Lighthouse
1850 W. Roosevelt Road
Chicago, IL  60608

When and where is the Cruise?

Chicago Navy Pier
July 13, 2013
11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Mystic Blue port (9th boat from the entrance) directly across from the Stained Glass Museum

The Mystic Blue boat is white with BLUE stripes.  (See picture above.)  There is a large sign in front of the boarding area.   As you walk along Navy Pier, the boats are on the right side.  Don’t fall in the water!

You must be in front of the boarding area no later than 11:30 a.m.

Need SSP?

Everyone can bring ONE SSP free of charge.  If you do not have an SSP, and would like one provided, please contact Mindy Joy Mayer at mindy.mayer@chicagolighthouse.org.  Let her know what time you will arrive and she will send an SSP to meet you at the drop off area on 600 E. Grand Avenue Riva Bus Turnaround area.

If you wish to arrive earlier or stay longer at Navy Pier to tour the area, it is YOUR responsibility to make personal arrangements for an SSP if you need one.  There are lots of fun things to see and do and shop at Navy Pier.  Maybe you want to ride the giant Ferris Wheel and see Chicago from high up in the sky!

Getting there

Getting there is easy.  If you are driving or taking Paratransit, go to the Riva Bus turnaround area to meet your SSP.   If you have SSP, proceed to the Mystic Blue port which is the NINTH boat from the entrance to Navy Pier.

If you are taking public transportation, take any of the elevated subway trains and exit along State Street in the Loop.  From there, take the Bus #29 Northbound, which will take you directly to Navy Pier.  It is the last stop for #29.  It is about 18 minute bus ride from the Loop.

Public parking is also available for a fee, but may cheaper to park elsewhere in Chicago and take public transportation.

Please arrange for pickup after the cruise in the Riva Bus Turnaround at approximately 3:30 p.m.

Fill Your Belly the Tactile Way!

Last week was the first ever Chicago Tactile Nights event, held at Chicago’s Dave & Buster’s restaurant.  What a great first night.  DeafBlind, interpreting students, families… they all came together with a desire to learn more, connect and be a part of something exciting.

We’re gonna do it AGAIN!  YUP!

New Location and new night, this time, on a Friday at Potbelly’s on State Street across from the Chicago Theatre.  It’s a very central location for most public transit going downtown and has an outdoor patio so we can really relax and socialize.

For those of you who missed, what is Chicago Tactile Nights?

Chicago Tactile Nights (or CTN) is a night that embraces and spreads the art of tactile communication.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re blind or sighted, everyone is welcome.  And everyone gets to practice tactile signing.  It’s a great opportunity to  learn tips and tricks from each other in a fun way.  Families, friends, ASL interpreters, students, EVERYONE benefits.   Know only a little sign?  Come on anyway!

And CTN is completely community-organized!  Everyone who participates gets to decide when and where the next CTN event will be held.  What a great way to try out new locations.  Who says learning can’t be a party?

BONUS:  Come to the next CTN and find out why the power of the I Love You sign can make you an even better tactile communicator!  We’re not going to tell you what that is here.  You’ll have to come find out for yourself.

When and Where?

PotBelly’s on State Street
190 N. State Street (Southwest corner of State Street and Lake Street)
Chicago, IL
Friday, June 21, 2013
6:30 p.m. – (Until they throw us out!)

Getting There Is Easy

  • Take either Red, Green, Brown, Purple, Pink or Orange Line to State/Lake
  • Take Blue Line to Clark/Lake and walk one block East to State Street.
  • Take CTA buses 6, 29, 139, 62 to State and Lake Streets
  • From Union Station, take CTA 60 bus to State and Washington, then walk 1 1/2 blocks north to PotBelly’s
  • Public parking garages are also very close by.
  • Street parking might be available too.

Potbelly’s is on  the southwest corner of State and Lake Streets, directly across the street from the famous Chicago Theatre, with the big tall Chicago sign lit up (very low-vision friendly!)  There is a patio in front.  You can’t miss it!

Both the underground and elevated subway stations are right there on the corner.  If you take the train, you won’t even have to cross the street to get to Potbelly’s.

See you all there, and let’s make the first day of Summer a Tactile HIT!


Update on PACE Meetings

First of all, for those of you who are planning to attend Monday’s PACE City ADA Advisory Committee meeting, it has been postponed.  The new date of the meeting will be on June 17, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.  If you still wish to attend this meeting, you should contact linda.swedlund@pacebus.com to request accommodation services.

Yesterday, PACE held the joint City and Suburban ADA Advisory Committees Meeting at Willis Tower (formerly known as Sears Tower.)  Many things were discussed about PACE fixed routes and paratransit.

A new Ventra system will be implemented that will replace the current farecard system.  The goal is to establish a single point of payment for all your transportation needs.  With one card, you will be able to use fixed bus routes, paratransit, and other services such as vanpools.   But there are concerns about the accessibility of the system, which will continue to be explored.

There are also plans to consolidate paratransit call centers to one location.  This should make things less complicated for determining what number to all for the service you need.  However, there is also a plan to implement IVR which stands for Interactive Voice Recognition.  In other words, this will become an automated system which voice recognizes your commands over the phone when you place a request for paratransit services.

Ray Campbell, chairman of the PACE Suburban ADA Advisory Committee, raised concerns about the lack of an alternative text method for communicating with paratransit services.  While PACE said they did not have a texting plan in place, Ray asked that higher priority be given to finding a solution to texting as an alternative to IVR.  He pointed out that this is a problem for DeafBlind consumers and those who prefer texting over voice calls.

We thank Ray Campbell for recognizing the importance of DeafBlind accessibility in the Chicagoland transit systems.  He is a good advocate for us and we are lucky to have him on our side.

During the public comment period, Bryen Yunashko also raised concerns about accessibility and ineffective communication methods when interacting with transit and DeafBlind travelers.    He urged that they not forget about the DeafBlind population and that an open channel needs to be established with the community so that past issues and concerns are no longer falling through the cracks.  After the meeting, Pace officials approached Bryen to discuss and express their concerns about how to improve relations with the community.

It seems we are on a good start now to building a better future for DeafBlind travelers of the Chicagoland transit systems.  It is up to you all now to voice your concerns and experiences and to share in a dialogue aimed at positive solutions.  Please, attend meetings or post comments here whenever possible.  Your input matters now more than ever.  If the Chicagoland transit authorities don’t hear from you, how can they know to work on solutions?


ALERT: Public Transit ADA Meetings

As we have been discussing at LeCOBDA meetings and here on ChicagoDeafBlind, DeafBlind people have concerns about the accessibility and service of public transportation and paratransit services in the Chicagoland area.  These are concerns that need to be addressed to the transit agencies, including CTA, PACE, and Metrarail.

There are two important ADA Advisory meetings coming up that are open to the public and we encourage you to try to show up at these meetings.  Both will be held at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for planning at the Willis Tower (formerly known as the Sears Tower.)

One good bit of news.  The issue of getting appropriate text notification of paratransit pickups (which is a big concern that DeafBlind people have had for years) WILL be on the agenda for the upcoming May 14 meeting.   And they are interested in learning more about what DeafBlind people experience using the transit services.

Here are the details:

May 14, 2013

Joint PACE ADA City and Suburban Advisory Committee
Willis Tower
233 S. Wacker Drive, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

May 20, 2013

PACE ADA City of Chicago Advisory Committee
Willis Tower
233 S. Wacker Drive, 8th Floor
Chicago, IL
1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.


If you wish to attend these meetings and need an interpreter, you need to contact Linda Swedland, either via voice phone at (847) 228-4254 or email at linda.swedlund@pacebus.com.   Note that with this late notice, we may not be able to get interpreter accommodations in time for the May 14 meeting, but contact Linda anyway and let’s show DeafBlind representation at this meeting!

Security Notice

Be aware that the Willis Tower is a secured building.  You may be required to show proof of identiication and go through a metal detector to enter the building.


Chicago Tactile Nights is here!

After months of talking about it, it is FINALLY going to happen.  Introducing Chicago Tactile Nights, a monthly social gathering designed to help people practice and strengthen their tactile signing skills.

This is open to EVERYONE who can use sign language, not just DeafBlind people.

When and Where:

Wednesday, May 29,2013  Dave and Buster's Logo
7:00 P.M.
Dave and Buster’s
1030 N. Clark Street
Chicago, IL  60610
Near the Chicago Red Line Subway Clark/Division station.

You should go if you are:

  • a skilled DeafBlind tactile signer willing to mentor others
  • a DeafBlind signer who wants to practice tactile signing
  • Deaf/Hearing and sighted wanting to learn more about DeafBlind interaction
  • a family member or friend and want to strengthen communication with your loved one
  • a sign language student
  • working in a field that may interact with DeafBlind people.

For obvious reasons, a person who is not familiar with signing may not be able to fully participate in tactile signing activities.  However, if you are interested, motivated or just want to observe, you are still welcome.  You may still benefit by learning some basic tactile communication gestures.

Communication, in all forms, is what strengthens the bond between all people!

How Chicago Tactile Nights work?

Throughout the evening, you are encouraged to use tactile signing.  Regardless  of whether you are visually-impaired or sighted, you should practice reading tactile sign.  Even if you are sighted, the more you understand how tactile signing is received, the better you will be at providing tactile signing to others.

We recognize that tactile signing can be exhausting to beginners.  Do take breaks as you see fit.  But, there will be intermittent periods when we announce “Tactile Only!”  During that time period, no one will be allowed to use sighted signing or voice.

As we progress over the months, we as a community, will come up with creative exercises and fun games to further sharpen our skills.

Chicago Tactile Nights is not owned by any organization.  This is completely grassroots organized.  As a community, we will determine dates and locations for each month’s event.   Maybe we will stay in the same location, or maybe we will want to go to new and exciting locations each month.  Up to you as a community to decide.

IMPORTANT to note:

Because this is community self-organized, we will not provide any interpreters, SSPs or transportation assistance.  It is up to you to make personal arrangements to get to Dave and Buster’s.

It’s your night, make it a Tactile Night!

For more information, contact us at info@chicagodeafblind.org



Public Transportation and the DeafBlind Traveler

Logos of the CTA, PACE, MetraRail and RTA agencies

At the April LeCOBDA meeting, a lively discussion was held about the current state of public transportation and the DeafBlind traveler.  Without a dbout, we rely on public transit to get around and perform everday life tasks including getting to work, going shopping, visiting family and friends, and going to events such as our own LeCOBDA meetings.

But is public transportation truly accessible for the DeafBlind traveler?  When we travel, are our communication needs being met?  Are we receiving proper information about where we are going and how to get there?  Are the bus stop signs and signs within subway and train stations easily readable?  If we lose our bearings, are we able to quickly get back on track?

In the Chicagoland area, public transportation is overseen by four important agencies:

  • CTA – Chicago Transit Authority — Serving buses and subways within the city limits
  • PACE – Suburban transit Authority — Serving buses beyond the Chicago city limits.  These include Cook County, DuPage County,
  • MetraRail – Commuter Rail line — Serving points between suburbs and downtown Chicago
  • RTA – Regional Transportation Authority –

All public transit can be divided into two major categories:

  • Fixed Route – These are established routes, usually by number or color, that run on a scheduled basis.  They can include buses, subways, and commuter trains
  • Paratransit – Is a service that provides door-to-door transportation for individuals who are unable to use fixed routes due to a personal disability.

We are highly motivated to begin a dialogue with the various agencies serving the Chicagoland area about how to improve services for DeafBlind travelers, and also to acknowledge things that work well currently.   This means it is time to include YOU in the discussion.

One of the most common complains we hear is communication.   When awaiting Paratransit service, there is no way to notify the DeafBlind traveler about arrival times except via phone call.  When interacting with persons working for Paratransit, there is room for improvement on how we can communicate face-to-face with each other.

But what about those of you who use fixed route transportation and do not rely on Paratransit?  We agree that sometimes it is more convenient to use fixed route buses and trains rather than use Paratransit.    Are there things that could be improved?  Would better signs make things easier?  Or how about a unique shaped pole to recognize a bus stop versus another street sign pole?

Communication cards would also be useful.  These cards are used often in other regions where DeafBlind people live.    What kind of information would you feel is most useful on a communication card to indicate your direction?

And have you ever had any negative experiences?   All these ideas and experiences are important to hear about.  It is time that we, as a community, get involved in shaping the direction of public transportation where we live, work and socialize.

Please feel free to the below comment section to begin the dialogue, or if you feel there is a private matter, you can send an email to info@chicagodeafblind.org.  This is your chance to make a difference!


Uncle Julio wants YOU!

This is a reminder.  If you haven’t sent in your RSVP, please do so before Monday, April 29th.  Send an email to Mindy Joy Mayer at mindy.mayer@chicagolighthouse.org.

In case you missed the news about Uncle Julio’s, the LeCOBDA monthly gathering will happen on May 4th (next week Saturday) at Uncle Julio’s Restaurant.  Our meeting will be the first Saturday in May, not the second Saturday in May.  And we will meet at Uncle Julio’s.  Do not go to the Chicago Lighthouse for the meeting.

Where is Uncle Julio’s?

855 W. North Avenue
Chicago, IL  60642
Near the Red Line North/Clybourn Station

Our luncheon will be from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

If you are taking Paratransit, make sure to tell your driver to go to Uncle Julio’s.  If you are using public transportation, the following tips will be helpful:

From the Red Line Subway, exit the North/Clybourn station.  The address of the train station is 1599 N. Clybourn Street.  From the station, walk northwest on Clybourn to North Avenue for about 70 feet.  Then walk west (left) on North Avenue to Uncle Julio’s.  About 210 feet.

If you are riding a city bus,  the following CTA buses serve the neighborhood:

  • 8
  • 9
  • 72
  • 137

Support our SSPs and Interpreters

LeCOBDA members are asked to contribute $10 or more to help pay for the meals for our SSPs and Interpreters.  They are an awesome group of volunteers who have made LeCOBDA meetings so enjoyable and accessible for all of us, and they deserve a great meal too!

What’s at Uncle Julio’s?

You can visit Uncle Julio’s website here, http://www.unclejulios.com/,  for full details, or you can read the sample menu below.  The options look so delicious, we wish we were eating there today!  Plan your menu choices ahead of time and we’ll be able to order more quickly and get right to socializing, which is something we all love to do at LeCOBDA meetings.

  • Homemade Tamales:  pork or chicken or veggie or shrimp
  • Quesadillas:  Veggie or Chicken Shrimp
  • Chicken Fajita Cobb Salad
  • Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Ensaladita (Salad)
  • Ensalada Grande (Big Salad)
  • Salad Dressings:  Ranch, Honey Dijon Vinaigrette, Chipotle Ranch and Citrus Vinaigrette
  • Cheese and Onion Enchiladas
  • Chicken Enchiladas
  • Beef Enchiladas
  • Combination Enchiladas:  Beef, chicken or cheese & onion
  • Soft Taco Plate:  2 chicken or 2 beef or
  • Supreme: 2 chicken or beef fajita
  • Crispy Taco Plate:  3 chicken or beef
  • Flautas Dinner:  Chicken or beef
  • Herschel’s Platter:  Chicken enchilada, cheese chile relleno, pork tamale, beef taco al carbon
  • Juanita’s Platter:  Create your own custom combination of 2 enchiladas (chicken, beef or cheese & onion) plus 1 crispy taco (chicken or beef) plus 1 tamale (pork or chicken)
  • Benito’s Platter:  Cheese chile relleno, chicken enchilada, pork tamale
  • Cheese Chile Rellenos
  • Plato Tampiqueno:  Carne Asada & enchilada
  • Mesquite Grilled Salmon Filet
  • Ensalada Especial
  • Grilled Vegetable Platter
  • Fajitas al Carbon:  choose Chicken, or Beef, or Chicken and Beef or Spicy Shrimp
  • Vegetable Fajitas Especial
  • Vegetable Fajitas
  • Fajitas Especial:  Beef and chicken fajitas
  • Honey Chipotle Salmon
  • Carne Asada:  marinated beef skirt steak.
  • Grilled Fish Tacos:  grilled tilapia
  • Tacos al Carbon:  chicken or beef fajitas
  • Pechuga de Pollo:  grilled chicken breast

Hasta La Vista!

LeCOBDA Reminder-Membership Dues

Just a friendly reminder that the next LeCOBDA meeting is this Saturday, April 13 at the Chicago Lighthouse at 11:00 a.m.  This is an important meeting for two reasons:

1.  Annual Membership Dues.  Please bring $15 to renew or begin your annual membership to LeCOBDA.  This small amount is really important as it helps us pay for all the fun events we have throughout the year, as well as the luncheons we have at the Lighthouse for our monthly meetings;.

2.  April is Election Month.  This Saturday, we will elect positions for President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer.  If youa re unable to attend the meeting on Saturday, please be sure to email your ballot choices for each of the positions.  You should have received a notice from a previous ChicagoDeafBLind email about who is running for office.

See you all on Saturday!



IL DeafBlind Retreat Fundraiser

The Illinois DeafBlind Retreat is a bi-annual event held in Jacksonville, Illinois.  Our next retreat will be scheduled for June 2014.  Preparations are already underway and a committee is beginning the planning stages for what will be yet another exciting event!

Now there’s a way you can help make ILDBR a success.  Fact:  Retreats cost money!  But we have been able to keep the fees low for participants by raising funds to cover the cost of operating a retreat.  This year, we are organizing a raffle.  You can help out by either buying some tickets to support our cause, or helping to sell these tickets.

Each raffle ticket is $5.00.  But if you buy three raffle tickets, it is only $10.00.  That’s a free ticket for the cost of only two tickets!  The prizes are

  • First Prize:  $500
  • Second Prize: $300
  • Third Prize: $100

We will continue to sell tickets between now and July.  Winners will be announced during our July LeCOBDA Cruise.  Winners do not need to be present.

If you would like to contribute and buy some tickets or sell tickets, you can do so at any upcoming LeCOBDA meeting or contact Mindy Joy Mayer directly via email at Mindy.mayer@chicagolighthouse.org.