Vol. 51, No. 9 October 2008
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. 51, No. 9 October 2008
Climbing Mountains, Changing Lives
by Daniel B. Frye and Barbara Pierce
Growing into Success
Summer Programs at the CCB
by Barbara Pierce and Daniel B. Frye
High Expectations and New Hope for Seniors Losing Vision
by Barbara Pierce and Daniel B. Frye
Disability Law: From tenBroek to the Twenty-First Century
by Daniel B. Frye
Disability and Responsibility: Aspects in the Creation of an Adequate Legal System
by Marc Maurer
Twenty-Five Years of Program Initiatives
For Parents and Their Blind Children
Barbara Cheadle, Panel Moderator
In Celebration of NOPBC’s First 25 Years
by Carol Castellano
Coming to Adulthood in the NOPBC
by Angela Wolf
Why I Am a Federationist
by Laura Weber
Twenty-Five Years of Parent Initiatives
by Jim Beyer
My Friends in the NFB
by Lauren Beyer
Comets, Kids, and Captain Whozit:
Tales from the 2008 NFB Junior Science Academy
by Mary Jo Thorpe
Braille Readers Are Leaders 2008-2009
by Jennifer Dunnam
2008 Braille Reading Pals Program Information and 2007 Report
National Federation of the Blind and Target
Agree to Class Action Settlement
by Chris Danielsen
Copyright 2008 by the National Federation of the Blind
by Daniel B. Frye and Barbara Pierce
Most people who travel to Colorado expect to be enchanted by the state’s blue skies, golden landscape, and dramatic and spectacular mountains. We too arrived in Colorado with these expectations; we were not disappointed. Barbara Pierce, Dan Frye, and Sylvia Cooley, photographer for this project and Braille Monitor secretary, traveled without incident to Littleton, Colorado, home of the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) to prepare the second in this series of three Monitor reports on NFB training centers.
We reached Denver on Sunday evening, June 15; picked up our rental car; and made our way to the Fairfield Inn, a lovely hotel about twenty minutes from the CCB, where we stayed during our four-day visit. Rested and ready, we made our way to the CCB on Monday morning, eager to learn about the center’s programs and practices.
Staff and students in the CCB’s Independence Training Program (ITP), the center’s general adult rehabilitation curriculum, routinely gather at eight o’clock in the large meeting room for morning announcements. This Monday was no exception. CCB Executive Director Julie Deden warmly welcomed the Monitor staff and made other announcements of general interest. During this time anybody with something to say is invited to share the news with the group. Before adjourning for classes, in separate roll calls students and staff announce their presence in alphabetical order by last name. Useful as this information is, the exercise often seems to provide even more good-humored fun. Informed and energized, everybody breaks for classes at 8:10 a.m.
That morning we made our way to Julie’s office for a brief meeting before joining some of the staff and students for a day-long rock-climbing and mountain-hiking adventure at Eldorado Canyon State Park, located just west of Boulder. Julie explained during this quick orientation that the CCB opened in January 1988 with three staff ready to train their first five students. Today the CCB has twenty part-time or full-time staff people and currently serves between twenty and twenty-five students in its ITP program and blind seniors and others in its secondary programs. Before moving into its current facility, a thirty-thousand square foot former YMCA on four acres of land, the center was housed successively at two other sites (buildings on Broadway and Acoma) in downtown Denver. With the generous support of Arapahoe County community development funds, the current building has been extensively remodeled to meet the center’s needs. Installing an elevator was the first major building upgrade, and subsequent projects have included creating two training kitchens, a senior resource center, a Braille library, a wood shop, customized classrooms, and the Legacy Garden described elsewhere in this issue.
One of the distinguishing characteristics of NFB-based training is our emphasis on challenge recreation--unconventional activities or outings that teach blindness skills; strengthen self-confidence; promote interaction with the general public; and foster fun, fellowship, and informal mentoring among students. Since the center’s inception, CCB leaders have capitalized on its location by incorporating activities that take full advantage of Colorado’s natural resources. Rock climbing, rappelling, mountain hiking, and whitewater rafting are staples of CCB student challenge recreation during the summer; skiing and other snow sports dominate confidence-building exercises during the winter.
Soon after nine o’clock on our first day, we joined about half of the ITP students; Julie Deden; Brent Batron, cane travel instructor; Jennifer Maxwell, technology instructor; and Kathleen Taber, home management instructor, for a day-long rock-climbing and mountain-hiking adventure. Packed lunches and sunscreen in hand, we piled into several vans (Big Red is the center’s fifteen-passenger van that carried most of the staff and students) for the hour drive to Eldorado Canyon State Park, where CCB staff and students have been climbing and hiking for years.
The day was blue and beautiful but cool for June. Woody, Amanda, Richie, and Karen were the National Sports Center for the Disabled program staff members. They met us at our vans and soon had us harnessed, helmeted, and shod for climbing the several rock faces that had been equipped with ropes for technical rock climbing. (See the lead photo of Woody anchoring the ropes for our climb.)
Two of the staff were new summer interns, inexperienced at working with blind people. They expressed reservations about having us belay each other, but after Julie’s explanation and gentle persuasion, they grasped the importance of having students actively involved in all aspects of the rock-climbing experience. Woody and his team worked with each individual on climbing and belaying (the skill of managing the rope that connects the climber’s harness to the anchor at the top of the rock and protects him or her from falling). Some CCB students were new and nervous; others were experienced and enthusiastic. Some climbed tentatively; others scaled the rock like aggressive spiders crawling up almost vertical rock faces. No matter the climber’s skill, both belayers and those waiting their turn cheered and encouraged them as they climbed.
Students at the CCB use the long white cane during all aspects of their formal training. Center policy, however, does allow students who use guide dogs to keep their service animals resting near them during the training day. They usually keep their dogs in the quiet of the Braille library or, if they prefer, in the corner of the classroom where they are working. In this way center students can attend to the animals’ needs throughout the day and may work them at lunch and on breaks. On day-long outings such as rock climbing trips, however, students are allowed to bring their guide dogs with them so that they can personally manage their needs. On this occasion two students brought their dogs. The foregoing generally describes the CCB guide dog use policy, but, as with any practice, individual circumstances are always taken into consideration and may result in slight variations for a particular student.
Following lunch beside a chatty little river winding through the park, students chose whether to continue climbing or to join Brent and the Braille Monitor team for a hike on a mountain trail. Our path was rated as moderately difficult. The excursion required careful footing and good cane technique, but we all returned exhilarated and relaxed after a pleasant stroll in one of nature’s most idyllic spaces. As is almost always the case, both students and staff returned to the vans commenting that the day had been successful and that the experiences on the rocks and hiking trails had affirmed again our belief in our capacity as competent blind people.
CCB literature characterizes the ITP program as “an innovative training center for blind individuals who wish to develop and expand the alternative skills needed to function independently.” Center literature further explains, “At the CCB it is understood that skills alone are not enough. The key to being successful as a blind person lies in developing self-confidence. Each student’s program is designed to prepare him or her to become an independent, self-supporting member of society.”
Following our Monday in the mountains, we spent two full days observing classes and general center activities. We were left with the impression that the high expectations of the staff were equal to the center’s mission of improving the lives of its students. This cohesive team—as much friends as colleagues—consulted one another about best practices for teaching alternative blindness skills. They looked for ways of incorporating their discipline-specific subjects into one another’s classes. Brent and Kathleen, for instance, talked over a social dinner on Tuesday evening about how they could combine a travel lesson with the necessary shopping for a home management assignment.
We dipped in and out of classes for a glimpse at what was going on and being taught at any given time. The typical CCB student, however, follows a set course schedule, which provides structure and definition to the training day. CCB managers have devised an unconventional student-class-scheduling matrix designed to enhance practical learning through longer instructional periods for travel, home management, and industrial arts. Classes are divided into instructional blocks in the morning or afternoon half of the training day. Grouped together, Braille, technology, and organizational skills are hour-long classes five days a week. Travel, home management, and industrial arts are the second class grouping. Once a week students receive one session each of long travel and long home management, a class using the entire morning or afternoon. During a third day students receive ninety-minute sessions of travel and home management, each lasting half the morning or afternoon session. The remaining two days students receive ninety-minute classes in travel and industrial arts, again splitting the morning or afternoon. Finally, each student takes blindness philosophy class four days a week and jobs class one day a week, each for forty-five minutes.
CCB students can deviate from this complex schedule for occasional sets of confidence-building courses in art and martial arts. Such classes meet once a week for five or six weeks, and students miss a core lesson in order to take them. Additionally students who need intensive home management support leave classes for as much as a half day a week to work one-on-one with the residential manager in their individual apartments on cooking, cleaning, or other home maintenance. Finally, students sometimes have challenge recreation outings and other ad hoc programs. The frenetic feel associated with the absence of a consistent routine may have its disadvantages, but all of the varied activities featured in the CCB program are designed to teach real-world blindness skills and to reinforce progressive attitudes about blindness.
First thing Tuesday morning David Nietfeld, a student soon to graduate from the center program and now manager of the residential apartments, gave us a comprehensive tour of the refurbished YMCA building. He led us from class to class, where each instructor offered a general description of his or her class. Now oriented, we set out to explore the center and its programs.
CCB students live at the Pinnacle at Mountain Gate, a complex of spacious apartments in Littleton, about five miles from the center. We toured one of the two-bedroom student apartments. It was well appointed and nicely maintained, so that these 1,093-square-foot apartment homes are also active teaching laboratories for independent living skills. Center staff periodically inspect student apartments to ensure that they are clean and that the students are applying their skills there. CCB students have ample opportunity for after-hours exercise and recreation. The apartment complex has a state-of-the-art workout facility and swimming pool and is only minutes away from shopping, dining, and other local attractions. Following orientation, students use a combination of light rail and city bus to make the five-mile commute to and from the center each morning and afternoon. Traveling every day between the center and the residential apartments is a real-world mobility lesson for students.
Our visit to the Braille class was highly instructive. Tom Anderson, Braille instructor since the center first opened its doors twenty years ago, casually attended to the needs and demands of four students with different levels of experience and ability reading and writing Braille. At one moment Tom was delivering a simulated college lecture to a student who was to take notes on its content with her slate and stylus. Moments later he was dictating sentences that were to be written down word-for-word by another student who was developing slate and stylus skills. He asked a third student, a beginner, to read aloud from his Braille text, and a fourth student, an experienced Braille reader, was working on increasing his reading speed through silent reading of a novel, which he was ultimately to summarize for Tom. With quiet confidence he responded to student questions, administered his teaching exercises, and effectively dealt with a variety of classroom needs in such a way that Braille instruction remained the focus for everybody during the hour.
Chip Johnson and Jennifer Maxwell teach access technology at the CCB. Throughout our visit we observed students practicing diverse skills, from learning basic keyboarding technique to mastering the use of JAWS to access Microsoft Office PowerPoint and Excel. The CCB technology curriculum covers other skills such as using email and the Internet, working with Windows XP, using scanners, and operating Braille displays and embossers.
CCB managers have fashioned a catchall class called organizational skills with a variety of daily tasks that might be lost or forgotten in a conventional home management curriculum. Students must apply the full range of blindness skills to master the interdisciplinary course content in the organizational skills class. When we visited, Shelley Bruns, organizational skills instructor, was working with students on clothes labeling, sewing on a button, and ironing. She customizes this class to meet the needs of each student. A college-bound teenager may devote time to administrative tasks, including methods for paying bills, managing money, and sharpening study skills. Another student may learn how to research and execute the necessary steps for making personal appointments, reaching these appointments on time, dressing for these occasions, and comporting oneself appropriately. Executive Director Julie Deden explained during our interview that one of her primary objectives is to see that CCB graduates exit the program with knowledge of practical blindness skills for survival and independence.
We accompanied Brent Batron and two students on a cane travel lesson on Wednesday afternoon of our visit. Brent told the students to get us from the center to the public library in a neighboring community, which required some walking and a brief journey on the light rail system. Brent purposefully questioned these beginning students about cardinal directions; the significance of traffic sounds; the importance of landmarks; use of the light rail system; and the value and feel of echoes and other changes in the environment created by buildings, open spaces, and different walking surfaces. In short his technique balanced direct teaching and independent student exploration, applying the structured-discovery method used at NFB centers.
Meanwhile we watched Steve DeKruger, another cane travel instructor, work with several students to research a route by coaching their call to RTD, the public transportation system for the Greater Denver area. One student explained the route to the operator and posed appropriate questions to get the necessary bus route and schedule information. The second student used her slate and stylus to take down this information. As we observed this exercise, Steve explained that, in order to graduate from the CCB, students are required to complete the “monster route,” an outing that requires them to travel to at least four destinations in different communities using public transportation. He reminisced about a student who traveled to four restaurants in different parts of the Denver area for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.
We spent a portion of one morning watching Kathleen Taber, home management instructor, work with students to prepare picnic lunches for a whitewater rafting trip later in the week. Kathleen juggled working with one student on chopping and bagging vegetables while helping others bake a cake, fry chicken, and make sandwiches. This work was quite an undertaking since most of the CCB’s adult and summer students were being fed. Kathleen even took a few moments to offer Barbara Pierce some instruction on a nifty nonvisual technique for cutting wax paper into a circle for lining a cake pan. Barbara reports that she has used this skill with great success since leaving Colorado. Kathleen and her students coordinate their schedules to share one of the newly renovated commercial kitchens with students in the Business Enterprise Training Program that the CCB also operates. Because these programs work in concert, CCB students receive a thorough grounding in using a well-equipped and spacious kitchen. Before students graduate from the home management course, they must prepare a meal for the entire center using the commercial-sized kitchen. The CCB contracts with the state vocational rehabilitation agency to administer the Business Enterprise Training Program. Four BE students are currently enrolled, and Julee Mullen directs their training. While we were there, the BE students prepared and served a full lunch and breakfast that staff and students could purchase; we enjoyed the lunch Wednesday, but the breakfast was unfortunately Thursday morning, after our departure.
Merle Schippert, industrial arts instructor, showed us around the recently constructed woodshop, located on the center’s bottom floor. As in the Louisiana Center industrial arts course, students are required to demonstrate basic competence at measuring and drilling by creating a grid block, a small square of wood with intersecting horizontal and vertical lines cut into the surface of the wooden piece. Once familiar with safety procedures and the common tools of the trade, students define and complete a personal project. Merle allows them to build anything they can reasonably imagine. We examined several jewelry boxes, some humidors, a couple of clocks, and a few desk organizers specially fitted to accommodate slates and styluses. These attractive student products were made out of high-quality cherry, maple, or oak. Merle made it plain that the real goal of his class was to help cultivate a true sense of self-confidence among students who would not otherwise believe that blind people could safely produce craftsman-like results.
CCB students needing remedial academic support have access to Doris Willoughby, a gifted and experienced academic skills instructor who consults with the center as needed. During our visit we observed Doris working with Melissa, a recent center graduate, to prepare for the GED. Doris drilled Melissa on complex mathematical concepts. Melissa answered all of Doris’s questions flawlessly. In this case, Doris had her using a talking calculator and Braille to manage the math being studied. Doris uses a variety of tools to make academic materials accessible to blind students. Unlike many teachers of the blind, she clearly demands a lot from her students and has high expectations for their performance. We are pleased to report that later in the summer Melissa passed her GED with high scores.
Philosophy class is a forty-five-minute discussion every day in which staff and students discuss and explore fundamental social and emotional issues about blindness, unlike other adjustment-to-blindness training centers that hold longer, less frequent seminars. CCB leaders have found that this schedule works well for keeping a lively dialogue going among seminar participants. Staff and students share rotating responsibility for facilitating discussions. During our visit we conducted a philosophy class, in which we told our personal stories as a means of emphasizing the importance of the Federation and its philosophy in the lives of well-adjusted blind people. Twice a week Brenda Mosby, vocational specialist, conducts a forty-five-minute jobs class in which students are introduced to résumé writing, interviewing, searching for targeted work opportunities, and more.
This article has mentioned by name most of the CCB instructional staff, but the entire administrative staff of the center is also familiar with and invested in the spirit and mission of the program. Carol Elzi, administrative coordinator to the executive director; Robert Dyson, receptionist; Kimberley Johnson, student services coordinator; and Jennifer Stevens, director of community outreach, each play a vital role in making the center the special and effective vehicle for training that it is. When Robert, who is stationed at the hub of CCB activities at the front desk, coaches a disoriented student looking for his class, he is teaching. When Carol notices and addresses a student not using her cane or violating the sleepshade policy, she is teaching. When Kimberley works with a student to advocate for rehabilitation funding or to arrange for an individual service, she is teaching. It is that intangible mix of CCB staff, roles, and personalities that creates the unique dynamic known as the CCB experience.
While Littleton is a suburb of Denver, it has its own identity and small-town feel. We toured the local downtown to get a sense of the community atmosphere, visiting a local candy shop, a spice store, a restored train station that houses Metro offices, and a few local restaurants. The CCB is a well-known part of the community. Several local merchants told us that they regularly receive business from CCB staff and students. The most telling testament to the positive influence of the CCB on the mindset of Littleton residents comes from the story of the local policeman who told a student in training that she was just cheating herself by lifting her shades while on a travel lesson. The officer is said to have offered this simple observation and then moved on. The student in question was left with something to think about, and the CCB leaders were able to celebrate the fact that the important work of the center was being absorbed—one person at a time—in Littleton. This simple reminder that such little victories ultimately lead to large triumphs is what keeps the staff at the CCB, and all of our Federation centers for that matter, motivated to continue their life-changing work on behalf of people needing solid adjustment-to-blindness training.
by Barbara Pierce and Daniel B. Frye
Do you remember those endless days of summer when you were a child, days so hot you didn’t want to move and often so boring that you thought the cooler hours of the evening when parents might take you for ice cream or to a movie would never arrive? The return to school in September was almost a relief, at least until the academic demands of another grade set you to pining for free time again.
Today’s students seem to have less unstructured time in the summer. Working parents are compelled to find supervised activities for children when they aren’t in school. Blind youngsters usually have fewer choices of summer activities in which they are welcome. However, that’s not the case in Colorado. The Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) offers something for just about every age group above toddlers.
The Earn and Learn program for high school students and the Summer for Success program for those heading to college operate together, using the same classes and staff members. Both programs are eight weeks long. The first four weeks, including the NFB national convention, focus on intensive skills instruction. During the last four weeks the Earn and Learn students spend half their time actually working and being paid. The rest of the time they practice their abilities to cook, maintain an apartment, travel independently, and use Braille and computers. The college-bound students spend their second four weeks continuing to hone these personal skills, but they also work on advocating for themselves with disabled students offices, taking notes, accessing university Websites, and generally increasing their ability to succeed on campus.
The day we arrived at the center was the first day of the summer program as well. Seventeen high school students and six college prep students had arrived on Saturday. They were wound up and ready for a summer of challenging classes and recreation. Nicolas Crisosto from California directed both programs as well as Initiation to Independence, the program for middle school students that began after convention. The instructional staff members dealing with all of these groups were George McDermith, technology; Eliza Portugal, Braille; Booth Calder and Michelle Chacon, home management; and Darian Smith and Steve Patten, travel.
In addition to everything else they did, the summer students took an overnight camping and canoeing trip, did rock climbing, attended a baseball game and a concert, went to movies and shopping, and enjoyed dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.
The middle school students were integrated when possible into the older groups. They lived in the apartments and took classes with them. Their program was just four weeks long, and as part of it they shadowed successful blind adults at their jobs. With the older students they were introduced to the martial arts and learned something about skin care and making a good appearance.
In addition to these programs the CCB also conducts Confidence Camp for Kids for elementary school students from age five to nine or ten. This is a two-week program employing two experienced teachers of blind students--Trina Boyd-Pratt and Michelle Chacon--and a full-time aide, Rick Hammond. Michelle is herself blind, the young mother of three daughters, and a teacher of blind students. Trina taught in the CCB’s adult program for many years and has been teaching blind children since she earned her master’s in teaching blind students. Rick is a graduate of the CCB adult program and serves as a wonderful role model, especially for the boys.
Confidence Camp for Kids is a day program, though one mother brought her son from Mississippi because she was convinced that this experience was exactly what he needed to build his self-confidence as a blind child. Each camper was paired with an ITP (Independence Training Program) adult volunteer buddy, which provided the children with mentors and gave the rehabilitation program students practice modeling good skills and real independence. One Hispanic camper was paired with Luis Herrera as his buddy. After meeting Luis for the first time, he commented with astonishment that he hadn’t known that any other blind people could speak Spanish.
The eight children in the Confidence Camp worked on Braille and practiced using their white canes and learning to note cues as they traveled that would tell them where they were. They also did cooking projects and made puppets, which they demonstrated during their talent show on the final day. While we were there, the campers and their ITP buddies went for a picnic and swimming party at a water park. In addition the children and their buddies visited a petting zoo at a farm and explored a firemen museum, where they climbed around fire trucks. During class they went to the grocery store and practiced making beds.
By the time the program ended, these eight youngsters were more confident as blind people. Working and playing with blind adults had given them a more positive view of themselves as blind people and reassured them that they were like other kids. In fact they went home with bragging rights about all the cool things they had done during Confidence Camp.
That’s the bottom line for all the summer programs. The students who attended returned home with new friends, new confidence, and new skills—not bad for the investment of a summer. Just imagine the essays about their summer they can write this fall.
by Barbara Pierce and Daniel B. Frye
Everywhere we turn today we read about the impact aging baby boomers are having on the fabric of society. The blindness field is no exception. The increasing incidence of age-related vision loss means that every community has a growing population of blind seniors and those losing vision who are not very eager to learn the skills that could keep them living independently.
The Senior Program at the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) is an outstanding example of what can happen when dedicated and knowledgeable people establish a program for blind seniors. In 1995 the CCB began a support group led by Ray McGeorge, who had recently become blind for the second time. According to his wife Diane, the CCB’s founding director, Ray has always had a credibility in the minds of the blind seniors in the program that she will never have. After all, he has faced and met the special demands of adjusting to blindness in later life. She is just a blind person who learned her skills when she was young, so they don’t believe her when she says that they can learn to do things using their remaining senses. When Ray shows them how to do things, they have to believe him.
From the beginning Ray has been adamant that anyone interested in learning Braille should be encouraged to work on mastering the code. Today a faithful group of seniors gathers from nine to noon each Tuesday in their own space at the center. Duncan Larsen, senior services coordinator, and Sharon Herries, senior services instructor, join Ray in leading the group. Wayne Marshall, senior services technology instructor, provides computer and screen-access instruction for those interested, and travel training and home management skills training are offered to those who want or need specific instruction. But week in and week out strong emphasis is given to Braille. Each senior gets individual instruction, and the students encourage each other.
During the summer months several seniors share in the responsibility of caring for the center’s Legacy Garden, established as a memorial to CCB students who have died. Trees in the area around the garden have also been planted in memory of deceased members of the CCB family. Kimberley Johnson is the staff member most involved in maintaining the garden. Several community volunteers help seniors learn to distinguish between plants and weeds.
In addition to the group that meets weekly at the CCB, three other groups meet monthly in other Denver suburbs. These are much more like traditional support rather than instructional groups, but they too encourage participants to expect more of themselves. Even so, some instruction goes on with members of the Castle Rock group, and the staff are hopeful that these services will be extended to the members of the other two support groups as well. In addition to these group meetings, Sharon Herries visits seniors’ homes to do skills training where they live. Sometimes nothing substitutes for instruction with one’s own appliances, and sometimes the experience of learning new ways of doing things in a central location with others who are dealing with the same challenges provides much more inspiration and motivation. The CCB program enables seniors to benefit from both kinds of learning.
In mid August the Senior Program staff conducted its first four-day residential program with six seniors, though one had to leave for health reasons. They engaged in all the classes taught in the Independence Training Program and reported that they enjoyed the camaraderie and inspiration of the group. The seniors were introduced to Braille and computers. They went grocery shopping and prepared meals together, and they used white canes to travel independently. One participant gained so much confidence in his white cane that he decided to give up the support cane he had been using in addition to the long cane. Later that month he told the staff with understandable pride that he participated in the Democratic Convention and walked two miles, using only his white cane. The students left encouraged and more confident that they could take care of the details of daily life. The program seems to have been a success by every measure, and the staff is committed to conducting more such programs in the future.
It will come as no surprise to hear that funding such innovative and valuable programs for seniors is a perennial problem. For some years the state vocational rehabilitation agency funded the CCB program. When the NFB assumed a leadership role in the fight to establish a separate agency serving blind Coloradans, the Colorado Division for the Blind awarded its contract to serve seniors losing vision to agencies with no experience doing so even though everyone in the field recognized that the CCB had been doing an extraordinary job with the contract. The groups now faced with the need to serve blind seniors immediately turned to the CCB for training and advice. The CCB staff was scrambling to find funding to continue its own program. Even so they made time to train their successors in providing state-supported services. They believed that they had no choice but to help. After all, it was blind seniors who would suffer if they did not. Much to everyone’s relief, the Colorado Trust came through with a $60,000-a-year, four-year grant to fund the CCB program for seniors. Jennifer Stevens, CCB director for community development, has worked hard to supplement this grant. For now the program is safe, and many Denver area seniors have access to as much blindness training as they dare to take advantage of, offered by one of the best staffs in the country.
We can only hope that either the state agency will come to its senses or the CCB grant writers will continue to find money to fund these wonderful programs. The need for them will not disappear any time in the foreseeable future.
by Daniel B. Frye
The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute sponsored a first-ever disability law symposium on April 10 and 11, 2008, at its headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. Entitled Disability Law: From tenBroek to the Twenty-First Century, this conference honored and examined the disability-related scholarship of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, distinguished constitutional lawyer, professor, and NFB founder, and reviewed developments in disability law to the present. Five nationally recognized disability law academicians and clinical practitioners chaired panels and presented papers ranging from the influence of Dr. tenBroek’s earliest writings on the legal rights of disabled people as manifested in contemporary civil rights legislation to the recent adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Two commentators offered further reflection and feedback on the remarks of each presenter.
Over one hundred people from the United States and Canada, representing seventy-two organizations, attended the symposium. The NFB Jernigan Institute; the American Bar Association, Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law; the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights; the Daily Record, the legal and administrative newspaper in Maryland; the Maryland Department of Disabilities; and the Maryland Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing cosponsored this professional gathering. The Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights published the formal proceedings of the law symposium early this fall. Those interested in comprehensive coverage of this symposium should visit the Journal’s Website at <www.txjclcr.org> for further information.
On Thursday evening, April 10, symposium participants assembled for an introductory reception in Members Hall at the Jernigan Institute. Academics, lawyers, and law students interested in the field of disability law used this occasion to become better acquainted and discuss issues before the formal programming commenced on Friday morning.
Following a continental breakfast, President Maurer, who chaired the conference, called the meeting to order at 8:45 a.m. in the Institute’s NFB of Utah Auditorium. He reviewed Dr. tenBroek’s contributions to the American and international blindness consumer movements, since many attendees had been familiar with only his mainstream professional contributions in disability law and in the equal protection sphere of constitutional jurisprudence. President Maurer told the audience the complete tenBroek papers collection was the centerpiece of the Jacobus tenBroek Library, the Institute’s library dedicated to becoming the most comprehensive research facility on all nonmedical aspects of blindness in the country.
Robert Dinerstein, professor of law and director of the Disability Rights Law Clinic at American University, Washington College of Law, chaired and presented a paper for the first panel, “The State of Disability Law in the United States in 2008: How Full Is the Glass?” Before assuming this position in 1983, he was an attorney for five years at the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section, where he tried cases on conditions in state mental retardation, mental illness, and juvenile institutions. Professor Dinerstein has a J.D. degree from Yale Law School. For over twenty years he has taught a law and disability seminar. In 1994 President Clinton appointed him to the President’s Committee on Mental Retardation (now the President’s Committee on Intellectual Disability), where he served until 2001. Professor Dinerstein is the former president of the Legal Process and Advocacy Division of the American Association on Mental Retardation (now the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities). He serves or has served on a number of boards of directors and committees addressing legal issues for disabled people, including the Maryland Disability Law Center; Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, Inc.; Equal Rights Center; Mental Disability Rights International; and the Quality Trust for Individuals with Disabilities, Inc., in Washington, D.C., for which he is the president of the board. Finally he consulted for the World Health Organization on the revision of mental health laws in Ghana and Malawi, and he was a signatory to the Montreal Declaration on Intellectual Disabilities in October 2004.
Professor Dinerstein said that the state of disability law in this country could best be judged case by case. He noted that we are celebrating the eighteenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and much has been accomplished for the disabled community, but the ADA and other pieces of civil rights legislation targeting disabled people in America are not used to their fullest potential. He lauded the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but he observed that the current administration has declined to sign the document for the United States. He commended Congressional efforts to strengthen the ADA through the ADA Restoration Act but again noted that the fate of this legislation and much else that will influence opportunities for disabled people may turn on the national elections in 2008. He concluded that the answer to his original question (How full is the glass?) was still up in the air. The two commentators for this panel were Laura Rothstein, professor and distinguished university scholar at the University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, and Mildred Rivera, an attorney with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Michael Stein, professor of law at the College of William and Mary, Marshall-Wythe School of Law, spoke as part of the second panel, “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Right to Be in the World.” He holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a PhD from Cambridge University. Currently the executive director of the Harvard Project on Disability as well as teaching, he has also taught at Harvard, New York University, and Stanford law schools. Before joining William and Mary in 2000, he clerked for now United States Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., while the judge served on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals. He previously practiced law with Sullivan and Cromwell in New York. While practicing with this firm, he served as president of the National Disabled Bar Association and as pro bono counsel for the United States Department of Justice’s Environmental Division and the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Division.
An internationally recognized disability rights expert, Professor Stein helped draft the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and he consults with international governments on their disability laws and policies. He is legal advisor to Rehabilitation International and to the Special Olympics. He is currently an American Bar Association Commissioner on Mental and Physical Disability Law.
Professor Stein focused his remarks on Dr. tenBroek’s precedent-setting work on legal concepts of participatory justice and equal protection for people socially disadvantaged because of their race or disability. After reviewing some of Dr. tenBroek’s landmark writings, he linked tenBroek’s work to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: “tenBroek’s jurisprudence on participatory justice underpins the principles of the UN convention.” He said that Dr. tenBroek was one of the earliest architects of the social model of disability and that he championed participatory justice as one means of remedying the wrong of social isolation that disabled people regularly experience.
Finally, Professor Stein turned his attention to the substance of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He explained that this convention of fifty articles was loosely modeled on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, identifying substantive rights, avenues for implementation, and methods for monitoring. He paid particular attention to Article Three (requiring full and effective integration of the disabled into society), Article Five (requiring nondiscrimination policies against disabled people), Article Eight (addressing the issue of underlying social attitudes toward the disabled), and Article Nine (requiring the removal of barriers and clarifying, for people with disabilities, an entitlement to basic human rights). In closing, he emphasized Article Thirty, imposing a duty on states to make aspects of cultural life, recreation, and sport accessible to disabled people. The commentators for this panel were Maria Veronica Reina, director of international programs at the Burton Blatt Institute, Syracuse University, and Michael Perlin, professor of law and director of the International Mental Disability Law Reform Project at the New York Law School.
Before lunch President Maurer introduced a newly produced seventeen-minute video, Jacobus tenBroek and the Right to Live in the World, which included a brief biographical sketch of Dr. tenBroek’s life but largely focused on his legal career. Copies of the video may now be purchased from the NFB’s Independence Market. During lunch President Maurer delivered a thought-provoking keynote address, "Disability and Responsibility: Aspects in the Creation of an Adequate Legal System.” The complete text of this address appears elsewhere in this issue.
Following lunch Chai Feldblum, professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center, discussed “Looking Past the Definition of Disability: How Effective Are the ADA’s Affirmative Requirements in Achieving Equality for People with Disabilities?” She graduated from Harvard Law School in 1985 and clerked for Judge Frank M. Coffin on the First Circuit Court of Appeals and for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court. While working at the AIDS Project of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1988 to 1990, she was one of the lead lawyers who negotiated and drafted the ADA. In addition to her teaching, Professor Feldblum is codirector of Workplace Flexibility 2010, a public policy initiative to advance workplace flexibility; founder of the Moral Values Project, an enterprise that uses moral values arguments to advance sexuality and gender equality; and director of the Federal Legislation Clinic at the Georgetown University Law Center. On behalf of various organizational clients of the Federal Legislation Clinic, she has been involved in a range of federal legislative and administrative issues in disability, including civil rights, health, benefits, and immigration.
After reviewing the affirmative requirements in Titles I and III of the ADA, Professor Feldblum suggested that the community should be asking questions. How effective are requirements in the law right now? How do we guarantee the continued effectiveness of the law while working to restore the definition of disability in the ADA through federal legislation? Are some of our goals better achieved, not through discrimination law, but by having the government require desired outcomes? The commentators for this panel were Daniel Goldstein of Brown, Goldstein, and Levy, and Douglas Kruse, professor of human resource management/labor studies and employment relations at the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations.
Robert Burgdorf, professor of law and director of the Legislation Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clark School of Law, chaired the last instructional panel of the afternoon. He delivered a lecture entitled “Restoring the ADA and Beyond: Disability in the Twenty-First Century.” He holds a J.D. degree from the University of Notre Dame School of Law. He has written extensively on the rights of disabled people, and he was the principal author and general editor of the first law school casebook in disability law. The U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged Professor Burgdorf as the original author of the Americans with Disabilities Act introduced in the 100th Congress in 1988; the bill was reintroduced with revisions in 1989 and signed into law in 1990. In more recent years Professor Burgdorf has written a number of articles critical of the Supreme Court’s interpretation and narrowing of the provisions of the ADA. His 2004 article “Righting the ADA” reviewed a series of U.S. Supreme Court cases, identifying ways in which the nation’s landmark disabilities legislation has been weakened through judicial decisions. The ADA Restoration Act introduced language to reassert the original intent of the ADA.
Though charged with evaluating the future of disability law in America, Professor Burgdorf devoted most of his time to chronicling the ways in which federal courts have limited the scope of the ADA. He reflected that Dr. tenBroek’s legal principles of integrationism, participatory justice, and social construction of disability should guide our future work in disability law. He reiterated his 1986 warning that the American disability movement is not yet especially strong or effective. Disability-related court decisions have created a bleak legal environment. He also suggested that evolution in technology would have both a positive and negative influence on the future of disability law in America. John Kemp, principal at Powers, Pyles, Sutter, and Verville, and Andrew Imparato, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, were the commentators for this panel.
Peter Blanck, university professor and chairman of the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, closed the symposium by facilitating an open forum among conference participants commenting on the day’s presentations and expressing their views about the current and future state of disability law in America.
By any measure the first tenBroek disability law symposium was a success. Lou Ann Blake, a member of the tenBroek Library staff in the Jernigan Institute and chairperson of the tenBroek law symposium organizing committee, summarized the event well when she reported during the 2008 NFB national convention that the symposium was an exciting and intellectually stimulating event that fostered an increased understanding of blindness-specific issues; and rallied allies to our cause; honored and celebrated the genius of our founder, Jacobus tenBroek; and raised the awareness of Dr. tenBroek’s academic contributions among the legal community and the general public. Plans are now underway for a second disability law symposium at the Jernigan Institute in the spring of 2009.
by Marc Maurer
From Dan Frye: The following is the text of the keynote address that NFB President Marc Maurer delivered during the luncheon of the disability law symposium held at the Jernigan Institute on Friday, April 11, 2008. These remarks, along with the complete proceedings of the conference, were originally published in the August 2008 issue of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights (volume 13, issue 2, $20). Readers who would like to purchase the complete proceedings should go to <www.txjclcr.org> to purchase this issue. President Maurer’s remarks strike a balance between a disabled person’s social obligation to exercise individual responsibility and the necessity for public entities and employers to provide reasonable accommodations. Here it is:
Robert Bork said, “‘You can’t legislate morality.’ Indeed . . . we legislate little else.”1
John Adams said, “In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.”2
These reflections indicate that the law is controversial, and its place within society is equally controversial. Perhaps as much has been written about the nature of justice as almost any other topic.
Many authorities3 believe that the law sets forth the synthesized standard of minimum behavior acceptable among human beings. One of the functions of law is to classify people and property. The improper classification of human beings is known as discrimination,4 which when described in these terms looks so innocent, so nonconfrontational.
What is the value of a human being? How is the value of one human being to be compared with the value of another? These questions have been addressed by the legal systems through the millennia. They are at the heart of the question of discrimination and integration.
In the Code of Hammurabi, one of the world’s oldest legal codes, disability is not mentioned, but the code does declare that, “If [a man] put out the eye of a man’s slave. . .he shall pay one-half of its value.”5 A slave without two eyes does still have value, perhaps half the value that the slave had before being injured. A slave was worthy of classification in the Code, but disabled people were not of sufficient importance to be given a place in the statutes.
In 1966, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, a blind lawyer and constitutional scholar who founded the National Federation of the Blind in 1940, published an article in the California Law Review entitled, “The Right to Live in the World: The Disabled in the Law of Torts.”6 In this article, Dr. tenBroek espouses the fundamental proposition that the disabled possess the same right to live in the world as all other human beings and that this right is necessary to the principle of equality, also shared by the disabled.7 After stating this essential proposition, Dr. tenBroek says that the policy of the United States is that the disabled have protection equivalent to all others under the law to live, work, and otherwise enjoy the rights of participation in the community with all others.8 He observes, however, that the courts have frequently interpreted the law to abrogate or at least to limit severely this policy.9 His conclusion is that the courts do not oppose the policy of integration for the disabled. Rather, he believes that the courts do not know this policy exists. Dr. tenBroek states that in some cases the possession of a disability has been regarded as evidence of contributory negligence10 or assumption of the risk that may be considered by a jury.11 Although disabled people have a right to be in the world, the risk of injury while exploring that world falls on disabled people, who should know better than to be in such a dangerous place. The driver who runs over a blind person might argue that if the blind person could have seen the car coming, the blind person would not have stepped into its path. Consequently, it is the blind person’s fault for being there at all.
Dr. tenBroek points out that the right to be abroad in the land is no right at all unless the interpretations of the doctrines of law take into account the realities of disability.12 Thus, the law should take notice that the blind cannot see (or see very well), that the deaf cannot hear (or hear very well), and that wheelchair users cannot walk (or walk very well). To say that wheelchair users have equal access to public buildings but that the only way into them is up a flight of stairs is to confront the disabled with an ironic proposition. This reminds me of the position taken by the U.S. State Department before 1990.13 The State Department said that all applicants for employment were given equal consideration.14 All were expected to take and pass an entrance examination. The entrance examination was offered only in print. The State Department said that it did not discriminate against the blind because it offered blind people the same opportunity to take the test that it offered the sighted. Those blind people who offered to take the test by using a reader were told that this could not be done. All applicants were expected to take the examination by reading a printed document with their own eyes. “No discrimination,” said the State Department; everybody has an equal opportunity under precisely equal conditions to take the test.15
This is a similar argument to the one currently being offered by the Apple company. Apple has created the iPhone, which they claim is one of the most important and useful pieces of technology to provide access to information that has ever been invented.16 This device is not usable by the blind. Before it had been manufactured and distributed, the National Federation of the Blind encouraged Apple to make it usable by blind people. Apple refused. When we later complained about the inaccessibility of the product, Apple said that it was fundamentally a visually oriented product that could not be used by the blind. Because this product is fundamentally visually oriented, Apple said there is no requirement to make it usable by blind customers. Apple did not comment on the reality that gaining information from the screen of a cell phone can be done in nonvisual ways. Gaining information is not fundamentally a visually oriented activity. The law must recognize that there are alternative methods of accessing physical facilities or information systems.
As part of his effort in 1966, Dr. tenBroek drafted a Model White Cane Law, which has been adopted in a number of states.17 That law declares it to be the policy of the state that the blind and otherwise disabled have a right to be in any public place to which members of the public are invited, subject only to the restrictions and limitations applicable to all persons. Carrying a white cane is permitted, but not carrying it is not to be regarded as evidence of contributory negligence.
In 1973, the Rehabilitation Act became law.18 Title 5 of this act lists a number of civil rights protections for the disabled. Section 504 prohibits discrimination in any activity receiving federal financial assistance. This provision has been amended to apply to the federal government. Under section 504 of the act, an individual may sue for enforcement.
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act was adopted.19 This act dramatically expanded the civil rights protections available to disabled individuals. Many of the principles incorporated within the civil rights sections of the Rehabilitation Act were included in the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of these principles is that reasonable accommodation must be an element of policy when considering disabled individuals. If an alternative method of achieving a similar result can be used, reasonable accommodation principles require it. Arguments like the one used by the State Department—that print is the only available method for taking a test when an effective alternative would be to use a reader, Braille, or recorded forms for the examination—is evidence of discrimination. In 1998, amendments to section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act were adopted to require technology purchased by the United States government to be accessible to the disabled.20 Undoubtedly, additional legislation is needed.
The current classification of disabled individuals often assigns them a place in our society which does not provide equal opportunity. The language of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provides that, “no State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property.”21 Disabled people, however, do not have equal access to all of the activities of life, all of the advantages to be gained through the acquisition of property, or all of the benefits of liberty that come as a necessary part of the full enjoyment of equality. The Constitution of the United States has been inadequate in encouraging full integration and equal opportunity for the disabled.
Dr. tenBroek's article suggested that a policy of integration be adopted as one of the elements of law with respect to the disabled. The objective was to achieve equality of opportunity for the disabled. Implicit within Dr. tenBroek's argument (and a part of the philosophy which I urge to be implemented in civil rights litigation) is the notion that disabled individuals have value equivalent to that of the nondisabled, and that the performance to be expected of disabled persons is of equivalent value to the performance of the nondisabled. Equality of opportunity is essential; equality of result is unjustified. Equality of opportunity cannot be achieved unless the policy of integration recognizes the variation of characteristics involved in disability.
After the adoption of section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, regulations to implement this section were drafted by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.22 These regulations required reasonable accommodation from covered entities.23 In the case of disabled employees, employers were expected to make modifications to the employment standards which might be required for the employee to perform the work in question if a reasonably similar result could be achieved thereby. For example, if a blind person were taking messages for sighted people, the employer might be required to buy a typewriter for the use of the blind employee. Blind people are often not competent to take messages in handwriting. Although a typewriter might cost much more than a box of pens, in the circumstances of a job requiring a person to take messages, the purchase of a typewriter might be reasonable.
What is reasonable to request from an employer became the subject of almost endless discussion in certain circles. Could an employee alter a job because that employee has a disability? How much change is a reasonable change, and how much change alters the position altogether? How much cost must an employer bear, and how much is beyond reasonableness? Blind people do not use light, but sighted people do. Is the installation of light fixtures for the sighted a reasonable accommodation? The rules established for interpretation of section 504 said that an accommodation need not be made if to make it would cause an undue hardship on the employer24 or if to make it would alter the fundamental nature of the job in question.25
In 1988, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decided the case of Carter v. Bennett.26 This case held that though reasonable accommodation is required, the accommodations requested by the employee are not necessarily required of the employer.27 The employer is required to make such accommodations as may be necessary to permit the employee to perform the essential functions of the job in question.28 If a requested accommodation places an undue burden on the employer, the employer must demonstrate this to avoid the requirement of providing the accommodation.29 The burden of demonstration then shifts to the employee to show that the requested accommodation is not unduly burdensome.30
This case states what appears to me to be a reasonable set of principles. The court made no holding, however, on the set of facts and the standard enunciated by the Department of Education. The plaintiff in the case was a blind person who was serving in the Office of Civil Rights.31 Those employed in this office to answer letters from members of Congress or the public were required by the standards of productivity to produce twelve letters per week.32 However, the blind employee, as a reasonable accommodation for his employment, was expected to produce only six letters per week.33 His supervisors found his work unsatisfactory, and he was dismissed from employment. The court upheld his dismissal.34 However, the court did not comment on the reasonable accommodation standard put in place by the Department of Education.
The reasonable accommodation standard required that blind employees produce no less than precisely fifty percent of the productive work expected of sighted employees.35 To say that such a standard is reasonable is to accuse the blind of being nonproductive. No rational employer would accept such a standard, and if such a standard becomes a recognized part of so-called nondiscrimination principles, no blind employee can expect a job except as a matter of charity.
That differences exist between the able-bodied and the disabled is manifest. However, the disabled and the able-bodied are not essentially different from one another in the characteristics that make people what they are. Disabled people are a cross section of the community of human beings. We are as bright and as dull, as energetic and as lazy, as generous and as parsimonious, and as fun-loving and as boring as anybody else. Sometimes we do our work or pursue our avocations in a way different from the able-bodied, but our productivity must be as great as that expected from others, or the thought of equality for us is a myth.
What do we need to compete with others in the activities of living, working, and studying? We need access to the programs, activities, public facilities, and sources of information that others enjoy. We need acceptance of the reality that our talents are valuable and that we have contributions to make. We need to be recognized for the people we are. We need sufficient understanding of the special characteristics that we possess to enable the members of the public to value the alternative methods we use to accomplish our work. We need to be seen as sufficiently valuable to the community that we are welcomed within it.
Access to public buildings is not sufficient in itself. We must be expected to be a part of the activities within them once we are admitted to the buildings.
Equality of opportunity requires access to sources of information and the means to manipulate that information. What does equal access to information mean? The disabled have been seeking answers to this question for a long time. Is it necessary for all material produced for a public meeting to be presented in Braille? Is this necessary even if no indication has been given that any blind people who have learned to read Braille are planning to attend that meeting? Do all public meetings include a requirement that interpreters for the deaf be present, even if no indication has been made that deaf people will attend? Should all television programs be made with interpretation included for the deaf? Should all television programs be made with audible descriptions included for the blind? Can a library of print books be maintained without having somebody available to read the material to a blind patron who wishes to use the library? Can a department store place goods on its shelves labeled in print with no method for a blind person to learn what those goods are? Can a museum create a display of paintings without providing an audio description for the blind? Can a chamber orchestra produce an evening of Baroque music without providing a visual description for the deaf? Can a computer company sell a machine that provides access to the Internet without configuring it so that it can present the information audibly for the blind? A coherent set of answers to these questions can illustrate what equality of opportunity means for the disabled.
Some of our most well-known public buildings incorporate grand staircases, which help give them their striking appearance. The law does not prohibit the building of such staircases, but it does require such buildings to have entrances that can be used by people who are not able to climb the stairs. Furthermore, although some have tried to implement such a standard, it is, in my opinion, not acceptable to tell the disabled that everybody else may enter at the front door, but disabled people are expected to go around back to enter the building where the garbage goes out.
It is hard for me to imagine a visual description of an orchestral performance adequate to convey to the deaf the sound of the music. It is also hard for me to imagine an audible description of a painting that will capture the nuance of light and shadow that, I am told, is frequently an element of art. Many people have told me that they cannot imagine how the average blind person can do the average job in the average place of business effectively. Is my inability to imagine a visual orchestral performance or an audible description of a painting an admission of incapacity, or does this reflect comprehension of something real? I expect to be open to new ideas regarding the integration of my fellow human beings into society, and I believe that this should be one element of the law.
In 2002 the Department of the Treasury was charged with discrimination for producing nontactile currency.36 Judge James Robertson ruled in 2006 that discrimination had occurred.37 At the heart of his decision is the statement that the blind cannot identify currency by touch.38 Blind people must employ a sighted human being or use a technological device to identify the currency.39 At the time the judge's decision was made, such technological devices were not always accurate.40 The judge's conclusion was that the blind cannot use the currency independently and that the knowing production of this nontactilely identifiable currency is an act of discrimination.41
The cost of reconfiguring the currency system of the United States is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.42 However, we live in a country with hundreds of millions of dollars, and we must answer the question: Do we want to spend the dollars to change the form of those dollars for the blind? If we do, what will be the benefit to society, and is it worth the price? If we do not, what will be the cost to society in human degradation? That blind people use the currency of the United States every day is abundantly obvious. The judge's assertion that we are denied the benefits of our participation in a program of the federal government is overstated. What are the implications of such a decision? Do all objects need to be identifiable by touch to avoid the charge of discrimination? Are there any limits to such an assertion?
The application of law changes with changing circumstances. This is necessary for the development of society. It is said, that the law of negligence is a product of the Industrial Revolution.43 The law of civil rights came from the abolition of slavery44 and the alteration of conscience and class associated with the labor movement.45 The disability rights law adopted in the United States and copied in many other countries,46 and now incorporated in a United Nations convention,47 is based almost entirely on civil rights. Whether this body of law will be a blessing or a curse depends only in part on the language of the statutes.
In 1966, Dr. tenBroek declared that a proper understanding of the reality of disability would demand a policy of integration of disabled people within society.48 He expected that the disabled who are being integrated would have certain obligations.49 If integration carries with it a burden out of proportion to the advantages to be gained, the policy will fail, and the law will find a method of employing the language of integration without giving effectiveness to it. The judges will say one thing and do another.
Some disabled people seek retribution in the legal system. The argument they make is something like this: I am disabled; disability has been used from the beginning of time to exclude those with disabilities from participation in activities of society; I am not participating in the activities I desire; those conducting such activities have an obligation to make them accessible to me; they have not done this to my satisfaction; they owe me a place in their program. The element that is left out of this chain of reasoning is the concept of performance. Those who seek inclusion within society must demonstrate sufficient value to justify being included. Society should offer equal opportunity for participation. Society need not provide equal participation.
The disability rights movement has been promoted by disabled people. Most of the judges and the legislators who have written the language of the laws and judicial decisions regarding disability have been nondisabled. The plaintiffs and the people who urged the adoption of the laws, however, have been disabled. How the laws are interpreted in the future will be determined, in large measure, by the plaintiffs who claim the protection of the law and, more particularly, by the counsel who represent them.
It is up to us to decide what we want the world to be. Whether it is a hellish or a heavenly place will depend on the actions we take. We must claim only as much as is fair and reasonable, and not more. Most judges do not understand disability. Mystery surrounds this subject, and in an effort to have some recognition of the basic ability of disabled people, outlandish claims are sometimes made. Can the blind feel color, hear the vibrations of the visual spectrum, identify people by smell? Some have said we can.
I recommend what Dr. tenBroek urged, a policy of integration.50 We should demand all those accommodations that are necessary to achieve this policy. We should demand that information sources be made readily available to us. We should be given access to physical locations, and we should expect to participate in the programs that occur within those public places. At the same time, we should expect to pull our weight. We should avoid claiming that because we possess some disability somebody else owes us something without our being required to earn the right to full participation. Nevertheless, that right should always be available to us, and we should always be prepared to fight for it whenever somebody tries to take it from us.
We should avoid being depicted as objects of charity, and we should reject the notion that we are victims. Victims don't fight back, and they aren't fun to be with. We do, and we are. We should demonstrate the strength we have, and we should demand to be recognized for the people we are. This is the attitude that will gain for us the recognition we deserve as the fun-loving, inspiring, valuable people we are.
Making a charitable gift can be one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Points to Consider When Making a Gift to the National Federation of the Blind
Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB
Your Gift Will Help Us
Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!
Barbara Cheadle, Panel Moderator
From the Editor: On Friday morning, July 4, the 2008 convention took official notice of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Barbara Cheadle, the retiring NOPBC president, chaired the panel that spoke about the division and what it has accomplished. Barbara spoke briefly and then introduced the panelists. This is what they said:
“Daddy said, ‘All children must look after their own upbringing. Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.’” So said Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank. What are the right paths, and how do parents put children onto them? Well, when we teach our children to say “please” and “thank you,” we are putting them on the right path to becoming civil and thoughtful citizens. When we require our children to take out the trash, make the bed, and do other chores, we are putting them on the path to becoming self-sufficient people who will one day support themselves. When we require our children to say “I’m sorry” and to give back the toy they snatched from their baby brothers, we are putting them on the path to becoming moral people with a sense of right and wrong. But what happens when that child is blind? How are parents to know what the right paths are for that child, or even if there are any choices of paths to take? Many of you in this room were once blind children, and most of you had caring and loving parents who tried hard to teach you to be good people, and some of your parents even reached beyond the stereotypes of blindness of their generation to insist that you do everything that other kids did. But it is also true that, when it came to blindness, many–indeed perhaps most of you from my generation–had to find your own path to the Federation and the knowledge that it is indeed respectable to be blind.
Twenty-five years ago, at the NFB convention in Kansas City, Missouri, the NFB under the wise and caring leadership of President Kenneth Jernigan established the division of parents of blind children with the sole purpose of showing parents how to put their children on the right paths. And now, twenty-five years later, what can we say that we have accomplished? I have assembled a panel of three parents and two young blind women to speak to you today about their personal experiences and how the parents division of the NFB set them on the right paths.
First to speak is Carol Castellano, vice president of the NOPBC since 1991, president of the POBC of New Jersey, author, and educator–her most important role has been mom to Serena Cucco. Here is Carol.
by Carol Castellano
Good morning, fellow Federationists. So many of you know—or at least know about—my daughter Serena. I’ve been writing about her for her whole life. In fact I’m considering designating each one of you honorary godfather—or godmother—for the role you’ve had in her upbringing.
Serena was born four months premature. She weighed only one pound five ounces, needed surgery after surgery, which set back her development. She spent the first seven and a half months of her life in a neonatal ICU. She was left with the aftermath of extreme prematurity: she became blind, was seriously undersized, had muscle weakness and developmental delays. She was unable to move her facial and oral muscles voluntarily and so was unable to chew—or to talk. Her shoulders were so hyperextended from her arms being tethered to her bed with IV lines that they hung limply behind her.
At one year she could not sit up; at three she could not chew solid foods; at five she still could not talk. Hopes were not high among the many professionals who came into our lives at that time. There was the developmental pediatrician who said to me, “You’d better start treating her as retarded.” I wondered what that even meant. There was the IEP team that placed her in the preschool class for the “low-functioning” children. There was the teacher of the blind who refused to give us stick-on Braille—we wanted to make alphabet blocks for her, because she had made the decision when Serena was twelve months old that she would never read.
Well I’m happy to report that Serena graduated from college a year ago, and even better than that, she successfully landed her first job. How did she get from her precarious beginnings to where she is today? The answer, my friends, is sitting in this room. She got there because of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Federation of the Blind!
We were lucky to be introduced to the Federation and to NOPBC when Serena was just a baby. A social worker gave us some books and papers to read when she was in the hospital having eye surgery. One of those books was Doris Willoughby’s Resource Guide for Parents and Teachers of Blind Children. I read that book right there in the hospital room, and, as I read, I could feel myself being lifted up. It was our first inkling that maybe things could be all right.
I should tell you that the social worker returned to the room and told us, “This organization has some pretty good literature, but keep away from them, ‘cause they’re radical and militant. My ears perked right up, and the first phone call I made when we got back to New Jersey was to the National Federation of the Blind. As luck would have it, I was put through to Barbara Cheadle, and it was with growing excitement that I listened to her empowering message about expectations, skills, opportunity, and the path to a normal life for our daughter.
Perhaps my family would eventually have found that path on our own, but because of NOPBC we found ourselves fast-forwarded along the road toward competence, confidence, self-sufficiency, and independence for our daughter. This is what NOPBC does. It shows parents the possibilities and then helps them find their way.
From our literature—and I am especially grateful for the writings of Doris Willoughby and Ruby Ryles—to our workshops, from our advocacy to our comraderie, NOPBC is a potent force for spreading our positive message about blindness to parents, schools, and the wider community. NOPBC certainly helped my family through the challenges we faced during Serena’s early school years and rejoiced with us when things went smoothly thereafter.
The years flew by, and, before we knew it, we were visiting colleges. Serena fell in love with Manhattanville College because it had two institutes for social justice—and no disabilities students’ office. She applied early, was accepted, and received a board of trustees scholarship. I’m happy to tell you that she lived away from home, got herself to meals and classes, and tells me that, yes, she even did her laundry.
Serena majored in sociology and minored in social justice. And some night when you turn on the TV news and they’re showing all those people handcuffed around a tree, look for the one with the cane. That’ll be my Serena. At college she handled her coursework, wrote her papers, downloaded e-files, hired and fired readers, and made the dean’s list most of her semesters. We’re very proud of her, but even more important than her academic success were the social experiences she had. Speaking of experiences, I will close by telling you how we knew that Serena was really in college. The first weekend she called and said, “Mom, I’ve been invited to an off-campus party at a senior’s apartment. I know there’s going to be drinking there, and I’ll have to get a ride from somebody I don’t know, and I don’t know whether that person is going to drink and drive, and I’m trying to decide what to do.” She told me eventually that she never did go to that party. A few weeks later she called and said, “Mom, my roommate is having a guy sleep over for the weekend.”
I said, “What kind of guy, a guy who is going to sleep on the floor, a friend guy, or a guy who is going to be in bed with the roommate?” At this point, my son, who is a couple of years younger, comes running in from the other room and says, “Mom, give me the phone.” He gets on, and he says, “Serena, when you have questions like this, you don’t talk to Mom. You talk to me.” They both assure me that that boy never slept over, and I believe them.
Then there was the wild roommate who, shall we say, was responsible for an interesting expansion of Serena’s vocabulary. And the night she called me and said, “Mom, you’re going to be so happy for me. A bunch of us are going into the city to celebrate Megan’s birthday, and I need $60.”Serena’s success simply would not have occurred without the enlightened positions, progressive programs, and tenacious advocacy of the NOPBC. It is with profound gratitude, deep respect, and great joy that I celebrate our wonderful role models, mentors, and friends in NOPBC and the Federation and join in the celebration of NOPBC’s first twenty-five years!
by Angela Wolf
Barbara Cheadle: Next we have a young woman most of you have come to know quite well at this convention: second vice president of the NFB of Texas, president of the Austin Chapter, and chairperson of the convention ambassadors. Here is Angela Wolf.
“The central struggle of parenthood is to let our hopes for our children outweigh our fears.” -- Ellen Goodman
When I went blind at the age of twelve, my parents were full of fear and uncertainty about how I could regain the independence I had had as a sighted child. Ultimately their hopes for my future set them on a quest to find resources that would help them help me—a quest that led them, us, to the National Federation of the Blind.
The journey began quickly. My mom contacted the local chapter, and my parents were soon heading off to a state convention. There they were struck by the wealth of information that existed, but, more important, they were impressed with the attitudes that this group had about blindness and the capabilities of the blind. They saw competent blind people who were attending college and working in a variety of professions, and they knew that was what they wanted for me.
During that convention they met Joanne Wilson and Pam Allen, who provided them with information about the parents division and about summer programs for blind youth at the Louisiana Center. These ladies insisted that my parents send me to the Buddy Program. My parents were not completely sure about sending their child off to live with a bunch of blind people for four weeks, but, as many of you know, Joanne can be very persuasive.
The next thing I knew, I was in Ruston, Louisiana, learning blindness skills. My mom could not stop crying the day they dropped me off, and for the first week I called home every day, begging for them to come pick me up. The best thing they ever did for me, and probably the hardest thing they ever had to do, was to make me stay and encourage me to have fun and find the positive things about camp. Later I found out that my mother would cry as soon as she hung up the phone. By the end of the summer I was having so much fun that I would forget to call home, and my mom had stopped crying—for the most part.
After that summer my parents, especially my mom, became extremely involved in NFB activities. They found fellowship and support with other parents of blind children through the state and national parents divisions, and my mom took on leadership roles, serving as the treasurer and later president of the Louisiana Parents of Blind Children. She also served on the NOPBC board. However, my parents’ involvement in the Federation was not limited to parent events. They truly embraced the NFB philosophy and attitudes, becoming a part of the movement. Mom joined the local chapter, becoming the secretary/treasurer, and my dad always helped behind the scenes wherever he was needed--from helping set up tables to cooking jambalaya for about two-hundred people at a state convention.
Josh Billing said, “To bring up a child in the way he should go, travel that way yourself once in a while.“ I have seen my parents work tirelessly in many capacities. They have worked diligently not only at their paying jobs, but the volunteer ones as well. From PTA to NFB I saw them dedicate their time, energy, and most of all their hearts.
Through their example and encouragement I became involved and was often volunteered by association for various jobs. My mom would have me help with creating flyers for chapter meetings and fundraisers and then stuff the envelopes, and we would all help sell candy bars and wash cars for the chapter. Beginning with the convention in Dallas in 1993, we attended state and national conventions annually. Eventually I began to become more involved on my own, taking leadership roles in the local chapter and the state student division. As I grew older and became more involved in the organization, my parents began to step back and allowed the NFB to become my endeavor.
While my parents are not always able to attend conventions or meetings any more, they continue to help fundraise for the NFB and are never hesitant to approach a blind person or parent of a blind child in the community to ask if they know about the NFB and explain how much the organization has changed our lives.
A couple of years ago, after working with young adults in the Post-Secondary Program at the Texas School for the Blind for about a year and reflecting on my work with the Buddy and STEP kids at LCB, I called my parents to thank them for encouraging me to do so much in my life, even the things I didn’t want to do, because they somehow knew it was best for me. So many of my students have not had the opportunities or experiences that I had and that they deserve. This is one of many of the reasons I wanted to help blind parents in Texas experience what my parents had experienced through the NFB. In a way helping to form the Texas Parents of Blind Children was a way to thank the NFB and the NOPBC for helping my parents help me.
They say it takes a village to raise a child; I am certainly deeply grateful for my NFB family that helped my parents raise me. You too led by example and are responsible for who I am today. Thank you, and happy anniversary, NOPBC!
by Laura Weber
Barbara Cheadle: Thank you, Angela. Our next speaker is the president of our new POBC in Texas, Laura Weber. Laura’s path to the NFB was influenced by none other than Angela Wolf.
So the NOPBC is twenty-five years old? Big deal. Do you know how many times I’ve celebrated my twenty-fifth birthday? I haven’t been involved with the NOPBC for twenty-five years, or even ten years. My daughter Lindsay is only five years old.
My family’s story isn’t unusual. When I took my daughter to her two-month well-baby checkup, I mentioned to her pediatrician that her eyes moved around a lot and that she wasn’t visually tracking things yet. He referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist, and after another month, many tests, and a second opinion, we found out that Lindsay was blind due to Leber’s congenital amaurosis. Unfortunately, a diagnosis was the only thing the doctors gave us. We weren’t referred to early childhood intervention services. We weren’t referred to a parent group. We weren’t given books, brochures, or a list of references. We were just sent home.
I started searching the Internet for parent groups and information. I was devastated and scared, but I was determined. I eventually met some local parents who were involved in NAPVI. As most of you know, NAPVI is the other parents group--the National Association of Parents of Children with Visual Impairments. Together we re-formed HAPVI, a Houston-area chapter of NAPVI that had been inactive for several years. I was elected president, and I served for two years.
So why am I here today to tell parents to join the NFB? How did I go from being the president of HAPVI to being the president of Texas Parents of Blind Children and, as of this past Tuesday, the new secretary of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children? What made me cross over to the dark side?
First is this: I came to realize that it’s not about me. A parents’ group doesn’t have to be affiliated with an adult organization of the blind to give you information. You can learn about special ed law. You can meet other parents and exchange stories. You can hear a lot about what the experts in the blindness field–the experts being sighted professionals, of course–have to say about teaching blind children. But what’s in it for my daughter? Yes, having an educated parent is crucial. But what kind of education can you get about blindness from a group of sighted parents who’ve aligned themselves with professional organizations of sighted educators and proudly advertise the fact that they’re not part of an organization of blind adults?
This is about my daughter. Lindsay is a blind child. She will grow up to be a blind adult. I want to be part of a group that can prepare her for that. Belonging to the organization of the blind is essential. We’re talking about my daughter’s future. She needs blind role models. She needs programs like Braille Readers Are Leaders, Youth Slam, Slate Pals, Buddy Camps, and mentoring programs. She needs the NFB.
The other reason I joined the NFB is this: what you believe about blindness affects everything. You can be a loving parent. You can be a skilled teacher. You can sincerely love blind children and want them to succeed. But if you don’t truly believe in your heart of hearts that it’s okay to be blind, your child won’t either.
I have to let you in on a little secret. Some people think the NFB is made up of radicals. (You probably didn’t know that, right?) When I first started talking to Angela Wolf and others about forming a parents of blind children chapter in Texas, I asked her about the NFB’s reputation. Is the NFB really radical? You know what she said? She said, “Well, if believing in blind people being independent and capable is radical, then yes, we’re a bunch of radicals.”
That’s the kind of radical thinking I want my daughter to have. The NFB’s philosophy is what I want my daughter to learn and live. The NFB helps me stay focused on my goal to raise Lindsay to be a happy, healthy, independent, and successful adult. In short, I want for my child what all parents want for their children. My desires and expectations aren’t different or lower because she’s blind.
Lindsay will turn six next week. She’s using a cane and learning to read Braille. She’s smart and beautiful and funny and is, without a doubt, the happiest kid I’ve ever met. It feels good and right to be raising her in the NFB. Together we’ll teach her that it’s respectable to be blind.
As Barbara mentioned in my introduction, I do have a day job. I'm a biomedical engineer, and I work at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. I’ve had some amazing opportunities. I've worked in the Mission Control Center during space shuttle flights; trained astronauts and cosmonauts; experienced weightlessness on the KC-135 zero-G airplane (the "vomit comet"); been to space shuttle launches and landings; trained a crew on an actual space shuttle middeck; and worked on medical and experimental hardware that has flown on the space shuttle, the Russian Mir Space Station, and the International Space Station. I’m grateful for these experiences, but the truth is, it’s just a job. It pays the rent. I can assure you wholeheartedly that my job as a mom, an advocate, and a volunteer is much harder than my day job--and more exciting and fulfilling! Who says that being a parent isn’t rocket science? Thank you.
by Jim Beyer
Barbara Cheadle: Thank you, Laura. We are coming now to our final panelists. President of the POBC chapter of the Montana affiliate of the NFB and a member of the national NOPBC board, here is Jim Beyer, who will speak and then introduce his daughter, Lauren.
Fourteen years ago my wife Gwen and I noticed something peculiar about our four-month-old daughter Lauren. We took her to the local doctor, who referred us to the big clinic in Portland, Oregon. The doctors there told us that she was severely blind and that there was no fix. They assured us that she would be able to live a normal life and not to worry. We got in our car and drove that long, lonely road together, back to our home state, a state in which we had never before dwelt, the State of Denial.
After a while we stirred from our stupor and began to grab every resource we could find. We were grabbers and joiners. We joined every blindness group that we could. Wouldn’t you? They all seemed like they wanted to help us and to help Lauren.
We joined the NFB and received the Braille Monitor and read some great, helpful articles in Future Reflections. We signed up with AFB and received their periodicals. We signed up with the Foundation Fighting Blindness and mailed donations. We signed up with the Foundation for Retinal Research and had Lauren’s blood drawn for genetic testing. We signed up with the Hadley School so that we could learn Braille. I took their correspondence course “Just Enough to Know Better.” I thought I was doing great and that Braille was easy and fun but I kept getting my tests back with big red Cs on them. I thought I should have at least gotten an A for effort; so I am now a recovering Hadley School dropout.
We joined the professional group, AER, went to a conference and got a discount on our car insurance. We were loving parents desperate to do the right thing for our child, but without our knowledge we were instead slowly, yet inexorably becoming experts in a field not of our own choosing.
Of all the groups we joined, we became personally involved with people from two of them. We attended a few conferences focused on medical advances in sight restoration and met some good people there, some of whom are in this very room. It seemed to us that many of the parents there were looking to the future for hope, not to the present, and to a certain extent so were we. We also attended the local chapter meetings of the NFB in our town in Montana. We were the only members under the age of, like ninety-eight (just kidding, Lois!).
We then moved to a larger town, and things changed. In Missoula we met some great guys: Dan Burke and Jim Marks, blind NFB leaders. They were very helpful in coaching us, not judging us. They didn’t criticize us for being involved in all the wrong groups; they were gentle with us when we made incorrect statements about blindness. They came to our IEP meetings and wrote Lauren’s technical evaluations. They were patient and kind. They were good people and good friends.
Through our relationship with Dan and Jim we were sold on the NFB. Through the people, the practices, and the policies of the NFB, Lauren is succeeding, and Gwen and I are getting close. But we did not get to this place all at once; it was a long process for us.
So be patient with new parents. They want to do the right thing for their child, the child whom they love, the child with whom they would gladly exchange lives. Be willing to come alongside these new parents, to encourage them, and to support them; but be respectful. Be careful not to judge them or correct them harshly if they express ideas at odds with NFB viewpoints. Allow them to make mistakes, but be there to keep them moving, gently, slowly, inexorably in the right direction.
And finally, if your own parents were a disappointment to you, if your own parents spent too much of their energy hoping for a cure and not enough energy encouraging you to enjoy the life that God gave you, there’s only one remedy: you must forgive them. Life is too short, people are too important, and family is too valuable. Let them know that you love them because one thing is sure, warts and all, we love you.
by Lauren Beyer
Jim Beyer: The final speaker in the panel is my daughter Lauren Beyer. She is a fourteen-year-old freshman in high school. She is just going into Big Sky High School. She has been in our local public school all of her career and maintains honor-roll status. Other than that, she’s just a normal kid.
I was born blind in a small town in Montana. My parents moved us to a nearby small city so that I could learn Braille and have a chance to succeed. I did well in school with my grades, but I was kind of lonely. Kids were nice to me when I was in school, but nobody knew how to hang out with “the blind girl.”
I had a few friends, but I spent a lot of afternoons and weekends alone. My parents said once that they would almost pay somebody to come over to my house to hang out. There were always lots of kids over at our house, but they were all my brothers' friends. Not only did I not have any friends to hang out with, I didn't know any other blind kids my age. I thought I was the only one in the world who was living this life.
I knew nothing about being blind; I wouldn't even say that word. Then, when I was eleven, my parents said something about an NFB convention. I had no idea what that was. We all flew to Louisville, Kentucky. I had no idea what to expect. At the convention there was a thing called the teen room. It was a rented room where teens could hang out and talk. I met girls there from all over America. I felt good. I found the friends I'd never even known were out there. We had so much fun at the convention that the words “parents” and “curfew” were forgotten.
When I was at convention, my friends said something about a month-long program in Minnesota. My parents looked into it and talked with Shawn Mayo, the director of the program. Even though Buddy Camp was only a week away, they still let me sign up. I spent four weeks in the Pillsbury mansion in Minneapolis and became closer with some of the friends I'd made at convention. We have all kept in contact since then. We visit on the phone or IM or MySpace each other on the Internet.
We went to the convention again in Atlanta in 2007. All of us hung out in the teen room; had a sleepover in my parents room; went to Six Flags together; and, while our parents were off in—ugh--meetings, we laughed and caught up.
I am so happy that we hooked up with the NFB! Making friends in the NFB has somehow helped me to collect a big group of sighted friends at home as well. I now have friends that I can count on, not only in my hometown, but all around the country. I now have good friends in states such as California, Alaska, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Missouri, and Utah. My afternoons and weekends are no longer lonely thanks to my friends in the NFB.
by Mary Jo Thorpe
From the Editor: Mary Jo Thorpe is the education programs specialist at the NFB Jernigan Institute. Here is her report on the first-ever Junior Science Academy:
If you had visited the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore during the last week of July, you probably would have been swept up in all the excitement and commotion pulsating around the building as the first-ever NFB Junior Science Academy took place. Inquisitive onlookers would have seen thirty of the brightest, most talented children having the time of their lives amidst some of the most creative and exciting activities ever imagined.
This summer the NFB Jernigan Institute opened its doors to thirty families from across the country for its first-ever Junior Science Academy. Celebrating its fifth year of successful science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, the NFB Jernigan Institute ventured into new territory in an effort to empower children at an earlier age than ever before with the skills necessary to pursue study in STEM subjects.
One parent accompanied each child and attended programming for adults in conjunction with the children’s activities. These sessions were customized with presentations and activities designed to address issues facing parents of blind children. The sessions also aimed to provide parents with a vast network of resources and support. Blind people from across the country volunteered their time to come and serve as mentors to supervise the children during daytime activities. They served as great role models for the children and their parents. Each mentor had three students for whom he or she was responsible.
The four-day event was jam-packed with activity. The theme for the children’s activities focused on earth and environmental science. In order to help the children better understand why the earth is able to sustain life, however, the program began with activities that taught about the make-up of the various planets in the solar system and other phenomena that affect our earth. Noted astronomer and author of several tactile books on space phenomena Noreen Grice led these activities. Noreen used containers of sand and hot packs (to represent the surface of Mars) and cotton balls sprayed with window cleaner (to represent the gaseous atmosphere of Jupiter) to help the students get a better sense of what different planetary environments might look like.
Though it was hot and humid outside, the children stayed cool during another activity, which had them making their very own comet. With frozen fingers, the students chatted on enthusiastically as they rolled balls of ice in sand, rocks, and corn syrup to learn how comets form as they travel through space. The children moved on to learning about different biomes and weather from two scientists from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. A couple of future meteorologists were discovered in the group as the children constructed their own barometers and asked questions about clouds, air pressure, and weather patterns. Bursts of laughter greeted the instruction of one of the scientists who played strange birdcalls and various animal sounds during his explanation about life in different environments. He also passed around several samples of different soil and vegetation as they compared and contrasted different biomes.
On day two the JSA decided to “Go Green” as the children participated in a number of engineering activities around alternative energy resources. These were led by Caroline McEnnis, a graduate student from Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, who has been involved with our STEM programs for three years now. The children especially seemed to enjoy an activity where they made batteries out of fruit. First they had to insert a nail and penny into a piece of fruit. Then they attached the clips from a talking voltmeter to the nail and the penny to see how much voltage the fruit could produce as its juice interacted with the metal of the nail and the coin. They compared the amounts from different pieces of fruit to determine which produced the highest voltage.
By the end of the day the children had constructed some method for harnessing energy and producing electricity from each of the four sources of alternative energy—water, wind, solar, and vegetation. The children were then given a specific biome and asked to design their house of the future. Each biome brought with it its own restrictions and resources. For example, groups with a desert biome would not be able to construct a water pump for their house but would have access to a large amount of solar energy.
After constructing their houses from everyday household items like shoeboxes, paper plates, and straws, the children practiced their public speaking skills during a mock press conference before their parents and staff members from the National Center for the Blind. During the press conference the groups unveiled their designs and gave explanations about why they had chosen the components they did. This was a great way for the children not only to show what they had learned but also to practice some basic alternative techniques a blind person would use in giving a public presentation.
One of the main objectives of the Institute’s Science Academy programs is to explore new ways of making certain activities accessible to the blind. During this session a program called “Computer Science Unplugged: Fun with Computing without a Computer” was introduced to the children. This is a new curriculum to help teach children some of the fundamentals of computer science. Richard Ladner, a Boeing Professor in Computer Science and Engineering from the University of Washington, expressed an interest in adapting this curriculum so that blind children could participate in its activities. He and two of his staff came to the program and led several of these activities with the participants, some of the first blind children to test this curriculum. Activities included a variety of games or sorting puzzles which illustrated principles used by computer programmers. Once again the science academy is helping to open new doors to the blind through the use of cutting-edge education models.
Evenings provided family time and even more fun. A special guest, Captain Whozit, paid a visit to the children one night to recruit their help in finding the treasure of independence, which he explained had been left behind “by a man named Jernigan.” Captain Whozit led the children on a wild chase through some exciting challenge activities to find the five keys to independence that would unlock the treasure. After meeting some of the captain’s salty shipmates, walking the plank, and soaking themselves during the bucket brigade, the children managed to locate all the keys. They then learned that each key represented a particular skill of blindness that blind people need in order to gain independence. The highlight of the night was seeing the physical keys transformed into true keys of independence as a couple of the children learned how to use a key in an actual lock.
No summer program would be complete without some kind of outdoor excursion, so we made sure to throw one of these into the mix. The children visited North Bay Adventure, an outdoor recreational site in Maryland near the Pennsylvania border. Here the children participated in a nature hike, held snakes and turtles, and took a little dip in the Chesapeake Bay to cool off later in the day. North Bay also provided some of the children with what may have been the biggest confidence booster of the week—the zip line. Those who participated were harnessed to a large cable that extended from a four-story tower several yards across the beach and ended just off the shore in the water. One child in particular was very excited to ride the zip line since he had never done anything like that before. Once he was harnessed in and standing on the launching platform, however, he suddenly became extremely nervous and even tearful. Despite the tears, he clearly wanted to succeed and refused to be unhooked. So, after nearly ten minutes of coaxing and encouragement, he took off, eyes squeezed shut and panic on his face. We eventually had to pull him away from the zip line’s anchor staff member, with whom he spent nearly an hour trying to negotiate another turn.
The parents had some great experiences of their own during the program. The parent educator team was Barbara Cheadle, director of parent outreach for the NFB Jernigan Institute; Carrie Gilmer, president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children; and two renowned educators of blind children within our organization, Denise Mackenstadt of Washington, and Annie Hartzell from California. Parent sessions ranged from topics on multisensory learning to writing goals for IEPs. For many of the parents this was the first introduction to the NFB and the first time this kind of information about blindness had ever been given to them.
Experiential activities also helped parents learn the value of nonvisual techniques. Parents wore sleepshades as they learned to prepare a Jell-O salad, travel with a cane, and even use a chainsaw. One afternoon found the parents wearing sleepshades and rotating through various stations to learn practical skills of cane travel: going up and down stairs, stowing a cane in a car, and carrying a tray. Several of the parents reported that the best part of their sessions was the panels of blind adults. These panelists shared some of their own experiences growing up as blind children. They also talked about things their parents did well parenting a blind child and gave suggestions of things they wish their parents had known to do or had done differently.
Following the program we have received several emails and phone calls from the participants articulating their reflections on the program. Following are some of their comments:
It was an excellent decision to make this a dual child/parent event. The agenda for the parents was exceptionally well done. The content was clearly spot on, from the parent group interest and discussion that I observed. The subject experts who led the meetings were very knowledgeable and well prepared.
John Butler (Arizona), grandfather of Alex Butler, age thirteen
We came home with that action-packed information…and I have already put many things in motion…Don't you all feel so charged up! I am ready to make some positive changes around here to help Dillon and to arm ourselves with as much information as I can about Dillon's eye condition.
Kathleen Smith (West Virginia), mother of Dillon Smith, age ten
My son had a great time, met new friends, and learned new things as well. As a parent I learned a great deal as well as far as the future for my son.
Anita Velazquez (New Jersey), mother of Matthew Howell, age eleven
The last morning of the program wrapped up with a lot of excitement and a few tears. Both parents and children shared contact information with newfound friends. During the closing ceremony several of the students shared some of their favorite activities of the week as well as what they wanted to be when they grew up. It was exciting to hear that future blind adults have such great aspirations.
The entire program was a great success and has received rave reviews. Those interested in reading more about the program and viewing pictures can visit <www.blindscience.org> for more JSA action. The NFB Jernigan Institute hopes to offer more programs like this in the years to come. Those of us responsible for the organization of the JSA would like to thank the National Center for the Blind staff, the instructors, and those who served as mentors for the children. We could not have done this without such a great team. Finally, because of the overwhelming response of applicants and some unforeseen complications earlier this summer, the Jernigan Institute will conduct a fall session of the Junior Science Academy. We look forward to having an equally successful program with those who will be participating in September and look forward to more Junior Science Academy tales.
by Jennifer Dunnam
From the Editor: Each November Braille-reading students across the country have the chance to compete for prizes, win recognition, and enhance their reading skills by participating in the National Federation of the Blind Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. Here are the details of this year’s contest:
The changes we made to the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest last year were resoundingly successful--therefore we are doing it all again this year. Contest awards include the expense-paid trip to the NFB national convention, many cash prizes, T-shirts, and more. We've even brought back the most improved category. Read on for all the details you'll need to know about the 2008-2009 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest.
The contest is two months long, beginning November 1 and ending January 4—which happens to be Louis Braille's 200th birthday. Reading during the school winter break is strongly encouraged, and it's a great time to build up the total number of pages read.
Every participant who registers in advance for the contest will get a special Braille Readers Are Leaders T-shirt. Students who do not register in advance but who get the registration and entry form in by the January 23 deadline will still be eligible for all awards, recognition ribbons, and cash prizes, but they are not guaranteed a T-shirt.
Again this year twelve of the top contestants will win an eight-day, seven-night trip for themselves and a parent (or an adult chaperone) to the 2009 NFB convention in Detroit, Michigan. The trip will include transportation, hotel room, and other expenses for eight days, beginning with the parents' seminar, continuing through the banquet, and ending on the day after the final convention session. (No substitution in place of the convention trip.) The winners will also have the opportunity to speak briefly at the NAPUB and NOPBC meetings. We couldn’t think of a better way to reward these bright, competitive young Braille readers from all over the country than to offer them the opportunity to join the excitement, the fun, and the camaraderie of the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled.
Trip not your thing? It's not required that you compete for the trip to be considered for the other prizes. One offer that has always worked as an incentive in the contest is cash prizes. The top three contestants in each of six categories will win a $50 cash prize. The six categories are grades K-1; 2-3; 4-5; 6-8 (middle school); 9-12 (high school); and, back again this year, most improved (those reading the greatest percentage more pages this year than they did last year). The most improved prizes will be awarded to students not winning another award this year or previously, so more children will have a chance to be recognized, competing against their own personal best.
Every contestant will be automatically considered for an award in his or her age-appropriate grade category. This includes delayed readers and ungraded students. We have found that even students with delays can be competitive in their grade category because we do not put restrictions on the grade level of the materials the contestant reads. For example, we expect that a high school student who reads at a third-grade level will read third-grade-level material, or even below, for the competition and therefore, with motivation and diligence, could beat out an average or even better than average student who reads at grade level. Students with reading delays may also submit information to be considered for the Jennifer Baker Award, one of three special awards for which qualified students may choose to compete.
Braille Leaders Community Service Award: This award most closely reflects the ultimate mission of the contest. Braille literacy enhances the ability of blind children of all ages to demonstrate leadership through service to others. For example, a blind teen may use Braille to read to lonely residents in a nursing home or use his or her Braille skills to organize and conduct a food drive for a school project. The opportunities for service, if you are literate, are endless. The goal of this award is to encourage contestants who have developed good Braille skills to reach out into the community and use those skills for the good of others.
This award is restricted to students in grades six through twelve. To be considered for this award, the student must read a minimum of 500 pages for the contest and submit a letter of nomination. Up to five students will be selected for this award, and all winners of this award will automatically win a trip to the convention.
Twin Vision® Awards for dual print-and-Braille readers or print-to-Braille readers: Funded by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, the award is for elementary students who have learned and used both print and Braille from an early age and also for students who were print readers and have switched to, or are in the process of switching to, Braille. No fewer than one student and no more than five will be selected for this award. To nominate a student for this award, a teacher or other individual intimately familiar with that student’s literacy development must write a letter. The student must also participate in the regular competition.
2009 Jennifer Baker Awards: These awards were named after Jennifer Baker, a young woman from Maryland who overcame many severe additional disabilities to become Braille literate and was a frequent national winner in the Braille Readers Are Leaders program. Jennifer was an avid reader who traveled the world in her mind with the help of Amelia Bedelia and other characters from her beloved Braille storybooks. She died of kidney failure shortly before her twenty-first birthday. This award is given in her memory to no fewer than one student and no more than five based on a letter of nomination with information documenting the obstacles the student has overcome to become Braille literate. Examples of those eligible for this award might be students with cognitive or physical disabilities, English-as-second-language learners, students with brain injuries, or students who have been otherwise educationally disadvantaged. To nominate a student for this award, a teacher or other individual who is intimately familiar with that student’s literacy development must submit a letter of nomination. The student must also participate in the regular competition.
If you have been counting the number of possible winners, you know that we offer a minimum of eighteen and a maximum of thirty-three cash awards, which means that not every contestant will win a trip. If more than twelve of the winners have elected to compete for the trip, then a run-off Braille essay competition will be supervised by Jennifer Dunnam, the manager of Braille programs in the education department of the NFB Jernigan Institute. Jennifer will also be managing the day-to-day operations of registration, processing entry forms, sending out certificates and prizes, and collaborating with NOPBC and NAPUB to judge the contest.
All participants will get certificates, and different-colored print-Braille ribbons will be awarded to contestants who read 500, 1,000, 2,000, 4,000, 8,000, and 12,000 pages. We will also give special recognition to residential or day schools for the blind that enroll a significant percentage of their students in the contest and in other ways promote Braille literacy and the Braille Readers Are Leaders program. The contest is cosponsored by the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. We will continue to work with state affiliates, as we have for the past twenty-six years, to promote and build this program with pride, energy, and all of the creative and financial resources available to us.
From the Editor: The NFB program for prereaders is Braille Pals. It’s a great way to get Braille readers started right. We begin with the report on the 2007 program.
When one thinks of winter, one usually calls to mind snow, evergreens, wassail, or even a jolly old fellow with an obesity problem. However, for hundreds of blind children across the country winter brings the Braille Reading Pals Program and a furry reading partner to accompany them throughout this preliteracy educational experience. The 2007 Braille Reading Pals had 231 participants who read with their parents using media that they could enjoy together. Using print-Braille storybooks, parents read for at least fifteen minutes a day while their blind child began to associate Braille with reading, entertainment, and a generally positive experience with the parent or teacher. An additional incentive arrived in the form of a Beanie Baby® to be brought out only when reading the print-Braille storybooks. Books included assorted titles such as That’s Not My Monster—a board book with additional tactile features like fur, ridges, and even scales—and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs—a classic some may recall from their own early reading experience.
Last year parents were invited to participate in our evaluation of Braille Reading Pals and its impact on preliteracy and child behavior. Ninety-seven parents participated in our preprogram survey. With help from PhD candidate Julie Durando of the University of Northern Colorado, we hope to have just as positive a return on the postprogram evaluation now being completed. Such research will not only help us improve the program, but also collect important data in an area severely lacking in research. One such goal is to discover common factors among families that encourage Braille literacy and how much those factors affect their child’s development.
The Braille Reading Pals Prereaders Program begins November 1 and ends December 31. It is a noncompetitive Braille readiness program for blind infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and older students with reading delays. Its goal is to expose the child and the family to Braille and to encourage parents (or other responsible adults) to read aloud to or with their children a minimum of fifteen minutes a day during the program. Parental permission is required. Teachers must provide a parent’s name and home address for each child registered.
Here’s how the program works:
We encourage, but do not require, participation in an evaluation of the program.
by Chris Danielsen
From the Editor: For years now we have been battling to ensure that blind people who use access technology can use Websites. Many retailers have argued that the Americans with Disabilities Act protects only disabled people’s right to actual places of business or commerce, not a Website in cyberspace. This is merely one of no doubt many issues that the NFB has been arguing in the courts with Target, one of the country’s most influential retailers, with a huge online presence. Target has 1,648 stores in forty-seven states.
On August 27, 2008, Chris Danielsen, NFB public relations specialist, wrote the following press release. It tells as much of the story as can be announced publicly. Here it is:
The National Federation of the Blind and Target announced today that they have settled a class action lawsuit regarding access to the Target.com Website by blind people.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Access to Websites is critical to the full and equal participation of blind people in all aspects of modern life. The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to have reached a settlement with Target that is good for all blind consumers, and we recognize that Target has already taken action to make certain that its Website is accessible to everyone. We look forward to working with Target in the coming months to help make additional improvements that will enhance the experience of blind visitors to Target.com. It is our sincere hope that other businesses providing goods and services over the Internet will follow Target’s example and take affirmative steps to provide full access to their Websites by blind consumers.”
Bruce Sexton Jr., a named plaintiff in the case from the beginning, added: "This settlement marks a new chapter in making Websites accessible to the blind. I commend Target for committing to being a leader in online accessibility."
Steve Eastman, president of Target.com, said: “First and foremost, Target is committed to serving all our guests. As our online business has evolved, we have made significant enhancements in order to provide an accessible shopping experience. We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the National Federation of the Blind regarding the accessibility of Target.com for individuals who use assistive technologies and will work with the NFB on further refinements to our Website.”
As part of the settlement, Target will establish a $6 million fund from which members of the California settlement class can make claims. In addition, the National Federation of the Blind will certify the Target Website through its Nonvisual Accessibility Web Certification program once agreed upon improvements are completed in early 2009. Target and NFB have agreed to a three-year relationship during which the NFB will perform accessibility testing of the Target Website. For more information about the terms of the settlement, please visit <www.nfbtargetlawsuit.com>.
This month’s recipes come from members of the NFB of Oklahoma.
Banana Nut Bread
by Sandra Spencer
Sandra Spencer lives in Tulsa. She will soon begin court reporting classes. She thinks anyone would love this recipe, and it's very easy to make.
1 large yellow cake mix
1 small package instant banana cream pudding mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 to 1 cup chopped nuts
Method: In a large mixing bowl mix the first five ingredients. Beat on medium speed for two minutes, then stir in the bananas and nuts. Grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake from fifty to fifty-five minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool.
Cranberry Pot Roast
by Jan Lavine
Jan and her husband Barry attended their first NFB convention last July in Dallas. She submitted this recipe to a community cookbook, which became the 2000 McIlhenny Company. TABASCO® Community Cookbook national award winner. In 2004 Better Homes and Gardens magazine holiday cooking issue published her recipe from the Community Cookbook.
1 3-pound beef brisket
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium green pepper, diced
1/2 cup water
1 16-ounce can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 16-ounce can marinara sauce or tomato sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
Method: In a three-quart Dutch oven or saucepan, brown the meat for five minutes on each side. Browning the meat longer adds extra flavor. Remove roast from saucepan, replacing it with the diced celery, onion, green pepper, and water. Simmer the vegetables over low heat until they are soft. Add the cranberry and marinara sauces to the vegetables and heat until the mixture is bubbly. Add the garlic. Return the meat to the pot and simmer it over a low flame for one and a half to two hours. Remove the meat, allow it to cool, and slice it. Return the slices to the pot to warm through. Serve with the sauce.
I usually use the microwave and crockpot. This house has an electric smooth top counter Jenn-Air® and no gas. Normally I brown the meat in an iron pan on the smooth top. I put the vegetables in a glass measuring cup, cover it with plastic wrap, and microwave it about four to six minutes. I then add the sauces to the glass measuring cup and again microwave the sauce about four minutes until it is bubbly. I add the garlic to the sauce. Then I place the meat in a crockpot and pour the sauce over it. It cooks in the crockpot all day. I remove and slice the meat and return it to the crockpot just before serving time.
When my husband had dental surgery, I made this recipe, put pieces of meat through the old-fashioned hand-cranked meat grinder, served the meat over mashed potatoes, and added the sauce. It was just like eating a real meal without any chewing.
by Jan Lavine
3 large plum tomatoes, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Sliced toasted bread (diagonally sliced Italian bread is best)
Method: Mix all ingredients, except the toast, in bowl. Let stand at room temperature until ready to use so that flavors blend. Spoon onto toasted bread and serve. Refrigerate leftovers.
by Jan Lavine
2 or 3 cloves garlic
1 medium onion, quartered
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 4 pieces
3 cups or more ripe tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 green pepper, seeded and cut into 4 pieces
Salt to taste
Dash of cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce
2 or 3 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
Enough tomato juice to thin mixture to desired consistency
Method: Place garlic, onion, cucumber, and green pepper in food processor and puree. Remove to glass bowl. Place tomatoes in food processor and puree. Add to other ingredients in glass bowl. Add remaining ingredients and blend mixture completely. Chill thoroughly before using.
Summer Spaghetti Sauce
by Jan Lavine
Make this recipe only during summer using fresh ripe tomatoes and fresh basil. Never attempt this recipe without the ripest of summer tomatoes and herbs.
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced
3 pounds very ripe tomatoes, chopped into quarter-inch dices (Be sure to save the liquid from dicing because it is used in the recipe.)
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Method: Heat one tablespoon olive oil in small skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and cook stirring for three minutes. Do not let the garlic brown. Place sautéed garlic in large glass bowl. Add tomatoes, reserved liquid, remaining oil, basil, and vinegar. Then add the seasonings to taste. Let sauce stand at room temperature for six hours. Cook desired pasta according to package directions and spoon sauce over it. Refrigerate leftovers.
News from the Federation Family
Indy BLAST 09, National Training Conference:
Attention National Association of Blind Merchants members: get out your 2009 calendars and mark the dates of our Business, Leadership, and Superior Training (BLAST) conference April 1 to 4 at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown. Receive unbelievably low room rates good from Monday, March 30, through Sunday, April 5, based on availability. Visit with merchants, agency partners, and suppliers with time left over to relax and enjoy the racing capital of the world and all that it has to offer. Conference activities blast off on Wednesday afternoon, April 1, and conclude midday Saturday, April 4.
Training sessions and meetings will begin Wednesday afternoon. We will be in meetings all day Thursday and Friday and Saturday morning. Those who attended our Memphis BLAST say that they learned much from the innovative, interactive, and informative training. We are working now to develop the training curriculum for BLAST ’09. Your suggestions are welcome and appreciated. The goal of the BLAST conference is to target training to meet the specific needs of blind entrepreneurs and our agency partners.
Working with our partner suppliers and purveyors, we are planning an even more extensive product and services showcase of exhibits during the Indy BLAST the afternoon of Thursday, April 2. New products, special pricing, accessible technology, and more will make this showcase one you don’t want to miss.
This year registration is $200, covering all conference activities and training materials. Those who register before Monday, March 2, 2009, will pay only $150, receiving a $50 discount for early registration. If you both register and reserve your room before March 2, you will receive a further discount of $25 and will therefore pay only $125. Provide your hotel confirmation number to receive the additional discount.
Send checks to NABM, 1223 Lake Plaza Drive Suite D, Colorado Springs, CO 80906. With your check include the name, phone number, and best mailing address and email address (if available) for each person you are registering. You can also register online at <www.blindmerchants.org>. Remember that the registration fee also includes tradeshow, receptions, leadership breakfast, luncheon, and more surprises.
The Indianapolis Marriott Downtown offers luxurious lodging at very low rates. Rates for our Indy BLAST are $97 a night for standard rooms all week long. All rates quoted are net per room, per night, plus the current 15.95 percent tax. The newly renovated Indianapolis Marriott Downtown Hotel is the premier destination for important business events in Indianapolis. The hotel is connected by skywalk to the Indiana Convention Center and Circle Centre Mall and is steps from Lucas Oil Stadium, White River State Park, NCAA Hall of Champions, Conseco Fieldhouse, and Victory Field and is just minutes from the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
For hotel reservations call the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown at (317) 822-3500 or (877) 640-7666. Tell the agent that you should be booked at the National Association of Blind Merchants’ group rate. Make your reservations now.
Working together, we can continue to grow the Randolph-Sheppard Program; we can transform it into a program of true entrepreneurship; and we can develop unique, dynamic, and profitable business opportunities outside of the Randolph-Sheppard Program. Please join us for our Indy BLAST. As those of you who have attended previous BLAST conferences know, we are always trying to mix things up. This is not your usual blind vendor conference. Join us as speakers, trainers, and consultants walk us through dynamic approaches to develop rapport with customers, building management, state licensing agencies, and colleagues. You’ll go home with new tools and techniques to reach your customers and keep bringing them back as well as with methods to anticipate, understand, embrace, and manage change in the marketplace. You will be energized by practical strategies to manage, teach, lead, and profit. We will have formal and informal opportunities throughout BLAST to network and build strong personal and business relationships.
For further information and to offer your suggestions, contact Kevan Worley, president, National Association of Blind Merchants, at (719) 527-0488 or (866) 543-6808, or email <[email protected]>. Make plans now to join us in Indy. It’s going to be a BLAST!
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.
RT Annual Training Conference:
The annual joint training conference of the Association of Southeastern Rehabilitation Teachers (ASERT) and the Mid-America Conference of Rehabilitation Teachers (MACRT) will be held November 13 to 15, 2008, at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel, 2101 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. N., Birmingham, Alabama 35203. The phone for registering is (205) 324-5000, fax (205) 307-3045. Early registration (by October 3) is $130; after October 3 it will be $160. This training conference is always rich in information to strengthen our professional skills and knowledge. For more details call Lenore Dillon at (256) 549-7790 or Sue Schulgin at (205) 290-4447. http://www.macrt.20m.com/Rainbow.html
Solar Bibles Available:
The Spoken Word of God in Orlando, Florida, has been serving the blind community for many years through distribution of CD and cassette Bibles. We are glad to announce the introduction of our self-contained solar audio Bible that requires no player. You can visit our Website <www.spokenwordofgod.org> for details. We also have the New American Standard version, which is not mentioned on our Website.
We provide quantity discounts when customers purchase multiple units. Please feel free to call or email if you have further questions, phone (800) 232-4253, fax (407) 521-0721, or email <[email protected]>.
Braille Chocolate Bars and More:
Besides Braille chocolate bars, Sweet Tooth has added chocolate guide dogs with Braille sayings (Best Friend), Braille chocolate watches, and other Braille chocolate items for various holidays, including Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Easter. Sweet Tooth also has a complete line of chocolate products. Price lists are available in print (regular and large), Braille, and email.
The Braille chocolate bars come with a choice of sayings including Happy Birthday, Love You, Have a Nice Day, Thank You, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays. They weigh 4 1/2 ounces and can be made in milk, dark, or white chocolate. The bars can be plain at a price of $2.50 each or with nuts, rice krispies, or peppermint at a price of $2.75 each. For sugar-free bars add $1.00 additional per bar. Bars are bagged in cellophane and tied with ribbons.
Shipping and handling is extra based on each order, and orders are shipped two-day priority U.S. Postal Service. To order, contact Sweet Tooth by calling Judy Davis (owner) at 32 Vinton Road, Rochester, New York 14622; (585) 544-1853; or by email at <[email protected]>. Payment is by check or money order only, made payable to Judy Davis.
VSVH Changes Name to
Audio & Braille Literacy Enhancement (ABLE):
After forty-three years Volunteer Services for the Visually Handicapped has officially changed its name to Audio & Braille Literacy Enhancement, Inc. The new name and accompanying logo bring a fresh, modern approach to the delivery of services. ABLE’s volunteers make every day Independence Day for hundreds of blind and visually impaired individuals, as well as others who are unable to read standard print materials.
“It is my hope that our new name helps spread the word about the options ABLE makes available to people who are not able to read standard print,” Executive Director Cheryl Orgas said. “Some members of our community may not be familiar with the unique transcription services we provide. Thanks to our volunteers, we are able to transcribe everything from school and college textbooks to restaurant menus to opera librettos to make them more accessible for individuals in the Milwaukee area and beyond.”
“Our new name also reflects the commitment of our ABLE volunteers and ABLE board in making sure that everyone in our community can access printed materials and information,” Board President Cheri McGrath added. “Thanks to our great staff of ABLE volunteers, individuals needing this assistance are able to access more information than ever before.”
For more information go to <www.ablenow.org> or email Cheryl Orgas at <[email protected]>.
Tactile Adaptations Kit Available:
The Tactile Adaptations Kit for blind, visually impaired, and special needs students was designed for teachers by Dr. Lillian A. Rankel (science teacher) and Marilyn Winograd (teacher of the blind). This kit has been used to teach chemistry, AP chemistry, and AP physics to a blind student and has also been used to teach chemistry to students with learning differences. The kit uses magnetic materials that adhere to a magnetic dry erase board and allow easy movement and sliding of the materials around the board. With this kit you will be able to introduce and reinforce concepts tactilely with colorful materials in a variety of textures. Science and math lessons can be made into tactile representations. Concepts can be shown in bright colors with rough or smooth surfaces on a magnetic board allowing for easy manipulation. Uppercase letters and numbers marked with Braille are included so that math and science formulas can be displayed and rearranged to solve problems. Circle charts, bar graphs, ionic compounds, molecules, DNA structures, cells, incline planes, vectors, and more can be presented. Magnetic-backed felt and foam sheets, textured dots for coding, various magnets, and magnetic strips can be used to create your own adaptations. The instruction booklet gives many examples for students from grammar school to college. This approach also targets multisensory learning students. The Tactile Adaptations Kit can be ordered for $149.00 plus shipping. A detailed description with photos and ordering information can be found at <www.MDWEducationalServices.com>.
Does anyone know of any staffing companies besides NTI National Telecommuting Institute that place people with disabilities in home-based jobs? I would appreciate any information that anyone can provide. Contact Christine Chaikin at <[email protected]>.
Braille Books for the Adult Market:
EXtasy Books has been providing books in electronic formats since 2003. We have recently begun making them available in an electronic Braille format that can be read with the BrailleNote, the PAC Mate, and similar notetakers for blind people. For a list of our books go to <http://www.extasybooks.com>. If you find and like a title that hasn't yet been converted into a Braille format, please let us know, and we can make it available.
New Ownership and Management at Independent Living Aids:
Effective May 1, 2008, Irwin Schneidmill and his three silent investment partners purchased Marvin Sandler’s Independent Living Aids (ILA), one of America's most well-known blindness aids and appliances mail order houses. Prior to this purchase Mr. Schneidmill had no direct professional association or experience in the blindness community, though several members of his family are disabled.
Optimistic about the future of ILA, Mr. Schneidmill said, "We have a good company and a good reputation. We are going to try and expand the business while continuing to provide the same high-quality customer service and array of products that our consumers have come to expect from ILA. We are going to do more advertising through the Internet and through circulation of more catalogues. I'm invested right now in meeting and introducing myself to long-standing customers and to cultivating relationships with new consumers. On a part-time consulting basis, Marvin is helping me to get acquainted with members of the blindness community."
Mr. Schneidmill has a BA in accounting from Baruch College, a division of the City University of New York. He is a certified public accountant, and he practiced as an accountant for over twenty years. After retiring, he ran several mail-order businesses.
Mr. Schneidmill told the Braille Monitor that he and his partners were introduced to each other by their accountant, who knew of each man’s interest in finding a business in which to invest or to manage. Mr. Schneidmill will be solely responsible for all operations and day-to-day management of ILA. Thus far he says the transition has gone smoothly. Purchasing the company from Marvin has been a "pleasant and clean" business arrangement. He says he is fortunate to have found three partners who were looking for a sound investment and who are comfortable with letting him handle company operations.
In conclusion Mr. Schneidmill said, "I have two major objectives: to run a good and profitable business and to do good work for our blind and deaf customers. I was given a ship sailing in the right direction, and I'm simply going to keep sailing it."
Honing Career Skills through Hadley:
Economic uncertainty makes finding work more challenging for all job seekers. How can blind people compete when fifty sighted people are applying for the same job? Blind job seekers often struggle with finding the time and resources to hone their skills to keep up or get ahead. Free distance education from the Hadley School for the Blind offers an accessible solution that provides engaging content, flexible scheduling, and responsive online courses. Enroll when you wish and complete your studies from your home or office. Since Hadley courses are designed to be studied in segments or lessons, you have the ability to learn in measured steps with personalized Hadley instruction and feedback from an assigned teacher. Hadley also can be a source to acquire a high school education and diploma if that is your initial need. Few distance education programs offer you access to a qualified instructor to make the learning process the best it can be.
Distance education will increase your marketability. Employers value the job candidate who demonstrates that he or she is a lifelong learner. They recognize that distance education provides essential additional training making you more employable. This is why Hadley has become the one-stop destination for the skills needed to help blind people land that dream career.
Hadley offers easy-to-use accessible courses to help blind people advance in their current positions or improve their skills to acquire the jobs they desire. Hadley is creating a Finding Employment course specifically designed to market your employability and help you identify the career for which you are best suited. Hadley courses are created from content gathered from research conducted by subject matter experts, including those who are blind. Once you complete a Hadley course, you have the necessary confidence to market your newly acquired skills to employers. Increasingly Hadley course titles are appearing on résumés of applicants identifying the skills they have learned in correspondence classes.
Hadley offers more than one hundred courses designed to meet your skill needs. Look for the newest courses in business communications, business writing, Internet basics, and Internet: beyond the basics--along with more traditional staples of Braille and typing. Hadley's new course, Using Excel, has become popular, offering a critical must-have business skill to enhance your résumé. How about a course in French or Spanish to make you stand out over other applicants? If you’re not certain what courses are best for you, sample lessons for many courses are available on the Hadley Website at <www.hadley.edu>. Remember, Hadley distance education is free.
Telephone Voice Service Available:
Lady Lou is the owner of the Ultimate System, and Jim is its programmer. The system allows disabled people to communicate by voice in a community forum. Several other systems on the market do the same thing; however, the monitoring and control of the Ultimate System set this one apart.
Lady Lou closely monitors the system’s content and maintains some simple ground rules for control and order so that everyone can benefit and enjoy the services. Other features include voicemail, community bulletin boards, news, weather and information, live radio stations, conference chat rooms, and much more. The partner carrier also provides local access numbers throughout the U.S. and Canada, which are included in the service. This system also allows members to take advantage of contests that earn prizes. The service is free. I ask only that you enjoy the system. For more information or to sign up, call (603) 580-9403.
Audio Guitar Instruction Available:
Visual impairment or visual learning difficulties shouldn’t stop anyone from learning music. The TalkingTabs All-Audio Guitar Instruction Complete Beginners Series Special Edition is the easiest, most entertaining way to learn to play guitar. Unlike other guitar instruction programs, ours has no materials to read. We use easy-to-follow, all-audio instructions that articulate exact hand and finger positions, guiding you every step of the way so you can begin playing notes, scales, chords, and finally your favorite songs.
It took our staff of Berklee College of Music alumni over a year to develop our innovative instruction method, which has proven to be successful for many who are blind, visually impaired, dyslexic, or simply auditory learners. Our easy-to-follow step-by-step audio instructions combined with guided playing exercises allow students to begin playing much more quickly and effectively than any other method.
Over twenty hours of professionally designed lessons on CD
Easy-to-follow audio instructions
No materials to read
Simple and enjoyable method for the whole family
All you need is a guitar and a CD player
Course includes lessons for tuning, picking, strumming, fretting, scales, open chords, power chords, twelve-bar blues, playing techniques, and much more. Teacher’s edition is available. It includes syllabus, sixteen- and eighteen-week lesson plans and assessment guide in Braille, large print, normal print, and CD format.
After completing the TalkingTabs program, you will be ready to learn to play many songs using our Play-It-Now tunes, which are the simplest and most exciting all-audio song lessons for guitarists ever created. Three rock Play-It-Now tunes are included in the TalkingTabs Guitar Instruction-Complete Beginners Series Special Edition. However, you can substitute Christian, country, or traditional song lessons. For more information, visit <www.talkingtabs.com> or call us at (800) 660-6850.
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.
I have the following items for sale:
1. Braille 'n Speak 640 with leather case and a disk drive, cables, Braille and print manuals―$225 or best offer; postage not included. Free Matter recommended.
2. Sharp electronic inkprint typewriter (purchased in 1992) in good working condition with print manual―$35 or best offer; postage not included.
3. Perkins Brailler in good working condition, $250. Postage not included. Free Matter recommended.
Contact Vileen Shah at <[email protected]> (preferred), or at (847) 647-6677 evenings and weekends.
BrailleSense in excellent condition. Includes CD manual, Braille command summary, latest software, all of the original cords and carrying straps, as well as a wireless card that I am throwing in. Asking $3,750. Contact Connie at (612) 822-6991 or by email at <[email protected]>.
1. Dell Inspiron E1705 model laptop with Core Duo processor (1.6GHz), 1GB DDR2, 256MB. 17-inch widescreen. Original price over $2,100. One year old, lightly used. Price $800, free shipping.
2. ZoomText magnifier/reader software. ZoomText magnifier/reader gives you the total computer access solution. See and hear what you're doing in all of your applications. ZoomText reads your documents, Webpages, and email, right through your computer's speakers. Print size and amount of speech can both be customized. Price $500, free shipping.
3. ZoomText computer keyboard with large white keys on black background. Price $75, shipping extra.
Complete system―Dell laptop with ZoomText software installed and operational plus the keyboard, $1,250, free shipping. For more information contact David Park at <[email protected]> or call (330) 289-0889. Bank certified check or money order please, no credit cards.
Faith Cummings sells a variety of hand-knit and crocheted items, from wearables to afghans. She also dresses dolls of different sizes in outfits from modern to historical patterns. She does not keep a large inventory; items can be made to order. Prices vary according to the item ordered. If you are interested, email her at <[email protected]> or call (540) 337-2036.
Tandem Recumbent Tricycle for Sale:
Great for touring, this tandem tricycle was rebuilt and improved three years ago. It has adjustable front and rear positions for riders of approximately 5 feet, 2 inches, to 6 feet, 3 inches, in height. Recumbent means the seat is like a chair with a comfortable high-back seat with headrest. The frame is welded metal with blue finish. It has two twenty-inch front wheels and a twenty-six-inch rear wheel. All three wheels have their own disc brakes, including a parking brake lock. The three-year-old replacements and improvements are new chain; sprockets for front rider and rear rider; three-speed front derailer and six-speed rear derailer (totaling eighteen speeds); new brake cables; cleaned and refurbished brakes; combination set of left-hand and right-hand handle-bar-tip click-to-position-style shift controls; and new tubes and tires, spokes and rims. The trike has been used about fifty hours in the last three years. It is a 1990 TRC brand, built in Monroe, Michigan (no longer in business). I am asking $1,200 or best offer. If interested, call Steve Waltke (517) 347-7046. If you leave a message, speak your contact information slowly and clearly.
MagniSight Reader for Sale:
This is a MagniSight Reader, B&W 20-inch in-line, X-R20-NIL. The owner no longer needs it and is hoping to sell it for $700 or best offer. This is a 1995 unit that cost $2,200 at that time. Contact Constance Foley at (908) 658-4471, or email Susan Balsley at <[email protected]> and she will relay the message.
Brytech Noteteller2. It usually does not recognize the new $5 bills, but otherwise it works superbly. Asking $200. CanoScan LiDE 25 Color Image Scanner. $40 plus $7 shipping/handling. Contact Larry Railey at <[email protected]> or (281) 444-0907.
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