Vol. 53, No. 5 May 2010
Daniel B. Frye, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
telephone: (410) 659-9314
email address: [email protected]
Website address: http://www.nfb.org
NFB-NEWSLINE® information: (866) 504-7300
Letters to the president, address changes,
subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature
should be sent to the National Office.
Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also
be sent to the National Office or may be emailed to [email protected]
subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year.
Members are invited, and nonmembers are requested, to cover
the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to
National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 53, No. 5 May 2010
Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind?
by Ronza Othman
by Chris Kuell
Woman's Mission Helps Sight-Impaired See the Universe
by Jessica Kastner Plaskett
Advice from the Trenches
Assistance for a Would-Be Law Student
Looking Good Without Looking
A Guide to Personal Style for Blind Men
by Linda Zani
The Continuing Saga of People-First Language
by Larry E. Streeter
Ask Miss Whozit
Featured Book in the Jacobus tenBroek Library
by Ed Morman
A Quick Introduction to the Hilton Anatole Hotel
by Mary Ellen Jernigan
Who Needs Water to Row in Dallas
by Aerial Gilbert
Copyright 2010 by the National Federation of the Blind
In early April new signs were installed at the Wells Street entrance of the NFB Jernigan Institute. The lettering is silver-blue and large enough to be read with ease by a pedestrian or from a passing vehicle. The two duplicate signs are attached to the building twenty to thirty feet from the ground. One is to the left of the left entrance, and the other is to the right of the right entrance. The signs read:
of the Blind
The 2010 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Dallas, Texas, July 3-8, at the Hilton Anatole Hotel at 2201 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, Texas 75207. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Hilton Anatole staff only. Call (214) 761-7500.
The 2010 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $62 and triples and quads $67 a night, plus a 15 percent sales tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2010. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2010, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Guestroom amenities include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and high-speed Internet access. The Hilton Anatole has several excellent restaurants, twenty-four-hour-a-day room service, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Dallas with shuttle service to both the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport and Love Field.
The schedule for the 2010 convention will follow that of last year:
Saturday, July 3 Seminar Day
Sunday, July 4 Registration Day
Monday, July 5 Board Meeting and Division Day
Tuesday, July 6 Opening Session
Wednesday, July 7 Business Session
Thursday, July 8 Banquet Day and Adjournment
Please register online at www.nfb.org, or print legibly on this form, or provide all the requested information and mail to the address below.
Registrant Name ___________________________________________________
State ___________________________________ Zip ____________________
___ I will pick up my registration packet at convention.
___ The following person will pick up my registration packet:
Pickup Name ______________________________________
Please register only one person per registration form.
One check or money order may cover multiple registrations.
Check or money order (sorry, no credit cards) must be enclosed with registration form(s).
Number of preregistrations x $15 = ____________
Prepurchased banquet tickets x $40 = ____________
Prepurchased barbeque tickets x $40 = ___________
All preconvention registration and meal ticket sales are final (no refunds).
Mail to: National Federation of the Blind
Attn: Convention Registration
200 E. Wells Street at Jernigan Place
Baltimore, MD 21230
Registrations must be postmarked by May 31, 2010.
From the Editor: Though brief profiles of the members of the current board of directors can be found on our Website at any time, we periodically revise and reprint here a compilation we have used for years. It includes profiles of Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and members of the current NFB board. A number of changes to the board have occurred since we last published this piece in January 2007, so here it is:
The National Federation of the Blind has become by far the most significant force in the affairs of the blind today, and its actions have had an impact on many other groups and programs. The Federation's president, Marc Maurer, radiates confidence and persuasiveness. He says, "If I can find twenty people who care about a thing, then we can get it done. And if there are two hundred, two thousand, or twenty thousand, that's even better."
The National Federation of the Blind is a civil rights movement with all that the term implies. President Maurer says, "You can't expect to obtain freedom by having somebody else hand it to you. You have to do the job yourself. The French could not have won the American Revolution for us. That would merely have shifted the governing authority from one colonial power to another. So too we the blind are the only ones who can win freedom for the blind, which is both frightening and reassuring. If we don't get out and do what we must, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We have control of the essential elements."
Although many organizations and agencies for the blind exist in the United States today, there is only one National Federation of the Blind. This organization was established in 1940 when the blind of seven states‑‑California, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin‑‑sent delegates to its first convention at Wilkes‑Barre, Pennsylvania. Since that time progress has been rapid and steady. The Federation is recognized by blind men and women throughout the entire country as their primary means of joint expression; and today‑‑with active affiliates in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico‑‑it is the primary voice of the nation's blind.
To explain this spectacular growth, three questions must be asked and answered: (1) What are the conditions in the general environment of the blind which have impelled them to organize? (2) What are the purpose, belief, and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind? (3) Who are its leaders, and what are their qualifications to understand and solve the problems of blindness? Even a brief answer to these questions is instructive.
When the Federation came into being in 1940, the outlook for the blind was anything but bright. The nation's welfare system was so discouraging to individual initiative that those forced to accept public assistance had little hope of ever achieving self‑support again, and those who sought competitive employment in regular industry or the professions found most of the doors barred against them. The universal goodwill expressed toward the blind was not the wholesome goodwill of respect felt toward equals; it was the misguided goodwill of pity felt toward inferiors. In effect the system said to the blind, "Sit on the sidelines of life. This game is not for you. If you have creative talents, we are sorry, but we cannot use them." The Federation came into being to combat these expressions of discrimination and to promote new ways of thought concerning blindness. Although great progress has been made toward the achievement of these goals, much still remains to be done.
The Federation believes that blind people are essentially normal and that blindness in itself is not a mental or psychological handicap. It can be reduced to the level of a mere physical nuisance. Legal, economic, and social discrimination based upon the false assumption that the blind are somehow different from the sighted must be abolished, and equal opportunity must be made available to blind people. Because of their personal experience with blindness, the blind themselves are best qualified to lead the way in solving their own problems, but the general public should be invited to participate in finding solutions. Upon these fundamentals the National Federation of the Blind predicates its philosophy.
As for the leadership of the organization, all of the officers and members of the board of directors are blind, and all give generously of their time and resources in promoting the work of the Federation. The board consists of seventeen elected members, five of whom are the constitutional officers of the organization. These members of the board of directors represent a wide cross-section of the blind population of the United States. Their backgrounds are different, and their experiences vary widely; but they are drawn together by the common bond of having met blindness individually and successfully in their own lives and by their united desire to see other blind people have the opportunity to do likewise. A profile of the leadership of the organization shows why it is so effective and demonstrates the progress made by blind people during the past seventy years--for in the story of the lives of these leaders can be found the greatest testimonial to the soundness of the Federation's philosophy. The cumulative record of their individual achievements is an overwhelming proof, leading to an inescapable conclusion.
The moving force in the founding of the National Federation of the Blind, and its spiritual and intellectual father, was Jacobus tenBroek. Born in 1911, young tenBroek (the son of a prairie homesteader in Canada) lost the sight of one eye as the result of a bow‑and‑arrow accident at the age of seven. His remaining eyesight deteriorated until at the age of fourteen he was totally blind. Shortly afterward he and his family traveled to Berkeley so that he could attend the California School for the Blind. Within three years he was an active part of the local organization of the blind.
By 1934 he had joined Dr. Newel Perry and others to form the California Council of the Blind, which later became the National Federation of the Blind of California. This organization was a prototype for the nationwide federation that tenBroek would form six years later.
The same year the Federation was founded (1940), Jacobus tenBroek received his doctorate in jurisprudence from the University of California, completed a year as Brandeis Research Fellow at Harvard Law School, and was appointed to the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School.
Two years later he began teaching at the University of California at Berkeley, becoming a full professor in 1953, chairman of the department of speech in 1955, and professor of political science in 1963. During this period Professor tenBroek published several books and more than fifty articles and monographs in the fields of welfare, government, and law--establishing a reputation as one of the nation's foremost scholars on matters of constitutional law. One of his books, Prejudice, War, and the Constitution, won the Woodrow Wilson Award of the American Political Science Association in 1955 as the best book of the year on government and democracy. Other books are California's Dual System of Family Law (1964), Hope Deferred: Public Welfare and the Blind (1959), The Antislavery Origins of the Fourteenth Amendment (1951)--revised and republished in 1965 as Equal Under Law, and The Law of the Poor (edited in 1966).
In the course of his academic career Professor tenBroek was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Palo Alto and was twice the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1947 he earned the degree of S.J.D. from Harvard Law School. In addition he was awarded honorary degrees by two institutions of higher learning.
Dr. tenBroek's lifelong companion was his devoted wife Hazel. Together they raised three children and worked inseparably on research, writing, and academic and Federation projects. Until her declining health prevented travel, Mrs. tenBroek continued as an active member of the organized blind movement. She died October 7, 2005.
In 1950 Dr. tenBroek was made a member of the California State Board of Social Welfare by Governor Earl Warren. Later reappointed to the board three times, he was elected its chairman in 1960 and served in that capacity until 1963.
The brilliance of Jacobus tenBroek's career led some skeptics to suggest that his achievements were beyond the reach of what they called the "ordinary blind person." What tenBroek recognized in himself was not that he was exceptional, but that he was normal--that his blindness had nothing to do with whether he could be a successful husband and father, do scholarly research, write a book, make a speech, guide students engaged in social action, or otherwise lead a productive life.
Jacobus tenBroek died of cancer at the age of fifty‑six in 1968. His successor, Kenneth Jernigan, in a memorial address, said truly of him: "The relationship of this man to the organized blind movement, which he brought into being in the United States and around the world, was such that it would be equally accurate to say that the man was the embodiment of the movement or that the movement was the expression of the man.
"For tens of thousands of blind Americans over more than a quarter of a century, he was leader, mentor, spokesman, and philosopher. He gave to the organized blind movement the force of his intellect and the shape of his dreams. He made it the symbol of a cause barely imagined before his coming: the cause of self‑expression, self‑direction, and self‑sufficiency on the part of blind people. Step-by-step, year-by-year, action-by-action, he made that cause succeed."
Kenneth Jernigan was a leader in the National Federation of the Blind for more than forty‑six years. He was president (with one brief interruption) from 1968 until July of 1986. Even after Jernigan ceased to be president of the Federation, he continued as one of its principal leaders until his death on October 12, 1998. He was loved and respected by tens of thousands of members and nonmembers of the Federation, both blind and sighted.
Born in 1926, Kenneth Jernigan grew up on a farm in central Tennessee. He received his elementary and secondary education at the school for the blind in Nashville. After high school Jernigan managed a furniture shop in Beech Grove, Tennessee, making all the furniture and operating the business.
In the fall of 1945 Jernigan matriculated at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville. Active in campus affairs from the outset, he was soon elected to office in his class and to important positions in other student organizations. Jernigan graduated with honors in 1948 with a B.S. degree in social science. In 1949 he received a master's degree in English from Peabody College in Nashville, where he subsequently completed additional graduate study. While at Peabody he was a staff writer for the school newspaper, co‑founder of an independent literary magazine, and member of the Writers' Club. In 1949 he received the Captain Charles W. Browne Award, at that time presented annually by the American Foundation for the Blind to the nation's outstanding blind student.
Jernigan then spent four years as a teacher of English at the Tennessee School for the Blind. During this period he became active in the Tennessee Association of the Blind (now the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee). He was elected to the vice presidency of the organization in 1950 and to the presidency in 1951. In that position he planned the 1952 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind, which was held in Nashville, and he then planned every NFB national convention through 1998.
In 1952 Jernigan was first elected to the NFB board of directors, and in 1953 he was appointed to the faculty of the California Orientation Center for the Blind in Oakland, where he played a major role in developing the best program of its kind then in existence.
From 1958 until 1978 he served as director of the Iowa State Commission for the Blind. In this capacity he was responsible for administering state rehabilitation programs, home teaching, home industries, an orientation and adjustment center, and library services for the blind and physically handicapped. The improvements made in services to the blind of Iowa under the Jernigan administration have never before or since been equaled anywhere in the country.
In 1960 the Federation presented Jernigan with its Newel Perry Award for outstanding accomplishment in services for the blind. In 1968 he was given a special citation by the president of the United States. Harold Russell, the chairman of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, came to Des Moines to present the award. He said: "If a person must be blind, it is better to be blind in Iowa than anywhere else in the nation or in the world. This statement," the citation went on to say, "sums up the story of the Iowa Commission for the Blind during the Jernigan years and more pertinently of its director, Kenneth Jernigan. That narrative is much more than a success story. It is the story of high aspiration magnificently accomplished‑‑of an impossible dream become reality."
Jernigan received too many honors and awards to enumerate individually, including honorary doctorates from four institutions of higher education. He was also asked to serve as a special consultant to or member of numerous boards and advisory bodies. The most notable among these are member of the National Advisory Committee on Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (appointed in 1972 by the secretary of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare); special consultant on services for the blind (appointed in 1975 by the federal commissioner of rehabilitation); advisor on museum programs for blind visitors to the Smithsonian Institution (appointed in 1975); special advisor to the White House Conference on Library and Information Services (appointed in 1977 by President Gerald Ford). In July of 1990 Jernigan received an award for distinguished service from the president of the United States.
To date he has been the only person ever to be invited to deliver keynote addresses to the primary gatherings of the two worldwide blindness organizations in a single year: the fourth quadrennial meeting of the World Blind Union in August 1996 and the annual meeting of the International Council for the Education of the Visually Impaired in spring 1997. In 1998 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, the first-ever International Leadership Award from the American Foundation for the Blind, and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind's Winston Gordon Award for his leadership in establishing NEWSLINE® for the Blind.
Kenneth Jernigan's writings and speeches on blindness are better known and have touched the lives of more blind people than those of any other person writing today. From 1991 until his death he edited the NFB's immensely popular series of paperbacks known as the Kernel Books. On July 23, 1975, he spoke before the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and his address was broadcast live throughout the nation on National Public Radio. Through the years he appeared repeatedly on network radio and television interview programs.
In 1978 Jernigan moved to Baltimore to become executive director of the American Brotherhood for the Blind (now the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults) and director of the National Center for the Blind. As president of the National Federation of the Blind at that time, he led the organization through the most impressive period of growth in its history to date. The creation and development of the National Center for the Blind and the NFB's expansion into its position today as the most influential voice and force in the affairs of the blind stand as the culmination of Kenneth Jernigan's lifework and a tribute to his brilliance and commitment to the blind of this nation.
From 1987 to 1997 he played an active role internationally as president of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. He traveled widely and spoke frequently before international groups about blindness and the NFB's positive philosophy that changes lives and society.
Jernigan's dynamic wife Mary Ellen remains an active member of the Federation. Although sighted, she works with dedication in the movement and is known and loved by thousands of Federationists throughout the country.
Speaking at a convention of the National Federation of the Blind, Jernigan said of the organization and its philosophy (and also of his own philosophy):
"As we look ahead, the world holds more hope than gloom for us‑‑and, best of all, the future is in our own hands. For the first time in history we can be our own masters and do with our lives what we will; and the sighted (as they learn who we are and what we are) can and will work with us as equals and partners. In other words we are capable of full membership in society, and the sighted are capable of accepting us as such‑‑and, for the most part, they want to.
"We want no Uncle Toms--no sellouts, no apologists, no rationalizers; but we also want no militant hell‑raisers or unbudging radicals. One will hurt our cause as much as the other. We must win true equality in society, but we must not dehumanize ourselves in the process; and we must not forget the graces and amenities, the compassions and courtesies which comprise civilization itself and distinguish people from animals and life from existence.
"Let people call us what they will and say what they please about our motives and our movement. There is only one way for the blind to achieve first‑class citizenship and true equality. It must be done through collective action and concerted effort; and that means the National Federation of the Blind. There is no other way, and those who say otherwise are either uninformed or unwilling to face the facts.
"We are the strongest force in the affairs of the blind today, and we must also recognize the responsibilities of power and the fact that we must build a world that is worth living in when the war is over--and, for that matter, while we are fighting it. In short, we must use both love and a club, and we must have sense enough to know when to do which‑‑long on compassion; short on hatred; and, above all, not using our philosophy as a cop‑out for cowardice or inaction or rationalization. We know who we are and what we must do--and we will never go back. The public is not against us. Our determination proclaims it; our gains confirm it; our humanity demands it."
Born in 1951, Marc Maurer was the second in a family of six children. His blindness was caused by overexposure to oxygen after his premature birth, but he and his parents were determined that this should not prevent him from living a full and normal life.
He began his education at the Iowa Braille and Sight-Saving School, where he became an avid Braille reader. In the fifth grade he returned home to Boone, Iowa, where he attended parochial schools. During high school (having taken all the courses in the curriculum), he simultaneously took classes at the junior college.
Maurer ran three different businesses before finishing high school: a paper route, a lawn care business, and an enterprise producing and marketing maternity garter belts designed by his mother. This last venture was so successful that his younger brother took over the business when Maurer left home.
In the summer of 1969, after graduating from high school, Maurer enrolled as a student at the Orientation and Adjustment Center of the Iowa Commission for the Blind and attended his first convention of the NFB. He was delighted to discover in both places that blind people and what they thought mattered. This was a new phenomenon in his experience, and it changed his life. Kenneth Jernigan was director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind at the time, and Maurer soon grew to admire and respect him. When Maurer expressed an interest in overhauling a car engine, the Commission for the Blind purchased the necessary equipment. Maurer completed that project and actually worked for a time as an automobile mechanic. He believes today that mastering engine repair played an important part in changing his attitudes about blindness.
Maurer graduated cum laude from the University of Notre Dame in 1974. As an undergraduate he took an active part in campus life, including election to the Honor Society. Then he enrolled at the University of Indiana School of Law, where he received his Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1977.
Maurer was elected president of the Student Division of the National Federation of the Blind in 1971 and reelected in 1973 and 1975. Also in 1971 at the age of twenty he was elected vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana. He was elected president in 1973 and reelected in 1975.
During law school Maurer worked summers for the office of the secretary of state of Indiana. After graduation he moved to Toledo, Ohio, to accept a position as the director of the Senior Legal Assistance Project operated by ABLE (Advocates for Basic Legal Equality).
In 1978 Maurer moved to Washington, D.C., to become an attorney with the Rates and Routes Division in the office of the general counsel of the Civil Aeronautics Board. Initially he worked on rates cases but soon advanced to dealing with international matters and then to doing research and writing opinions on constitutional issues and board action. He wrote opinions for the chairman and made appearances before the full board to discuss those opinions.
In 1981 he went into private practice in Baltimore, Maryland, where he specialized in civil litigation and property matters. But increasingly he concentrated on representing blind individuals and groups in the courts. He has now become one of the most experienced and knowledgeable attorneys in the country regarding the laws, precedents, and administrative rulings concerning civil rights and discrimination against the blind. He is a member of the Bar in Indiana, Ohio, Iowa, and Maryland and a member of the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States.
Maurer has always been active in civic and political affairs, having run for the state legislature from Baltimore. Through the years he has also served on the board of directors of his apartment complex's tenants association, the board of his community association, and the school board of his children's school. In 1981 Maurer was elected president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers and served in that office until 1985. From 1984 until 1986 he served as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland.
An important companion in Maurer's activities and a leader in her own right is his wife Patricia. The Maurers were married in 1973, and they have two children--David Patrick, born March 10, 1984, and Dianna Marie, born July 12, 1987.
At the 1985 convention in Louisville, Kentucky, Kenneth Jernigan announced that he would not stand for re-election as president of the National Federation of the Blind the following year, and he recommended Marc Maurer as his successor. In Kansas City in 1986 the Convention elected Maurer by resounding acclamation, and he has served as president ever since. From 1997 to 2000 he also served as president of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, and he chaired the WBU Committee on the Restoration of the Louis Braille Birthplace in Coupvray, France. In 2004 he became vice president of the World Blind Union North America/Caribbean Region and in 2006 reassumed the presidency.
Maurer was honored with the Maryland Black Caucus's Leadership Award in 1985, the United States Presidential Medal for Leadership in 1990, the 1990 Heritage Award from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, and the Baltimore Business Journal's 1999 Innovation Award for Excellence in Workplace Technology. Recent honors include the 2002 VME Robert Dole Award and the Daily Record's 2002 Innovator of the Year award. He joined President George W. Bush in the Oval Office in July of 2001 to celebrate the success of the NFB Everest Expedition and once again when President Bush signed into law the Help America Vote Act of 2002. The Daily Record acknowledged President Maurer's contributions again in April 2009 when he was recognized as an Influential Marylander. He received honorary degrees from California's Menlo College in 1998 and the University of Louisville in 1999. More recently he received an honorary doctorate from the University of South Carolina Upstate and the honorary doctorate of laws from the University of Notre Dame. In 1987 he delivered an address at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and in 2000 he was invited to deliver addresses on civil rights at Oxford University and Birmingham University in the United Kingdom. After Kenneth Jernigan’s death he edited the NFB's Kernel Book series of optimistic paperbacks written by blind people about blindness.
As president of the National Federation of the Blind, Maurer is boldly leading the organization into a new test of its resolve, beginning with the visionary expansion of the National Center for the Blind--the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, which was completed in the spring of 2004. The facility, located on the grounds of the National Center, has added more than 170,000 square feet to the NFB's headquarters complex. The Institute, which is the first of its kind, conceived and built by the blind for the blind, is developing innovative education, technologies, products, and services that support independence for the world's blind. One of the early products of the Institute was the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind handheld reading machine and its even smaller successor, the knfbReader Mobile, produced in conjunction with the noted futurist and inventor, Raymond Kurzweil. Maurer's unswerving determination to succeed and his absolute conviction that the organized blind are the best-equipped people to solve the problems facing them have set the tone and are guiding the organization into an exciting new period of growth and accomplishment.
Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder was born in Lima, Peru, in 1957. He and his brother Steve were adopted and moved to the United States when he was nineteen months old. Born with normal vision, Dr. Schroeder became blind at the age of seven after suffering a severe allergic reaction known as Stephens-Johnson's syndrome. The reaction did not immediately take all his sight, but his vision deteriorated gradually over a nine-year period, leaving him totally blind at the age of sixteen.
He attended public school in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but received no special education services to teach him to read Braille or learn any alternative techniques that would allow him to function competitively. Although raised in New Mexico, Dr. Schroeder spent much time in San Francisco receiving medical treatment in an effort to save his vision. As a result he was living in California when he became totally blind. For this reason, following graduation from high school, Dr. Schroeder attended the Orientation Center for the Blind in Albany, California. There he found the Federation, and his involvement in the organization has been central to his life and work ever since.
Through the Federation he met blind people from all walks of life who encouraged him, eventually convincing him that he could live a normal, productive life. Dr. Schroeder attended San Francisco State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1977 and a master's degree in special education in 1978. After completing that degree, he went to work teaching cane travel in the Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired's orientation center in Lincoln. For the next two years he returned each summer to California to complete postgraduate studies in orientation and mobility in order to become eligible for national certification as a cane travel teacher. This was revolutionary at the time. He was the first blind person ever to be admitted to a university program in orientation and mobility. Although he graduated with distinction, he was denied certification solely on the basis of blindness. Nevertheless, that did not stop him from continuing with his career or education. He earned a Ph.D. in education administration from the University of New Mexico in May 1994.
His professional achievements are impressive. In 1980 he returned to New Mexico to work as a teacher of blind children for the Albuquerque Public Schools. Knowing how important the Federation had been in his own life, he immediately began integrating Federation philosophy into his work. In a year he was running the program for blind children across the district. The results were dramatic and the program so effective that in the early 1980s the district's program for blind children was featured on the Today Show.
While at that time in New Mexico programs for blind children were the finest in the nation, services for blind adults were among the poorest. As president of the New Mexico affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Schroeder was deeply troubled by the lack of employment opportunities for blind people in the state.
In 1986, after a long, bitter legislative fight, the Federation succeeded in establishing the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. Dr. Schroeder was appointed the Commission's first executive director, giving him the opportunity to bring Federation philosophy into the work of the newly founded agency. In a short time the program was transformed, and soon the New Mexico Commission for the Blind stood out as the most progressive and successful rehabilitation agency in the country. Under Dr. Schroeder's leadership blind people in New Mexico were being assisted to go to work in very good jobs—in fact, jobs paying so well that they had higher earnings than blind people anywhere else in the nation.
Dr. Schroeder's accomplishments did not go unnoticed. In 1994 President Bill Clinton appointed Schroeder to serve as the ninth commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) within the U.S. Department of Education. As RSA commissioner he administered a $2.5 billion dollar program providing services to more than one million people with disabilities each year. He focused on high-quality employment--better jobs, jobs with a future, jobs enabling people to achieve a good and equitable standard of living. His crowning achievement as RSA commissioner was ending the shameful practice of placing blind people in sheltered workshops, often at subminimum wages, rather than providing training to enable them to obtain high-quality, integrated employment with better wages and the opportunity for upward mobility. Following his service as RSA commissioner, he joined the faculty of the Interwork Institute at San Diego State University. He now works as a research professor specializing in leadership and public policy in vocational rehabilitation.
His involvement in the National Federation of the Blind continues. On July 5, 2006, Dr. Schroeder was unanimously elected first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind. In addition to his service on the Federation's board of directors, since 2004 he has served as the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia and often represents the Federation at national and international meetings and conferences.
Dr. Schroeder is married to Cathy Nusser Schroeder. They have two children, Carrie, born in 1981, and Matthew, born in 1983. Dr. Schroeder is the first to admit that it is the Federation that has made the difference in his life, enabling him to achieve professionally and to live a normal, productive life. In his own words, "We still have much work to do. Far too many blind people still face discrimination, still live in isolation and poverty, still lack access to the encouragement and training they need to live productive, integrated lives. Nevertheless, in spite of all that remains to be done, because of the National Federation of the Blind, opportunities are better for blind people today than at any time in history. The change we have made cannot be turned back, cannot be taken away. We have changed forever what it means to be blind, and we and society are better off as a result."
Ron Brown was born in Gary, Indiana, the first boy of eight children, to Marzette and Myra Brown on May 15, 1956. When he was a senior in high school, he became blind after he was shot on his way home from a basketball game. At the time he knew nothing about blindness and was overwhelmed by the feeling that his entire life had been radically changed in an instant. One of the first painful lessons he learned was that many of his friends could not deal with his blindness and stayed away from him. Luckily he began to make new friends, members of the National Federation of the Blind. They became inspiring role models for Ron, teaching him that it was respectable to be blind and that he could continue to strive for the goals he had set himself.
Armed with this newfound freedom, Ron graduated from Ball State University with a bachelor of science degree in health science. He then went to work at Tradewinds Rehabilitation Center in Indiana, where he met his wife Jean, who was on the staff. Eventually he was offered a job in the Business Enterprise Program. He had always wanted to own his own business, and this gave him the opportunity to do so. He has now been in business for himself for twenty years. More recently Ron returned to school to earn a master's degree in educational psychology with a certification in orientation and mobility from Louisiana Tech University. He now owns a second business, teaching cane travel to blind people in the state of Indiana. Ron has received the Mayor's Lifetime Achievement Award in Rehabilitation and the Margaret Fairbearing Outstanding Service Award for Business and Industry.
As Ron Brown has developed and matured in his personal life, his commitment to and service in the National Federation of the Blind have deepened as well. In the early years he was a chapter president and was then elected to the NFB of Indiana's board of directors. He was first elected president of the affiliate in 1996 and has been reelected every two years since. In 2001 he was elected to serve on the NFB board of directors. He served in this capacity until 2008, when the Convention elected him to serve as second vice president of the organization.
Looking back, Ron says, "Becoming a member of the national board is the fulfillment of a life dream. I have been an advocate for blind people for more than twenty-five years, and with every passing year my commitment to serving the blind of this nation increases. My life indeed changed the night I became blind but with the perspective I now have, I must say that it was for the better."
Gary Wunder was born three months prematurely in 1955, the oldest of four children. His family lived in Kansas City, Missouri, and Wunder remembers that, since he had been blind from birth, he managed to persuade everyone in his family except his father to do precisely what he wanted. It would be many years before Wunder could appreciate his father's instinctive understanding that Gary had to learn to do things for himself.
Wunder tells with amusement the story of his dawning awareness of his blindness. When he was quite young, his home had sliding glass doors separating the living room from the patio. When those doors were closed, he could not hear and therefore did not know what was happening on the other side and assumed that no one else could either. One day he found several soft drink bottles on the patio and broke them. His father then opened the doors and asked if he had broken the bottles. Gary said he had not and that he did not know how they had been broken. His father then astonished him by saying that both his parents had watched him break the bottles and that his mother was now crying because she had thought surely her baby couldn't tell a lie. Gary's response was to say, "Well, she knows better now."
Wunder attended grades one through five at a Kansas City public school. When he was ten, a boy who attended the Missouri School for the Blind persuaded him that he was missing real life by staying at home. At the school his friend told him kids rode trains and buses. They could bowl and swim and didn't have to listen to parents. As a result Wunder did some persuading at home and was on hand for sixth grade and some necessary but painful lessons about that real world.
At the close of seventh grade Wunder returned to public schools, having learned several vitally important lessons: he knew the basics of using a white cane; he recognized that his father's demands on him had sprung from strong love and eagerness for his son to succeed; and he understood that people beyond his own family had worth and deserved his respect. But he had also learned that the school for the blind was not the promised land, and he was delighted once more to be in public schools for eighth grade and high school. He was elected to the National Honor Society his senior year but struggled with the mechanics of getting his work done. Braille was not readily available, and readers were hard to recruit without money to pay them.
Wunder planned to attend the University of Missouri at Kansas City in order to live with his grandmother, but, after a taste of freedom at the orientation center in Columbia, Missouri, the summer before college, he decided to enroll at the university's Columbia campus, where everyone walked everywhere and where he could contrive as many as three or four dates an evening if he hurried from place to place.
Wunder enjoys recounting the adventure which persuaded him that a blind person should always carry a white cane: "I was having dinner with a young woman who lived near me, so I had not brought my cane, figuring that I wouldn't need it. To my consternation and her distress, my plate of liver and onions slid into my lap. She asked if I wanted her to walk me home so that I could change. I was already so embarrassed that I assured her I would be right back and that I did not need her assistance. The busiest intersection in Columbia lay between me and clean slacks, and after I successfully survived that street crossing, I swore that I would never again be caught without my cane."
Wunder decided to major in political science and philosophy because he felt compelled to avoid the science and math that he loved but feared to take. During his sophomore year he met a professor from Central Missouri State University who suggested that he was ducking the challenge. Together they explored the question of whether or not a blind person could follow schematics and read voltmeters. The answers seemed to be yes, so Wunder transferred to Central Missouri State, where he graduated in 1977 with a degree in electronics technology.
He had done well with the courses, but he did not see how he could run a repair shop with its responsibility for mastering hundreds of schematics for appliances. He could teach electronics, but the professors from whom he had learned the most were those who had firsthand experience. He didn't want to be the theory‑only kind of teacher.
Wunder looked for interim jobs after graduation while he tried to decide what to do, and he discovered the hard way that blind job‑seekers have to be better than the competition in order to be considered at all. He vowed to become so well-trained at doing something that would-be employers could not ignore him. He enrolled in a ten-month course in computer programming offered by the Extension Division of the University of Missouri. No blind person had ever entered the program before, but Wunder completed it successfully and was hired immediately (in the fall of 1978) by the Pathology Department of the University of Missouri Hospital and Clinics in Columbia. Years and promotions later Wunder is still successfully working at the hospital and is now a programmer analyst-expert in the Information Services Department.
Wunder first learned about the National Federation of the Blind the summer before his senior year of high school. He says, "In the beginning I thought this talk about discrimination was a pretty good racket. No one did those things to me, and I assumed that all this Federation talk about jobs being denied and parents having children taken away from them was an effective way of raising funds. I didn't realize that my father's name and reputation in my hometown were protecting me from the worst of real life. So far I had gotten what I wanted, including a motorcycle to ride on our farm and my own horse. It was some time before I recognized that these talented and committed blind people whom I was getting to know in the Federation were trying to teach me about the world that I was going to inherit. They frightened me a little, but more and more I wanted to be like them."
In late 1973, several months after Wunder started college in Columbia, a Federation organizing team arrived to establish a new chapter, and he took an active part in the preparations. Wunder was elected president, and when he transferred to Central Missouri State two years later, he organized a chapter in Warrensburg. In 1977 Wunder was elected first vice president of the NFB of Missouri, and in 1979 he became president. Except for one two-year term he has continued in that post ever since. Wunder was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind in 1985 and in 2002 was elected secretary of the organization. In 2008 he was the recipient of the Jacobus tenBroek Award, the highest honor that the NFB bestows on any of its members, for his years of dedication and service to the Federation.
Looking back over the years of his involvement with and commitment to the Federation, Wunder says: "Despite all I learned from my parents about honor, responsibility, and the necessity to be competent, what I could never get from them was a sense of where blind people fit in a world composed mostly of sighted people. Friends and loved ones had always told me how wonderful I was (wonderful for a blind person, that is), but until I came to know members of the National Federation of the Blind, no one had the experience or knowledge to say how I could expect to measure up alongside the sighted. The NFB was the first place where I didn't get a round of applause for performing the routine activities of life. If I wanted my Federation colleagues' recognition and admiration, I had to merit them.
“It sounds contradictory, but, while I was learning that I wouldn't be applauded for insignificant accomplishments, I was also learning that I didn't have to possess special compensatory senses or talents to make my way in the world. When you believe that your only opportunity for success lies in being a musician but you know that your only musical talent is in listening and then you suddenly find that you are capable of doing the average job in the average place of business, your sense of freedom, hope, and possibility knows no bounds."
Gary now lives with his wife Debbie in their Columbia, Missouri, home, where Debbie serves as the corresponding secretary of the affiliate.
Pamela Dubel Allen was born in 1970 and grew up in Lancaster, New York. She became blind when she was approximately two years old as a result of retinal blastoma, a type of cancer. Although her parents were shocked by her loss of sight, they fortunately realized that she was still the same child except that she could no longer see. Through love and high expectations, they instilled in Pam a sense of pride and confidence in her ability to succeed. Growing up as the youngest of six children also helped her learn to be independent. Since she was the youngest, nobody, especially the brother a year older than she, let her get away with anything. Her loving family taught her never to let her blindness be a barrier to achieving her goals and dreams. Pamela attended a private Catholic school, where she was the only blind student. Her itinerant teacher provided a sound foundation in Braille, which helped her excel academically. Her parents expected her to do her best and to engage in activities that would make her a well-rounded person. She participated in horseback riding, skiing, and cheerleading during elementary school. During high school her interests shifted to performing in chorus, doing community service, and having fun with her friends.
While growing up, Pamela had limited contact with other blind people her age. In general she had no desire to associate with them. She understood that every high school senior experiences some trepidation about the transition to adulthood and independence. However, as high school graduation approached, she began to grapple with questions that her sighted peers couldn't answer. She planned to attend college, and she hoped that she would eventually find a job, but she secretly wondered if she would truly be able to obtain employment. After all, she had had difficulty finding part-time work during high school. She had also never lived on her own, and she wondered how successful she would be at that.
Although she entered college with some apprehension, she was determined to achieve her best. Her small liberal arts college provided an exciting environment in which to learn and grow. She participated in many activities and held leadership positions in a variety of organizations, but those unanswered questions continued to nag at her. If people were amazed that she could accomplish the most insignificant tasks, would they ever treat her as an equal? She realized that she had to meet other blind people with more experience than she who could serve as role models.
Her search exposed her to a number of groups and organizations of and for the blind. However, not until she attended a student seminar hosted by the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio did she begin to find the answers for which she had been searching. Although she didn't realize it at the time, the seminar marked the beginning of a new chapter of her life. At the seminar she met Barbara Pierce, then president of the NFB of Ohio, who told her about the Louisiana Center for the Blind. More than that, Barbara spoke with Joanne Wilson, the center’s director, and arranged for Pamela to complete an internship the following May. As soon as that was completed, Joanne invited her to work as a counselor in the children's summer program that year.
The National Federation of the Blind embodied the philosophy and attitudes that her family had emphasized while she was growing up. Pamela began reading the Braille Monitor and other Federation literature and was empowered by their ideas. She knew she had found a group of people who did not let blindness limit their ability to compete equally in society. She began to understand the power of collective action.
Pam was a 1991 National Federation of the Blind scholarship winner when she was a senior at Denison University, where she majored in psychology and minored in women's studies. She served as vice president of the Ohio Association of Blind Students and a board member of the National Association of Blind Students, and throughout college she worked summers for Joanne Wilson at the Louisiana Center for the Blind with the Children's Program. During these summers she witnessed the value of mentoring youth and the power of instilling a positive philosophy about blindness in children and their parents.
After graduation from college Pamela decided to become a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She recognized that she still needed to gain some confidence in her skills and in her ability to be a successful blind person.
Today Pamela Allen is the director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind after having been the director of youth services there for eight years. In that position she worked with blind infants and toddlers and their parents and also supervised the training of classroom aides to teach Braille throughout Louisiana. She coordinated summer camps and developed programs for blind children and teenagers.
People often ask her what makes the Louisiana Center for the Blind such a special place. She responds, "What sets our alumni apart from those of other kinds of rehabilitation facilities? The answer is that, by attending our center and the other centers conducted by Federationists, students are exposed to the National Federation of the Blind and its philosophy. The NFB is more than an organization; it is a loving family. Regardless of where you are, you can find members of the NFB who can give you support and encouragement when you need it. The NFB also provides a constant supply of role models who challenge you to set goals for yourself. We are a diverse community, all working together toward a common goal."
Allen recalls that she used to believe that she did not need other blind people. She thought that being independent meant succeeding without the help of others. Her involvement in the National Federation of the Blind has taught her that this is not true. She has learned that she needs reinforcement from her blind colleagues and friends.
Pamela lives in Ruston, Louisiana, with her husband Roland Allen, a Federation leader in his own right and an orientation and mobility instructor at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She is currently the president of the NFB of Louisiana and secretary of the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals. In July of 2002 she was elected to the National Federation of the Blind board of directors. Four years later, in 2006, she was elected to serve as treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind. After becoming executive director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, Pamela helped with the development of the graduate programs for blindness professionals and now serves on the advisory board of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University. Allen is also involved in a variety of community and professional organizations, including serving as a board member of the local Chamber of Commerce and as a gubernatorial appointee to the Louisiana Rehabilitation Council. She says, "Being elected to the national board has allowed me to give back and to spread the message of our movement. I have been mentored by many, and I am honored to serve."
Today Amy Rut Buresh says, “My blindness is simply another of my characteristics, like my auburn hair.” She didn’t always feel that way. Amy Rut was born prematurely June 4, 1974, in Fairbury, Nebraska, and has been blind since then from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). When she was five, her family moved from their farm to Nebraska City so that she could attend the Nebraska School for the Visually Handicapped (NSVH). Her parents made the difficult decision to relocate to a new community far away from family, friends, and all they knew so that Amy could continue to live at home during her school years rather than in a dormitory. Young Amy received a solid education and had a normal family life, complete with two pesky little brothers, family campouts, picnics, dress-up, and backyard sports. Amy has said her family’s sacrifice was crucial to her peace of mind in her formative years, and she has always been grateful her parents made the choice they did.
While a student at NSVH, Amy received training in many blindness skills, the most critical of which was Braille, which helped her to excel academically. She participated in countless musicals, the track team, cheerleading, and speech competition. In her freshman year Amy began taking classes at the public school in Nebraska City. Although she was active in extracurricular activities, including service as president of her school’s chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, she found it hard to make friends. She recalls that throughout her public school years she sat through many lonely lunches. With an outgoing personality she easily made acquaintances, but no one invited her to parties or asked her to go to the movies.
Amy took piano lessons from kindergarten through her sophomore year, and voice lessons from her freshman to her senior year. She still sings at churches, banquets, and karaoke as often as she can. She taught summer enrichment courses on the basics of Braille to school children in her hometown. Through the Nebraska Human Resources Department at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, she also participated in a Big-Sister-style program, in which she was paired with a blind elementary school student whom she continued to mentor well after the program’s conclusion.
Growing up, Amy had few positive blind role models and limited contact with her blind peers. During her teenage years she first participated in youth programs sponsored by the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCBVI), where she gained many valuable skills and met her future husband.
For several summers Amy worked as a volunteer counselor at the Summer Kids Independence Program (SKIP) Camp, a program for children ages five to twelve, sponsored by NCBVI. She wanted to share with other blind youth the things she had learned during her high school journey: which plans had worked for her, and which hadn’t. She believed then and believes more absolutely today that mentoring is important in improving one’s attitude toward blindness and a great way to learn how to handle being different in our society.
Whether at home or at school, participating in music, academics, or athletics, Amy was successfully working and competing with her sighted peers. She was even named second runner-up in the 1990 Nebraska City Miss Applejack Pageant. Yet in addition she had to face another, deeply personal aspect of life. As a senior in high school she began wrestling with life questions that neither her family and teachers nor her sighted peers could answer. Could she really be successful as an independent blind adult? Would she ever marry and have a family? What about employment? Could she get a job and do it well?
Following graduation, Amy began conquering her fears and seeking answers to these nagging questions by attending the Orientation Training Center of the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Lincoln. There she was first introduced to the underpinning philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind and, equally important, to kind and inspirational Federationists.
Armed with newfound confidence and skills, Amy enrolled in Peru State College, graduating with a BS in psychology, sociology, and criminal justice. Throughout her time on campus she was active as a peer mentor, in student senate, and in residence hall government. She also soloed and toured with the concert choir. She helped found and held several offices in the Association for Challenged and Enabled Students (ACES), a group dedicated to breaking down stereotypes and removing discrimination against those with disabilities. ACES sought to educate the nondisabled public about the challenges people with disabilities face. During her years at Peru State College Amy began working with women and children who experience domestic violence, a field to which she still devotes time when she can. She served as a volunteer counselor for a nonprofit in Southeast Nebraska and other agencies. She has worked tirelessly as an advocate, role model, and leader for both women and the blind. She attributes her success with blind people to her discovery of and involvement in the National Federation of the Blind.
In 1993 the NFB of Nebraska established a scholarship program, and Amy won that first scholarship. With this award she faced a turning point in the evolution of her personal philosophy and in her affiliation with the National Federation of the Blind. Growing up, she had been warned that the NFB was an organization of militants whom she should avoid. Thanks to the scholarship program, she attended her first state convention in the fall of 1993, discovered the warmth of the members of the NFB and the important work we are doing, and hasn't looked back since.
In fact, the very next year, in October of 1994, Amy and a handful of other concerned blind Nebraska students were granted the charter for the Nebraska Association of Blind Students within the Nebraska affiliate. She was elected president of the student division, an office she held for two years.
Since those early days in the Federation, Amy has held a number of chapter and affiliate positions in Nebraska. In 2003 she was elected to serve as affiliate president, and in the summer of 2006 she was elected by the Convention to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
Amy and her husband Shane (a leader and dedicated Federationist in his own right) live in Lincoln with their son Noah (born May 2, 2006). She is employed as a rehabilitation counselor with the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
Dan Burke says about himself, “I was born a poor-sighted child, but I was in my mid-thirties before I admitted to myself that the visual techniques I employed at work and at home were less functional than those of friends who had no vision.” By that time in his life he had been a single father for six years, completed a master's degree, worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, and served on the board of the Montana Association for Rehabilitation.
Dissatisfied with the limitations presented by his lack of alternative blindness skills, he began to seek out colleagues who were blind to find out how they used alternative techniques such as the white cane and Braille. One of those colleagues was a member of the National Federation of the Blind.
Although he'd heard of the NFB, Burke had not been willing to adopt its ideas. He was now ready to test its version of the truth about blindness—that he did not have to accept a life of diminished achievement. With effective skills and healthy attitudes he could gain and enjoy the personal and professional opportunities made possible by his innate talents. Soon he was carrying a long white cane, taking part in a Braille self-study group with other Federationists, and referring to himself as "blind," rather than "visually impaired" or "legally blind." He found his life was being transformed for the better.
Burke was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1957, the first of four children--three of whom would be diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a progressive condition leading to blindness. Burke’s parents did all they could to help their children live normal, active lives. Because of their efforts he grew up with a love of the natural environment of Colorado and competent in outdoor activities such as fishing, backpacking, and camping. On the other hand, because his family did not know about the NFB's philosophy or the achievements of its thousands of blind members, for them blindness was a looming tragedy in the future of the family. Without access to better counsel, they accepted the assumption that the more their children could see, the better off they would be. They dreaded the future. Thus Burke grew up believing that even poor strategies that relied on his remaining vision were superior to blindness and nonvisual skills. He remembers always being assigned to the front row in school so that he could see the blackboard; indeed he continued to accept front-row seating when reading the board was no longer possible.
When he was sixteen, Burke was denied a driver's license because of poor vision, and his parents appealed for a restricted license in the belief that a normal life for Dan would require a driver’s license to approximate the experience of his friends. The restricted license was denied, and he was secretly relieved. His grades were below his potential in high school, but he was admitted to the University of Northern Colorado. Just before his graduation from high school, his mother learned of a teacher of blind students in the district, and with her advice Burke took the ACT, using a reader for the first time. He also learned about recorded textbooks. Using readers and listening to recorded texts were the only alternative skills he took with him to college, where he struggled with shame and embarrassment despite excelling in many courses. Throughout college and for some years afterward, he cast about for career options that he considered realistic for a blind person. But without a proper understanding of blindness skills and knowing no successful blind people, he received and acted upon consistent advice to ignore his dreams and to lower his personal expectations.
In 1982 Burke moved from Colorado to Montana, but as his vision progressively worsened, his frustrations and disappointments grew. Eventually he completed a graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling at the University of Montana at Billings and went to work again. After moving to Missoula in 1992 with his seven-year-old son Sean, he was faced with new responsibilities as a single parent. "I couldn't tell my son he couldn't participate in soccer or Cub Scouts because his father was blind," he recalls. "I couldn't continue to let my world shrink--and his as well." Thus began Burke’s quest for blind role models and better techniques for dealing with vision loss.
In 1997 Burke headed for New Orleans to attend his first NFB convention. Of that experience he says: "I had eliminated so many careers for myself because I didn't think a blind person could succeed in them; suddenly at this convention I found blind people who had been doing those jobs--many of them since long before I had decided they couldn't be done by a blind person." That's when Burke began to understand the power of the NFB and its philosophy. He went home and became active in his local chapter and state affiliate. He attended Washington Seminars and lobbied for Braille literacy and changes in the Rehabilitation Act. He became involved in the reimplementation of the blind vendors program in Montana. In 2001 he helped draft and pass a purchasing requirement for state government to buy technology that was accessible by nonvisual means, and in 2005 he worked on the passage of Braille literacy legislation in Montana as well as other key legislation affecting the blind of the state.
Although his parents hadn't known the truth about blindness, they had taught him not to accept the status quo, to approach problems creatively, to get involved, and to give back to his community. With his discovery of the truth about blindness through the National Federation of the Blind, his growth as an individual now sure of his ability to handle the normal give and take of life along with his peers was complete. The NFB philosophy added to his parents’ philosophy gave him the confidence to change his life as well as the techniques with which to do it. Since finding the NFB and its positive philosophy of blindness, he has devoted much of his time and effort to the organization. He was elected to his affiliate's board of directors in 2002 and to the office of affiliate first vice president in 2003. At the 2005 Montana convention he was elected affiliate president. Then, on July 5, 2006, he was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
Burke lives in Missoula, Montana, where he continues to enjoy the outdoors and other hobbies. He is the assistant director of disability services at the University of Montana and serves on the board of Montana Business Enterprises, Inc. He also serves on the board of VSA Arts Montana and the Montana Vocational Rehabilitation Council.
"I may have been born a poor-sighted child," Burke reflects, "but embracing my blindness, accepting NFB philosophy, and learning from my friends in the Federation have made my life immeasurably rich."
Patti Gregory-Chang was born in May of 1963. She never had vision in her right eye and has been blind since the age of twelve, when the sight in her left eye began failing as a result of microthalmia. For Patti, however, her blindness is no more interesting or important than any of her other characteristics, such as being a woman or an attorney.
Growing up in Harbor Springs, Michigan, Patti lived a normal life, learning early that blindness was not a tragedy. “We lived in town. My younger brother Gerry and I hung out. I did winter sports and worked a little in the summer. My parents (Eve Lauer and Donald Gregory) did a good job of treating me like anyone else. They had high expectations,” she said. After graduating from Harbor Springs High School in 1981, Patti planned to attend school with hopes of becoming a teacher of the vision impaired. After earning her teaching certificate at Michigan State University, she discovered a passion for law and enrolled at the University of Chicago Law School.
Patti graduated from law school in 1988 and has worked in the City of Chicago Law Department ever since. She began her tenure there in the Traffic Division and then worked her way up to assistant corporation counsel. In this position she prosecuted housing court matters in the Circuit Court of Cook County and handled collection matters for the Building and Land Use Litigation Division of the City of Chicago Law Department.
In 1998 Patti became senior assistant corporation counsel for the City of Chicago Law Department. In this role she prosecutes cases, supervises attorneys prosecuting cases, coordinates law clerks and externs, and serves on various committees and task forces. She belongs to several professional associations and is an officer in the Administrative Law Section Council of the Illinois State Bar Association.
Patti first joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1981 in Michigan. She moved to Illinois in 1985 and has been increasingly active ever since. She served as Chicago Chapter president and as first vice president of the Illinois affiliate before becoming president in 2006. She was elected to the National Federation of the Blind board of directors in 2008. “The NFB is huge. When I found the NFB, I realized that its philosophy was the same as the one I had fortunately grown up with–blind people are able to live full and productive lives just like any sighted person. We want the same chances to succeed as everyone else. With the right techniques, blindness can be reduced to an inconvenience rather than being a tragedy.”
The NFB’s monthly magazine, the Braille Monitor, has published several articles by Patti on a variety of blindness topics. She is also a frequent contributor to the Illinois State Bar Association Administrative Law Section newsletter. Patti and her husband Francisco Chang have raised two children. Francisco is an RN with several national certifications. They were married in 1984. “I love to brag about my kids, John, a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana, and Julia, who attends Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago. They both excel academically and care about people. They are really special,” she said.
Patti and Francisco work to strike a balance among the priorities in their lives: work, family, philanthropy, and play. Francisco has tricitizenship because he is of Chinese descent and was raised in Belize. As a result of her husband’s experiences, Patti administered practice exams and review sessions for permanent residents trying to obtain U.S. citizenship at the Pui Tak Center in Chicago from 2002 to 2006.
“When we find time in our busy schedules, one of our favorite things to do is travel,” Patti said. “We have traveled extensively in Central America, and most recently we visited Mexico.” Wherever the Changs go, they illustrate the NFB’s core belief that blind people are normal people who cannot see, and their lives and contributions can be as rich and valuable as those of anyone else.
Parnell Diggs was part of the initial generation of Braille-reading students to enter first grade in the public schools of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was 1975, and the president of the United States had just signed into law the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, known today as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the landmark legislation guaranteeing all disabled children the right to a “free, appropriate, public education in the least restrictive environment.”
Diggs had been born blind because of detached retinas, and two things were absolutely certain. First, public school officials in Charlotte at the time did not want to admit him to a classroom with sighted children, and second, they had no choice but to do so if the school system was to qualify for public funding. Further complicating the matter was the fact that Bill and Nancy Diggs simply refused to accept the limitations for their son that society ordinarily placed on blind children.
Young Diggs did not disappoint. He unequivocally demonstrated that he could acquire the skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic alongside his sighted peers. But he always looked forward to the end of the school day. In the yards, woods, and streets of his childhood, he climbed trees, rode bikes, shot BB guns, and played quarterback on the neighborhood Pop Warner football team after his family relocated to Columbia, South Carolina.
He taught his younger brother Holland how to play first base, how to step out of the batter’s box until he was ready for the pitch, and how to wrestle. Holland was sighted, and he taught Parnelli--his family called him Parnelli--the things in life most of us take for granted: how to dance, shrug his shoulders, and give the thumbs-up sign. They remained close until Holland’s untimely death in 2005 at the age of thirty-three.
In high school Diggs participated on the varsity wrestling team and made the South Carolina Honors All-State Chorus, and, while his friends were earning spending cash bagging groceries, he was earning good money singing and playing the guitar in Columbia area restaurants.
In 1989 Diggs met Kenneth Jernigan and Donald Capps, two leaders who had dedicated their lives to helping their blind brothers and sisters. Jernigan and Capps shared a message of promise and achievement for the blind and talked about how the blind could accomplish more through collective action. Diggs quickly embraced their reasoning and passion. Before long he recognized that the full integration of blind people into society would be his life’s work; and though he was busy double-majoring in political science and religious studies, working, and maintaining a social calendar, it seemed to him that the best way to help himself as a blind person was to become a member of the National Federation of the Blind.
In 1991 Diggs was invited to participate in an NFB leadership seminar, where he received intensive instruction from NFB President Marc Maurer. Diggs was strongly influenced by Maurer’s leadership style and has put much of what he learned during that seminar into practice in carrying out his own leadership responsibilities since that time. It was also in 1991 that Diggs attended his first National Federation of the Blind convention during the week of July 4. Before arriving in New Orleans that summer, he had read Dr. Floyd Matson’s eleven-hundred-page history of the first fifty years of the National Federation of the Blind, Walking Alone and Marching Together, in its entirety and any other related materials he could find.
Diggs was learning that other blind people thought as he did: that blind people could exceed society’s expectations. But the key to full integration was acceptance by society to the places where sighted people lived and worked. In short, he came to know that complete social acceptance of the blind lies at the intersection of training and opportunity.
By the summer of 1992 Diggs had completed his first year of law school and was working as a law clerk at the South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, the state agency responsible for handling criminal appeals and post conviction relief applications for indigent defendants. There he acquired the skills of legal research and oral argument and learned to interact with clients in the facilities of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Walking into the Edisto Unit of the Broad River Correctional Institution was perhaps the most memorable experience for Diggs during his time at Appellate Defense.
This was where they housed death row inmates in the early nineties, recalls Diggs. “There is nothing like walking through five or six sets of heavy metal electronic doors, each set slamming behind you as you move deeper into the facility, and never more than one set is open at a time. It created the feeling that any attempt to escape would be futile.”
Diggs accepted a position as a law clerk in a private firm in 1993 and continued to hold this position after he was hired as a page in the South Carolina Senate. At one point in 1994 Diggs, a newlywed, was juggling his final semester of law school with two part-time jobs. He had married Kimberly Dawn Gossett (his high school sweetheart) on May 22, 1993. In 1995 the couple relocated to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, when he accepted a full-time position with the South Carolina Commission for the Blind, where he had responsibility for administering rehabilitation programs for the agency in a four-county area. In 1997, at the age of twenty-eight, he opened a private law practice in Myrtle Beach, where he remains in practice today.
Diggs was first elected to the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina board of directors in 1992, and he has been reelected every two years since. He was appointed by Governor Jim Hodges to the governing board of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind in 1999 and again in 2002 and was twice confirmed by the state senate. This appointment made him the only person ever to have been a client, an employee, and a member of the governing board of the South Carolina Commission for the Blind.
In 2000 Donald Capps announced that he would not seek reelection as president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina and recommended that Diggs be elected in his stead. He was elected unanimously and has held the presidency ever since. In 2007 the nation’s blind community elected him unanimously to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind. In 2010 NFB President Maurer appointed Diggs to serve as national chairman of the NFB Imagination Fund, where he inaugurated the Race for Independence, a campaign to make mainstream technology, including a vehicle, fully accessible to blind people.
As a private practitioner Diggs has argued before the United States Court of Appeals in the 4th and 8th Circuits and has represented some three hundred clients in federal administrative proceedings. While he is no longer playing requests in local restaurants, music continues to be an important part of his life. He sings first tenor in the Carolina Master Chorale in Myrtle Beach and serves on the organization’s board of directors. Diggs sang the role of Remendado in the Carolina Master Chorale’s production of Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen in June of 2006.
The Diggses have one son, Jordan, born on January 12, 2000. As he pondered his son’s future, Diggs made the following observation: “Jordan will be told that he is less fortunate than other children because his dad is blind—but, thanks to the National Federation of the Blind, he won’t believe it. Blindness is not a tragedy. With proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance. I am determined that this is the message of blindness that my son will hear most.”
Michael Freeman was born more than two months prematurely on October 30, 1948, in Vancouver, Washington. He spent his early childhood just across the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon, beginning his education in the Portland public schools. Later he attended the Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB) in Vancouver and ultimately graduated from the city's Columbia River High School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society.
In the fall of 1966 Mike matriculated at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, receiving commendation by vote of the faculty for outstanding academic achievement at the end of his freshman year. He graduated from Reed with a BA in physics. He briefly ventured away from the Pacific Northwest to earn his MS in physics from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces.
For over thirty years Michael has been a computer systems programmer at the Bonneville Power Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy. He provides mainstream information technology support to a large and technically diverse staff. While he believes that his blindness definitely kept him from finding employment as a physicist, he good-naturedly admits that in the middle 1970s scientists were a dime a dozen and that many of his colleagues also found careers in complex computer systems programming. He says, "I've had fun here. I've found my work at the BPA to be a rewarding and intellectually stimulating experience."
Michael's talents are reflected as much by his personal interests and accomplishments as they are in his professional achievements. He speaks fluent German, and he is able to converse competently in French and Spanish. He plays several musical instruments, most notably piano. Michael recalls the honor of playing George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in 1971 at twenty-three. An amateur radio operator since 1962, he now holds an amateur extra class license. He is a voracious reader, particularly interested in military and political history, foreign affairs, economics, fire science, the natural sciences, music, and medicine.
"I became aware of the National Federation of the Blind shortly after graduating from high school when I began applying for college scholarships. I received an NFB Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship in the late 1960s. Bennett Prows, a longtime Federationist, introduced me to the writings of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the NFB's founder. Dr. tenBroek's erudite style and message that blindness need not be a tragedy and could be reduced to a physical nuisance--a message of common sense and hope--expressed my thinking exactly. Being a skeptic, it took me several years to join the NFB, but it was the best decision I have ever made."
Michael returned to Vancouver in 1978 and helped establish the Clark County chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington in early 1983. He began serving as first vice president of the Washington affiliate in 1984, becoming its president for a term in 1996. He has served as affiliate president continuously since 2003. In 2005 he became diabetic. In 2008 he was elected president of the Diabetes Action Network, the NFB division for diabetics.
Michael's work as an activist in the Federation is most evident in his success as the Washington State affiliate's legislative chair for the last thirty years. He has led campaigns to pass strong Braille literacy legislation (1996); first-in-the-nation consumer guide dog protections (1988); and progressive reforms strengthening the Washington State School for the Blind, making it a stand-alone agency of state government (1985). In the same year that the affiliate realized the WSSB victory, Michael also orchestrated early landmark nondiscrimination legislation making it unlawful to deem a parent or guardian of a minor neglectful or abusive solely by virtue of his or her blindness. He is the proud father of Shanthi Anne Freeman, his adopted multiply-disabled daughter from India; she was born in November 1989.
"The NFB has offered me the chance to do my part to educate society that it is respectable to be blind, to make life better for the blind, and to promote the integration of the blind into society. I am grateful for the opportunity that the NFB has given me to pay the debt I owe to those who have made possible the civil rights and the chance to succeed that I enjoy. In working for the goals of the NFB, I have helped myself too, for I have proved to myself that it is respectable to be blind."
John Fritz was born in September of 1966. He was raised on a family dairy farm in southwest Wisconsin. He is the oldest of five children. He was lucky enough to have parents who made him learn the value of hard work early on. “We were a farm family, and I was the oldest son. I was expected to help with the chores and work outside with my dad.” He was born legally blind but had some sight. This diminished to light perception by the age of three. He believed at an early age that sight was not a requirement to be successful.
John attended the Wisconsin School for the Blind from kindergarten through the seventh grade, primarily because the public school didn’t believe a blind child could be served in his hometown. In seventh grade he was able to persuade the school counselor to allow him to transfer back to his local public school. He remembers this being a very difficult adjustment. Having lived at the school for the blind for seven years and been away from his siblings, he found it hard to return and take his place again. They had to get to know each other again. “I realized how much I was missing out on at home,” he said.
John graduated from Fennimore High School with honors in 1985. Before and after school he was responsible for milking cows and helping with general farm work. He earned his letter in wrestling and played trumpet in pep band, marching band, and concert band. His most significant accomplishments came in Future Farmers of America (FFA). He was involved with an extemporaneous speaking competition, the Creed Speaking Contest; dairy judging; and parliamentary procedure. He placed fourth in the nation in computers in agriculture and achieved the American Farmer Degree. He also served as president of his FFA chapter for two years.
John attended the University of Wisconsin, Platteville, where he graduated with honors in 1989 with a major in animal science, emphasizing dairy management, nutrition, and reproduction. He also earned a minor in computer science. While in college he participated in the academic decathlon in agriculture and in seven academic clubs and organizations.
In these years John got his first dose of the low expectations many professionals have for blind students. When he told his Department for Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) counselor that he wanted to be a veterinarian, his counselor informed him that, if he pursued that career, DVR wouldn’t fund him. The counselor announced that a blind person wouldn’t be able to be a veterinarian. So John told the DVR counselor to leave. That day he learned quickly that, if he wanted to pursue his goals, he needed to find a way to pay for college himself. He found part-time jobs, work-study assignments, and scholarships to pay his way.
“The most significant event of my life occurred the summer of my sophomore year when I won a National Federation of the Blind scholarship in Phoenix, Arizona,” John said. This was his first exposure to the NFB. He was relieved to find peers doing similar things and blind people with the same philosophy. He realized during that convention that he had finally found the biggest and most reliable source of information any blind college student could ever have--other blind people. While attending college, he continued to work on the farm on weekends. College provided him the opportunity to advocate for himself and become a self-sufficient person.
John started working on the family dairy farm right after graduating from college. By this time he had decided that the dairy farm was the immediate need, and veterinary school would have to wait. He was responsible for the day-to-day operations and management of the farm, where he milked sixty-five registered Brown Swiss cows. In 1991 he started working part-time for a local computer store as a computer technician. His main responsibility was repairing computers. The next year he became store manager, where his responsibilities included the day-to-day operation of the store, sales, and service. He left the farm and moved to town. He continued at this job for six years. In 1995 he married Heather Ross. They met during the 1992 NFB convention in Charlotte, but started dating after running into each other again during the Dallas convention in 1993. In 1997 he accepted a job with the Louisiana Center for the Blind as the computer instructor. He describes it as a very rewarding experience because it provided the opportunity for him to absorb fully and live the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind each day. While in Louisiana John and Heather Fritz started their family. Lindsey was born in 1998, Christina was born in 1999, Mark was sponsored from Korea in 2001, and Andrew was born in 2002.
In 2003 John made the difficult decision to leave his job and friends at the center and return home to Wisconsin with Heather's parents, who had just retired to Wisconsin from California, to begin his own vending business with the Business Enterprise program. This is what he continues to do today. In 2005 the Fritzes adopted their daughter Katie from China at the age of six. In 2006 John and Heather built their dream home for their growing family, on fifteen acres in Kendall, Wisconsin. He also built a warehouse for his business, J&H Vending, Inc.
John says that he was honored to be elected president of the NFB of Wisconsin in 2006. He has enjoyed working with the affiliate, divisions, and the blind of Wisconsin. In 2008 he was elected to the National Federation of the Blind board of directors. He remains busy with the state affiliate, along with being a member of Lions Club, the local Ham Radio Club, and various other clubs and organizations. He also finally gets to spend some time watching his children grow--all five of them. Child number six, Jacob Fritz, adopted from India and born in May 2005, took his place among his new family in the summer of 2009.
Reflecting on his life and work, John says, “The National Federation of the Blind doesn’t prescribe what a blind person should do or even what he or she can do. It merely invites every blind person to dream and work to achieve those dreams. Its members blaze trails for one another and cheer each other along the way.”
Jim Gashel was born in 1946 and grew up in Iowa. After his early introduction to the National Federation of the Blind as Kenneth Jernigan’s student at the Iowa Commission for the Blind during the 1960s, he has been devoted to serving the blind community in various capacities. A 1969 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with work toward a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Iowa, Jim started his career teaching speech and English for one year in Pipestone, Minnesota. He then accepted a position as assistant director at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in Des Moines. With that move he found his calling working with the blind and finding ways of solving the problems that face them as individuals and as a minority.
On January 1, 1974, Jim joined the staff of the National Federation of the Blind as chief of the Washington office, where he became one of the best known advocates for the blind of the United States, combining his commitment to blind people with his interest in the political process. As the Federation's scope and influence evolved, so did his roles and responsibilities. In his professional career of almost thirty-four years with the Federation, he held the positions of director of governmental affairs and executive director for strategic initiatives. Jim's Federation work led to significant changes in virtually every law directly affecting blind Americans: the Social Security Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Randolph-Sheppard Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Copyright Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and the Help America Vote Act. In addition to championing these causes, Jim has won the love and respect of the thousands of blind men and women across America who have directly benefited from his informed and effective personal advocacy. No matter what his position, through his drive and devotion to Federationism, Jim has earned the informal title of the organization's nonlawyer lawyer.
With his first wife Arlene, Jim is the father of three adult children and the grandfather of six. His daughter Andrea Beasley has four children, and his son Eric and his daughter Valerie each have one child.
During Jim’s service at the NFB, he received the Commissioner's Award for Outstanding Leadership in Rehabilitation Services to the Disabled, the highest honor presented by the commissioner of the United States Rehabilitation Services Administration. He is also a recipient of the secretary of labor's Outstanding American Award. In 2001 Jim and his second wife, Betsy Zaborowski, jointly received the NFB’s highest honor, the Jacobus tenBroek Award, honoring them for their achievements through decades of leadership in work with the blind.
Jim joined K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc., as vice president for business development in April 2007. In his final position with the Federation--executive director for strategic initiatives--he led the public introduction and launch of the Kurzweil—National Federation of the Blind Reader, the world’s first truly portable text-to-speech reading device for the blind. As part of this effort he raised and administered the funds necessary to support pre-release beta testing, product announcement, and public promotional efforts to bring the product to market in 2006. Jim's employment with K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc., has brought him full circle in his career since, after first meeting Ray Kurzweil in April 1975, he also organized and raised the funds necessary to test and launch the original Kurzweil Reading Machine, released in 1977 as the world’s first text-to-speech reading system for the blind.
Jim was elected to the NFB's national board of directors in 2008 to fill an unexpired term and was reelected in 2009. He brings to the board both expertise and contacts in the blindness field and an abiding commitment to the work of the NFB. In accepting his 2001 Jacobus tenBroek Award, Jim offered comments that remain relevant today and reflect his approach to our mission. "All I would ask is that all of you remember that it's all of our responsibilities to go out and work for the movement. We can't all go out and climb a mountain like Erik [Weihenmayer] did, and we can't all do the wonderful things that every one of you do all the time, or raise five or six million dollars like Betsy did, but we can all work for this movement. We all have a place in it." Jim’s place is absolutely unique.
Mary Catherine Brothers (Cathy) was born on October 25, 1949, in Louisville, Kentucky, to Charles and Catherine Brothers. She is the third of nine children, four girls and five boys.
Cathy was born with congenital cataracts. In 1949 few resources were available to parents of blind children. The National Federation of the Blind was only nine years old, and the Kentucky affiliate was only two years old. The Brothers family had not heard of either. Her parents had never known any other blind people and couldn't imagine what the future might hold for their daughter. However, they decided that a commonsense approach was their best avenue. Luckily for Cathy, they never considered any approach to raising their blind daughter other than the methods they were using to raise their two older boys.
After several eye surgeries Cathy gained some usable vision in her right eye. At age five she was enrolled in a Roman Catholic school. Her parents chose this educational setting since the school offered a sight-saving class, where she would have access to large-print books and other materials that would make classroom work easier. Then in the fall of 1960 Cathy was enrolled at the Kentucky School for the Blind, where she remained until graduating from high school in 1967. Her parents and teachers decided that it would be more beneficial for her to attend school where she would have access to all of her textbooks in large print and, perhaps more important, where she could learn Braille.
This was Cathy's first exposure to totally blind peers and adults. Although she had been around other vision-impaired students at her elementary school, the majority of them could see considerably better than she. She and her parents soon learned that blindness was simply a physical condition, certainly not one that would keep her from achieving whatever goals she set for herself. During these seven years while attending the Kentucky School for the Blind, she began to learn not to be ashamed of her blindness. She learned to advocate for herself and others. Being student council president during her junior and senior years launched her political career.
During the summer of 1967 Cathy attended the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. An ill-advised rehabilitation counselor thought this training would be the crowning touch to prepare her for college in the fall. That summer school Lighthouse class of 1967 was comprised of very bright, outgoing, normal young adults, who turned the tables on the Lighthouse staff and teachers. As Cathy remembers the experience, the adults were the ones to get the education when the students refused to be bound by the low expectations and negative attitudes of the staff. At this point in her life she still had not heard about the National Federation of the Blind but was already preaching and practicing NFB philosophy.
Upon graduation from high school Cathy attended Spalding University, formerly Catherine Spalding College in Louisville, Kentucky. She majored in psychology; minored in sociology; and took an active part in academic, student government, and social organizations. The blindness skills and attitudes she had learned at the Kentucky School for the Blind and even the negative attitudes she had been exposed to at the Lighthouse the summer before college were beginning to pay dividends. Cathy was growing into an adult with increasingly resolute convictions and positive attitudes.
In 1972 Cathy met Betty Niceley, the longtime leader of the Kentucky affiliate and for many years a member of the NFB board of directors. The rest is history. This friendship began her formal Federation education. Although Cathy was slow to join the Federation, Betty never gave up on recruiting her. In 1975 Cathy became a member of the Louisville Association of the Blind, the former name of the local NFB chapter. Through the years Cathy eventually served as secretary, vice president, and president of the National Federation of the Blind of Greater Louisville. She was also treasurer of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille of Kentucky. In the Kentucky affiliate she has served as board member, treasurer, first vice president, and now president. At the 2002 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind held in Louisville, she was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
Cathy has held a variety of jobs through the years. During college she was employed at the Kentucky Industries for the Blind (now LC Industries for the Blind) to do seasonal contract work. For a short time after college Cathy worked for the state of Kentucky as a social worker in the Food Stamp Office. After staying home to raise her daughter, Cathy has worked successively as the program coordinator for the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky Braille Service Center, a clerical support staff member in a law office, and the Braille clerk for the Jefferson County school system. Cathy will retire from the Jefferson County School System at the end of the 2009-2010 school year. But her favorite job of all was stay-at-home mom to her daughter Dana Nicole. She volunteered as a classroom aide, did substitute teaching, and worked as a secretary in the principal's office. She served as president of the school Parent Teacher Association, secretary of the athletic club, and member of the parish council. In addition she coached both the peewee basketball team and the cheerleading squad. At this stage of her life, Cathy is content to spend as much time as possible with her granddaughters, Hana and Haley.
Cathy has received a number of awards for academic and athletic achievement, but the two awards she cherishes most are the Susan B. Rarick and Harold L. Reagan awards presented to her by the NFB of Kentucky. Cathy comments that her roots and commitment to the NFB go deep and that the past twenty-seven years are just the beginning.
Carl Jacobsen was born on December 22, 1946, and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where his father had immigrated from Norway and his mother from Scotland. When he was fifteen, he lost his sight over a four-month period due to Lieber’s syndrome. Although it would be some time before he found the NFB, Carl says he employed Federation philosophy in his approach to his blindness from the day he learned his diagnosis.
He transferred from Brooklyn Tech to Erasmus Hall High School because that's where the resource room was located. At Erasmus he met two adults who would have a positive influence on his life: his resource teacher, Sam Ellis, and his orientation and mobility instructor, Ed Townes. Carl tells the story of how this instructor, now a member of Congress, gave him a dry cleaning claim ticket and some cash and told him to pick up his suit. When Carl asked where the dry cleaner was located, Townes responded that, since he was such a wise guy, he could figure it out for himself. While at Erasmus, Carl also met Sally Rupp, one of the volunteer readers in the resource room, whom he would later marry. After graduation from high school Carl attended Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, for two years while Sally attended nursing school in Brooklyn. They decided the separation was too stressful, however, so Carl left school to marry Sally.
Soon he and Sally began their family with son Bradley and daughter Christine, born during their first five years of marriage. Later, in 1991, they adopted their son Andrew from Korea. While the older children were growing up, Carl returned to school and finished his bachelor's degree at Hunter College in New York City, majoring in history, political science, and comparative religion. He also pursued graduate studies at Union Theological Seminary for three years but decided not to seek ordination.
Carl attended his first NFB national convention in 1989 and has missed only one since, the year his wife Sally was critically ill. In the fall of 1989 he was elected second vice president of the New York affiliate. In 1991 he was elected president of the New York City Chapter, an office he held until 2005. Later that year he was elected first vice president of the state affiliate and subsequently elected affiliate president in 1997, a position he continues to hold. Carl also served on the board of directors of the National Association of Blind Merchants until July of 2006.
Throughout his life Carl has pursued various careers, including factory management and business enterprise management. He says his favorite work is teaching. Though he has never taught school, in addition to training entrants into the Randolph-Sheppard Program, he works with blind children and teens on cane travel and other blindness skills as well as on attitudes about blindness. He also gives presentations to parents and educators of blind children on the truth about blindness the Federation way. Throughout the 1970s and 80s Carl was instrumental in establishing several programs for preschool children through local churches.
Carl was elected to the NFB board of directors in 2004. His daughter Christine presented him with twin grandchildren, Jason and Caitlin. His wife Sally died in February 2002. Consistent with his and Sally's passion for education, in her memory Carl endowed an NFB scholarship, awarded between 2002 and 2007. On May 20, 2006, Carl married Dr. Mindy Fliegelman, a former cantor. Together they continue to work for the independence of blind people in New York and across the country.
When reflecting on the Federation, Carl says, "If I can pass on only a fraction of what others have done for me, I will be giving an immeasurable gift to the next generation of blind people. Of all the work I have done over many years, my work with the Federation has been by far the most rewarding."
Anil Lewis was born in 1964 in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the third of four children. Both his older brother and older sister became legally blind at an early age from retinitis pigmentosa. Lewis was originally labeled educably mentally retarded but eventually became the first member of his family to attend a four-year college. He has excelled academically, received many awards, participated as a leader in many extracurricular activities, and received several college scholarships. Although he was finally diagnosed at age nine with retinitis pigmentosa, his vision was fairly unaffected until age twenty-five.
As a sighted man he fairly easily found respectable employment with wages high above the minimum wage. Then in 1989, while pursuing his bachelor’s of business administration in computer information systems at Georgia State University (GSU), he became blind from retinitis pigmentosa. "All of a sudden doors that had been open to me slammed shut." At that point, although he had always considered himself socially aware, he became personally acquainted with actual social injustice and discrimination. "I am ashamed that only personal experience brought this awakening and decision to take action. But I am proud that I did take action and remain committed today to making a difference in the lives of others."
Lewis received blindness skills training while completing his course requirements for his degree at GSU. He quickly learned the alternative skills of blindness, including Braille, activities of daily living, assistive technology, and use of the white cane. He capitalized on them to graduate from Georgia State in 1993. "It was a struggle to regain the life that blindness had appeared to take from me. Almost everyone who had once respected me now pitied me, but I was determined not to be redefined by my blindness." Armed with these new skills and this new determination, he quickly became committed to ensuring that others in similar situations could get appropriate training and unlimited opportunities.
Lewis got a job as a Braille and assistive technology instructor. Within a year he was given the greater responsibility of job development/placement specialist, helping clients develop employment skills and get jobs. "I had had no experience helping anyone other than myself get a job. I certainly did not have expertise in job placement for blind people." During this time he first became aware of the National Federation of the Blind. A friend referred him to the NFB when he had questions about Social Security work incentives and needed information about tools and strategies to help blind people obtain employment.
As a result he attended his first NFB convention in Chicago, Illinois, in 1995 and became aware of the empowering philosophy and tremendous resource of the National Federation of the Blind. The technical assistance materials produced by the NFB’s Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program and the NFB’s Social Security and technical assistance information provided resources enabling him to motivate, educate, and encourage other blind people to achieve successful gainful employment. "My success as a job placement specialist was a direct result of my ability to infuse NFB philosophy into the clients I worked with."
Lewis went on to develop and manage a job placement program for people with disabilities as the manager of the Disability Employment Initiative with Randstad Staffing, one of the largest employment staffing companies in the world, during the Atlanta Olympic and Paralympic Games in 1996. From then until early 2006 he was employed by the law offices of Martin and Jones as the Georgia Client Assistance Program (CAP) counselor/advocate, representing people with disabilities every day. He is currently a disability consultant working with companies in Georgia.
He became president of the Atlanta Metropolitan Chapter of the NFB of Georgia in 2000 and was elected president of the NFB of Georgia in 2002. In that year he also received the Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship, the NFB’s most prestigious award presented to a blind student, which he used to obtain his master’s degree in public administration with emphasis in policy analysis and program evaluation from GSU in 2003. That year he was also elected as a member of the National Federation of the Blind board of directors. He received an Outstanding Alumnus award from GSU and was also a 2003 GSU Torch Bearer of Peace Award recipient. In 2006 Lewis was named alumnus of the year by Leadership Dekalb, a community leadership development organization in Dekalb County, Georgia.
Lewis has dedicated his leadership skills to the development and growth of disability rights organizations that promote independence and improved quality of life. He was appointed by the governor as a board member and served as president of the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) of Georgia, an organization promoting independent living for those with severe disabilities. He serves as chairman of the board of directors of the Disability Law and Policy Center (DLPC) of Georgia, which uses a variety of methods to influence and enforce disability policy. All of these organizations recognize that people with disabilities are integral, necessary members of society and reflect the world’s normal diversity. Further, each works to ensure that the policies and programs developed for people with disabilities are created and implemented by people with disabilities. By helping to develop and strengthen such institutions to serve as a cornerstone in protecting the rights of people with disabilities, he hopes to secure the commitment and support of others. He also hopes to reduce the barriers disabled people face by encouraging the implementation of public policy securing the rights and promoting the responsible participation of people with disabilities as productive citizens.
Lewis volunteers as a teacher and mentor for blind kids, working with promising blind students who, because of limited resources and lack of trained professionals to teach them, are inappropriately encouraged to pursue special education diplomas. He wants blind students to set higher goals for themselves and to receive the training and tools they need to acquire the skills to reach their full potential.
Speaking of his personal life, Anil Lewis says that his proudest accomplishment is his bright, ambitious son Amari, born in 1997. Balancing his many civic responsibilities with his personal life as a father is undoubtedly his greatest challenge. His greatest success, he thinks, has been overcoming the temptation to subside into becoming an unmotivated, self-pitying person with a disability. He thinks his greatest contribution so far has been to encourage other people with disabilities to believe in themselves and to understand that they can make a difference.
Lewis says that lack of awareness of individuals with traits outside society’s accepted norms promotes extreme ignorance, which in turn results in unjustified fear, negative stereotypes, and discrimination. In an effort to combat that ignorance, he aggressively recruits, refers, and supports other like-minded people to become active in the National Federation of the Blind and other organizations in the disability rights movement. He hopes to promote social change by fostering the active participation of more people with disabilities in every facet of society, thereby replacing ignorance with understanding, fear with awareness, and negative stereotypes with mutual understanding. In the process he believes that we will eliminate discrimination.
"With a working knowledge of most disability law and policy and extended experience in advocating for the rights of others, I am committed to improving the quality of life for all people with disabilities by working to remove the barriers of ignorance while creating equal opportunities for all. My personal mission is simple: I want to make a difference in the lives of others."
The needs of the blind of Puerto Rico are legion. With the support of the membership of the National Federation of the Blind of Puerto Rico, this board member has made it his personal mission to lead his affiliate to work for improved and modernized opportunities for education, employment, and daily life for all blind people in this somewhat isolated part of the United States. Now on the national board, he is expanding his work to include improved opportunities for all blind people nationwide.
Alpidio Rolón, the only child of Marcela García and Alpidio Rolón, was born on June 20, 1949, in New York City. Seven years later his family moved back to Puerto Rico, where he has lived since 1956. He volunteered for service in the Army in July 1969, completed basic and advanced infantry training, then was sent to Vietnam in January of 1970. A rifle-propelled grenade that blew up in front of him blinded him on April 7, 1970. Three weeks later young Rolón was sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he learned basic orientation and mobility skills and was treated for perforated eardrums caused by the exploding grenade. He later spent six months at the Central Blind Rehabilitation Center of the Hines Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago. There he learned the blindness skills that would permit him to live independently.
Rolón graduated magna cum laude from the University of Puerto Rico in 1976, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts with a Hispanic Studies major. Continuing his interest in Hispanic studies at the master’s level, he completed both courses and comprehensive test requirements. At the University of Puerto Rico be began advocating for the rights of blind people. Although he had belonged to other blind consumer organizations, he says that it wasn’t until 1991—when he became part of the NFB of Puerto Rico organizing committee—that he began to believe that he could really do something worthwhile to help the blind, that joining the National Federation of the Blind was like coming home. Rolón was first elected as treasurer of the NFB of Puerto Rico in 1992 and has served as its president since 1996. He was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind in July of 2006.
Rolón has combined his love of Spanish and his commitment to the National Federation of the Blind by translating NFB materials into Spanish. He was first motivated to do so when he heard Dr. Kenneth Jernigan’s speech "On the Nature of Independence" at the NFB national convention in 1993, in Dallas, Texas. He has since translated other speeches and Braille Monitor articles, served as a real-time translator of banquet speeches at national conventions, and edited inspirational personal stories of the kind that appear in the NFB Kernel Books, written by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Puerto Rico.
Alpidio Rolón is the president of the Society of Friends of the Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of Puerto Rico. In that capacity he has guided the Society into producing Braille and recorded books in Spanish for blind children in Puerto Rico. To further his goal of improving educational opportunities for blind children, he serves as secretary of the Special Education Advisory Panel for the Puerto Rico Department of Education.
Born July 6, 1949, in Montclair and raised in Bloomfield, New Jersey, Joseph Ruffalo, Jr., had already graduated from Bloomfield High School, attended Montclair State College, and served America in Vietnam, where he earned a Bronze Star, before he learned in 1976 that retinitis pigmentosa would slowly claim his vision. For six years he continued his work as a manager in a Thom McAn shoe store, but by 1983 he began looking for guidance about how to achieve greater proficiency and control over his life as a blind adult.
The staff at the Joseph Kohn Rehabilitation Center (JKRC), then located in Newark, told him he should not learn to use a cane, read Braille, or master any adaptive devices because he still had enough vision to do without them. Though eager to obtain the necessary skills, at the time Joe believed he had no recourse but to adhere to the advice of the only professionals he knew. Not until 1986 did he learn to use a cane, and he accomplished that by teaching himself. Today Joe uses and embraces a wide array of nonvisual techniques to function successfully in his life. While at JKRC, Joe discovered a talent for baking, which led to a successful nine-year career as the owner of a pastry business.
In 1988 Joe tentatively attended his first NFB chapter meeting in Newark. He reports that after ten minutes he knew that his life was about to change dramatically. Realizing that the NFB was a place of fraternity and empowerment, empathy and accomplishment, Joe says, “I saw blind people doing things I wanted to do. They were holding jobs, volunteering, and achieving in every pursuit.” This was the beginning of Joe's own growth and achievement. In 1990 he became second vice president of the New Jersey affiliate; two years later he was first vice president; and by 1993 he was president of the NFB of New Jersey, a position he maintains to this day. “It is a tremendous honor and responsibility to promote positive attitudes about blindness and the abilities of blind people,” Joe comments.
But Joe's community involvement has not been limited to the National Federation of the Blind. He has been a leader in the Lions Club for over twenty years, serving as president for three. He has also held positions as zone/regent chair and serves on the District 16-E cabinet. In the Knights of Columbus Joe has held the positions of guard, warden, and deputy grand knight, and while in the Cub Scouts of America he has been both a den leader and cubmaster. As past president of the Special Education Parent and Professional Organization and past chairman of the board of trustees of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, he has further worked to assure the full integration of people with disabilities into society. Many are unaware that Joe has had a distinguished athletic career through the New Jersey division of the United States Association of Blind Athletes, having achieved particular success in power lifting. In total Joe has won twenty-two medals in different sports at the state, national, and international levels.
Joe attended the Therapeutic Massage Center to obtain certification in massage therapy and from 1998 to 2000 provided massage for staff, patients, and visitors at Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville, before moving his practice to a private office. He has served as a consultant to the Somerset School of Massage, making recommendations to staff and students and answering questions about training methods for blind students.
Joe also works to smooth others' transitions from dependence to independence as a leader in two programs sponsored by the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He is employed by a community service organization in New Jersey as a program specialist in the Senior Community Independent Living Services (SCILS) program, which identifies people over age fifty-five in Essex county who have experienced vision loss, with the goal of teaching independence skills so that these seniors can remain active in the community and independent in their homes. As state program director and northern region coordinator of the Leadership, Education, Advocacy, and Determination (LEAD) program, administered in partnership with Heightened Independence and Progress, Joe provides mentoring activities for blind teenagers and their families.
Joe’s many contributions to the community were recognized in November 2000 when he was honored with the Partnership for Progress Award at the New Jersey Commission's Believe and Achieve ninetieth Anniversary celebration. In July 2001 his leadership in the blindness community was again acknowledged when he was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind. In October of 2002 the State of New Jersey honored Joe by presenting him with the New Jersey Vietnam Service Medal. In 2007 Joe's life experience and volunteering efforts were profiled in a book entitled Noble Paths by James Davy, a former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services. In 2009 Joe was honored by the New Jersey Governor, the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the New Jersey State Talking Book and Braille Center with a plaque recognizing his involvement in the blindness community during a pre-game ceremony at a Trenton Thunder baseball game. Finally, Joe was recognized as the 2009 NFB Imaginator of the Year, an award that acknowledges his devotion to fundraising and promotion of Federation programs at the national and state levels.
Joe has always been encouraged and supported by his wife Judy and his two sons, Joseph and James. In his spare time Joe likes sports of all kinds, especially baseball and basketball and enjoys hosting Thru Our Eyes, an Internet radio program (www.thruoureyes.org) that highlights blindness issues, discusses technology, and promotes positive attitudes about blindness.
Joe’s life and work express his commitment to the blind and their struggle for equality in society. His achievements stand as an example for others, like those of the Federationists who deeply impressed him at his first chapter meeting. He achieves and grows, facing every challenge with energy, enthusiasm, and common sense. In so doing, he exemplifies his belief that “one of the most important things for members of the blind community to do is to teach the public that blindness is only a characteristic. With the proper training, skills, attitude, and techniques, blindness can be reduced to a physical nuisance.”
by Ronza Othman
From the Editor: Perhaps everyone can look back and identify people whose impact on his or her life was profound—people who live on, at least a little, in us. Our lives are richer for recognizing such influences and for honoring them when they have been positive. We have occasionally published profiles of such mentors in the pages of the Braille Monitor, but I cannot remember a single one with the power and brevity of the following sketch.
The author of this piece is Ronza Othman, a 2006 NFB scholarship winner and active Federationist. Her sketch first appeared in the Fall 2005 issue of the Braille Examiner, the publication of the NFB of Illinois. A version of this recollection was published in the October 2006 issue of the Braille Monitor, but we have uncovered a slightly expanded version of this story that adds important dimensions to Ronza's account.
Rami died in the spring, so it seems appropriate to reprint it at this time. Now meet Rami Atiya; you will not soon forget him:
I met Rami Atiya on the school bus when I was five years old and he was nine. Our families were from the same Arabic and suburban communities, but we hadn't met before that day. He was blind too, and to my surprise he was both willing and eager to talk about his disability. I had been raised in an atmosphere in which it was taboo to talk about my blindness. This was true in his situation as well, but he defied cultural traditions. He said his blindness was just as much a part of him as his hair color, and since no one expected him to wear a hat to cover his hair, he wouldn't pretend he wasn't blind.
Rami and I were bused to the same school district for four years. It was a magnet school district, catering to blind, vision-impaired, deaf, and hearing-impaired children from suburban Chicago. Our commute lasted about an hour each way, so Rami and I had plenty of time to talk. I was initially struck by his energy and enthusiasm. Then I was awed by his optimism and belief that any problem could be solved with a lot of hard work and a positive attitude. He was generous, kind, and absolutely hilarious. He taught me how to walk with a cane and made it look cool. Then he taught me how to use my cane to protect myself when other kids were cruel to me. He gave me the gift of being able to laugh at the world, and at myself in particular.
I transferred to a different school when I was nine, and Rami moved to Florida soon afterward. We exchanged letters for several more years and got together whenever he visited Chicago. Once we talked about how unlikely it was that either of us would ever get married, given how unreceptive Arabs were to blindness. Rami, with his usual enthusiasm, suggested we solve that problem by being one another's in-case person—if neither of us had married by the time I turned twenty-four, we'd defy everyone and marry each other.
Rami wrote me when he was sixteen to tell me that he was undergoing eye surgery. He said that there was a strong likelihood that the procedure would restore his sight. He confided that he had agreed to the surgery only because his parents wanted it so badly, but that he was otherwise willing to remain as he was. He talked about how afraid and lonely he felt. But in usual Rami fashion he told me that this experience would simply give him more material to laugh at when it was over.
I received a letter a few days after Rami's scheduled surgery, but it was from his sister. Rami had suffered a heart attack as a result of complications from the anesthesia. He had died instantly.
I will, God willing, celebrate my twenty-fourth birthday this summer. I suppose that is why I think of Rami so often, though he has never been far from my thoughts. He was the best person I've ever known, and it would please him to see how far the Arabic community has come in its acceptance of blind people. He would have enjoyed knowing that many of us are getting involved with organizations like the National Federation of the Blind, and I like to think he would be proud of me for not allowing my blindness to impede my ambitions.
I chose to study health law and healthcare administration because I believe that the poor and disabled must have access to high-quality healthcare services and protections. As blind people our job is to fight for and attain these rights. Rami taught me that I am the only one in a position to tell others what I need, and he showed me I am the only person who can prevent myself from achieving my goals. If I assist others in meeting their objectives along the way, I am simply repaying Rami's gift to me.
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
by Chris Kuell
From the Editor: Chris Kuell has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind since 1998, a year after he lost his vision to complications of diabetes. He is second vice president of our Connecticut affiliate, president of our Danbury chapter, and editor of the affiliate's semiannual newsletter, The Federationist. Chris sits on the oversight body for the Connecticut rehabilitation agency for the blind. In his free time he plays the guitar and is an aspiring novelist.
In the following piece Chris examines the balance between independence and reliance on others that all blind people occasionally consider. His view of that balance reflects his personal choices and his perception of his aptitudes. Others may draw the line differently. Nevertheless, he describes the age-old dilemma that we all think about. Here is what he says:
The other day I put some cardboard into the recycling bin we keep on the back porch. To manage this two-handed task, I leaned my cane on the wall then heard it fall with a thwack on the wood floor. As I bent to retrieve it, a sharp pain pierced my right ring finger. During the scooping process I had jammed a sliver of wood under my fingernail. As I struggled to get a grip on the splinter, pain pulsed under my nail, and I thought of North Vietnamese soldiers torturing American GIs.
I could feel the end of the splinter but couldn’t get enough of a grip to pull it out. “Grace,” I called to my daughter, who was engrossed in watching YouTube videos on the family computer, “could you please help me?”
I preach and try to practice the principle of blind people’s being independent. I know we can be independent, assuming our only difficulty is blindness. It’s not a tragedy or as debilitating as most people believe. We don’t need people to fetch, cook, clean, transport, and guide us. Just look around at the thousands of blind people who live alone and go to work, school, and grocery shopping—whatever needs to be done. After all, It’s important to consider the image we project to the people we occasionally ask to help us and to those who see us receiving that help. Asking for help with things we could easily do ourselves strongly conveys that we cannot do them independently. The logical conclusion by the sighted public is that blindness is severely limiting. The result is that we get pity instead of jobs.
The best way to change society’s misconceptions about blindness is to demonstrate by example. Paint your house yourself. Take the trash out and bring the empty cans back in. Walk to the bus stop and go to a store or out to dinner.
But the truth is that all of us do need help sometimes. If we take a bus to that new Italian restaurant and no Braille menus are available (and if, like me, you don’t own a knfbReader), we need someone to read us the menu. We need someone to tell us what’s at the salad bar and to help us find the restroom. Not every city has taxis, and buses aren’t always running or going where we need to go, so we rely on friends, family, and hired drivers to take us. We need help shopping, particularly when the computer is on the fritz. When a little narration can bring a movie, show, or sporting event to life, some sighted description is valuable.
Somewhere at the center of all this murkiness is the line that divides laziness from reasonable ease. For instance, I can certainly walk by myself through tables at a restaurant, but it’s faster and less disruptive if someone guides me. Being guided saves me from whacking innocent patrons with my cane or hip. Sure, I can Braille an index card and tie a rubber band around it and a can so that I know kidney beans are in it. But it’s so much faster to ask one of my kids to find me a can of beans in the cabinet. Eyes are extremely helpful for locating the television remote or my missing stapler and identifying the denominations of currency. Thank God I have someone to help me find and download songs on iTunes.
So I’m a bit of a hypocrite. On the one hand I can’t stand hearing blind people say that they can’t do this or that when I know they can. The cliché, "Where there’s a will, there’s a way," applies. But in me the impulse for independence usually struggles against practicality. Sure, I can mow the lawn myself, but it’s easier, faster, and probably better done if a sighted person mows it.
As children we are completely dependent on the people rearing us. In our late teens and twenties we become independent, learning to break away from the family and make it on our own. I think it’s important for blind people to achieve independence and to gain confidence. Once one has realized a measure of independence and confidence, it is possible to move toward interdependence. A good example is dealing with mail. I can spend an hour opening and scanning the fifty pages of mail I get every day, or I can have a sighted reader help me go through a week’s mail in twenty minutes.
It seems to me that it comes down to this: we should try to avoid laziness and raise our consciousness. We should shoulder as much as we can carry and ask for help when we can’t pull out the splinter. The ongoing challenge is determining which is which.
by Jessica Kastner Plaskett
From the Editor: Many Federationists recognize Noreen Grice because of her work with the NFB Jernigan Institute’s science-related initiatives. Ms. Grice was a 2008 recipient of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award, acknowledging her long-term efforts to improve the quality of blind people’s knowledge of astronomy. Here is a newspaper article reprinted from the Plainville [Connecticut] Citizen on March 22, 2010, that highlights her career and devotion to the idea of nonvisual access to astronomy:
Author Noreen Grice doesn't just help sight-impaired children see. She helps them touch the stars. Known worldwide for her innovations in making astronomy accessible to the blind, the New Britain resident makes her way to the Plainville Library once a month to meet with fellow National Federation of the Blind members. She's also donated five of her Braille books and two projects to the library in order to continually serve a population that captured her heart twenty-six years ago.
When working as a planetarium presenter at the Boston Museum of Science in 1984, Grice spoke with a disgruntled group of blind children who couldn't enjoy the show. “They said ‘the show stunk,’ because there was no way to see anything,” Grice said. "It bothered me so much that I decided I just had to do something about it.” And the rest is history.
Grice soon learned that the pricey cost of Braille books made Braille astronomy books extremely rare. Still attending Boston University at the time, Grice shocked her professors by changing her senior project to solve that problem. She and her professor were soon experimenting with Play-Doh to create tactile images for blind readers that would become her first published book down the road. But that wasn't good enough for Grice. She still wanted to improve conditions in museums for the sight impaired. During the next few years Grice worked against many challenges to eventually make the Boston Museum of Science accessible to the blind, handicapped, and other disabled populations.
After obtaining a master’s degree in astronomy from San Diego State University, Grice returned to Boston and asked if she could apply for a grant that would give her a Braille printer to help create inexpensive tactile pictures. She received the grant and was soon printing pictures that allowed the blind to see the wonder of space for the first time. She then revisited her senior project and used her new printing methods to create Touch the Stars, her first Braille astronomy book, published by Boston Museum of Science. The book is now in its fourth edition and has been used as a textbook at a school for the blind.
She has since published four other Braille books including Touch the Sun: A NASA Braille Book, which was her first book for NASA, and Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy. Grice also started a company called You Can Do Astronomy in 2004, focused on making astronomy and space science accessible to people with disabilities. Becoming a household name in the sight-impaired community, Grice has been a speaker at National Federation of the Blind workshops and many other conventions nationwide. She also works with NASA to create educational materials for the sight impaired.
“Noreen doesn't see blind people as broken sighted people; she looks at them as people that have capability, and how do we give them accessibility to information presented visually, usually out of convenience, not necessity,” said NFB Executive Director Marc Riccobono. “She believes in her work, and it's that real belief that's in her heart and in her mind that makes her so effective.”
Although Grice is dedicated to helping the sight impaired see the beauty of space that she's adored since she was a child, Grice's determination doesn't stem from a friend or loved one being blind. Her motivation comes also from being misunderstood, she said. "When I was little, we lived in the public housing projects, and I couldn't go over to my friend's house because her parents made an assumption about me, about being poor," Grice said. "So I understood the feeling of hitting a barrier because other people were making an assumption."
She said some institutions have assumed that visually-challenged people are not interested in visiting a planetarium, which Grice said is not the case. Grice said, although there are an estimated ten million people in North America with visual impairments, the majority of museums offer little or no accommodations, since most exhibits sit behind glass cases. Grice is working to help museums and education organizations revise their facilities through a combination of design and consulting to allow everyone to enjoy learning.
And so many already have, Grice said. “Kids will come up and say somebody gave them Touch the Stars, and I'm going to be an astronaut now because I know I can do this," Grice said. "I talked to a college engineering student determined to be the first blind astronaut in space, just because he read my book. It's so rewarding to hear that.”
Her work at the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science also included introducing captioning devices to enable the hearing impaired to follow the show. Working her way up to operations coordinator of the planetarium, she recently left her position at the museum. She said she feels her work there came full circle from having no special aids to help visitors with certain impairments to learn and enjoy the museum, to opening a new world for many. Grice said she'll have more time hopefully to impact more children by trying to incorporate Braille books into the general school sector. “For some reason I feel this kindredship with them (the blind), and now I'm working on my own and able to do so much more,” Grice said. “It doesn't matter if it's science or art; it's just important that they can see it too.”
To see Grice's work, visit <www.youcandoastronomy.com>.
From Barbara Pierce: The other day my daughter reported to me that she had heard my nine-year-old grandson thanking God for the Internet. I must confess that when I return home from a trip to confront hundreds of email messages, most of which I do not wish to receive, I do not share Jack’s enthusiasm for this intrusive and almost ubiquitous element of modern life. But, when I read exchanges on our listservs like the following, I am forced to admit that never before have blind people had such a powerful tool for seeking encouragement, information, and advice. This particular thread began on August 19, 2009, with a post to the National Association of Blind Lawyers listserv from a woman being discouraged by her vocational rehabilitation counselor from applying to law school. Other listers took it from there. We reprint here the original post and several of the many responses that the woman received. Note the reassurance, solid advice, and offers of help if needed that characterize the posts. This network of knowledgeable supporters is one of the most valuable and empowering aspects of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is the exchange:
Dear Lawyers with Low or No Vision,
I am legally blind with little central vision. I have a strong academic record as well as an employment history which includes having brokerage and insurance licenses. Anyway, my vision has deteriorated to the point of my not being able to read large print. I have been home with small children for several years. Today I had my first meeting with a rehabilitation counselor. I told her that I wanted to go to law school and become an expert in disability and civil rights law. She told me, "Well, maybe after vocational counseling, we can help you come up with some better goals."
Is it really so unreasonable to believe I can compete in law school and legal practice with little and eventually no vision? While I am no Einstein, I am not a dolt. Am I being unrealistic? Is it possible to alter one's learning style as an adult? I always learned by reading and writing. For me law school would need to be accomplished exclusively using adaptive (text-to-speech) technology. I can read print only with intense contrast and magnification aids.
Anyway, maybe I am unrealistic. I have children,. I could stay home and organize my recipe collection. But losing my sight has given me the desire to advocate for those who face systemic barriers in our society. Do I need "better goals?” Did anyone out there learn to learn again in a different way? How did you do so? Is every day a struggle to compete with sighted peers? Were law school and practicing so stressful that they contributed to destroying your family? If you had to do it over again, would you? If not, what would you have done? Do you have any suggestions for me?
I would greatly appreciate any help or advice you can provide.
Approximately four years ago my vision started deteriorating rapidly. Until that time I had been able to read both printed texts and the computer screen. I was like many people, ignorant of what a blind person could do. I decided that I better go to university if I was ever to stand a chance at completing it successfully. Approximately three months into my education I lost all of my remaining sight and had to make the switch to adaptive technology. For me this consisted of the JAWS screen reader and the Kurzweil 1000 book-reading software.
Obviously there was a learning curve in adapting to learning without using printed text and learning how to use a computer with speech. However, after three years of undergraduate education and the stress of writing the LSAT (I wrote it only once) I was accepted into law school and was awarded a fairly hefty academic scholarship.
To sum it all up, I would say that you should not consider your loss of vision as a handicap to being successful in law school. You may want, however, to consider a number of other factors: why you want to study law, whether you are prepared for the time commitment, what impact law school will have on your family, etc.
HTH [Hope this helps],
Like you, I have little to no central vision and have been losing vision throughout my adult life (I can barely read extraordinarily large print--letters have to be four inches tall, and even at that size I take forty-five minutes to read one page of text), so essentially I cannot read visually. Also like you, I wanted to go to law school after taking six years off to work after I graduated from college. I too wanted to enter the field of disability rights law and policy to work in bringing about much needed systemic change for the disability community.
With only four months between me and my diploma from UCLA School of Law, I think I am safe in saying one can definitely become a lawyer with this type of disability. I must admit, however, that it has not been easy. Even though I have considered withdrawing from the J.D. program three times and even had to seek legal counsel in order to get reasonable accommodations for the LSAT and in law school, I still tell others who share my career goals that it is worthwhile and something I would do again if I were given the choice.
I was very depressed and extremely isolated at my law school. The university had only one other blind person in the entire school, and, although she is a great friend, she was an undergrad who wasn't enduring anything like the law school experience I was encountering. I joined the local NFB chapter, but it had to fold due to lack of membership (there really aren't very many blind folks near where I attend school).
By my second year in law school I was seriously depressed about my career choice. While contemplating withdrawing, I connected with one of my mentors, Ollie Cantos, who was working in the White House on domestic disability policy at the time. He talked with me for hours--until 3 a.m. He listened to all of my concerns, shared common experiences, and offered wonderful advice. He said there were two things I needed to do in order to survive in this field: I needed to find a way to be connected on a regular basis with what inspired me to go to law school (and he stipulated that this should not be done within my own law school; it needed to be outside). He also explained that he was willing to make this investment in speaking with me because he was asking me to pay it forward--to offer guidance to at least three others later. These two pieces of advice have been the most helpful I've received.
Within three weeks of speaking with Ollie, I became the chair of the Steering Committee to launch a new organization, the National Association of Law Students with Disabilities (www.nalswd.org). I later became president of this organization, and now I am an advisor to the organization, and I'm launching an affiliate group for lawyers with disabilities (more on that later). This community work has assisted me tremendously--offering me peer support and wonderful professional development experience (we're filing for our nonprofit status, have raised over $40,000, organized national conferences, created hundreds of contacts in the legal field, and done advocacy work on LSAT issues and other projects that affect law students with disabilities; and I have honed my management skills as I lead a cross-disability network of law students with the full range of disabilities in organizational work). I write all of this because I want you to know that, not only can blind people excel in law school, but they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to.
As for the second piece of advice Ollie Cantos gave me--to reach out to others behind me--I think it is one of the most important things a lawyer or law student with a disability can do with his or her time. I believe it is billable time in the case we are all working on--the advancement of people with disabilities in the legal profession.
I can assure you that, if you asked the average rehab counselor if all of this was attainable, the answer would probably not be "yes." I would never consider a rehab counselor's assessment of what I could or couldn’t accomplish (or anyone else for that matter). Instead, I chose to look at what I want to do and who I can connect with to talk about different aspects of the path toward that goal. I constantly seek out advice from blind lawyers, blind law students, and others with disabilities. Soliciting advice has helped me personally, and it has helped me foster professional contacts. I think every aspiring law student with a disability should seek this kind of counsel from several sources.
As for taking time off before law school to work and focus on your family--I think this will actually have been a great advantage for you. Research has shown that individuals who have these types of experiences under their belt before law school do better academically and cope better with the personal challenges encountered in legal education. So be grateful you didn't go straight through or spend just a year off. Your experiences will give you a wonderful foundation that can really keep you centered.
Use your personal advocacy skills to convince your rehab counselor that you can do this. If she won't budge, find a different rehab counselor. If you are still a rehab client, you should be able to get the agency to pay for law school. I know blind law students in many states, and I know what they've gotten rehab to pay for--let me know where you live (or where you plan to attend law school).
Yes, an adult can learn to learn in a new way. I highly recommend that you learn Braille and how to use screen-reading software like Jaws for Windows before going to law school. I learned both of these in my twenties, and they are invaluable. Since I was working full time when I was losing vision, I didn't want to go away to one of NFB's centers to learn Braille. Instead, my rehab counselor sent a Braille teacher to work with me on my lunch hour every day.
I am happy to answer any other questions you may have along the way (including advice on getting accommodations for the LSAT—which can be tricky--I've interviewed over forty students on this issue). You can email me off-list.
If you email me off-list, I will send you an article about me that describes how I handle law school material. It details what my vision is like and describes my career goals and national organizing work. Having a recently published article to give to your counselor that has many parallels to your own situation may mitigate some of her counter arguments and skepticism. Plus rehab loves documentation in justifying expensive rehab clients (like those who get them to pay for law school). This article could definitely be used for documentation that this is feasible and reasonable. I wish you the best of luck in your career path and hope to meet you along the way.
I am the sighted mother of a seven-year-old blind child. I graduated from law school (Wake Forest--woo hoo!--it really was a fabulous school) in 1996. I served as a law clerk and then opened my own practice. It was hard, but my husband's support has always been invaluable. I severely cut back my practice after our daughter was born and developed many health problems.
Later, after those problems were resolved (she is no longer at death's door) and we found out that she is blind, I resumed my practice. But something else kept nagging at me. You see, I always wanted to teach, but my parents were not at all supportive of my dream. So I went to law school and business school and got my J.D. and my MBA. I am successful but unfulfilled.
This summer I started a program to become a TVI (teacher of the visually impaired). Eventually I hope to attain a PhD and advocate, lecture, and teach about the vital importance of blindness skills for our children. My husband has been phenomenally supportive (although my mother has been less so).
I am setting forth all of this information to illustrate how incredibly important it is to follow your dreams—to feed your soul. Is it hard going back to school with a child (or more than one) for whom you are primarily responsible? Yes. But I often find myself putting off my legal work in order to advocate for other parents of blind children or even doing my homework in my classes. (I never liked my law school homework that much.)
Please take a full inventory and make certain that you have sufficient family support for your goals. A supportive husband is truly worth far more than his weight in gold, oil, etc. On the other hand, my husband has noticed that a more satisfied, though weary, wife is better than one who is unfulfilled in her chosen career.
Once you are confident in the level of family support (emotional, physical, housekeeping, financial, etc.), go for it. There are various scholarships available, especially for those interested in going into public interest law (such as disability advocacy). Check with the law school(s) you are considering, it or they may even offer scholarships or loan repayments for students who go into public interest law.Please, please, please follow your dreams, if at all possible. You will be a better wife, mother, and human being for it! Take care, and PLEASE do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of any help.
by Linda Zani
From the Editor: In the January 2010 issue we published an article on women’s fashion by Linda Zani. Now she has pulled together material that men specifically will find useful. Linda is a member of the NFB of New Jersey. She serves on the board of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children of New Jersey. She has designed and made her own clothes and a line of jewelry called Sparkle Brilliant. Linda’s daughter Marisa is multiply disabled and lives with her parents. Last year Linda conducted a fashion workshop at the New Jersey state convention. It was very popular, so she decided to put some of her useful tips on paper. Following is the information she believes will assist men who wish to look their best. Linda would love to hear stories of your personal style journey and will answer your questions at [email protected] or at (201) 314-8045. This is what she says:
Discovering and embracing your assets is the cornerstone of your unique style and image and will give you great self-confidence to be the best you can be. Being assured in your personal style helps others see you as smart, self-disciplined, a good decision maker, and someone who pays great attention to detail. Hmmm--sounds like someone who has a great social life and an excellent career—a real go-getter. As you become more comfortable in your skin and your self-confidence increases, you put others at ease and attain better personal relationships. Your decision-making and attention to detail can help you land that job or promotion. Cultivating your own personal style is a discipline that benefits you in all areas of your life.
You can have much more success in becoming a style and fashion icon than a sighted person. You heard me correctly. Vision can be misleading and, in personal style, just plain confusing. You see, sighted people copy the fashion sense of those we admire, and this can really get us into trouble. Chances are you look different from other members of your family, your friends, coworkers, or classmates. One of them probably wishes he looked like you. Trust me, having vision causes us to make lots of errors when we aspire to the image of someone else, instead of accepting and celebrating the physical gifts we already have.
In this article you will learn what looks best on you, how to choose fashions and trends that fit your personal style, how to determine what colors suit you best and how to use color to convey your personal style, and how to master shopping tips, tricks, and resources.
Are you ready? Come with me for a style ride to looking good without looking.
Step 1: Find Your Natural Shape
For this all-important first step, you will need a measuring tape and a sighted person to read it or an adapted tape measure (tactile tape measure available at nfb.org or independentliving.com). Please measure yourself in your underwear. You will also need a small notebook and cellophane tape for this and the other steps. This notebook will become your personal stylebook. Jot these numbers down in your stylebook so you will have them to show the salespeople when you go shopping. You will need to record seven basic measurements:
Now for the fun part—determining your body shape and figure type. There are five basic male body shapes:
Trapezoid: Shoulders and chest are broad, waist and hips are medium. This shape is considered the most balanced male figure type. Personal Style Goal: Not to throw your look out of balance.
Rectangle: Chest, waist, and hips are all about the same measurement, torso shape is straight. Personal style goal: to emphasize the shoulders. For those with a slim build, the goal is to add bulk.
Inverted Triangle: Shoulders and chest are the widest part of the body, and the waist and hips are very narrow. Personal Style Goal: To balance the upper and lower figure proportions by minimizing the upper figure or maximizing the lower figure.
Oval: Chest and waist are about the same measurement and are much larger than the hips, or waist is the largest measurement. Personal Style Goal: To minimize the waist and balance the upper and lower figure proportions to create the appearance of a longer, slimmer torso.
Triangle: Hips are the widest part of the body. Personal Style Goal: To balance the upper and lower figure proportions by minimizing the lower figure and maximizing the upper figure, creating the appearance of broad shoulders.
Step 2: Determine Your Clothing Size
Now that you know your measurements, you can determine the size you will take. You may be two different sizes, one on top and another on the bottom.
Shirts are sized by neck measurement and sleeve length. On dress shirts you will generally see both measurements listed. T-shirts, sweatshirts, and sweaters are sized as S, M, L, XL, and so on.
Pants are sized by waist and inseam to get the right fit. This goes for khakis, blue jeans, and dress pants. Sweatpants are available in S, M, L, XL and so on.
Suits and sport coats are sized by the chest measurement. For pants with them, the sizing is a little different from regular pants. A two-piece suit with a jacket size of 36-42 will come with pants that are six inches smaller at the waist. For example, a man with a forty-inch chest will take a jacket size 40, but the suit will come with thirty-four-inch pants at the waist. Suits for men with a chest size from forty-four to forty-six come with pants five inches smaller, and those forty-eight inches and up will come with pants that are four inches smaller at the waist.
Many men are not built this way and should shop for suit separates instead of a two-piece suit to get the right fit. Stores like J. Crew and Today’s Man offer separates, as do many department stores. Stores such as Nordstrom and Lord and Taylor offer free expert alterations.
Tall sizes are generally for men who are five feet eleven inches to six feet three inches. Shirts will be about two inches longer in the body and one-and-a-half inches longer in long sleeves and three quarters of an inch longer in short sleeves.
Trim fit or tailored styles are becoming very popular for men who are fit and trim. J.Crew, Today’s Man, Joseph A. Banks, and Nordstrom carry tailored shirts and suits and sport coats.
Men's Clothing Size Chart
Step 3: Choose the Right Silhouettes for Your Shape
Now for the fun part—choosing garments that give you the right silhouette to balance your figure or, for trapezoid shaped men, to keep you in balance. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts:
Trapezoid: Fitted clothing looks great on you. Be careful not to add bulk, and choose color carefully so as not to throw off your proportions. Flat front pants are best for you as are straight-leg jeans.
Rectangle: Add width at your shoulders by wearing jackets with shoulder structure, pads or details such as epaulets. Make sure jackets cinch in at the waist. V-neck and boat neck tops work well on you. Emphasize your waist with a belt. Be sure shorts and sweaters are not boxy or too loose. For those with a slim build, try double-breasted, double-vented jackets.
Inverted Triangle: add width to your hips to balance your broad shoulders. Your tops should contain minimal details and be darker than your pants. One-button jackets and long jacket and coat styles work well on you. Boot cut or wide leg jeans work well on you, as do pants that are pleated in front.
Oval: your goal is to deemphasize your waist by focusing on your shoulders and hips to keep your look in balance. Wear tops that skim the body, and do not tuck them in. One- or two-button, single-vented jackets are a good choice, as are tops with V or scoop necks. Vertical stripes are great on you, but avoid horizontal stripes. You will find belts difficult to wear. Cardigans and vests are a good choice. Try wearing light colors on top with darker colors on the bottom or monochromatic dressing (all shades in one color family). Flat-front pants only, and straight-leg jeans—not too wide legged.
Triangle: balance your figure by adding emphasis to your shoulders with boatnecks and cap-sleeved T-shirts. Jackets and tops should cover your derriere; shoulder pads are great for you, as are lightly fitted shirts. Boxy, double-breasted jackets will probably not work on you. One- or two-button jackets with the top button left undone are good on you because the opening of the jackets will make a V toward your face. Tight tops with no structure will throw your figure out of balance—especially shorter tops. Flat-front, boot-cut jeans are a good choice for you. Try light colors on top, dark on the bottom.
Experiment with what looks best on you. Then cut out and tape your dos and don’ts sheet in your stylebook to help you find your best fashion styles quickly when you’re shopping. Most large departments stores like Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, and Nordstrom have personal shoppers who will work with you within your budget at no charge—and they offer free alterations, including hems on regular price items.
Step 4: Choose the Perfect Outfit for Each Occasion
What styles say about you: Before you attend your next meeting, have a job interview, or go out with friends or on a date, take a moment to consider what you want the outcome to be. How do you want to be perceived? How do you want to be remembered? Then dress accordingly. My own tip is, if the thought even enters your mind while you are getting ready that maybe you should wear something else, listen to that thought. Change your outfit.
Control the message: When you feel confident and dress right for the occasion, you control your message even before you open your mouth to speak. Remember the old saying, you have only one chance to make a good first impression. The sighted make a judgment call on vision alone right from the get-go. The fact that a visually impaired person can nail that first perception with excellent wardrobe choices will be impressive.
Your choice of color can also bolster your image. Experts suggest wearing charcoal gray or dark blue for a job interview, red to stand out when taking a leadership role or speaking in public. A shade of blue that looks good on you is an excellent choice for a date.
For men at work choosing your best neutral is important because your suits, pants, and sport coats will be in that color family. Choosing the perfect tie color both to flatter your coloring and to send the right message is key. If your tie is in any way distracting, it is not considered a business tie but more appropriate for a social event. Deep, rich colors look more expensive and are more authoritative. Lighter shades of these colors tend to be more friendly and social or used in the summer. A black tie is more formal than colors, and a white tie is definitely formal. Small, evenly spaced patterns are appropriate for business, including pin dots, paisley, or rep or striped ties. Solid dark colors convey quiet elegance, while satin-finish ties are more formal.
Step 5: Finding Your Best Color Palette
Choosing the right colors to wear is as important as finding the right silhouettes for your shape. To look your best, you can’t have one without the other. Color choices say a lot about the wearer, and, just like clothing silhouettes and styles, they telegraph to anyone with sight a lot about who you are. Seeing colors creates a different emotional reaction and assumption in the viewer. It’s important not only to wear colors that are most flattering but also to wear colors appropriate to the message about yourself that you want to convey. Here is a list of colors and the emotions they evoke:
Red: excitement, confidence. Red draws attention to itself and really stands out. If red were a scent, it would be a blooming rose or cinnamon. If it were a sound, it would be like Pavarotti holding the final note of “Nessun Dorma.”
Yellow: happy, bright. Yellow also draws attention to itself. If yellow were a scent, it would be a lemon. If it were a sound it would be Mariah Carey singing her highest note. Light yellow is a soft color and would taste like lemon custard.
Blue: serene, fresh, peaceful, spiritual. Blue can be calming in its warmer tones, and invigorating in its cooler tones. If blue were a scent, it would be the ocean. If blue were a sound, it would be rushing water.
Green: friendly, welcoming, relaxing, natural. If green were a scent, it would smell like mint or freshly mown grass. If you stand still in the woods in the summer and listen, that is the sound of green.
Purple: regal, sophisticated. If purple were a scent, it would be fragrant lilac. If purple were a sound, it would be a saxophone’s melody.
Orange: happy, welcoming. If orange were a scent, it would smell like an orange or an apricot. Orange feels like sunshine on your skin.
Light pink: gentle, feminine, soft. If light pink were a scent, it would be baby powder. It feels like a feather on your skin. Bright pink or rose is happy and feminine. It would taste like strawberry jam.
White: pure, heavenly, angelic, honest. If white were a scent, it would smell like clean sheets when they come out of the dryer. If white were a sound, it would be a breeze in the leaves.
Ivory: warm, sophisticated. If ivory were a scent, it would be vanilla. If it were a flavor, it would be vanilla custard or dulce de leche.
Brown: warm, earthy, sophisticated. If brown were a scent or flavor, it would be warm chocolate cake. Brown sounds like James Earle Jones’ voice.
Black: serious, mysterious, intense. If black were a scent, it would be incense. Black feels like the night.
Gray: a sophisticated, elegant neutral. It conveys quiet confidence. Gray feels like a cashmere pillow or a fine mist on your skin.
Determining Which Shades Look Best on You
Each color has both warm and cooler versions or shades. Warm colors have a bit of yellow to them and work best on people with warmer skin tones. Cool colors have a bit of blue in them. To determine which look best on you, it is helpful to determine your category, warm or cool.Get two pieces of jewelry—one gold tone and the other silver tone. Hold them up to your face. If you look best in gold, your skin has a warm tone; if silver looks better, your skin has a cool tone.
Let’s break it down further. According to a great book called Life in Color by Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo, those with warm coloring can be divided into sun or earth groups; those with cool coloring are divided into moon and star groups.
You can determine which of these groups you belong to by holding up two different colors to your face in natural lighting and choosing which looks best. These colors correspond to Benjamin Moore paint swatch colors 2020-30, Sparkling Sun, and 2169-30, Oriole, for those with warm coloring; and 2061-60, Little Boy Blue, and 2062-30, Blue Danube, for those with cool coloring. You can get paint chips at any Benjamin Moore store in order to do this exercise. The book Color Me Beautiful calls these groups winter, spring, summer, and fall. Some salespeople may be more familiar with those terms, so I have listed them below as well.
2020-30 Sparkling Sun: sun/summer
Suns look best in clear tropical colors with a yellow base such as saffron, coral, and apple green.
2169-30 Oriole: earth/fall
Earths look best in rich, deep hues with a yellow base like berry, moss, chocolate, and deep teal.
2061-60 Little Boy Blue: moon/spring
Moons look best in light, clear blue-based colors such as strawberry, sky blue, lavender, and pink.
2062-30 Blue Danube: star/winter
Stars look best in rich jewel tones with a blue base like ice blue, true red, and ultraviolet. Black looks best on Stars.
Once you’ve determined your color group, your best bet is to choose colors with either warm or cool tones that are in your color palette. Another thing I like about Life in Color is that the authors have removable color chips by group in the back of the book. Those without access to this book should not despair. Hold scarves or pieces of material of different colors up to your face to see which colors look best on you or to have someone with a strong color sense do so.
Once you have a pile of color swatches or scarves that look great on you, you can bring those items in to the paint store and have the manager scan them into the computer to determine which paint colors correspond to them. Here’s where your stylebook comes in handy again. Tape your paint color chips or swatches into your stylebook to guide salespeople at your favorite clothing stores. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can take a snapshot of any item and use the ColorCapture application from Benjamin Moore or the ColorSnap application from Sherwin Williams to translate them to paint chip colors.
Streamline Your Wardrobe with Your Personal Signature and Basic Colors
The best way to build a wardrobe is to choose one or two basic colors called neutrals to showcase your silhouette and form the building blocks of your outfits. Neutrals are grounding and calming; certain neutral shades will work best for your color palette.
Sun/summer: suns look best in medium warm brown, chocolate brown, and ivory. Grays are probably not best for you.
Earth/fall: earths look best in brown hues with a yellow base, like chocolate or camel, medium or light brown khaki. Medium or light gray or olive green are probably not best on you.
Moon/spring: moons look best in cool grays and dark navy blue. Beige and brown colors are not good for moons.
Star/winter: stars look best in cool medium to dark gray or bright or soft white. Beige, mustard or olive green will probably not work for you.
Suits and pants in your basic colors will form a base for you to pop your tops and ties with your signature colors. Your signature color is whichever shade in your color palette (sun, earth, moon, star) is not a neutral but gives you the most joy and makes you feel right. It will be the color or colors that make you look the best when held up to your face and that fit your personality. Do let me know which is yours.
One question I’ve received since this article was first published is, “How do I mix colors together”? Over 300 years ago Sir Isaac Newton invented the color wheel, a tool used mostly by artists to mix colors that work well together. The three primary colors—red, yellow, and blue--are equally spaced around the wheel and form three points of a triangle. Picture that triangle embedded in a circle. Now we fill in the spaces between each pair of these three colors with three secondary colors that are created by mixing together the two primary colors at each end of the arc. Between blue and yellow is green; between yellow and red is orange; and between red and blue is purple. To form the tertiary colors, combine one primary color and the secondary color beside it: yellow- orange, red-orange, fuchsia, blue violet, blue green, and yellow green—and all the shades between. These can be lightened with white or darkened with black to form all the colors in the rainbow.
Complementary colors are directly across from one another on the color wheel. For example, red orange is across from teal or a dark blue-green; fuchsia or bright blue- based pink is across from bright lime green. Colors placed side by side on the color wheel also look great together. These analogous colors may be something like blue and blue-green, yellow and tangerine or yellow-orange. Finally, different shades—whether lighter or darker—of the same color is called monochromatic and is a very popular way to dress.
Step 6: Streamlining and Organizing Your Closet
First, some basic tips: Unless it is a formal outfit of some kind, if you did not wear a certain item at all last season, give it to a friend, take it to a consignment store, or donate it. If an item is stained or hopelessly out of date, make it go away. If an item is not flattering on you because of fit, silhouette, or color--get rid of it. Now you are left with what looks best on you. You will probably need to go shopping to fill in the gaps. And you will need to arrange the items in your closet so you can match them correctly.
Here are some tricks to try: Hang clothing that is frequently worn together as outfits. I am a real proponent of Huggable Hangers, available on Home Shopping Network and at hsn.com. These velvety hangers enable you to fit more in your closet, and the cascading hooks can be used to hang multiple pieces on one hanger. They also have many great storage and organization ideas. To hear a video presentation of Huggable Hangers, go to hsn.com, click on home solutions, then Joy Mangano, and then click on any Huggable Hanger picture and go to the video.
Hang metal Braille tags on the hangers so you can tell the items by color. Use different labels for basic neutrals and signature color pieces. Keep all like items together. Always return the items to their place after washing or wearing.
GQ’s Seven Style Mistakes for Men
To conclude, here are some final tips from the experts:
1. Jackets too large
2. Dad jeans: High waisted, light wash.
3. Skimpy silk tie
4. Suit pants too long—ask for “no break” at tailor.
5. Soft collar—make sure collars frame your face even without a tie, use collar stays.
6. Wearing casual belt with suit—choose an all-leather belt with a subtle buckle.
7. Ill-fitting suit--make sure the bottom of the jacket can be cupped with your hand. Sleeves should not be baggy, and the entire suit should not be too large. Tip: Try suit jacket size that is just a bit uncomfortable on you, then go up one size.
Not sure what to wear? Contact me, and I’ll help you. It will be my pleasure to be your personal style consultant: <[email protected]>.
by Larry E. Streeter
From the Editor: Since the emergence of the concept of people-first language some twenty years ago, members of the NFB have objected to the practice and the specious arguments that are used to justify it. At the 1993 convention we even passed a resolution articulating our opposition to the idea that the fact of our humanity must precede any reference to the disability of blindness. Ours continues to be a minority position, at least among bureaucrats and blindness professionals. Some otherwise well-intentioned people, however, apparently find these wordy circumlocutions somewhat seductive. Though we try to keep the pages of the Monitor free of such pointless verbosity, we notice it even creeping into NFB documents. We are always pleased, therefore, to publish fresh statements of the NFB’s established position on people-first language. Dr. Larry Streeter is a longtime Federation leader. He recently submitted the following compilation of arguments for straightforward English. He has been a school administrator at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Indianapolis, Indiana for two-and-a-half years. This is what he says:
It was not so very long ago that George Herbert Walker Bush, the forty-first president of the United States introduced his thousand points of light. He handed out accolades to those worthy of such recognition. Like the former president I appreciate valuable contributions. Although I do not have a thousand points of light, I do occasionally say to someone that he or she has earned the gold star for the day, week, or month. For example, any teacher of the blind who goes against the traditional way of thinking and introduces Braille or a white cane to a four- or five-year-old blind child (especially those with some residual vision) is worthy of high praise and recognition. I would also offer a gold star when a state rehabilitation agency counselor recognizes that quality training is important for the blind client and agrees to pay for such training at one of our NFB training centers.
On the other hand, as far as I know, Mr. Bush never had a list of one thousand points of darkness, nor do I. However, I do have a few points of irritation. At or near the top of my short list is the use of person-first language. I have always strongly opposed person-first language and over the past decade or so have wanted to address the issue in one way or another. For those who are unfamiliar with the topic, rather than using, for example, the term “blind person,” person-first advocates would use “person who is blind,” “person who is visually impaired,” or “person with blindness or visual impairment.”
Although I could recount several tales on this topic, my personal irritation really went off the charts when I worked at the Idaho State Department of Education. I was serving as the chairman of a task force to conduct a study on the education of blind children in Idaho. About twenty-five people worked on the project at one time or another over the three years of the study. A variety of people served on the task force: teachers of the blind, orientation and mobility specialists, special education directors, general education teachers, blind consumers, parents of blind students, blind students, and vocational rehabilitation personnel, among others. When the study was completed and ready to be printed, a supervisor gave the order that in order to proceed the document had to be written in person-first language. Only one person on the task force used such constructions. I gave the supervisor articles from the Braille Monitor on the subject written by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and Dr. Ed Vaughan, debated and pleaded, and described how much energy and effort the members had put into the project. In the end it was all in vain. It was clear that the content did not matter; the use of person-first language did. We were able to write a disclaimer, but our initial attempt was considered too strong. In total disgust I ultimately surrendered and apologized individually to many members of the task force. The secretary made the changes, and the document was published. It was circulated far and wide. Years have passed, but every time I think about that report my stomach turns over, and I want to scream.
I have wondered whether anyone out there had the same feelings and attitudes about the subject as I do. I decided that checking this out would indeed be worth my time. I sent a number of emails seeking opinions on the subject, placed my request on Facebook, was surprised that some people did not reply, and reviewed many thoughtful responses. Eventually I selected the following statements and reactions to people-first language:
Barbara Pierce, Ohio: Dear Larry, The definitive statement on people-first language was written by Dr. Jernigan. His thoughts capture it all. I have no patience with this circumlocution. Those who are not ashamed of any characteristic used to describe them are comfortable having it appear before the noun. I vote for crisp, accurate prose, and that is generally not people-first language.
Mary Ellen Halverson, Idaho: As for person-first language, I don't think I have anything new to contribute. Personally I describe myself as blind woman, blind student, blind employee, etc., because these things are reasonable to say and in no way derogatory to me as a blind person. I am not going to beat around the bush and say, "I am a woman who is blind.” I know who I am, and I'm not worried about not being thought of as a woman first. Groups that insist on person-first language must be uncomfortable with our blindness and may try to hide behind language, but their preferred word order should not become law or policy. We have the right to be free in speech and language as long as it is not disrespectful.
Al Spooner, Minnesota: I believe some disabled people prefer this way of describing their disabilities, but I am not one of them. I think that it is very wrong to make the sweeping generalization that all groups of disabled people prefer that we use such phrases as “those who are disabled,” “those who are deaf,” “those who are blind,” etc. The solution is a simple one; just ask! I am a blind person, not a person who is blind. I am disabled, not a person with a disability. I should also point out that a disability and a handicap are not the same thing. When I became blind, I became disabled and handicapped. With the proper adjustment-to-blindness training I was able to eliminate the handicap, but I am and always will be classified by law as a disabled person and as a blind person, which I am not ashamed to be called.
Susan Jones, Indiana: Well my take is that people-first language takes too long to say. Why not just say "blind people" and get to the point? If it takes too long to get to the point, the point may be missed.
Gary Ray, North Carolina: It seems to me that there are a couple of ways to look at this. If I hear person-first language coming from a blind person, I am convinced that he or she has not fully accepted blindness or visual impairment. If however, it is coming from an able-bodied person, I think it is condescending and stupid. When it comes from a blind person, I try to educate and assist him or her to see what is going on inside. If it comes from an able-bodied person, I try to ignore it because I only want to smack them.
Carol Castellano, New Jersey: As I'm sure you know, the thinking behind people-first language is that the person is more important than the disability, so, by using people-first language, we draw attention to the person rather than the disability. Ah, if this were only how language worked. Since this silly form goes against normal English usage, I think it draws more attention to itself and forms its own little phrasing ghetto. In English we put adjectives before nouns, unless we want to draw more attention to the phrase. That’s just how it is, and any native speaker knows it without ever having to learn a rule about it.
I am sensitive to the fact that the language we use is important. As a sixties feminist, for example, I do not like it when people refer to grown women as girls. However, the difference is that we women decided to change the language. It was not thrust upon us from an outside source.
Mike Gibson, Idaho: Person-first language has done nothing to improve or enhance the quality of life for the blind. In fact I think it's accomplished quite the opposite. By putting the person first, you are just sugar coating the problem and denying the real disability and living situation. Once again it's another attempt by the so-called experts to treat the symptoms and not the root problem--lack of confidence, poor training, and little if any support network.
Carrie Gilmer, Minnesota: First I ask, did blind people think this up for themselves as something they desired? That is what I always ask first. I understand the answer here is, no. So then, who thought it up and why? For me the determination whether a phrase, term, or word that labels or describes people is appropriate, derogatory, or useful depends on the purpose and sometimes history of using that word or phrase. In other words: What are you trying to say, man, and why are you choosing to say it that way?
What sweeping change did the inventors of people-first language imagine would occur? That society would get so used to saying “people who are blind” and thinking “people first” that it would move deeply into our nation’s psyche and that from this new knowledge that the blind are indeed people would flow understanding and equality of education and employment? Is making a distinction between being a person first and then blind factually correct or desirable? My husband does not wish to forget that he is black, nor do my children. They do wish some people would not assume certain things it does not mean. A person is fundamentally a person, but a blind person is also fundamentally blind. Blindness is not secondary; it is part and parcel of the whole of that person. It is a fact of eyeballs, not value.
Dr. Fredric Schroeder, Virginia: It strikes me that a person's views on how he or she wishes to be described should be respected. I have no objection to people asking to be called a person with a disability. If there are people in the cross disability movement who object to people-first language, I have not heard about it; hence I use people-first language when talking about the general disability community. Of course not all blind people have the same feelings about people-first language. That said, it is my observation that very few blind people use people-first language, and many object strongly to its use. Starting with the view that we should respect people’s wishes about how they prefer to be described, it strikes me that proponents of people-first language have an obligation to recognize and honor the feelings of blind people and use the words “blind,” not “people who are blind.” They may think we are wrong in our view, but it is our view, and I expect it to be respected as I respect others who prefer the people-first convention.
Shelley Bruns, Colorado: When I received your request, I recalled an experience about thirty years ago. I visited a farm with some friends. When we arrived, we walked around and came to a pigpen. One of my friends smoked. When he had finished his cigarette, he tossed the butt into the pen. Without hesitation one of the hogs, followed by several of his friends, scrambled over and devoured it. Someone in the group made a comment that someday someone would be eating that hog. How does this story relate to people-first language? It just seems to me that someone threw out a concept, and others have swallowed it hook, line, and sinker without ever stopping to think of its negative consequences.
Shelia Wright, Missouri: It is difficult for me to separate the topic of people-first language and politically correct language. They seem to go hand in hand in the minds of those who view themselves as professionals and who want to speak on behalf of the blind. I believe the constant change in what and how to say something is a huge mistake that our society buys into. Some blind people have been deceived right along with the general public. In most cases people-first language only detracts from the real issues. The general public is already uncomfortable approaching a blind person. I think that the overemphasis on people-first language only intensifies their discomfort. They are so worried that they may say something wrong that they often avoid contact altogether rather than risk saying the wrong thing. Others take the risk but start out apologetic or struggle with how to phrase their questions.
I am not at all put off by being referred to or referring to myself as a blind person. I don’t think it in any way makes me less of a person. Changing one's language does not successfully change attitudes, perceptions, or beliefs. Nor do I find that those who seem to be comfortable with people-first language to be more aware of my interest, skills, abilities, capabilities, or needs. In fact it seems to me that some people hide behind language. I firmly believe that the use of the word “blind” and not trying to separate it from being a part of me is what has helped me to understand that being blind does not define me.
Dean Bundy, Virginia: On the subject of people-first language, I offer this little nugget on the subject of political correctness, of which people-first language is a particularly egregious example. Specifically, there is an annual contest at Texas A&M University calling for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term. This year's term was "Political Correctness.” The winner wrote: "Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media.” Unfortunately, Larry, I am unable to share the final nineteen words from the quote because your editor would have to cut them. However, the comment above is dramatically correct.
There you have just a few of many comments received from blind and sighted persons. I noted recently with great pleasure that the NFB published a book with 100 letters from blind and sighted children and adults on the topic of Braille reading and writing. By now the president of the United States has received a copy of this document. I have read many of these letters, and so far it is abundantly clear that people-first language was not preferred or accepted by those submitting letters. The lack of support for people-first language by the vast majority of blind people should send a clear message to those who insist on using such language.
From Barbara Pierce: In recent months Miss Whozit has answered reader questions about etiquette and good manners, particularly as they involve blindness. If you would like to pose a question to Miss Whozit, you can send it to the attention of Barbara Pierce, 200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or email me at <[email protected]>. I will pass the questions along. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. Here are the most recent letters Miss Whozit has received:
Dear Miss Whozit:
At the beginning of every issue of the Braille Monitor it says, “Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about $25 per year. Members are invited, and nonmembers are requested, to cover the subscription cost.”As an avid reader of the Monitor online I am curious if the cost is still the same for producing the Monitor with the recent innovations of online access and revamping of the hardcopy list. Additionally, and most important, should members not read the Monitor if they are unable or unwilling to provide the suggested contribution? I feel that such a donation is a small fee to pay for all I get out of the Monitor but am aware that others may feel differently. Thank you for your assistance.
Miss Whozit commends you for your sense of responsibility in preferring to pay for the goods and services you receive. She only wishes that more blind people shared your conscientiousness in such matters. Our community has a distressing tendency to accept and expect cut rate tickets, free passes, and other such so-called benefits. We all recognize that many blind people depend on SSI and SSDI to live independently and that as a result they have very little disposable income. Yet the notion that somehow disability confers the right to have society make life easier for one, particularly in such superficial and ultimately insignificant ways, is pretty common among blind people and those with other disabilities. Many in the NFB resist this form of charity, which is one of the reasons that Federationists are so often successful, engaged members of their communities. They understand the Robert Heinlein concept of TANSTAAFL—there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. What one gains in financial savings, one loses from pity, condescension, and presumption of incompetence.
Whew, Miss Whozit regrets that she seems to have forgotten herself. She will now step gracefully down from her soapbox and attempt to give you the answer you sought. Of course the purged mailing list of hardcopy magazine recipients will save money, though it is true that printers give better per-item prices the larger the print run. Still, if we generate fewer print, Braille, and cassette copies of an issue, our cost will necessarily be lower. That does not mean, however, that the NFB is now earning money with the Monitor or even breaking even.
Those who receive the magazine by email or read it online are making a contribution to the overall budget of the organization by saving us from producing hard copy for them to read. That said, the personnel costs of researching and writing the publication, laying it out, and maintaining the Website on which it is available do not shrink with a shrinking mailing list. These are fixed costs, and they exist no matter how many people access the information electronically.
No one who enjoys reading the Monitor, however, should refrain from doing so, either electronically or in one of the hardcopy editions just because it is difficult to pay for the privilege. After all, it is out there on our Website, where we hope people will read and learn from it.
Dear Miss Whozit,
My husband and I are both blind. Our son is about to turn sixteen, so you can probably guess that my question has to do with drivers’ licenses. Of course he is agitating for us to buy a car after he passes his test so that he has wheels. I know that some blind couples own cars and pay drivers to use their vehicles to get them where they need to go, but we have always managed with buses, taxis, and volunteer or paid drivers who use their own cars.
I am uneasy about taking this new step. Our son assures us that he will be happy to do errands for us and drive us where we want to go if he can just have access to the car the rest of the time. I worry that, if he is responsible in living up to his end of the deal, we may become lazy and overly dependent on him. My husband thinks I am borrowing trouble. He is focusing on the convenience of having a car and driver available when we need it. What do you think?
You are asking a good bit of Miss Whozit considering that you have said nothing about your son’s maturity and reliability. But since Miss Whozit has known a number of young people with shiny new drivers’ licenses, she is more inclined to worry with you than to be as trusting as your husband.
We have all observed families in which blind parents who have always been independent and self-sufficient suddenly begin relying on a teenager to do all the errands and cart them around wherever they need to go. In these situations it is often hard to tell which is more disturbing, the teens who hold their parents for ransom by not finding it convenient to give them rides, or the ones who more or less assume the role of parent, chauffeuring their folks and generally organizing family life.Of course it is quite possible to establish ground rules so that the parents, who after all have paid for the car, the insurance, and the gas, keep control of the car keys and the schedule for when the vehicle is to be used. These parents continue to make other transportation arrangements when necessary, and they do not allow their sons or daughters to establish authority and control. They are reasonable about letting their teens use the car sometimes, and they do not expect that their own plans will always supersede those of the teen. After all, young people are becoming adults, and they should gradually learn to assume adult responsibility. Call her old-fashioned, but Miss Whozit does not see that most teens need complete access to a car. Those with blind parents may have a strong argument for having a car as the only driver in the family. But the parents and the teen should civilly work out an agreement about its use, and parents should not hesitate to ground any teen who shows signs of taking advantage of the situation. Good luck.
by Ed Morman
From the Editor: With some regularity we spotlight books in the tenBroek Library. Here is librarian Ed Morman's description of a recent acquisition:
Our last featured book was the biography of a blind person who distinguished himself as a musician. This month we take a look at something more problematic for blind people regardless of their talents: the visual arts and information presented in visual form.
John M. Kennedy is an emeritus professor at the University of Toronto specializing in the psychology of perception. From the time he was a graduate student in the 1960s, he has been intrigued by the universal human ability to represent what we perceive in the world around us. Improved techniques for tactile drawing allowed Kennedy to investigate the commonalities and differences in the way blind and sighted people represent, on a two-dimensional surface, the three-dimensional world in which we all live.
In this book Kennedy wastes no time in summarizing his most significant finding. The third paragraph of the preface tells us: “Raised drawings by blind people sketching pictures for the first time are much like drawings by sighted people who are also novices at drawing. And blind people can often identify a raised picture without any instruction in how to do so.”
Central to Kennedy’s argument is that spatial perception is not limited to vision and the blind can both understand perspective and represent aspects of it in their drawings. Kennedy understands that representations in any medium or format are distinct from the object or scene they are intended to represent. He has found that drawings by the blind often deliberately incorporate incorrect features in order to represent properties that cannot be shown in a picture. For Kennedy this is an extension of the metaphorical quality of any representation.
Although this book is almost twenty years old, its findings and point of view remain fresh. Drawing & the Blind will continue for some time to provide intellectual nourishment and inspiration for those interested in accessible graphs and pictures.This book is available from RFB&D in audio MP3 and audio DAISY formats and from Bookshare in electronic Braille and DAISY versions. Professor Kennedy’s Website <http://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/~kennedy/> provides links to several of his other works and to the Websites of two blind visual artists.
by Mary Ellen Jernigan
From the Editor: Mary Ellen Jernigan, chairwoman of convention organization and activities, has updated and revised her description of the Hilton Anatole Hotel to reflect changes to the building caused by temporary construction and variations in amenities available during the NFB's 2010 national convention in Dallas. If you are planning to attend this year's convention, you need to read this article. Here it is:
The Hilton Anatole consists of two main sections—the Atrium and the Tower. The Atrium section is further divided into Atrium I and Atrium II. At the lobby and mezzanine levels Atrium I, Atrium II, and the Tower are connected so that you can walk from Atrium I at the far east end of the hotel through Atrium II and into the Tower at the far west end of the hotel as if it were one building. During the time of our convention the entire central area of Atrium II at the lobby level will be undergoing substantial renovation. This renovation will not affect our convention operation in any significant way since a well-defined passageway will link Atrium I with the Tower. This passageway will run east and west along the south side of Atrium II at the lobby level.
At levels above the mezzanine, Atrium I and Atrium II are contiguous with each other but not with the Tower—that is, to reach the sleeping rooms, you must use either the Atrium elevators or the Tower elevators, depending on which section your room is located in. The Tower sleeping room elevators do not stop at the mezzanine level. The Atrium sleeping room elevators do stop at the mezzanine level, and you can reach the mezzanine level meeting rooms above the Atrium I lobby, the Atrium II lobby, and the Tower lobby. However, a flight of six or eight steps links the Atrium II mezzanine and the Tower mezzanine. If these steps are a problem, you can take a separate, single elevator that goes from the Tower lobby to the Tower mezzanine level. This elevator is located just west of the business center in the Tower lobby. At the west end of the Tower mezzanine is a stairway that leads to the Tower lobby. When you come down this stairway, you are facing east, and the Chantilly Ballroom is slightly ahead and on your right.
Atrium I is the farthest-east section of the hotel and sits slightly south of Atrium II. Think of the entire hotel as a high-top tennis shoe lying on its side with the sole running along the north side, the toe pointing west, and the open top to the south. The right angle formed where the back of the shoe meets the sole in the hotel's architecture is actually cut on the diagonal so that, when entering the hotel on that diagonal, you are facing southwest. Atrium I is much shorter in its north-south dimension than are Atrium II and the Tower on the east-west axis. After you step into the main entrance, a left turn takes you towards the check-in desk and Atrium I.
If you stand with your back to the check-in desk, you are facing west. Atrium I is on your left, and Atrium II is slightly to your right and straight ahead. The Atrium elevators, stairway, and escalators to the mezzanine-level meeting rooms are located just across from the Atrium front desk and main entrance in the general area where the two Atria join. Access to the temporary passageway between Atrium I and the Tower will also be located here.
The lobby level of Atrium I and the area south of the temporary Atrium II passageway contains several meeting rooms, a brand new restaurant called the Media Grill & Bar, and the Grand Ballroom, which is located on the south side of Atrium II. The Khmer Pavilion is roughly above the Grand Ballroom.
The point at which the Atrium II lobby joins the Tower lobby is just beyond the west end of the Grand Ballroom foyer. We do not know the exact configuration of this juncture at the time of this writing because of the renovations in progress. If any steps still remain by the time we arrive, a ramp will be in place for wheelchair access.
The Terrace Restaurant is located on the west wall of Atrium I. The Common Ground self-service café during the time of our convention will be relocated to the east end of the Grand Ballroom, immediately next to our Independence Market. The new Media Grill & Bar (which replaces La Esquina Cantina) is located just east of the Grand Ballroom. The Gossip Bar is located in the Tower lobby. The five-star Nana Restaurant is located on the twenty-seventh floor of the Tower.
The precise hours of operation for the various restaurants and food outlets are still under consideration. Sometime during the next few months the Rathskeller Sports Bar and Restaurant is scheduled to close permanently. This may or may not have occurred by the time of our convention.
The general plan is for fast-service breakfast and lunch selections to be available in the Common Ground and the Gossip Bar; a grab-and-go bag lunch station in a location to be decided later; a full-service à la carte breakfast menu and hot breakfast buffet in the Terrace restaurant as well as lunch and dinner buffets in the Terrace restaurant; a full-service lunch and dinner menu in the exciting new Media Grill & Bar; and five-star dinner dining in Nana’s.
The board meeting and convention general sessions will be held in the Chantilly Ballroom, located in the Tower lobby. Exhibits will be in the Khmer Pavilion. The NFB Independence Market and literature will be located in the Grand Ballroom. Breakout meeting rooms are located in all three lobbies and on the mezzanine level. An exit at the west end of the Tower lobby leads to the beautifully landscaped seven-acre Anatole sculpture park containing outdoor walking and jogging trails.
Now that you have reached the end of this article, go back to the beginning and read it a
by Aerial Gilbert
From the Editor: Aerial Gilbert, outreach manager at Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), has asked us to carry the following piece on a challenge activity that GDB will sponsor again at this year's convention. Here it is:
Four years ago at the NFB convention, even though no water was in sight, Dr. Marc Maurer and his son David rowed as though their lives depended on it. While still in their white button-down shirts and ties, they were fully engaged in a friendly father-son competition on stationary rowing machines. To the delight of spectators David emerged victorious. Ever the good sport, Dr. Maurer commented that adaptive rowing was a great opportunity to promote exercise and activity. Rowing was also a way for blind people of all ages to compete equally with those who have sight.
For Guide Dogs for the Blind this was an opportunity to introduce participants to an active lifestyle as well as the guide dog lifestyle. GDB coordinated efforts with the NFB Sports and Recreation Division to host the successful three-hour rowing event and tournament. The rowing event generated more than a hundred participants and spectators.
During the past three years the popularity of the event has grown, and rowing has influenced the lives of many participants. Washington, D.C., resident Dena Lambert, twenty-four, participated in the second rowing event in Atlanta. When she first participated in the sport, her health was compromised, and she wanted to find an activity she could do and enjoy. Dena was inspired by the rowing machine at the NFB convention, and it motivated her to find a way to continue with the sport. Dena’s continued success and interest in rowing led her to sign up for a learn to row class, and then she participated in her first regatta as the only blind athlete at her boathouse. Dena's health and fitness levels are now equal to those of a competitive athlete, and she rows year-round using rowing machines when the rivers freeze over.
Several goalball and Judo Paralympic athletes have tried rowing at the NFB convention and see this as a great sport to pursue for future Paralympics. Additionally, reports of teens competing on their high school and college rowing teams now abound. This year in Dallas NFB convention participants will once again have the opportunity to learn to row on the rowing machines and participate in friendly competition. Concept 2, the company that manufactures the rowing machines, will generously donate prizes for the event.
I am excited to share my two passions--rowing and guide dogs--with the participants of the NFB convention. Rowing is a sport I enjoyed in college before losing my sight, and I was able to continue to row after I became blind. I was on the U. S. National Adaptive Team for six years and helped bring rowing to the Paralympics in 2008. I continue to row on a local rowing team, where I am the only blind athlete out of four hundred rowers. I appreciate the opportunity to promote the sport of rowing and share school updates about Guide Dogs for the Blind through the NFB Sports and Recreation Division. Please come by the recreation area during the convention and give the rowing machine a try. But be careful. It may be addictive.
This month’s recipes were submitted by members of the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals (NABRP).
Buttery Toffee Pecan Bars
by Pamela Allen
Pam Allen is president of the NFB of Louisiana and treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind. She is also secretary of the NABRP.
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup pecan halves
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour and brown sugar and cut in the butter, or combine all three ingredients in a food processor and use the knife blade to mix. Press dough into an ungreased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle crust with pecan halves. Set aside.
1 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup chocolate chips
Method: In saucepan over medium heat combine butter and brown sugar. Bring mixture to a boil. Boil for one to two minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Pour over pecans. Bake for eighteen to twenty minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips. Let sit for three minutes until chips are melted. Spread chocolate evenly across the top. Cool slightly before cutting into bars. Enjoy.
Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Chicken
by Lea Grupen
Lea Grupen is acting director of Services for the Blind in Hawaii and a member of the NABRP board of directors.
5 pounds chicken thighs
3-4 cloves garlic
Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
Ingredients for Shoyu Mixture:
1 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
1 cup catsup
3/4 cup white sugar
Method: Fill pot with enough water to cover chicken. Gently simmer chicken with garlic and ginger (for thirty to forty-five minutes. Drain almost all the water from pot. Return pot to stove and add the shoyu mixture and simmer on low for about half an hour. Broke da mout'! (Delicious).
by Amy Buresh
Amy is a board member of the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals. She is also the president of the NFB of Nebraska and a member of the NFB board of directors. She works as a rehabilitation counselor for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
2 .25-ounce packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup shortening
Note: you can use frozen bread dough, which is much faster.
1 pound lean ground beef
2 small onions, chopped
4 cups cabbage, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Method: In a large mixing bowl place 1 3/4 cups flour, the sugar, the two envelopes of yeast, and salt. Combine milk, water, and shortening and heat to 120 to 130 degrees. Pour liquid over flour mixture; add the eggs. Beat batter with an electric mixer on low until blended. Beat three additional minutes on high. Stir in the remaining flour; knead until smooth and elastic, about six to eight minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl; cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about one hour. Meanwhile, brown beef and onions in a skillet. Add the cabbage, salt, and pepper; cook until cabbage is wilted. Punch dough down; roll into twelve six-inch squares. Top each square with one-third cup meat mixture and Velveeta cheese. Fold into triangles, pinching edges tightly to seal. Place filled pockets on greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.
Southwestern Squash Casserole
by Shelia Wright
Shelia Wright is treasurer of the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals.
1 pound yellow squash, sliced
1 pound zucchini, sliced
1 10-ounce can cheddar cheese soup
1 4.5-ounce can green chilies
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 tablespoons taco seasoning
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 cup crushed tortilla chips
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey jack and cheddar cheese blend
Method: Steam both kinds of squash over water. Drain squash and pat dry to eliminate excess moisture. Stir together vegetables, soup, and all other ingredients, except the shredded cheese, and spoon into a lightly greased 11-by-7-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top of the mixture. Bake at 450 degrees for twenty minutes or until lightly brown.
by Melody Lindsey
Melody Lindsey is the director of the Virginia Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and Vision Impaired in Richmond, Virginia. She is also the president of the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals. She says that this recipe is excellent any time of the year, but she likes it particularly during the fall college football season. Go Seminoles!
1 pound crab meat
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons mustard
1/2 cup saltine crackers (about 10 crackers)
1/4 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons parsley flakes
Method: Butter saltine crackers and place in warm oven until butter melts. After crackers cool, crush and combine with the other ingredients, which you have mixed together thoroughly. Fill six six-ounce greased ramekins with mixture. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with paprika. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for twenty-five to thirty minutes or until golden brown. Serves six.
by Edward Bell
Dr. Eddie Bell is a long-time Federationist, a member of the NABRP board of directors, and the director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University.
A 4-to-5-pound chuck roast
1 cup red Portuguese wine
3 to 4 slices of bacon
1 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon butter
24 whole cloves
24 whole allspice berries
4 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Chop the onions and mash the garlic. Place both in a deep roasting pan. Cut the bacon into small pieces and add it to the roasting pan along with the bay leaves, salt, pepper, cloves, allspice berries, and water. Before adding the meat, sprinkle it with onion powder and garlic powder. Add the meat to the pot and pour the wine over it. Add the butter and cover the pan. Cook at 250 degrees for five to seven hours or longer. Remove the meat to a platter and strain the sauce. Discard cloves and allspice berries before serving.
News from the Federation Family
Resolutions for Convention:
Here is a message from Sharon Maneki, who chairs the NFB resolutions committee:
Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. At the 2010 national convention the resolutions committee meeting will be held on Sunday, July 4. The committee will debate and discuss resolutions on a wide variety of subjects. If passed by the Convention, these resolutions will become the policy statements of the organization.
To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Maurer or to me by June 18, two weeks before the committee meeting. If you miss this deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairman before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email, <[email protected]>; fax, (410) 715-9597; or snail mail, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, Maryland 21045.
During the March 2010 state convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee, the following people were elected to serve on the affiliate's board of directors: president, Kim Williams; first vice president, Reggie Lindsey; second vice president, Joe Shaw; secretary, Sheri Anderson; treasurer, Sharon Treadway; and board members, Lucy Alexander, James Broadnax, Linda Crisp, Heather Field, Lessie Hall, and Dominique Lawless.
Time to Register for the Race for Independence:
The Race for Independence is the expression of our desire to speed toward our goal of achieving first-class citizenship in society at an ever-increasing pace. This campaign anchors the National Federation of the Blind’s Imagination Fund, the annual campaign to raise proceeds for NFB programs at the national, state, and local levels. One of the primary initiatives of the NFB Jernigan Institute is improving access to technology for the blind. With the Race for Independence we focus our efforts this year on bringing public attention to the need for full and equal access for blind Americans to modern technology in everything from home appliances to automobiles.
If you want the important and innovative work of the National Federation of the Blind to continue, start your engines. Register for the Race for Independence, then find neighbors, friends, and family members who will invest in our work and send donations in. For any questions or help with registration and fundraising tools call (410) 659-9314, ext. 2371, or email <[email protected]>. You can also register or get more information at the Race for Independence Website at <www.raceforindependence.org>. We are not content with merely traveling by foot--our imagination is putting us in the driver’s seat. So come on, let’s race.
On Saturday, March 13, 2010, the San Fernando Valley chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of California held its elections. The following people will serve on the chapter board for the next two years: president, Robert Stigile; vice president, Julian Vargas; secretary, Racquel Decipeda; treasurer, Era Trice; and board member, Ramona Takemoto.
National Certification in Literary Braille:
Testing for the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) will be held at this year's NFB national convention in Dallas. The four-part test will be administered on Sunday and Monday, July 4 and 5, 2010, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., on both days. Consult your agenda for testing location. The cost to take the entire examination is $250 or $75 per single section. The deadline to apply to take the NCLB is Sunday, June 13. Unless otherwise notified, candidates must be present during the administration of all four sections of the examination. Sections one and two will be offered on Sunday, July 4, and sections three and four will be offered on Monday, July 5.
To apply online visit: <https://nbpcb.org/members/login.php?r=/members/er.php?eid=41>. For further information contact Louise Walch, NCLB coordinator, at <[email protected]> or call (318) 257-4554.
Special Super Shuttle Rate at Convention:
The NFB of Texas has made arrangements with Super Shuttle for a convention rate from both the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport and Love Field to our convention hotel for the convention this summer. Go to <https://www.supershuttle.com/GroupRez/TripDetails.aspx?GC=ZHDX7> for details. Attendees will receive rates of $14 one way or $26 roundtrip when booking online or by calling (800) 258-3826 and referencing group code ZHDX7.
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.
New Email List Available:
The City Cafe is a new email listserv sponsored at Google Groups that focuses on providing job leads and practical tips. This forum also features articles of interest to group members, thematic discussion topics of the week, and occasional questions of the day. No specific restrictions on list topics exist. The group's founder, Lisa Porter, is blind, and at present most of the listserv subscribers are blind. Blindness is not, however, a prerequisite to participate as a list member. According to Ms. Porter, she tries to keep this a fun, friendly, and family-feeling community. To subscribe, send a blank email message to <[email protected]>.
Adaptiveware offers leading technology for blind and vision-impaired people at discounted prices. The Victor Reader Stream with 2GB SD card is only $319. The RNIB PenFriend labeling system is just $125. Those interested in affordable access to the Internet, email, and word processing can purchase a Netbook system with System Access screen-reading software for only $549. A laptop with System Access is just $795. To learn more about these products or other tech deals, contact Adaptiveware at (800) 470-4782 or by email at <[email protected]>.
Governor Morehead School Alumni Convention:
The Governor Morehead School Alumni Association will hold its annual convention and reunion from August 6 to 8, 2010, at the Holiday Inn, North Raleigh, in Raleigh, North Carolina. This will be a memorable occasion because activities will be held at the Ashe Avenue campus and the campus of the old Garner Road school. To complete a convention application and learn more about the Governor Morehead School Alumni Association, Inc., visit <www.gmsaai.org> or call Annie Edgerton Carson at (919) 556-0786.
Upcoming Sleep Studies in Totally Blind Individuals:
Do you have problems sleeping or trouble with daytime sleepiness? Are you blind with no light perception? Non-twenty-four-hour sleep-wake disorder occurs in some people who are totally blind and lack the light sensitivity necessary to reset the body clock. This can lead to problems with sleep or daytime excessive sleepiness.
You can help researchers understand non-twenty-four-hour sleep-wake disorder by taking a brief phone survey. In addition you will have the opportunity to be informed of upcoming clinical studies recruiting in your area. Survey participants need to be over eighteen years of age, be blind with no light perception, and have sleep problems or daytime sleepiness. Collected information will be kept strictly confidential.
For each completed survey a donation of $25 up to $50,000 will be made to the National Federation of the Blind. If you want to participate in the survey, please call toll free (877) 708-1931, Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ET.
2010 Candle in the Window Conference:
It's time to make plans to attend the 2010 Candle in the Window conference from Wednesday, August 4, to Sunday, August 8. We will again hold the conference at Wooded Glen in Henryville, Indiana.
Candle in the Window is planned by and for blind and visually impaired people, focusing on a specific topic and exploring several aspects of living with blindness. This year's topic is Transition. Some of the questions we will be exploring are:
How did we handle transitions growing up?
How does blindness affect transitions?
What transitions are we experiencing now or likely to experience in the near future?
How can we recognize healthy and unhealthy changes and resist inappropriate ones?
In addition to the conference sessions, there will be plenty of time to reflect, to get to know other conference participants, and to have fun--one of the most important aspects of Candle. The cost is $485 double occupancy, $465 triple occupancy, and $415 quad occupancy. Cost includes room and all meals. Arrange to travel to Louisville, Kentucky, where transportation will be provided to the conference center. We limit attendance to twenty participants, so it would be advisable to make your reservations early. A $40 nonrefundable deposit will reserve your spot. If we receive payment before June 15, we offer a $15 discount.
Checks may be sent to Carlos Taylor, 818 West Riverside Avenue, Apt. C3, Muncie, IN 47303. We hope to make arrangements to pay by PayPal soon. This option will be announced when it is available.
Questions may be directed to Nancy Trzcinski, <[email protected]>, (413) 441-2305; or Becky Barns, <[email protected]>, (914) 393-6613. We hope to see you at this year's Candle in the Window conference. It promises to be a great experience.
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 am selling a Perkins Brailler, Large Cell version, in brand new condition. This machine comes with a dust cover. The Braille cell on this machine is enlarged to provide more space between the dots, allowing people with tactile problems to read and produce Braille. The retail price for this unit is $790; I'm asking only $500.
I am also selling the University of Chicago Spanish-English, English-Spanish Dictionary, Braille edition. This dictionary is complete with idiomatic phrases. This publication is the most popular Spanish dictionary ever sold. The dictionary comes in twenty-seven volumes. It is perfect for a blind student learning Spanish. The dictionary retails for $421; I am asking $150. For further information about either of these products, contact Deanne Miller at (619) 600-2501; <[email protected]>.
I have the following items for sale: PAC Mate XQ400 with carrying case and strap, Quick Start cards in Braille and print, Quick Start guide, companion CD (contains MS ActiveSync 3.7 and Outlook 2002 software for desktop PC), AC adapter, mini to USB Cable, and user's documentation CD. Used only a few hours—too much for an old guy. Asking $1,600 plus $20 for shipping and insurance.
Brytech Noteteller2. It usually does not identify the new $5 bills. You sometimes have to tap it lightly to make it work, but otherwise it works superbly. Asking $100.
Canon CanoScan LiDE 25 Color Image Scanner. Asking $25, no charge for shipping and handling. Contact Larry Railey at <[email protected]> or (281) 444-0907.
I am selling the following three items:
Power Braille 80—refreshable Braille display, $2,000
Type Lite—notetaker with refreshable Braille display, $1,000
Optelec 20/20—nineteen-inch CCTV, $1,000
For further information contact Jeff Dittel at 516 E. Birch Avenue, Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, 53217; (414) 248-2292; <[email protected]>.
I am selling a brand new BrailleNote, purchased in October 2009. It has never been used. I am asking $3,000. For further information contact Enid Bourne at (212) 283-3724.
Hoping to Find:
Creature of habit is seeking inexpensive, used Parrot Voicemates in good working order, information on repairs from a qualified Parrot Voicemate repair person, or info on any Parrot remainders still in stock somewhere. Please email Bruce at [email protected]
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