THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 46, No. 6June 2003
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
Web site address: http://www.nfb.org
NFB-NEWSLINE® number: 1-888-882-1629
Letters to the president, address changes,
subscription requests, orders for NFB literature,
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should be sent to the National Office.
Monitorsubscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year. Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Louisville Site of 2003 NFB Convention!
The 2003 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, June 28-July 5. We will conduct the convention at the Galt House Hotel and the Galt House East Tower, a first-class convention hotel. The Galt House Hotel, familiarly called the Galt House West, is at 140 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. The Galt House East Tower, or Galt House East, is at 141 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. Room rates for this year's convention are excellent: singles, doubles, and twins $57 and triples and quads $63 a night, plus tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2003. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For reservations call the hotel at (502) 589‑5200.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made to secure these rooms before June 1, 2003, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold the block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Our overflow hotel is the Hyatt Regency at 320 W. Jefferson Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, phone (502) 587‑3434.
Those who attended the 2002 convention can testify to the gracious hospitality of the Galt House. This hotel has excellent restaurants, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Louisville, close to the Ohio River and only seven miles from the Louisville Airport.
The 2003 convention will follow what many think of as our usual schedule:
Saturday, June 28Seminar Day
Sunday, June 29 Registration Day
Monday, June 30 Board Meeting and Division Day
Tuesday, July 1Opening Session
Wednesday, July 2 Tour Day
Thursday, July 3 Banquet Day
Friday, July 4Business Session
Plan to be in Louisville;
The action of the convention will be there!
Vol. 46, No. 6 June 2003
Another Victory in South Carolina:
Commission Survives Despite the Press
Leadership and the Technology of People
by Bob Root
My Long Journey from Partially Sighted to Really Blind
by Michele Gittens
What Is This World Coming To?
by Olegario D. Cantos VII
by Ed Kemmick
You're Not in Kansas Anymore, Dorothy
by Christine Brown
High Partial Is Still Blind
by Mike Robinson
Shaping Our Environment
by Marcus Schmidt
The Beach, Pretty Girls, and Dreaming
by Richie Flores
by Noel Nightingale
So What Did You Do Last Summer?
by Barbara Pierce
Copyright © 2003 National Federation of the Blind
On April 15, 2003, the National Federation of the Blind held a reception for community leaders in Baltimore featuring special guest Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. We served lunch in the National Center dining room to about fifty community leaders.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: President Maurer and James Brinkley, president of Legg Mason, laugh together over lunch. Other guests can be seen at the U-shaped tables.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Betsy Zaborowski (center) has the attention of Governor Ehrlich (right) and President Maurer (left).]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: President Maurer addresses the audience while Governor Ehrlich (right) listens.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Amid red, white, and blue balloons, Governor Ehrlich (standing) addesses luncheon attendees. Pictured with him from left to right are John Busher, chair of the NFB Research and Training Institute policy advisory board; Patricia Maurer; and Bill Struever and Jim Brinkley, cochairs of the institute's grand opening celebration.]
Another Victory in South Carolina: Commission Survives Despite the Press
From the Editor: The following vindictive little editorial appeared in the State newspaper in South Carolina on Thursday, March 27, 2003. For well over a year the organized blind have been engaged in a political fight to the death in the state legislature to protect the separate agency serving blind South Carolinians. In August of 2002 the affiliate was driven to place two large paid advertisements in the paper to counteract editorial attacks by the State on the commission, its programs, and its supporters, particularly the NFB.
Since then Federationists have been taking every opportunity they could make for themselves to explain to legislators the importance to blind people of disability-specific rehabilitation services. They cited studies showing that successful rehabilitations of blind consumers as measured by good jobs occur much more often when rehab services are provided by counselors in separate agencies. They told horror stories about inadequate, inappropriate, or nonexistent services provided in states where vocational rehabilitation services for the blind have been merged into larger agencies.
According to Don Capps, past president of the NFB of South Carolina, "This spectacular legislative victory was due to the excellent work of the NFB of South Carolina, the effective and logical arguments made by constituents around the state, and the validity of the case for a separate agency." On March 18 the House Ways and Means Committee voted to exclude the commission from a bill proposing departmental reorganizations throughout state government. Following that fifteen-to-seven vote, commission director Nell Carney characterized the committee's action as a "stunning victory" for blind citizens.
For the third time in ten years the NFB of South Carolina has successfully gone to the barricades to fight for its commission. Let us hope that the opponents of this concept of productive service delivery will now leave the blind in peace to get on with effective vocational rehabilitation. The following editorial reported this amazing upset in terms that can only be characterized as sour grapes:
You'll Never Manage Government
If Each Agency Must Have a Single Task
by Cindi Ross Scoppe
No one with a passing familiarity with the way things work in state government could have been surprised last week when the single item that the Ways and Means Committee rejected in a wide‑ranging bill to overhaul the state's health‑service agencies was the proposal to merge the Commission for the Blind into the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.
It's hardly the first time legislators have crumbled in the face of opposition to the completely sound idea that efficiency and accountability demand a more manageable number of state agencies and that this is one of the agencies that needn't stand alone. The fight to preserve this tiny agency's independence was, after all, the most emotional and draining in the entire debate a decade ago over restructuring state government.
What was astonishing was the argument that won the day this time‑‑and how easily it won.
While a few completely irrelevant ideas were thrown in (my favorite, from Representative Bill Clyburn: "We should let them remain a stand‑alone agency, simply because they want it to be . . . . I think we owe it to them to let them remain independent and do their thing"), the overarching argument was that the Commission for the Blind offers some services that are not offered by Vocational Rehabilitation.
You can stop waiting for the rest of the argument. That's it. Seriously.
Rep. Jim McGee proposed the cave‑in by telling about an employee in his law firm who is blind and recounting how the commission's services had taught this employee "life skills," as opposed to simply job skills. "If you put this under [the Department of] Vocational Rehabilitation, they're going to be doing a lot more than vocational rehabilitation," he said.
Someone made the point that Vocational Rehabilitation does a good job, and he wouldn't want to upset that balance. I didn't bother taking notes on these extensions, because never in my wildest dreams did it occur to me that this argument would sway anyone's vote.
The problem is that, once you buy into this argument, you will never consolidate state agencies, which we need to do even more than we need to give the governor control of agencies. If you could combine two agencies without expanding the scope of the accepting agency, that would mean one of them was completely redundant to begin with.
Once you buy the argument that agencies cannot be expected to do more than one thing, the logical course of action is to actually increase the obscene number of state agencies we already have. Saying you shouldn't ask a Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to take in the Commission for the Blind and handle its work because the two agencies don't do exactly the same things is like saying every single program administered by the Department of Health and Environmental Control should be a freestanding state agency.
The main problem with the restructuring proposals in this bill was that they didn't go far enough. Not by a long shot. And that was before the committee killed one of the two agency consolidations. (The other, which puts the state office of the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services under the Department of Health and Human Services, survived primarily because it doesn't affect the local drug abuse agencies.) And in return for eliminating one stand‑alone agency, the bill creates a whole new one.
Yet despite the fact that this legislation does absolutely nothing to reduce the unmanageable number of executive agencies--at least eighty-four, although nobody seems able to agree on the precise number--Rep. McGee actually suggested that, if there were any problems with the way the Commission for the Blind is operating, "the way to address that is through the board, which is appointed by the governor. Give him a chance to do that." Sure. Right after he comes up with a way to balance the budget and gets a handle on the sixty or so other agencies he has some degree of control over.
Perhaps I'm reading too much into the debate. Perhaps legislators on the Ways and Means Committee didn't really buy the arguments put forward for leaving the Commission for the Blind alone. Perhaps they, like supporters of the change who didn't even bother bringing the matter back up when the full House passed the bill, simply didn't want to have to deal with the hassle of making the agency's supporters mad. I'll admit I hesitated to put my name on a column about the topic because I know how persistent they can be.
But if that's what drove legislators, isn't it even worse? Isn't it worse to back down from a needed reform because you can't stand having to listen to people who disagree with you than it is to back down because you bought a lame argument? The latter simply means you weren't thinking clearly when you voted. The former means you're afraid to do your job. And if you're afraid of the supporters of the Commission for the Blind, who else are you going to be afraid of? And how can you ever be an effective legislator?
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bob Root]
Leadership and the Technology of People
by Bob Root
From the Editor: Bob Root identifies himself as a futurist. His company is Orion Learning International, Inc., and he addressed the 2002 NFB convention outlining some of his views about the future of technology for blind people. He also addressed the 2003 Business, Learning, and Superior Training (BLAST) conference in Nashville, Tennessee, sponsored by the National Association of Blind Merchants. He was the keynote speaker on Wednesday morning, April 23. His remarks made quite a stir among delegates, so we are reprinting them here. Certainly the psychology underlying Mr. Root's ideas makes eminent business sense. Here are his remarks:
I would like to thank Kevan and the blind merchants organization for inviting me. It is also an honor to serve as a member of the advisory board for the National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute.
Last year I talked at the convention in Louisville about a product called Scotos. Someone asked me where the name "Scotos" came from. It was the mythological god Thor's dog who, it was said, guided him in the darkness.
Scotos is a device I developed in concept form to look at how current technology can be integrated into a useful tool for the blind. In short, Scotos is a small wearable computer that recognizes visual patterns and speaks those patterns through earphones to the wearer. Simple pattern recognition allows the device to recognize buildings, street signs, groups of people, and other structures needed for navigation. The device also carries with it a cellular tracking technology to enable voice recognition software to map a course to a place the wearer wants to go. Included is a voice-recognition cellular phone for communications. It's an interesting product that I am working hard to make one of the early products developed by the National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute incubator.
Yes I am a futurist--a nerd and a geek! My friends say that a short-term plan for me is fifty years. I am not where the rubber meets the road, but where the rubber meets the sky. This means that I can guess at what will exist in fifty years, and no one will be around to refute what I said or even remember it.
The truth is that it is really easy for me to track trends as if they are vectors pointing out into the future. This is a gift that requires listening to great minds in various disciplines of science and boiling down my own vision of the direction we are traveling in. Clearly we are living in pragmatic times. As a futurist I believe I have a responsibility to make the future relevant to those who listen to me speak, to make the future real today.
As a bit of background about me, I did not start my life as a futurist, but I was always focused on the future. I grew up inside traditional corporations with an eye focused on what could be as opposed to what was. The status quo never really interested me. No surprise that, when I was asked to join the emerging PC industry in the early `80's, I jumped at the chance.
This emerging technology was all about futures, and a bunch of us at Apple Computer helped to develop a video in 1986 called The Knowledge Navigator. This video foreshadowed what was to come: wireless computer connections, voice recognition, synthetic human interaction, collective processing, the Internet, information pooling, and on and on. The video, produced and directed by George Lucas, was an impressive dramatization of what could be. Seventeen years later the video is still impressive.
To me The Knowledge Navigator was a road map and a good target for our industry. As a futurist I could see it all in my head without the video. I realized then as I do now that not everyone can see out into the future. In fact the companies that I worked for and the majority of people, including engineers, could not see past the end of the year.
Until 1996 I was a hands-on, turn-around CEO in Silicon Valley's high-tech industry. The growth and stress in this business were enormous, and the need to see the future was mandatory. Profit margins were on the decline, and companies needed to look more at what they were doing to survive.
Yet at the same time the futurists began to look at the concept of technology accelerating so fast that no one could predict what the future would be. Called singularity, it is a point where technology develops so fast that humans and computers become virtually one. Machines begin to out-think humans--or so some people say. These believers are called transhumanists. Our own Ray Kurzweil is a self-described transhumanist with his own set of beliefs around converging technologies.
So what does this have to do with today, here at this moment, and how is it relevant to you as blind merchants? Transhumanists believe that the processes of the human mind will be surpassed by computer processing technology in the next ten years. I agree, when it comes to pure processing power, but there is something else about us humans that will find transhumanists scratching their heads in disbelief. What will confound them is the human power of relationships. This realization strikes at the heart of the transhumanist movement, and it will open an entirely new school of technology.
The Technology of People
A few weeks ago I was sitting in the advisory board meeting for the NFB Research and Training Institute in Baltimore. The fact that I was going to speak to you today came up. No surprise: information about you began to flow. Dr. Maurer, Dr. Zaborowski, and others shared a lot about you and your business. Kevan and your Web site also helped me to understand more about where you are and where you are going. Believe me, there is great appreciation for the work you are doing, and you are icons in the blind independence movement.
As a point of fact, my future focus is in nanotechnology, micromachines, and bio-technology. You can imagine that the more I learned about your businesses and the more information I got, the more I wondered why in the hell was I speaking to you--and for heaven's sake at the opening breakfast.
I started to wonder if I was nuts. Moreover, I started to wonder if Kevan was nuts. That mantra became an obsession as I wondered what angle I could take that would provide you with some usable tools in your businesses and at the same time sound like a futurist.
It hit me this past week as I walked around my hometown of Annapolis, Maryland. I watched as people gathered around the city dock to enjoy the sun and relate to each other. I watched as old friends interacted and new acquaintances were made. I saw relationships build around common interests as the energy and the size of the crowd grew.
From a technology futurist's perspective there was no linearity or formula. It was at the least a complex equation. The topic became clear. I would talk to you on tools and techniques of human relationships that would help you to build your businesses at new and unprecedented levels--impressive, huh?
As a turnaround specialist I realized quickly that you must turn the people around before you can turn a business around, that people must believe in something before they can succeed, and that people's relationship to their customers is the primary reason businesses are successful. So I did not turn to my futurist books to develop this talk. I dusted off a manuscript of a book I have been writing for the last ten years. It can probably never be published because the world of leadership is so dynamic. Its title is Leadership and the Technology of People.
The opening lines of my book go like this:
"People first work for the money, then a leader. They only excel when they have a common cause!" The book continues, "The tools of the technology of people are not processes, ideas, or machines; they are the soft skills of rapport, trust, support, and conflict resolution--human relationships! The power of trust, the power of voice, the power of rapport, the power of feeling, the power of a shared cause, and the power of passion are the technology of people. Master the technology of people and you master business. Master the technology of people and your business flows like a river with a force that is unsurpassed."
Among the many tools available in the technology of people, I struggled to find a single tool that you can embrace that will inspire you and your people to build a better relationship with your customers, a tool that comes naturally to humans as they interact with each other. Yet it is a skill that must be practiced to be mastered. The one single technology of people that propels human relationships is an intangible word. It is rapport. Master rapport and you and your people will master the technology of people.
Rapport is both art and science. To master the art of rapport, you must first understand the science of it. Believe it or not, there is a massive movement in the scientific community to try to understand the human art of rapport. It is not in the technology headlines because its study is the study of human behavior, not machines. Like it or not, our society has grown to be about things more than people. Some of us look forward to the day when our society returns to a time when we are all about people. This technology of people is called neuro-linguistic programming or NLP for short.
Many years ago some of us recognized that for computers to be more human, we must understand the technology of people. A guy named Marvin Minsky undertook to develop an optical computer that acted like, thought like, and behaved like humans. While at the MIT Media Lab, he connected with two researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz--one a computer scientist and the other a psychologist. Drs. Richard Bandler and John Grinder developed a theory that rapport was based on human interaction around getting and receiving information in "preferences" based on the five senses. Their technology was and is called NLP. Again, NLP stands for neuro-linguistic programming. Neuro for the brain, linguistic for the words we use, and programming for the patterns we establish in our communications.
They first discovered that people take about seven seconds to start forming an opinion of people they meet. Bandler and Grinder recognized that people who had a preference for receiving visual-based information befriended and were in rapport with those people who expressed themselves visually. The same is true for people who prefer auditory, kinesthetic (feeling), gustatory (taste), and olfactory (smell). They further noted that each of the preferences had a corresponding eye movement and that the words people use are accurate clues to determine their communication preferences.
In their study they initially worked on visual, auditory, and kinesthetic preferences or channels of communication. They noted that visual people look up and use visual words to recount experiences. Auditory people look right and left--sort of at the ears--and use words that relate to sound. Kinesthetic (feeling) people look down and right, use feeling words, and are very tactile, touching things and people.
The words people use to ask for information from others are equally telling. Visual people use phrases like show me, picture this, draw me a picture, or I see what you are saying. Auditory people say things like sounds familiar, tell me, that resonates with me, or that rings a bell. Kinesthetic people say things like stay in touch, start from scratch, or walk me through it. People that are gustatory and olfactory weigh in by saying give me a taste of what is next, or something smells fishy to me. In fact, of the general population, 45 percent are kinesthetic, 37 percent are visual, and 8 percent are auditory. I find it interesting that as business people we tend to suppress the feelings of people in favor of data--what they hear or what they see.
The fact is that we all express ourselves in the channels through which we prefer to receive information and meaning. Always, always, always, these expressions are communicated relating to one of the senses.
A significant breakthrough by the NLP scientific community was recognizing that relationships could be won or lost merely by responding to people in their preferences or not. This was chronicled in a recent best-selling book titled How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, by Nicholas Boothman. It is a story of a professional fashion photographer who used NLP to get his subjects to be at ease faster so that he could get better pictures of them that were more natural in a shorter period of time. Instead of taking hours, he was able to get what he needed in a few minutes.
Bandler and Grinder further studied the science by seeing if they could control a situation by matching and mirroring people's communication style. Their results were remarkable and began an entirely new study of human behavior and communication. As Bandler, Grinder, and other NLP master practitioners' work advanced, they began to apply the techniques to practical applications like sales and customer service. The concept was simple: build rapport with a customer, and sales happen more quickly and more frequently. A good example of this early on was SONY retail stores division. Using NLP, an instructor taught retail sales people to recognize whether a customer was visual, auditory, or kinesthetic before reframing their communications. As the story goes, a man walked into the SONY store on Fifth Avenue in New York. . . . The results speak for themselves. They found a 20 percent increase in overall sales with the majority of increases coming in higher-margin products. Also their customer service calls decreased, and those calls they did receive were more cordial.
Another example is that one of our NLP master practitioners was asked to work with the Hilton hotel chain to recognize people's preferences before check-in to get them the best rooms. Visual people were given rooms with a view. Auditory people were given rooms away from the elevator and ice machine and were quiet. Kinesthetic people were given rooms emphasizing all the comforts, were shown the thermostat, and were invited to sit on the bed and to feel the soft pillows. The results--happier customers who return to the Hilton hotel because they sensed that they were receiving something special--service customized to their preferences.
NLP also recognizes that communications and meaning are expressed by the words we use, our tone of voice, and our body language. In fact the science recognizes that only 7 percent of meaning is communicated through words, 38 percent through tone of voice, and 55 percent through body language.
For the total experience to be well rounded--NLP master expert companies like Walt Disney make sure that their parks smell good and have a wide range of foods and styles. As an example, Disney sprays 100 gallons of orange oil a day into the air around the parks and has more varied restaurants per square foot than any other public service institution. On top of that, the customer's experience is highly visual, auditory, and very kinesthetic (not to mention olfactory and gustatory).
Perhaps the most powerful tool of NLP, which only the greatest masters of the art employ, is turning judgment into curiosity. These masters suspend the human behavior of making up stuff about people in seven seconds or less and devote their imaginations and intentions to developing curiosity about the people they meet. NLP carries with it a series of presuppositions that, if you believe these are true at some level, will enable you to engage, build, and maintain rapport.
So just listen to the following list and try it on for size between you and your employees, you and your customers, and your employees and your customers. These presuppositions are a useful foundation for creating rapport among individuals and within organizations. When you act as if these are true, you begin to notice more opportunities for win-win results in your interactions with others and more positive talk about yourself:
1. Behind every behavior is a positive intention on the part of the person exhibiting the behavior.
2. The map is not the territory. People respond to their map or interpretation of reality, not to reality itself. Effective positive communication is about understanding and changing maps, which in turn can change perceptions of reality.
3. Anything can be accomplished when we break the task down into small enough chunks to be manageable for the individual or system.
4. There is no such thing as failure, only feedback. Everything is a learning opportunity to find out what works and what doesn't.
5. People already have all the resources they need. A positive, supportive, trusting environment teaches how to access these resources at an appropriate time and place.
6. Every behavior is useful in some context.
7. Model excellence. If one person can do something, it is possible to discover the components and strategies needed to achieve that result and teach it to anyone else.
8. The messenger never rests until the message is delivered.
9. The meaning of your communication is the response you get. Effective communication is about creating an experience in the listener or reader. The result is the resonance we elicit--and may not necessarily match what we intended to communicate.
10. Communication is redundant. We are always sending messages in all three major sensory modalities. Building a rapport is about checking for congruence in these messages.
11. Choice is better than no choice.
12. People always make the best choice available to them at the time. Often there are better choices that haven't been thought of or learned yet. Wisdom is about discovering more effective choices and how to change to more useful or desirable actions and beliefs.
13. If what you are doing isn't working, do anything else.
Couple these presuppositions with a common cause, and business grows. Having a common cause with your employees and your customers coupled with rapport is both art and science. Understanding and creating a common cause is the first step in building rapport with your employees and your customers.
I like to describe a common cause as a shared passion of people working together and knowing that their cause can never be achieved, that perfection is something everyone should strive for even though knowing it cannot be achieved. Rapport between you and your employees, between you and your customers, and between your employees and your customers will result in more sales, more margin, and lower costs. It is an art and a science that can be learned, should be taught, and is the single most important key to human relationships.
The power of rapport, the power of trust, the power of support, the power of results all come from respecting an individual's communication style and reframing your own to build rapport, trust, and relationships.
Some futurists see this as the age of singularity, where technology accelerates so fast that we cannot predict the future. As a futurist I believe we are just realizing human potentiality, and we are entering the age of relationships, where technology takes a back seat to people, an era in which we honor rapport, trust, and support as the technology of people.
So for the next few days listen to everyone with new ears. See if you can understand what is being said. Does it ring true with you, and can you get a feel for their meaning?
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Michele Gittens uses her cane under sleepshades outside BLIND, Inc.]
My Long Journey from Partially Sighted to Really Blind
by Michele Gittens
From the Editor: Michele Gittens is currently a student at BLIND, Inc. (Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions). She is also a member of the Metro Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota. She tells a painful personal story with a happy ending. It may inspire others to take charge of their lives. This is what she says:
I am grateful to be able to share with you my journey from the NFB national convention to Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND)‑‑which is essentially my version of "partially sighted, really blind."
Let me first give you a brief overview of my relationship to blindness in the past few years. The cause of my blindness is unknown. I just remember that one morning, when I was in the third grade, I could see the board clearly, but when I came back from recess later that day, I couldn't see it anymore. My parents took me from our home in New York to many doctors in various countries; we traveled all over the place.
Finally somebody referred us to the local chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. I remember my parents putting me on a train and schlepping me all the way down to Manhattan. We went into a room and sat around a rectangular table, and I was very upset because I was with all these old people (I was about twelve, and they must have been in their twenties, but to me that was very old). I didn't say a word; I just sat there very still.
Afterward I made it clear to my parents that I didn't want to have anything to do with these people. My father, being the wise man he is (I didn't think so at the time), said, "How do you expect to live as a blind person if you don't know any other blind people?"
I said, "Dad, these people are blind. I am legally blind. We are in two different worlds; they do not understand where I come from." From then on the only relationship I had with the NFB was that every year I would get two flyers‑‑one about the New York state convention and the other about the national. The little NFB logo was in dark print, so I could always see it, and as soon as I saw it, I would just tear it up and throw it in the trash before my parents saw it. I didn't want to hear anything about the NFB.
I went through school, and as a teenager I no longer saw myself as legally blind; I became visually limited. I loved being visually limited because I never did understand the legal thing. High school was great; it was like going to school with your mom: I had readers, notetakers, and advocates. I didn't have to deal with any of the blindness issues that came up; they just magically disappeared.
Then I went to college, where I got a dose of reality. Suddenly on the first day I was expected to manage my own readers, schedule my exams, and talk to my professors. Sometimes I went to professors who said, "Michele, how can we help you?"
I would get frustrated and angry, thinking, "Shouldn't you be telling me what to do? Haven't you had visually impaired students before?" (In college I was visually impaired.) I was so frustrated and stressed out that in my junior year, I left college and never returned. It really disappointed my parents, but nobody could tell me anything; I wasn't going back.
I did have the sense to know I needed some training, so I enrolled at a service-delivery agency in New York. I was there for about four years, and I went through all the programs they offered (I'm a very thorough person). There I learned that I am now visually disabled. In one program in which I took part twenty people were enrolled, and only one used a white cane. We were taught to "maximize our residual vision." We had computer class, and we used ZoomText, the screen-enlargement program--never JAWS or any other speech-access program. I also had travel class and was given a white cane, but I wasn't encouraged to use it outside of class, and the class was certainly not a requirement. I remember being on the corner of Broadway and 42nd Street and saying to my instructor, "How do I know if this is the right corner?"
He said, "Use your common sense!" (That's how people in New York talk). "Look up at the pole, and you see there's a street sign. Broadway is a longer word, so it is a long white strip, whereas 42nd is two numbers, so it's a short strip. So that's how you know."
I thought to myself, "But where's the sign?" I graduated from that program with honors and decided to move on. It was time to work, so I auditioned and got a job in London as a background singer. When I moved there, my mother made me take my white cane (that was my parents being wise again).
As soon as I arrived in London, I made a discovery: I might really be blind. I had grown up in New York, so I didn't realize how little I was actually seeing and how much I was relying on my mental picture of everything to get around. When I got to England, everything was totally different. For the first month I would not leave my apartment unless somebody came to get me, and, without exaggeration, I cried every single day.
My parents and family and friends called and pleaded with me to use my cane, but I refused. Somebody from the agency whose program I had attended called and said, "Michele, somebody from New York died because she crossed a street without using a white cane and got hit by a car." Even that wasn't enough for me.
I said, "Well, that's nice; I'll take my chances." In England traffic moves on the left side of the street instead of the right. One of my cousins called me and said, "A lot of people from America go to England and get killed. If you don't use your cane, you might get hit by a car, and we're not kidding."
I'm embarrassed to repeat this, but I said to him, "I'd rather die than use that stick." As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I realized I had hit rock bottom.
I decided I had to do something, so I called the Royal National Institute for the Blind and made an appointment to meet with a counselor. I wanted to hire a travel instructor, but she said that would not be possible because I was a partial. I said, "Partially what?"
She said, "You're partially sighted, like me."
I asked, "What do you do about it?"
She said, "You just get used to it."
Every day I had to go someplace different to work, and I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to die, but I still wasn't going to use that stick. I started coming up with my own alternative techniques‑‑my blind-person-pretending-to-be-sighted tricks. It worked somewhat, but I decided to interview other blind people to find out what they did. That led to reading books and doing a lot of research; suddenly I had to go to every seminar on blindness I heard about.
One day my mom called and said that there was a letter for me from the NFB (of course I hadn't had a chance to tear it up). She said that they were having a convention in Philadelphia, and I decided to go because I hadn't yet figured out a good way to walk down a flight of steps. I was once doing a show in which, to get off the stage, I had to come downstairs from the stage into the audience. I fell down the stairs, got up, and fell down the stairs again. I was mortified, and I had a thing about stairs from then on. I used to tell people that I would have no problem if there were no stairs in the world‑‑the problem was not my eyes; it was the stairs. So I flew to this convention to learn about going downstairs.
I got to the hotel with a friend, and we noticed all these people with white poles. I thought to myself, is this a try‑out for the summer Olympics? Then we went to registration, and I saw that everybody had them. I realized that of course they were canes, but I had never seen them used like this before. I got excited because I saw people walking by themselves without guides. I was beside myself. I talked to everybody (well, almost everybody, since there were three thousand people). I called my mom and said, "Mom, do you know blind people have jobs?" Almost every blind person I had met until then was on SSI (Supplemental Security Income). I said, "Mom, do you know they have houses and families?" I had assumed that I would never have a family.
My father got on the phone and said, "I told you: how do you expect to live as a blind person if you don't know any?" At the convention there was a presentation about cane travel, and I talked to Joe Cutter from New Jersey and told him my sob story about stairs. I didn't have a cane with me, so when I finished my tale, he said, "I have a present for you." He offered me a cane; it was beautiful. I was now happy because I had a pole like everyone else.
Joe Cutter introduced me to Ron Burzese. Ron listened to my story, and he was both gracious and patient. We went to a staircase, and he told me to close my eyes; I'm from New York, so I was suspicious and made sure my friend was watching, but I did it. He showed me how to use the cane going down the stairs, and it was the safest feeling. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, Ron said in his deep, Barry White voice, "You have a decision to make. You can either live the rest of your life as a clumsy sighted person, or you can become a respectable blind person." Those words hit me. Many people had pleaded with me, but when he said that, it was as if he knew me. Now I thank him every day, about twice a day.
After the convention I went back to London to finish up my jobs. Then I came back home. Three days later was 9-11 (September 11, 2001), and I thought to myself, I am never getting on a plane again! So much for my dreams of going anywhere. A few weeks later there was a big deal in the news about how Mike Hingson got out of the World Trade Center, and I said to my parents, "How much you wanna bet he's from the NFB? Anyone who went to the training center I did would never have gotten out!" A while later I received the Braille Monitor with the article about him, and I went crazy. I thought, "This is another sign."
I know many people in those towers did not have the opportunity to get out, but even if I had been there and had had the chance, I probably wouldn't have taken it, because my fear of coming down a flight of stairs was so deep I would have sat there and perished. I realized then that getting good training wasn't just about becoming respectable; it could be a life and death matter.
All my life I have said that there were two places I wanted to live: London and Minneapolis. I grew up watching Mary Tyler Moore, and I wanted an M like the one she had in her apartment. I did check out the other NFB training centers, but I already knew I was coming to Minneapolis. It was very challenging to get New York to pay for me to come to BLIND, Inc., but that story is for another time. I kept knocking on the agency's door because I knew that eventually they would give me what I wanted just to shut me up, and they did. My thanks go to Shawn Mayo and a lot of other people.
I have been at BLIND, Inc., only since September 16, 2002, and I have already seen a huge change within myself. I knew I needed confidence but could never figure out why I couldn't get it. I realize now that the key is the training. I'm walking around and not banging into things. As a singer I travel a lot, and I used to get someplace, cry for a week, and then get going. I have not cried yet in Minneapolis, and I am thrilled.
In closing, I'd like to thank the Federation on behalf of myself and my fellow BLIND, Inc., students. Thank you not only for challenging us to embrace our blindness (or aspects of our blindness) but for providing us the opportunity, the wisdom, the mentoring, and the tools that enable people like me to stand now as a respectable, independent, sky's‑the‑limit blind person.
You can create a gift annuity by transferring money or property to the National Federation of the Blind. In turn, the NFB contracts to pay you income for life or your spouse or loved ones after your death. How much you and your heirs receive as income depends on the amount of the gift and your age when payments begin. You will receive a tax deduction for the full amount of your contribution, less the value of the income the NFB pays to you or your heirs.
You would be wise to consult an attorney or accountant when making such arrangements so that he or she can assist you to calculate current IRS regulations and the earning potential of your funds. The following example illustrates how a charitable gift annuity can work to your advantage.
Mary Jones, age sixty-five, decides to set up a charitable gift annuity by transferring $10,000 to the NFB. In return the NFB agrees to pay Mary a lifetime annuity of $750 per year, of which $299 is tax-free. Mary is also allowed to claim a tax deduction of $4,044 in the year the NFB receives the $10,000 contribution.
For more information about charitable gift annuities, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ollie Cantos]
What Is This World Coming To?
by Olegario D. Cantos VII
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the Spring 2003 issue of the NFB Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia. Ollie Cantos is general counsel and director of programs for the American Association of People with Disabilities in Washington, D.C. A former state and national scholarship winner and originally from California, he now lives in Arlington, Virginia, and is active in his local chapter of the NFB. This is what he says:
I should begin by asserting that I have certain beliefs about blindness--beliefs that have changed over time. Some people may agree with me while others may hold contrasting views. Especially those who have known me for many years may frankly be surprised to see what I now think; my opinions are strong and in some circles may elicit controversy.
Over a two-day period recently a series of events occurred that gave me cause to wonder what this world is coming to. Since I use a long white cane, it is apparent to people that I am blind. The things that happened to me were small events that might almost have gone unnoticed, yet their very occurrence made me notice how much things have now changed.
It all started one Friday morning, not unlike any other day. First, fighting the urge to hit the snooze button just one more time so I could sleep for five more precious minutes, I finally rolled out of bed and got ready for work. Then I was on my way.
The Metropolitan Washington, D.C., area has a strong public transportation infrastructure, with many bus lines and an extensive subway system called the Metro. During rush hour the trains run roughly every three to four minutes, and they are typically extremely crowded, especially during the 8:00 hour. When I approached the fare gate, the Metro station manager never offered to assist me through, even though the crowds were hectic. Once I got through the gate and made my way toward the escalator, in spite of all the people around me, not even one pointed out that I was coming close to the moving stairway. When I did make my way down the escalator, I was just in time to catch the next train, which was approaching at that very moment. Once the doors opened, no one made an effort to help me find the door. In fact, I had to locate it myself. Upon boarding the packed train, I stood along with many other people. Near the door are seats above which appear signs clearly stating that people who sit there should give priority to seniors and to people with disabilities. Yet no one offered to give up his or her seat, so I stood all the way to my Metro stop, a ride of about twenty minutes. Even when the people in the designated seats stood up to disembark, others who were closer to the seats just took them for themselves, never once offering me the opportunity to sit down, even though my cane made it obvious that I was blind and covered by Metro's priority seating policy.
Upon reaching my stop, I stepped off the train. Again, no one even offered to direct me to my Metro exit. Not one person asked me which exit I wanted, followed by the question, "Do you need help getting there?" Instead, they went on their way and did not offer to assist me in the least.
Traveling up a set of escalators, I had to follow others almost in single file. No one offered to allow me to go ahead of him or her. The same thing happened when I made my way up a second set of escalators that took me to the street level. As I walked to the corner along with a number of other rushing people, I did not receive even one offer of assistance in the form of advice about when it was safe to cross the busy intersection. "My gosh! What is this world coming to," I thought.
Later, at the end of what felt like a very long workday, I decided to go get a bite to eat. Because of the popularity of the restaurant to which I was going (the Cheesecake Factory), the waiting time was quite extensive. To be seated, individuals or groups were placed on a list and seated in first-come, first-served order. That evening I was dining alone. Though I was using my white cane, I was not seated ahead of anyone else. The greeter just took my name down and said, "Alright, sir, the waiting time is approximately forty-five minutes." And wait I did.
Luckily for me, in spite of the long wait and long dinner, I still had time to catch a late movie. When I got in line to buy a ticket, nobody invited me to move in front of him or her. Then, when I finally got to the ticket window, in spite of recognizing that I was blind, the box office cashier charged me full price. She did not even consider the fact that I am blind and would not be able physically to see the movie for which I was paying admission.
The next day I needed to do some laundry. I made my way to the apartment's common area laundry room with full hands. I had a laundry bag in one hand and my cane in the other. Other apartment residents were obviously using their Saturday to do their laundry too. Though they were strangers, I greeted them with hellos just to be neighborly. In a friendly way they greeted me in kind, but never at any point did they offer to help me find an empty machine or offer to show me how they worked. They just went about their business. As was the case the day before, I wondered, "What is this world coming to?" I could not help wondering why all of this had happened to me. What had I done to deserve such treatment? Why was I in these altered situations with increasing regularity? Why didn't people even stop to think about my blindness when I was using a cane more than five-and-a-half feet long?
Before reading on, pause and think carefully about your perceptions of my situation. I firmly believe that what took place illustrates the progress that blind people have made because of the National Federation of the Blind! For decades, since this organization's founding, we have battled hard for first-class citizenship, the central philosophy of which asserted that blind people should have the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. Blindness, we assert, can be reduced to a nuisance when people are given the proper training in basic skills and the opportunity to succeed. Insistence on equality of opportunity has been the thrust behind our collective decision to organize and to speak for ourselves. My experience during these two days proves more than ever that equality is already well within our grasp. We do not seek special treatment, and we do not seek handouts. Instead we are determined to earn the same rights and carry the same responsibilities of citizenship as our sighted neighbors. And we will do so with vigor, determination, a fire in our hearts, and a positive philosophy of blindness that enables us to carry ourselves with confidence.
So in response to the question what is this world coming to, I believe I have the answer. It is maturing to the point where blindness is as incidental and commonplace to those around us as we ourselves find it. We enjoy more opportunities today than at any other point in history. Better still, while blind people continue to stop the cycle of negative attitudes leading to limited success in themselves, the same change of attitude has been taking place in the general public, since our words and actions are demonstrating this philosophy to be both time-tested and true. Make no mistake about it. The world has changed for the better because of the National Federation of the Blind.
by Ed Kemmick
From the Editor: On February 6, 2003, the Billings Gazette published a piece about Federationist Jim Aldrich and his method of traveling around town as a blind person. The reporter, who writes a monthly column providing snapshots of people in the Yellowstone area, did a fine job of expressing Jim's attitudes while educating the public about one of their neighbors. Here is the article:
Jim Aldrich knows he's lucky to be living at the turn of the third millennium. "If I lived a hundred years ago and had to make a wood fire, I don't think I'd survive," he said. "We've got it pretty good."
Among the technological devices that make his life pretty good are talking clocks, a talking thermometer, a microwave oven with a Braille keypad, and a computer that can translate text into audio. He also has a couple of Palm Pilot‑like devices that convert information from the Internet into refreshable Braille on a miniature keyboard.
But when Jim ventures outside his house, he leaves technology behind and confronts a world that he can't see, armed only with a white cane, his sense of hearing, and his sense of touch. His cane, made of flexible fiberglass with a steel tip, tells Jim most of what he needs to know. His ears are alert for what's going on in a wider area, but mainly he concentrates on the small swath of space directly in front of him, the space reached by his cane.
The cane tells him about cracks in the sidewalk, about potholes and fire hydrants, curbs, patches of ice, telephone poles, fences, and stop signs. He moves forward like a mine sweeper, his cane constantly in motion. By describing a small arc with the tip of the cane and directing his steps toward the middle of the arc, Jim is able to proceed in a relatively straight line.
Walking from his house near Terry Park to the Albertson's store near the Sixth Street underpass, Jim strides confidently, having made the five‑block trip many times before. He talks about landmarks on the way-‑feeders where birds flock in the spring, a day care where the children often greet him, and the familiar intersections, each with its distinctive landmarks.
At the grocery store he waits near the racks of shopping carts for someone to help him. On this particular day his guide is Christina Kober, a young courtesy clerk who guides Jim's cart down the aisles, finds what he's looking for, and tells him about sales and special offers.
In the check-out line he's on his own. There is no one to read him the headlines about Winona Ryder, Halle Berry, and Joe Millionaire in the scandal magazines, no one to read him the big headline-‑"Duck hunters shoot angel!"-‑on the cover of World Weekly News.
On the way home on Miles Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets, one section of the sidewalk is pushed up a couple of inches, probably by tree roots. "I call that the homestretch," Jim says, tapping the raised concrete with his cane. "When I hit that, I know I'm on the homestretch."
When the wind is blowing hard-‑hard enough to limit his hearing-‑going out can be a problem. But the worst thing is snow, which Jim calls "a blind man's fog." If you're used to seeing the sidewalk with a cane, snow levels out contours, hides curbs, and erases the contrast between the concrete and what blind people call the "shoreline," the grass or dirt on either edge of a sidewalk.
And if you cross streets by using the sound of passing cars to time your movements, snow presents another obstacle. "It sounds like the traffic is on a carpet," Jim says. "It's much more muffled."
Despite the difficulties attending something as simple as walking to the store, Jim says blindness is no more than a limitation. And it could be worse. There are people who are blind and deaf, and they still manage to get out into the world."It's beyond my imagining," Jim says, slowly shaking his head. "I don't know what I'd do."
Jim and his twin brother John were born in Billings almost fifty-four years ago. They were born prematurely, Jim with fragile, undeveloped eyes. He was given too much oxygen shortly after birth, which further damaged his eyes, resulting in complete blindness.
He says his hometown is "a wonderful place," and he has spent most of his life here. He wishes there were better transportation-‑buses running seven days a week and late at night, for starters-‑but other than that he has no complaints, and he is generally pleased at how helpful people are.
Even when he doesn't need help, he says, he thanks people for trying, "because I think it's a good idea."
Jim particularly likes the downtown, where he can walk almost anywhere he wants to go. On a recent stroll through the downtown, Jim was unfamiliar with the new curbside improvements, including fenced‑in patios, benches, and the Skypoint public sculpture at Second and Broadway. He liked them all, however, for reasons most people would never consider. Encountering an iron enclosure around the patio in front of Travel Cafe, Jim carefully runs his hand over the fence, storing memories for future reference. It will be an important landmark, telling him where he is even if there's snow.
A block later he comes in contact with one of Skypoint's support legs. "Again," he says, "this is a good clue. When I get to this, I'll know where I am."
Across the street Jim passes beneath an awning over the entrance to a store. "I must be under an awning," he says. "I could hear the sound change." In the same way, he knows he's crossing an alley because there's a gap in the reflected sound. He guesses correctly when he passes a parking garage, saying he could hear the way the traffic sounds echoed through it.
The only trouble he has is at the corners. The new sidewalks have wide, smooth openings to accommodate wheelchairs, but they don't help people with white canes. Normally Jim finds the edge of the curb and waits there for the light to change. Without a distinct curb, he doesn't know where the edge is, where the sidewalk ends.
But he'll find his way. He usually does. "I'd say we're generally very normal people," he says. "When it comes to getting about, we have to adapt. We have to find our own way."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Christine Brown]
You're Not in Kansas Anymore, Dorothy
by Christine Brown
From the Editor: Some years ago now Christine Brown and her husband became friends with Jim and Sharon Omvig in Arizona. Largely because of that friendship and what Christine learned about the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind and the need for professionals willing to believe in the abilities of blind people, Christine decided to enroll in the orientation and mobility graduate program at Louisiana Tech University. When she graduated, she and her husband hoped to locate in Ohio, but we could not persuade anyone in the various programs around the state frantically looking for cane travel instructors to hire her.
Ohio's loss was Michigan's gain. Today Christine is making a profound difference in the lives of disabled students at the University of Michigan. She addressed the mid-winter conference conducted by the National Association of Blind Students held in Washington, D.C., on February 1, 2003. The good sense of the advice she gave to the students needs no further elucidation. Here it is:
Are you inspired today? I am. I'm inspired by the members of the National Federation of the Blind.
I am a coordinator of services for blind students in the Disabled Student Services office at the University of Michigan. Now, before you boo and hiss and throw tomatoes at the stage, let me tell you that I believe in blind people. I am a graduate of the NFB O and M (orientation and mobility) master's program at Louisiana Tech and a proud member of the National Federation of the Blind. The National Federation of the Blind has taught me that my role is to empower blind students, spur them on to reaching their fullest potential, and help equip them with skills to go on to become gainfully employed in their field of choice.
I have been asked to speak to you this morning about the role of a disabled student services office in the life of blind students and what I perceive to be the students' rights and responsibilities that go along with these services.
Let me start by telling you a true story. I encountered a blind freshman recently who would tell you that she had had the best services available in high school. In her mind she was fully prepared for college. If she needed Braille books, they were ordered by someone for her. If she had an exam, she would show up for the test, and a crisp Braille copy would be waiting for her on her desk. If she needed to get to class or an appointment on campus, a staff member was always ready to extend an arm to take her there.
She graduated with a 3.8 grade point average and had a very high level of confidence that she would succeed in college-–why wouldn't she think that? She had succeeded very well to this point and had had great services, right? To respond to this question in the youthful vernacular, let me just say, "Not!" The student's name could have been Dorothy, and I want to say, "Dorothy, let me just tell you that you're not in Kansas anymore."
This student started the enrollment process at the university, and it was time for her first placement exam. She walked up to the front of the room and said, "Hi, I'm here to take my exam in Braille." Well, no dialogue with the professor had taken place beforehand, and the professor had no idea what the student was talking about. You can imagine that the situation just got more complicated from there.
I would assert that this student did not get great services in high school because no one prepared her for the next step. No one gave her tools in her toolbox to succeed; they just took care of everything for her. My friends, this concept is called custodialism, and it is a dangerous adversary. It can be subtle and disguised by the best of intentions on the part of the staff. It can reside under a sugar coating of desire to protect the student and be decorated with some sprinkles on top that minimize the student's ability to be a competent and competitive individual.
This student's high school staff had the responsibility to teach her to stand on her own two feet. They should have taught her to advocate for herself, to travel independently and without assistance, to register for classes on her own, to take notes in class, to communicate the best medium for taking exams with faculty, to use a slate and stylus and adaptive technology equipment, to be held to exactly the same standards as her sighted peers, and to succeed in life on her own.
I tell you this story because I believe that DSS offices have the same responsibility at the college level. Sadly, this is not the only student I've encountered who has been in this boat, and it is a cold and rude awakening for these students. An old saying about parenting goes, "If you let them make little decisions when they are little, they'll be able to make big decisions when they are big." The same is true for you in leaping out of the nest and learning to fly on your own as a successful college student. You might be thinking to yourself, "I know I'll be able to do it myself when the time comes, but I'm going to take advantage of all these great services." I guarantee that you could read every book ever published on how to swim, but until you jump into the cold water, you won't really know if you can do it.
What does this mean for you? I encourage you to avoid viewing the DSS office in extreme terms. On one side of the coin you should not view it as your enemy to be avoided like the plague, and on the other side of the coin you should not view it as your caregiver or the entity that will take care of everything for you. Let's talk about your rights and responsibilities as a college student.
Your rights are clearly defined under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). I like what Peggy Pinder Elliott has to say about the ADA. She says, "Whenever a blind person is tempted to say the words ‘Americans with Disabilities Act,’ that blind person should pause, take a deep breath, do a little mind-emptying exercise, and then focus on the real question, which is ‘How am I myself--this very person and no one else--going to get this job done?’ Any temptation to duck, wangle, or permit others to do our coping for us should be firmly resisted."
You have the right to receive materials in an alternative format and the right to reasonable accommodations in your classes. Materials in alternative format could include Braille, scanned materials, or books on tape; and reasonable accommodations could include using a laptop to enter exam answers or extended time on exams if you are using a live reader for an essay exam.
Your responsibilities are to go talk to your professors, on your own, before the term begins; to establish a rapport; and to answer any questions they may have. You have an opportunity to educate your professors about what it will be like to have a successful and independent blind student in his or her class.
You should ensure that you have the tools you need to succeed, such as technology, books, notetaking capability, and the ability to use the Internet as a powerful tool and conduct research using online resources. You will notice the operative word here is "you."
I have another saying (I have a lot of sayings): "Be a forest ranger, not a firefighter." What does this mean? It means be alert, know what is ahead instead of putting out a huge blaze. I highly recommend that you make it a practice to forecast what you will need to succeed and make sure that everything is in place.
If you are not sure what you need because you are new, then learn to network. Partner with other students in the division who are successful and find out what they did. Networking means maximizing resources and knowing how and where to get information. I have another saying, "If you're not networking, you're not working!" You are welcome to partner with your DSS coordinator, but remember two things: 1) this person is earning a salary on your behalf, and it is you who decide what course of action to take; and 2) you have no better resource than a successful blind student. I'm going to repeat this one: "You have no better resource than a successful blind student." Partnering with your DSS coordinator becomes sticky territory because only a handful of people in positions like mine hold the belief that it is respectable to be blind and know the truth about blindness. Then there is the majority--those sugar-coated, well-intentioned people who want to make all your worries go away.
If you have one of these sugar-coated people in your DSS office, I encourage you to use the services judiciously and set some expectations-–for example, that it will be you who arrange your test-taking, you who will talk to your professors, and you who will get a job when all is said and done. It is tempting to take the easy path, but I guarantee you it isn't smart. In fact, I was joking with a friend at national convention in Kentucky who took my arm to go through the convention hall instead of using her cane. She joked, "This is easy; I could get used to this." Both she and I knew that she had excellent cane travel skills and could have navigated her way through the room without a problem, but pragmatically it made sense at that moment for her to use an alternate tool.
This is the key to your success: have a multitude of tools available and know your options. The greatest definition of freedom is choice. If you don't have choices and options, you've just lost your freedom.
Also set your expectations high. I encourage you to take a hard look at yourself and work on areas that need improvement. When I came to Michigan, I had a few students who were always late to appointments with me. They didn't say anything or give me a reason when they were late; they just showed up late. Apparently this had been an acceptable standard before I came, and no one challenged the issue. I had to sit down with them and establish a new expectation. Some people may say, "Oh, the poor blind student, he just can't make it on time--I'm going to let it slide." I say, just say no to this kind of thinking. I expect exactly the same of you as I would from your sighted peers because I view you as equal to them. You will be judged equally if you behave at their standard or above.
I would like you to think for a moment about your future. When you get a job and your new boss says, "Please find out all you can about global warming, write a report, and take it to Bob Smith at 905 Washington Street by 10 a.m.," will you be up to the task?
I encourage you to think in terms of long-range planning. Can you be sure that you will be able to take the next step?
I close by again quoting Peggy Pinder Elliott, who has written some great articles on dealing with DSS offices. If you haven't read her articles online, you should. She says:
When a DSS office does it for us, it translates into failure to learn coping skills. So say it nicely, say it with kindness, say it with firmness, but say it! "I'll do it myself." And make it stick. Make it stick with the DSS office, and make it stick with yourself. When you do, we're all winners. We win when we discover self-reliance, when we build our own dignity, when we learn to handle tasks for ourselves without even thinking much about it. In other words, we win when we find out who we are and reject the trappings of custodialism, however they are dressed up and disguised. In a very real, very practical sense that is exactly what Dr. Jernigan meant when he said: "We know who we are, and we will never go back."
High Partial Is Still Blind
by Mike Robinson
From the Editor: Mike Robinson is president of the Buffalo Chapter of the NFB of New York. He delivered a speech at the 2001 New York convention which was very well received. We don't often hear from members who have a good deal of usable vision yet still identify strongly with the organized blind movement. Mike and his wife are both what is known as high partials, and they recognize that they share the responsibility to educate the public about the abilities of blind people. Here is the speech Mike gave:
My wife Angie and I have been active members of the Federation for over fourteen years. With our two sons we live in the Buffalo suburb of Tonawanda on the Niagara River within ten miles of Niagara Falls. We have both had experience managing state-sponsored concessions in Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse as well as being involved in other pursuits.
A much respected leader of the NFB of New York, Peter Roydal, used to comment about blindness that "It is harder for most people to understand someone with partial sight than it is for them to understand someone with no sight."
I'll be speaking to you today about my situation as a high partial and the challenges I face in the middle–-between sighted and totally blind. Angie too is a high partial, so we are fortunate to have each other as well as the Federation for support. We believe that it is important for the Federation to strive to enlighten the public and minimize the misunderstandings of the visually handicapped, no matter what the degree of blindness.
My inherited condition is a combination of myopic degeneration and cone dystrophy. Myopic degeneration is a genetically created elongation of the eyeball so that images I see are focused in front of the cornea. The accompanying cone dystrophy is a deterioration of cells that receive light stimuli in the retina, causing nearsightedness and color blindness.
This condition was passed on to my brother, a male cousin, and me from our maternal grandfather. We three have determined that our inconveniences are similar, as are the ways we cope with them. Fortunately my prognosis does not suggest any extensive future deterioration of my sight. For better or worse I'll always be a high partial.
One of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave me was not denying my visual problem. I was never sheltered, and they never expected any less of me than of my sighted sisters.
In many ways my problems are the same as those of anyone who is totally blind. Being unable to obtain a driver's license is a major drawback. As we all know, transportation is a critical concern. Using nonconventional methods to read print and perform some day-to-day tasks and convincing others that my handicap does not deter me from leading a normal, productive life are my obstacles also. But, because I do not display the obvious signs of blindness--relying on a dog or cane--my greatest challenge is with those who don't realize to what extent my vision is impaired.
During the nicer and sometimes not-so-nice Buffalo weather I bicycle wherever I want to go. It is five miles to work every day. My sons and I take bike rides for fun, and most days I have errands to run. We sometimes ride ten to fifteen miles to visit relatives or friends. On average I cycle about twenty miles a day. Luckily our community has many good bike paths. But often I can't avoid traffic. How then do I see well enough to bike but not to drive? It's all in finding the safest routes and the best way to use them. Caution and concentration are crucial. I am proud to say that I have a spotless accident record.
Even though I can get myself around in good weather, I have places to go with my family during inclement weather that prohibits cycling. That's when I face the annoyance of choosing among bus, taxi, and asking for a ride with friends.
Making the most of a motor trip requires careful planning. We're not always at our leisure to stop wherever or whenever we would like. The driver makes some decisions for us, especially how long or short our stay will be. Asking a relative or friend for a ride seems like an imposition, so we try not to ask too often.
Knowing where bus stops are, determining whether the oncoming bus is the one I want, catching a bus that runs at the right time, and dealing with arrogant bus drivers are some of the problems I face regularly. Once I was getting a bus home from work at an unusual time. Buses scheduled from Buffalo to Tonawanda are very infrequent. I asked the bus driver if he was going to Tonawanda. He jumped to the conclusion that I could not read the markings on the bus because I was illiterate. I got a lecture on the importance of an education and the advice that I should "Get off drugs and do something useful with my life."
I guess I didn't look as if I had an associate's degree in restaurant and hotel management and of course I wasn't wearing a sign that said "legally blind." So I lectured him right back about jumping to conclusions and being polite to passengers. He was so arrogant that he continued his lecture. After a long discussion with his supervisor once I got home, I felt better. I have not seen that driver on a bus since.
I have had other experiences with people who didn't understand visual impairment as opposed to total blindness. Many potential employers have told me that I would not be hired because I did not have reliable transportation. None gave me the opportunity to demonstrate that I could report to work regularly and on time. At my current job I am rarely absent or tardy.
A few years ago I applied for a job as manager of a franchised fast-food restaurant. The interview went well, and I worked a few days. But I was not permanently hired because of my inability to drive. "What if you run out of something?" they wanted to know.
"I'd improvise," I told them. "Besides, a good manager would not be likely to run out."
Restaurant menus and menu boards are a problem for me. I stare and look like I should be able to read them. When I was growing up, Mom or Dad would read the list of ice-cream flavors to me since the print was invariably too small. Over time I've memorized, to some degree, the menu boards in fast-food restaurants. All goes well unless I forget and order a Whopper at McDonalds.
Speaking of large print, the legal minimum size is currently fourteen point. It's easier to read but far from ideal. Not only are high partials inconvenienced, but many sighted older people with failing eyesight would appreciate larger printed menus, church missals, ATM instructions, and the like, as well. Eighteen-point print would be a helpful improvement for many folks. This matter is something I would like to see the Federation address in future.
Looking normally-sighted is particularly frustrating to Angie and me when a neighbor or passer-by accuses us of being stuck up. Even if we are looking right at people, we don't respond to a wave because we don't see it. After some explanation we assure them we would more readily acknowledge audible greetings.
Some ask, "Well, why don't you use a cane to signal your blindness?" I admit that sometimes a cane would explain my handicap and avoid some confusion. Being more aware of my condition would probably make people more accommodating. All of us must adapt to our circumstances. I know I can live with the inconveniences of my blindness. And my prognosis does not predict a substantial loss of vision. Therefore I choose not to use a cane.
I am dedicated to the Federation and its purposes. It is important to educate the public about the importance of security, opportunity, and equality for the blind. We can eliminate misconceptions about the visually handicapped if we can establish that the blind are much the same as anyone else. We all wake up needing our first cup of coffee to get going, sometimes feeling like not going to work, mostly not liking the microwaved sandwiches in the vending machines (no offense to my vendor brethren), and being glad when the workday is over. We all have the same joys, sorrows, expectations, and responsibilities.
Everyone deserves the same opportunities and privileges in life. We are entitled to freedom of choice about where we live, worship, study, travel, and the like. We deserve equal treatment at work, at school, in living generally. We must unite to obtain and maintain these rights for all who are visually impaired. Our self-confidence, self-respect, self-reliance depend on it.
Shaping Our Environment
by Marcus Schmidt
From the Editor: The following speech was delivered at the 2001 convention of the NFB of Arizona. Marcus Schmidt is first vice president of the Arizona affiliate. He is an engineer and is completely bilingual in English and German. Here is his tribute to wonderful parents and a reminder that the principles that the Federation espouses are not, as some of our opponents would have it, the creation of the NFB only. Dedicated, energetic parents with common sense can advocate effectively for their blind children everywhere, and we can all change the world.
In the last year I have been reflecting upon the people who have contributed to my success and the things in my past that have shaped my views on life and blindness. Those of you who have heard me speak before know that my parents were very supportive, encouraging, and progressive. Though they weren't familiar with the National Federation of the Blind during my childhood, they modeled NFB philosophy for me and did their best to instill it in me. For instance, they expected the same things from me as from my sighted brother and sister, and they never let me use my blindness as an excuse to get out of anything.
As I grew up, I became increasingly aware of how fortunate I really was, since I knew several parents of blind children who were quite fearful, stifling, and backward. The attitudes in Germany were such that my parents received criticism for allowing me to explore the world in my own way. I was also very lucky to experience several positive changes in my environment, which made my life more enjoyable and made it easier to achieve my full potential. Only fairly recently have I recognized that many of these changes weren't just a result of happenstance, but were rather attributable to my parents' efforts.
Though my mom and dad are--and always have been--very different people, their differences complemented each other in their united fight for my freedom and progress. With my mom's emphasis on technology and training and my dad's emphasis on institutional change, the two made a very effective team.
One of their earlier successes concerned mobility training, which I was fortunate enough to begin receiving at the age of nine, after we moved to America. Within a few months I was comfortably navigating the streets around the Western Pennsylvania School for Blind Children, which I was attending at the time. After four months of training, we returned to Germany, and I could not continue receiving this instruction. Unfortunately, we found the attitudes there to be at least twenty years behind those prevalent in the U.S., so we faced a lot of fear and opposition from school administrators and even parents.
My parents pushed the local blind school hard for the completion of my mobility training, but the school principal refused, probably because I was so young. Since words couldn't persuade him, my parents simply had me walk through the streets of town one day with the principal and several blind students' parents watching, mouths gaping in amazement. After that the principal allowed me to finish my training, enabling me to use public transportation independently by the time I was ten. Having had this positive experience, the school began offering mobility training to other younger children.
When I completed sixth grade, I had to switch to a boarding school about 120 miles away from home, the only college preparatory school for the blind in all of Germany at that time. Right away my parents had to fight a major battle to allow me to come home more than once every six to eight weeks. When they found that the principal wouldn't bend, they rallied the school's parent-teacher association to the cause. It apparently had more power than American PTA enjoy. With father as the PTA vice president, they forced the principal to be more progressive by threatening him with early retirement.
When the six-week limitation was abolished, I generally took the train home about every other weekend. Instead of my being looked down on by my peers, as the principal had feared, some of my buddies joined me, and we started a trend. To guarantee this freedom to other students long-term, my parents became active in Germany's national blind parents association and had it put the rule in writing.
With my parents' positive influence at the school for the blind and my excellent mobility skills, instruction in mobility and independent living skills for all students was increased, and the entire climate improved. In fact, by the time I left the school just three and a half years later, virtually all seniors were participating in off-campus independent living programs, from which my blind friends were able to benefit later on.
Though things were going well at that school, my parents decided that the best thing for my education would be to integrate me into a regular school, which at that time was unheard of in Germany. My parents tried to persuade schools close to home to admit me, but all of them turned me down. I vividly remember hearing one of the principals say: "Why, he might fall down the stairs and hurt himself; we can't accept that liability." My parents wouldn't take "no" for an answer and took my case to the state's education minister. When that failed, they searched far and wide until they found a school in Vienna that would admit me. The entire family moved, even though this meant that my dad had to take a sizable cut in pay. The school, called the American International School, welcomed me enthusiastically, and I graduated from it with honors in 1981. Having received the skills I needed and my parents' healthy attitudes, I didn't have much difficulty adjusting to the new school or to college thereafter.
One of the important skills I had acquired was reading using the Optacon, a device that converts printed images into tactile images on an array of vibrating pins. My parents knew it was important for me to acquire this skill in order to continue my education independently, especially since my areas of interest were engineering and mathematics. Since good instructors for the Optacon were hard to come by in the mid `70's, my mother acquired the necessary training to become an instructor herself and then taught me and continued to drill me.
Being proficient with the Optacon, I was able not only to read printed text without assistance but also to look at graphs and complex diagrams and read computer screens. Now that speech output has become much more affordable and reading machines have been developed and perfected, the Optacon has lost its popularity. But remember, things haven't always been this way.
Back in the mid `70's computer speech was still fairly primitive, and reading machines existed only in people's imaginations. But, when my father heard that the German postal service had begun using computerized scanners to sort mail, he knew that reading machines for the blind were just around the corner. So he decided to research the matter himself and collected all the information he could at the country's largest technology expo. He found that, even though the technology was all there to create a reading machine, nobody was doing it. So he put together a convincing proposal to the German government to find a developer and fund the research for a reading machine. They were very impressed with his proposal, and within a fairly short time the German company AEG Telefunken took the ball and ran with it. After a mere eighteen months they demonstrated a working prototype to my father; and to this day they are one of the leaders in the business.
Paralleling these efforts, Ray Kurzweil and his staff were developing a reading machine in the U.S. Though we were still living in Europe at the time, my father made a personal visit to the States and presented his research proposal to the Kurzweil group. When he learned of their struggles with speech output, he suggested to the team that they concentrate their efforts on optical character recognition (OCR) and defer speech output development for a while. They followed his advice since the Germans had already developed the software to translate computer text into Braille.
As soon as Kurzweil had conquered the OCR challenges, they developed good speech output, thus creating an excellent reading machine by the time I reached college. It helped me get through the vast amounts of text material I had to read during my studies, and I have continued using reading machines on the job. In fact, I recently purchased the Kurzweil 1000, deemed by many to be the best OCR software on the market.
When I expressed my gratitude to my parents for the tenacity of their fight to bring about these changes, they said that they had just done what any parent would have. But, when I look around, I find that they are the exception, not the rule. Not that parents don't want to fight for what is best for their children, but they feel powerless to break down barriers, change rules, and advance technology. I'm afraid that many parents have succumbed to the increasingly popular philosophy that people are victims of our environment. They then pass this philosophy on to their children. I expect that some of us have embraced it as well. But, although this way of thinking provides a convenient way of avoiding the blame for our past failures and current shortcomings, it also prevents us from reaching our full potential. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us would admit that we have indulged in this rationalization at one time or another.
I have written this to urge us all to shake off this destructive outlook and to take full advantage of the great network of people we have in the NFB. One of the statements that inspired me at this year's national convention was "Raindrops make a forest grow and bring strong mountains down." Not everyone has connections with the people in power or the wherewithal to push forward technological advancements. But, when we draw from the experience and expertise of those around us and in the organization, we can successfully change our environment.
As you know, a Wall of Honor recognizing NFB Capital Campaign contributors of $5,000 and above will have a prominent place in our new National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute. As our new facility nears completion, we want to confirm that we have your name as you want it to appear on the NFB Wall of Honor. Please call John Brennan at the National Center if you have made changes in the way you would like your name to appear. If your circumstances allow you to increase your pledge or gift enough to move to the next level on the Wall of Honor, we would be especially grateful for your gift. Please call John Brennan at (410) 659-9314 if you would like to increase your pledge or gift enough to move to the next level. If your gift or pledge was less than $5,000, this is an opportunity to increase your support enough to be recognized on our NFB Wall of Honor.
If you have not yet made a gift or pledge to the Campaign to Change What It Means to Be Blind, now is the time!
Here are the levels at which NFB Capital Campaign contributors will be recognized on the Wall of Honor:
$1,000,000 and above-‑Jernigan Circle
$500,000 and above-‑President's Circle
$250,000 and above-‑Director's Circle
$100,000 and above-‑Leader's Circle
$50,000 and above-‑Patrons
$25,000 and above-‑Partners
$10,000 and above-‑Benefactors
$5,000 and above-‑Fellows
NFB Capital Campaign Pledge payments may be made at any time and may be sent to: NFB Capital Campaign, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Please indicate that the check is for the NFB Capital Campaign in the check memo section, and please be sure to indicate "NFB Capital Campaign" on the pledge payment envelope.
If you have questions about your pledge payment status, contact John Brennan.
Have you made your campaign pledge yet? We need everyone's help. The construction cost of our projected National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute is 19.5 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
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The Beach, Pretty Girls, and Dreaming
by Richie Flores
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Fall 2002 issue of the newsletter of the Texas student division. Richie Flores has been an active member of the Texas Association of Blind Students (TABS) for several years. He is currently a sophomore at Blinn College. In the following article he explains why he joined TABS, one of our most active affiliate student divisions. Here is what Richie has to say.
On the first day of third grade my teacher asked each student to stand up and introduce himself or herself and tell the class the three things they enjoyed most about life. When my turn came, I proudly stood up and said, "My name is Richie Flores, and my favorite things are the beach, pretty girls, and dreaming." I got a few snickers from my classmates, a couple of puzzled grumbles, and a teacher who was not impressed with my answer. After being a member of the Texas Association of Blind Students for over two years I laugh to myself when I think of my reasons for joining this organization. Some things never change. One way or another the beach, pretty girls, and my dreams have all played a vital role in my joining TABS.
When I was fifteen, I was approached by an agency for the blind. A seminar for blind students was to be held at South Padre Island, and I was invited to attend. According to the staff I would have a chance to meet other blind students, have a lot of fun, and perhaps learn something new about blindness. Enticed by the beach setting and also eager to meet other blind students my age, I agreed to attend the seminar.
Upon arrival I was delighted to learn that three other blind students and I would be lodging in a three-bedroom condo with cable TV and a hot tub on the balcony overlooking the beach, no less. After dinner was served in a pavilion on the hotel grounds, I got the chance to meet the other eleven students also attending the seminar.
The after-dinner activity was a scavenger hunt to familiarize us with our surroundings. The object of this activity was to locate items and landmarks specifically assigned to each pair of students. The first pair to finish would win a prize. I remember using my cane and my ears to locate the finish line, a bubbling creek in the center of the hotel's courtyard. My roommate and new friend David was not so lucky. As he and his partner rushed toward the finish line, eager to pass us and win first place, down tumbled David into the creek, clothing and all, soaked from head to toe, and above all embarrassed. Never mind who won the scavenger hunt; I can't even remember what the first prize was.
The point I want to make here is the reason for David's mishap. I learned later that David was not using his cane. Instead he was using the ever-popular sighted-guide technique. David was hanging on to the arm of his partner, another seminar attendee. I came to realize that each pair included one totally blind and one visually impaired partner. This was no coincidence. Those in charge of the seminar gave us to understand that we totally blind students couldn't get around without our partially sighted partners.
Poor David's experience did not seem to persuade anyone that we were all blind and really should not be depending on each other for safe travel. When the fundamental concept of independent travel for a blind person is not emphasized at a seminar for blind teens, you can imagine the other misconceptions and improper training methods I endured during those four days at the beach.
Let me compare that seminar with the one I helped organize for the Texas Association of Blind Students (TABS). In April of 2002 we conducted what I consider one of TABS's biggest accomplishments. We couldn't offer the luxury of South Padre Island or free hotel accommodation, but all in all it went well. The TABS seminar took place in Houston, Texas, at the Marriott Courtyard hotel. It was a day and a half long, and in my opinion it was very exciting. Over sixty students registered, which is an amazing attendance. Our attendees came on their own, bought their own meals, and rented their own rooms. A few even volunteered that they were leaving with a new perspective on blindness.
A tangible example of our success was the fact that two students decided to attend an NFB training center during the summer to enhance their blindness skills. One of these students told me that she owed her new attitude about blindness to the TABS seminar. Because of the information she received, she now uses her cane, has increased her appreciation for Braille, has gained cooking and cleaning skills, and has done it all proudly and independently.
Our seminar was filled with information and inspiration. It was not conducted by an agency for the blind convinced that the blind need charity. All our speeches and panels were composed of blind students who have already experienced what these attendees were about to face. Although we had no go-cart races, sand-castle-building contests, or scavenger hunts (with or without unfortunate endings), I believe these kids learned important truths, which was exactly what TABS wanted to happen.
As for pretty girls, my father once told me that the most beautiful women are the ones who can stand on their own two feet. This is true in TABS's parent organization, the National Federation of the Blind. When I received a state scholarship and was first introduced to the NFB and TABS, I was amazed to meet other students my age who were on the A honor role, held offices in student government, and used their canes and other blindness skills proudly. Kimberly Aguillard, Angela Wolf, and Yolanda Garcia all convinced me that not just being a young woman but being a blind young woman was respectable.
The beautiful-woman principle continues throughout the NFB. Our affiliate president Zena Pearcy and her board lead Texas. Dr. Joanne Wilson, a longtime NFB leader, is currently the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, a position appointed by President George W. Bush. This is a huge accomplishment for any person, man or woman, blind or sighted. Using these women as role models has helped me to believe in myself as a blind person and improved my attitude toward other blind people. All these women I have mentioned are independent, intelligent, and confident, which by my father's standard makes them beautiful people. They challenge me to step beyond my comfort zone and live independently as a blind person. So in this sense pretty girls have played a crucial role in convincing me that this organization has worthwhile purposes and dreams.
The student division's dreams were my main reason for joining this organization. Like the rest of the National Federation of the Blind, TABS believes in promoting equality, security, and opportunity for all blind people, particularly students. Obtaining access to courses and accessible textbooks, mastering independent travel, and acquiring adaptive technology are areas of the battle in which students are frequently engaged. The Instructional Materials Accessibility Act, a bill the NFB and virtually every other organization in the blindness field are urging Congress to pass, would ensure that all textbooks published are available in an agreed-upon electronic format, which would enable blind students or school personnel to use or prepare them in preferred media. If this bill passes, the dream of equality for blind students will be a long step closer to reality.
Blind students deserve the right to speak for ourselves and control our school careers. But achieving equal opportunity remains only a dream for many of us and is certainly a battle for us all. I have seen the Texas Association of Blind Students and the National Federation of the Blind taking action to change what is possible for the blind.
Federationists have established three training centers across the country that encourage students to work hard and develop healthy attitudes about blindness and high expectations for themselves. Other training centers are now beginning to adopt these principles as well. Training in such centers, families who believe in the ability of blind people, and positive blind role models all help blind people to succeed. TABS believes that students can and must take an active role in developing their own futures. We urge students to be self-advocates. We also offer a network of blind students to share their experience, knowledge, and friendship. In short, TABS has many dreams and the determination to see them realized.
A trip to the beach, beautiful and intelligent women, and powerful dreaming have played a huge part in my participation in TABS and the NFB. The castles we build together will never be washed away by the tide but will stand tall, proud, and strong. I will continue to believe and fight for equal rights for blind people around the world. I will continue looking to beautiful, intelligent women as role models to aid me in becoming a beautiful person myself. Finally, as a member of TABS I will continue to dream the dream of total independence, effective education, and training for Texas's blind students.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Noel Nightingale and Jim Peterson hold their children Cosmo and Leila]
by Noel Nightingale
From the Editor: Leila Peterson, daughter of NFB of Washington President Noel Nightingale and her husband Jim Peterson, will be three years old next November. When she was a small infant, her mother, newly sensitized to beauty in all its forms by the birth of this remarkable baby, wrote a reflection on beauty and what it means to blind people. That little meditation found its way into I Can Feel Blue on Monday, the nineteenth in the National Federation of the Blind's series of Kernel Books. Since we have just celebrated Mother's Day, it seemed appropriate to reprint it now. Here it is, beginning with President Maurer's introduction:
Noel Nightingale is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington State and a member of our National Board of Directors. She is a mother, a wife, an attorney. Here she reflects on the nature of beauty and the magical moments of life:
My husband Jim Peterson and I recently had the joy of having a baby. Her name is Leila Nightingale Peterson. She weighed six pounds, three ounces at birth and is now a couple of months old. Objectively speaking, Leila is absolutely perfect. She is smart, advanced for her age, and extremely well behaved, crying only when it is convenient for us. And she is beautiful.
One of my nurses told me the day we left the hospital, "All the nurses are talking about how beautiful your baby is, one of the prettiest they've seen." Earlier my nurse asked her colleagues whether they had told me what they thought. They said they had not because the mother was blind, and they did not want to make her feel bad.
She admonished them that all mothers want to hear that their babies are beautiful. I thanked my nurse for telling me and told her that I already knew that Leila is lovely but was glad to hear that others thought so too. This exchange reminded me that I had once wondered whether beauty would be denied to me as a blind person.
I will never forget the only time I saw a butterfly up close. It was when I could still see. I was with a friend on the top of a mountain in the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington. We were having a picnic with all of the usual picnic supplies. Among other things, we had a carton of orange juice with us. At one point the butterfly landed on the orange juice carton.
I slowly moved my head closer and closer to the butterfly. Amazingly enough, it did not fly away. My face was just inches away from the butterfly, and I could see all the details of its coloring--yellow, white, and black. I could see the lines where each color ended and the next began. I could see the delicate edges of the wings. It was a magical moment.
At this point in my life, I had recently been diagnosed with a degenerative eye disorder and knew I would soon be blind. I savored the moment of seeing the intricate detail of this handsome creature. I worried that when I became blind I would never again experience the beauty found in such rare and privileged moments.
A few years ago I was riding in a car with Jim and noticed that I could not tell what color the sky was. I knew that it was blue, but I could not see that it was. It looked like it could be either green or purple or blue but did not look definitely like any of those colors. I cried because I did not want to lose the ability to enjoy those moments when we pause and savor the beauty that can be found in our world.
For many years now I have been unable to see color or detail. The visual world is a blur of neutral, undefined objects and people. Despite this loss I have continued to live a normal life and appreciate beauty. I have married, had Leila, work, am a member of several boards of directors of nonprofit organizations, and occasionally find time to travel.
Some time after I had become blind, Jim and I took a trip to Europe with our tandem bicycle. We rode from London, England, to Madrid, Spain. We spent several weeks riding in the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain.
During one stretch we found ourselves low on food and out of water. We had underestimated the number of miles between towns and had no hope of finding water for an entire day. We were riding in the searing sun of the Spanish summer. To make matters worse, we were riding up mountains most of the day. I began to cry because I was thirsty and afraid. There were no cars, no homes, and no hope that we would be rescued from our thirst and hunger. We continued riding, though, because there was nothing else to do.
After hours of riding in this desperate state, we rounded a bend in the road and heard water running. A pipe was sticking out of the side of a small hill, and water was pouring out of it! Not only that, but there was a sign next to it that said, "Potable Water" (in Spanish). It was absolutely magical. In the middle of nowhere in those dry mountains was cold, drinkable water. We stopped, put our heads under the spout, gulped the water, and rejoiced.
There are two middle‑aged brothers living in Louisiana who have been blind since their birth. When they were born, their parents did not know that their blind babies could grow up, have careers, marry, raise families, and be active members of their communities. Their parents had such low expectations for them that they placed their blind boys, who were only a couple of years apart in age, in a room with cement floors and left them there.
They fed them, but they did not teach them how to use the bathroom. They did not read to them, send them to school, or play with them. The two boys had so little intellectual or social stimulation that they became mentally retarded. After their parents died, they were sent to a residential institution for retarded people. One day the brothers' case worker gave each one an orange. It became apparent that they had never before touched or eaten an orange. They held their oranges, smelled them, marveled at the oranges' coolness, shape, texture, and sweet aroma.
Beauty is experienced by blind people. Both the Louisiana brothers and I as blind people have experienced the depths of the world's beauty. While our experiences are not visual, they have been as profound as if we were seeing the wings of a butterfly or eating an orange for the first time. Although we share blindness, the difference between the Louisiana brothers' experience with blindness and my experience fifty years later is marked. I have had a range of opportunities available to me that was denied to the brothers.
What happened between the time the Louisiana brothers were children and the time when I became blind? The National Federation of the Blind has worked to let people know that blindness does not prevent people from living normal lives.
Were the brothers born today, members of the National Federation of the Blind could have told the brothers' parents the truth: blindness need not be a tragedy if blind people are given proper training in the use of a long white cane, taught to read Braille, allowed to use special computer equipment, and develop other skills. Not only does blindness not have to be a tragedy, but we can enjoy even those fleeting, magical moments that make life the wonderful gift that it is.
So What Did You Do Last Summer?
by Barbara Pierce
I was a kid in the fifties and sixties, and in my neighborhood youngsters didn't go away to camp when they were small or spend time during high school summers volunteering a week or two on Indian reservations or building churches. We hung around home, being bored and dreading the beginning of school in September.
By the time I had children of my own, mothers as well as fathers worked full time, and parents had to organize activities to keep our kids relatively engaged and supervised during the nonschool months. The kids were still bored much of the time, but they were at least busier. Our family worked its way through swimming and tennis lessons, recreation activities at the nearest school, and girls' softball. One summer all three kids enrolled in summer school to learn to type. Another summer Steven took a special course at the college in computer science, and the girls went to music camp. In addition piano lessons continued all summer, and every day each kid had chores to do.
All these activities (except the chores) cost money. Not a lot--we didn't have a lot of money to spend on such things--but my husband and I recognized that, if our children were to take advantage of the opportunities surrounding them, we had to make some sacrifices.
We weren't being virtuous; the cost of summer activities was simply a fact of life. We did not have a blind child to raise, but I don't think I would have felt any different about summer activities if we had. Yet I increasingly notice a disturbing tendency among blind people themselves and the families of blind children. I refer to the attitude that programs designed for the blind ought to be free or the next thing to it. I know all the arguments--and there is much truth in them--about the economic disadvantages of blindness, but such arguments have little bearing on sighted parents with blind children. These kids haven't yet been exposed to the discrimination preventing many blind adults from getting or keeping well-paid jobs, so for the most part their parents face the same financial pressures everyone else does. The technology is somewhat more expensive, but all parents today struggle to provide technology for their children.
Blind people face an insidious temptation by having so many free services, everything from free admission to entertainment to the free-matter privilege. By and large rehabilitation services are free, and much of the equipment admittedly essential to maintaining a competitive place in school and at work comes to many of us with no cost to ourselves. Again I am well aware of how extraordinarily expensive much of this technology is. I also recognize that sighted people do not require special training to learn to cook, travel, operate equipment of all kinds, and gain personal confidence. It would not be fair for blind people to pay for such special training when others don't need any training at all.
The fact remains that an unhealthy attitude can creep into one's thinking if one is not extremely careful. The progression can go like this: These special services or aids or opportunities are an extra cost that other people don't have to pay. Why should I have to pay for such things? Why didn't the people offering this program find funding to reduce the cost to participants? Is there some source of funding that could help me pay? Why should I bother to attend and pay for this if a charity or rehab agency isn't prepared to cover the cost? When blind kids grow up being handed much of what they get from funding sources outside the home, it's little wonder that as adults they grow to expect that all of their services and technology should be subsidized.
A good case can and should be made for assistance with some of the extreme costs that minorities face for the services and equipment we need. But the world is a hard place, and often it is actually good for us to pay our own way. We certainly are more likely to appreciate the things for which we have made sacrifices in order to obtain.
I have been entertaining these somewhat curmudgeonly thoughts because of my work with the Committee on the Status of Blind Women of the North America/Caribbean region of the World Blind Union. We have been planning a conference for young women fifteen to twenty-five, extending from Friday, August 15 to Monday morning, August 18. It will take place at Brock University, just north of Buffalo, New York, in Ontario, Canada. The cost for the entire weekend's registration, food, lodging, and program is $220 U.S. Transportation must be added to that figure, but any way you cut it, this is an extraordinary bargain, considering the quality of the program.
Would you be surprised to learn that most of the inquiries so far have been from parents wanting to know what subsidies are available? Efforts are being made to see that some young women from the developing countries of the Caribbean are among the attendees. These are women who have absolutely no money and could certainly not afford the expense of airline tickets and visas on top of the conference cost.
This opportunity will be unique for young women who need information and inspiration as they assume the responsibilities of life as blind adults. I am pleased that several members of the NFB's student division have expressed interest in attending this event in order to support the young women and assist us to drive home the lessons of the conference. I am deeply grateful to these women and understand that they hope for some financial assistance, but I am concerned to discover the lack of interest within the target group of young American women and their families.
NFB affiliates and VI teachers can help by being certain that students and families know about this very fine intensive program. They may also be helpful in identifying sources of funding. Here is the schedule of events as it now stands:
Schedule for Vision Quest 2003
Friday, August 15
Registration and Dorm Assignments, 2:00-5:00 p.m.
Barbecue and Welcome Reception, 5:00-6:45 p.m.
Opening Remarks and Welcome, 7:00-7:30 p.m.
Penny Harten, James Sanders
Entertainment, Terry Kelly, 7:30-9:00 p.m.
Saturday, August 16
Breakfast, 7:30-8:30 a.m.
First General Session, 8:45-10:00 a.m.
Presentation of Award--Susan Spungin
Keynote Address--Joanne Wilson
Concurrent Workshops, 10:15-11:45 a.m.
1. Personal Information, Our Bodies, Our Selves
Nurse TBA and Barbara Pierce
2. How Do You Present to Others? Communication and Social Skills
June Waugh, Sharon Sacks, Bernadette Johnson
3. Where Are You Going? Taking Charge of Your World
4. Tips of the Trade--Practical Ideas for Successful Independent
Lunch, 12:00 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Concurrent Workshops, 1:30-3:00 p.m.
1. Personal Information, Our Bodies Our Selves
Nurse TBA and Barbara Pierce
2. How Do You Present to Others? Communication and Social Skills
June Waugh, Sharon Sacks, Bernadette Johnson
3. Where Are You Going? Taking Charge of Your World
4. Tips of the Trade--Practical Ideas for Successful Independent
Discussion Groups, 4:00-5:00 p.m.
Divide participants into four groups for sharing of personal experiences. Each group assigned two facilitators from committee and speakers.
Dinner, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Evening Entertainment, 7:00-8:30 p.m.
Looking at Yourself through Humor--Kaye Leslie
Open Mike and Networking, 8:30-10:30 p.m.
Sunday, August 17
Breakfast, 7:30-8:30 a.m.
Second General Session, 9:00-10:30 a.m.
How Blind Women Are Influencing the World
Facilitator, Cathy Moore; Panel: Deborah Kent, Julie Lewis,
Jill Tobin, and Tricia Pokorney
Concurrent Sessions, 10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m.
1. Understanding Communication Styles of Women and Men
2. Moving Out in Style--Mobility
Barbara Pierce and Jill Tobin
3. Becoming Financially Independent
Lunch, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Concurrent Sessions, 1:30-3:00 p.m.
1. Understanding Communication Styles of Women and Men
2. Moving Out in Style--Mobility
Barbara Pierce and Jill Tobin
3. Becoming Financially Independent
Expressing Yourself through Art and Movement, 3:00-5:00 p.m.
Ropes Course--University Staff
Art Activity--Angela Wolf
Dinner, 6:00-7:00 p.m.
Closing Ceremony, 7:30-9:00 p.m.
Reception and Sharing of Experiences
Breakfast and Departure, 7:30-9:30 a.m.
Whether or not you recognize the nationally known names or Federationists on this list of presenters, you should be impressed by the breadth of the offerings and the care with which the schedule as been constructed. Now it is up to us to see that young women who can benefit from attending this conference hear about it and decide to attend. For the convenience of anyone interested in registering, the registration form follows.
Committee on the Status of Blind Women North American/Caribbean Region
Vision Quest 2003: A Self-Discovery Conference for Young Blind Women — August 15-18, 2003
Name_________________________________ Home Phone________________________
Will you be attending the conference with a parent _____ a teacher _____ on my own _____ other__________?
If attending with an adult, please provide that person’s name _____________________ (Note: A separate program will be provided for
parents, teachers, and others. They must register for the conference.)
Conference materials: Braille____ Large Print____ Electronic_____
Your conference registration includes all accommodation (double occupancy) and meals, activities, and receptions. Please let us know the following:
Do you have any dietary restrictions?____ yes ____ no. If so, please specify: __________________________________________________________________________.
Do you wish to room with a specific person? ____ yes ____ no. If so, please provide name: ________________________________________.
Please forward this registration form along with your registration fee (check to be made out to World Blind Union of Canada) $220 US_______$300 CA_______
Mail your registration form with payment enclosed by July 15th to:
CNIB Ontario Division
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, ON M4G 3E8 CANADA
Phone: 416-480-7468 Fax: 416-480-7140
This month's recipes were contributed by members of the NFB of North Carolina.
by Kathy Jones
Kathy Jones is the wife of Tim Jones, the newly elected president of the NFB of North Carolina.
4 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1 can evaporated milk
2 cups water
2 baked pie shells, not deep-dish
Method: Combine sugar, cocoa, flour, milk, and water. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until thickened. Pour mixture into prepared crusts and set aside.
Meringue for Pies
Beat four egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add two teaspoons cream of tartar, 1/2 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt as you beat whites into stiff peaks. Spread meringue on cooled pies and bake at 375 degrees just until meringue is as brown as you like it; begin checking after fifteen minutes. Cool on wire rack and then chill in refrigerator until time to serve, or eat warm.
Sweet Potato Pie
by Kathy Jones
6 to 8 large sweet potatoes, peeled, or 1 large can, well-drained
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Method: Boil potatoes until tender (or use canned). Mash potatoes by hand or beat them in an electric mixer. Add sugar, egg, flour, and flavoring and enough milk or water to bind the mixture, but it should remain stiff. Pour into greased nine-by-twelve-inch baking dish or pan and bake in a 350-degree oven for about thirty minutes. Pie can be eaten hot or cold.
Potato Chip Cookies
by Pat Robbins
Pat Robbins is a member of the Charlotte chapter and serves on the chapter's board of directors.
1 pound margarine
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups flour
1 cup potato chips, crushed (1 snack pack)
1 cup chopped nuts
Method: Cream together margarine and sugar. Add vanilla and egg yolks. Work in flour. Add potato chips and nuts, stirring well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. These cookies rise very little, so you can place them close together. Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen minutes. Roll in powdered sugar. Makes about four dozen cookies.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dottie Neely]
Bob's Clam Chowder
by Dottie Neely
Dottie Neely is president of the Greensboro chapter and is a member of the NFB of North Carolina board of directors.
4 to 6 large potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 large onion
1 pound bacon
2 to 3 cups minced clams (Fresh are best, but you can use canned.)
1 stick butter or margarine
1 can whole kernel corn (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 quarts half-and-half
Method: Grind potatoes, onion, and bacon in food processor or grinder, then fry in a skillet. Drain grease away and set mixture aside in a large soup pot. Place minced clams on top of fried potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Melt butter and add to pot. Drain corn and add, if you desire. Pour over enough half-and-half to cover all ingredients. Heat through over low to medium heat, stirring often. Serve hot.
Cold German Potato Salad
by Dottie Neely
8 to 10 potatoes, cooked and cubed
4 to 5 celery ribs, diced
1 medium onion, diced
10 eggs, boiled and diced
Method: Prepare potatoes, boiled eggs, celery, and onion. Place in large covered bowl and refrigerate while making the cooked dressing.
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 stick margarine
1 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
salt and pepper to taste
1 small can evaporated milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley flakes, optional
Method: To make the dressing, place beaten eggs, margarine, sugar, vinegar, and water in a medium sauce pan and heat on medium, stirring constantly until margarine is melted and sauce thickens. Do not boil. Remove from heat and let stand a half hour, beating with wire whisk several times. Add salt and pepper to taste. Alternately add a half cup of the cooked dressing and one half of the can of evaporated milk to the potato mixture, stirring well until all of the salad is well coated. If more dressing is necessary, add equal parts cooked dressing and evaporated milk until the consistency is correct. You may also add parsley flakes and salt and pepper to taste at this point. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours before serving. Cover leftover dressing and refrigerate for use in next salad.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Hazel Staley]
by Hazel Staley
Hazel Staley is a former president of the North Carolina affiliate, current first vice president, and vice president and secretary of the Charlotte chapter.
2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped broccoli
2 eggs, beaten
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 cup grated cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
Ritz cracker crumbs
Method: Cook broccoli according to package directions for five minutes and drain. Combine eggs, soup, cheese, and mayonnaise. Fold into broccoli and pour into 2-quart greased casserole dish. Cover with cracker crumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. Serves eight.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Penny Gruber]
Hamburger Salad Sandwiches
by Penny Gruber
Penny Gruber is the wife of Herman Gruber, immediate past president of the North Carolina affiliate.
1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped dill pickles
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 hamburger buns, split
Method: In a skillet cook beef, onion, and garlic until meat is browned. Drain. Cool and add remaining ingredients, except buns, and stir thoroughly. Spoon about half a cup of meat mixture onto each bun. Serves six.
Coconut Hot Milk Cake
by Penny Gruber
1 box Duncan Hines butter recipe cake mix
3 large eggs
1/2 cup margarine
2/3 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons almond flavoring
Method: Soften margarine to room temperature. Grease sides and bottom of baking pan with cooking spray. Using electric mixer, blend dry cake mix, water, butter, eggs, and almond flavoring in large bowl at low speed until moistened (about thirty seconds). Beat at medium speed for about four minutes. Pour batter into pan and bake immediately at 375 degrees. I usually use a 9-by-13-inch pan, but you can use two round layer cake pans. Cook according to package directions.
2 cups sugar
2 12-ounce packages frozen coconut
1-1/4 cups milk
Method: Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour over cake in pan. Delicious.
Quick Fudge Cake
by Penny Gruber
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 sticks margarine
1 cup water
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
Method: Mix together the first three ingredients and set aside. Bring margarine, water, and buttermilk just to a boil. Stir the hot liquid into dry ingredients and then work in the remaining ingredients. Bake at 400 degrees for about thirty minutes in large one-layer pan.
1/2 cup solid Crisco
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
2/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1-pound box confectioner's sugar
Method: Combine all frosting ingredients except confectioner's sugar and bring to a rapid boil, then cook for three minutes. Remove from heat and add one box confectioner's sugar. Stir to mix all ingredients and to eliminate lumps in the sugar. Pour frosting over cooled cake.
by Penny Gruber
1 15-1/2-ounce can salmon
3/4 cup uncooked quick oats
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons oil
4 hamburger buns
lettuce and tomato
Method: Drain and flake salmon. Combine salmon, oats, onion, egg, parsley, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper; mix well. Shape mixture into four patties. Pan fry on both sides in hot oil until golden brown. Serve salmon patties in buns with lettuce and tomato. Serves four.
by Penny Gruber
1-pound box small elbow macaroni
1 pound ground beef
salt and pepper to taste
2 to 3 cups grated sharp cheese
2 tablespoons dried minced onions
1 can tomatoes with Italian spices
Method: Cook macaroni according to package directions until tender; drain well. Place in a large mixing bowl and add tomatoes and spices. Brown ground meat, drain grease, and add to macaroni mixture. Coat an oblong baking dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture into the baking dish and cover with the grated cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty to forty-five minutes, until mixture is bubbling and cheese has melted.
News from the Federation Family
Rehabilitation Conference at Convention:
The National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals and the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, with the support of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University, are proud to announce a rehabilitation conference in Louisville, Kentucky, at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The conference, "Best Practices In Rehabilitation and Orientation and Mobility," will be held on Saturday, June 28, 2003, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and will include a rich agenda presented by key leaders and professionals working in the field of rehabilitation and orientation and mobility. Consult your pre-convention agenda for room location. NOMC certificants, take note that the afternoon agenda is specific to issues of orientation and mobility, so participation is strongly encouraged to meet continuing education credits.
Registration for the conference is free and will begin at 9:00 a.m., and a mix and mingle reception will immediately follow the 5:00 p.m. adjournment. The reception is your chance to learn more about educational opportunities in the field of rehabilitation, to find out about all of the exciting projects at the Institute on Blindness, and to ask questions of practicing NOMC instructors working in the field.
The conference will be of particular interest to those currently working in the field of rehabilitation for the blind, students in professional preparation programs, those interested in earning credit to meet continuing-education requirements, those interested in travel training as a career, and those with general interest in rehabilitation for the blind.
For more information about the conference, contact Edward Bell at (479) 521-0788, e-mail <[email protected]>, or Christine Brown at (734) 763-1081, e-mail <[email protected]>.
Here are the results of the election in the Greater Seattle Chapter of the NFB of Washington: Kris Lawrence, president; Jacob Struiksma, first vice president; Josie Armantrout, second vice president; Doug Johnson, treasurer; Kay Burrows, secretary; and Rita Szantay and Robert Guyette, board members.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Eager parents listen carefully as Caroline Rounds teaches them about Braille.]
Braille Workshop for Parents:
Nancy Burns, president of the NFB of California, recently sent us this exciting report:
The education of blind children has been a top priority of the NFB of California for many years. This is exemplified by our legislative efforts over the past five years. California now has a Braille bill and a reading standards bill, which have been signed by the governor. During this legislative session we are working on the implementation of forgiveness loans for teachers working on a special education credential in the blindness field.
Last year this affiliate applied for a foundation grant from the Entertainment Industry Foundation. The application was submitted under the categories of literacy and education. The purpose, as stated in our proposal, was to teach Braille to parents of blind children. We received a grant in the amount of $5,000.
Joyce Wales, president of Parents of Blind Children; Caroline Rounds, an elementary school teacher; and I began planning for our first workshop. We set a date of April 26, and the work began. We mailed flyers and began gathering materials for the workshop.
The response was amazing. Initially the cutoff number was to be twenty-five parents. The office was deluged with responses. The workshop grew to thirty, at which time we stopped taking applications. A waiting list then evolved. We decided to schedule a second workshop for the following Saturday.
With some of the grant money we provided overnight accommodations at the Burbank Courtyard Marriott for parents traveling long distances. A mixer and registration was held in the NFBC office the Friday evening prior to the workshop.
The workshop took place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. Learning the Braille alphabet was stressed during the morning, and the afternoon was spent writing with a slate and stylus. A variety of fun, Braille‑related activities were presented throughout the day.
We have already received many requests for a workshop in Spanish. We also have requests for workshops in other parts of the state. The NFBC will obviously look for additional grant funds to provide these ongoing workshops. It appears that a large number of parents of blind and visually impaired children are taking a serious step in order to be able to reinforce their child's knowledge of Braille. What a wonderful turn of events!
The Fresno chapter of the NFB of California elected officers at its March 8, 2003, meeting. They are Olivia Ostergaard, president; Shirley Harper, vice president; Shirley Garrett, secretary; Ed Eames, treasurer; and Jan Kafton and Toni Eames, board members.
State Magnets for Sale:
Uricka Harrison is vice president of the Peninsula chapter of the NFB of Virginia. She writes that her chapter is selling state magnets at $3 apiece for orders of 100 or more. Those interested in placing orders should let the chapter know which states and how many of each they want. Each colorful magnet is shaped like the state and includes state facts. The magnets range in size from three to five inches. Order as many different states as you like as long as the order is at least 100 pieces. The handling charge for each order is $10. For more information, contact Chapter President Althea Pittman at (757) 787‑7179. Checks should be made payable to the Peninsula chapter and sent to P.O. Box 375, Accomac, Virginia 23301.
The NFB of Oklahoma elected new officers at its annual convention in March 2003. They are Steve Shelton, president; Joe Triplett, first vice president; Donna Jackson, second vice president; Janet Triplett, secretary; Kathy Maria Badalamenti, treasurer; and Leonard Silkey and Cordelia Sanders, board members.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Doris Henderson, December 30, 1923, to April 21, 2003]
Zena Pearcy, president of the NFB of Texas, has notified us with deep sorrow of the death on April 21, 2003, of Doris Henderson. Doris served for many years as first vice president of the Texas affiliate and president of the Progressive Chapter of Dallas. She retired from the Texas Commission for the Blind, where she had worked as a rehab teacher in the Dallas area. She used to describe her job by saying, "I grab 'em and rehab 'em." Doris inspired a great number of blind people to learn the skills of blindness. Doris mentored members and was a kind, gentle force in helping to shape the Texas affiliate and its policies. Let us all keep her family in our prayers and thoughts.
NFB Information Placards for Sale:
The Lorain County chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio has created five full-color, eight-and-a-half-by-eleven table placards which will be sold at the convention. They are suitable for identifying an NFB display or information table. These signs give a professional look to any display. The topics are NFB, Braille, NFB-NEWSLINE, parents of blind children, and blind seniors. The set of five costs $20. You can buy the NFB placard only for $5. For your convenience we can also provide a plastic easel for displaying one placard at a cost of $10. Most office supply stores also sell these easels, but they are usually more expensive.
Add $2 to cover the cost of mailing placards only or $7 if you want an easel as well. Make checks payable to NFB of Ohio. Send checks to Sherry Ruth, 6922 Murray Ridge Road, Elyria, Ohio 44035, phone: (440) 324-4218, e-mail: <[email protected]>.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dan Frye]
Federationist in New Zealand:
Dan Frye was a 1990 NFB Scholarship winner, and for a number of years he was a leader in the NFB of Washington, where he met and married fellow Federationist Renee West. Late last year Dan accepted a position with the Association of Blind Citizens, and he and Renee picked up stakes and moved to New Zealand. Here is a press release we received in late February reporting on what's happening to this outpost of the Federation family. Here it is:
Blind People Launch New Era in Disability Rights Advocacy
The Association of Blind Citizens celebrated with invited guests today the establishment of its national advocate's position. Vaughan Dodd, national president said, "The Association's aim is to become New Zealand's pre‑eminent authority on systemic advocacy issues of relevance to blind people."
The Association conducted an extensive recruitment process, which resulted in Daniel Frye emigrating from the United States to assume the new position. Mr. Frye is excited at the opportunity presented to him and says, "I am privileged to be able to join with the blind community of New Zealand to help advance our agenda for social and political change."
Mr. Dodd says, "The Association has always been a successful advocacy organization, counting amongst recent achievements the transformation of the governance of the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, retention of the Free Articles for the Blind Postal Service, and the exposure of representatives of the banking industry to talking automatic teller machines. The Association's challenge is to respond promptly to the growing number of complex issues affecting opportunities for blind people to participate in society," Mr. Dodd said. Mr. Frye added that for him, "The challenge is to build substantive relationships with individuals both in and out of government who will be useful in assisting the Association to achieve its goals."
Formed in 1945, the Association is New Zealand's oldest and largest organization of disabled people, with sixteen branches throughout the country. Local initiatives emphasize such matters as pedestrian safety, improvements to public transport services, and peer support. Nationally driven policy analysis through the advocate's position will support the grassroots responses to local issues. Mr. Dodd said, "The Association represents blind people speaking for ourselves, and this new, fulltime position builds directly on the need for our voice to be heard and our perspectives understood. The Association is now in a very strong position, and we look forward to constructive and ongoing dialogue with government and others in order that the objectives of the New Zealand disability strategy are realized."
The Moore County Chapter of the NFB of North Carolina elected new officers for 2003. They are Costella McFarland, president; Gelemia Walker, vice president; Betty Ellerbe, secretary; and Tonya Whitaker, assistant secretary; and five board members.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
Distance-Learning Computer Classes:
The Iowa Department for the Blind's Project ASSIST program has obtained a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to develop a distance-learning program offering instructor-led classes for blind and visually impaired users of computer software. The classes will focus on the Microsoft Office Suite, and the instruction and information provided will focus on keyboard commands, operational strategies for screen-access software, and information uniquely relevant to blind and visually impaired computer users.
The classes offered through the Project ASSIST program are designed to provide instruction on Microsoft Office software to blind and visually impaired people in preparation for the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exams. We will offer the following courses: Windows XP, Internet Fundamentals, Word- Core, Excel-Core, PowerPoint, Outlook, Access, Word-Expert, and Excel-Expert. Priority for enrollment will be given to blind or visually impaired clients of state vocational rehabilitation programs. A minimum requirement for all students is proficiency with the computer keyboard. To be considered for the fall 2003 classes, your application packet must be received no later than June 30.
For further information or to receive an application packet, contact Michael D. Barber, phone (515) 281-1305, or e-mail <[email protected]>, and place the words "Application Packet" in the subject line. Visit the agency Web site at <www.blind.state.ia.us/assist>, where you may obtain more information. An application will be available for download.
Phone E-mail Service and NFB Fundraiser:
Creative Marketing Interactive, LLC (CMI) specializes in fundraising for nonprofit organizations while helping members communicate using state-of-the-art interactive technologies. CMI is promoting CommuniKate, a service designed to assist people on the go (salespeople, busy professionals, home-based businesses) and people who either cannot see a computer screen or don't have a computer but would like to correspond using e-mail.
Because this system is Web-driven and therefore a virtual product, it requires no computer. CMI does the installation and setup for customers. Whether they already have e-mail or not, they will receive a virtual e-mail so that they can hear the text of received e-mails from any land or cell phone. They connect to their personal CommuniKate system by dialing a toll-free number.
CommuniKate users perform the following functions verbally, without using a telephone keypad: a) listen to unlimited voice messages for a flat monthly fee; b) respond to voice messages; c) transfer calls; d) setup conference calling with three or more people; and e) listen to e-mail messages from any telephone or cell phone.
A portion of the monthly fee for each NFB member who signs up for the service will go to the National Federation of the Blind. Contact Creative Marketing at (866) 859-6953, toll-free, to listen to the service and register for the e-mail/voice-translating feature. Fee for unlimited messages/e-mails is $36.95 a month.
Employment in Computer Programming:
Lift is a nonprofit company that recruits, qualifies, trains, and hires information technology professionals who have physical disabilities and places them with major corporations. Johnson & Johnson and Verizon Wireless are two of more than eighty corporate clients that Lift has served.
If you are interested in more information about Lift, please visit the Web site at <www.lift‑inc.org> or call Lift at (908) 707‑9840 or (800) 552‑5438.
Audio Darts Tournament:
The eighth annual tournament of Audio Darts of Delaware will take place October 11 and 12, 2003, at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Wilmington, Delaware. If you are interested in participating, you must notify the Wyndham Garden Hotel by September 5. The number is (302) 655-0400. Cost for all events is $65. For more information, contact Pat Smith, Audio Darts of Delaware, (302) 658-7231 (home), (302) 425-4426 (work).
Free Bible Correspondence Course:
A free Bible correspondence course is available on tape. To inquire, contact James VanderMolen, 2214 W. LaRua Street, Pensacola, Florida 32505.
Candle in the Window Annual Conference:
Candle in the Window, a small national nonprofit organization with the aim of building both individual skills and a sense of community among people with visual impairments, welcomes blind people with varied experiences to join them at its seventeenth annual conference entitled, Resolving Conflicts Without Hemming and Hawing. We aim to address such questions as the following: What is conflict? How can we better manage conflicts within ourselves and with others? How (if at all) does blindness impact on our ability to resolve conflicts? How can we better manage conflicts within the blindness community? How can we assist others to resolve conflicts?
In addition to provocative presentations and stimulating discussions, there will be plenty of time for swimming, hiking, eating, singing, quiet reflection, and just plain hanging out. The conference will take place from Wednesday, July 23, through the morning of Sunday, July 27, at the Kavanaugh Life Enrichment Center, located just outside of Louisville, Kentucky.
Cost is $240 ($15 discount if we receive a $35 nonrefundable deposit by June 15). Limited scholarships and payment plans are available. Contact Peter Altschul at (202) 234-5234, e-mail <[email protected]>; Kathy Szinnyey at (502) 895-0866, e-mail <[email protected]>; or Jonathan Ice at (319) 298-2919, e-mail <[email protected]>.
Summer Braille Reading Club:
Braille Books Dot Com is excited to introduce our first ever Summer Braille Reading Club. With the summer holidays just around the corner, kids are going to have a lot more free time on their hands. What better way to spend some of that time than curling up on the swing with a good book? Braille Books Dot Com has over twelve hundred Braille titles available for all reading levels, so we're bound to have something for everyone--even adults. If you join the club by August 31, we'll send along a sign‑up bonus absolutely free with your first order. For orders between $10 and $25, you'll receive a Braille alphabet magnet; orders between $25 and $50 will qualify for a portable radio; or, if you spend more than $50 with us, we'll give you a talking alarm clock. And we haven't come to the best part yet. Everyone who joins our summer reading club will have his or her name entered in a drawing at the end of the summer. The lucky winner will receive MarvelSoft's ground‑breaking Talking Typing Teacher program, a $100 value. (Be sure to mention coupon code SummerBraille when placing your order.) Supplies of club items are limited, so drop by <www.braillebooks.com> today to be sure you get your free prize.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
Braillewriter for Sale:
Used for two university classes only and bought new from Howe Press. Asking $600. Contact Leslie Anderson (520) 792‑2569, Tucson, Arizona.
Dennis Farro has the following items for sale:
1. Never used Braille Lite 40, including power and interface cables and Braille manual--$2,000
2. External disk drive for Braille Lite or Braille 'n Speak‑-$400 or best offer
3. Never used Braille 'n Speak with power supply, interface cables, and Braille manual-‑$700 or best offer
4. SuperBraille‑Portable PC/notetaker with built‑in Braille display--$2,000 or best offer
5. Eureka 4A notetaker with power cable‑-$300
6. DecTalk Express speech synthesizer in excellent condition--$500 or best offer
I am most often available at night, (516) 825-5815. However, messages can also be left at (718) 557-6077, or e-mail can be sent to <[email protected]>.
I have a Braille Lite 40 with up-to-date software and in excellent condition. It comes with carrying case and power cord. I am asking $2,000. Interested parties can call (614) 378‑1244. If you get voice mail, leave a message, and your call will be returned.
I am selling an Alva 80-cell Braille display in very good condition and never any problems. It's only a few years old and little used. Perfect for anyone who needs a good display. Price is negotiable, asking around $2,500. E-mail John Scott at <[email protected]>.
Jordy low-vision system, produced by Enhanced Vision Systems, is for sale. Leonard Nowicki is asking $2,500 but will consider best offer. His telephone number is (410) 633‑5970.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts 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.