THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 46, No. 9 October, 2003
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 46, No. 9 October, 2003
Memorial for Brianna Nelson
by Marc Maurer
The Truth about Choice
by Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D.
On White Canes and Orientation Centers
by James H. Omvig
They Give Sight to the Blind
by David Kushner
Psst, Pass It On
by Merry-Noel Chamberlain
Building Dreams for Blind Children One Page at a Time
by Aloma Bouma
Braille Readers Are Leaders Expands Program
by Barbara Cheadle
Braille Readers Are Leaders
Advertisers Try a New Way of Looking at Things
by Bettijane Levine
Medical Doctor Takes Up Braille after Retirement
by Dr. Hilary Connor
Suggestions from the IBTC Holiday Elves
by Brad Hodges
39 Years Ago Newsman Had Front‑Row Seat to Beatles History
by Rick Nathanson
Atlanta Entertains Its Own Jewel
by Empish Thomas
Copyright © 2003 National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: The NFB Corps has been in action for a little over a year now. Since a majority of its members have been students, it has been most active in the summers. Shortly after the national convention the 2003 volunteers gathered at the National Center for training. Some of the group are pictured here, around the table in the Center's south conference room. Left to right they are Rosy Carranza, Louisiana; Ameenah Ghoston, Illinois; Ryan Strunk, Nebraska; Jason Ewell, NFB Corps director (standing); Richie Flores, Texas; Jennifer Kennedy, Ohio; Joe Orozco, Texas; and Kimberly Aguillard, Texas. NFB Corps members lend a hand wherever they are needed. They usually help organize chapters, but they have also worked to educate legislators and helped affiliates in other ways. We are all proud of and grateful to every member of the NFB Corps. Pictured individually on this page are the members of the 2003 NFB Corps. In 2002 NFB Corps members were Rosy Carranza, Abbe Ewell, Stacy Cervenka, Sandy Streeter, Karen (Hartman) Friedman, Susan Feazell, Melissa Riccobono, and April Davis.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jason Ewell]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ryan Strunk]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kimberly Aguillard]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Yolanda Garcia]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Randi Strope]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Angela Howard]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Richie Flores]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Joe Orozco]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Tony Olivero]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ameenah Ghoston]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sandy Halverson]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Judy Sanders]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Eddie Culp]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jennifer Kennedy]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Brianna Nelson]
Memorial for Brianna Nelson
by Marc Maurer
On the evening of July 18, 2003, Brianna Nelson, the seven-year-old daughter of Carl and Danelle Nelson, died. She had been on a swimming expedition conducted as part of the training program for blind children operated by BLIND, Incorporated, the training center for blind children and adults established in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by members of the National Federation of the Blind. The blind students were swimming at Lake Calhoun near the lifeguard stand when counselors noticed that Brianna was missing. They sought help immediately, but Brianna was not discovered below the surface of the lake for several minutes. She died at the hospital later that evening.
Joyce Scanlan, director of BLIND, Incorporated, notified the parents of all of the participants in the program of the tragic accident. All of the other students remained for the course of classes, which would continue over the next few weeks.
Brianna was a strong-minded, joyous, enthusiastic person. The positive impact she had on hundreds of people living in many states was commemorated on a bright, sunny morning in late July on the grounds of BLIND, Incorporated. Joyce Scanlan, Carl and Danelle Nelson, along with staff, students, and other members of the Federation planted a Minnesota red bud tree and consecrated the ground around it with a rock garden at its base. A sacred spot is one dedicated to the memory of a spirit which has brought love, generosity, and joy to others and which stands as a living memorial to furthering that spirit. Brianna Nelson possessed such a spirit, and she loved rocks, saying that the smooth ones were girls and the rough ones were boys. Each member of the party assisting at the planting of the tree placed a stone at its base with a memory or a reflection about Brianna Nelson. The Minnesota red bud blossoms each spring and lives in the demanding climate of the north. The tenacity of this plant will carry the spirit of Brianna Nelson into the decades to come.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Fredric Schroeder]
The Truth about Choice
by Fredric K. Schroeder, Ph.D.
From the Editor: Last spring, long before Resolution 2003-101 on rehabilitation choice caused great discussion at our convention, I asked former commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, Dr. Fred Schroeder, to write an article for the Braille Monitor discussing his understanding of what the concept of informed choice as laid out in the Rehabilitation Act means. After all, when the choice language was written into the act, Dr. Schroeder was RSA commissioner. Who better was there to articulate what was meant and what was not. This is the article he wrote:
Perhaps no more misunderstood provision of the Rehabilitation Act exists than the requirement that individuals receiving rehabilitation have the opportunity to exercise "informed choice" in all stages of the rehabilitation process. While many issues have arisen surrounding the real meaning of the language that makes choice a fundamental value of the rehabilitation process, the most hotly debated question in the blindness field today is the proper application of informed choice in the selection of and participation in orientation-and-adjustment-center training.
The definition of effective orientation and adjustment training for blind people has been a topic on which people in the blindness field firmly disagreed long before the informed-choice provisions were enacted into federal law. In the mid 1980's the National Federation of the Blind began establishing orientation and adjustment centers modeled on the program Dr. Jernigan had created in Iowa years earlier.
The Federationists who established these programs did so because they believed the existing orientation and adjustment programs in the country did not offer training that challenges blind people to come to terms with their blindness, nor did the training encourage blind people to develop fully the skills necessary to live and work productively. In short, these Federationists assessed the existing training commonly available and came to the conclusion that it was rooted in low expectations mirroring society's stereotypic view of blindness--producing training that moved people from dependency to lesser dependency with no real goal, no real belief in the attainability of a normal, productive life. In other words, existing training pretended the training model based on lowered expectation was a virtue called respect for the individual. Federationists came to reject both the model and the training based on it, and founding centers of their own was the logical next step.
The essence of the NFB model is its assumption that blind people are capable of full participation in society. Of course all programs maintain that their training is based on the same assumption, but those who have attended training at one of the NFB centers know that, while all programs say they believe in blind people, at NFB centers that claim is supported by actions.
So what are these actions that make such a difference? First, in NFB centers skills training is not viewed as separate or apart from confidence building. Blind people are helped to believe in themselves and acquire the necessary skills to put their newfound confidence into practice. The fundamental connection between skills training and confidence training is explained and emphasized, both in words and in the students' progress through the center, during which they are taught and drilled on all basic blindness skills while simultaneously being taught the confidence to problem-solve throughout life. This combination of skills and confidence, of first learning and then practicing to routine mastery gives students a firm foundation on which to stand throughout all life's challenges.
Participants in NFB centers are referred to as students, not clients. The distinction between student and client is followed systematically throughout Federation training center practice. Being a student is an active task. Students take responsibility for their own learning and progress. Being a client on the other hand means that the person waits more or less passively for something to be done to him or her. Next, students take the full range of courses which, taken together, are designed by training center staff to complete both skills and confidence training to routine mastery. On the other hand, clients at more conventional centers, new to blindness or to grappling effectively with it, are nonetheless encouraged, in a mockery of the real meaning of choice, to pick and choose from available classes--even, or especially, those of which the client is most afraid, leading to the absurd result that the client who understandably knows little about blindness is made to feel empowered, while he or she is declining to learn the fundamentals needed for true empowerment.
Moreover, students are viewed as blind people regardless of whether they have some remaining vision, in contrast to the client model which allows clients to reject this training method without really even knowing what they are rejecting. Accordingly, students with some sight wear sleepshades all day--five days a week--in all classes and during after-hour activities. Why? First, because sustained use of the blindfold allows students to achieve routine mastery of the essential nonvisual skills that they will need to function safely and effectively after training. Second and equally important, because it is the most effective way to help students reshape their beliefs about blindness.
Third and as important as the other two is the profound belief at NFB centers that students must learn to see themselves as part of the community of blind people--part of the struggle of blind people to achieve true equality and full integration into society. NFB centers teach their students that students must not simply take but give back as well, that they have an obligation to pass on what they have been given and to be a part of the movement of blind people toward true integration. They become a part of the National Federation of the Blind--the family of blind people, giving and receiving support, giving and receiving encouragement, giving and receiving hope for the future.
There are other differences between NFB centers and the more conventionally designed ones--use of rigid canes that are longer than customary in conventional programs, for example; but the fundamental difference is one of expectations--believing in blind people and helping them to believe in themselves.
So where does informed choice come in? It may seem obvious that blind people can choose to attend an NFB center or they can attend more conventional programs. After all, the concept of informed choice is based on the assumption that an individual has options from which to choose. Nevertheless, some agencies and individuals subscribe to a misguided, even corrupted concept of informed choice which they have then used like a club to try to force NFB centers to operate like conventional centers. These misguided proponents of choice argue that the law forces NFB centers to be just like other centers in allowing participants to choose for themselves which classes to take, whether to wear sleepshades, and which type or length of cane to use. These misguided proponents claim to be upholders of the law and seek to enforce their opinion upon NFB centers despite the fact that such practices are incompatible with the underlying NFB-center philosophy and despite the fact that, rather than showing respect for the individual, such practices are widely recognized by blind people to be ineffective and, all too often, harmful.
Perhaps the most absurd application of this misguided version of informed choice came to my attention when I was commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. An NFB center was routinely accepting students from a state rehabilitation agency under a contract with that agency that allowed agency clients to choose the NFB center and thereby save the rehabilitation agency the trouble of doing the same paperwork over again for every new student attending that center. The rehabilitation agency told the center that, as a requirement for continuing its contract with the NFB center, the center was not to assign students canes.
Instead, according to this misguided version of choice, the NFB center was simply to show new students a selection of all available canes and allow the student to select a cane of any type and length without comment from the instructor--as though professional judgment and expertise had somehow been repealed in the name of choice. In other words, the rehabilitation agency was so drenched in the choice language that it was willing to break a contract with a training center offering a genuine alternative to its clients because of what it perceived as a lack of choice when in fact the fundamental choice was between approaches to training and not between specific canes to be used by a newly blind person.
Once, while I was attending a blindness-related meeting in Washington with Dr. Maurer, another misguided proponent of informed choice floated the idea that people attending NFB centers should not be required to participate in NFB activities. This person maintained that orientation and adjustment training should be neutral and went on to make it plain that, in his view, neutral meant neutral in the sense of not promoting any particular philosophy, by which he obviously meant the NFB's approach to blindness. Dr. Maurer quite reasonably asked the person why someone who disagreed with NFB philosophy would want to attend an NFB center. The person replied that it was well known that the NFB centers offer the best training in the country. Dr. Maurer pointed out that participation in NFB activities is a key part of the training, not an add-on or extraneous activity.
The suggestion that our centers be philosophy-neutral would be like demanding, in the name of choice, that parochial schools not insist on providing religious instruction because it might be offensive to some students. If NFB centers are forced to give up the characteristics that distinguish them from other programs, blind people will again be limited to one homogeneous model of rehabilitation training, the training Federation centers seek to replace, forbidding the very training the misguided proponent himself admitted was the most effective.
During my term as commissioner I made it clear when I issued policies and provided technical guidance to rehabilitation agencies that informed choice must be practiced at the program level or, in other words, at the time an overall program is chosen. For informed choice to be real and effective, blind people must really have the right to learn about available options and differences among programs and then to exercise their right of informed choice in selecting a training program. However, it is not reasonable to ask and is most certainly not required by law to force a program to change its fundamental nature in the name of informed choice.
Consider this analogy: a person wishing to pursue a professional career may find that it is necessary to obtain a college degree. The individual may, after reviewing the curriculum, make a choice among the various options and attend a particular college or university, exercising the right to choose among such differences as more or fewer required classes; more or fewer requirements outside the major field; presence or absence of foreign language, math, or science requirements; and presence or absence of strict rules about alcohol on campus. But, once the choice of college is made, the student cannot then insist on being exempted from an otherwise required class simply because he or she does not believe that it will have relevance in his or her professional life.
Similarly, a student cannot simply decide that he or she would prefer a different textbook from the one the instructor has selected or simply decide not to attend class without suffering consequences from such decisions. Once the choice has been made to attend a particular college or university, the student is bound by the requirements of that institution and the decisions of its faculty. The student's choice is to attend or not to attend. By simply making that choice, the student is not then endowed with the power to dictate that the program change its curriculum, teaching methods, or for that matter its philosophy at the whim of that one student.
Similarly training programs providing orientation and adjustment for blind people also have differences. Some orientation and adjustment centers permit their participants to choose which classes they will take and whether they will wear sleepshades for all classes, some classes, or not at all. Some programs allow participants to choose how long they will attend. But other programs--those at NFB training centers and those modeled on our centers--believe in a much more structured approach to training. Individuals have the right to exercise informed choice in deciding which type of program they wish to attend, but they do not by reason of having chosen a particular program then have the right to demand that the program alter its structure or programming for them.
That is the law. That is the technical answer--blind people can choose to attend an NFB center, or they can choose to go somewhere else.
Yet in a real sense the legal or technical content of informed choice sidesteps the most important question. To say simply that people can make a choice leaves the impression that both options are equally good, that they are equal in quality, that both are effective in assisting blind people to gain the confidence and skills to live normal, productive lives. Treating informed choice as a neutral concept suggests that the choice is one of style, not quality--like choosing between chocolate and vanilla ice cream or choosing whether to vacation in Boston or Yellowstone--a choice based on preference and individual interests. The truth is that the differences are not gratuitous or unimportant, not simply a matter of style, not the casual choice between ordering a steak and a piece of fish for dinner.
When a blind person seeks training from a rehabilitation program, that training is likely to be the person's single formal opportunity to acquire the skills he or she will need to live productively. If the blind person receives training rooted in the stereotypic belief that blind people are inevitably limited to lives of marginal participation, he or she is likely to internalize such beliefs. On the other hand, if the training is rooted in the belief that blind people can learn to take charge of their own lives and can master the skills to work competitively, then blind students are much more likely to develop confidence and pursue personal goals and interests. To hold high aspirations, blind people must believe that they have at least a reasonable chance of attaining those aspirations. To have hope, blind people must believe that they have the possibility of living a normal life.
The misguided idea that blindness should be viewed as nothing more than a sort of clinical challenge--a condition requiring skills taught by professionals who will always know more than the blind person can ever learn, skills which can help the blind person function a little better but which can never allow him or her to compete on terms of equality with the sighted, and with no expectation of true normalcy, true equality, or true fulfillment, dignity, and self-respect. The prevalence of such a view is a sorry commentary on the failure of the blindness field to understand the social dimension of blindness and its impact on blind people and society as a whole.
We have been told in the form of a criticism that NFB training centers are a one-size-fits-all approach to training. In one sense, this is true, but not in the way that the general public assumes that all blind people are the same, regardless of age, education, health, or ability. NFB center staffs recognize that, to be successful, all blind people must come to understand that they are blind, that blindness means they will face discrimination, that blind people themselves are often one source of that discrimination in the form of lowered personal expectations, that to combat discrimination from within or without they need a broader perspective on blindness coupled with confidence and skills, and that the best way to gain perspective, confidence, and skills is through a concentrated training program and ongoing involvement in the National Federation of the Blind.
What is the alternative to this so-called one-size-fits-all model? It is what we have always had--the conventional training system based on low expectations. When people become blind, they do not know what they need, what is possible, or even what training will best serve them. So to use choice as an excuse for justifying low expectations is unconscionable.
Not every blind person who has attended an NFB center is a success; not every blind person who has received conventional training or, for that matter, received no training at all is a failure. Yet NFB training is not more or less the same as other training. Yes, the same skills are taught: cane travel, Braille reading and writing, cooking, and computer technology. But it is not true that the outcomes are the same. NFB orientation and adjustment centers do in a concentrated way what the Federation has done for blind people for all of its sixty-three-year history: give blind people the means to challenge society's and, all too often, their own, low expectations. As with the Federation as a whole, NFB training centers help the blind person learn that life is not limited by the physical characteristic of blindness as much as it is by low expectations. Training gives the blind person the confidence to believe in a future in which he or she will face discrimination yet will have the skills and the strength to meet and overcome it.
NFB centers do not teach skills in isolation from philosophy. In fact the life-changing dimension and extraordinary vitality of NFB centers arise from their imparting of the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. Therefore to encourage blind people to believe that any training center is pretty much like any other goes far beyond a factual mischaracterization and is fundamentally misleading to people who have not been truly informed about the differences.
How then does an individual exercise informed choice in selecting a training center? To be truly informed, the blind person must meet graduates of training programs--not just one or two, but many. The blind person needs to learn what these graduates are doing with their lives. Are they in school? Are they working? Are they married and raising families? Are they active in their communities? Are they pursuing hobbies and social interests? Are they going to the theater, the ball game, restaurants, shopping, and movies? Or are the graduates mostly spending time at home, explaining that they really prefer quiet, are not people persons, haven't quite decided what to do with their lives, and are often considering maybe getting a little more training in some aspect of blindness skills that they didn't quite master or keep up with after their training--good as they assure everyone it certainly was.
So where can a blind person go to meet normal blind people, the ones getting out and doing things and getting jobs and moving ahead with their lives? The easiest way is to attend the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. At our national convention one has an opportunity to meet blind people from throughout the country. Some will have received training from NFB centers; some will have received training from conventional programs; and some will have received no training at all. What blind people with all three backgrounds at an NFB convention have in common is the commitment to the Federation's approach, to the combining of skills and confidence, whether they received this knowledge through an NFB training center or more broadly through contact with the National Federation of the Blind.
The collective experience of blind people distilled and focused by the Federation enables the blind individual to begin to gain a perspective broader than his or her own experience and begin to see what is possible for blind people, given training and opportunity. One cannot attend a national NFB convention and fail to be impressed by all that we have achieved. One also cannot attend a national convention and fail to be moved by all that remains to be done. At national convention one meets young blind children and their parents and learns of their hopes. One meets blind college students preparing to assume future leadership, blind adults working in every conceivable job or occupation, and blind seniors determined not to sit quietly in the shadow of nonparticipation.
True choice can be exercised only when a person has real information--perspective on which to base his or her choices. Selecting orientation-center training is the foundation on which one can base either future achievement and success or a future of genteel occupancy of the quiet sidelines of life. Choice is not the simple selection of a long or short cane--rigid or folding; not the choice of one class and not another; not the choice of training nearby rather than in a distant city. These things are only the trappings of choice, not its substance.
How then does one begin the process of making an informed choice? Those who are serious about embracing informed choice might begin by calling their NFB state presidents to learn when and where the local Federation chapter meets. If none exists in the area, they can ask for help in starting one. Going to Federation state and national conventions to meet people and become involved is also an excellent early step. Such actions commit one to the movement of blind people working toward first-class citizenship. Contributing time, money, and talent to help build a future in which blind people are judged by their ability and not by their blindness can be a powerful step in learning to believe in blind people.
Having established this foundation, any blind person can eventually decide that the time has come to call the director of one of the NFB centers and ask for help in working with the state rehabilitation agency to support individual participation in training. Everyone has the right to exercise the right of choice, but the most important right is to exercise the opportunity to make an informed choice based on information and perspective--a choice that will serve the individual for a lifetime and provide the training and confidence to live life exercising personal interests and ability rather than living a life of limited participation based on low expectations.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: James Omvig]
On White Canes and Orientation Centers
by James H. Omvig
From the Editor: Shortly after we returned home from convention Jim Omvig, president of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, called to say that he had made the most of his trip home from convention by writing an article that he thought might be useful as we struggle to understand the issues underlying Resolution 2003-101. I agreed with him, once I read what he had written. This is what he wrote:
I listened with interest to the long discussion on informed choice in Louisville on Friday afternoon, July 4, at the 2003 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The week had offered all of the excitement and renewal of energy the blind of America have come to expect from our conventions, but the last hour took on a slightly different tone. As a result of a recent attack upon the Federation, its programs, its policies, and its people by the usual suspects, a resolution had been introduced and was being debated–-a resolution which, among other things, set forth the proposition that those who administer orientation and adjustment centers for the blind have the legal right under the informed choice provisions of the Rehabilitation Act to decide whether guide dogs will or will not be used in centers for travel training during the adjustment-to-blindness process.
Initially I was more than a little surprised that a few of our own members spoke passionately against this proposition. Before long, however, it occurred to me that this discussion should not have surprised me at all. The fact is that, while a few Federationists have spent much of their lives trying and testing and learning what it takes truly to empower the rank-and-file blind person, there is no reason whatever to expect those not intimately involved in the rehabilitation system, even the staunchest of members, to have in-depth knowledge about the finer points of the personal adjustment process. Therefore I hope that the following article will lend some insight and perspective to the debate. (I am writing this article en route home to Ruston from Louisville while the thoughts and points of contention are still fresh in my mind.)
One of the great fallacies in the field of vocational rehabilitation for the blind has been the mistaken assumption that a little skill training will do the trick and therefore some Braille, computer training, home economics, and a little travel training with dog or cane is all that the average blind person needs to achieve personal success. Nothing could be further from the truth! Skill training without extensive attitudinal adjustment is virtually useless. Some argue that it is even worse than useless-–that it is downright harmful, since the consumer who has been given only a little training, who lacks perspective, and who has no reason to know any better will assume that he or she is now fixed and that this is as good as it gets. This fallacy persists and has been one of the principal factors contributing to the shamefully high unemployment rate among working-age blind people in America.
The minimal training thought to be good enough in the past isn't good enough any longer. Freedom should be accessible to all blind people, and a cutting-edge formula for personal empowerment and success now exists and is available for the taking. Therefore programs for the blind must raise the bar. They must learn about and then adopt state-of-the-art practices and strive to provide personal empowerment for their blind consumers. (The discussion of canes in this article refers to adjustment-to-blindness training only. It has nothing whatever to do with the question of which travel aid-–dog or cane-–will be used upon completion of that training or for other parts of the VR process. Whatever the individual chooses–-dog, cane, or nothing at all-–is his or her own business.)
Some background information will be helpful in clarifying the direct and critical relationship between white canes and adjustment-to-blindness services. As I pointed out in Freedom for the Blind,1 American Foundation for the Blind research shows that between 70 and 80 percent of our nation's working-age blind people are unemployed. Of those who are employed, far too many are severely underemployed or are destined to be locked in at entry-level jobs for a lifetime. Putting to one side all of the bogus rationalizations, only two alternative explanations for this dismal statistic exist: either blind people as a group, no matter how thoroughly trained and adjusted to their blindness they may be, are inherently incompetent; or, something has been fundamentally wrong with the blindness system in America-–the vast complex of programs for educating or rehabilitating people who are blind.
I can declare with absolute confidence that the problem is not with the blind themselves. The evidence that properly trained blind people can live independent, successful, competitive, normal, and happy lives and can assume their rightful places as fully participating members in society is too overwhelming to conclude that these successes are exceptions and that the blind as a group are inherently incompetent. Therefore I must reluctantly and cautiously draw the conclusion that the problem has not been with the blind at all but with the blindness system itself-–that educational and vocational rehabilitation programs for blind people and the university programs which prepare the blindness professionals working in them historically have not been what they could and should have been.
Then, to compound the problem, the blind have been thought of by society-–and far too many have learned to think of themselves–-as a group apart, a helpless and hopeless lot, as having neither the right nor the ability to work for their daily bread nor to earn their self-respect. The blind as a group–-despite individual exceptions-–have thought of themselves, not as unemployed, but as inferiors who are unemployable. The reality is that the blind are a visible minority with all of the negative implications this phrase conjures up. It is the misunderstandings, the misconceptions, and the superstitions about blindness, not blindness itself, that have been the nagging problem keeping the blind down and out through the years and that must be addressed through proper adjustment-to-blindness training.
The fact is that every blind person-–man or woman, young or old, educated or not-–needs personal empowerment to be completely whole. With this empowerment comes the freedom all blind people have the right to expect. Since this is so, it logically follows that every progressive orientation and adjustment (O&A) center for the blind should adopt the best training methods and techniques it can find and do its very best to empower each and every student who chooses to attend it. A center's overarching purpose should be to function as an empowerment station. Incidentally, the notion that only private centers, not those which are state-operated, can adopt and promote the cutting-edge training practices and techniques is absurd on its face. All centers-–both private and state-run--can and should embrace state-of-the-art practices and join what has been called the revolution of personal empowerment.
The empowerment station model of an O&A center is one which recognizes that the blind are a minority and that therefore all offered services must be aimed at teaching the students who choose to attend it a new and constructive set of attitudes about blindness based upon an understanding that prevailing views are wrong and harmful. Such a center must be an attitude factory. Further, those of us in the Federation who have concentrated on what it truly takes to provide proper training and full empowerment have come to understand that such a center must help its blind students strive to achieve four personal objectives as their individual formulas for success. They are:
(1) The blind person must come emotionally, not just intellectually, to know that he or she truly can be independent and self-sufficient;
(2) The blind person must really learn and become competent in those skills–-the alternative techniques of blindness-–which will make it possible for him or her to be truly independent and self-sufficient;
(3) The blind person must learn to cope on a daily basis with the public attitudes about blindness-–with those things that will be said or done to him or her because of other people's misunderstandings and misconceptions; and
(4) Even when the blind individual has adjusted emotionally to blindness, even when the alternative techniques have been mastered, and even when he or she has learned to cope effectively with the demeaning things other people do or say, the blind person must also learn to blend in and to be acceptable to others. He or she must be punctual, reliable, neat, and appropriate in appearance and possessed of good social and table manners, and the like. Since the ordinary blind person needs to learn to blend in and to be acceptable to society for maximum success, the schools and agencies must do the very best they can to make sure that this desired result is achieved.2
It is possible, with a willingness to think outside of the box, for the traditional O&A center to become an exciting empowerment station and to move those students who choose to attend it toward successful, high-quality employment and increasing integration into the broader society. Then informed choice becomes the real key to opportunity. It means that a blind consumer has the right to choose to attend a particular adjustment center-–one that uses the core curriculum he or she wants. The law, however, does not give the student the right to define what a center's programs will be. Those administering the center have the right-–indeed, I believe they have the duty-–to learn about and then use the best practices known and available at any given time. Those who choose to attend a particular center, of course, certainly do have the right to expect excellence, and excellence should be the goal of each of the VR programs.
Now let us return specifically to the issue of white canes in the adjustment-to-blindness process. Point 1 of the 4 points listed above-–helping the student come to understand and feel at the gut level, not just intellectually, that true freedom, independence, and normality are possible for him or her-–is the most difficult and time-consuming part of the entire process. This objective is achieved at the empowerment station over a six-to-nine-month period by seeing to it that the student learns that blindness does not mean inferiority and that the word "blind" is OK-–normal. Further, this process is enhanced by placing the student in situations in which he or she must meet difficult challenges--by using sleepshades for the partially blind; by facing routine life experiences such as wood shop, rock climbing, or water skiing; by engaging in frank discussions about blindness; by being exposed to good blind role models; by learning the importance of paying back; by being willing to invest the time it takes to get it; and by using the long white cane constantly for all facets of the adjustment program.
Although wood shop certainly is perceived as a challenge, for most students travel training class is the one which contributes most directly and significantly to the process of building self-confidence. Carrying and routinely using the nonfolding, long cane works in several ways to meet the objective of sound emotional adjustment. First, the student can't try to hide or deny his or her blindness when using a long, straight cane, and this experience also helps speed one's acceptance of blindness. Further, the long cane has become a symbol of independence for many, and it also serves as a visible identifier to others. Each of these factors helps to speed and solidify the emotional adjustment process.
Then there is the enormous emotional boost which can come only from the success of actual performance. When the student completes a long and complicated travel route independently using only the cane, that success in and of itself evokes feelings of pride and self-confidence--"I did it!" The student experiences a small dose of this feeling of course in every travel lesson and each time the student walks to a bank or restaurant using the cane. If exactly the same long and complicated training assignments-–or the shorter trips-–are completed using a guide dog rather than a cane, the trainee does not experience the same boost of self-confidence. "Did I do it, or did the dog do it? I wonder if I could have done it without the dog?"
The goal of all of these challenging activities, including long cane use, is transference, not merely mastering the simple skills of independent travel or daily living. "If I can do this, maybe I really can do other things too-–things I never thought I could do. Maybe I can get a job and support my family!" The travel training, along with industrial arts, water skiing, rock climbing, and the other challenging activities intended specifically for confidence-building are one continuum aimed at the realization of self-esteem.
Finally, one of the speakers at the July 4 discussion pointed out, correctly, that Dr. Kenneth Jernigan had counseled Federationists not to get caught up in the trappings of independence. This speaker, however, went on to imply that Dr. Jernigan might have cautioned that the people running the progressive adjustment centers should not get hung up on the issue of canes.
Dr. Jernigan's point about independence and its trappings was being made concerning the way we who are blind should approach life in general, not how we should approach the fundamentals of adjustment-to-blindness training. In fact, Dr. Jernigan created and administered the very first empowerment station (at the Iowa Commission for the Blind), and the long cane was integral to its remarkable success. The entire statement in his 1993 speech, "The Nature of Independence," is:
Hold your head high, in the joy of accomplishment and the pride of independence–-but not because of dog or cane or human arm, and not because of your ability to read Braille or use a computer. These are the trappings of independence, not the substance of it. They should be learned and used when needed-–but they should be regarded only as means, not ends. Our independence comes from within. A slave can have keen eyesight, excellent mobility, and superb reading skills-–and still be a slave. We are achieving freedom and independence in the only way that really counts–-in rising self-respect, growing self-confidence, and the will and the ability to make choices. Above all independence means choices and the power to make those choices stick.
The entire purpose of the emotional-adjustment process in the progressive orientation and adjustment centers is to do just that: To equip blind consumers with "rising self-respect, growing self-confidence, and the will and ability to make choices." The anticipated outcome of this brand of adjustment training is the freedom which comes from within, and use of the long, noncollapsible cane is integral to this readily achievable outcome.
As I said when I began, the issue of white canes as an efficient training strategy in the progressive adjustment centers has nothing whatever to do with the travel aid a blind person will use upon completion of his or her personal adjustment or for other parts of the VR process. Individual choices will be made, and the blind consumer will truly be positioned to make sound and wise decisions once personal empowerment has become a reality. Actually it has always been my understanding that the guide dog schools themselves have had the policy that consumers must be adjusted to their blindness and also be good cane travelers in order to qualify for admission into their programs. Similarly most, if not all, of these schools require that, after a day or two for becoming oriented, dogs rather than canes must be used at all times for all parts of the program. This is as it should be.
My earnest hope is that all Federationists will come to understand and support the empowerment movement for rank-and-file blind people across this nation. The deplorable and needlessly high unemployment rate among the blind demands that these proven state-of-the-art practices be initiated broadly, and soon.
1 J. Omvig, Freedom for the Blind (Region VI Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program, University of Arkansas, 2002), <www.rcep6.org>.
2 Ibid., 65.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Norm Gardner]
They Give Sight to the Blind
by David Kushner
From the Editor: On Sunday, September 7, 2003, the following article appeared across the country in Parade Magazine, the Sunday magazine inserted in many newspapers. You will certainly recognize the names of two of the people highlighted. Here is the story:
When Ivan FitzRandolph heard that his grandson Casey would be speed-skating in the 2002 Winter Olympics, the news was bittersweet. FitzRandolph, eighty-one, a retired teacher from Milton, Wisconsin, suffers from macular degeneration--a condition that renders him legally blind. "Even if I was sitting right next to the ice," he says, "I wouldn't have been able to see Casey skate by."
Just before the big event, though, his family gave FitzRandolph the ultimate gift: sight. It came in the form of a pair of goggles called the Jordy--a sophisticated piece of technology that views the world through a camcorder lens, then enhances and displays the images on two tiny screens in front of the wearer's eyes. When his grandson skated past the finish line at the Olympics that year, FitzRandolph didn't miss a moment. "I was able to see Casey get the gold medal," he says. "It was a great experience."
Innovations such as the Jordy are changing the lives of the estimated eighteen million Americans who suffer from impaired vision. Some have been blind since birth, some lost their vision over time, and others, such as FitzRandolph, endure what's called low vision, a state of near-blindness. But new technologies are helping them to create a new vision for their futures. Curtis Chong, president of the computer science division of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), who was born blind himself, says these devices "help people realize that blindness isn't as debilitating as they think it is."
Easier Access to Information
In today's digital age computers serve as an important conduit for the exchange of news and ideas. Until recently, though, few visually impaired people could surf the Web or read an e-mail. Now, by changing the way information is shared, cutting-edge technology is making it accessible even for the 1.1 million Americans who are legally blind.
Among the most important tools are screen readers--programs that transform Web pages and e-mails into speech. There also is a talking PDA that can be worn around the neck. And scientists at Scotland's University of Glasgow recently announced a talking computer mouse that combines vibrations and sound cues to convey the shapes of graphs on a computer screen.
Another everyday activity--reading the newspaper--also is becoming possible. Norman Gardner, sixty, a professor of finance at Utah Valley State College in Orem, Utah, has been blind since birth. For decades he was unable to converse with his colleagues about the morning's Wall Street Journal. "If there was time in the day, I'd have someone read me the headlines," he says, "but it always left me feeling ill-prepared."
Professor Gardner is one of 42,000 Americans using the National Federation of the Blind NEWSLINE®, a free telephone service that lets him search through and hear articles from the Journal and eighty-nine other publications. "Now, when I talk with my colleagues," says Gardner, "I'm the first person with something to say."
Interacting with the World
A conundrum of the digital age, says Curtis Chong, is the fact that the smarter technology becomes for the sighted world, the more difficult it becomes for the blind. Laundromats, for example, are switching from coin-operated machines--equipment accessible to the visually impaired--to ones controlled by digital displays that a blind person can't see.
But changes are slowly taking place. "Ten years ago we wouldn't use a money machine at the bank," Chong says. "Or, if we did, we had to memorize the sequence of buttons to push. Today we have talking ATMs." These machines are now being employed by banks around the country, including Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo.
Similarly the NFB, working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, debuted a Tactile Graphics Display (TGD) that allows the visually impaired to literally feel an image. The device--expected to be commercially available within two years--consists of 3,600 tiny pins that adjust to convey the impression of an electronically scanned image. With a TGD a blind grandmother can receive a digital picture of her grandchild over the Internet, then run her fingers over the bed of pins to feel a tactile rendering of the child's face. "A picture is truly worth 1,000 words," says John Roberts, the lead researcher at the National Institute.
Looking toward the Future
Chong already is discussing the next innovations for the blind, such as handheld reading devices that can be passed over a page to convert the text into speech. "My hope is that, in the next five to ten years, technology will focus on ease of use and reduce the learning curve for blind people," he says.
In the meantime, Ivan FitzRandolph is savoring his Jordy. He uses the goggles at sporting events and at church. And if his grandson makes the team again for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Italy, FitzRandolph will be there to root him on--and to watch.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Merry-Noel Chamberlain]
Psst, Pass It On
by Merry-Noel Chamberlain
From the Editor: Merry-Noel Chamberlain is a teacher of the visually impaired and holds National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC). She lives in Des Moines, Iowa, and demonstrates high standards for Braille reading. The point she makes in the following article is important. This is what she says:
As Braille readers, sighted or blind, it is our responsibility to inform public establishments when their Braille signs are not correct. Let's face it, most hotel and restaurant managers and owners have no knowledge of the Braille code. In general, people trust that the sign manufacturers have exactly translated the print sign into correct Braille. In fact the Braille is very often correct. But what about when it's not?
Since learning Braille, I have been checking out the signs around me. Setting aside the problems resulting from no Braille at all, I have discovered five categories of Braille signs: Beautiful Braille, Braille Shorthand, Braille Scribble, Braille Misinformation, and Braille Art. None of these are transparent dymo-tape, pressed-on Braille. I am referring to the Braille that is formed as part of the plastic template of the sign. Sign manufacturers boast in large neon orange circles that their signs "Conform to Americans with Disabilities Act: Grade 2 Braille." Therefore managers and owners naturally trust those professionals to produce perfect signs in Braille as well as in print.
If the signs are in contracted Braille, have no missing contractions, use proper capital signs, and transcribe the print exactly, I call this Beautiful Braille. In fact, most of the signs I have read do contain beautifully written Braille. But what about the rest room sign in a popular restaurant where the Braille text under the printed word "MEN" and picture of a wheelchair was written beautifully, aside from the lack of a whole-word capital sign (dot 6, dot 6)? I call that Braille Shorthand. This type of Braille is rather popular.
I spotted Braille Scribble, on the other hand, at a popular casino. Both the MEN and WOMEN signs were written as follows: "(dot 6)M(dot 6)E(dot 6)N" and "(dot 6)W(dot 6)O(dot 6)M(dot 6)M(dot 6)E(dot 6)N." Who makes such signs anyway? Simply put, Braille Scribble is written by people who are just learning Braille and haven't yet learned the proper rules of the Braille code. I have also seen signs on which the word "ACCESSIBLE" was written without the double-C contraction. Then there was the Braille sign, "Handi-cap." A friend told me of upside-down Braille on an elevator. (I have yet to see that personally.)
Let's not forget Braille that incorrectly transcribes the print. I call this Braille Misinformation. At another popular establishment the Braille under the print word "WOMEN" and picture of a wheelchair read "women accessible" with no double-C contraction and no capital signs. This sign actually falls into two categories: Braille Scribble and Braille Misinformation. The Braille should have read "Women Wheelchair Accessible." I also found a sign at the door of a hotel meeting room that read "Breakfast Area" in print but "Pioneer Room" in Braille. So which was it--the breakfast area, the Pioneer Room, or both?
I saw another Braille Misinformation sign proudly displayed at a popular office supply store. The pictures on top showed a man and a woman with a line between the two stick figures. To the side was a picture of a wheelchair. The word "REST ROOM" was printed under these pictures. Under the printed word in Braille was simply "rest room handicapped" (no capital sign). The visual reader would see immediately that it was a handicapped-accessible, unisex rest room. Of course the pictures were raised, so the reader could assess additional information by tactile means other than reading Braille, assuming that he or she found the pictographs in the process of getting to the Braille.
However, I found the worst Braille sign of all at a popular fast-food restaurant. Under the MEN and WOMEN rest room signs were decorative, but not practical, groups of hard plastic droplets, which somewhat simulated Braille. The hard pointy dots were so crammed together that the Braille was completely distorted. The most proficient Braille reader would have had trouble attempting to read it. I simply call this Braille Art for the sighted.
I would hope that, if a manager received a printed sign that read "WoMeN", "mEN", or even "Handi-cap," he or she would return the sign to the manufacturer for correction, no questions asked. I'm sure managers would return a sign if a print letter was backwards or upside-down, so shouldn't they return a sign if the Braille is not acceptable?
I informed the managers or owners of all the establishments mentioned above that the Braille was not correct. Did any of them change their signs? No. Why not? Too expensive? The sign manufacturers convinced the owner that the sign was correct? They didn't think it was important enough to fix? Whatever the reason, we have the responsibility to check public Braille signs and inform the proper individuals about incorrect Braille. It is important for our early Braille readers to read correct Braille. Sign manufacturers should not be getting paid for producing inadequate Braille. If enough of us complain to establishments about incorrect Braille, they will be forced to fix it.
So the next time you Braille readers are getting ready to walk into a public rest room, hotel meeting room, or elevator or just happen to come across a Braille sign, take a second to touch the Braille. Psst, pass your knowledge on so that we can have beautiful Braille everywhere.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB President Marc Maurer stops by for a chat with busy Braille Readers Are Leaders volunteers. On the left (left to right) are NFB members Bernice Lowder and Mary Kuforiji, and on the right are Rolling Hills Federated Women's Club members Katherine Carbonneau and (seated) Aline Norris]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bernice Lowder (left) uses a Perkins Brailler while Aline Norris dictates information to her.]
Building Dreams for Blind Children One Page at a Time
by Aloma Bouma
From the Editor: When the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest begins on November 1 this year, it will be the twentieth conducted jointly by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB). That seemed like a pretty good reason for a party, and that's what the two groups threw, with the help and support of the United Parcel Service Foundation, on the Monday afternoon of the 2003 convention in Louisville. During that event division officials announced an expansion of the Braille Readers contest beginning this fall, again with considerable financial support from the UPS Foundation. In this issue you will find a one-page form for the use of those interested in participating in the 2004 contest to obtain materials. Even if you are reading this notice or sending the form back after November 1, you still have time to ensure that the blind child in your life takes part in the contest or participates in the prereading Braille activities. But act today. Consult the tear-out form for exact details and complete and return it immediately.
This moment of looking forward to an expanded program also seemed a good time to look back over what we have accomplished during these last nineteen contests and to pay tribute to some of those who have made our success possible. Aloma Bouma, who was a member of the staff at the National Center for the Blind for many years, has now returned to school to earn a certificate to work with older blind people. Here is her review of our very successful Braille Readers Are Leaders program:
Nearly twenty years have passed since we first began our Braille reading contest for blind children. The Braille Readers Are Leaders program was born out of a commitment to design a national reading contest for blind children similar to reading programs for sighted kids. Sponsored jointly by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB), this contest has brought blind children the education and adventure they need to shape their dreams, a foundation of skills necessary to build those dreams, and the encouragement and self-confidence to make them come true.
Since 1984 thousands of blind children have participated in our Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. Hundreds have been winners, and hundreds of thousands of pages of Braille have been read. All contestants receive certificates and ribbons for participating, and the contest, which runs from November through January each year, awards cash prizes, certificates, and ribbons to the top five winners in each of five categories. These include the beginning (first year) Braille readers and four grade levels: K-1, 2-4, 5-8, and 9-12. A special category of the Most Improved awards special ribbons to the top ten most improved readers each year. Applicants can enter every year, and the winners are determined by the number of Braille pages read and verified by a designated parent or teacher.
Keeping track of the applicants, winners, and pages read each year is a tremendous project. Accomplishing this job efficiently takes a lot of work--work that would not be done smoothly and consistently without a lot of help. Judges, parents, teachers, contest supervisors, and those who manage the computer files for the contest all play an important part. Since 1997, however, some of the most complex, time-consuming, and intensive parts of the work have been done by a remarkable group of volunteers from the Rolling Hills Women's Club of Catonsville, Maryland.
In 1997, designated internationally as "The Year of the Child," the wonderful partnership between the Catonsville Women's Club and the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest began. "We have been incredibly fortunate to have the help of these women," said NOPBC President Barbara Cheadle. "There is no way to estimate the tremendous value of their contribution to the Braille Readers contest. Their commitment to blind children and to this project has built friendships and respect among all of us," she said.
Ruth Burgess, a club leader, now seventy-five, was looking for a project for the club that would benefit the blind--one of the suggested service projects by the National Federation of Women's Clubs. Burgess thought that perhaps her club could donate toys or determine another project to benefit blind children, so she began to look through her local telephone book. And the rest, as they say, was history. She contacted the National Federation of the Blind and talked to Barbara Cheadle, and together they developed a plan.
"We were invited to tour the Federation office, and our eyes were opened to all that the NFB does," Burgess explained. "We learned about blindness, and we quickly wanted to work with the Braille reading contest." And worked they have. For seven years Burgess and other club members have helped to tabulate and record the number of pages read by every Braille Readers Are Leaders contestant--no small accomplishment. Every year, during the last two weeks of February and the first week of March, dedicated club members arrive at the National Center for the Blind to contribute their time and energy to help blind children, and they have come to look forward to it. "Those of us who have done it before are really anxious to come back," Burgess exclaimed. "We really love to do it. It makes a difference to us. Sometimes, when you are doing something that you believe in, you think you are doing it to help someone else, but you are really doing it because it is something that has become important to you," she said.
The work the women perform is certainly detailed. They begin by reviewing the application form submitted by each applicant. This form lists the child's name, age, grade, and school and the author, title, and number of pages read in each book. These numbers, previously tabulated by the supervising parent or teacher, must be reviewed and double-checked for each applicant and every book. Once they verify the number of pages read, one of the women dictates the information from the form to a blind volunteer, who records this information in Braille. Both print and Braille copies are then filed together in the various contest categories.
The Rolling Hills Women's Club participates in other areas of the contest as well. They help place all of the awards, certificates, and ribbons in the applicants' award packets, and they share in the joy and excitement of the awards ceremony held for Maryland contest winners, where they provide and serve refreshments. "It is a wonderful experience to see the kids get their awards," Burgess said. "We are always impressed with the way these young people conduct themselves; it is just a revelation to see how they do. All of us have learned so much about what the blind are doing. We are always impressed when a youngster has read three thousand pages. But someone who has read eight pages has worked just as hard as the one who read three thousand. For the person who read eight pages, it is just as much of an accomplishment," Burgess said.
Volunteering with the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is a team effort for the Rolling Hills Women's Club. About a dozen women have participated over the years, and they are all proud of their work. The club has also been recognized for its efforts, winning a regional award for the project from the National Federation of Women's Clubs. Mary France, who was club president from 1996 to 1997, tries to come every year. "Even though my husband graduated from the Maryland School for the Blind, I personally knew very little about Braille," she said.
The club's current president is Rae Warshaw, seventy-one, a retired schoolteacher. She likes to work with numbers, so she helps to tabulate all of the pages read by each contestant, although she is also eager to pitch in wherever needed. Warshaw feels very strongly about the importance of getting kids to want to read, and she supports incentive programs and competitions like Braille Readers Are Leaders. "If you can't read, you are lost," she said.
The contest has grown substantially over the years, increasing from approximately two hundred applicants each year to over four hundred. This means, in turn, that the number of pages read and tabulated each year has increased. For example, the total number of pages read by all contestants in the 2000-2001 contest year was 476,015. One enthusiastic Braille reader managed to read twenty thousand pages! While this is an outstanding achievement, we are proud to say it is a feat attainable by many blind children who have received instruction in reading and writing Braille.
Of course the growth of the contest means additional work for the Rolling Hills Women's Club and all of the other volunteers who work on the project. Two volunteers in this second group are Bernice Lowder and Mary Kuforiji, both blind parents from the Baltimore area. It is up to these two women to copy into Braille all of the print contest information read to them by the Rolling Hills volunteers. This is no small task. Each year Kuforiji and Lowder have dedicated long hours to helping with the Braille Readers contest, and we couldn't manage without them.
In addition to transcribing into Braille the information from each applicant, Kuforiji and Lowder tabulate the annual number of contestants and track each applicant's contest category. Lowder emphasizes the value of a contest like this, saying, "These kids are given a chance to learn to love reading, and the challenge of the competition really helps them improve their Braille skills." The importance of building better Braille literacy for blind children is an important component of the contest, agrees Kuforiji. "It is the only way to become a fast Braille reader, especially when you are young," she said.
The contest judges also play a vital role in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. For many years the two judges were blind Braille instructors Ellen Ringlein and Ruth Sager. Their job was to make sure the applicants met all of the contest requirements and to verify what type of Braille materials each read. Textbooks and homework, for example, cannot be counted as a part of the contest. Some schools and children have a difficult time acquiring enough Braille books and materials, so the contest allows students to read a book more than once. The judges, however, have to make sure that students did not read a book more than three times.
Ringlein said that another important job of the judges has been to select the ten most improved readers each year. This isn't easy, because the winners are chosen based on the number of pages increased, not simply the number of pages read. Winners of the Most Improved category must not have won in any contest category in previous years. This special award, she said, motivates readers. "It is designed as an incentive to those who are not likely to be competitive in other categories, and it encourages them to keep working on their skills," she said.
Sager has seen great improvement in the number of pages contestants have read over the years. You might expect that, as children grow older and have more ability and experience, they would increase their reading amounts. However, Sager is particularly impressed by the increases she has seen among young children. "The number of pages read by the kindergarten through fourth-grade categories has increased substantially. At one time the top young winners would have read approximately one thousand pages, but today a young child has to read about three thousand pages to compete in the top three placements," she noted.
In recent years the judges have also awarded special Honor Roll ribbons for readers who have not yet achieved top honors but who show remarkable ability. These color-coded ribbons are awarded in classifications based on the number of pages read by non-award winners. "Many students read from five hundred to over eight thousand pages. We want to show them that they are making great progress, and we need to encourage them to keep improving," she said.
Nadine Jacobsen, president of NAPUB, cannot say enough about the volunteer Braille transcribers, the judges, and the women of the Rolling Hills Women's Club. "A national contest like ours takes a lot of effort, dedication, and love for the project. We have the very best group of volunteers anyone could ask for," Jacobsen remarked. "The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest has proven to increase the interest and ability of blind children as they develop Braille reading skills. Developing these skills at an early age will be one of the best gifts we can give our children as they grow into independent, successful, and competent adults," she said.
It isn't just the volunteers who love the Braille Readers contest. The students, parents, teachers, and administrators share our feelings for the importance of this reading program. Following, you will find letters from a previous contest winner and a teacher. They express the overwhelming need, interest, and gratitude for this Braille reading competition. Here they are:
I liked when I got first place in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. I worked hard to achieve my goal. Your contest encourages kids like myself to read. I got a bike with the money I won. We went to Wal*Mart to get my bike. I picked out the pink one. My dad put training wheels on the bike. Thanks again.
Just wanted to mention that when I first started working with Paul, one and one-half years ago, he barely would read one page of Braille independently. Even though he probably won't be a contest winner, I am very proud of what he has accomplished.
Mary Ellen Smith, teacher of the visually impaired
Not only has our Braille Readers Are Leaders contest increased blind children's interest in reading, it is helping to lay the educational foundation these children need as they grow older. The Braille skills they develop will help them in many ways in the years to come. Preparation and review of class notes; using office and professional materials; and maintaining order in personal or financial records, files, videotapes, and other belongings are just a few of the hundreds of other uses they will find for Braille.
Blind people today have a myriad of devices and electronic systems that rely on Braille. Computers with Braille displays, portable notetakers, and computers with Braille keyboards and displays, Braille printers to produce documents, and many similar types of equipment are found at home, in school, and on the job. Without Braille skills blind people cannot take advantage of this technology. The following letter from a teacher of blind children illustrates this point:
I came to work with Nare just this year. She is a bright, motivated young lady. She had retinal detachment while in middle school and was taught grade 1 [uncontracted] Braille at that time. Prior to this year Nare was not familiar with grade 2 [contracted] Braille or technology for persons who are visually impaired and had been completing her high school education aurally. Nare knows she will need to continue to work hard (so much to learn) to be successful in college. This year she has finished grade 2 [contracted] Braille using the Braille 2 Curriculum, and she has learned to use a BrailleNote [a portable Braille notetaker] and can now print her work in both Braille and print. She is also just beginning to use a computer with JAWS [a synthetic speech program]. I am so proud of her and thought you would be too! It pains me to think of how long ago she should have learned Braille. She did read much more than got documented and she chose to read some difficult stuff. I'm just proud of her for entering the contest.
The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest has played a vital role in the development of blind children in need of help beyond increasing literacy skills. For example, children who have emigrated from other countries have used our contest to learn both Braille and English. Children who are deaf-blind and children with multiple disabilities who rely on Braille often require additional educational support. These students, who often struggle to keep up with their classmates, have found our contest an exciting way to improve their reading skills and also share in the same reading experiences as their friends.
The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is clearly a labor of love. The blind children who participate love the reading they do and love the competition. Their parents and teachers love the increased skills and reading ability the children gain. The women of the Rolling Hills Women's Club love their work on this important project, and we love them and are grateful for their help. The contest volunteers and judges love the awards, prizes, and honors given to the contestants, and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille love sponsoring the contest. Most of all, though, we all love the children, and we love seeing the difference this contest makes in their lives.
We have an outstanding team working together to make our contest the successful program it has become. For twenty years now we have nurtured, educated, cared for, and watched our children as they have grown into successful blind adults. Thanks to everyone involved in the contest, we are looking forward to seeing future generations of blind children achieve the same success and accomplishment as their predecessors. When it comes to the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest, everyone is a winner.
Braille Readers Are Leaders Expands Program
by Barbara Cheadle
The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is a national contest for Braille students, kindergarten through twelfth grades. It is sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB); both organizations are affiliated divisions of the National Federation of the Blind. From November 1 to February 1, parents, teachers, or librarians help students keep track of the number of Braille pages they read of extracurricular material. At the end of the three months, thirty-five students from six different categories earn recognition and cash prizes as the top winners. Students who read five hundred or more Braille pages for the contest are also honored with special Braille ribbons, and all contestants receive recognition for participation.
Since 1984 the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest has inspired thousands of blind students to read more Braille. In 1994 a special award was instituted for participating schools for the blind, and in 1998 an outstanding teacher or librarian was first selected for public recognition of his or her support for the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest.
The dramatic increase in recent years in the number of students who participate and the letters and comments we receive from teachers and parents demonstrate that the program is a success. However, we are not content to rest on our laurels. As NOPBC and NAPUB laid plans to celebrate twenty years of promoting Braille through the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest, we also considered the next twenty years. What more could we do to promote Braille literacy?
We listened to teachers and parents and concluded that Braille Readers Are Leaders needed to be more than a contest; somehow it needed to include the kids who weren't reading yet--the prereaders or emergent readers. It is common knowledge that the foundation for literacy skills and the motivation to learn to read are laid down years before a child begins formal reading instruction.
Thanks to a grant from UPS, the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest has expanded. It is now the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest and Literacy Program for Braille Readers and Pre-readers. Beginning November 1, 2003, Braille Readers Are Leaders will include the first annual BRL Reading Pals--a noncompetitive Braille literacy program for blind infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and older students with reading delays.
The goal of this program is to encourage parents to read aloud to their child a minimum of fifteen minutes a day during the three-month period beginning November 1, 2003, and concluding February 1, 2004. Upon registering for BRL Reading Pals, parents will receive a three-month reading journal, a print/Braille children's book, a Reading Pal (a small beanie-baby-style stuffed animal), instructions about how to complete the program, a resource list for children's print/Braille books, and tips on how to promote a positive attitude about Braille and reading. At the conclusion of the program the parent and child will receive a certificate of completion and a special prize they can share together. Teachers or other adults, such as grandparents, may also register a child for this program. However, the adult must have regular and frequent opportunities to read aloud with the child.
To request contest entry forms or the BRL Reading Pals registration forms, please complete and send the following information to Braille Readers Are Leaders, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; e-mail <[email protected]>; (410) 659-9314 ext. 361.
Braille Readers Are Leaders
November 1, 2003 – February 1, 2004
[ ] I wish to request contest entry forms. I understand this is a contest for Braille-reading students, kindergarten through twelfth grades (including students in ungraded programs). Please send me ______ entry form(s).
[ ] I wish to request BRL Reading Pals registration forms. I understand this is a pre-Braille literacy program for blind and visually impaired prereaders (babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and older children who are not yet independent readers). Please send me ________ registration forms.
Please send them to my [ ] school/work address [ ] home address.
[ ] Parent[ ] Teacher[ ] Librarian Other __________
City, State, Zip _____
The best way to contact me is by:
(PLEASE PRINT LEGIBLY)
Telephone: home________ school/office_________ cell _____________
For more information about these and other programs sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) or the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB), contact Barbara Cheadle, President, NOPBC, (410) 659-9314 ext. 360; e-mail: <[email protected]>; or Nadine Jacobson, President, NAPUB, (651) 733-9780; e-mail: <[email protected]>.
Charitable Remainder Trusts
A trust is a plan established to accomplish goals for the individual making the trust and for the beneficiary. The donor creates the trust, appoints a trustee (the donor, a family member, a bank trust officer, etc.), and designates a beneficiary. In the case of a charitable remainder trust, money or property is transferred by the donor to a charitable trust. This trust pays income for life. After the donor's death the funds remaining in the trust go to the National Federation of the Blind.
There are two kinds of charitable trusts. The first, a charitable remainder annuity trust, is set up to pay income to the donor based on a fixed percentage of the original gift. The second is a charitable remainder unitrust. The income from this trust is based on the annual assessed value of the gift. Both types of charitable remainder trust are common and relatively easy to set up. Appreciable tax deductions are available, depending on which type of trust is selected.
The following examples demonstrate how trusts work, but the figures are illustrative, not exact:
Michael Brown, age sixty-five, decides to set up a charitable remainder annuity trust with $100,000. He asks his brother John to manage the trust for him. During Michael's lifetime John will see to it that Michael is paid $5,000 each year (5 percent of $100,000). In addition, Michael can claim a tax deduction of $59,207 in the year the trust is established.
Mary Ellen Davis, age sixty-five, sets up a charitable remainder unitrust with $100,000. She asks her attorney to act as trustee. During Mary Ellen's life her attorney will pay her an amount, 5 percent, equal to the annual assessed value of her gift. If the $100,000 unitrust grows to $110,000, Mary Ellen will be paid $5,500. If it grows again to $120,000, she will be paid $6,000 in that year, and so on. Also Mary Ellen can claim a tax deduction of $48,935 in the year she establishes the unitrust.
For more information on charitable remainder trusts, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
Advertisers Try a New Way of Looking at Things
by Bettijane Levine
From the Editor: The following story appeared in the July 24, 2003, edition of the Chicago Tribune. Remembering our struggles in the past decade to rid American entertainment of blind characters like George in the ABC program "Good and Evil" and Mr. Magoo as revived by the Disney movie studios, readers should find the information in this article refreshing and positively remarkable. We can only keep our fingers crossed that this trend will continue and that blind actors get a real chance to make their mark in programming and films as well as in commercials:
Guy and girl enjoying themselves at a party. They're good-looking, hot, in their twenties. Guy excuses himself and makes his way through the crowd. Oh, but wait. He's got a white cane; he must be blind. As he begins to wash his hands in the bathroom, he gently feels around the sink and faucet. Back with his date, he tells her, "You should see the bathroom."
That's a thirty‑second TV commercial for Kohler, which, it would seem, makes bathroom fixtures so unusual you don't need to see them to appreciate them.
Kohler is not alone. With little precedent TV seems suddenly populated with blind people. And not in regular programming. Three current commercials for major corporations feature visually impaired characters as central figures. What's more, the ads show these people in the social swim--looking good, in control, even exceedingly hip. It's what spokesmen for the visually impaired have been seeking from the media for years: inclusion. Yet it's difficult to imagine the ads were created solely as a bow to social consciousness. Advertising is, above all else, about selling products and making money.
So why would a faucet company, a car maker (Pontiac), and a liquor brand (Crown Royal) suddenly decide that blind people are the way to capture viewers' attention?
The answer, in part, is that the first order of every day at an ad agency is to find unusual ways to purvey its clients' wares. By using a blind person--someone not commonly seen on TV-- the agency would be pushing the boundaries of conventional advertising, making the product stand out from all others. (Little did each realize that two other agencies were tapping the same premise.) As it turns out, in each of these cases creative minds were also trying to illustrate the exquisite sensory pleasures provided by the product--pleasures that go beyond the visual.
Jonah Bloom, executive editor of the industry magazine, Advertising Age, thinks the ads are right on target. "A blind person in an ad is a useful vehicle for getting a message across. You are immediately telling the viewer that there are other senses involved, other pleasures to be derived that aren't visual. How else can you so easily convey that message?"
Sanjay Sood, assistant professor of marketing at the Anderson School of UCLA, says he can't remember another time when blind people have been featured so prominently. And even if it's not a conscious attempt to break down barriers, he says, the results are just as beneficial. The barriers fall, to some degree, just by showing blind people in the mainstream of life instead of showing them as stereotypes. "Maybe it even adds to the credibility of the product," Sood says.
"It used to be an unwritten rule to only show the exact types of people you're targeting and to idealize them--so that viewers never saw anything that wasn't ideally happy, ideally beautiful, ideally perfect. But in the quest for attention, advertisers are willing to push the envelope much more than they used to." That said, the result of these ads has been exhilarating to some who are sight‑impaired. Their representation in the media has been so dismal and unrealistic for so long, they say, that many are thankful to finally be portrayed more accurately, even if only to sell a product.
In fact, the American Federation [Foundation] for the Blind presented its 2003 Access Award to the Wisconsin‑based Kohler company "for cleverly offering a realistic and positive portrayal of a blind person in its television commercial," even though the winning ad did not use an actual blind actor. Kohler did, however, appear to have its finger on the pulse of today's young generation of blind people.
The ad shows blind people as folks who can party, dance the night away, even look hot and cool if they choose to. Blindness precludes none of that, of course--although the media still tends to portray blind people as isolated, fearful, helpless, imprisoned in an endless night. Think Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman: an older guy who sits alone in his room, mad about being blind.
The ads are a step forward but far from enough, says Tom Sullivan, a blind actor, author, and musician who is also an avid skier and golfer. People with visual disabilities, he says, have been almost totally excluded from film and TV. When they are hired, he says, it is to play roles in which their blindness is the focus of the plot. "The real breakthrough will come when a show like `The Practice' hires me to play an attorney, and my blindness is never mentioned," he says.
"It's all so ridiculous and antiquated," agrees blind actor Rick Boggs, who was a television spokesman for Airtouch Cellular for two years. Among his gripes are that blind men are usually presented as bland, straight‑laced, naive, and not very masculine. Boggs says he isn't wildly enthusiastic about the new commercials, especially the two that didn't use blind actors. At the Airtouch auditions, he says, "they interviewed about 150 blind actors before choosing me. So don't tell me there's no pool of talent."
David Crawford, senior vice president of GSD&M, in Austin, Texas, which created the Kohler ad, says he would have used a blind actor, but the spot was done in a whirlwind during the last commercial actors strike. "We had to film in Canada; we had a lot of last‑minute logistics to take care of. Casting a blind actor was seriously discussed" but not implemented.
How did they come up with the idea? "We dreamed up dozens of ideas to pitch to them, each one playing off the company's motto: `The bold look of Kohler.'" One of the team members thought it would be neat to show that the design is so individual you can tell it's a Kohler just by touching it, Crawford says.
Graham Button, creative director at Grey Global Advertising in New York, says that when blind actor Peter Seymour auditioned for the Crown Royal commercial, "he was so obviously right, so handsome, debonair, self-assured--and such a great actor, we would have given him the job whether he was sighted or not."
The ad, which takes place in a bar, features Seymour--a blind guy so cool, so perceptive, and so hip that he's an object of envy as other guys watch him order and sip Crown Royal while he observes the action. Somehow he knows that two great-looking women are admiring him, and he says, "I think the one on the left likes me."
Button says the ad is successful because it uses a person with heightened sensory awareness to convey the exquisite pleasures offered by the product: the taste, the smell, the tingle as it's swallowed.
And in somewhat the same vein Chemistri, the marketing firm that does Pontiac car ads, used an actor playing a blind person to illustrate the particular joys of driving a Grand Prix.
Brian Durocher, senior vice president at Chemistri, explains: "We asked ourselves, how do we illustrate the sheer pleasureful impact of driving this car. How do we illustrate the Pontiac tag line: `Fuel for the Soul'?" Their solution: A commercial filmed in the desert with a man and woman in dark sunglasses, driving full throttle through the sand. The woman is at the wheel, obviously enjoying the sensation. She stops the car, opens the door, and extends her cane. That's when you realize the driver is blind.
Durocher says the commercial is successful, he believes, because it initially expresses the joy of driving that car. Then it stops you short when you realize the driver is blind.
And then it hits you again when you imagine the sensations that driver experienced that have nothing to do with eyesight: the car's power, its sensitivity, its strength.
Durocher says he, too, would have used a blind actor--but the driver had to be able to "make her mark" during the filming so the car wouldn't stray off camera. He says he consulted with the Michigan Association for the Blind on every aspect of the commercial.
"One of the first things they told us is that driving was a common fantasy for the visually impaired and blind people. And most of them have tried it--in safe areas, of course." The association approved the ad, said it helped shatter stereotypes of the visually impaired, and public feedback has been positive, Durocher says.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Hilary Connor]
Medical Doctor Takes Up Braille after Retirement
by Dr. Hilary Connor
From The Editor: The following article first appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of the Braille Spectator, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. It begins with Editor Al Maneki's head note:
Dr. Hilary Connor is eighty-one years old and still going strong. He was born in Rhode Island and served as an officer in the Navy during World War II, where he met his future wife, a Navy nurse. He completed his medical residency after World War II. His long medical career included seventeen years in private practice as a pediatrician, followed by many years in the U.S. Public Health Service, where he began working with Native Americans on their reservations in the West. His long and distinguished career culminated in eight years of service as the director of the State Board of Medicine of Virginia. Dr. Connor tells us that after retirement he and his wife decided to live in Maryland so that they could be at the focus of their four children, who are scattered up and down the East Coast. In this poignant article Dr. Connor explains that he suddenly became blind after retirement. Although he did not know us at that time, he responded to this dramatic change in true Federation spirit. The story of his blindness can serve as an inspiration to all of us. This is what he says:
I spent many years in the clinical practice of medicine. The last eight years of my full-time activity was spent as the director of the State Board of Medicine of Virginia. At the age of seventy-three, I decided to retire and move to Maryland.
Shortly after retirement I realized that I couldn't sit around and just do nothing, so I agreed to work two days a week as a consultant to the State Board of Medicine of Maryland. But six months after I retired, in January of '95, I had an attack of temporal arteritis, an autoimmune disease, and in a matter of days I went from 20/20 vision to total blindness. I watched the Super Bowl Sunday night; I was totally blind on Tuesday morning. A week later, when I left the hospital, I returned to the office to close out my desk. My wife took me there, and the physicians on the board asked that I stay on, saying that they would hire a reader to read the cases to me so that I could continue to consult with them. I explained that my wife had been a nurse and that she could read the cases to me. So I continued to work for another two years, reviewing the cases, having my laptop read me the research, and then attending the sessions and meeting with the board members.
But at the age of seventy-five I decided that I'd really had enough and it was time to retire, so I did. Upon retirement I realized that I needed to do more than just listen to the radio. I went to the National Federation of the Blind headquarters, where I had originally gone to get a cane two years before. This time I asked them to give me some information about how I could learn to read Braille. They referred me to Blind Industries [Blind Industries and Services of Maryland], and I again went over there and met with Ellen Ringlein, who was teaching Braille. I explained that I didn't really want to take daily lessons or be on a schedule, but, if she would give me the books they used to teach Braille, I would teach myself at home. She agreed and gave me the first of the three volumes that I used in learning Braille.
I went home, and, since I had a lot of time to spend on it, I really went at it like an eager beaver and finished the first book, picked up the second, finished the second, and picked up the third. In the meantime every so often the phone would ring, and it would be Ellen checking on me to make sure that I hadn't quit, that I was still going.
Eventually I finished and then headed to the Library for the Blind, where I had been going to pick up cassette books to listen to and now started getting novels in Braille. I still remember my first novel in Braille, The Secret of Snake Canyon. It was a cowboy mystery. Since that day I have never been without a Braille book or novel from the library--best-sellers, mostly spy stories and adventure stories. I've had enough technical stuff all my life that I don't need to continue with it at this point although I still take continuing medical education courses.
I finally realized that, even though I know Braille, I am not a fast reader and never will be. I read with my left hand because I injured my neck years ago and the sensation in my right hand was approximately half of what it was in the left. So I read with my left hand. I decided that maybe I could use my Braille for some other purposes besides my own satisfaction. I went to the veterans hospital to see if they could use a volunteer. Since I am totally blind, I obviously couldn't wheel patients around or things like that, but I said I could teach Braille to blind people if they were interested, and they were. So I have started teaching Braille.
I go over to the veterans hospital two days a week. I've been doing this for three to five years now. My students are old codgers just like me. Fortunately the number of young blind veterans is a small percentage of the older ones, and all the students I have had so far have been in their seventies. The two I have now are seventy-four and seventy-nine years old. The seventy-nine-year-old is very fortunate in that his tactile sensation is fantastic. He can feel the dots beautifully. He has no neuropathy. He has the time to spend on Braille, so he's moving along very rapidly. Some of the others have had to drop out because of illness. But we are in no hurry. We go along at our own pace. If someone's got a medical appointment, we just cancel our meeting. Frequently they call me at home if they've missed a period of time, and we spend an hour on the phone. I have the book. I pick it up, and we just sit there and read it over the telephone.
We're moving along at our own pace, and I find it extremely enjoyable. I have always enjoyed teaching. I enjoyed teaching interns, residents, and medical students, and I find that these elderly men who are interested in Braille are easy students. They're anxious to learn. They're not in a tremendous hurry. They know that it's going to take a little while, and they're patient. I have enjoyed my meetings of the National Federation of the Blind. When I first became blind, the thing that saved me from falling into a deep depression was continuing to work. Let's face it: you can't become blind like that and not be unbelievably depressed. But I continued to work, and that gave me something to do so that I didn't get wound up in self-pity. When I listen to people at NFB meetings, I find people there who have other problems along with their blindness. While they may complain about transportation, mail delivery, and garbage pickup, nobody's complaining about being blind. There's not a lot of that, hardly any of that as a matter of fact, and I think that helps me considerably too. I realized that I'm not alone.
Now at eighty-one it's fortunate for me that the veterans hospital is only about eleven blocks from where I live, and my wife walks there with me. It's a good way of getting exercise. She also walks with me to other places, so we average about three miles a day. This is something that we both need, because she's almost as old as I am.
I also believe that there's more to Braille then just being able to sit down and read or write something, especially for the elderly. I think the elderly need Braille to keep their minds active. Reading Braille is very precise. It's not like French or other languages, where there are always exceptions to the rules. Braille is cut-and-dried. It's going to be the same tomorrow as it is today. Any blind person with average intelligence and enough tactile sensation to feel the dots should learn Braille. To my way of thinking, Braille is the second most important thing for blind people. Obviously traveling with the white cane is the most important thing there is.
Suggestions from the IBTC Holiday Elves
by Brad Hodges
From the Editor: When the International Braille and Technology Center (IBTC) staff have put their minds together before to suggest holiday gift ideas, readers have been enthusiastic. Here is this year's list of ideas. Whether you give or receive them, we hope they help you in the coming months.
The holiday season is rapidly approaching. For some the seasonal requirements to find that perfect gift are an exciting challenge; for many more the idea of hunting up something of use is a daunting task about as pleasant to contemplate as the next appointment with the dentist.
We have great news for those who struggle to generate really clever gift ideas. In FY 2003, Santa implemented an advanced enterprise solution, facilitating distributed fulfillment and real-time collaborative communication. He has referred the research and development of this gift list to a particularly busy group of elves. Housed at the Baltimore regional office, otherwise known as the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, these well-informed holiday advisors make the following suggestions.
1. Compact flash memory and a compact flash reader. It is about the size of a matchbook and can store the equivalent of over 400 floppy disks: it is compact flash. All notetakers currently available can use this economical and amazingly convenient storage technology. When you insert the flash card, the device recognizes it just as it would a hard disk or floppy.
Connect a USB flash reader to your PC, about $30, and voilà!, you can slip the card in the slot and instantly read, transfer, or save files to it, just as you would to a hard drive.
2. Microwave oven with convenient tactile controls. Not all good things come from Santa's workshop. Some can be found at the mall or at Sears. Two of these useful devices are the GE JES1246 microwave oven and the Sears Kenmore Elite 63664.
The GE unit is a medium-sized, counter-top oven. Of particular interest are the controls, which are not the traditional flat-panel variety. Each control is an easy-to-feel bubble in the flat background surface.
The Kenmore is a top-of-the-line, over-the-stove model. As with the GE, you can easily identify all of the controls by touch. Each function of the oven and all the digits have separate push buttons.
3. MP3 player. Since elves are a diminutive group, they are really excited about the RCA Lira MP3 player and the Book Port from APH.
The Lira is amazingly small, about the size of four match books, and easy to use. The player has four basic controls, is a powerful music machine, and supports MP3 and WMA file formats. Connected to your PC or using a memory card, not compact flash, you can convert your CD collection to MP3 files and download hours of music for listening on the go.
The Book Port is about the size of a VCR remote control. In addition to MP3 file playback, you can also download DAISY digital talking books and standard text files. If you remember the Road Runner with fondness, you will probably put the Book Port high on your list. As an added convenience this device accepts compact flash memory cards.
Both units require stereo headphones. A high-quality pair is always a welcome gift. We'll let you in on an elfin secret: Santa gets his phones from <www.headphones.com> or by calling toll-free (800) 828-8184.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ann Taylor holds the Telex Scholar DAISY book player.]
4. Portable digital talking book player. Since students always enjoy high-tech gadgets, especially those that combine elements of school work and relaxation, consider a digital talking book player from Telex or Visuaid. Since most college students are using digital books recorded on CD-Rom from RFB&D, check with them to ensure that the unit you are considering will play their titles. When study time is over, the player can also pump out tunes from music CDs.
If you would like to give some music CDs, we'll let you in on another elfin secret: <www.cdconnection.com> is a relatively accessible shopping site, which allows you to preview many of the titles.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Brad Hodges holds the Tivoli Portable Audible Lab (PAL).]
5. High-quality, tabletop radio. What is the perfect gift for the audiophile or the person who craves the highest-quality sound in the smallest possible package? Why, one of the current crop of tabletop radios available from Tivoli, Cambridge Sound Works, the CC Crain Company, or Bose.
Tivoli offers wonderfully crafted mono and stereo radios. All of them share the same manual tuning mechanism and straightforward controls, a total of three in all. Mono tabletop, mono portable, and a two- or three-piece stereo version are available. The sound is fantastic, and the feel and quality are unsurpassed.
Cambridge Sound Works offers an all-in-one stereo clock radio, which rivals or surpasses most stereo receivers for sensitivity and selectivity. Either as a radio only or with a built-in CD player, the reviews are outstanding.
If you also want short-wave, check out the CC Radio from CC Crain. It is tweaked for maximum AM performance and is portable. Instructions recorded on audio cassette are also available at no additional charge.
Bose is the big boy on the block in tabletop audio. It has earned a reputation for quality and outstanding sound over many years. The Bose Wave Radio is a perennial favorite among reviewers. It is available direct from Bose as a radio only or with an integrated CD player.
6. Internet service. Santa is making a list and checking it twice to see who is online, and he has noticed that lots of households might enjoy Internet service during the next year for the first time. The IBTC elves unanimously agree that Earthlink is as good as it gets. They especially appreciate the fact that, if you call technical support and tell them that you are using a screen-access program, your agent will not try to run off and hide, as can sometimes happen with other Internet providers. DSL service is also available from Earthlink. If you are subscribing to DSL, request one of the new generation of UHP modems. These allow you to read the modem settings independently with either JAWS or Window-Eyes, a real advantage when trouble develops.
If you think that someone you know would enjoy using the Internet but really doesn't like the idea of learning to use a computer, consider Internet by Phone. It is an alternative that some people may really enjoy, especially those who are primarily interested in simple e-mail or other information.
7. PC-based reading, Kurzweil 1000 and Bookshare subscription. The computer can be both powerful and flexible. Among the most useful technology available is that which turns the lowly PC and an ordinary flatbed scanner into a reading machine.
Kurzweil 1000 is a powerful and mature software package. It is designed specifically as a self-contained reading package for the blind. In addition to scanning and reading text from almost any kind of printed publication imaginable, the software supports fax-sending and -receiving.
Bookshare is an online service that allows subscribers to post and download scanned books and other materials. The text quality is rated as part of the annotation for each item, allowing you to decide if you care to download the text. Registration in print is required; subscribers must meet National Library Service qualifications in order to use the service. Modest registration and annual subscription fees are assessed.
While elves possess many talents, building scanners is not among them. Therefore they suggest the Epson 1660 flat bed scanner. Remember, scanner models change rapidly, so check with Kurzweil before making your choice.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Robert Jaquiss reads a print/Braille book.]
8. Books for one and all: Seedlings books for children, Children's Book Club from National Braille Press, Twin Vision® lending library for children, and Free Braille Books.
So you want to find a gift that doesn't require regular recharging or a connection to the Internet and will last for years? Try some of these books, publications, and services--no assembly required.
The Children's Book Club from National Braille Press offers a new print/Braille children's book every month for preschool through third grade. The same children's picture book you buy at any store is enriched with the identical text in Braille, embossed on transparent plastic sheets. Prices range from $4.95 to $15.95. There are two ways to join: free membership entitles you to receive monthly notices (in print or Braille) describing each month's featured book. You are not obligated to buy. For a yearly subscription of $100 you can automatically receive a print/Braille book each month.
Seedlings: Braille Books for Children provides books for children of all ages, from board books that encourage toddlers to explore on their own to classic children's literature for older readers. Averaging $10 in price, many titles are available.
Free Twin Vision® books for prereaders and Braille books up to the eighth-grade level are available on loan from the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults. Complete an application by going to <www.actionfund.org>.
In addition, thanks to another program from this organization, blind children can now discuss the newest book with their classmates and build their very own collections of books--just like their sighted friends. The program is called Free Braille Books. For several years now it has concentrated on making available, free of charge, titles from a number of popular children's series. Children receive six books from one series each year. Recycled books from past series can be obtained from the National Center for the Blind, if available, upon request.
9. DVD/VCR player, described movies, and a talking remote to operate the machine. Everyone has at least one couch potato on his or her holiday list. Why not make the cold midwinter more entertaining this year? Sony offers the SLVD 300P, a nicely packaged combination DVD player and VCR. The unit is the size of a standard video component and connects to virtually any TV, with both s-video and component video outputs.
Although the controls of the unit are usable with the included remote and front panel controls, DVD menus are generally not accessible. VCR performance is impressive with a fast, smooth transport and a quick rewind time.
It isn't much fun to have a DVD player or VCR unless you have a movie or two or three. More than 200 described movie titles are now available from DVS Home Video. No special equipment is required; only a standard TV and VCR are needed to enjoy home videos. All videos are sold at the suggested retail price--no additional charge for the description.
A limited number of described DVDs are available from DVS. Accessible titles include several programs from PBS's American Experience as well as the holiday classic, Dr. Seuss: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Collectors' Edition (Universal Studios Home Video, available wherever DVDs are sold).
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Booth uses the Accenda Universal Talking Remote.]
The Accenda Universal Talking remote control is causing quite a stir among Santa's geekier elves. The fully accessible remote allows you to control a TV, VCR, cable box/satellite receiver, and more. All keys announce their function when pressed. Don't feel like pressing the keys? Just talk to the remote, and it will respond to your voice commands. Like all universal remotes and voice-operated electronics, setup time and some learning are required.
A less expensive alternative universal remote is the RCA 600RS 6-in-1 remote control. The keys are well laid out, and the overall feel of the unit makes for smooth channel surfing.
10. A gift of your time and talent. Time is money, or so it is said, and most of us have more time than money. Why not give someone you know a gift of your time.
Assist a senior citizen or newly blind person by introducing him or her to NFB-NEWSLINE®. Obtain a registration form and help fill it out and send it to the national office. If you know someone who is already a subscriber but who isn't familiar with the system, sit down and teach him or her what you know about NFB-NEWSLINE.
America's Jobline®, (800) 414-5748, is a free service that places thousands of jobs at our fingertips. Some people are not comfortable using the technology. Spend some time showing someone just how useful this tool can be. Maybe you will help someone land a job.
Our children are always in need of mentors and role models. Offer to spend time or attend an activity with one of our younger Federation brothers or sisters. Better yet, bring the entire family. The simple lessons of independence, when taught early, will last a lifetime.
11. A gift to the NFB. Hallmark tells us that its cards are the gift that keeps on giving. A donation to the NFB is the gift that keeps on growing. Whether it is in a local chapter conducting educational outreach during Meet-the-Blind Month, a state scholarship, or the countless programs operated at the national level, your dollars will continue to give all year long.
Described movies are also available on loan from more than 1,000 public libraries. (All titles are subject to availability.) If you wish to purchase a DVS Home Video®, call (317) 579-0439. To request a large-print catalog, call (888) 818-1181. To request a Braille catalog, call (888) 818-1999.
Holiday Gift Sources
1. Compact Flash and Compact Flash Reader
* Retail, Best Buy Stores, CompUSA, and Circuit City
* Online at <www.Memorysuppliers.com>
* Prices, flash memory from $20 for 32 meg to $200 for 512 meg. Readers from $20 to $40. Some readers can accommodate multiple memory card formats--handy if you have more than one device using removable memory.
2. Microwave Oven with Tactile Controls
* Sears Kenmore Elite, model 63662 $529.
3. MP3 Player
* RCA Lira Model RD 1071; J and R Music World, (800) 221-8180, $99.88 or <www.jandr.com>. Commonly available at electronics stores and CompUSA
* Book Port, American Printing House for the Blind, (800) 223-1839, Model 1-07440-00, $395 plus shipping. Also available at <www.aph.org>.
4. Digital Talking Book Player
* Available from RFB&D, <www.rfbd.org>. Prices, $249 to $995
5. High-Quality Tabletop Radios
* Priced from $99 to $495, depending on manufacturer and model. Those with CD players included are typically priced at $100 more than their radio-only counterparts.
* Bose, <www.bose.com> (800) 999-2673
* Cambridge Soundworks, <www.cambridgesoundworks.com> (800) 945-4434
* Crutchfield, respected reseller, Bose and Tivoli, <www.crutchfield.com> (800) 955-3000
* Tivoli Audio, <www.tivoli.com> (877) 297-9479.
6. Internet Service
* Earthlink, <www.earthlink.net> (800) 317-8454; approximately $21.95 monthly
* Internet Speech, <www.internetspeech.com>; price depends on location and plan.
7. PC-Based Reading
* Kurzweil 1000 reading package, Kurzweil Educational Systems, (800) 894-5374 <www.kurzweiledu.com>
* Book Share, <www.bookshare.com>. Initial registration fees and yearly renewal fees apply.
* Panasonic Scanners, Best Buy stores, CompUSA, and other electronics retailers, $149 to $199.
8. Books for Children
* National Braille Press, <www.nbp.org> (800) 548-2373
* Seedlings: Braille Books for Children, <www.seedlings.org> (800) 777-8552
* Free Braille Books, <[email protected]> or contact Mary Ellen Thompson to check on availability of past title selections, (410) 659-9314, ext. 361, or e-mail <[email protected]>.
9. Movie and Video Equipment
* Sony SLVD 300P; Best Buy, Circuit City, and other popular electronics retailers, approximately $199
* Described Videos, DVS, <www.wgbh.org>
* Accenda Universal Talking remote control, $70, NFB Materials Center, <www.nfb.org>, (410) 659-9314, when prompted, press 4 for the Materials Center.
* RCA 600RS 6-in-1 remote control; Radio Shack, other electronics stores, $19.95.
10. A Gift of Your Time and Talent
* Costs you nothing or very little; is priceless to the recipient.
11. A Gift to the NFB
* Any amount, 1800 Johnson Street, Suite 300, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Art Schreiber]
39 Years Ago Newsman Had Front‑Row Seat to Beatles History
by Rick Nathanson
From the Editor: Art Schreiber is president of the NFB of New Mexico. If you talk to him for any length of time, you will quickly learn that much of his working life was in radio and that he still has lots of contacts in media circles. Not many Federationists know, however, that Art was one of two American reporters sent to cover the first Beatles concert tour of North America in 1964. The story of that adventure has nothing to do with blindness, but it is an interesting glimpse into the life of a Federation leader. The August 22, 2003, edition of the Albuquerque Journal carried an article about Art Schreiber and that amazing Beatles tour. Here it is:
Like fans of the Fab Four everywhere, Art Schreiber has for years yearned for a Beatles reunion. Of course the reunion he hopes for isn't exactly what most people have in mind. For Schreiber a reunion would be a chance to get reacquainted with the two surviving members of the world‑changing rock band. One of the two, Ringo Starr, will appear in concert Monday at the Sandia Casino Amphitheater.
Schreiber is planning to be there, and he's hoping for an opportunity to shake Starr's hand and exchange a few personal words with him. Schreiber, 75, was one of five journalists--two American and three British--assigned to travel with the Beatles on their first tour of North America in 1964. The thirty-two‑day tour breezed through twenty-five cities and logged more than 40,000 miles.
Next year will be the fortieth anniversary of that tour, and a book about the tour, Ticket to Ride, by Larry Kane, the other American journalist accompanying the Beatles, will be released later this year.
John Lennon was shot and killed by a crazed fan on December 8, 1980, outside his New York City apartment building. George Harrison died November 29, 2001, from cancer. "The last time I saw Ringo was thirty-nine years ago," Schreiber recalled. "It was the day after the Beatles' final concert of the tour, and they were at the airport in New York to head back to London. Ringo and the others called to me from the top of the steps at the airplane, `Bye, Art!' "Ringo," he [Schreiber] said, "was the most happy‑go‑lucky of all the Beatles. But he confided to me how lucky he felt to be with the Beatles because he had replaced the original drummer, Pete Best. He also said he was homesick. That was the most serious I ever got with him."
Schreiber, also a bit homesick, told Ringo about his eight‑year‑old daughter Amy. Unknown to Schreiber, Ringo got Schreiber's home address in Cleveland and sent Amy a troll doll, wildly popular at the time. A gossip columnist from the Cleveland Press got wind of it and mentioned it in a column.
"When I got home from the tour, there were thirty-forty kids in my front yard waiting to touch me," Schreiber said. "They asked my daughter to hold up the troll doll behind the glass door, and the kids kissed the glass. My wife was always having to clean the door."
Of course by that time Schreiber had become used to all the eccentricities and craziness that followed the Beatles.
Art Schreiber grew up in East Liverpool, Ohio, an irony the Beatles would have appreciated. His father was a Presbyterian minister and manager of a 2,000‑acre cattle farm. His mother was a homemaker.
"My father always listened to the news on the radio before going out to work in the morning, and I listened with him," Schreiber said. He credits those early morning broadcasts with inspiring him to later seek a career in broadcast.
Schreiber eventually found himself in Albuquerque as vice president and general manager of Albuquerque radio stations KOB-AM and KOB-FM.
Always extremely near‑sighted, Schreiber became blind as a result of a condition that causes tears and detachment of the retinas. He is now president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico and chairman of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind.
Back in 1964 Schreiber was news director at KYW-AM in Cleveland, which was owned by the Westinghouse Broadcast Network. Schreiber often doubled as national correspondent for Westinghouse, covering high‑profile stories and rubbing elbows with the day's biggest newsmakers.
During his career Schreiber filed radio reports on the presidential bid of John F. Kennedy, Kennedy's funeral, and Lyndon Johnson's rise to the presidency. He covered NASA and the first manned space flights. He reported on race riots in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Miami and he covered Martin Luther King Jr.'s march from Selma to Montgomery and James Meredith's march through Mississippi for voting rights.
That he got the Beatles assignment was something of a fluke. A competing radio station had won a sponsorship bid to bring the Beatles to Cleveland as part of the band's tour. To avoid getting lost in the roiling dust cloud of Beatlemania, Schreiber suggested that he be placed on the band's tour as the national correspondent for the Westinghouse Broadcast Network. The network's Washington bureau chief hated the idea, insisting that Schreiber cover the national Democratic convention in Atlantic City.
"He told me a serious newsman can't lower himself to cover the Beatles," Schreiber said. "I told him it's a sociological phenomenon and we ought to do it." Schreiber also assured him he could manage both assignments.
Westinghouse Network officials gave Schreiber the go‑ahead. He joined the Beatles entourage in New York, straight from the Democratic convention, missing only a few of the tour stops. He remained with the Beatles for the better part of a month and got to know each of them personally.
"John Lennon and I sat together on the chartered plane almost every night," Schreiber said. "When John found out I traveled with Kennedy and King, he couldn't get over it and kept wanting to talk about politics and religion and what was happening in America. He was an intellectual."
When not deep in conversation with Schreiber, Lennon and Paul McCartney passed sheets of paper back and forth as they crafted songs. "The floor of the plane was just littered with the stuff,"
Schreiber said. "I could have picked up those scraps and they'd be worth big money today."
Among his fondest memories are nightly Monopoly games he played with Lennon and George Harrison. "When we'd arrive at a hotel, I'd no more sooner get in my room and the phone would ring and it would be John Lennon. He'd say, 'Art, where are you; we're waiting.' So I'd go to his room and he and George would be sitting there at the Monopoly board. John always stood up to shake the dice and roll. He wanted so badly to get Park Place and Boardwalk. He could stand to lose the game, as long as when he lost he had Park Place and Boardwalk."
Harrison was true to his reputation as the quiet Beatle. He was preoccupied with acquiring the B&O Railroad. "I asked him why he wanted the B&O so badly, and he never did tell me. He never did tell me much of anything. We'd play until sunrise, and I'd be falling asleep at the table, and John would poke me and say, 'one more game, Art.' During this whole time George would say practically nothing."
Sleeping late was out of the question for Schreiber, who had to file fifteen radio spots each day. His reports focused on all manner of things Beatle: what they had for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; how the crowd and individual fans reacted to them at concerts; how the security was managed; interviews with local DJs who aired Beatles music; and near daily interviews with the Beatles themselves.
He also reported on the assortment of things that fans threw on stage during the Beatles' shows. Airborne projectiles included cakes, jelly beans, various articles of clothing--particularly women's undergarments--and pieces of jewelry.
"In Detroit the cops would come on stage and grab the watches and anything else of value and put them in their pockets," Schreiber recalled. "In Chicago, at an amphitheater on the site of the old stockyards, somebody in the balcony threw a huge raw steak and almost hit Paul McCartney. Just missed his head by inches."
Schreiber, then 36, became a celebrity by association with the 20‑something Beatles. As part of the band's entourage, he often got pawed by fans who wanted a piece of the Beatles--but would settle for a piece of anyone or anything that had come in contact with the Beatles.
On separate occasions Schreiber had three tape recorders and two portable typewriters "ripped right out of my hands," he said. "Fans were grabbing at my clothing, tearing away pieces of my suits. Someone even cut off my necktie with scissors."
Schreiber, a smoker in those days, said fans went so far as to fight for his discarded cigarette butts.
On a wall in Schreiber's home hangs a shadowbox that frames a "Meet the Beatles" record album, a New York Paramount orchestra pit ticket for "An Evening With the Beatles," price $2.50, and several Beatles photos with personal inscriptions and autographs.
The contents of the shadowbox and a handful of audio interviews Schreiber did with the band members are all he has left of the historic 1964 tour. "It was a special time, but I don't think I realized it back then," he said.
Of course the passing years have a way of putting things in perspective. Should Schreiber have his own personal Beatles reunion, he intends to seize the moment. "I'll shake Ringo Starr's hand and say, thanks for letting me be a part of it because it sure was fun."
Atlanta Entertains Its Own Jewel
by Empish Thomas
From the Editor: Empish Thomas is an active member of the South Fulton Chapter of the NFB of Georgia. Here he writes about the life and work of another member of the chapter. This is what he says:
Jewel Harness, president of Jewel Entertainment, is no stranger to a challenge. He has been living with blindness since he was a child growing up in Lansing, Michigan. "I noticed something was wrong when I failed my school's eye exam," Harness said. At the age of eleven he was diagnosed with the dry form of macular degeneration, a disease that affects the central vision of the eye. At first Harness rejected the idea of being blind but later accepted it.
From the age of thirteen Harness was fascinated by music. It started when his mother gave him a tape recorder. "I would walk around the house tape recording everything," he said. His interest in music expanded, and he started spending his Saturday mornings at a local recording studio. There Harness learned how to do sound checks and set up microphones and sound boards. His confidence increased, and he was soon a sought-after disc jockey for school events. He also worked at a local radio station.
While majoring in audiovisual communications at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, he continued to DJ and helped to establish the campus radio station. Until that time Harness had faced very few challenges because of blindness in pursuing his goals, but that soon changed. In 1995 he moved to Atlanta and worked in the distribution department for Ichiban Records. This company promotes, advertises, markets, and distributes music. In order to complete his duties, Harness had to use magnifiers to read labels and other information. This was challenging and motivated him to establish and operate his own recording studio. "That experience was the pivotal point for me. I had to decide if I was going to do this or not," Harness said.
Seven years later, focused and determined at age thirty-two, Harness created Jewel Entertainment, an all-in-one recording studio that allows artists to create, produce, record, and replicate their own music. Jewel Entertainment has five departments: an entertainment magazine, recording and replication studios, an audio media area, graphic design, and photography. Harness decided to approach his business from this angle to keep cost low and be competitive. "In order for any successful company to get on its feet, it must have either all the finances or all the resources. I decided to have all the resources," he said.
Once the artist completes the recording, Jewel Entertainment Magazine highlights him or her as a featured story, providing an opportunity for needed exposure. In addition, the magazine includes valuable information about the music industry. The Audio Media Department also provides opportunities for the blind community by recording books and magazines on tape and CD. Harness says, "When you are blind, you have to create your own environment." Other services he provides include copyrighting, trademark registration, and legal advice supplied by an entertainment attorney.
When asked to list the most important things in starting a business, Harness said, "First, decide how committed you are. Second, figure out how much you are prepared to dedicate to the project, e.g., finances, time, energy, and other resources. Last, be flexible and willing to improvise."
Harness did not achieve his success by himself. He has received support from organizations such as Project Exceed and Cobb County Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Project Exceed is a nonprofit organization that gives financial assistance to people with disabilities who are starting their own businesses. Cobb County Vocational Rehabilitation Services is a state agency that offers training and financial assistance to people with disabilities who want to be business owners. One of Harness's most fervent supporters has been his mother. "My mother has been a pillar of strength for my life. She would always say, `Take what you have and do the best you can with it,'" Harness said.
Harness is a member of the National Federation of the Blind, South Fulton Chapter in Atlanta. He currently lives in Marietta, a suburb outside Atlanta, with his wife and two sons. For more information about Jewel Entertainment, call (404) 255-6700 or e-mail him at <[email protected]>.
This month's recipes were contributed by the NFB of Oklahoma.
by Barbara Shelton
Barbara is the wife of state president Steve Shelton.
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple
1 3-3/4-ounce box instant pistachio pudding
1 8-ounce container Cool Whip
1 cup small marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Method: Pour dry pudding mix over pineapple and juice. Stir well. Stir in marshmallows, nuts, and part of cheese. Fold in thawed Cool Whip. Spread in serving dish and garnish with additional cheese and nuts. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.
Mama's Strawberry Salad
by Sandra Giles
Sandra Giles is the secretary of the Tulsa Chapter. This is a recipe she thought had been lost when her mother died. However, the family found an envelope containing it, and it was served the following Thanksgiving. This is a recipe even people who do not like strawberries have liked after they had "just a taste." Sandra's husband likes it so much that, if there are leftovers, he will eat it for breakfast until it is gone.
1 20-ounce box frozen strawberries
2 3-ounce boxes strawberry Jell-O
1 16-ounce can crushed pineapple
2 mashed bananas
1 16-ounce carton sour cream
2 cups boiling water
Method: Mix strawberries, bananas, and pineapple together. Dissolve Jell-O in hot water. Combine strawberry mixture with Jell-O. Let chill until firm, top with sour cream, and garnish with additional strawberries. This recipe and the previous one can be modified for a sugar-free diet using sugar-free and fat-free ingredients. Fresh strawberries can be substituted for frozen ones, but add an additional 3/4 cup water, and sweetener, (if desired).
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Janet Triplett]
Janet's Famous Pralines
by Janet Triplett
Janet Triplett is the president of the Tulsa Chapter. She is also secretary of the state affiliate. One of her goals this year is to get the Voice of the Diabetic into every doctor's office and hospital waiting room she can. Janet first made these candies when she lived in Louisiana. She warns us that she is not responsible for anything that happens if a diabetic eats one.
1 stick margarine, not soft margarine because the candies will not set properly
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups pecans, approximately
Method: Combine sugars, margarine, and milk in large saucepan. Cook over fairly high heat, stirring constantly, preferably with a wooden spoon, until mixture forms a soft ball when a little of the syrup is dropped into cold water. It will be about the consistency of hot fudge. Remove immediately from heat and add vanilla and pecans. Beat well with a wooden spoon until mixture becomes thick and creamy. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper and allow to cool. Note: Janet says she has never figured out how many the recipe makes. The candies can be placed between wax paper and stored for about two weeks, depending on how warm the storage area is. This recipe is a special treat for the holidays.
by Janet Triplett
Janet comments that this is something she never heard of and never tasted until she came to Oklahoma. There are several versions around, and, if you know the right places to go, it is served in restaurants around the state.
1 cup mixed uncooked dried beans
Water to cover the beans
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seed, whole or ground
1 large clove garlic, minced
8 ounces pork tenderloin or boned chicken, cubed
2-1/2 cups fresh water (for cooking)
2-1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed or ground red pepper
1 4-ounce can green chilies, chopped
Method: Soak beans in water overnight. Before cooking, pour off water and reserve in bowl. Heat olive oil in Dutch oven or 8-quart pot and brown onion, cumin, garlic, and meat. Add soaked dried beans, 2-1/2 cups water, and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer two hours, stirring occasionally. Add oregano, red pepper, and chilies and cook an additional thirty minutes. Serve hot.
Italian Potato Salad
by several interested members
This was introduced at a Federation picnic several years ago because it stays safe to eat in hot weather for quite a while. It was revived again when some of our technical people brought it to a dinner. This is also a good low-cholesterol potato salad. Delicious.
2 pounds potatoes cooked with the skins on
6 eggs, hard boiled
5 ribs celery, chopped
1 bottle Seven Seas Viva Italia salad dressing
1/4 cup fresh dill weed
Salt to taste
Mayonnaise as desired
Method: Peel potatoes and slice to desired thickness. Place potatoes in a bowl and sprinkle dill weed and salt on each layer of potatoes until they are used up. Add chopped celery to potato mixture. Shake Seven Seas Viva Italia and pour on potatoes to moisten all slices. Stir potato mixture and place in refrigerator to marinate. Meanwhile boil eggs, and when they are cool, peel and slice them. Stir into potato mixture. Add more Viva Italia if the mixture seems dry and place in refrigerator. Just before serving add mayonnaise to taste and salt if desired.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Joe Triplett]
by Joe Triplett
Joe is the past president of the Tulsa Chapter and is currently a student at the Colorado Center for the Blind. He is also second vice president of the state affiliate and has participated in many volunteer activities. Joe has been a Federationist since the `70's. Janet found this recipe in some of Joe's papers, decided to try it, and then submitted it.
1 medium jar picante sauce
1 pound hamburger
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium bell pepper, chopped, or one small can chopped green chilies
1 can cream of celery soup
1 medium bag Doritos (any flavor), crushed
8 ounces shredded cheese
Method: Brown hamburger with onion and peppers. Drain off grease. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine meat mixture with soup and picante sauce. Spray bottom of a casserole dish with cooking spray and place a layer of crushed chips on the bottom. Sprinkle a thin layer of cheese on top of chips. Add hamburger mixture. Top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts.
Suggestions: This is great with sharp cheddar, but some people have made this with Monterey Jack cheese and hot peppers. With all the varieties of Doritos available as well as various picante sauces and cheeses, the possibilities for this recipe are infinite.
Banana Nut Bread
by Sandra Giles
1 yellow cake mix
1 small instant banana cream pudding mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup chopped nuts
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the first five ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat batter on medium speed for two minutes. Add mashed bananas. Stir in nuts. Grease 13-by-9-inch cake pan and pour in batter, smoothing the top. Bake at 350 degrees for fifty to sixty minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Let cool and enjoy.
News from the Federation Family
The North San Diego County Chapter of the NFB of California elected new officers at its April, 2003, meeting. Elected were Paul Price, president; Dave Faiman, first vice president; Keiko Phelps, second vice president; Karma Rios, secretary; and Glenn Levine and Beth Kats, board members.
Larry Streeter, president of the NFB of Idaho, reports that the affiliate has just organized the Snake River Valley Chapter. The officers are Vickie Bateman, president; Kevin Pirnie, first vice president; Randy Bloxham, second vice president; Katie Pirnie, secretary; and Colleen McFadden, treasurer. Congratulations to this new member of the Federation family.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Braille coin]
Braille Coins for Sale:
The Cincinnati chapter and the Ohio NAPUB Division are selling Louis Braille coins. These unique coins have the words "Louis Braille 1809" (the year of Braille's birth) in Braille on one side and a picture of hands reading Braille and the words "Braille Opens Doors" in print on the reverse side. These attractive coins, which can serve as key chains, are ideal for affiliates or chapters to use in promoting Braille Literacy Week in early January. The Louis Braille coins sell for $5 each and will be mailed free matter. To order, send payment to Paul Dressell, 2714 Ruberg Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 481‑7662. Make checks payable to NFB of Cincinnati and mail to the above address.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Noel Nightingale]
On Friday, June 20, 2003, Bill Palmer, director of the Washington State rehabilitation agency, circulated the following exciting announcement:
Please join me in congratulating Noel Nightingale on the news of her appointment as the Regional Commissioner for the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). The Department of Services for the Blind will miss her smile, her commitment to serving blind people, her philosophy of high expectations for the people we serve, her intelligence, her legal background and training, and her stimulus for finding ways to improve services to our customers. Fortunately she will be in a position to serve our agency as the regional commissioner of our federal partner agency. It is comforting to know that we will have a friend in charge of Region X of the RSA. We have had a very positive and productive relationship with the Region X RSA Office, and it is reassuring to know that Noel is joining their team. Noel will begin her new job on July 14, 2003. This is a great promotional opportunity and important new challenge for Noel.
Congratulations and best wishes to Noel Nightingale.
Bill Palmer, Executive Director
Department of Services for the Blind
Until this appointment Noel served as president of the NFB of Washington and as a member of the NFB's board of directors. Before she assumed her Region X duties, Noel resigned both positions. Mike Freeman is now president of the Washington affiliate.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Susan Jones]
You Never Know:
Susan Blandina Jones is an active Federationist who takes her responsibility to help educate the public and to serve as a role model seriously. The story she tells here is the very essence of Federationism at work in the world. This is what she says:
Quizno's Sub Shop on the southwest corner of Ohio and Delaware in downtown Indianapolis is a great place to get a wonderful sandwich, and not just for culinary reasons, although they are substantial. I'll tell you why in a minute.
I have been a frequenter of the China King, a little hole‑in‑the‑wall on Delaware, south of Ohio Street, for about a year now. The food is good, and they are nice people. One day, thinking that I had reached the China King, I opened the door and smelled‑‑Italian! I asked and was told that I was at Quizno's Sub Shop. That day my mouth was set on Chinese, and I didn't want to be disloyal to my friends, so I made a prompt exit and continued the thirty feet or so to the Chinese place.
Today, again looking for the China King, I happened into the sub shop, and thought I ought to be fair and give them a try. Besides, the space had a cool, fresh feeling. A very nice Indian woman told me what was on the menu and took my order. When we had completed the transaction, she said she hoped I wouldn't mind if she asked me a personal question: How did I deal with my money? Had I been blind all my life? Then she went on to tell me about her niece, age 7, who goes to the Indiana School for the Blind. "I would love it," she said, "if she could meet you. My sister, her mother, would love to meet you too. She's kind of worried about when her daughter hits puberty, etc."
I told her I would be delighted to meet her blind niece and her parents and would give them all the encouragement I could. Then she told me that she remembered the day I had poked my head in to ask where the Chinese shop was. "I was kind of disappointed," she admitted.
I told her that I was very glad I'd come back and how much I had enjoyed the delicious sub she had served me. "I will be back," I promised, "and bring my blind friends too."
On Saturday, April 26, 2003, the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota held its annual convention in Rapid City. The program was excellent, and the convention was well attended. Elections were held with the following results: Glenn Crosby, vice president; Mike Klimisch, secretary; and Wayne Lyons and Peg Halverson, board members. The following officers and board members continue to serve their two-year terms: Karen Mayry, president; Paul Schliesman, treasurer; and Verlin Cavier and Bob Riibe, board members.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Rosulian Julia Jocums Stracks]
Kristen Jocums and Dr. Mark Stracks, both NFB scholarship winners, report with joy that Rosulian Julia Jocums Stracks was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, on July 28, 2003, at 9:12 p.m. She weighed seven pounds, seven ounces and measured nineteen inches long. She is named after her great grandmothers Rose, Sue, Lillian, and Julia. Mom, Dad, and baby are doing well. Congratulations to the Stracks family.
Pampered Chef Fundraising Idea:
We recently received the following notice about a fundraising opportunity using a line of kitchen products that I have always found to be of excellent quality. Here it is:
I would like to suggest an idea for the consideration of NFB chapters hoping to raise funds to finance their activities. I have worked with the Pampered Chef for sixteen months and really love my work. The Pampered Chef offers two types of fundraisers for organizations: (1) the standard kitchen or catalog show in which people gather orders, submit them to the Pampered Chef, and receive a check from the company in lieu of free products or discounted purchases which in a typical show go to the host. Your chapter chooses a contact person to be the host, and all orders are shipped to one person, saving customers the shipping costs. People ordering items pay only $2.75 in shipping, no matter how much they buy. Your chapter receives 10 percent of all your sales for orders up to $600 and 15 percent of sales if orders are above $600. Another way to receive money from the show is for people to conduct catalog or kitchen shows. Each booking nets your chapter $3. So you receive your percentage plus $3 per booking;
(2) the other method is a product fundraiser, in which you sell ten products from the catalog (preselected), keep 40 percent of all sales, and send the rest (including tax and shipping) to the Pampered Chef. They in turn send you the items ordered from that specific order form.
Chapters deciding to do either of these fundraisers will need a consultant through whom to place orders, since online ordering is not a part of company policy. I would be happy to serve as a consultant to any chapter wishing to conduct either of these fundraisers, or, if you know a consultant in your area, please mention that you read about this and would like to participate. These fundraisers occur year‑round and are easy and can be a lot of fun. If anyone wishes to contact me about this opportunity or has further questions about what we offer (I serve all states), please contact Shelley Alongi at <[email protected]>. Good luck and have a pampered day!
The National Federation of the Blind of Greater Springfield, Massachusetts, elected the following officers at its June, 2003, meeting: president, Bob Baran; vice president, Cindy Hess; treasurer, Basil Maurice; secretary, Heather Doray; sergeant-at-arms, Elsie Rivera; trustee, Virginia Dansereau; and board members, Kristina Constant and Bill Braese.
At its June, 2003 meeting, the new Honolulu Chapter of the NFB of Hawaii elected officers. They are Virgil Stinnett, president; Chris Cerna, vice president; Lea Grupen, secretary; Stan Young, treasurer; and Yolanda Phelan and Monty Anderson, board members.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Standing together for this picture are (left to right) Governor Robert E. McNair, Betty Capps, Don Capps, Marc Maurer, and NFB of South Carolina President Parnell Diggs.]
Seventy-fifth Birthday Celebration:
On August 30, 2003, the senior member of the NFB board of directors, Dr. Donald C. Capps, turned seventy-five. On September 18, despite Hurricane Isabel, 150 friends and admirers gathered for a buffet dinner at Seawell's in Columbia to celebrate the occasion and pay tribute to both Don and his wife Betty.
Among the tributes was a statement placed in the Congressional Record by South Carolina member of Congress Joe Wilson. It reviewed Don's life of service to the blind of the state and listed his many honors. President Maurer presented Don a Louis Braille medal in gold, one of only 300 struck by the Mint of France. The South Carolina House and Senate both passed resolutions, and the governor proclaimed September 18 as Don and Betty Capps Day. President Maurer keynoted the event, and Governor Robert McNair, who was governor of the state in 1963 when the commission for the blind was established, also spoke. All in all, the celebration was memorable. Congratulations to both Don and Betty
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.
Jalil Mortazavi, journalist and former radio talk show host, has written a witty and informative book. Using humor and in some places sarcasm, Jalil describes some of the difficulties he faced being totally blind and, to add an extra element of trouble, not having English as his native language as he attended college and made a life and career for himself in the Boston area. This book provides hope and inspiration to people throughout the blind and visually impaired community as well as to anyone working with or close to blind or visually impaired people.
This book is available in print, in Braille, or on cassette. Contact Maryann at (850) 425‑5250 or by e-mail at <[email protected]>.
John J. Dragona writes to say: Original novels are now available on PC-formatted diskettes at prices much lower than you would pay in book stores. With eBooks already riding the wave of the future, there is no longer any reason for bulky paper books or cassette tapes that must be returned to your lending library. And they can be easily read with a voice synthesizer. For descriptions of the books in our current, growing list, e‑mail <[email protected]>.
2004 Jett Enterprises Catalog Available:
Jett Enterprises announces the September 1 arrival of its 2004 catalog. Not only do they have products for the blind and visually impaired, they carry guide dog and pet items, jewelry, kitchenware, and gifts for all occasions. Personalized service is their first priority.
For a free, easy-to-listen-to catalog on cassette or 3.5-inch computer disk, call (800) 275‑5553, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Pacific Time. For an e‑mail catalog send your name to <[email protected]>. Visit their Web site <www.jettenterprises.com>. To order a Braille catalogue, send $10 to Jett Enterprises, 2710 Golondrina Way, Palm Springs, California 92264. A $5 credit will be given on the first Braille catalog order.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The 2003 NAC map. The solidly filled-in states have more than one NAC-accredited agency. Those with cross-hatching have only one, and those that are completely fill-free enjoy a NAC-free environment.]
December 13 and 14, 2002, The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired (NAC) conducted what it characterized as a summit to determine the future of accreditation in the blindness field. The most important item on the agenda was actually an effort to reinvigorate NAC, but ten months later NAC has lost still more ground. Here are the lists of states having more than one NAC-accredited agency, those with only one NAC agency, and those free of NAC's incursions:
* States with more than one NAC: Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio
* States with one NAC: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington
* States with no NAC: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
As you can see, this last list continues to grow. We who advocate the virtues of a NAC-free environment might do well to encourage yet another summit. From our point of view the last one certainly seems to have been a success.
Home Business Opportunity:
Large international organization affiliated with giant Japanese company seeks representatives. For screening interviews call Paul Gabias toll-free at (877) 769‑7612.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ruby Ryles]
Dr. Jo Ann Dauzat, Dean of the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University, regrets to announce the resignation of Dr. Ruby Ryles from the university.
"We in the College of Education, and particularly the Institute on Blindness, appreciate the years of service Dr. Ryles has given to the academic programs aimed at improving the lives of blind people in Louisiana and across the nation. Dr. Ryles was instrumental in creating the unique and high-quality program in collaboration with the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She will be sorely missed by her colleagues, students, and friends. Dr. Ryles has our best wishes as she pursues her career in other venues."
The Master's of Education with Certification in Teaching Blind Students Program will remain a part of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness. Questions regarding the TBS program can be directed to the institute's director, Ron Gardner, at (318) 257-4554.
Ron Gardner has appointed Dr. Ron Ferguson as the coordinator of the Orientation and Mobility Program. Any questions about the O&M Program should be directed to Dr. Ferguson at (318) 257-4554 or e-mail at <[email protected]>.
We too regret Ruby Ryles's decision and wish her the very best, knowing that, wherever she goes, blind people will benefit from her involvement.
On Friday, June 13, 2003, William Lynch died quietly at his home. Mr. Lynch founded the Chicago Guild for the Blind in 1947 and continued to work closely with it until he retired. He was eighty-four at the time of his death.
VISION Resource List Available:
VISION Community Services, a division of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind (VCS), announces publication of the eighteenth edition of its popular VCS Resource List. More than 100 items, many free of charge, gathered nationwide, are listed. The items are available in a range of formats, including print, large print, Braille, and cassette. Not every item is available in all formats. Web sites are provided for many of the organizations listed.
Categories include eye diseases and conditions, consumer organizations, electronic reading and computer aids, financial resources, large-print resources, Massachusetts agencies/services, recreation resources, resources for children and parents, and a wide range of general brochures. Many of the items on the VCS Resource List have been recorded on cassette for people who can no longer read print and who do not read Braille. All cassettes are two-track.
The VCS Resource List is available in single copies free upon request, in large print, cassette, or on disk. Order from VISION Community Services, 23A Elm Street, Watertown, Massachusetts 02472. Call (617) 923-2790 and leave a message; be sure to specify the format. The list is also available on the Web site at <www.mablind.org>.
Adoptive Families Needed for Vision-Impaired Children:
The World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP) is seeking loving adoptive families for beautiful waiting children from around the world. Currently we have fourteen children with various forms of vision impairment that range from mild to significant.
WACAP has been placing children in loving adoptive homes since 1976. We have adoption programs in six countries, including China, Korea, India, Russia, Thailand, and the United States. Financial assistance is available for the adoption of waiting children. Please contact WACAP's Family Finders Program at (206) 575-4550 or <[email protected]> for more information.
Web Access by Phone:
Philmore Productions Net‑By‑Phone allows access to the Internet using only a touch‑tone phone. Users can send and receive e-mail, browse Web pages, and browse and post to Usenet newsgroups. Information is read to the user with a computerized voice. Our service plans include one for $24.95 per month, which includes five hours per month on our toll‑free number, or $29.95 per month for unlimited time on our Chicago number. For more information visit our Website at <http://www.net-by-phone.com> or call (877) NET‑BY‑PHONE (1‑877‑638‑2974). Contact Phil Scopes, President, Philmore Productions.
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.
Attention Drug Counselors:
I would like to contact anyone who is a drug counselor and has passed the national certification examination. Please send your name and phone number to Marleen O'Neill, 718 Eagle Avenue, Apartment E, Alameda, California 94501-2150, (510) 769-6408, <[email protected]>.
Support Canes Available:
White support canes with rubber tips and red bottoms are available for purchase at $15 each including shipping. The cane can be cut to your size at no extra charge. Allow two weeks for delivery. Contact Stan Novak Company, 79-11 214th Street, Bayside, New York 11364, phone (718) 464-8196, fax (212) 664-4245.
Asking $140, including shipping and handling, for a Braille labeler. Contact Tina Hubley at (207) 448-2719. Her address is 85 Bancroft Road, Apartment 12, Danforth, Maine 04424.
Braille and taped cookbooks, Braille hymnals, Braille music and poetry books, a cassette dictionary, various other Braille books, slates and stylus, abacus, cassette mailers, Braille notebooks, etc., for sale. Please contact Geneva Ann Maiden, 3526 Highway 42 West, Carrollton, Kentucky 41008.
Type 'n Speak, less than one year old, includes everything but the packaging, asking $600. Type 'n Speak, about two years old, voice output can only be used with headphones; would need to contact manufacturer for repairs, but the fees would be minimal, asking $400.
Braille Lite 2000, two years old, three dots on the Braille display do not work; would need to contact manufacturer for repairs, asking $700. Disk drive for notetakers, less than a year old, asking $200 ($175 if purchased with a notetaker).
The above prices are negotiable. Contact Kayla at (877) 237-4087.
Type Lite 40 from Freedom Scientific. Works wonderfully with very nice voice and lots of memory, about 12 megabytes and up to 2 gigabytes possible add-on memory. Can use as a notetaker or forty-cell Braille display. Accessories included. Must sell. Please e-mail James Lumen at <[email protected]>.
Three-year-old Sony VAIO laptop computer with adaptive software for sale. Comes with Windows 98; Microsoft Word; 600 MHZ; 9 gig hard drive; floppy and DVD-ROM drives; and serial, parallel, and 2 USB ports. I am including the Sony VAIO leather carry case and external CD burner (without software).
If interested, call Bill at (973) 429‑1301 or e-mail <[email protected]>.
Brand new PowerBraille 80 in its plastic wrap with one-year warranty‑‑save $4,000. Unisys Corporation purchased this unit for an employee, but a merger forced a layoff, so we are selling to someone who needs it but can't pay full price. Asking $7,850. E-mail CJ Sampson at <[email protected]>.
Linda Rhinehart wishes to sell a Reading Edge used as a stand-alone unit, or with a special cable, not included, it can be used with a computer system to read documents aloud. It scans both typewritten and printed materials and uses a small keyboard. Asking $500. It's in excellent condition and comes with a cassette tutorial. For more information call (717) 632‑4060 or e‑mail <sweet‑[email protected]>.
Type 'n Speak with all attachments, asking $500. Contact Sondra Williams, 315 N. 12th Street, Canon City, Colorado 81212, or call (719) 275-8829.
Brand New Braille Lite Millennium‑20, less than one hour's use. Only one file has ever been saved on the system. Purchased for a child who now has to use a BrailleNote. Make an offer to Al or Heather Stevenson at (706) 364‑6179, Cell, (706) 284‑7735.
APH Color Tester, model #99003, with case, adaptor, and print and cassette instructions. Never used. Asking $350. Please call Larry at (281) 444‑0907 or e-mail <[email protected]>.
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.
The Bridge to Braille
Reading and School Success for the Young Blind Child
Carol Castellano; Dawn Kosman
Illustrated by Lynne Cucco
The Bridge to Braille is a practical, step-by-step guide that shows parents and teachers how to help blind children progress from early literacy experiences all the way to full participation in the classroom. This book demystifies the education of blind children and enables parents and teachers to give ordinary help with spelling, homework, reports, and projects to children who happen to be blind. Topics included in the book:
Beginning Braille Reading
Doing Math in Braille
A Quick Braille Lesson
Braille Writing in the Classroom
Independence in the Classroom
About Braille Books
“Now I understand what to do to get my son off to a good start in school. Parents need this information right from the beginning, when their blind child is a baby.”
- Amy Kaiser
Parent of a blind child
“A much-needed adjunct to the information shared by a busy Braille teacher...The Bridge to Braille should be in the hands of every teacher who is going to have a blind student in class!”
- Debbie DeHaven
First Grade Teacher
The Bridge to Braille is available from:
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
Name______________________________ Phone ( )______________
City_____________ State___________ Zip _________
The Bridge to Braille
Quantity ______ @12.00 +$5.00 (S&H) = __________ (Total Due)
Make check or money order payable to NFB and mail with this form to:
Materials Center, National Center for the Blind
1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230-4998
Phone: (410) 659-9314
E-mail: [email protected]
Web site: www.nfb.org