THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 44, No. 9 October, 2001
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 44, No. 9 October, 2001
Letter from the President
Dissension in the Vocational Rehab Ranks ........................
by Barbara Pierce
by Marc Maurer
Losing Sight, Gaining Skills: A Doctor's Odyssey..................................................................................
by Stanley Wainapel, M.D., M.P.H.
Eyewitness to Catastrophe................................
Choosing your Braille Embosser...........................................................................................................
by Anne Taylor
She Makes Braille Look Easy..............................................................................................................
Braille Readers Are Leaders 2002 Contest Form.................................................................................
by Christine Faltz
by Deborah Kent Stein
Lessons of the River............................................................................................................................
by Pamela Dubel
My Blindness, My World.....................................................................................................................
by Mark Noble
The Greatness of the Arena..................................................................................................................
by Ivan A. Lopez
Did You Fall?......................................................................................................................................
by Joyce Green
Copyright © 2001 National Federation of the Blind
[PHOTO Description: Joanne Wilson stands with her right hand raised and her left hand on the Bible. She is facing the man swearing her in. To the side we can see a podium with the seal of the Department of Education on its front.]
[Lead CAPTION: On August 27, 2001, Secretary of Education Rod Paige swore in Joanne Wilson as Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Joanne's family and friends gathered at the Department of Education Building for the ceremony. Three of Joanne's five children(Joel, Josh, and Jennica Fernandez) were present as husband Harold held the Bible, and Secretary Paige administered the oath of office. Pictured here (left to right) are Secretary Rod Paige, Harold Wilson, Josh Fernandez, Joanne Wilson, and Jennica Fernandez. ]
As you know, four airplanes were hijacked in the United States on September 11, 2001. Two of them were crashed into the World Trade Centers; one was crashed into the Pentagon; and one crashed in rural Pennsylvania. These events occurred because of the work of terrorists.
Many, many of our friends and colleagues around the world have expressed sympathy and regret. Some have asked if any of our members were killed by the attacks. Some have asked how they could help.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your prayers and the support you have given. You will read an interview of Mike Hingson in this issue of the Monitor. He was in the World Trade Center but was not injured. Insofar as I have been able to determine, none of our members were killed or injured physically. However, a number of blind people face severe economic hardship. We have been offering such help as we have, and we thank those who have joined with us in this effort.
Finally, let me assure all of you that the spirit of the Federation, like the spirit of other Americans, is alive and well. We believe in our nation, and we will work to support it. We mourn the dead and the injured, but we also plan to help in the rebuilding. We look to the future; we will help to make it what it ought to be.
Marc Maurer, President
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Pierce]
Dissension in the Vocational Rehab Ranks
by Barbara Pierce
For sixty years the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) has been the professional organization comprising leaders in state rehabilitation agencies. It was established to represent the interests of the directors of state vocational rehabilitation agencies whenever those interests are potentially affected by legislation, appropriations, or federal policies or regulations. As an advocacy organization representing the state and federal vocational rehabilitation program, securing adequate federal appropriations to operate and expand the program from year to year is probably the top priority of CSAVR or would be of any other organization in its position. In fact, protecting the health, vitality, and image of vocational rehabilitation is necessarily the single most important purpose of the CSAVR, since it has historically been the primary means by which the state vocational rehabilitation agencies speak collectively to the Congress, to the Rehabilitation Services Administration, and to any other federal agency.
In 1973 CSAVR established an office in Washington, D.C., and set out to raise its profile in addressing rehabilitation issues on Capitol Hill. Since that office opened, Joseph H. Owens has been the executive director of CSAVR after a distinguished career as a staffer on Capitol Hill. In July of this year he announced plans to retire though he has agreed to stay on until a successor can be found. Since the early nineties Jack G. Duncan has been the CSAVR General Council and legislative liaison, and according to CSAVR documents he is under contract to CSAVR without cancellation clause until the end of 2003 or 2004, depending on which document you read. He too came to CSAVR after Congressional service; he worked for a number of years as the staff director for the Subcommittee on Select Education in the House of Representatives. Duncan has also been general council for the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB); the two organizations are obviously close allies, and a number of state blindness agency administrators belong to both.
Membership dues for NCSAB are fixed and identical for all members, regardless of the size of the state or the agency. CSAVR dues are another matter altogether. CSAVR has eighty-two members. These are either general rehabilitation, blindness, or combined agencies serving the entire disabled community. CSAVR has chosen to link the amount of its dues for each agency to the amount of federal funding the state receives for rehabilitation, according to the complicated formula that determines the amount of that funding--the larger the amount of federal VR funding going to a state, the larger that state's agency or agencies' CSAVR dues. The formula in question begins with the population and average earnings in the state, so the more populous states have historically supplied a significant portion of the CSAVR budget.
A brief lesson in VR funding under the Rehabilitation Act is in order before we go further. The primary funding for state rehabilitation agencies is authorized under section 110 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. Funds are distributed to states under a formula based on population and average earnings in the state. Two years ago, in federal fiscal year 2000, six states received less money than they had the year before. These states were Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia. Prior to that time (or at least in recent history) no state had ever received less money than it had the year before. Part of the reason that normal fluctuation in population and per capita earnings had not caused any state before that to lose funds is that the section 110 funds under the Act are expected to grow by a cost of living increase equal to the consumer price index, urban (CPIU). The increase is applied to the overall amount of section 110 funds but is not guaranteed to each state. In other words each year the amount of section 110 funds increases, but, when the money is divided according to the formula, an individual agency may receive either more or less than the CPIU increase, depending on changes in state population and average personal income.
In fiscal year 2000 six states lost money when the formula was applied because in recent years the rate of inflation has been quite low. Together with a strong economy this meant that some states did not fare as well under the formula because average state earnings went up. In some cases decreased population also contributed to the problem.
The VR reductions in the six affected states stirred up lots of anxiety, not only in those states, which faced immediate rehabilitation budget cuts, but in a number of others. According to several state rehabilitation officials, many state employees and folks on Capitol Hill had assumed that the automatic CPIU increase would always be available to every state agency. They began making frantic calculations and projected that as many as twenty states could be receiving less funding than they had expected in the 2001 fiscal year, now coming to an end. Not unnaturally in the emergency a number of these states turned to their Congressional delegations for possible redress.
According to officials in the affected states, their first step was to go to Owens and Duncan to urge them to help find some relief and to persuade Congress to resolve the problem permanently by changing the formula so that all states would get at least the intended cost of living increase. The CSAVR staff response was clear from the start: most of the states were not affected by this funding crunch, and Congress would certainly not alter the formula just to give relief to a few states. The only true solution, state officials say Owens and Duncan told them, would be to increase the overall size of the VR pie. If the rehabilitation establishment could persuade Congress to enlarge the VR budget by say $600,000,000, enough of an increase would be available for every state, even using the infamous formula, to fund rehabilitation programs appropriately, never mind simply meeting the crisis facing the grumbling states.
In an interview Duncan pointed out that CSAVR, being composed of agencies from all the states, is hardly in a position to take sides in differences of opinion about how inadequate VR funding should be divided. Some group of states is always going to be dissatisfied. New York, Duncan pointed out, has been complaining about the formula as far back as he can remember, and that is 1973.
But, in the minds of many with whom we spoke, something more seems to have been going on with the Owens/Duncan response. According to one knowledgeable observer who requested anonymity, Owens and Duncan have for years taken the attitude that they would let members know when issues arose about which they should be concerned. They did not appreciate, this source speculates, having members come to them demanding that they help the worried states persuade Congress to do something to help--something that the CSAVR staff had not been the ones to suggest.
Worried state officials of some thirteen states refused to remain in line behind the CSAVR leadership's plan to argue only for a substantial increase in the entire 110 budget line item; they needed Congressional help, and they needed it as soon as possible. The solution they began discussing with Members of Congress was to calculate how much additional funding would be needed to provide every state with the cost of living adjustment (COLA) that everyone had been counting on. The states that were coming out on the short end of the stick understood that the formula would have to be applied and that some states would therefore receive more than a cost of living increase. But, they reasoned, if Congress could find enough extra funding to give the COLA to the states that would stand either to lose money or to receive a smaller increase from the formula distribution, everyone would be satisfied, in the short run at least. The amount necessary to meet this need was a bit unclear since the total would change depending on when the calculation was made, but in discussions with Congress the coalition was using nineteen million as a working figure.
A number of things became clear as Capitol Hill conversations began taking place. Members of the coalition report that Owens and Duncan started warning CSAVR members that the unhappy states were likely to ruin the chances for receiving a significant increase in 110 funding. Such statements were understood as a not too subtle threat to keep unhappy states in their places and silent except when told by CSAVR to speak. One observer who asked not to be identified commented wryly that the pattern was all too familiar: CSAVR would take the credit if Congress came across with additional funding from two hundred forty million (CSAVR's most recent request) to six hundred million (its original figure), and the staff would claim that they got it done despite the coalition's messing around on Capitol Hill. If, however, as seemed likely, no such Congressional largess appeared, CSAVR would blame the dissidents for ruining its chance to solve the rehabilitation-funding problem for the foreseeable future.
None of this dissuaded members of the coalition. They headed off to Capitol Hill, and there they say that they made a discouraging discovery. As they began talking with Members of Congress and their staffs, they quickly learned that the names of CSAVR and Jack Duncan meant nothing or next to nothing. Coalition members say they were told that, when staffers turned to CSAVR for information about vocational rehabilitation, the staff was unresponsive. One key Congressional staffer told coalition members that in twelve years he had met Jack Duncan only once. In short, Congressional staff members communicated directly and indirectly that CSAVR commanded very little respect on the Hill.
For a number of CSAVR members this seems to have been the final straw. In many ways they had found CSAVR leadership unresponsive for some time. For example, they had been trying to get access to the organization's financial and other records for two years without much luck. By the time the April 2001 annual meeting of CSAVR was approaching, a number of states had had about enough of what they perceived as staff high-handedness and inaction. Members of the coalition decided to try running an alternate slate of officers in the April election. By this time thirteen members (Alaska, combined state rehabilitation agency; Connecticut, general rehabilitation agency; Georgia, general; Michigan, general and blind rehabilitation agency; Minnesota, general and blind; Mississippi, combined; New York, general and blind; Ohio, combined; Virginia, general; and Wisconsin, general) had become part of the coalition with another eight or ten members clearly sympathetic.
Then on the Friday before the CSAVR meeting opened, Tom Jennings, then CSAVR president and director of the New Jersey general VR agency, suddenly provided a number of documents, including financial reports and a budget, to Butch McMillan, director of the Mississippi general VR agency. The documents clearly demonstrate CSAVR priorities. In 2000 Joe Owens's salary was $221,484.96; the amount of his fringe benefits is unclear because a couple of support personnel benefits are probably included in the $53,502.04, benefits line item that appears. It's a bit difficult to pick out Jack Duncan's consultancy fee in the report, but the only budget figure that could cover it is $216,251.07 in the Temporary Support line item. In a total budget of 779,641.14, personnel expenditures of this magnitude are certainly significant.
The tensions at the April 2001 CSAVR meeting were palpable. The coalition articulated their dissatisfactions, but members say that they received no response except a request for a written reprise of them, which was submitted in May and which has never, according to one of the authors of that document, received a response. When the election took place, the alternate slate of candidates did not win, but they received close to thirty votes, an impressive showing for a first try.
The coalition decided to meet in New York on June 1 to discuss what steps to take next. The agencies attending that meeting all assumed places on the board of a new organization they named the National Organization of Rehabilitation Partners (NORP). The initially participating state organizations are Alaska, combined; Michigan, general and blind; Minnesota, general and blind; Mississippi, combined; New York, general and blind; Ohio, combined; and Virginia, general. These agencies agreed the first year to contribute to the new organization the amount in dues that they have been paying to CSAVR. Nothing in NORP's bylaws prevents an agency from belonging to both NORP and CSAVR.
The group is still working out organizational procedures. According to Eric Parks, Chairman of NORP's board of directors, each state will have two votes. When two agencies in a state are members, each will have one vote. In combined agencies the director will have one and will determine who will have the other. The dues will be lower than CSAVR's, but then the cost of doing business will also be very much lower than CSAVR's. Each state with members from two agencies will determine for itself how its dues will be paid. NORP's fiscal year will be October 1 to September 30, conforming to the federal fiscal year.
The group has elected Butch McMillan of Mississippi as its first president and John Connelly, the new director of Ohio's combined agency as the president elect. Gray Broughton, who directs Virginia's general rehabilitation agency, serves as secretary/treasurer, and Eric Parks, a member of the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission and a consumer, was elected to chair the board.
One of the first orders of business, according to those who attended the June meetings, was to select an organization in the Washington, D.C., area to assist NORP to establish itself and to represent it on Capitol Hill. In August they chose the Leonard Resource Group (LRG) of northern Virginia. September 21 NORP sent letters to all state rehabilitation agencies inviting them to consider affiliating with it whether or not they continue their CSAVR membership. Given the September 11 terrorist attacks, no one knows whether any money will be available on Capitol Hill for coping with domestic crises like too little funding for rehabilitation, but NORP is gearing up to begin working for a nineteen-million-dollar appropriation plus a 5 percent increase in 110 money to address the cost of living increase.
How do the various players view what has been happening? Jack Duncan is somewhat philosophical. He says that what has happened is classic organizational politics and that CSAVR is very lucky that it has not happened before now, given the fact that what is good for some of its members is always bad for others. He thinks it is distressing for rehabilitation administrators to battle over relatively small amounts of money when the real challenge is to increase the overall funding allocation from Congress so that good rehabilitation can be done in every state.
John Connelly is clearly grateful to have an organization now willing to work energetically to solve the systemic fiscal problems pressing his and other VR agencies. Moreover, he points out that for the first time in many years CSAVR is now actively engaged in doing something constructive in the rehabilitation field. The group recently produced a plan of action. True, he comments, as far as he can tell, the plan has no built-in measures of progress, but it is at least a plan. Also Connelly says that CSAVR recently went to Congressman John Behner of Ohio, who chairs the Education and the Workforce Committee, urging a substantial increase in technology funding. Connelly says that NORP has also approached Behner to back its plan to provide rehabilitation funding relief. It was probably not a good idea for the two groups to come asking for different things, but at least CSAVR is doing something, which is all to the good, according to Connelly.
Last spring Jack Duncan spoke to President Maurer about what he considered the NFB's having taken sides against CSAVR. In an interview with the Braille Monitor he explained that the NFB and CSAVR had worked collegially in the past, and he was disappointed to find Jim Gashel speaking out in support of the actions of the coalition, now NORP.
Jim Gashel saw the matter quite differently, and therein may well lie the crux of this parting of the ways. Gashel acknowledged that in the past he twice addressed CSAVR annual gatherings. He explained that CSAVR was an important player in the blindness field's 1995 Congressional victory in getting rehabilitation funding removed from the Workforce Development Act. Without CSAVR's help it is doubtful that we could have won that fight, given the groups lined up against rehabilitation in that struggle.
When Gashel addressed CSAVR in the fall of 1995, he pointed out that they had won the battle in Congress in large part because blind people were willing to put aside some of our deep reservations about rehabilitation so that we could all work together to preserve the state rehabilitation agencies. Gashel says he told the group that consumer concerns were still present, and that they would be back on the table in the future, and we would then expect the agencies to demonstrate the same sort of support for consumers that we had provided to them in fighting the Careers bill.
By the fall of 1997 the NFB had secured agreement by Congressional staff and Department of Education representatives, including RSA Commissioner Fred Schroeder, on important amendments concerning consumer choice and eligibility. The choice language converted everything that had been expressed in the 1992 amendments as a philosophical statement about choice into a mandated approach. We had managed to establish a presumption of eligibility for blind or disabled SSDI and SSI recipients in the 1992 amendments, but the CSAVR had also secured language in those amendments to say that the person had to require vocational rehabilitation services in order to achieve an employment outcome. The effect of this language was that recipients of SSDI and SSI could still be denied VR services if the agency determined that the person didn't actually require VR services in order to achieve an employment outcome, and in fact that was exactly what was happening.
By the fall of 1997 we had succeeded in securing an agreement that the new language in the amendments, later passed in 1998, would clarify that any recipient of SSDI or SSI based on blindness or disability would automatically be considered to require VR services. This more than anything else was what CSAVR was objecting to. In fact, CSAVR representatives were refusing to attend meetings where this and other issues were being discussed. So Congressional staffers were meeting separately with a group from CSAVR to listen to their objections.
Jim Gashel recalls contacting Jack Duncan a day or so before one of their meetings to tell him that the NFB thought the most recent draft bill was very good and that we urged CSAVR to accept it. However, rather than listening and demonstrating a desire to work with us, as we had done in 1995, Duncan was more opposed to these concepts than Gashel had ever known him to be. In fact, he said that CSAVR was absolutely against these amendments. By the time the meeting actually took place, he had cooled down considerably, and CSAVR opposition was not voiced as strongly as Duncan had with Gashel. CSAVR did convince the staff to include an eligibility provision stipulating that SSDI or SSI recipients would have to state that they want to obtain employment as a condition for achieving eligibility. This means that, by filing an application for VR services, the individual would be making a commitment to seek employment. But achieving an employment outcome is already the purpose of vocational rehabilitation, so this provision was hardly a concession.
Last January, when a number of state agency directors and Federation leaders got together at the National Center for discussions, the funding problems facing a number of the agencies present came up for discussion. Gashel agreed to meet with some of them in February to outline the steps they needed to take to try to get Congressional redress. He arranged for Kristin Cox, Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs, to accompany members of the group to some of their appointments on the Hill. Subsequent to that he was approached and asked to speak with a few agency directors whom he knows well about the proposed alternate slate of CSAVR candidates for the April election.
Gashel agreed that consumers should not have control over who leads CSAVR. In his various conversations he merely pointed out that CSAVR seemed to be adrift and certainly had opposed the choice provisions of the '98 amendments. To his mind Gashel was doing nothing more than trying to strengthen CSAVR in ways that would be constructive for consumers. He has had no contact with NORP and did not even know what steps had been taken to bring it into being.
At the moment no one can tell how this schism in the ranks of VR administrators will resolve itself and what impact it will have on Congressional funding for rehabilitation. The time was when funding for special education was only a fraction of that provided by Congress for rehabilitation. Today special education funding is $6,340,000,000, and rehabilitation funding is still down at $2,400,000,000.
A number of factors go to explain this gap, not least the hard work of those fighting for special education funding. But it is also pretty clear that state rehabilitation agencies have not had an effective voice on the Hill for a very long time. When CSAVR teamed with consumers, as in the Careers Bill fight in 1995, it was successful. When it stood alone in opposing the 1998 Rehabilitation Act Amendments, it had virtually no success. The emergence of NORP is probably no surprise. It's too early to tell how all this will play out, but we can hope that a professional organization ready to work with consumers to revitalize rehabilitation and increase its funding will be one result.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer]
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: Jett*Con (Joint Employment Training and Technology Conference) is an annual event sponsored jointly by the U.S. Department of Labor and the National Association of State Workforce Agencies to promote employment and training services at state and local levels through the use of modern technology. This year the gathering took place in Baltimore, and 2,700 state and local officials attended the meeting from Sunday, July 15, through Wednesday, July 18. President Maurer was invited to address the Wednesday morning plenary session. This is what he said:
There are those who believe that we invent technology to solve problems. Others opine that technology shapes us rather than the other way around. To illustrate, consider beer--which is sometimes said to be one of the principal civilizing influences in the world. Before beer was invented, human beings roamed the earth as nomads, moving from place to place, seeking food and shelter. However, brewing beer demands a steady supply of grain and time for the fermentation process to take place. Farming is essential to provide this product. Some believe that, with the invention of beer, the agrarian society was established. Incidentally, Benjamin Franklin said that "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
I am President of the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation was formed in 1940 and is the oldest and largest organization of the blind in the nation--with a membership of over 50,000; with chapters in approximately 700 cities; and with affiliates in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The National Federation of the Blind is an organization of blind people who have come together to promote our common interests. We believe that, if we get proper training and if we have opportunity, we who are blind can compete successfully alongside our sighted friends and neighbors. We can, for example, dig a ditch, wire a telephone system, design computers, or climb mountains. I am totally blind, and I have been blind all of my life.
I became President of the National Federation of the Blind in 1986. Although this is only fifteen years ago, conditions for the blind were different then from those that exist today. Unemployment for the blind was greater than seventy percent in those days. Computers were part of the workplace, and blind people were learning to use them, but the Internet had not yet come into its own. DOS--remember DOS?--was the prevailing operating system, which had a convenient, character-based symbol set. By the early 1990's character symbols were being replaced with pictures of characters and other graphic representations. Employment opportunities for the blind declined because nobody had figured out how to make pictures audible. I am pleased to report that in many instances this problem has now been solved, and in almost every case it can be solved.
In the 1980's employers wanted able-bodied human beings with driver's licenses who were well educated, literate in the use of the latest technology, flexible in work habits and expectations, not encumbered with too many family obligations, free of addiction, hard-working and dedicated, and (all other things being equal) friendly and fun to be with. Often those doing the hiring had to settle for less than they regarded as ideal. However, an astonishing result occurred--the more perceptive employers sometimes discovered that the portrait of the perfect employee which they had devised was not the one that they discovered was most effective. Although it was not universally true, in many instances disabled workers were more reliable and long-term than those without disabilities.
Today in the National Federation of the Blind we operate, with the support and cooperation of the Department of Labor, the Job Opportunities for the Blind Program. We find a number of employers who are genuinely interested in working with us to find good workers for themselves, which also provides opportunities for the blind. However, there are others. Some of them say something like, "We believe in equal opportunity for the disabled; we know blind people have trouble finding work, so send us your computer engineers. We will give them a chance at a suitably modest introductory wage."
Of course the computer engineers are generally already working, often trying to fix the problems that other engineers (sighted ones) have created by devising computer systems that keep us from getting the information we need.
It is estimated that fifty-four million Americans have disabilities and that a little more than twenty-six million of them possess severe disabilities. Approximately 34 percent of working-age people with severe disabilities are employed. Of the severely disabled 1.1 million are blind. Of the working age blind population the unemployment rate is 74.5 percent. Let me say this again: the unemployment rate--not the employment rate, the unemployment rate--for the working-age blind is 74 percent. This means, for this population our systems are failing.
As the work force ages, the number of people with disabilities will increase. If the work force is to be maintained, it must include a larger percentage of workers with disabilities, including the blind. This demands that technology be constructed to be useable by everybody. The National Federation of the Blind estimates that the cost of supporting a blind person for a lifetime without work is $916,000. This includes only the cash benefits to support the blind person. It does not include the cost of medical assistance or lost revenue from taxes that would be paid if the blind person were working. If these costs were included, the number would approach two million dollars for one individual for a lifetime of not working. Few engineers build technology with universal access principles (especially nonvisual access components) in mind. However, companies spend a vast amount of money to make the visual characteristics of their products interesting. Consider the cell phone. The telephone was, until recent times, a device which blind people could use with ease and efficiency. Today, with what they say is advancing technology, there are cell phones that have touch screens and interactive displays built into them, which are an essential part of the process for operating them. It is necessary to see them to make them work--a thing that the blind can't do. Beyond that, millions of dollars have been spent to make them look snazzy. The cell phone is no longer a device whose only purpose is to call somebody else. Many of them have incorporated within them a clock, a pager, a calculator, e-mail, access to the Internet, and a set of computer games with a video screen for the display. All of these systems can be built so that they talk, but no cell phone makes all of its features audible, and most don't make any of them audible. In some cases you can't even feel the buttons to dial a number. If a fraction of the amount of money that has been spent on these devices to give them attractive visual features had been spent to make them accessible, we would all be able to use them.
My colleagues and I who are blind represent a segment of the work force that is sometimes frustrated, often annoyed, and always determined to get equal access to what everybody else takes for granted. In 1999 we filed suit in Federal District Court against America Online (AOL) because nobody in the company would even talk to us or pay us any mind when we said that the vast array of services provided by AOL could not be used by the blind. AOL is now getting better, but it is not there yet. If they cease making substantial progress, we will feel inclined to go after them again.
Here are examples of what causes the frustration. Keep in mind that bright, well-trained blind people are good at the computer, but most of us are like most of you: we get along.
As a contrast to this consider the America's Jobline®. The Department of Labor joined with the National Federation of the Blind three years ago to initiate a prototype for a service to provide access to America's Job Bank by telephone. We, that is, the National Federation of the Blind, planned the service to provide information to the blind. However, when officials at the Department of Labor first saw this product, they recognized that Jobline® has important benefits for the sighted as well and not just the blind. Only a few days ago, in fact beginning July 1, 2001, every single person in every corner of the United States--no matter how well-educated or not, no matter the ethnic background or economic circumstance--has access by touch-tone telephone to the Jobline® service. This provides them with access to all the job listings available in America's Job Bank twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year. And within a year we hope to provide this service in Spanish. There is a toll-free number that can be used in any part of the country--800-414-5748.
The Department of Labor and many states have demonstrated their commitment to providing access to America's Job Bank through this alternative technology. America's Job Bank is available online, but many people who may need it can't easily use it with a computer. The telephone is much easier.
In a number of states laws have been adopted (laws drafted by the National Federation of the Blind) which prohibit the states from purchasing computer technology unless it incorporates the capacity for nonvisual access to information. This is similar to section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, which took effect for the federal government in June. One such law was enacted in Arkansas. Despite the existence of this statute, and despite complaints by blind state employees, Arkansas is presently in the process of purchasing a nineteen million dollar system that is completely unusable by the blind. We have notified state officials that, unless they make this system accessible with all deliberate speed, we will ask the courts to stop the purchase of this illegal system.
But problems of access for blind people don't end at the Arkansas border. The Minnesota Department of Economic Security has a Mobile Career Development van featured here at Jett*Con in the Exhibit Hall. This may be a wonderful van, and this year it is at least accessible to people who use wheelchairs--accessibility was raised last year when the van came to Albuquerque. However, though people using wheelchairs can get inside, still today the technology being used is not accessible for someone who is blind. Nonetheless, all of the technology was purchased under a law in Minnesota just like Arkansas's, requiring nonvisual access. This is the situation. If the services of this van are important for people throughout Minnesota, they are important for blind people throughout Minnesota; and, to the extent that a law exists to enforce that policy, that law should be used and will be used.
An energetic, well-trained workforce is essential for the progress of our country. As the population ages, the incidence of disability increases. Our nation cannot ignore the disabled in employing the talents of those available to accomplish the tasks of government and business. It is, of course, not only the law of our nation that the disabled have equal access to information, but also a good idea. The technology is being built. If it is built with access in mind, the costs are minimal. If it must always be retrofitted to offer ease of use to the disabled, the costs are unbelievably high, and the mechanisms for building accessibility are slow, cumbersome, or (in many cases) impossible to locate.
In the mid-1970's Dr. Raymond Kurzweil asked us what blind people wanted. We responded that we wanted a machine that could read print aloud. To build the Reading Machine, Dr. Kurzweil had to invent the universal scanner. This desktop unit is now a feature in offices all over the world. Most of the time it is not used to read to the blind but to scan text for the sighted. We believe similar experiences will occur with other access technologies. Equal access to information benefits not only the disabled but the non-disabled as well.
When the technology has been built, it is virtually impossible to change it until new technology is constructed. It shapes us, and there is no way to avoid this phenomenon. Consequently it is of vital importance that we determine precisely how we want to be shaped. Unless we do so, the unforeseen consequences of our inventive minds can create for us more problems than they solve. It is not possible to uninvent. The cell phone, like beer, is here to stay.
Charitable Remainder Trusts
A trust is a plan established to accomplish goals for the individual making the trust and the beneficiary. The donor creates the trust, appoints a trustee (the donor, a family member, a bank trust officer, etc.), and designates a beneficiary. In the case of a charitable remainder trust, money or property is transferred by the donor to a charitable trust. This trust pays income for life. After the donor's death the funds remaining in the trust go to the National Federation of the Blind.
There are two kinds of charitable trusts. The first, a charitable remainder annuity trust, is set up to pay income to the donor based on a fixed percentage of the original gift. The second is a charitable remainder unitrust. The income from this trust is based on the annual assessed value of the gift. Both types of charitable remainder trust are common and relatively easy to set up. Appreciable tax deductions are available, depending on which type of trust is selected.
The following examples demonstrate how trusts work, but the figures are illustrative, not exact:
Michael Brown, age sixty-five, decides to set up a charitable remainder annuity trust with $100,000. He asks his brother John to manage the trust for him. During Michael's lifetime John will see to it that Michael is paid $5,000 each year (5% of $100,000). In addition, Michael can claim a tax deduction of $59,207 in the year the trust is established.
Mary Ellen Davis, age sixty-five, sets up a charitable remainder unitrust with $100,000. She asks her attorney to act as trustee. During Mary Ellen's life her attorney will pay her an amount, 5%, equal to the annual assessed value of her gift. If the $100,000 unitrust grows to $110,000, Mary Ellen will be paid $5,500. If it grows again to $120,000, she will be paid $6,000 in that year, and so on. Also Mary Ellen can claim a tax deduction of $48,935 in the year she establishes the unitrust.
For more information on charitable remainder trusts, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Stanley Wainapel]
Losing Sight, Gaining Skills: a Doctor's Odyssey
by Stanley Wainapel, M.D., M.P.H.
From the Editor: On Friday Afternoon, July 6, Dr. Stanley Wainapel, Director of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, addressed the 2001 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Steve Marriott had just spoken, and Erik Weihenmayer was to follow. Together the three men provided an inspiring and exciting experience for everyone in the room. This is what Dr. Wainapel said:
It's a great honor and also a little intimidating to be speaking this afternoon because I sort of feel that I am sandwiched between a Marriott and a mountaineer. But I am very happy to have the opportunity to speak with you and to express the great appreciation that I have for what the NFB has done for me. I am a rather young Federationist, maybe not in my own personal years, but I am young in terms of my involvement in the organization. When I came to my first meeting in 1994, it was truly a life-transforming moment for me, and I want to tell you a little bit about that.
When I was an eight-year-old child and was diagnosed with a progressive degenerative retina disorder, any hopes that my physician father and nurse mother had for my following the family tradition in becoming a physician died. I think that the concept that I might some day go on to be a doctor, despite a vision loss, was probably as remote to them as the summit of Mount Everest.
Fortunately that wasn't the case. I had a number of fortunate circumstances, and also I had some good choices that I made that perhaps made negotiating the challenges of initially becoming a doctor less daunting than they might have been. To start with, I cannot imagine the number of you out in the audience who can tell horror stories about your ophthalmologists. I strangely enough can only tell you love stories. That's not very common. I will tell you to start with that, when I was a teenager, it was an ophthalmologist who said to my parents, "Your son will be able to go to medical school. He will be able to be a doctor." That was a man with vision.
Fortunately my disease was also very cooperative about this, and it was rather slow in progressing. I also had the help of some guardian angels. To start with, my wonderful wife Wendy, who for more than twenty-one years has believed in me many times when I didn't believe in myself, and whose love has sustained me through many, many a dark day. I also had the other benefit of having employers who basically wanted me as an employee. It was perhaps not the common experience of people who are blind or who are losing their vision actually to have a person who wants you to stay there and will work through anything they can to accommodate you.
A great rehabilitation medicine physician by the name of Howard Russ, one of the fathers of the field, came from the state of Missouri. He said that he never failed to rehabilitate people if they met at least one of two criteria: they had someone who wanted them to work, and somebody loved them. I was lucky; I had both.
So, if you fast forward to about 1990, at that point I should have really been considered to be at the summit of my career. I was in a high-paying, high-prestige position. I was highly respected professionally. I was widely published, so you would have thought that I had everything, and I guess I did on the outside. But other things were happening on the inside. Now, I am sure that Erik Weihenmayer will be able to tell you a lot about what happens when you climb in the Himalayas. One of the great hazards is altitude sickness.
When you start climbing high in the ranks of the professions, one of the problems can also be attitude sickness. Usually the attitude sickness comes from others: the negative attitudes and stereotypes towards blindness that all of you know very well. Actually, there is another form of attitude sickness, and that's one that comes from within. That's what infected me. At a time when no one else doubted my capacity to continue to be a highly productive physician in spite of my significant vision impairment and progressively deteriorating vision, I didn't really think that I could do it. So I made a really colossal mistake, which fortunately wasn't a fatal one. I chickened out. I basically left my high-paying, high-prestige, respected job, and I took a job, a respectable job, in a respected agency for the blind as their medical director. There was nothing wrong with the job. There was everything wrong with the reasons I took it.
During the time I was in that job, I found myself feeling increasingly disconnected from the world of academic medicine of which I had been a part and to which I had contributed. So we will fast forward again to 1994 when, very ill in body, mind, and spirit, I showed up in Detroit, Michigan, at the NFB Convention. Part of the reason I was there was another guardian angel. Her name is Adrienne Asch. She is from Massachusetts. Now strangely enough, even though I think part of the reason I was becoming prominent in my specialty of rehabilitation medicine was because I had special expertise in issues of vision impairment and wrote about it and talked about it, I realized that, other than someone like Adrienne Asch, I probably could count all the blind people I knew on the fingers of one hand. That was a very strange thing. You can imagine the shock to my system of walking into the lobby in Detroit. It was a mind-blowing and mind-opening experience for me.
At that point my vision had probably deteriorated by half over the course of three years. I was physically ill with a gastrointestinal problem. I was ill with lack of confidence in myself, and, thank God, Adrienne had told me, "Go to the NFB; they'll show you what to do." And you bet they did.
As a matter of fact, I came, I saw, I was conquered. I came, I saw, and as a matter of fact, I was infected. I came down with another disease that sort of counteracted my attitude sickness. I think that disease is called Federationitis. That disease has a number of interesting symptoms; it's characterized by boldness, determination, enthusiasm, energy, optimism, and an irresistible urge to say, "Heck, I can do that."
I had had a little bit of mobility training, but of course I hadn't had any mobility training from a blind person before, so I found out that logical positivism wasn't necessarily the right way of getting mobility training. I got lessons in mobility, in nobility, and humility in the process. I think I learned more in those five days than I had in five or more years of time before.
Now let me tell you some of the long-term effects of Federationitis--actually, not so long-term. Within six months of the time that I was at the NFB convention, I had bought a computer with all the appropriate bells and whistles. I had taken computer training, and I had been offered and had started a job as a clinical director in the program where I now serve. I haven't looked back since that time. I have had to look forward a bit more, because I have had a lot more mobility work to do. There is much that I continue to learn from the Federation, that I know I will continue to learn from the Federation, but it really changed my life forever. That just shows you what one meeting can do for you.
Part of the reason this is only my second meeting is that, when you are an academic physician, around July first all the new resident physicians in training come on board, so I advise you very strongly, do not become ill in the beginning of July. That's part of the reason that I tended to stay around to make sure that things happened well, so it was rather difficult to come to the meetings. It was an extra treat to be able to come to this meeting and to be able to tell you about what this organization has meant to me and what it will continue to mean to me.
I think the greatest speech that I ever heard in my lifetime was made by Martin Luther King. Of course it was the speech which was punctuated by "I have a dream." I think that NFB tells us and teaches us how to dare to dream. I too have my dreams and my visions of what I would like to see in the future. In my vision the white coat and the white cane together will not cause people to do a double take. In my vision the fact that I am up here as a blind physician and that I have been on the "Today Show" as a blind physician will be no big deal, that I will not be thought of as a blind physician, but as a physician who happens to be blind. That the acuity of my thought will be considered more important than my visual acuity. That for all people it will become clear that what's important is what's behind the eye sockets and not what's in them. And that everyone will live by one of the things that I have tried to live by through my whole life. This is something found in a children's book written by a French aviator, Antoine de St. Exupery, The Little Prince--many of you have read it. In that book it says, "What is essential is invisible to the eye; it is only with the heart that one sees truly." I think the NFB has helped to open my eyes, open my mind, and open my heart.
I also realized that, by becoming a Federationist, I basically had enlisted in the Army, and that particular army has its own motto. I think it's a wonderful one. I happen to remember the original Army motto, which was to be all that you can be. I can tell you that NFB has helped me to be all that I can be, and all of you to be all that you can be.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Michael Hingson and his guide dog]
Eyewitness to Catastrophe
From the Editor: Shortly before we went to press, the world was profoundly altered on September 11. We all watched and listened and prayed for those caught up personally in the tragic events in New York, Washington, and western Pennsylvania. Blind people are a cross section of the general population, so not surprisingly some of our members were at ground zero. Seville Allen, first Vice President of the NFB of Virginia, works at the Pentagon, but she was unhurt. Three blind vendors had facilities in the World Trade Center. We are deeply grateful that they all escaped, though their businesses are obviously gone.
In fact we are mounting an effort to provide financial assistance to the blind people who were caught up in these life-changing events. Those interested in making contributions to assist the blind people who have suffered can send their contributions to the National Federation of the Blind. Be sure to write "disaster relief" in the memo line of the check, and your gift will be used to help.
Mike Hingson has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for many years. On September 11 he was working in his office on the seventy-eighth floor of World Trade Center Tower One. On Friday evening, September 14, he told Larry King about his experience. Here is the transcript of the Hingson interview on "Larry King Live":
Michael Hingson has been blind since birth. Michael was on the seventy-eighth floor of the World Trade Center, the One building, the north tower. He was guided out by his guide dog Roselle and another colleague. Michael, first, what--do you have a job in that building?
MICHAEL HINGSON, EYEWITNESS: Yes, I work for a company, Quantum ATL. We manufacture Enterprise-scale libraries, tape libraries that back up data for disaster recovery situations such as this.
KING: Really? That's what you manufacture?
HINGSON: The company manufactures that out in California. And my job is to manage the channel sales in New York and New Jersey.
KING: Is it a job that can be easily handled though blind?
HINGSON: Oh, yes. Obviously I use some different tools. I use a dog to get around, and sometimes I will use a cane. I use a computer that talks, a calculator that talks. I will write some material in Braille. It certainly is a job that I can do. Where you might drive a car to go to a place, I use a car service or rely on buses and trains.
KING: How long you work there?
HINGSON: I worked at the World Trade Center for about a year and a half.
KING: What happened? What do you remember happened?
HINGSON: There was an incredible bang. Sort of a dull thud, but certainly very tremendous. Then the building shook very violently. I remember going, "God, don't let that building tip over." I had a lot of faith.
KING: What did you think it was?
HINGSON: I thought it was some sort of an explosion at first. My colleague David Frank looked out the window as soon as the building stopped shaking and said there's fire above us. I could hear debris falling. And he said, "There's just debris falling everywhere."
KING: So your first thought now is to get out. You're also blind. So you're working on senses as well?
HINGSON: Absolutely. But I knew where the stair wells were. David could see. He and I were the last out of the office. There were guests in the office as well. They went out first. We got them out. And then we went out.
KING: And down seventy-eight floors?
HINGSON: Down seventy-eight floors.
KING: What role did the dog play?
HINGSON: She guided. She did a tremendous job. She is from Guide Dogs for the Blind, which is one of the larger schools in the country that trains these dogs. They do an incredible job of selecting the animals, doing the best that they can to acclimatize them to adverse conditions. This clearly can't be one of them. But she knows how to cope with noises; she knows how to cope with a lot of different stressful things. She played guide down the stairs.
KING: That's the school in Rochester, Minnesota, right?
HINGSON: No, this is in San Rafael, California.
KING: I remember Guide Dogs for the Blind in Minnesota is the main base. The dog is with you, we understand, Michael?
HINGSON: Roselle, sit. I don't know whether you can see her.
KING: We see her. Beautiful dog.
HINGSON: She is a good girl.
KING: And a brave dog.
HINGSON: She is.
KING: You are walking down seventy-eight floors. You have a friend with you, and you've got your dog. Are you scared?
HINGSON: No question. I was very concerned. I didn't hear the second plane hit, but we knew that at that time something had happened. We figured that a plane had hit the building because I could smell--we all could smell jet fuel fumes. So we knew there was something going on.
KING: How about other people on the stairway?
HINGSON: Yes, and I'm referring to them as well. There were a lot of people going down the stairs, especially when we got down into the levels around floor forty and so on.
KING: When you're blind, do you fear they will push right by you? Knock you over?
HINGSON: No, I wasn't so concerned about that. I stayed on the right-hand side. There was plenty of room for people to pass if they wanted to do that. And some did.
KING: Was it true some people were cheering you?
HINGSON: There were people that were doing that. I was cheering other people. We all cheered the firemen and the police and those who went upstairs. We were very concerned for them. We slapped them on the backs; they were being very supportive. "Do you need help? Are you OK?" they would ask us. And we asked them, "Are you all OK? Go get them; do everything you can. Our faith is in you."
KING: Did the firemen talk to you?
HINGSON: Are you OK? Is somebody with you? Don't worry. You'll be out OK. Just don't be scared. Just keep going; you're going to do fine.
KING: Did you smell any jet fuel?
HINGSON: Lots, yes. There were fumes all the way down.
KING: Then when you get to the lobby, what happens?
HINGSON: Well we had to go through a lot of water. The sprinklers were running. There was a lot of debris on the floor. We got out of the lobby to the main World Trade Center Shopping Mall, which is also inside. From there we were escorted out of the building, and then we moved away.
KING: And did you learn of the second tower being hit?
HINGSON: I didn't know the second tower had been hit. I knew there was fire on both towers. We got about two blocks away, and then Building Two started to collapse. So we all--there were a number of us--we ran for cover. We ran into a subway station. But by that time we were already covered with soot. We had to go through a lot of falling glass and a lot of other kind of debris. Then we got out of the subway, and a couple blocks further, Tower One collapsed.
KING: You've been in earthquakes, too, Michael?
HINGSON: Yes, I used to live in California.
KING: This much worse?
HINGSON: Much worse. It's not fun being at the epicenter.
KING: No. By the way, how long did it take to get down? HINGSON: I would say altogether from starting in the stairs to getting outside the building, for me, probably about fifty minutes or so. I was out about twenty minutes before Two collapsed.
KING: How is life for you now with no place to work?
HINGSON: Well I'm doing fine. I've got a computer at home that talks. I can work at home. Even coming in this evening, on the cell phone I was speaking with one of our customers, Nam, who is talking about buying one of our libraries. I can conduct business on the phone. We go forward, from that standpoint. At the same time I'm really ticked at the people that did this. They took our lives.
KING: Michael, we salute you, and we salute Roselle.
HINGSON: Thank you very much. She is a good dog.
KING: God bless.
HINGSON: God bless you.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Anne Taylor]
Choosing your Braille Embosser
by Anne Taylor
From the Editor: Anne Taylor is a Computer Specialist who works in the NFB's International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. Every so often the technology staff conducts a comparison of various kinds of access equipment in order to assist those considering purchasing such equipment. This time the equipment is Braille embossers. This is what Mrs. Taylor has to say:
It is safe to say that the Braille embossers (thirty-one of them) we display in the NFB's International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC) are the most numerous and expensive access technology equipment we have in this comprehensive facility. As we all know, there is no such thing as a free lunch, especially in the access-technology market. The embosser prices range from $1,695 to $86,000 among thirty-one models (twenty-seven of which are currently used widely around the world). Many visitors come to us asking which embosser they should purchase. This article discusses the factors to be considered in making a wise decision. Our assessments of the various producers follow. At the end you will find a chart comparing embossing speeds.
Begin your search by making a wish list for an embosser, jotting down your actual needs:
* What is the volume of Braille you are going to produce, and how frequently are you going to use the embosser? The slowest embosser prints at approximately ten characters per second (CPS); the fastest embosser prints at approximately 800 CPS, and generally faster means more expensive. Why pay thousands of additional dollars for an embosser that can print at a higher speed than you need?
* Embossing Braille is a very active mechanical process which often creates a lot of noise. Is the noise going to be a problem in the environment in which the embosser will operate? Will you need to buy a soundproof case too?
* How will this embosser be used? Bearing in mind that embossers weigh from twelve to more than three hundred pounds, how often will you need to move it between home and school or back and forth to an office? Should it be portable or stationary, come with its own sturdy carrying case, or need no more than a dust cover?
* Who will be reading the Braille material? If he or she is a fluent Braille reader, the quality of the Braille produced is crucial. The embosser must produce dots of a height that will be easy to read. Some do this better than others. To save expense on costly Braille paper, many prefer embossers that produce interpoint Braille (Braille on both sides of the page). Because it is difficult for sighted teachers or transcribers to sight-read interpoint Braille, you may decide the best embosser is one that can print both single-sided and interpoint Braille.
* How hard is it to get a customer service representative on the phone? How difficult is it to obtain parts or the services of a repairman if your expensive machine breaks down? Keep in mind that the larger embossers need periodic preventive maintenance from a trained technician, and many popular, large-capacity Braille embossers are not manufactured in this country. What is the company's track record for customer service?
* How fast is it really? To go beyond the facts published by one individual company, where can you get an unbiased comparison of all the embossers that interest you? Yes, right here in this article from the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind.
Let's talk a bit about the suppliers of Braille embossers and mention some factors which distinguish their embossers from the competition. Enabling Technologies Company, of Jensen Beach, Florida, is the most widely known supplier of Braille embossers sold in the United States. Having been in business for about fifteen years, this company sells embossers ranging in price from $2,195 to $33,000. However, the most widely sold are in two series: the Romeos and the Juliets. In our experience these embossers have a strong track record for reliability. Another good point is that all of their embossers have very similar configuration menus. Once you've learned to operate one of their embossers, you are likely to learn very quickly how to run any of their other embossers.
On the other hand, Enabling Technologies' embossers are probably more suitable for tech-savvy users. The biggest problem is that the embosser configuration menus are governed by entering sequences of numbers on a telephone-like keypad. This system requires the user either to have an excellent memory or to have the user's manual handy at all times. As for turn-around time on customer service, no expert in the Enabling technical support department will take calls directly to deal with an immediate problem. Instead callers are instructed to leave a message on the company's voicemail. We can report that the technical support staff has been prompt in returning calls.
Sighted Electronics, in Westwood, New Jersey, is rapidly gaining a bigger share of the embosser market. A major importer of Braille embossers from Europe, its product lines include the Thiel Braille embossers from Germany and Index Braille embossers from Sweden. Both brands are widely used here and in Europe. We found that some Index embossers can occasionally be temperamental, especially the Index Everest and Index 4x4 Pro, both of which tend to jam when the print job is lengthy. However, this line of embossers has spoken menus, which are easy to follow, and the embossers have buttons labeled in both print and Braille. Because of this, users can configure the embosser quickly. Only two Thiel embossers, the Impacto and the Porta-Thiel, are sold in this country. Neither is prone to breakdowns. We appreciate the fact that, when one calls the Sighted Electronics technical support department, usually a live human being answers the phone.
Freedom Scientific, Blind/Low Vision Group, of St. Petersburg, Florida, sells the Braille Blazer, the Braille Inferno, and the VersaPoint Duo. This last is made by Enabling Technologies Company, therefore its shape, size, and reliability are similar to those of Enabling's other embossers. Both the Braille Blazer and the Braille Inferno are lightweight embossers equipped with a spoken menu and are not suitable for large Braille-production jobs. As with any other big company's technical support line today, customers have to get through the telephone menu and may be on hold for a while before the call is answered. Also the voice menu often directs callers to a different, toll phone number for specific-product technical support. Patient customers do get the help they need.
American Thermoform Corporation of La Verne, California, imports Braillo embossers from Norway. Agencies producing Braille books or magazines often buy a Braillo because it has a well-deserved reputation for trouble-free bulk production. However, if you have a breakdown or it's time to replace a part, start hoping that the part is in stock in California because you will wait at least a week to get back in production if the replacement part must come through customs from Norway. Additionally, a blind user cannot operate the Braillo independently since it has no voice output, only menu options shown on the LCD screen. American Thermoform does have a toll-free number and is good at giving directions over the phone for repairs that can be done in-house.
N. V. Interpoint is located in Leuven-Heverlee, Belgium, and manufactures one of the fastest Braille embossers today, the Interpoint 55. According to the manufacturer, it can emboss at the rate of 800 CPS. The NFB uses this machine every year to produce the menus and other documents used at our National Convention, and it is the IBTC staff's machine of choice whenever we have a large job to Braille. It embosses interpoint Braille, then cuts magazine-format sheets (two or four pages per sheet) from the roll. As the embosser prints, it generates lines on the sheets to pre-score the finished pages for binding or stapling. With simple manipulation of the menu parameters in the Print 55 software, the user can choose to emboss either single-sided or interpoint Braille on individually-cut pages.
Both costly and versatile, this embosser has proven to be quite reliable (which is a good thing because the only trained repairman, the company owner and product's inventor, is in Belgium and best contacted by e-mail or faxed message). We admire engineering professor Guido Francois, the inventor, for his dedication to his craft. He will do his best to get your machine up and running again. Additional points, possibly drawbacks, are that users cannot program the Interpoint 55 to print directly from Duxbury; it won't run without software for the printer (the Print 55), which is DOS-based. While the embosser is running, the user must make sure that the paper starts feeding perfectly and continue watching to restore order should pages flip over during the printing process; the huge roll of paper is very heavy and very difficult to load. Only a strong person can load the roll into its cradle while making the necessary connections.
HumanWare, Incorporated, of Loomis, California, is a supplier for the Paragon embosser, which is often described as a more expensive clone of the Thomas, sold by Enabling Technologies. Thus far, we have not had occasion to call technical support for this embosser. However, company technical support has been helpful whenever we have called the toll-free number about other products HumanWare carries.
ViewPlus Technologies, based in Corvallis, Oregon, focuses on Braille graphics. It is the inventor and supplier of the Tiger Advantage, an embosser which produces tactile graphs, charts, maps, pictures, and so on at twenty dots per inch on tractor-feed Braille paper. Because the Tiger Advantage embosser comes equipped with printer-driver software that interfaces with Windows, the user may print directly to the embosser from any application. Tiger Advantage also has its own translation software; it will not print directly from Duxbury. Because its small buffer would not be suitable for holding more than about fifty Braille pages of text at a time, it is more suitable for graphics than for text. The Tiger Advantage is one of the quietest printers available, and the Braille quality is up to an acceptable standard if the punch-force level is set to seven or greater. ViewPlus Technologies has a knowledgeable and friendly technical support department.
IBTC Testing Procedure
We used the same test file first used by David Andrews, past director of the IBTC, for his study, "How Fast Is It Really?" published in the November 1996 Braille Monitor. Since then several newer embossers have been added, and some, which can no longer be purchased, have been removed. Our new data below will show any differences between our results and those currently published by the manufacturers. Manufacturers produce test results based on uniform lines of Braille across a page (commonly all words of equal length and all lines of equal length). In contrast, our testing procedure mimicked a real-life printing job. We believe that our results are better indicators of the true capacity of the embossers we tested.
The test file was translated into Grade II Braille. To simulate a real-life print job, we made sure to use a test file containing various formats, such as straight text, centered and right-justified lines, regular and hanging paragraphs, two columns, lines of dots, table-of-contents guide dots, Braille and print page numbering, full and partially blank pages, and more.
We also used standard embosser setup parameters that have been widely adopted by Braille producers throughout this country. For the embossers that can handle 11.5-by-11-inch paper and can print up to forty-four characters per line on twenty-seven lines per page, we programmed the embossers to print forty characters per line on twenty-five lines per page. However, not all embossers can accommodate that wide a page. For embossers that can handle only 8.5-by-11-inch paper and print up to thirty-four characters per line, we programmed the embossers to print thirty-two characters per line on twenty-five lines per page. For each embosser the timer started at the same instant as the enter key was pressed. The timer was stopped promptly when each embosser ceased embossing.
Reading the Chart
Now we can get to the heart of the matter. The test results are alphabetical by name of embosser. Data are separated by semicolons and listed in this order: name of embosser, manufacturer's rated speed, IBTC's rated speed (both figures given in characters per second, CPS), percent of variance, and price of the embosser. The percent of variance was found by calculating the difference between an IBTC test score and a manufacture's stated claim. For example, in the first case the variance is 47 percent, which means that our test showed this embosser was 47 percent slower than the manufacturer said it would be. (In our view a variance of plus or minus 5 percent is insignificant.)
Chart of Embosser Speeds as of August, 2001
KEY: Name of embosser; Manufacturer; IBTC; Variance; Price
Braille Blazer: 15 CPS; 8.0 CPS; 47%; $1,695.
Braille BookMaker: 80 CPS; 59.9 CPS; 25%; $8,995.
Braillo 200: 200 CPS; 200.6 CPS; 0%; $37,995.
Braillo 400S: 400 CPS; 274.4 CPS; 31%; $77,995.
Braillo 400SR: See note 1
Braille Express: 150 CPS; 109.0 CPS; 27%; $15,995.
Braille Express 100; 100 CPS; 78.6 CPS; 21%; $10,500.
Braille Inferno: 50 CPS; 34.5 CPS; 31%; $2,795.
ET Braille Printer: See note 1
Impacto 600: 850 pages per hour; 536.36 pages per hour; 148.99 CPS; 37%; $32,000.
Index Basic D: 100 CPS; 72.5 CPS; 27%; $3,195.
Index Basic S: 50 CPS; 28.5 CPS; 43%; $2,495.
Index Everest: 91 CPS; 67.15 CPS; 26%; $3,695.
Index 4x4 Pro: 91 CPS; 62.2 CPS; 32%; $6,260.
Interpoint 55: See note 1
Juliet: 40 CPS; 33.5 CPS; 16%; $3,795.
Juliet Pro: 40 CPS; 24.5 CPS; 42%; $4,095.
Juliet Pro 60: 60 CPS; 37.5 CPS; 37%; $4,095.
Marathon: 200 CPS; 167 CPS; 17%; $14,995.
Paragon: 40 CPS; 27.2 CPS; 32%; $3,409.
Porta-Thiel: 10 CPS; 7.8 CPS; 22%; $1,895.
Porta-Thiel Interpoint: 10 CPS; 8.3 CPS; 17%; $2,835.
Romeo RB25: 25 CPS; 23.8 CPS; 5%; $2,195.
Romeo Pro 50: 50 CPS; 35.9 CPS; 28%; $2,895.
Thomas: 40 CPS; 37.0 CPS; 8%; $3,295.
Tiger Advantage (file contains text only): 35 CPS; 30.4 CPS; 13%; $9,750.
Versa Point Duo: 60 CPS; 40.6 CPS; 32%; $3,995.
* Note 1: Due to repair and maintenance needs, we were not able to test three embossers before the deadline for this article. The test results for Interpoint 55, Braillo 400SR, and ET Braille Printer, will be provided upon request.
In all but one case our results varied from those of the manufacturer. We encourage customers to use our results as supplemental data to assist in the purchase of a Braille embosser. However, always look at the big picture, not just price and speed, to decide on your best choice of embosser. In addition to what we have mentioned, consider the quality of Braille produced, the ease of use, the clarity of the manual, the reputation of the manufacturer and dealer, and the reliability of product or technical support and customer service. This should help you to ensure that your chosen embosser is right for you. The staff of the International Braille and Technology Center will be happy to help you as you consider your options. We prefer contacts by e-mail to <[email protected]>, or by telephone to the technology access line, (410) 659-9314, option 5, on business days, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kayla Bentas]
She Makes Braille Look Easy
From the Editor: During the summer following seventh grade I learned almost all the Braille code in hour-long lessons once a week. I don't remember anyone's being surprised at my speed. In fact memorizing the code was not nearly as hard as learning to distinguish tactilely those tiny dots crowded together in clusters that were nearly impossible to identify.
Beginning that fall, I was instructed to use my Braille, which I did by trying to take notes in class with my slate and stylus, using the heaviest Braille paper available. I made lots of errors and struggled with a very tired and sore right hand from the unaccustomed effort. No one urged me to read interesting material Brailled by other people, and no one reminded me that I could learn to read Braille as quickly as my sighted friends read print if I would just practice.
Not surprisingly my rapid progress mastering Braille slowed to a crawl. I was not taught the rest of the code until the fall of my junior year in high school. Again learning the last few signs was simple; forcing myself to read my physics book, which had been Brailled for me, was impossible. I now realize that parts of it must have been in Nemeth code, which I had not been taught. I only knew that decoding a page took a very long time, and parts of the text I could not understand for love or money.
Compare my experience with that of nine-year-old Kayla Bentas, who learned Braille across the summer of 2000 and was encouraged to use Braille in all her classes during the following school year. She also entered the National Federation of the Blind's Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, in which she won the third prize for her age group. Kayla is an extraordinary young lady; she has also been very lucky to have an excellent Braille teacher and encouragement to read lots of Braille.
Now it is time once more to urge Braille students across the country to enter the 2002 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. If you wonder whether you should bother to make the effort to encourage students and teachers to participate in this contest, read the following letter and newspaper article. Then find a youngster to encourage to enter this year's contest. The complete contest form is stapled into the center of the print edition of this issue. The text of the contest form follows this article immediately in the other formats. You can obtain the form from the NFB's Materials Center ([email protected]) or from Barbara Cheadle at (410) 659-9314, ext. 360. You can also download it from the NFB Web site, <http://www.nfb.org/resles.htm>. Here is Kayla's story as told in her teacher's letter to Barbara Cheadle and by a newspaper reporter:
Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
February 6, 2001
To Whom It May Concern:
I have enclosed the contest entry form for my student, Kayla Bentas of Peabody, Massachusetts, and would like to inform you of her unique and special talents that make her a Braille leader role model for all Braille readers.
Kayla lost her sight in an operation in April 2000 when she was in the third grade at the Carroll School in Peabody, Massachusetts. When she returned home from the hospital, she was tutored the last two months to complete the third grade.
During the second week of June 2000, I began to teach Kayla Braille. However, on our first day she said that she already knew some Braille from earlier in the year when the class did a unit on Louis Braille. Kayla remembered seven Braille letters from that time, and the lessons progressed rapidly.
I have been a certified Braille transcriber since 1972 and a certified teacher of the visually impaired for over twenty-five years. I have worked in residential settings, public schools, resource rooms, and rehabilitation facilities and have never seen a child or adult learn Braille as fast as Kayla.
My original plan was to teach her Braille in the fourth grade and to use only one or two textbooks in Braille when she was ready. But by the end of August 2000, Kayla knew most of the literary Braille code and completed the contractions and the basic rules by October of 2000. I ordered all of her texts in Braille, which she uses on a daily basis.
Kayla became an efficient Braille user after only four months of instruction and uses Braille in every part of her day. She has a Braille 'n Speak Scholar, Braille slates, Braille T-shirts, and Braille pins; and she spends indoor recess teaching her classmates Braille. Kayla also does workshops on Braille for the classes in her school.
In conclusion, on behalf of all Braille readers, I am very proud of her accomplishments and hope that she will be recognized for the accomplishments she made in such a short time.
Pamela S. Sudore
Supervisor, Vision Services
Northshore Education Consortium
That's what Kayla's teacher wrote. Here is the story that appeared in the Salem Evening News, on May 30, 2001:
A Feel for the Language
Braille Second Nature for Blind Peabody Girl
by Linda Halfrey
When ten-year-old Kayla Bentas says she's going to write a letter, be prepared. She jumps up from her desk at the Carroll School, grabs a Perkins Brailler machine, and begins tapping her bright pink nails on the keyboard.
Once she's finished, she yanks the heavy paper from the typewriter-like machine, runs her small fingers over the bumps, and proceeds to translate the Braille, speaking in her sweet, high-pitched voice.
Kayla, who became blind last year following brain surgery to remove a benign tumor, has no trouble banging out the Braille alphabet in about thirty seconds. Typing out the numbers one through twenty-six is a piece of cake too. In fact, the freckle-faced fourth-grader is so proficient in Braille, she's even been teaching it to her classmates during recess.
"If you were a print reader and then became blind, it normally takes a (school) year and two summers for an adult or child to learn Braille," said Pamela Sudore, Bentas' vision and mobility specialist from the Northshore Education Consortium. "Kayla learned it all in four months."
That's just one part of Kayla's amazing story.
It began in the spring, a year ago, when she complained of headaches and double vision. Doctors found what is called a craniopharygloma, a tumor located in the area of the pituitary gland in her brain.
Even though it was removed during a fourteen-hour operation in April 2000, the weight of the tumor crushed Kayla's optic nerves, doctors said, causing her blindness.
Although her parents, Jean and Michael Bentas, were first told her loss of sight would be temporary, they now believe it's permanent.
"It would take a miracle," said Jean Bentas.
In spite of the obstacles, Kayla has thrived in school, returning the past fall having learned Braille over the summer. If that weren't enough to impress her teacher, Maria Dullea, Kayla found out last week she placed third in the country in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest, sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind.
From November to February, Kayla read a whopping 2,451 pages, coming in behind the second-place finisher, who read only sixteen more pages and is twice her age, Sudore said.
"I felt like I put a lot of work in doing it," Kayla said. "After school I tried to read more than one or two [books] a day, and then I read on vacations and weekends."
Spelling remains her favorite subject, but she just can't seem to stop reading.
"I used to not like reading when I could see, but now I like reading," Kayla said. "It's weird."
Inside the principal's office a white sheet of paper lists the names of students who made the 2001 third quarter honor roll.
At the top of that list is Kayla Bentas. "Not only is she a terrific student," said Principal Michael Ryan, "but the way she has adapted to her blindness has amazed everyone who knows her.
"The thing that I think about the most when I think about her is not that she's blind," Ryan said. "She's really an inspiration. She doesn't cry or say, `Why me?' She's always smiling."
Her teachers and parents also highlight her upbeat personality and remarkable reading skills. The fact that she's blind is almost an afterthought.
Maybe that's because Kayla herself merely shrugs off what she's endured this past year.
"I was not scared," she said. "When I was in the hospital, my wish was that my mom would stop crying."
Kayla matter-of-factly points to the top of her brown curly hair and shows where the surgeons cut into her scalp.
"It felt like a headband," she said. "But I felt better because I didn't have headaches."
At home Kayla runs up and down the stairs the same way she used to. She makes her own breakfast and listens to audio movies. Thursday night her mom is taking her to Foxboro Stadium for an N'Sync concert.
"Everything she did before, she does now," her father said. "She has zero self-pity and doesn't feel bad for herself."
Nevertheless, the ordeal has taken a toll on the family, which includes Kayla's older sister Vanessa, thirteen.
"We have our ups and downs, but her spirit keeps us going," he added.
It's that spirit that will now be shared with Channel 5 viewers. This morning a news crew is scheduled to arrive in Peabody to film Kayla. She's been chosen as an A+ student by the news station, an honor her teacher was hoping for when she went online one night and nominated Kayla. Her story will be broadcast tonight at 5:30.
"After working with her, I just realized she does everything the other students do," Dullea said. "She just fit that exceptional-student profile."
Sudore, her vision and mobility specialist, recalls being introduced to Kayla about a month after her surgery. Sudore was prepared to start teaching her Braille from square one. She was shocked to find out Kayla already knew some Braille.
"I remembered it from a class we had in third grade," she said.
Sudore said children usually have an easier time learning Braille than adults, but she's never seen anyone learn as fast as Kayla.
"She's so far ahead. She's motivated to do well in school," Sudore said. "I am very proud of her."
Some days, while Ryan is contemplating some of the everyday problems associated with running the school, he sees Kayla--and he rethinks his day.
"She can make a lot of problems go away, because I see the way she's handling her day," he said. "This is a child that has never stopped learning. And she's learned even more than most. She's learned about coping."
As for the future, Kayla already knows what she wants to do.
"I want to be a Braille teacher," she said, "and a famous writer."
Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
Sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the
National Association to Promote the Use of Braille
Purpose of Contest
The purpose of the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is to encourage blind children to read more Braille. Good readers have confidence in themselves and in their abilities to learn and to adapt to new situations throughout their lifetimes. Braille is a viable alternative to print, yet too many blind children are graduating from our schools with low expectations for themselves as readers. They do not know that Braille readers can be competitive with print readers. This contest helps blind children realize that reading Braille is fun and rewarding.
Prizes for the Contest
First‑, second‑, and third‑place winners are selected from each of the five categories. All winners receive a cash prize, a special certificate, and a distinctive NFB Braille Readers Are Leaders T‑shirt. First‑place winners receive $75, second‑place winners $50, and third‑place winners $25. Students who place fourth and fifth in each category receive Honorable Mention recognition and a special T-shirt. All contestants receive a Braille certificate and a ribbon.
The top ten contestants, regardless of category, who demonstrate the most improvement over their performance in the previous year’s contest receive Most Improved Braille Reader awards of $15, a T-shirt, and a special certificate. To be considered for this award, the contestant must enter the contest for two consecutive years and cannot be a winner in the current contest or any previous one.
Schools for the Blind
In addition to the individual prizes, one or more specialized schools for the blind receive a cash prize of up to $200 for outstanding participation in the contest. See insert for more details.
National recognition, a Braille Readers Are Leaders T-shirt, and a certificate are given to a teacher who has demonstrated excellence in the promotion of Braille literacy through support of the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest.
Join the Club!
Special Club ribbons are awarded to those contestants who achieve the following levels of pages read:
500 + pages 500 Club yellow ribbon
1,000+ pages 1,000 Club green ribbon
4,000+ pages 4,000 Club orange ribbon
8,000+ pages 8,000 Club red ribbon
12,000+ pages 12,000 Club blue ribbon
The sponsors of the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest realize that children may need frequent encouragement and recognition to achieve goals in reading. We hope that teachers and parents will use the club ribbon recognition system to motivate students to strive for higher levels of reading proficiency each year.
Schools are encouraged to schedule public presentations of the certificates. Alternatively, presentations may be made in the classroom, at the local National Federation of the Blind Chapter meeting, or in some other appropriate setting. Members of the National Federation of the Blind will award the certificates and other prizes whenever possible. Certificates, ribbons, and a winners list will be mailed to contestants no later than the first week in May, 2002.
Rules for the Contest
Winners will be chosen based on the number of Braille pages read. The completed contest entry form should be postmarked no later than February 15, 2002. (Please call or e-mail to request an extension of the deadline. See contact information below.) Contestants must submit with the entry form a print list of the materials and pages read. Entry forms without this list will be returned to the sender. See insert “Common Questions and Answers” for more details.
The certifying authority is responsible for (1) verifying that the student read the Braille material listed and that the material was read between November 1, 2001, and February 1, 2002; (2) filling out and sending in the contest entry form in an accurate, complete, and timely fashion; and (3) assisting the student in finding Braille materials to read for the contest.
Teachers, librarians, and parents may serve as certifying authorities. The certifying authority must be prepared to cooperate if the contest judges have questions or need additional information about an entry. All decisions of the judges are final.
For more information contact:
(Mrs.) Barbara Cheadle
National Organization of Parents
of Blind Children
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
(410) 659-9314, ext. 360
Contest Entry Form
Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
November 1, 2001 to February 1, 2002
Mail entry form after February 1, 2002 to:
Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Birthdate______/____/____ Age__________ Grade_____________________
City_____________________________ State__________ ZIP___________
Parent’s Name____________________ Phone H (___)___-____ W (___)___-__
School Name___________________________________ Phone ______________
Certifying Authority Name ____________________________________________
Position: Parent [ ] Teacher [ ] Librarian [ ]
City_________________________ State____________ ZIP______________
Phone H (____)______-_______ W (____)______-_______
Please send certificate and ribbon to:
STUDENT [ ] SCHOOL [ ] CERTIFYING AUTHORITY [ ]
YES [ ] NO [ ] Did you enter last year’s contest (2000-2001)?
Category: (Check only one)
[ ] Beginning Print-to-Braille
This category is for former or current print readers who began to learn and use Braille after first grade and within the past two years. Please give month and year Braille instruction began:
[ ] Kindergarten and First Grade
[ ] Second through Fourth Grades
[ ] Fifth through Eighth Grades
[ ] Ninth through Twelfth Grades
If you should be a winner, what size T-shirt would you require?
(circle one) Children’s: S (6‑8) M (10‑12) L (14‑16)
Adult: S (34‑36) M (38‑40) L (42‑44) XL
Name of Student:_________________
Book title/Magazine article # of Pages
Please duplicate this page as needed Total # of pages______
To the best of my knowledge this student did read these Braille pages between the dates of November 1, 2001, and February 1, 2002.
Signature of Certifying Authority
1. When do I mail in the contest form? Mail the completed form between February 1 and February 15, 2002.
2. What if I didn’t know about the contest until after it began? Can I still enter? Yes.
3. If I enter late, can I still count the Braille pages I have read since November 1? Yes, if your certifying authority will verify that you read those pages.
4. Can I count my Braille textbooks? No.
5. Can I count textbooks if they are not the textbooks I am now using for my regular class work? Yes.
6. What if I don’t finish reading a book? Can I count the pages that I did read? Yes.
7. Can supplemental reading books to beginning reading series be counted for the contest? Yes.
8. What constitutes a Braille page? Each side of an embossed piece of paper is considered one page. If you read both sides, then you have read two pages. This is true even if there are only two Braille lines on one side.
9. Can I count title pages, tables of contents, Brailled descriptions of illustrations, etc.? Yes.
10. I have to transcribe books for my beginning reader. Most of these books have only a few words on a page. If the print book has more pages than my Braille transcription, how do I count pages for the contest? For the purposes of this contest, the number of Braille pages counted per book should never be less than the number of print pages in that book. This is so even if the teacher has transcribed the entire book onto one Braille page. To avoid confusion we suggest that the books be transcribed page‑for‑page, one Braille page for each print page, whenever possible.
11. I have trouble finding enough Braille material for my older students. Do you have any suggestions? Yes. The National Federation of the Blind has free Braille materials suitable for blind youth. To request the NFB Literature Order Form contact National Federation of the Blind, Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314, <[email protected]>. You may also view the literature list on the NFB Web site at: <www.nfb.org>.
12. Can I read the same book more than once? Yes, but up to three times only.
Schools for the Blind
2001 - 2002 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
Residential or specialized schools for the blind which promote the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest among their students are eligible to compete for a cash prize of up to $200 and national recognition for outstanding participation in the contest. No one criterion is used to determine which school or schools receive the cash award(s) and/or recognition. Factors that the judges consider in making this decision include:
Ö__The percentage of the student body (total and academic) participating in the contest.
Ö__Quality of material read by participating students.
Ö__Total number of pages read by participating students.
Ö__Improvement in quality and quantity of participation over a previous year’s performance.
Ö__ Number of national winners.
Ö__Creative ways in which the contest is used to promote Braille literacy and a love of reading among the participating students.
To receive full consideration for the cash award for your school, please return this form and additional documentation as desired to Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
Name of School__________________________________________
Total number of students enrolled______________________________
Number of students enrolled in an academic program _______________
(Students who are learning to read and write in any medium.)
Number of students participating in this year’s contest _______________
School telephone number and other information you wish to provide
Signature and title:
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Christine Faltz]
by Christine Faltz
From the Editor: In 1987 Christine Faltz attended her first convention of the National Federation of the Blind. She was a scholarship winner, and the community and philosophy she discovered that summer in Phoenix profoundly affected her life. She completed college and law school. Then she married and became a mother and leader in the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. She has come to be a part of the bedrock on which the NFB is building the future. Christine does not demand the spotlight. Wherever she goes and whatever she does, she lives her philosophy of blindness. In the following article she quietly reminds us of what we are called to do and why it is that people of conscience must answer the call. This is what she says:
Whether we like it or not, whether we accept and acknowledge it or not, the actions, words, successes, and failures of blind children and adults color the way individual blind people are perceived by the public. As with other minorities, for better or worse the entire group is aided or hindered by the interactions the public has with its members.
I have read quite a few statements lately by blind people to the effect that Erik Weihenmayer's successful climb of Mt. Everest is his accomplishment alone, that it in no way helps blind people in general, and that it is foolhardy and a waste of time to consider his stunning success a victory for the blind. Certainly the everyday struggles, plans, wishes, and deeds of blind people will be little affected by Mr. Weihenmayer's climb. The unemployment rate of the blind is unlikely to change; substandard rehabilitation and other training will still flourish-–the NFB has quite a lot of work still to do. Many refuse to acknowledge that a blind person's succeeding at a task unthinkable to most sighted people does affect, on many levels, the way blind people are perceived.
Yes, some will consider this a freak occurrence, a feat totally beyond most of us, especially blind people. Some will say that, whether one is sighted or blind, attempting to climb a mountain is a ridiculous, reckless risk to take. Others will admire the sheer will, strength, commitment, and determination necessary to accomplish such a task. Of course the furor has already died down, and the vast majority of men and women, sighted and blind, are no longer thinking or talking about it. Erik Weihenmayer's success is an extreme example of the way our actions can shape public perceptions of the blind.
Four years ago a terrible accident took place in my hometown. A young married couple, parents of a six-week-old baby, were traveling home in their car and were hit by a bus. The husband was killed; the mother went into a coma for several weeks. When she finally became conscious, she was blind and widowed and had an infant.
Many people, when faced with gradual or sudden blindness, take months, sometimes years, to accept it-–even more tragically, some never do. This woman, however, threw herself into her rehabilitation, orientation and mobility, and so on. What made her think she could overcome the obstacles life had thrust in her path?
A counselor at the New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped told me that, while still in the hospital and faced with the likelihood that she would never see again, the young mother said that her husband had often mentioned having seen a blind woman walking around with her baby on her back: shopping, strolling, attending Little Gym classes. "If she can do it, then I can too," the woman said. The counselor told me this story because the person the husband had seen was me. From what I understand after having spoken several times with the woman and keeping my ear to the grapevine, all are doing well.
A few weeks ago I took my two-year-old son Braden to a Music TogetherÔ class. The class uses singing, playing with instruments, and movement. The teacher and the other parents and children were matter-of-fact as I arrived, stowed my cane against a wall, and removed Braden's shoes and socks and then my own. All went smoothly and naturally until it was time for the movement portion of the class.
"Now let's stand up," the teacher said. "I'm going to put on some music, and I want you to shake your instruments and move your bodies all around the room any way you like. Braden and Christine, you can just stand against the wall."
This was not delivered as an order or in any way one might consider mean-spirited, condescending, or disparaging. There was merely an assumption, built on lack of information, that we would not be interested in or able to participate in the movement portion of the class.
I did not contradict the suggestion; I simply stood and joined the others on the mat and proceeded to do as the teacher directed. To her credit, once she saw that we fully intended to join in, she verbally described what we were to do.
Most people would have quietly realized that they had made an error and moved on, not wanting to acknowledge their mistake publicly. At the conclusion of the class, however, while I was replacing Braden's shoes and socks, the teacher came over, and, unconcerned by the proximity of the other parents, apologized profusely for her ignorant assumption. She was clearly bothered by what she had done, yet she was not above admitting it in public. I nonchalantly assured her that it was perfectly fine, and everyone knew now that we wouldn't be missing out on anything!
Quite frankly, I can easily see myself in an alternate universe, self-consciously hugging the wall with my son, worried about making the teacher or the other parents uncomfortable: "What if she bumps into a kid?" "What if her son gets hurt?" There was a time, prior to my introduction to the NFB, when I would have presumed that it was my responsibility to put others at ease with my blindness. If that meant missing out on an activity or experience because they were uncomfortable with my participation, so be it. I now know that I have a much greater responsibility to take risks, to succeed often, and sometimes to fail in the name of giving myself, my children, and other blind people the right to have the same opportunities as our sighted peers. While I go about my ordinary, daily business, apparently I often manage to educate.
Yes, it is a bit frustrating when one of the neighbors announces, "We're all just so amazed at you; we talk about you all the time," merely because I have the fortitude to venture forth with my children for a walk. But the young children on our block take it in stride, which makes my daughter Samantha's social interactions and school participation easier. The young kids have not yet been exposed to the low expectations the public has for the disabled, so they see me merely doing what their parents do, sometimes in different ways. Do my activities have any impact whatsoever on blind people across the country or across the world? Absolutely-–not necessarily individually (though, as I have already described, this can happen too) but cumulatively. The more blind people do, whether ordinary or extraordinary, the less the public pays attention to the fact that we can do it and simply accepts that we are doing it.
My family and I planned to attend the Visions Vacation Camp for the Blind for a week this summer. As it turned out, my husband Marshall could not take the time off work. Rather than change our plans (Samantha is very anxious for recreation with blind peers) I decided that I would stay at the camp alone with our kids-–after all, I would merely be doing what I always do. It would be a different environment with new things to do and new friends to acquire.
Several times during that week I became aware of the admiration and amazement people had for Sam, who at just under six has been using a cane for more than four years. Samantha was confidently moving about the camp within a day, demanding that people leave her alone and let her do it herself. My son, who has not yet grasped the concept that the cane is not a weapon, nonetheless struck out often on his own, strolling about the camp and absolutely loving the pool.
One night at the dining hall, following a particularly frustrating meal with both children, I prepared to leave the premises. I asked if Sam had her cane, lifted my screaming toddler from the highchair, and struggled to maintain my composure, which by this time was awfully shaky. Directly behind me someone whispered, "She's a good mother."
Someone else replied, "She's a very good mother." It was all that I needed to realize that, no matter how demanding and inconsolable my kids might be, I could not forget that I was, regardless of whether I wanted to be or not, a role model for both blind people considering families and sighted parents with blind children, not to mention the camp staff who did not necessarily have experience with blind people and who often spent their summers assisting blind men, women, and children who had substandard blindness skills.
There is, of course, another side to this involuntary example-setting. After all, we cannot always be on our best behavior. There are bound to be times when we lose our tempers, use sloppy blindness techniques, or fail at something we sincerely wanted to prove to ourselves and to others that we could do. This is part of the human condition, and we have to accept that there will be times, despite our best efforts, when we will give the public a false notion of the way "those people" are. (How often have you heard a sighted person say, "I know you blind people hate when people offer to help," because he or she had one encounter with a surly blind person?)
It does become an issue when we refuse to improve our skills or refuse to set goals to improve ourselves in other ways. This is when the worst examples are set and the worst stereotypes are confirmed. The well-intentioned parent or teacher who does not insist on Braille or mobility instruction; the caregiver who thinks it is okay to permit a blind child to sit poking at his eyes in the playpen all day; the blind adult who always relies on others to get him or her from one place to another, who refuses to learn to dress appropriately, to learn to cut his or her food-–all of this affects me, my blind children, and our blind brothers and sisters. The decisions we make, and those made for us-–by parents, instructors, VR counselors, and so on-–affect all blind people to some extent, and the cumulative effect is enormous.
It is time to be brutally honest with ourselves. When a properly trained, successful blind person distances himself from the blind community because he does not want to associate with those who are not as fortunate, is it because he thinks himself superior, or because he knows that it could easily have been him in their shoes? Geography, family, one's own sense of self, the quality of rehabilitation services, and the dedication or lack thereof of educators make all the difference. We have a responsibility to show blind people, their friends, and families that being blind is a highly manageable characteristic. Why, after all, are my neighbors amazed that I function as they do? It is simple: there are few blind people to begin with and even fewer well-trained blind people willing to acknowledge their positions as role models for the rest of the blind community as well as for blindness professionals, policy-makers, educators, service providers and employers.
Many parents of blind children have come to me saying, "I want to help, and my child wants blind peers, but I really don't want my child around a teenager who can't dress herself or a kid who rocks all the time. I don't want my kid picking up bad habits or hearing negative talk." How, I ask these parents, are those other parents and blind children to learn that they are in dire need of working around the ruts in the road to independence if they are only in contact with those with similar difficulties? Where are they supposed to find examples of self-confidence, good blindness skills, and a healthy attitude toward the future?
Parents and teachers are the first line of defense against poor training, but unless they hold the same expectations for their blind children as they do for sighted peers (self-care skills, assigned chores, completing schoolwork on time, moving about with age-appropriate independence, participating in social activities around the neighborhood and at school), precious opportunities and years will be lost. So the next time someone declares that she does not attend large gatherings of the blind because "all those people who don't take care of themselves and don't know how to socialize depress me," ask them who will be there to set a different example.
At the 2000 NFB convention in Atlanta, a sighted teenager said to me, "All these NFB leaders get around really well, and they make great speeches, and they say all the right things, and they make a sort of pep rally, go-team atmosphere. But I look around, and so many of these people don't measure up to all the politically correct we-can-all-be-successful; we-can-do-practically-anything talk."
"The very fact," I told her, "that you are able to make such comparisons, that the blind population has successful, mobile, articulate, well-groomed members setting examples for the others and striving for better training and other opportunities for all of us is a credit to the NFB, its philosophy, and the work it has done and is doing. Social change takes a very long time. After the Civil War it took one hundred years to pass a Civil Rights Act in this country. The NFB has existed only since 1940. We have a lot of ground to cover. And the most fundamental problem with blindness training is that families of blind people, blind people themselves, and blindness professionals are not exposed to enough well trained, gainfully employed, independent blind people because as is the case with other minority groups, the so-called lucky ones leave and don't look back."
Sometimes looking back makes me angry, sad, and frustrated. However, despite being well trained in most areas, I would love to have had the opportunity to devote some time to in-depth training in blindness techniques-–I still might some day. We can always do better. I am still young. I want my children to realize that even I, the amazing blind lady with the amazing blind kids, can improve. I never want them to believe that, just because they reach a certain point in life, self-improvement stops. And I never want them to forget that a key reason I boogied around the room at Braden's dance class is that fifteen years ago I met a group of people who were willing to commit their time, energy, and spirit to setting an example for me to follow, an example that starkly contradicted my family's insistence that I was the cream of the crop and that there simply weren't blind peers to whom I could truly relate.
I know that it is often a colossal pain in the derriere to feel that you are always being scrutinized. I know you would prefer to live your life without having to think that virtually everything you do, do not do, say, or do not say will very probably have ramifications down the road for some unknown, unsuspecting blind person. Whenever you experience a moment, a day--or even a longer period where you just want to scream, "I'm sick of being a role model; I don't want that responsibility!" ask yourself where you might be today if you hadn't had the support of family and friends, good advocacy and self-assertiveness skills, the wherewithal to fight for good blindness training, and a positive philosophy of blindness. Then ask yourself: if all the people, individually and collectively, who influenced my success had decided to leave me to the usual expectations, the well-grounded stereotypes, and the tired old attitudes, whose example would I be following today? Then stand up straight, brush off your spirit, and let's continue to teach together, even when it feels as if we're alone.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Debbie Stein]
by Deborah Kent Stein
From the Editor: Late last fall I received a review copy of a new biography of Laura Bridgman, the deaf-blind woman whose education in the mid-nineteenth century provided hope and guidance to Helen Keller's parents and teachers. I immediately asked Debbie Stein, First Vice President of the NFB of Illinois, to review the book for the Braille Monitor. She agreed to do so, and a few months later the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness asked her to review that book and another on the same subject that had also just been published. Debbie asked if we would be willing to reprint the JVIB review rather than having her write a second review of only the one book. Since the readership of the two publications is substantially different, we were happy to do so and therefore reprint with permission the review, which appeared in the July, 2001, issue of JVIB. Here it is:
The Imprisoned Guest: Samuel Gridley Howe and Laura Bridgman, The Original Deaf-Blind Girl by Elisabeth Gitter, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 329 pages.
The Education of Laura Bridgman, by Ernest Freeberg. Harvard University Press, 264 pages.
Coincidences abound in history. Tinkerers on distant continents simultaneously invent the same amazing gadget; within weeks of one another scientists in far-flung laboratories discover the same natural principle. A comparable phenomenon occurs from time to time in the literary world. The year 2000, for instance, saw the publication of three novels based on the life of painter Jan Vermeer. Now, in 2001, comes yet another startling synchronicity--a pair of biographies of the wonder-child of the 1840's, Laura Bridgman.
Until the appearance of these two fascinating and quite different accounts, most people knew Laura Bridgman (if they recognized her name at all) only as a footnote in the well-known story of Helen Keller. Keller was not the first deaf-blind student successfully educated at the Perkins Institution for the Blind in Boston. Laura Bridgman, her once-famous predecessor, arrived at the school fifty years before Keller, in 1837. Like Keller, Bridgman was seven years old when she began her education, and like Keller, she lost her sight and hearing due to an illness when she was two. Both children were postlingually deaf, having acquired the basics of language before their hearing loss occurred. Both were exceptionally bright, curious, and eager to learn.
Yet despite their striking similarities, Bridgman and Keller were very different people. Elisabeth Gitter in The Imprisoned Guest and Ernest Freeberg in The Education of Laura Bridgman make it clear that Laura Bridgman was not merely a less illustrious version of Keller but a remarkable woman in her own right. Though she spent most of her life at Perkins, her influence reached around the world.
A professor of Victorian literature, Elisabeth Gitter first learned about Bridgman from Charles Dickens, who devoted a chapter to her in his travelogue, American Notes. Intrigued, Gitter wondered if Perkins might still have records documenting Bridgman's life. "To my astonishment," she writes in her preface to The Imprisoned Guest, "I found the buried story of Laura's life fully documented in bundles and boxes of uncatalogued, unpublished manuscripts that have been stored, along with her teachers' journals and [Dr. Samuel Gridley] Howe's voluminous correspondence, in the Perkins basement." This wealth of records, including a trove of Bridgman's own correspondence to family and friends "penciled in Laura's distinctive square lettering," comprises the rich source material for both of the new biographies. Nevertheless, the books are surprisingly different and arrive at different interpretations of Laura Bridgman's life.
Like all of us Laura Bridgman was the product of her particular time and place. Both Gitter and Freeberg provide detailed background information about the intellectual and spiritual climate that helped to shape her history. In 1829, when Bridgman was born on a New Hampshire farm, the nation was young and optimistic. In New England leaders in the Unitarian Church had broken away from the time-worn Calvinistic view of human nature and begun to argue for the essential goodness of humankind. Zealous reformers believed that all human beings, including those with disabilities, were capable of learning and of contributing to society.
An outgrowth of these religious and philosophical ideas, the Perkins Institution was chartered in the year of Bridgman's birth. The trustees placed the school under the direction of Dr. Samuel Howe, a flamboyant figure known as a passionate champion of the underdog. Early in the 1820's Howe helped the Greeks fight for independence from Turkey; more than thirty years later he aided the abolitionist John Brown in his famous raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. During the 1830's and 1840's Howe channeled his impressive energies into the education of blind people. His early writings foreshadow the work of Jacobus tenBroek, Kenneth Jernigan, and other twentieth-century leaders in the movement for blind civil rights. Howe contended that, given education and opportunity, blind people could become productive and independent. Each blind student should be taught according to his abilities. According to Freeberg, Howe claimed that "While the cost of education for the blind was greater, ... his students were simply laying claim to a democratic birthright, a social obligation more fundamental than any financial consideration."
Howe saw blind people in New England as oppressed by poverty, ignorance, and the prejudice of the sighted. Their emancipation provided him with the sort of challenge he adored. To change the public's image of blindness--and to solicit donations for Perkins--Howe opened the school to the public once a week and had his pupils perform plays, recite poetry, and work mathematical problems. He went on tour with some of his more talented students, putting them through their paces at public exhibitions. Laura Bridgman, a child who was profoundly deaf as well as totally blind, presented Howe with a spectacular opportunity to demonstrate the capacities of disabled children, as well as his achievements as an educator, to an admiring world.
The complex relationship between Bridgman and Howe figures prominently in both biographies. Gitter elaborates on Howe's teaching methods and Laura's slow but steady progress toward the acquisition of language. She reveals Laura's lifelong attachment to Howe and her wracking grief when he eventually lost interest in her after his marriage and the births of his own children. Freeberg, on the other hand, emphasizes Howe's intellectual interest in Bridgman and the "spiritual experiment" which motivated much of his work with her. Unlike Gitter, he shows Howe as Laura's devoted friend and benefactor throughout her life.
Overall, Gitter probes more deeply into Laura's personal relationships than does Freeberg. Quotes from letters and journals depict Laura's intimate and sometimes turbulent connections with several of her female teachers. Gitter also devotes extensive space to Laura's relationship with her parents and siblings, especially her beloved sister Mary, who died young, and her brother Addison, whose attention Laura craved and seldom received.
While Freeberg too writes about Laura's interpersonal relationships, his approach is chiefly that of the social historian. He elaborates on Howe's effort to discover "man's true religious faith" by allowing Laura to discover God on her own terms--with a bit of gentle guidance that Howe alone could provide. When Bridgman was "tainted" at thirteen by religious ideas from some of her other teachers, Howe grew incensed and gave up hope that the girl could ever prove his conviction about the true nature of the soul.
In the heady early years of Bridgman's education Howe described her as pure and angelic. Freeberg quotes one of Howe's reports: "The different traits of her character have unfolded themselves successively as pure and spotless as the petals of a rose; and in every action unbiased by extraneous influence, she 'gravitates toward the right' as naturally as a stone falls to the ground." In truth, however, Laura Bridgman was thoroughly human. She was by turns affectionate and empathic, demanding, willful, and even violent. Frustrated by her struggles to communicate, she sometimes kicked, pinched, and slapped her fellow pupils. She hounded her teachers with questions which, though ingenuous, seemed exhaustingly endless. Gitter gathers a host of examples: Why do flies fly with wings instead of walking on the floor? Why don't fish have legs? Does the horse know it is wrong to go slow? Why don't horses and flies go to bed? Why do flies not have names like boys and girls do? Why do cows not draw? Is the worm afraid when the hen eats him? Why do cows have two horns?
Laura also had a streak of mischief, a sense of humor that sparkles in some of her journal entries. After a rat nibbled a loaf of bread in her room, she wrote (as quoted by Freeberg), "I think that the rat ought to be imprisoned. He ought to have a conscience on purpose to reprove himself very much. I must ask W. [her teacher Sarah Wight] to please teach him about doing right & wrong & being honest in the night. He would love her very much for her good influence."
Neither Gitter nor Freeberg has a background in the field of blindness, yet both authors unveil an important era in the history of blind people. These books describe life in the early days at Perkins--the "character-strengthening" regimen of cold baths, stark diet, and physical exercise; the green ribbons with which the students were required to cover their eyes in order to spare visitors from glimpsing any unsightly disfigurement. Both authors note that few of Howe's students succeeded in finding work after completing their education. Freeberg is clear that blind men and women encountered the prejudice of employers and that Howe's emphasis on handicrafts did not prepare his students for work in an increasingly industrial society. Gitter, on the other hand, turns to psychoanalytic theory and suggests that fear and rejection are virtually inevitable: "Looking at the blind--who cannot look back or see themselves seen--is inescapably voyeuristic. And as Freudian theorists have pointed out, voyeurism can awaken unconscious fears that ocular punishment will be exacted, an eye for an eye, for ocular pleasures."
During Laura Bridgman's childhood Howe wrote eloquent reports on her progress which were published in newspapers and magazines across the country. She became a celebrity, like any child star in today's world. Some claimed that she was one of the most famous females on earth, second only to Queen Victoria. People flocked to see her. They pressed around her by the hundreds, bringing gifts, shaking her hand, and collecting her coveted autograph. Her quick intelligence, her eagerness to connect and to learn won hearts and opened minds. Her achievements paved the way for countless blind and deaf-blind students who followed her. As Freeberg concludes: "Their academic accomplishments and their courage in the face of imposing obstacles forced many Americans to rethink their ideas about the very meaning of disability. Chipping away at centuries of accumulated prejudice and misunderstanding, these students and their teachers began to dismantle one of the greatest barriers faced by the blind and the deaf, the deep-rooted misconception that people with sensory handicaps are unreachable and somehow less than fully human."
One book alone about Laura Bridgman might easily have dropped into obscurity. The simultaneous publication of two books about this forgotten figure is arousing unprecedented interest. Perhaps the odd coincidence will benefit Freeberg and Gitter, boosting the sales of both of their books. In any case, together or separately, these biographies are meticulously researched and wonderfully absorbing. Laura Bridgman's story is part of our heritage as blind people and as Americans, and it is time for her story to be told.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pamela Dubel]
Lessons of the River
by Pamela Dubel
From the Editor: The following story first appeared in Reflecting the Flame, the seventeenth in the NFB's Kernel Book series of paperbacks. It begins with President Maurer's introduction:
Pamela Dubel is director of the National Federation of the Blind's training center in Ruston, Louisiana. Students at the Center take part in activities designed to change their beliefs about what kinds of things blind people can and cannot do. In "Lessons of the River" Pam tells of her experience on a white- water rafting expedition. Here is what she has to say:
It was a steamy August day. As we stepped out of the van and walked toward the river, I was eager to begin our trip. I had traveled to Tennessee for a white-water rafting expedition with a group of blind adults who were students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
We planned to paddle down the river at leisure. After completing a brief safety course and practicing our paddling skills, we were ready to go. Our large group was divided into about six smaller ones. My group consisted of five people--three students, another blind staff member, and me. Our raft did not have a guide or any sighted person to give us directions.
The Louisiana Center for the Blind founded its program based on the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. The NFB believes that blindness need not be a barrier to success. The white-water rafting trip was designed to help dispel negative misconceptions that we all have about what blind people can do.
The leisurely ride turned out to be much more arduous than we had expected. Conditions on the river were less than ideal. For instance, the water level was extremely low, which meant that our raft frequently got stuck on rocks and other debris. It also meant that we had to do a great deal of paddling if we ever wanted to eat dinner that night.
It was very quiet on the river. We wondered how we could be sure we were heading the right way. Would we notice the landmarks that had been pointed out during our safety briefing if we couldn't see them? My doubts persisted as the hours slowly dragged by. My arms began to ache. Although I had been involved in the National Federation of the Blind for several years and believed fully in the capabilities of blind people, I must admit that I wondered if we would ever see land again.
However, my hope was restored. Soon we heard a distant train. We had been told that we would notice railroad tracks running parallel to the river about midway through the trip. We could feel the heat from the sun and used the cue to help us maintain direction.
Next we traveled under a bridge, another landmark. Although the bridge was too high above us to reach, we could tell that we were under it by the changes in temperature and sound. Soon we began to hear others from our group up ahead pulling their rafts out of the water. We cheered with great pride. We had made it.
By using problem-solving skills and our other senses, we had navigated the river independently. Our obstacle that day had not been our lack of eyesight. Rather it had been our doubts in our abilities and our attitudes about the limitations of blindness. However, we had demonstrated that perseverance and a positive outlook bring rewards.
Certainly there were times when blindness had been an inconvenience during our trip, but not a barrier to enjoying the challenges associated with rafting. With a little cooperation and creativity we had conquered the river.
That night, as I reflected upon the day's events, I felt a sense of pride in our accomplishments. Although my whole body ached from paddling and I was exhausted, I felt a renewed sense of confidence in myself and other blind people. Just as we had conquered the rocks and challenges of the river, my involvement in the National Federation of the Blind had taught me that I could overcome the barriers imposed by our misconceptions about blindness.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mark Noble]
My Blindness, My World
by Mark Noble
From the Editor: The following speech is reprinted from the summer, 2000, issue of Branches: An Outreach of Blind Washingtonians. It was delivered at the 1999 convention of the NFB of Washington.
Most of you here today will believe me when I tell you that as a five-year-old I was not particularly familiar with or devoted to the study of religion. Moreover, those of you who have grown to know me in the thirty-nine years since would be even less inclined to describe me in such lofty terms. Although I consider myself religious, I would readily agree with you: I am not a theologian. Yet even as a five-year-old I would have felt ready to take issue with at least one oft-quoted fifteenth-century Dutch scholar, Desiderius Erasmus, who in his collection of proverbs Adagia wrote "In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man would be king." I would have known from personal experience that in a nation in which everyone else was blind, the one-eyed man would have been derided as different, shunned by at least some of his neighbors, and pitied by some of his peers and their parents and would have felt the pain of prejudice, the sting of rejection, and the lash of loneliness.
Don't worry; this isn't going to be one of those sad-sack speeches in which I bemoan the quality of my life or even my childhood. In fact, I had great parents and have terrific brothers and sisters with whom, for the most part, I have a loving relationship. As we all know, families play a central role in determining the future success of all adults, not just blind adults. All of us owe what we are and who we are to our earliest experiences.
Our parents especially are the chief architects of our psychological foundations that must withstand the quakes in life that can and do shake us to our very core. Unlike the owners of buildings, however, as much as I love my son, I can't purchase an insurance policy that will sustain his ego strength in times of turmoil. What I can do is what my parents did for me--help him learn to choose. The evolution from infancy through childhood, puberty, and finally adulthood is measured in degrees of choice. Choice, our choice, determines our world.
Earlier I mentioned some of the challenges I faced because of some people's discomfort with me because I am blind--talk about choice. I doubt there is a blind person here who at one time or another hasn't been rejected solely because of blindness. Whether we are rejected as a playmate or a colleague, the sting is always a part of us. Yet even something that hurt so much affords us a choice. Do those rejections, whether experienced early on the playground or later in the workplace, embitter us or make us more compassionate?
I am not Pollyanna-ish. The ache, and yes anger, I feel is genuine and not wholly salved by my concern for others. Yet I must ask you, which is more productive? My understanding is that such experience is like a vaccination. Some of those bad times are helpful in inoculating us against the well-meaning but patronizing things people say like how wonderful it is, given our blindness, that we can do anything from walking across the room to reading a book to even smiling. More important, though, is our ability to channel those frustrations into action for ourselves and each other.
As a kid, when I thought about it, I hated the fact that I was blind, not because I couldn't discern colors or visually perceive a sunrise, but because I wasn't like everyone else I knew. From my vantage point I wasn't normal. My experience then has been confirmed by my work with juvenile delinquents, blind kids, and especially my son, who is not blind. All children, more than anything else, want to fit in. Hence my hypothesis that in the country of the blind the one eyed man would most likely be hauled around in a circus for all to poke and prod at and serve as an object lesson for unappreciative offspring.
Although I wasn't as rare as that, I sometimes felt just as ostracized, so I would pretend to be able to see. I just loved one particular children's book. As a lot of you probably did with books you liked, having heard it about a bazillion times, I committed it to memory. I remember one time I was stationed at the dining room table wearing swimming goggles I pretended helped me see. I was pretending to read the book when my brother, using the tone reserved for siblings the world over, said "Why are you reading the book upside down, stupid? By the way, you will get to go to your first and last funeral if you wear my goggles again."
I got in lots of fights when I was a kid. If some other kid challenged my abilities or right to play or even brought up my blindness, I was ready for combat. As I matured, or as we used to say in the seventies, became more self-actualized, I became less confrontational. Going to the school for the blind was a mixed bag. On the one hand, I hated being separated from my close-knit family; but, despite the restrictions of living in an institution that employed a number of people with antiquated ideas, I loved being with other kids like me. In other words, I was at long last normal.
This allowed me to take advantage of the gifts my parents had given me: ego strength, the experiences of give and take learned from my brothers and sisters, and the love of learning which was so prevalent among the children and adults I admired. It allowed me to letter in swimming in high school so that by the time in the tenth grade school officials politely suggested, after a recurrence of unwanted trouble, that "Mark might be happier in another environment," I was able to have a very successful academic and barely adequate social life in a public school.
I mentioned the evolution of learning to make appropriate choices earlier in this presentation. All those experiences I have discussed thus far helped fashion what kind of world I would eventually create for myself. But my self-actualization process wasn't done by a long shot. Back then I still had a lot of growing up to do.
In my teenage and college years I was still seeking--to use a word invented by former President Warren G. Harding--normalcy. As a teenager, like many teenagers both blind and sighted, my quest for normalcy was transformed into my wanting to be cool. I would have done anything to be cool, to be accepted.
After experiencing some results of what social-worker types euphemistically call inappropriate choices, I learned the value of making better choices. When you are a kid, you have nothing to say about who your family is. You are stuck with whatever you've been blessed or cursed with. As an adult you choose your family--not only your spouse, but the people that you include in your world, like where you work, those with whom you associate, those with whom you grow.
You have choice, whether to be mired in the hell that you allow other people to create for you or maybe, just maybe, that you create for yourself. When I say hell, I am not talking about the hell of Dante's Inferno. I am talking about the hell we create for ourselves or allow others to create for us on earth: the hell of bitterness and despair, where one is devoid of hope, the hell in which far too many of our blind brothers and sisters reside. this is the hell depicted in the mythological expression that some so-called professionals in work at the expense of the blind prattle on about. This is a worldview that discerns two different worlds: the so-called blind world and the sighted world.
As for me, I choose to live in the real world, where people both blind and sighted work, pay taxes, raise our kids, worry about our mortgages, and yes, change what it means to be blind. I spoke about choice and about choosing your family. Twenty-three years ago my friend Tom Craig invited me to my very first NFB function, what college kids still call a kegger. Over the course of the next few years I learned to replace the hurt I once felt with hope. And I learned not to replace but to extend my family to include thousands of blind people across the nation who, like me, believed in the capacity of people who just happen to be, among other things, blind. If you would like to share this vision of hope, come join us. This is my world, and I welcome you to it.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ivan A. Lopez]
The Greatness of the Arena
by Ivan A. Lopez
From the Editor: Ivan Lopez is a 1999 National Federation of the Blind Scholarship winner. His life has not been easy, but he has learned never to give up and never to become so busy that he cannot extend a hand to help someone else along his way. He has recently become a chapter President in New Mexico. He brings to this new job all the thoughtfulness and energy those who know him have come to expect. He has a firm grasp on the essence of leadership. This is what he says:
As the new chapter President of the National Federation of the Blind of Roswell, New Mexico, I look at the many things I need to learn in order to make this a successful chapter. Last week while attending my third meeting as chapter President, I mentioned to the members the way I saw our chapter. It is like an engine. I said, "Together we are components of this NFB chapter; we form this engine. In order for us to keep our NFB movement effective, we must be fully active." An engine would not function properly, if at all, if any of its individual components were missing or inactive.
When I moved to Roswell recently, one of the things on my list was to contact the NFB chapter President. I was interested in joining. To my surprise I found that the chapter was inactive. I did not let this bother me. I suggested to the President that we should start meeting again. We started calling the members and asking them if they would like to start coming back to the monthly meetings. Fortunately we had a good response from most people, so we got together. As I talked with them individually, I asked how the chapter had become inactive. Not surprisingly their responses were either that one person did all the work, or that people had held titles but did not do the work. With each member dedicated to doing the tasks he or she does best, we could revive this organization and become strong again. Having agreed to meet this goal, we then moved on to chapter business. Our engine revved to life again.
I am happy to report that the Roswell chapter has a great potential for growing and becoming an asset to this organization. We have a wonderfully diverse group of individuals to work with. All our positions have been filled, and I believe that we are all working together to meet our objectives as an NFB chapter.
While studying NFB philosophy, it is crucial for all of us to be serious about our jobs as officers and members in the Federation. If we are promoting our services of helping our blind brothers and sisters through living out the NFB philosophy, demonstrating effective blindness skills and techniques, and actively involving ourselves in the community, we must live up to our words. This is why there is only one National Federation of the Blind. If we the blind want to improve our quality of life as blind members of society, we must work towards it. We should not wait for others to give us what we can achieve for ourselves. With these words in mind let's look at one of my favorite quotations from Theodore Roosevelt from The Man in the Arena.
It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, if he wins, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
I believe that it's my job as President of the Roswell chapter to empower and encourage our members to take pride and become men and women in the arena.
Have you made your campaign pledge yet? We need everyone's help. The construction cost of our projected National Research and Training Institute for the Blind is eighteen million dollars. Please take this opportunity to complete your pledge form. Without you our job will be just that much harder.
The Campaign To Change What It Means To Be Blind
Capital Campaign Pledge Intention
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To support the priorities of the Campaign, I (we) pledge the sum of $___________.
My (our) pledge will be payable in installments of $ __________ over the next ____ years (we encourage pledges paid over five years), beginning _____________, on the following schedule (check one): __ annually, __ semi-annually, __ quarterly, __ monthly
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Please list (my) our names in all Campaign Reports and on the Campaign Wall of Honor in the appropriate Giving Circle as follows:
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Signed: ________________________________ Date: __________________
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Joyce Green]
Did You Fall?
by Joyce Green
From the Editor: Joyce Green is a longtime Federationist and leader of the NFB of Oregon. She wrote the following article shortly after the Philadelphia convention last summer. This is what she says:
During the 2001 NFB national convention in Philadelphia, I developed laryngitis and a head cold. By the time I arrived home, my left eye had become infected. After an initial period of semi-seclusion to avoid sharing my misfortune with others, I began to assume my normal activities.
While running some errands, I encountered Pat, an acquaintance through a previous place of employment, who asked, "Oh my, did you fall?"
I said, "No, Pat. Why do you ask?"
"Well, your eye is all red and looks terribly sore," she answered.
To this I responded, "No, this is an eye infection, resulting from a cold. But I am curious; does this look like an injury caused by a fall?"
Pat replied, "Well, no, not exactly. I just thought that, since you don't uh, well, see very good--?"
Then, I said, "Pat, how long have we known each other?" to which she responded, "Oh, maybe twenty years."
My next question was, "How many times have you seen or heard of my falling?"
"Well, none, she said. "But Sandy just fell and had to have four stitches above her eye, and she has two good eyes." Sandy is a mutual acquaintance of Pat and mine; she has a history of falling on an average of about every five months.
Then I posed this question to Pat, "How long ago was it that Sandy fell and broke her wrist? Three months ago?"
Pat admitted, "Yes, about three months."
I then asked her, "Could it be that some people, sighted or blind, are accident-prone and that the frequency of falling might be the same, regardless of visual acuity and that falling might be more accurately attributed to other causes, for instance not paying attention to where one is going, having some inner ear disturbance, being slightly (or not so slightly) inebriated, or a dozen other things?"
Soon we each went our separate ways. I had made my point, but I could not be sure how effectively. Her assumption that my very red eye could be accounted for only by a fall and that I could be expected to fall more easily than accident-prone Sandy, who has 20/20 vision, disappointed me of course. We all know some blind people who do fall. Some fall because they are depending on vision that is not reliable, and they have not yet developed their alternative skills. Others fall because of some reason other than blindness. Still other blind people fall simply because they, like some of our sighted peers, are accident-prone. I take some consolation in the thought that ten years ago I might have received this question from more than one person. I am even more consoled by the fairly numerous friends and acquaintances who out of genuine concern asked, "Oh, what is the matter with your eye? It looks so painful." The inappropriate comments and questions that reflect the ignorance and prejudice underneath are not all going to cease during my lifetime or yours, but, thank heaven, they do become less frequent, thanks to the diligence of the NFB and the passage of time.
My red eye has run its course as a topic of conversation. To the last few inquiries I have simply said, "I recently traveled to Philadelphia and took the red eye home."
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carol Clark]
CAROL'S SPECIAL BANANA BREAD
by Carol Clark
Carol Clark has been a Federationist since 1964 when she was a student at the now famous Iowa Commission for the Blind. She is the President of the Johnson County Chapter of the NFB of Kansas and Kansas affiliate Secretary. She is a certified Braille transcriptionist, working for the Kansas State School for the Blind.
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
2 large or 3 small ripe or overripe bananas, mashed
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Method: Beat first 3 ingredients in a large bowl with electric mixer for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Stir in banana. Sift dry ingredients together and add gradually to the butter mixture. Stir till well mixed. Add sour cream and stir until smooth. Pour batter into a well-greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour or till center springs back when lightly pressed with fingertip. Cool ten minutes in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan and cool completely on rack. (May be divided for baking in smaller pans if desired). Makes one large loaf.
APPLE BUTTER BAKED BEANS
by Mary Thompson
Mary is the wife of John Thompson, a member of the NFB of Kansas Board of Directors. John's affiliation with the Federation goes back to the late 1970's. He was working for the NFB when we moved from Iowa to Baltimore.
3 16-ounce cans pork and beans, drained
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup apple butter
1/4 cup pancake syrup
1/4 cup ketchup
3 slices bacon
Method: Combine beans, onion, apple butter, syrup, and ketchup in casserole dish. Place bacon on top and bake at 350 degrees until bacon is done (about two hours ).
Crock-pot directions: Combine all ingredients except bacon in crock-pot. Fry or microwave bacon until done, then place on top of mixture in crock-pot. Cook on low for three to four hours.
BROCCOLI RICE CASSEROLE
by Martha Kelly
Martha and Jack Kelly have been members of the Federation since 1955. They have certainly lived the organization's history. Martha is the very able Kansas State Treasurer, keeping Peggy Elliott and the IRS happy.
1 cup uncooked rice (makes 2 cups cooked)
2 ribs celery
1 onion, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 8-ounce jar Cheese Whiz
1 16-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli
Method: Cook rice according to package directions. Saute celery and onion in butter. Add soups and Cheese Whiz. Stir until cheese is melted. Add rice and broccoli and place mixture in oven-proof dish. Bake thirty minutes uncovered at 350 degrees.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Richard Edlund]
by Richard J. Edlund
Dick Edlund joined the Federation in 1969. Many of us remember him as Box 11185 when he served as the NFB Treasurer from 1974 to 1988. Unlike most Federation leaders, Dick has never been a chapter President, but he served as President of the NFB of Kansas for twenty years, organized unions in countless workshops for the blind--more like sweat shops--and performed more special assignments than can be enumerated here.
1-1/2 pounds ground meat
1 medium onion, chopped
2 or 3 large cans of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon beef bouillon
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 or 3 cups Minute Rice
Method: Brown ground meat and onion in large skillet. Drain. Place in large pan. Add tomato sauce, bouillon, and Tabasco sauce. Bring to a full boil. Add Minute Rice and bring to a quick boil again. Cover. Remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Donna Wood]
by Donna Wood
Donna Wood has been a Federationist for many years. She is President of the South Central Chapter of the NFB of Kansas in Wichita and Second Vice President of the state organization. She works as a Rehabilitation Teacher for the Kansas Services for the Blind.
1 large can pineapple tidbits
1 large can cherry pie filling
1 yellow cake mix
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup chopped pecans
1 stick butter
Method: Pour pineapple (including liquid) and cherry pie filling into bottom of 13-by-9-inch cake pan, mixing well. Sprinkle cake mix over it. Combine brown sugar and nuts and sprinkle over cake mix. Melt the stick of butter and dribble over all. Place in oven and bake for forty-five minutes at 350 degrees.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Susie Stanzel]
PUDDING `N CAKE
by Susie Stanzel
Susie Stanzel has been the President of the NFB of Kansas since 1990 when Dick Edlund was elected to serve in the Kansas legislature. She has been a Federationist since 1974 and has held several positions including chapter President, member of the Kansas Board of Directors, affiliate Treasurer, and long-time Treasurer of the NFB in Computer Science. Being one of the early computer programmers, Susie can remember using IBM cards for note paper. Back in the dark ages these cards were key punched and fed into the computer.
Commenting on this recipe, Susie said, "I got this recipe from one of my best friends at work. It is incredibly easy and does not need frosting. Naturally, being a chocoholic, I make the chocolate version."
1 deluxe yellow or chocolate cake mix
1 package instant pudding (vanilla, chocolate, or even lemon)
3 extra large or 4 smaller eggs
1 1/3 cups water
2/3 cup oil
Method: Combine all ingredients and beat for two to three minutes in an electric mixer. Bake cake in a greased bundt pan for fifty-five to sixty minutes at 350 degrees.
In the August-September, 2001, issue of the Braille Monitor, the article titled "2001 Convention Roundup," incorrectly reported that a tape recording demonstrating a talking set-top box from America Online was played during the Friday afternoon session. We apologize for the error. The audience actually heard on tape a prototype of talking software showing the way a program guide used with the AOL TV set-top box (which currently does not talk) would sound and function if the software could be made to run in the box.
Whom Do You Hang out with?:
When we think about who we know that might be in a position to make a capital campaign gift to help build the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind, it's easy to assume that we don't know the sort of people who could help. But Mike Jacqubouis of Maine is President of his local Lions Club, and, when asked, they made a gift of $1,000. Jason Ewell of Ohio was a college student when his father's Lions Club made a pledge of $25,000. Charlie Brown, Kiwanis; Don Capps, Rotary; and Joe Ruffalo, Lions and Knights of Columbus, are all members of the national Board of Directors and personally active in service organizations.
Are you a member of a civic organization that makes grants to charities? Do you have a close friend or family member who is? Such groups are willing contributors to causes that their members support. Vince Connelly, who works on our capital campaign, needs to know what contacts we have. Don't put it off; contact him today with useful information. His phone number is (410) 659-9314, ext. 368, and his e-mail is <[email protected]>. You can help.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have a never-used HP 6350 scanner with automatic document feeder. Asking $400. Also available is a Braille Blazer Braille embosser. It is three years old but has been very rarely used, so it is still in excellent condition. Included are the carrying case, cables, and manual in Braille. I am asking 1200 dollars or best offer. If interested in either of these items, contact Alicia Richards at (303) 758‑2904, or e‑mail me at <[email protected]>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Word Proclaimed Daily Readings are the only source for professionally recorded Catholic daily and Sunday Scripture readings from the Lectionary on cassette tapes, one month at a time. Heartfelt vocal expression brings Scripture to Life. Dedicated to a visually impaired grandmother, the tapes also provide an opening prayer and a brief thought for the day, followed by chimes which indicate the end of the recordings for that day. The suggested fee is $9.50 per month, which includes free shipping and handling. To the extent that we are able, upon request, reduced fees are available for the blind and visually impaired. Call (888) 203‑0697, or write to The Word Proclaimed, 9042 Meade Street, Box N, Westminster, Colorado 80031‑3112.
Using the Materials Center Efficiently:
Mrs. Dawn Neubeck, Materials Center Manager at the National Center for the Blind, recently wrote the following notice in response to a request that she explain how best to order literature or aids from her department:
The staff in the Materials Center would like to make sure that your orders are processed in a timely and efficient manner. However, at times we have more orders than staff to process them. Here are some tips on how to order so that we can provide the best service possible.
E‑mail-‑You can e-mail orders to <[email protected]>. We check our e‑mail several times a day. Just remember to provide your name, address, apartment number or building number, telephone number, and credit card information--including expiration date.
Telephone-‑We are always happy to serve you over the phone. Please bear with us if we don't answer right away. That just means that we are helping someone else. Our phone volume increases as the day wears on, so calling in the morning is helpful. Our phone number is (410) 659‑9314, ext. 216.
Snail mail-‑You can always jot down on paper what it is you would like to order and send it to National Federation of the Blind, Attention: Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Please include a check or money order for the amount owed. Checks should be made payable to the National Federation of the Blind.
Future outlook-‑We are working on providing the ability to order online. Watch for that announcement in the next couple of months.
We hope that this is helpful information, and we look forward to providing friendly service and timely delivery.
Cassette Holders for Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Avoid the dreaded cassette avalanche. The NFB of Illinois has the perfect remedy for falling audio cassettes. For a mere $3 each you can have your very own attractive, compact white vinyl cassette holder that accommodates a dozen cassettes. Our cassette holders come complete with clear sleeves front and back for print labels and ample space on the spine for Braille labels. Send a check or money order, made payable to the NFB of Illinois, in the amount of $3 for each cassette holder, to Stephen O. Benson, NFB of Illinois, 7020 N. Tahoma, Chicago, Illinois 60646.
Business Opportunity Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Do you want to have a business of your own without selling products that no one really needs? We will get you started in your own biz for under 10 bucks a month. Dream your dream, and we help you make it a reality. No paperwork involved!
Call Sean at (248) 931‑0899 or contact me ASAP at <[email protected]>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Accu-Check Advantage(TM) blood glucose monitor and voice unit, new, never used. Catalog price $495.50, asking $300. For information call Aaron Lewis at (860) 278-9727 or (860) 279-7886.
Affordable Patterns on Audio Tape for Knitting and Crocheting:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
We can supply affordable patterns on cassette tape for knitting and crocheting. Material is recorded by knowledgeable reader with row‑by‑row guidance. Select from pattern library, or send your favorite pattern. Call Janet at (215) 412-0466 or e-mail <[email protected]>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Alva Braille Terminal, Model 380, 80‑cell Braille display (plus status cells). Works out of the box with Jaws for Windows. Rarely used, perfect condition. Includes cover; carrying case; and all software, cables, and manuals. For more information please see <http://www.humanware.com/E/E1/e1a.html>.
Asking $7,995 or best offer. Contact Loren Mikola, Bellevue, Washington, USA, day phone: (425) 705‑3394, evening phone: (425) 558‑0131, e‑mail: <[email protected]>.
Looking for a Violin:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Frank Fabian is a seventy-six-year-old musician who is currently playing a cracked violin. He does not have the resources to buy a new instrument and hopes that someone may have one that is not being used. He is happy to pay for the shipping. Contact Frank at 13706 Rybak Ave, Garfield Heights, Ohio 44125, or call (216) 475-5636.
E-Friends Program Now Available
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The e-Friends is a global e-mail pen-pals network that the NFB, along with Sylvan Learning Systems, Inc., and its division Wall Street Institute, are making available to you: a value-added service at no cost to you or to the Federation.
It provides opportunities to correspond and network in English by e-mail with professional and working adult students, initially from Spain. But we expect the program to be operational in over twenty countries by 2002.
What to Do:
1. In order to learn more about the program and to register, please visit the e-Friends Website at <www.WSI-e-Friends.com>. You can also access this site from the NFB Website home page.
2. Once on that site, please click the "join here" button to initiate the registration process. Completing the process will take only a few minutes. The information sought includes:
a) Your profile: some demographic information, occupation field, work status, interests, the number of international people you want to correspond with, and your password.
b) Definition of the selection criteria for the people you want to communicate with: remember that the more open you are in your selections, the faster we will find e-Friends for you.
c) Option to create a free e-mail account: you have the option to use your existing e-mail account or, if desired, to create a free Web mail account. A sample of the e-mail address will be <[email protected]>, where X corresponds to the user name you define.
d) Review and acceptance of the terms and conditions of use (agreement).
e) Ending the process: once you have accepted the agreement, the system will assign a login name and will display a screen with additional information about what happens next. We encourage you to print that screen for your records. You will use the login and your password to access the Members section of the e-Friends Website.
Once the system identifies the people who best meet your profile and selection criteria, you will receive a message at the e-mail address you have selected (your own or the newly created one at our site) with your new e-Friend(s) contact information. At that point you can initiate the interaction, or maybe your new e-Friend(s) will send you a message first. We encourage you to send and reply to messages from your new e-Friends as quickly as possible.
For issues concerning functionality, connectivity, community conduct, etc., please contact us at <[email protected]>. Note: this information is posted in the "CONTACT US" button of the e-Friends Website. We hope you enjoy your interaction with your e-Friends from Spain.
The phone number listed in the June issue of the Monitor in the Miniature section about Louis Scrivani's weightless workout tapes was incorrect. It should have read (732) 381-7955.
Specialized Literature Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Triangle Braille Services (TBS) is a small, nonprofit, volunteer‑run organization that produces lesbian and gay literature in Braille for purchase at affordable prices. Our latest catalogue includes forty-three nonfiction, fiction, and poetry titles not otherwise available in alternate formats. To request a free catalogue in Braille, on computer disk, or via e-mail, contact Triangle Braille Services, P. O. Box 50606, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55405; phone: (612) 822‑0549; e-mail: <[email protected]>; Web address: <http://www.concentric.net/~jenshar/tbs/>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
AI Com Corp text-to-speech synthesizer, external basic Braille printer. Never used and still in original box. Includes manuals and software, $2,500 or best offer.
Artic Technologies Transport 615 Business Vision and WinVision. Useable in Windows 95. Upgradeable to Windows 98 or Millennium, $400 or best offer.
Artic Technologies 215 Symphonix Version 4.1 useable for DOS and Windows 3.1, $200 or best offer. Both include software, hardware, and manuals. Will ship free matter.
If interested in the above items, contact Frances Campione at (517) 694-1231 or e-mail <[email protected]>.
Atlas of Eastern Europe Now Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
"Atlas of Eastern Europe" is a one-volume set of tactile maps covering nineteen countries including Western Russia up to the Ural Mountains. Overall maps as well as maps of each individual country are included. The maps have considerable detail, and some experience with tactile maps is recommended.
Countries included are Poland, Czech Republic, Slovak Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, Albania, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Western Russia.
Each country has an introductory page of facts followed by a full-page map of that country showing physical features, cities, and towns of both political and historic importance. A few maps have fold-out sections. To maximize the amount of information on the map, key letters have been used for labelling cities and special features. The key letters are identified on the key pages that precede each map.
"Atlas of Eastern Europe" is bound with cardboard covers and a multi-ring binder. Cost is $16. Shipping is by free mail unless other arrangements are made. Please send check or purchase order to the Princeton Braillists, 28-B Portsmouth Street, Whiting, New Jersey 08759 (UPDATED ADDRESS).
Credit card and fax service are not available. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery. For further information call (732) 350-3708 or (609) 924-5207.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Jumbo electric Braille writer, $300, includes one large box of Braille paper.
Accu Check talking glucose monitor, $50.
Contact Mary Morrison, 506 East 50th Street, Apartment 219, Boise, Idaho 83714; or call (208) 375-6399.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ron Ferguson]
Dr. Ron Ferguson is a trained historian and now a faculty member associated with the Louisiana Tech/Louisiana Center graduate programs. He has just published a new book, which will be of interest to many. Sheila Koenig, an English teacher in Minnesota, wrote the following description:
We Know Who We Are: A History of the Blind in Challenging Educational and Socially Constructed Policies (A Study in policy Archaeology), written by longtime Federationist Ronald J. Ferguson, is a recently published book documenting the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to expose and challenge oppressive and custodial policies created by professionals in the blindness field.
In the introduction Ferguson explains his purpose for undertaking this research: "My interest in the struggles blind people face and the injustices they have encountered in the educational system in the United States flows from a broader concern I have for social justice for marginalized people . . . . After hearing about repeated incidents of discrimination and injustice directed toward blind persons over the course of several years, I began to give serious consideration to investigating the history of the blind in order to try to understand better this treatment of blind persons. My interest in this topic grew as I read firsthand accounts from blind persons of their treatment by government officials, rehabilitation counselors, and the general public. I discovered in my research monographs and articles that concentrate on vocational and rehabilitation issues related to the blind from the perspective of the blind. I had not found, however, any books which deal with the history of the education of the blind from the perspective of the blind. Thus I recognized there was an opportunity to make a contribution in this area by writing on the history of education of blind people from their own perspective."
The theoretical methodology used in this book is new to the blindness field. Ferguson explains, "Policy archaeology is a recent development in educational policy studies that provides a methodology for analyzing educational and social policy that goes beyond the traditional policy studies framework, which is restrictive, since it accepts or presumes a commitment to the larger liberal world view in which it exists . . . this methodology argues for a different approach to policy studies, one that opens up new territory, one that establishes a new problematic, and thus one that serves to alter and expand the policy studies area. Policy archaeology is useful to my research because it expands the analysis of educational policy studies by asking questions that promote the investigation of groups and issues that have traditionally been ignored or taken for granted by policy researchers."
Because the research challenges many of the fundamental assumptions held in the blindness field, this book may create some controversy. With such a potential one could ask, why write the book? According to the author the answer to that question is, "The blind have long been oppressed by the socially constructed beliefs about blindness. They have been stereotyped and discriminated against for too long. Through the contribution of Michel Foucault's writings there is a powerful theoretical model that can expose and demystify the insidious force of socially constructed beliefs about the blind, which have held them captive in the blindness system."
Ferguson, Ronald J. We Know Who We Are: A History of the Blind in Challenging Educational and Socially Constructed Policies (A Study in Policy Archaeology). San Francisco: Caddo Gap Press, 2001. pp. xv, 216, $24.95 in paper.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have several items for sale. All are in excellent condition, and all prices do not include shipping.
* Two Index Basic D Braille printers, barely used. Asking $3,000 each or best offer. The Braille printers produce excellent Braille at 80 characters a second. Can hold three sizes of Braille paper, cards, or plastic. They can also produce signage.
* Alva 340 40-cell Braille display with case. Works with either Windows or DOS and will work with JAWS for Windows. Asking $4,500 or best offer.
* Arkenstone Hot Reader scanner with a working card. Works with DOS only. Asking $90 or best offer.
Serious offers only; no installment payments. If interested, call Marie Caputo at (860) 871-8224 or e-mail <[email protected]>.
The NFB Writers' Division held election of new officers at the National Convention. They are Tom Stevens, President; Lori Stayer, First Vice President; Jerry Whittle, Second Vice President; John TeBockhorst, Secretary; Helen Stevens, Treasurer; and Jim Portillo, Robert Newman, Melba Urban, and Amy Mason, Board Members.
Optacon Accessories Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I no longer have an Optacon but have the following items which I would love to give to anyone who could make good use of them: Braille manual for Optacon RIB and RIC, Braille manual for F3A typewriter lens module, CRT lens module model F1A (cathode ray tube lens for reading text on computer monitor), Typewriter lens module model F3A, plus Smith Corona 2200 (Coronamatic top cover).
Contact Tom MacMahon, phone: 3397-3630 or fax: 3397-3631, e-mail: <[email protected]>, who lives in Brisbane, Australia, and will arrange postage Free Matter for the Blind to anywhere it is in force.
New Catalog Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
If someone is on your holiday gift list who loves cooking, knitting, crocheting, or tatting, the new Horizons for the Blind products catalog is just the ticket. Cooks will especially find our new, seven-volume Recipes from Boxes, Bottles, Cans, and Jars a most welcome addition to the kitchen, while the crocheting crowd will enjoy our new Cro-Hook Instructions. With the holidays fast approaching, our holiday crafts and learn-how books may be just what you'll need to get ready. To order this free catalog, telephone (815) 444-8800 (voice/TDD); fax: (815) 444-8830; e-mail: <[email protected]>. Please specify whether you prefer Braille, large print, or audio cassette.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I wish to sell a CAPtek Digi Voice Scientific Calculator. It is designed for use by high school and college students for higher math, engineering, physics, and other science applications. Hardly used. Interested parties can call Dorothy Piel at (201) 599-1860.
During the April, 2001, meeting of the Potomac Chapter of the NFB of Virginia, elections were held with the following result: Lawrence Povinelli, President; Seville Allen, First Vice President; Robert McDonald, Second Vice President; Mary Ann Kessler, Corresponding Secretary; Albert Sanchez, Recording Secretary; Bob Hartt, Treasurer; and Joann McSorley, Melissa Resnick, and Jeannie Wood, Board Members.
Attention Young Scientists, Engineers, and Medical Professionals or Researchers:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
AZIZA Productions Inc., a film and video production company, is looking for people with disabilities working or conducting research in fields of science, engineering, and medicine to be featured in a television documentary on science and disability.
Candidates must meet the following qualifications:
a. Be a scientist or professional with a physical or learning disability, working in science, engineering, or medicine.
b. Be a pioneer in his or her field.
c. Be between the ages of twenty-two and thirty-five.
Forward resume, one-page bio, and full‑length color photograph to AZIZA Productions Inc., PO BOX 1136, Washington, D.C., 20013. For more information, contact Executive Director Aziza Baccouche by e-mail at <[email protected]>.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Gisela Distel, February 14, 1956, to August 3, 2001]
Carl Jacobsen, President of the NFB of New York, recently sent the following notice, written by Ray Wayne, affiliate Treasurer. Carl's cover note said that Ray's words express the distress and sense of loss felt by the entire New York affiliate. This is what Ray wrote: On August 3, 2001, Gisela Distel, former President of the National Federation of the Blind of New York State, died due to complications of diabetes. Gisela served as President of the Affiliate's Capital District Chapter from its inception in 1987 until her death. She was elected affiliate First Vice President in 1987 and President in 1991, a position she held for six years. She also served on the Board of Directors of the NFB'S Diabetes Action Network.
Gisela was a leader, a friend, and an inspiration to all who knew her. She always maintained energy and spirit even while struggling with ongoing medical complications. Her warmth and sense of humor encouraged us all, even at the most difficult times. We are all better off for having known her, and we will miss her deeply.
Remote Visitor Announce and Access System:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
You no longer need to open the door to unknown visitors. Just install the new Remote Visitor Announce and Access System.
When someone knocks, push a button on a wireless intercom located conveniently in your house, asking "Who's there?" If the response through the intercom mounted outside the door tells you that you don't want to talk to the person, you can simply thank him or her and do nothing more.
If it is someone you want to talk to, you push a button on a remote small enough to fit on your key chain, which automatically unlocks the door. When the person leaves, you push a different button on the remote, which automatically relocks the door. An audible signal verifies either that you have unlocked or locked the door. The wireless intercom outside the door should be mounted where it is protected from rain and snow. Two remotes come with the system. In the fall of 2000 we installed the Remote Visitor Announce and Access System in the office door of Easier Ways. We have had no problem, and it has proved invaluable, saving many steps and avoiding situations that might have been unpleasant.
Installation instructions come with the system. For a detailed copy of these instructions contact Easier Ways, Inc., 2954 Shady Lane, Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126. Phone: (303) 290-0987, fax: (303) 290-6446, e-mail: <[email protected]>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Have you been looking for an all‑in‑one portable laptop computer with a built‑in Braille display and lots more? Would you like to have a portable unit to take when going to classes, meetings, or traveling for your job? Look no more because your unit is here, the SuperBraille. Here is what you'll get:
1. A laptop Pentium computer with full access to the Internet with Microsoft Office and Excel, running Braille and speech;
2. A Braille terminal when connected to a desktop computer running Braille, and,
3. A text editor/notetaker, scientific and financial calculator, and calendar/clock running Braille.
You'll get all of this in the SuperBraille, three products in one. My price is $5,000 or best offer. Call Jim at (650) 756‑1333.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc., is proud to announce the release of its 2002 product catalog with over 200 new items. These include a price reduction for the Note Teller money identifier, which is only $295 through 2001; a Talking Book/TV radio; a 1160-minute digital recorder; Braille greeting cards; and much more. Call (800) 454-3175 for your free large print, 4-track audio cassette, or disk version. Braille is $10. Visit the Website at <www.annmorris.com> to view new items or download a catalog. You may also contact Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc., at 551 Hosner Mountain Road, Stormville, New York 12582.
Free to Good Home:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The complete Bible in Braille, New International Version, is offered free to someone who would appreciate and use it. Contact Rose Dalley at (802) 229-6881 or e-mail: <[email protected]>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
A Perkins Braillewriter, which has been serviced and is in top condition. Asking $500, but will dicker. Contact Rose Dalley, 25 Spruce Street, Apt. D-8, Hilltop Apartments, Berlin, Vermont 05602, phone: (802) 229-6881, or e-mail: <[email protected]>.
I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.