The National Federation of the Blind Magazine for Parents and Teachers of Blind Children
Vol. 23, No. 4 Convention Report 2004
Barbara Cheadle, Editor
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Anna Albury of the Bahamas finds an out-of-the-way corner to read her Braille book while her mom and aunt listen to reports about the past year’s accomplishments at the 2004 Annual Meeting of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) on Thursday afternoon, July 1.]
We are pleased to announce that Future Reflections is now available at no charge. As you may know, Future Reflections has always been free to dues-paying members of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). A $15 subscription contribution was requested from non-members. However, we always gave complimentary subscriptions upon request--no questions asked, no strings attached, no invoice a year later. Now, you don't have to ask; it's FREE to all who want it! We will continue to provide readers with the opportunity to join the NOPBC and to make financial contributions.
Future Reflections is available in large print, on cassette tape, or by email, and is posted on the NFB Web site at < http://www.nfb.org/futref.htm>. Email subscription registration is available online at: <http://www.nfb.cal.org/listserv-signup.html>. Future Reflections is published by the National Federation of the Blind.
Mail Subscription Requests to:
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230 USA
Print and Cassette Tape Subscription
Date: ___________________ Name: _________________________________________
(Please include the first and last names of both parents if appropriate)
[ ]Parent(s)/caregiver [ ]Teacher [ ]Other ____________________________________
City, State, Zip ___________________________________________________________ *Country: _______________________________________________________________
Phone number(s): _________________________________________________________
(Please note if this is a home, work, or cell phone number.)
Email address (please print): ________________________________________________
Name of blind/visually impaired child (first and last):
Sex: M[ ] F[ ] Birth date: ______________________________________
I wish to receive: [ ] (Large) Print [ ] Cassette Tape [ ] Both
This is a: [ ] New subscription [ ] Change or correction
Changes: If this is a change or a correction, please print old or duplicate name and/or address as it appears on your magazine label in the space provided below. ________________________________________________________________________
[ ] YES, I/we want to join the NOPBC. I/we understand that Future Reflections is FREE and there is no requirement that I/we join the NOPBC to receive the magazine. I/We have enclosed a check or money order made payable to the NOPBC in the amount below:
$8.00 NOPBC at-large family membership dues.
There is no shipping and handling fee for residents of the USA, USA territories, Canada, and Mexico. Residents of all other countries are asked to pay a fee, in USA currency, of $20 for a one-year subscription and $55 for a three-year subscription. Please send checks or money orders made payable to the National Federation of the Blind.
Enclosed: $______ shipping and handling for a (check one)
[ ] One-year subscription [ ] Three-year subscription
Mail to Future Reflections, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230
For more information about blindness and children contact
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230-4998
(410) 659-9314, ext. 2360
www.nfb.org/nopbc.htm * [email protected] * [email protected]
Vol. 23, No. 4 Convention Report 2004
2005 NFB Convention Bulletin
Convention Photo Report
What We Want for Kendra
by Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway
Braille Is Fun!!!
by Jan Zollinger
Indiana Students Talk about Life, Blindness, and COGS
Audio Description — The Visual Made Verbal
by Joel Snyder
Reunion and Braille Book Flea Market A Hugh Success
by Barbara Pierce and Steve Hoad
COGS: Our Trip to the NFB Convention
by Dr. Matt Maurer
On the Other Side of the Microphone
by John Cucco
by Connie Bernard
2005 National Federation of the Blind Science Academy
Georgia Parents Organize
by Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway
Victory for Textbooks on Time
by Kimberli Sollenberger
The 2004 Scholarship Winners
National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Application Form
Copyright © 2004 National Federation of the Blind
For more information about blindness and children contact
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230-4998
(410) 659-9314, ext. 2360
www.nfb.org/nopbc.htm * [email protected] * [email protected]
The 2005 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, July 2-9, at the Galt House and Galt House East Tower. The Galt House West is at 140 N. Fourth Street, and the Galt House East Tower, or Galt House East, is at 141 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. A covered pedestrian walkway connects the two hotel towers. Our overflow hotel is the Hyatt Regency at 320 W.
Jefferson Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202.
The 2005 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $59 a night, plus tax; and triples and quads $64 a night, plus tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2005. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For reservations call the Galt House at (502) 589-5200 or the Hyatt Regency at (502) 587-3434.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2005, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotels will not hold their blocks of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Those who attended the 2003 convention can testify to the gracious hospitality of both the Hyatt and the Galt House. Our headquarters hotel has excellent restaurants, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Louisville, close to the Ohio River and only seven miles from the Louisville Airport.
The 2005 convention will follow what many think of as our usual schedule:
Day 1: Saturday, July 2 Seminar Day
Day 2: Sunday, July 3 Registration Day
Day 3: Monday, July 4 Board Meeting and Division Day
Day 4: Tuesday, July 5 Opening Session
Day 5: Wednesday, July 6 Tour Day
Day 6: Thursday, July 7 Banquet Day
Day 7: Friday, July 8 Business Session
*Note: The NFB offers childcare ( NFB Camp) all day on seminar day and for other convention sessions throughout the week for children six weeks through ten years of age. NFB Camp preregistration packets are available from NFB Camp director, Carla McQuillan, at NFB of Oregon, 5005 Main Street, Springfield, Oregon 97478, (541) 726-6924. Preregistration for NFB Camp is required.
8:00 - 10:00 a.m. Family Seminar
Session (kids and adults)
10:00 a.m. - Noon Braille Carnival (ages 5 and up)
Seminar session (adults)
2:00 - 5:00 p.m. Workshops (adults)
Youth Activities (ages 8 and up)
7:00 - 10:00 p.m. Family Hospitality
Teen Talks (or other youth activities)
8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Cane Walk (2 sessions; adults and kids)
1:00 - 5:00 p.m. Teen Get-Acquainted Party
Day 3: Monday, July 4
12:45 - 4:15 p.m. Teen Hospitality
1:00 - 3:00 p.m. NOPBC Annual Meeting and Program
3:30 - 4:30 p.m. Workshop
5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
Braille Book Flea Market and Reunion for
Braille Readers are Leaders
7:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. NOPBC Board Meeting (open to all)
Lunch break Teen Hospitality
7:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. Workshops (IEPs and other topics)
1:45 - 6:15 p.m. Teen Hospitality
2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Special family recreational/learning activity.
To be announced.
7:00 - 9:30 p.m. Family Night at the Movies
(audio described movie)
Lunch break Teen Hospitality
Banquet NOPBC 50/50 Raffle Drawing
NOPBC announces contributions to the White Cane Fund, tenBroek Fund, Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Fund, and the Imagination Fund 2005 NOPBC Preregistration Packet
Send your request by mail, email, fax, or phone to:
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Fax: (410) 659-5129
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extension 2361
Phone number: ___________________________________________________________
[ ] Yes, I am interested in learning more about the 2005 NFB Convention in Louisville. Please send me a preregistration packet with the NOPBC-sponsored agenda of activities for 2005.
I prefer information by:
[ ] Mail: (Address, City, State, Zip)___________________________________________
[ ] Email: _______________________________________________________________
[ ] Fax: _________________________________________________________________
Check all that apply--I am:
* Other professional
* Blind adult
*Relative and/or friend of a blind child
– “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.”
A farmer I’m not, but there is enough of the country girl in me to really appreciate this old saying. I remember walking the woods and the orchard with my grandpa as a little girl and asking him about the strange bends and twists in some of the trees. He explained to me that sometimes it happened because a tree was too much in the shade and it was trying to reach the sun. But sometimes it happened because a young branch, or twig, had been bent or twisted when it was very young and it continued to grow in that shape or direction. Later I learned that people could take advantage of this characteristic; like the Japanese who developed it into an art form with bonsai trees.
What is true of plants, is also true of people. At the 2004 National Federation of the Blind convention in Atlanta, Georgia, parents and teachers were involved in an intensive week-long “twig bending” workshop. We were engaged in the process of learning what we could do better, or do differently, in order to bend the twig of our children’s lives toward a future of independence and productivity. It was intensive, informative, and sometimes emotional work. But it was also exhilarating and often downright fun.
The following photographs and descriptive captions capture some of the highlights of the convention with a special emphasis on the activities for parents, teachers, and children. The week began on Tuesday, June 29, with a day-long program of seminars and workshops sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). The theme is: As the Twig Is Bent. And that’s where we begin our Photo Report of the 2004 NFB Convention:
Tuesday, June 29
The first program item in the parents seminar agenda is a “Kid Talk” with NFB President Maurer (top left, sitting on the floor, surrounded by kids). One boy asks him what it is like to be blind. Dr. Maurer explains that trying to answer that question is like trying to answer the question, “What is it like to be a boy?” Being blind, he says, is just a part of who he is, and mostly he doesn’t think much about it.
The Jones family (right) from Kentucky (from left to right, Kenneth, Alicia, Kenneth Jr., and Maria,) and the Leon family (next page) from Ohio (Sarah, Rebecca, and Lori) pose for snapshots during the seminar break before heading off to the Braille Carnival (also located in the hotel). After the kids are settled in, parents return to the seminar session to listen to two more presentations: The Visual Made Verbal (Joel Snyder) and The Jacks Tournament, Turning Double-Dutch, and Other Excursions into Society (Barbara Pierce).
Funded by a Braille International Foundation grant and sponsored by NOPBC, the Braille Carnival is a big hit. At any one time there are between 75 to 100 participants in the room. Above, Carnival coordinator, Melody Lindsey, a blind leader from Michigan, plays a Braille game with Meghan Palmer (Utah).
Mike Jones, President of the NFB of Alabama, volunteers as a Carnival Buddy to Samanth Ratkowski (Wisconsin). About 40 blind and sighted federationists volunteered at the event. With colorful tactile craft materials, Dr. Dennis Dawson, (Astronomy Department, Western Connecticut University) demonstrates to David Thomas (Louisiana) just how much fun astronomy can be for everyone.
Winona Brackett (Florida) trys her hand at the Braille Word Search Puzzle; one of the key attractions at the APH Carnival booth.
Tyler Christopher (Florida) and Grace Workman (Missouri) enjoy a lively game of Twister, adapted with tactile markings and a Braille spinner. Sleepshades are in order, of course, for sighted siblings and low vision kids.
The Louisiana Center for the Blind booth features face-painting. Caitlyn Sebastion (Alabama) proudly shows off her Braille name painted in colorful dots on her forehead.
Parents learn how simple and fun Braille can be at the Beginning Braille for Parents workshop conducted by Californians Caroline Rounds and Nancy Burns. Here Caroline Rounds demonstrates the slate and stylus to Thomas Wright (Maryland). Five other NOPBC-sponsored workshops on Tuesday afternoon address the topics of social skills, body language, facial expressions, friendships, early movement, the importance of play, and tactile graphics. Other workshops for parents, scheduled later in the week, cover topics on IEP’s, the education of partially sighted children, and early childhood development.
Heather Field from Tennessee (standing, left) co-conducts a workshop with Joe Cutter about the role of movement, play, and music in the early development of blind children.
This workshop group gathers in a large circle around facilitators Carla McQuillan of Oregon (right, with hat) and Debbie Stein of Illinois (left of Carla) for a discussion about how to teach blind children the importance of body language and facial expressions.
Socialization skills are important for all children, including blind children with additional disabilities. Dr. Sheila Amato (New York), a specialist in deaf-blindness, gives a presentation and leads a discussion on this important topic.
While parents are in the afternoon workshops, blind and sighted youth explore the solar system via a guided scavenger hunt. Volunteers from UPS and the Federation are stationed throughout the Marriott Marquis with tactile representations of items (planets, meteorites, sun, moon, etc.) in the solar system. Above, Federationist Marla Sewel (Maryland), shows Olivia Wells and Madison McClain (two sighted siblings from Ohio) what the surface of Mercury might feel like. Both girls take advantage of the option to use sleepshades and canes.
The “Exploring the Solor System Scavenger Hunt” is the brain-child of astronomers Noreen Grice (right) from the Hayden Palnetarium, Boston, and Dr. Dennis Dawson. They spend many volunteer hours planning the activities, preparing the materials, and conducting the hunt at the convention. They also sponsor a booth at the Braille Carnival and, later in the convention, they conduct an astronomy workshop for all age groups.
Timothy Jones (Georgia) jets off, cane in hand, to his next port-of-call in the Solor System. He carries his tactile “passport” card where he places the pin he picks up from each stop. He will turn in his card for a prize at the completion of the hunt.
A small but eager group of sighted teens pass up the scavenger hunt and sign on for the audio description workshop. Later that evening, they come back to perform for an audience of family members and others. Above, Joel Snyder (standing, left) begins his presentation to Tracy Yeager (Virginia), Michelle Povinelli (Virginia), George Haley (Maine), John Cucco (New Jersey), Casey Martin (North Dakota), Tori Anderson (California), and Donna Neddo (Michigan). Three of the teens have blind parents and the others have blind siblings.
Wednesday, June 30
Bright and early Wednesday morning, parents gather with their kids for the annual Cane Walk, co-sponsored by NOPBC and the Louisiana Tech O&M Master’s Degree program. Above, Joe Cutter (New Jersey) gives a demonstration on the basics of holding and moving the cane. Soon, parents and kids will be paired up with instructors for the walk. Most of the instructors are blind and all are volunteers.
Macy McClain (Ohio), Luke Brackett (Florida), Esmeralda Gutierrez, and George Haley (Maine) hang-out together at the Teen Get-Acquainted party co-sponsored by NOPBC and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). The drop-in party gives kids a chance to hang-out and make new friends in a supervised, but teen-friendly, setting.
The NASA convention exhibit displays hands-on tactile models and materials developed by NASA for the NFB Science Camps and other educational programs. Above, blind scientist and NASA employee, Robert Shelton (right), talks to NFB Scholarship winner, Victor Wong, about employment opportunities for the blind at NASA.
The Hashash brothers (left to right, Damin, Mohammad, and Sammi) from New Jersey examine a stuffed seal at the Sensory Safari, an exhibit sponsored by the Safari Club International. All of the exhibits are touchable and volunteers from the club are on hand to give detailed information about each of the wild animals on display.
Thursday, July 1
Vejas Vasiliaukas (California) a 2004 Braille Readers are Leaders winner, looks for books at the Braille Book flea market while dad, Eric, holds his cane and bags his books for him. Award-winning teacher, Jan Zollinger (Idaho) checks out titles to take home to her students.
First timer, Mona Wright (left), a parent from Hawaii, volunteers at the NOPBC exhibit table with convention pro, Rosemarie Bowman (Michigan). NOPBC distributes literature and raises funds by selling toys, books, 50/50 raffle tickets, Whozit tattoos, and t-shirts in the exhibit hall.
Michael Taboada (Louisiana) shows off his Whozit tattoo to prospective buyers at the NOPBC table in the exhibit hall. The exhibit hall is packed with vendors displaying anything of interest to the blind; from technology for big “kids” to toys for the tots.
Friday, July 2
Two bands, Conundrum (rt.) and The Lyke House Drummers (next pg.) contribute to the excitement and high spirits of the convention on opening day, Friday, July 2.
Anne Naber (Minnesota) makes a star necklace at the drop-in, “Astronomy—It’s for Everyone,” workshop conducted Friday evening by astronomers Dr. Dennis Dawson, and Noreen Grice. As the title suggests, the workshop is open to everyone of all ages—not just kids.
Saturday, July 3
Susan Spungin, Candidate for Treasurer of the World Blind Union and Vice President of International Programs and Special Projects, American Foundation for the Blind, New York, New York, speaks to the convention on Saturday morning about “The World Blind Union: A Study in Contrasts.”
It is “standing room only” at the Saturday night, Audio-Described Family Night at the Movies. Presented by the National Captioning Institute and the NOPBC, the feature film is the popular Disney movie, “Lilo and Stich.”
Sunday, July 4
Miles Hilton-Barber, blind adventurer from Derbyshire, England, blasts the audience into the stratosphere on Sunday afternoon, July 4, as he chronicles his adventures as a blind pilot flying the English Channel.
Dr. Maurer delivers an inspiring banquet address, “The Assimilation of Crisis,” to some 2,000 members and guests on Sunday evening, July 4. In the speech, he reminds the audience that, for all the value it has, “It is not the technology that creates our ability but our own minds and hearts, and we must not be mislead into thinking that the machines are more important then we are. We will use the new technologies and the innovative programs of education, but these will not change our fundamental being. We have already determined what the blind will do, and we will accept no argument that tells us we lack the capacity to be an integrated part of the society in which we live. We are the blind imaginative, articulate, determined, persistent, and productive. We will not let anybody forget it.”
Barbara Cheadle (at the microphone) and Carol Akers (Ohio) announce the winner of the NOPBC 50/50 raffle at the banquet on Sunday night, July 4.
Monday, July 5
Roland Wenzel (Wisconsin) and Elliott Gabias (Canada) are captivated by two bunnies that have come to pay a visit to NFB Camp, the childcare service provided at the convention under the management of Federationists and Montessori educator, Carla McQuillan. Kevan Worley, president of the National Association of Blind Merchants is named to chair the Imagination Fund, devoted to raising funds and building a donor base for the Jernigan Institute and the ongoing programs of the Federation at the grass-roots level. Throughout the convention session, Kevan makes announcements and appeals about contributions and pledges to the new fund.
[PHOTO: Kendra Holloway in her Shirley Temple Halloween costume.]
What We Want for Kendra
by Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway
“Don’t expect your child to walk until she is two or three years old.”
“Your child will have delays in fine motor skills.”
“Your child will have delays in gross motor skills.”
“Blind babies are very quiet and passive.”
Do these statements sound familiar to any of you? These are the types of statements we heard from the “experts” as soon as we started working with early intervention groups. Fortunately we didn’t accept those statements and our daughter Kendra certainly never did either.
Kendra is now twenty-six months old. She was born three weeks early with severe microphthalmia on the left side and cataracts on the right. We later found out that she also had PHPV and some other conditions on the right side. She has been totally blind since the age of six months following two unsuccessful retinal reattachment surgeries. Kendra has been blessed/cursed with a mother who is an information junkie. I remember sitting at my computer the day after she was born looking up information on microphthalmia and cataracts. In my quest for knowledge, I came across the Web site for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and even more importantly, the link to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Finally, I had found a group whose philosophy meshed with my own. I joined the NOPBC when Kendra was still very young and was delighted to hear that the next NFB convention was going to be held in Atlanta where we live.
My husband Richard and I attended the first day of the convention by ourselves. We were both so impressed with the program that the NOPBC had put together for parents. Since neither of us had really known any blind people, the convention gave us a great opportunity to see blind people just being people. That probably sounds strange but I mean it in a good way. We saw people confidently walking around the hotel with their white canes and we thought, “Yes, that is what we want for Kendra.” We saw people reading Braille and taking notes and we thought, “Yes, that is what we want for Kendra.” We met blind people who walked up and introduced themselves to us, and we knew we wanted Kendra to have that same self-confidence.
Richard and I returned to the convention later in the week with Kendra and my stepdaughter Sarah. We had a great time at the drop-in “Discovery Time” with Heather Field and Joe Cutter. During the convention, I had spoken to Heather about my concern that Kendra wasn’t saying much at twenty-two months of age. Heather dangled a toy just out of Kendra’s reach, which I thought was a very mean thing to do until I heard Kendra ask for it. Now why hadn’t I thought of that myself?
The cane walk was definitely a highlight of the convention for me. We pushed for Kendra to start receiving orientation and mobility lessons using a cane from the time she was about eighteen months old. Joe Cutter was a great source of information on that topic and I was able to pass along the references he had given me to Kendra’s teachers. At the convention, I had the chance to put on a sleepshade and try to navigate around the hotel using the white cane. I was doing fine as long as I only wanted to go in a straight (or relatively straight) line but when we reached a crowded section of the hotel, I must admit to feeling a moment of panic. I highly recommend the cane walk to other parents. It really taught me more about cane travel than reading a book on the topic ever could.
The exhibit hall was a big hit with all of us. We bought every Braille book that the National Braille Press had for sale, which probably quadrupled the size of Kendra’s library. Richard was also very interested in the displays of various printers and Braille embossers since we are already thinking of what Kendra will need once she starts school.
For me, the best part of the convention was being able to talk to people who didn’t think I was just a mother in denial when I said that my totally blind daughter did not have any developmental delays. I have lost track of how many times we have heard statements like the ones I mentioned above. I even had one woman from the school system who argued with me that my daughter MUST have delays if she is blind. Kendra did work with a physical therapist briefly but we ended that relationship the moment Kendra took her first steps. She has been walking independently since fifteen-months of age. We also worked with a speech therapist for about four months. I don’t know if Kendra really needed the therapy but she liked the therapist and it certainly wasn’t doing any harm. She went from not saying much at all at twenty-months of age to saying three- and four-word sentences at twenty-four months. Anyone who has seen Kendra operate the TV or CD player, or run around in her gymnastics classes would be hard pressed to tell me she has delays in her fine or gross motor skills, and the part about her being a quiet passive baby just makes me laugh.
I am not saying that some blind children won’t have developmental delays, but we need to remember that some sighted children do too. I think parents need to stop being bombarded with negativity from all the “experts” in their lives and focus instead on how normal a life their blind child can have. That’s why we, as a family, will be going to Louisville, Kentucky, in July for our second NFB National Convention.
[PHOTO: Jan Zollinger poses with her award.]
Braille Is Fun!!!
by Jan Zollinger
2004 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children
Editor’s Note: The highlight of the 2004 NOPBC Annual Meeting was a dynamic presentation by Idaho teacher, Jan Zollinger, the 2004 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children award winner. The speech was not recorded, but Mrs. Zollinger suggested that we edit and print her award application letter since she used it as the outline for her presentation. So I did, and here it is:
I am very honored that Larry Streeter, Idaho President of the National Federation of the Blind, nominated me for the 2004 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award. I have taught many blind children for the past twenty-eight years in the state of Idaho. I am also the Director of, and Braille Instructor for, the Paraprofessional Program. This program teaches parents, teachers, and teacher aides in Idaho how to work with and train blind children. We have trained over 250 teachers and teacher aides from all over the state. Every year, when I start my Braille classes, I always begin with saying “Braille is Fun!” I am enthusiastic about Braille and have a passion for teaching it to anyone who wants to learn.
Thirty years ago I was sitting in a sociology classroom at Brigham Young University (BYU) waiting for class to begin. I was nervous because this was the first day of the new semester and I knew that there would be over 500 students in the class. The professor stood up and announced that there was a blind student in the class, and asked if anyone would volunteer to read the textbook to him for the semester. Anyone who was interested was to meet him after class. I remember sitting in the class with a strong desire to volunteer. After class, I met with the professor and was introduced to Jerry. Arrangements were made, and I became Jerry’s reader for the semester. I had never met a blind person and didn’t know how to be a reader, so I started to ask questions. I wanted to be a good reader. The more questions I asked, the more interested I became in learning about Jerry and blindness. I was intrigued with Jerry’s Braille machine and was fascinated when he read the tiny brown dots in his books. I wanted to learn more. I had a wonderful learning experience that semester and felt fortunate for the opportunity to be a reader.
Jerry was a member of the National Federation of the Blind. I had never heard of this organization and had no idea what they were about. Little did I know at that time what an influence for good the National Federation of the Blind would have in my future.
One afternoon while I was reading to Jerry, he told me that I would be a very good teacher of the blind. It had never occurred to me, but the more I thought about this the more determined I became to be one. I asked Jerry where I needed to go to be trained. I was happy to learn that BYU had an education program to teach the visually impaired. I changed my major and started down my career path. I met Ruth Craig, who started my formal blind education. Ruth was also my Braille instructor at BYU. She loved Braille and helped nourish the love of Braille in me, also. I will be forever thankful to her for the knowledge she gave me. I am especially thankful for that one decision I made thirty years earlier in my Sociology class. This path has brought me much joy and happiness throughout my life.
I started teaching at the Idaho School for the Deaf and Blind in the residential program. I taught in the elementary classroom for two years and then was asked to start the first blind infant outreach program in this region. The outreach program took me to the homes of many young blind children. I loved working with the babies and preschoolers. Early in my home teaching, I read a phrase in an article published in Future Reflections by Barbara Cheadle. It was only three simple sentences, but it completely reflected what I believed about blindness. Here is that quote:
“The real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight. The real problem is the misunderstanding and lack of information which exists. If a blind person has proper training and opportunity, blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance.”
[Editor’s note: This quote originated from a banquet speech written and delivered by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. The phrase, or variations of it, is used extensively in Federation literature to articulate the NFB’s approach to blindness.]
I heard Barbara speak in Boise at different meetings since they lived in the state of Idaho before moving east. I respect Barbara’s views on many issues and think she has great insights. Many times I would xerox articles that she had written in the “Future Reflections” magazine and give them to parents. I wanted to make sure that my parents had information and the proper training they needed to raise their young blind children. I wanted to help reduce the level of blindness to a physical nuisance to as many children as possible. I am thankful to John and Barbara Cheadle for helping educate not only their son, Chaz, but also many other children throughout the world through their experiences and articles.
As Barbara’s son Chaz grew, she wrote and published many articles that helped my parents along the way. I remember a special article she published about the sights and smells of Christmas. It was an inspiring article that I used every year at Christmas time to help parents make the most of using the Christmas senses. I always felt hope for the future and a positive attitude in reading the articles in Future Reflections.
Years went by, I was given the opportunity to work with older blind students. I had worked with younger blind children for so many years that I was behind in my knowledge of the technology world. I was frantically trying to learn this new technology when I ran across an article in the Braille Monitor about a one-week training in Baltimore, Maryland. The training was located at the NFB International Braille and Technology Center. I requested to go to this training and my request was granted, so off I went to Baltimore to learn. I learned how to use everything from an electronic notetaker (the Braille n’ Speak), to setting up a Braille station. I met Curtis Chong, who was very helpful in giving me the training I needed to help my students back in Idaho. This was a very positive experience because I met many wonderful blind people who taught me so much. I appreciate all the kindnesses and patience they showed during our training. I came back to Idaho ready to share what I had learned.
Nine years ago, I went back to school to get my master’s degree from Lesley University. I loved getting my master’s degree! It renewed my spirit, expanded my horizons, and truly transformed my career. I have always been a creative person. I think this is one of the reasons I love working with the blind so much. Every day I am given a new challenge on how to teach a skill or a concept so that a blind student will understand. I find that this creativity helps me in many situations, from creating a tactile graphic to using movement to teach a concept.
While working on my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, I created something that would help me teach Braille. I wanted a way to visually teach the Braille code to adults and children with vision, so I created “The Living Braille Cell.” Adults and children alike love to be a Braille dot! I find that people learn the Braille code faster when they can see, say, and “do” the alphabet. Let me tell you how to form “The Living Braille Cell”: First you need six individual people and six big, colored cardboard dots large enough for a person to stand on. I put the six big colored dots on the floor in the Braille formation. Each person stands on dots 1 thru 6, all facing the same way. As a group, we all say “a, Dot 1,” and then the person standing on Dot 1 (the “a”), bends down at the knees and comes up. Then altogether the group says “b,” and Dots 1 and 2 bend down together, then pop up. You can go through the entire alphabet in this manner, popping up and down using your physical bodies as the dots. My Braille classes like timing themselves to see how fast they can make all the letters in the alphabet. Adults and children both enjoy learning the alphabet this way. It is also a great team builder. Students understand and remember the letters better when they are coupled with movement. This is a powerful tool and works well in learning the Braille alphabet letters.
My classes are so much fun! I use movement, music, poetry, art, drama, storytelling, etcetera, in them. Kids love to learn through the arts, and I love to teach through the arts.
The last several years I have started many Braille clubs throughout the state. If I have even one Braille student at a school, I give the student the option of having a Braille club after school. Some of my students choose to pick their friends to come and learn Braille. I always allow the student I am teaching to help in the teaching of the Braille clubs. In Braille Club, my students feel they have a special talent, not a handicap. Sometimes the Braille Club is extended to anyone in the school who would like to learn. It has been interesting and a pleasure to watch my blind students’ self-esteem grow as sighted peers choose to learn Braille.
Most students think Braille is so cool. They have a fun time in the club, and relationships are formed with the blind students. It is a win-win situation. I have taught Braille clubs in elementary schools, junior highs, and high schools. They have all been wonderful experiences that I will always treasure.
Last fall I had the opportunity to attend a Transition Workshop in Boise, Idaho. Larry Streeter, Idaho President of the National
Federation of the Blind hosted a weekend training on Transitions. This was an excellent training program that helped teachers, parents, and students. Students learned how to successfully conduct their own IEP meetings. This past year I have been able to watch many of my students grow and mature and conduct their own IEP meetings. They all felt a real sense of accomplishment in doing this, and want to continue this in future meetings.
At the Transitions program, I met Michael Hingson and his dog, both of whom escaped from the World Trade towers on 9/11 and survived. I was fascinated with his story and learned much from his presentation. I met many other blind individuals that weekend who inspired me to be a better teacher. I learned that I needed to get more of my students involved with blind individuals. My students need to have more good role models in their lives. They need to meet successful blind individuals.
My philosophy about teaching Braille has changed through the years. When I first started teaching I did not think that low vision students needed to learn Braille. I have since learned that Braille is essential for the blind child and the low vision student. Low vision students who can’t read print efficiently for long periods of time can benefit from the Braille option. I believe that low vision students need to be taught Braille so they will have another option when reading becomes difficult. “Options” is a critical word when talking about the low vision student. Braille is an option, a tool for learning, and is a means of relieving severe eyestrain. It also improves self-esteem. I try to give all my students as many options as I can so they will be successful in life.
Many low vision students refuse to learn Braille. They do not think they need it. It is hard for them to look down the road and think about the future. I try to get students to think about their lives in the future. What will their vision be like at age twenty, thirty, or fifty? We must be realistic and talk about the options and seriously consider Braille. In the state of Idaho it is mandatory to talk about Braille as an option in the IEP process.
I am a very hands-on traditional teacher. I believe that teaching the slate and stylus is not out of style. It is a critical skill that must be taught. I want my students to be successful in whatever they choose to do in life. I teach them that using the slate and stylus will make them more independent and successful. It can help make their lives so much easier.
I currently teach thirty-five students: four totally blind students, twenty-one low vision students, and ten multi-handicapped children. All are important to me. It seems I never have enough time to teach everything I would like to. This is the frustrating part of my job. Our caseloads are too large and the teacher shortage has made our jobs difficult. Throughout the years of my teaching and extraordinary experiences, I can’t help but feel that I am a very ordinary teacher. I love my students and want them to be as independent and successful as possible. I want them to be prepared for the future and to be happy in their lives.
I am thankful to the National Federation of the Blind for the help they have provided me throughout my teaching career. I have grown through the years and am still learning daily from students, parents, and other teachers. I have a positive attitude in teaching the blind and teaching Braille because “Braille is Fun!!!”
[PHOTO: The Indiana COGS Club members pose with Matt Maurer and their school chaperones. They are, from left to right, back to front: Mr. Al Lovati, Mika Baugh, Dr. Matt Maurer, Ms. Debbie Squire, Rylie Robinson, Breina Morris, Heather Oklak, Joel Cook, and Nick DeHart.]
Indiana Students Talk about Life, Blindness, and COGS
Editor’s Note: The first formal presentation of the day at the June 29, 2004 NOPBC parents seminar, was a panel of blind students from the Indiana School for the Blind COGS technology club. This trip to the convention was organized for them by their club leader, Dr. Matt Maurer, a college professor who volunteers at the school. Six students came with two school staff members, plus Dr. Matt Maurer, as chaperones. Four of the students prepared presentations for the NOPBC panel and the other two students talked to the NFB in Computer Science Division meeting later in the week. Here are the edited comments from the transcription of the students’ panel presentation:
Introduction, Barbara Cheadle:
This morning, Marty Greiser, our vice president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, picked up the morning agenda, came over to me, pointed to it, and said—with a questioning look on his face—“Matt Maurer … is that … is he …?” I said, “Yes, he’s related.” [laughter]. We have two Maurer’s to talk with us this morning. Our NFB President, Marc Maurer, was raised in a large family with many siblings and today we get to hear from one of those siblings, his brother Matt. Dr. Matt Maurer is here to give a presentation with a panel of blind students from Indiana. Matt Maurer is a Professor of Education at Butler University in Indianapolis. He is an energetic man who is passionate about many things in the world, including his belief that blind people can be normal people and do normal things. He found a way to channel that passion through volunteer work with blind students at the Indiana School for the Blind (ISB). And with him this week is a most enthusiastic and bubbly bunch of young people from that school. I met them out around midnight last night, exploring the hotel with their chaperones, Al Lovati and Debbie Squires, from the school. They were having a fun time. Now, I’m going to turn the microphone over to Dr. Matt Maurer to introduce this panel of youth from Indiana. Here you go, Dr. Maurer:
Dr. Matt Maurer: Thank you, Mrs. Cheadle. Yes, I am Dr. Marc Maurer’s brother. That means we grew up together as kids and punched each other in the stomach and all that kind of stuff. I can tell, oh, a hundred stories on him that would embarrass him, but I’m not going to do that. I don’t think he’d like it [laughter]. But it was very interesting growing up with my brother, Marc. He was an extraordinary child and he’s an extraordinary man. I’m really proud to see what he’s been doing today.
I’m here with six representatives of the Indiana School for the Blind COGS Club. COGS is a technology club, When we formed it about three years ago, I wanted to call it the Geeks Club, but I was immediately informed that the “Geeks” was not a good name. So we had this protracted discussion on what to call our new club. Finally, the students agreed on an acronym, COGS. But what is really funny is that they all agreed to call the club COGS, but they could not agree on what COGS stood for. Some will tell you it’s a Collection Of GeniuseS [laughter] others will say it’s a Collection Of GuyS and GalS. But tell me if you agree with me on this: a group of people who agree on an acronym without agreeing on what it stands for, are definitely geeks—aren’t they? [laughter, clapping from audience]. So, I agree with Mr. Levati, he’s sitting in front there, he says that COGS, is a Collection Of GeekS [laughter].
So, let me introduce these guys and gals and let them talk to you about what life is like for them as blind students. We will speak in the order from my right to my left. Heather Oklak is on my far right and next to Heather is Mika Baugh. The guy on the panel is Joel Cook. Do you notice that representing our tech club we have three gals and one guy? It wasn’t hard to get the guys interested in technology, but we had to work hard to get the gals involved. But we did and here they are and I’m so proud of all of them. Finally, sitting next to me is Riley Robinson. Heather and Joel are going into the 11th grade, Mika is going into the 9th grade, and Riley will be a 7th grader. Heather, I’m turning it over to you:
Heather: Hi! My name is Heather Oklak and I’m seventeen years old. In the fall I will be a junior at the Indiana School for the blind, or, as it’s more commonly known, ISB. I’ve attended ISB for five years now, but I didn’t start out at the blind school. I started out at a public school in my hometown. I was the only one in my class or my school, for that matter, who used adaptive technology such as the CCTV and large print. Every once in awhile someone made fun of me but, more often than not, I was just one of the group. Because those friends judged me for who I am and not what I see, they are some of the best friends I ever had. But the blind school is also a big part of my life. My sister, who is six years older than me, decided when she was a junior to transfer to the blind school. I was only in the fifth grade and my parents thought I should transfer, too, but not ‘til I was in the sixth grade because I’d be changing schools then, anyway. I didn’t like the idea at first because I thought I would be in my sister’s shadow, and I feel like it’s been that way for my whole life. But now that I look back, I’m really glad we made this decision. The year I transferred to ISB I had a teacher who helped me step out of my shell and taught me how to advocate for myself.
But when I changed schools, it was like starting a whole new life: new town, new city, new house, new people. Everything changed. Going to the school I had a chance to participate in things I never would have participated in if I had stayed in public school; things like track, cheerleading, swimming, speech team, and extracurricular activities like student council and COGS. These are things I never would have had the confidence to try before I had been with a group of other blind and visually impaired kids like me. I always felt a little bit different, but now I realize I’m not different; I just don’t see as well. Right now I’m participating in a program where I go a half-day to the public school and take the rest of my classes at the blind school. It’s a little bit more challenging but I still get the one-on-one attention when I need it, so my grades are better. I have more confidence and I really like the achievements I’ve made. That’s pretty much all I have to say. Thank you. [Applause]
Mika Baugh: Hi. My name’s Mika Baugh. I’m fourteen years old and have been attending the Indiana School for the Blind for the past nine years. I was born with a fairly common eye condition know as optic nerve hypoplasia. In this condition the optic nerve of my eye didn’t fully develop. I have vision in both eyes, but I only use the left because the right is extremely blurry. I participate in numerous sports and other activities such as track, cheerleading, swimming, drama club, and COGS. My family has been very supportive throughout the years and my friends are understanding and always there for me. For me, one of the hardest things about living with a visual impairment is the constant put-down you get from some people. Yeah, some tasks may take a little longer and may need to be modified, but they can be done. It is your job as a visually impaired individual to advocate for yourself and show people what you can do, and not what you can’t. Another obstacle is—independence. Some people may feel that it is virtually impossible to achieve this if you are visually impaired, but I found out that if you join an activity or a sport that you enjoy, it’s a lot easier to achieve than you might think. COGS, for instance, has helped me to take initiative, speak for myself, and countless other things that I will use throughout life. Some of you, if you have recently lost your vision, may feel like you are alone or that no one is there for you. Trust me, even if you are not around all kinds of blind people all the time, there are many people out there who want you to
succeed and who will do anything it takes to help. If you find them and give them a chance, they’ll see you through your struggles and will be there for your triumphs. Living with a visual impairment has its ups and downs like everything else in life. There will always be those people who care for you, and those that try to put you down. But without a loss, winning wouldn’t be so great. Thank you. [Applause]
Joel Cook: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I’m Joel Cook and I am here to tell you about my life and how it has been affected by my visual impairment. This impairment that I speak of is, as Mika said, optic nerve hypoplasia. I’ve had this condition since birth and have lived with it for sixteen years now. As it keeps me from driving a car, I have to rely on other methods of transportation, such as city busses and taxi cabs which, I might add, the city of Indianapolis, Indiana, provides quite well. On streets and sidewalks, however, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game. [Laughter] I’m just like anybody else—any average person—’cause I can maneuver on and around them with a great deal of ease. Although I do not always see distant street signs and businesses, low vision devices such as monoculars and magnifying glasses, aid me in doing so. However, transportation isn’t the only area where I make adaptations in order to succeed. I need various other aids to do my homework, take tests, read books, and do other scholastic activities. Some of these adaptations include using large print materials, the Kurzweil 1000 to scan print materials into my computers so I can change fonts and formats, and my trusty magnifying glass for those lazy days when I just don’t feel like scanning things or when the Kurzweil is not in the immediate vicinity. Succeeding at using these adaptations has aided me in getting great grades and doing well in school. On the home front, well, that’s another area where I require minimal adaptations. I can do just about anything any other person does. I ride a bike, mop the floor, sweep, do laundry, and things like that.
However, there are a few select things that I have trouble doing. I can’t distinguish outdoor colors very well, so I mess up a lot when doing various types of yard work such as mowing the grass and picking up sticks. Other things that I can’t see very well are animals in nature, birds at a distance, and the chalkboard in a classroom. I recall one instance, when I was a strapping young lad about age eight or nine (before I had any of my adaptive aids), when this girl challenged me to a little geography test. We were to stand at some distance behind a line and say the name of the state as someone pointed to it on a U.S.A. map. Unfortunately, I could barely see the outside outline of the map. I lost terribly to her; man, did I lose! However, I wasn’t going to let a little contest like that get me down. I picked myself up and came back for more (figuratively speaking) and I’m a stronger person for it today. I loath it when I hear a blind person say, “I can’t” or “I’m not able to …,” when they haven’t even lifted a finger to try. Try new things every once in awhile. You never know where the future could take you. [Applause]
Rylie Robinson: Hello my name is Rylie Robinson. I am twelve years old. I attend the Indiana School for the Blind. I’ve attended this school since preschool and it’s pretty fun. I was born with LCA, lebers congenital amaurosis (I think it’s a disease where the optic nerve is fragmented in several places), so I am totally blind. I participate in sports such as swimming and cheerleading and I am probably going to do track next year. I’ve always won first place in my swimming competitions, so far, and our Indiana cheerleading girls have won firsts, too. I also play the piano and sing. I sang the National Anthem at a Purdue
University swim meet, which I thought was a great experience for me. I entered in a composition contest for piano. I won one hundred dollars for my composition called “Ceremonial Dances”. About blindness, I used to have some fears of certain sounds. When I was in second or third grade, I was scared of leaves; I didn’t like the rustling sound they made across the sidewalk—I just didn’t like that sound. But one day, when my sister Madison and I were sitting on a log waiting for her to take me down to our creek, a leaf fell in my lap. It didn’t harm me or hurt me, so from then on I wasn’t scared of leaves any more. [Rylie giggles and slight laughter from the audience]. But, being blind, I have some strengths, too. I can learn things pretty fast. For example, I learned the Internet really quickly from Mr. Powell, one of the teachers at the school. I can do most things on the Internet that sighted people can do except use the mouse. The last thing I want to talk about—well, Dr. Maurer’s kinda already talked about it but it is in my speech, too—is GOGS; the collection of geeks, geniuses, goofballs, etcetera. [Laughter]. In COGS we work with computers, the Internet, and electronic Braille devices. We also teach other people how to use them. Like I said before, I can do a lot of things that sighted people can do. That’s a little about me and my life as a blind individual. [Applause]
Dr. Matt Maurer: Thanks, guys. Some of the things that have happened as a result of the club are, I think, noteworthy. Each year (this was our third year) we adopt a theme or guiding idea for the year. This year we adopted the theme of Independence through Technology, and the kids made some pretty nice strides toward achieving it. Another accomplishment of COGS this past year was our creation of the Help Desk. Nick, one of the club members—he’s sitting in the front row there—is one of the heads of the Help Desk. Most of us know that if you have a problem with your computer, what you need to find is a seventh-grader to help you fix it; right? [Laughter] So we decided to institutionalize this informal practice. Our COGS kids are the first ones called when a teacher is stuck with a computer problem and he or she doesn’t know how to fix it. That’s Independence through Technology. This project is related to another idea we worked on this year (and we’re still working on); that’s the idea of Service. Just because you are blind doesn’t mean that you must always be the recipient of help. Part of being a good citizen is turning your gifts into gifts for others in your society. That’s something we’re going to hit the ground running on next year by doing some projects with elderly people who are losing their eyesight. The COGS technology club has been very useful, I think, to the student members. It has certainly been a gratifying experience for me. It is a tremendous joy to work with these students. [Applause]
[PHOTO: Joel Snyder]
Audio Description — The Visual Made Verbal
by Joel Snyder
Editor’s Note: Access to the mass media was never a problem for the blind when it was dominated by sound. There is no disadvantage (maybe even a slight advantage) if you are blind and getting information from radio or recordings. However, as soon as pictures were added, then it was a whole new ballgame. Fortunately (for the blind, anyway) the era of silent movies was short. Furthermore, it took time for the media to change. If you watch the early black and white movies, you will observe that the story line is carried along in pretty much the same way it was for radio, with dialogue and identifiable sound cues. But that didn’t last long, either. Writers, producers, and artists were eager to explore the potential and power of pictures. As always, resourceful blind people found ways—and still do—to access or circumvent the visual images in the media.
Of course, some blind people are more resourceful than others while some care little about access to movies, TV, or other highly visual entertainments. Nevertheless, it was, and continues to be, a disadvantage. A little over twenty years ago, a movement to address this disadvantage by adding recorded verbal descriptions to visual images got a jump-start with the infusion of federal funds. That process came to be known as Audio Description, or AD. And that brings me to my introduction to the following article. On Tuesday, June 29th, Joel Snyder made a presentation to the audience attending the “As the Twig Is Bent” national seminar for parents and teachers of blind children. Joel Snyder is an expert in audio description.
He came to the convention in his capacity as Director, Described Media—National Captioning Institute, but he is also the founder, President, and CEO of Audio Description Associates. Mr. Snyder was invited by the National Organization of Parents of Blind, to discuss the implications of Audio Description (AD) for the development of social skills in blind children. Here are his remarks:
What better way to begin this brief presentation than with description of two favorite cartoons—[Snyder reads the following descriptions while an image of each cartoon is projected onto a screen.]
“The Fan” by John McPherson
On a stage—at left, a woman in a flowing gown, her hands clasped in front of her, stands before a kneeling man in a doublet and
feathered cap. He croons, “Why dost thy heart turn away from mine?” At right, a man at a microphone speaks: “Basically, the guy with the goofy hat is ticked because this babe has been runnin’ around with the dude in the black tights.” The caption reads: “Many opera companies now provide interpreters for the culturally impaired.”
“Red and Rover” by Brian Basset
In the first panel, Red, a red-haired eight-year-old boy, is outdoors, lying on the ground against a tree, facing away from us and his right arm is around Rover, a white, short-haired dog, a lab-beagle mix. A leaf falls—Red announces, “Brown.” In the next panel, as Rover’s tail taps, Red notes, “Orange, Red,
Yellow.” In the following panel: “Red, Orange, Yellow, Yellow.” Next, Red turns toward us, eyes wide, and tells us: “Dogs only see in black and white.” The final panel depicts a more full view of the tree, leaves scattered about the pair as Red continues: “Yellow, Orange, Brown, Red, Orange …”
Indeed, description of the funnies brings me back to how I began working in this area. How many of you remember the New York City newspaper strike in the 40’s? Do you recall how mayor Fiorello LaGuardia went on the radio every day to read the funnies? That, my friends, was early Audio Description. But even that wasn’t the beginning of AD.
I think it was back in prehistoric times when two sighted cavemen were munching on some leftover sabre-tooth tiger when one fellow screamed to the other, “Look out behind you, there’s a mastodon coming from the left!” There you have it, ladies and gentlemen—the origin of Audio Description.
I came to description a little more recently.
For over twenty years I’ve been working with it. I was one of the first audio describers in a formal sense, it having been developed for the first time as an ongoing service in the performing arts in the Washington, D.C., area. Since that time I have been lucky enough to help performing arts groups, media producers, museums, schools, libraries, and other venues all around the world and on the Web develop AD programs.
I do it now on behalf of the National
Captioning Institute (NCI)—broadcast media and 508 projects—and through my own company, Audio Description Associates. I focus principally on description in performing arts settings, museums, and training.
Audio Description is, to a great extent, a kind of literary art form in itself. It’s a type of poetry—a haiku. It provides a verbal version of the visual—the visual is made verbal, and aural [Snyder points to his ear], and oral [Snyder points to his mouth]. Using words that are succinct, vivid, and imaginative to convey the visual image that is not fully accessible to a segment of the population and not fully realized by the rest of us. The rest of us: meaning sighted folks who see but who may not observe.
Using relatively unsophisticated technology, AD can enhance arts experiences for all people: museum-lovers, theater-goers, folks watching television or at the movies. It can even improve kids’ literacy skills. It’s useful for anyone who wants to truly notice and appreciate a more full perspective on any visual event but it’s especially helpful as an access tool for people who are blind or have low vision. You’ll find it these days at arts events but also at weddings, parades, rodeos, circuses, sports events, even funerals!
Not too long ago I conducted a workshop in New Haven with day care workers and reading teachers on what I think represents a new application for audio description. We experimented with developing more descriptive language to use when working with kids and picture books. Some of these books are deficient with respect to the language skills they involve; they rely on the pictures to tell the story. But the teacher trained in audio description techniques would never simply hold up a picture of a red ball and read the text: “See the ball.” He or she might add: “The ball is red—just like a fire engine. I think that ball is as large as one of you! It’s as round as the sun—a bright red circle or sphere.” The teacher has introduced new vocabulary,
invited comparisons, and used metaphor or simile—with toddlers! By using audio description, I think that these books will be made accessible to kids who have low vision or are blind and, incidentally, help develop more sophisticated language skills for all kids. A picture is worth a thousand words? Maybe. But the audio describer might say that a few well-chosen words can conjure vivid and lasting images.
Indeed, at NCI Described Media we’re quite proud to be the folks who provide description—for the first time—for Sesame Street. We were quite heartened by a particular letter we received last year from a blind parent of sighted children who for the first time could follow along with her kids the antics of Elmo, Bert, Ernie, and all the other denizens of Sesame Street.
Let me help you see what description is all about by asking you, figuratively, to close your eyes—listen to the following excerpt from ABC’s presentation of Stephen King’s “The Shining,” described by the National Captioning Institute’s Described Media division. I’m going to play this brief excerpt three times, first with no picture on the screen and no description—just as someone with no vision might experience it if he or she had no access to description. Then I’ll play the same excerpt as described by the NCI’s Described Media division: And finally, one last time with the video intact so you can make your own judgments about how well we did with the description. [Editor’s note: What follows here is an annotated script of the description for this excerpt. The notes will afford you some insight into the reasoning for using the precise language that was used—why certain words were chosen to bring the images to the mind’s eye.]
ANNOTATED EXCERPT FROM THE AUDIO DESCRIPTION SCRIPT FOR
THE SHINING AS AIRED ON ABC-TV
Visual, verbal, or other aural/sound cues are in caps. The ones also in brackets are sound effects, and the ones in quotes are actual dialog voiced by a character in the movie. The audio descriptions are preceded by “>>.”
Annotations are in bold and are keyed to numerals in the description text.
Note: The appearance of the characters “Torrance” and the older man (“Jack”) is described earlier in the film.
“WARM TOE OF WATER”
>>Now, a woman in her thirties with long blond hair. She stands in a white (1) -tiled bathroom and wears a white (1) towel. Leaning on the black (1) sink, she gazes at her reflection in the steamed-up (2) vanity mirror.
(1) The stark black/white “look” is critical visual element of the design. Color has been shown to be important to people who have low vision, even those who are congenitally blind.
(2) “Steamed up” indicates that a shower may have been run, state of mind.
>>Her eyes drift down to a gold key resting on the sink (3). Engraved on the key are the numbers 217 (4). Beside the key is a packet of razor blades.
(3) Description precedes the actual action, a useful convention to accommodate timing.
(4) “217,” a critical piece of information for understanding later developments.
>>She picks up the razor blades and slides one of them out. Shown from her bare legs down, she drops her towel on the floor. [DROP] She steps to a black bathmat in front of a footed (5) bathtub. [CURTAINS] Sunlight shines on her bare toes (6). She steps into the tub.
(5) Contributes to an appreciation of the style/environment of scene.
(6) Provides explication of the sound of the unseen curtains being pulled back.
>>Now in the basement, Torrance.
“WHAT A MESS”
>>Blood drips from the blond woman’s hand as her arm rests on the side of the bathtub.
[DRIP DRIP DRIP]
>>In the basement, the older man blows his nose on a red handkerchief (7).
(7) Again, color. We suspect that someone involved with the film chose red for the color of this character’s handkerchief!
In the United States, in areas where a television station is equipped to participate, AD lets all television viewers to hear what they cannot see. It’s accessible via a special audio channel available on stereo televisions. Viewers select the SAP (secondary audio program) channel in order to hear the regular program audio accompanied by the descriptions, precisely timed to occur only during the lapses between dialogue. Sighted viewers appreciate the descriptions as well. It’s television for blind, low vision, and sighted people who want to be in the kitchen washing dishes while the show is on.
In live performing arts settings, AD is offered free and provides what the sighted theatergoer takes for granted; those theatrical images that visually impaired audiences formerly could only experience through the whispered asides from a companion who could see. It’s a frustrating experience sitting in a theater and wondering why everyone else is laughing at a “sight gag,” for instance. The audio describer’s ‘play-by-play’ narration clues—in the blind audience member inconspicuously. It affords the AD user a measure of independence not to mention that it frees the user’s companion from the need to convey “what happened” every few moments.
Usually at designated performances, people desiring this service may receive headphones attached to small receivers about the size of a cigarette pack. Prior to the show, a live or taped version of the program notes is transmitted through the headphones, after which the trained describer narrates the performance from another part of the theater via an FM radio or infrared transmitter using concise, objective descriptions all slipped in between portions of dialogue or songs.
In museums, AD can enhance the docent-led, guided tour experience for sighted visitors as well as provide an added measure of accessibility for people who are blind or have low vision. Recorded audio-described tours help visitors truly see the magnificent pieces in a museum by planting in the mind’s eye vivid evocations of what is on the tour. It’s done through skillful and imaginative use of language and vocalizations—using metaphor, finding new words and phrases, describing each painting or sculpture, asking rhetorical questions to spark a visitor’s own imagination. On a recorded tour, directional information can also enable a visitor to tour a space independently.
Friends, access to culture is everyone’s right and there simply is no good reason why a person with a particular disability must also be culturally disadvantaged. But the bad reasons remain, and I don’t think those who control cultural venues will loosen their grip on excuses for non-action until folks demand the access that is their right (to paraphrase Star Trek) to demand the opportunity to go where everyone else has already gone. Part of that has to do with, you should excuse the expression, VISIBILITY. Visibility of folks who desire the service making their wishes known, and visibility of the service itself. That’s why I think that when description is more prevalent in the media, other art forms and venues will follow suit.
Just a few days ago I returned from doing audio description training in Russia and Lithuania. I’ve also done training in Bulgaria and workshops in Czech and Romania. These new democracies are struggling with the fiscal difficulties attendant to any burgeoning market economy. Even within that context, these nations are making real the meaning of democracy—equal access for all.
Ultimately, I believe that in this tremendously prosperous nation, with all of its bountiful resources, there shouldn’t be a state in this nation or a television network or a cable channel or a movie theater that doesn’t offer full access.
Joel Snyder is Director, Described Media National Captioning Institute; email: <[email protected]>; and President, Audio Description Associates, www.audiodescribe.com, email: <[email protected]>.
[PHOTO: Barbara Loos, President of the American Action Fund (AAF) board, sets out Braille books donated by the AAF. A former Braille instructor and long-time Braille advocate, Loos also volunteered as a Braille Mentor at the reunion.]
[PHOTO: Children and adults line up at the flea market display tables eager for the rare pleasure of browsing through stacks and stacks of “gently used” Braille books.]
[PHOTO: UPS volunteers from the Georgia office, Patty Conley (left), Christie Davis (middle), and Christie’s daughter, Morgan, work with NOPBC volunteer, Bob Brackett (Florida), to box up Braille books to ship Free Matter to the homes of their new owners.]
[PHOTO: A former Braille Readers Are Leaders winner, Harriett Go (Pennsylvania), demonstrates two-handed Braille reading to novice reader, Melissa Davis (Georgia).]
Reunion and Braille Book Flea Market A Hugh Success
by Barbara Pierce and Steve Hoad
Editor’s Note: In 2003, at the Louisville, Kentucky, convention, the NFB celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest with a reunion and a Braille book flea market. The affair was a hit, and right away plans were laid to establish it as an annual event. The 2004 event was every bit as successful as expected. The report below, which is a modification of a report that appeared in the August/September 2004 issue of the Braille Monitor, describes highlights of the 2004 reunion:
Barbara Pierce: From 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 1, a reunion of past and current Braille Readers Are Leaders participants took place at the 2004 NFB convention. And what better place for such a group of committed Braille readers and their families to meet and renew friendships than at the second annual Braille book flea market? Everything but the huge crowd was kid-friendly. Eight tables were spread with Braille books for browsing and choosing. Sandy Halverson and her crew of Braille-reading volunteers had unpacked and organized the books earlier in the afternoon, and National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and National Association to Promote the Use of Braille volunteers stood ready to restock the tables as soon as space opened. Round tables in the center of the room invited folks to sit down for a talk or for refreshments of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies, and lemonade.
About twenty-five experienced Braille readers (Braille-reading adults and teens) circulated wearing badges identifying them as Braille mentors. They stopped to talk with kids about Braille and the books they had found and with parents who had questions about Braille. They were enthusiastic about the event. Macy McClain of Ohio is thirteen and a past contest winner. She hunted up several younger Braille readers to talk about Braille. Macy was the youngest Braille mentor, but she knew her job, and she did it.
The United Parcel Service (UPS) Foundation provided a grant that helped make this event possible. The American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults (AAF) and the TriCounty Braille Volunteers of Michigan donated many new Braille books to augment the gently used books contributed by Braille readers around the country. And UPS volunteers boxed up books for shipment Free
Matter to people’s homes following the convention. Even with this service, which sent eighty-eight boxes winging their way across the country, lots more books were too precious to be parted with and walked out of the flea market in the arms of happy new owners.
The National Organization of Parents of Blind Children donated a refurbished Braillewriter as a door prize. The winner was Keao Wright of Hawaii, who read 5,900 pages to become the fifth-place winner in the high school category of this year’s contest. This was the Wright family’s first convention. Undoubtedly every family at the flea market had an interesting story to tell. Vejas Vasiliauskas of California was attending his first convention. He was this year’s first-place winner in the kindergarten through first grade category of the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. He read 3,313 pages. AAF President Barbara Loos, a life-long Braille reader, interviewed Vejas during the contest. They met for the first time in person and talked about Braille during the reunion.
Steve Hoad: The event began with a crowded room. I was excited to see so many people, but why wouldn’t there be a crowd? Books for free, only a donation needed! And these books are Braille—that combination draws blind readers and book lovers like a magnet.
So here I am, working the crowd (I love to do that anyway) and talking about Braille. I meet a whole family of youngsters who have found great pleasure while getting their books. “We know how to read,” one little girl tells me; “We like to do it.” A simple statement, but unfortunately not true for every blind youngster today. I feel sad when I think about those who don’t learn Braille—tapes and computer speech just don’t convey information as well, and they don’t encourage reflection.
I talked with a college student about Braille, which we have in common, so that’s what we talked about: what we like to read, the books she’d found. As we talked, I found myself wishing I had picked up that bread recipe book I’d seen fleetingly. I went back and looked—it was gone. Oh well, another Braille lover will be making bread soon.
Readers are usually learners, and parents who encourage readers are usually willing to take time so that their children can learn. Late in the event, as it was winding down, I met two young women (Kira and Meg), who are Braille readers. They were playing around, but when the topic turned to Braille, they got serious. We talked about my love for Braille. They wanted to know what I used it for. I talked a bit about work, notes (picture my desk with little Braille notes taped to the surface), favorite books, how to read and write. They talked about their electronic Braille devices, and I pulled out my slate and stylus. They were interested; Meg was going off to camp to learn to use the slate this summer, and we tried it out. I talked about how I use it every day for work, for pleasure, and for anything Mr. or Mrs. America might use a pen to write.
I carry my slate in a buckskin pouch made for me by my wife. It brings together the two things I love most: with some bits of paper included I have what I need for an independent life; to me Braille and family equal love and happiness.
Editor’s Note: Look for an announcement in an upcoming issue of the Braille Monitor and on the NFB Web site at www.nfb.org about when and where to send donated Braille books for the 2005 Reunion and Braille Book Flea Market. In the meantime, start sorting through your Braille books. We especially welcome donations of children’s books, both print-Braille picture books and all-Braille books; and cookbooks. Please, do not send magazines or books in volumes requiring more than one box for shipping. Peggy Chong of Des Moines, Iowa, is the coordinator of the 2005 event. Mrs. Chong will soon be recruiting volunteers and soliciting funds to help underwrite expenses for refreshments and door prizes. If you would like to help in any way, please contact Mrs. Peggy Chong by phone at (515) 277-1280 or by email at [email protected]
[PHOTO: Dr. Matt Maurer]
COGS: Our Trip to the NFB Convention
by Dr. Matt Maurer
Six student members of the school-sponsored COGS technology club and two teachers, Al Lovati and Debbie Squire, joined me in attending the National Federation of the Blind 2004 Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Al Lovati is a technology teacher and the ISB technology coordinator from the Indiana School for the Blind. Debbie Squire teaches high school math. I am a professor at Butler University in Indianapolis, and I volunteer at the school. Of the students, four were female and two were male. The ages ranged from twelve to seventeen. Each student had to write and submit three essays to attend this trip and each student had a responsibility to speak to some group at the convention. For some students the task of writing the essays and the idea of speaking was relatively simple, and for others it represented a significant stretch.
Our time in Atlanta was relatively evenly split between attending the Convention and non-convention activities. Our non-convention activities included shopping, dining, visiting the zoo, taking advantage of hotel amenities, and exploring the city.
What We Did
We arrived on Monday night. After checking into the hotel, the students were introduced to three leaders of the NFB before we even left the lobby. This was typical of what happened throughout the convention. The students and teachers met many of the NFB leadership. On Tuesday morning, four students spoke at the Parent’s Division meeting about their experience as blind teens. We all attended the Braille Carnival. In the afternoon we explored the city a bit, checking out the underground mall and the Coke exhibit building nearby. In the evening we attended the rookie round-up at the convention.
Wednesday was our planned “play day.” We took the subway and a bus out to the zoo. Later in the day, one student (a boy) came back to the convention with me and the rest of the group took the subway to a more distant mall to shop. At the convention, the student and I attended the mock trial and the student division meeting.
Thursday morning we visited the exhibit area in the morning. In the afternoon the students were first on the agenda to present to the computer science division. I asked the students to stay through the next presentation, which was a highly technical presentation on the next major operating system release from Microsoft. The presentation was technically over my head, and way over the students’ heads. They reported that it was boring, and completely incomprehensible. To quote one girl, “Oh my gosh!!! I didn’t understand one thing he said.” I impressed upon them that their role in attending was to learn how the business of the organization was conducted, not to understand the technical information from Microsoft. After that conversation, the students reported that they learned a lot about how the blind are treated and how the NFB does things, and why. After leaving the computer science meeting, we visited the exhibit area a bit longer. At 4:00 pm a male member of the Student Division had a short “mentor” meeting with our two male students. Later in the evening we ordered pizza for the our students and four college students joined them for dinner at about 5:00 and stayed with them until 6:45 at which time we went to the play put on by the Louisiana Center.
On Friday we attended the general sessions all day and went out for a nice dinner in the evening. We left early on Saturday morning for home.
Results on the Students
The entire experience was noticeably powerful for the students. The simple act of flying from Indianapolis to Atlanta, and the dining experiences were good practice for several of the students. Two students had never flown before and only two of the students seemed fully comfortable and confident in a nice restaurant. The city exploration was also useful. Two students reported that they had never ridden a city bus and only one had ever been on a subway. Each child had a daily maximum of $40 for food and they had to maintain a record of their food expenses. This was useful to point out that going down the block to McDonalds is very different from eating in the hotel restaurant. The students got that message after the very first day.
Of the six students, one was totally blind and the remaining five had varying levels of vision. Only the one youth brought a cane. Mrs. Cheadle talked with the students a couple of times and as a result each of them did take a cane offered to them from the parent’s division cane bank. Once they had them, they carried and used them. Especially in the convention meetings, they seemed to want to have a cane, since almost everyone had one.
The speaking opportunities for the students were very beneficial. Each of the students reported being nervous about it, yet each one came through and did what was expected. At least one student surprised himself with what he could do in this arena. I judged the speaking experiences to be invaluable experience for each of the students.
The pizza party we arranged was extremely positive. In fact, we had intended to end it sooner to allow time for our students to get ready to attend the play, but as we overheard what the college students were saying to our students, we let the session run as long as we could. There were positive messages and challenges from the college students and our students were strongly engaged with them.
The chance meetings with various NFB leaders were extremely powerful. One chance meeting and conversation was particularly powerful and begs retelling. After we checked into the hotel and before we even left the lobby, we ran across Dr. Z and a couple of other NFB leaders. An hour or so earlier, one of the students had mentioned that she thought the airport was inaccessible because the TV monitors with flight information were too high for her to read. I asked her to mention this to Dr. Z and she did. Dr. Z’s response was that the NFB believes that in some cases the blind need to change and not the world. She said that it is pretty hard to change airports and that it is not that hard to ask for help. This was a good message for the students and this conversation was discussed in more detail later. My point here is that the many chance meetings with NFB leadership and short yet powerful conversations can have surprisingly strong results.
We required the students to attend part of one of the divisions meetings. This allowed the students to experience the NFB’s work first hand. The students got a lot out of that, but much of it needed guided reflection. I believe that if the students simply attended the meeting, they would have walked away and said, “how weird.” With a short debriefing meeting in the hallway afterwards, we helped the students see the issues that were in play and the importance of those issues. The meeting was only the set-up for their learning, and the hallway conversation was when the learning actually occurred.
When asked what parts of the convention they liked best, the students all mentioned Dr. Marc Maurer’s report. The totally blind student, who was the youngest of the group at 12 years old, said that she didn’t know all those things were going on. At the time she said she felt something but couldn’t put it into words. On the way home, while eating lunch in Chicago she piped up and said, “I know what I felt. I felt confident that I could do anything that I wanted to try.” Other favorites ranged across all the various activities, including the mentor conversations, the play, the exhibit area, and the woman who spoke from the Small Business Administration. When asked what they liked least they all said the same thing—they didn’t like having to sit for a long time, like for the roll call of the states. Some of the students also mentioned the session with the Microsoft representative.
All the students talked with enthusiasm about attending next year. They suggested getting very involved with the Braille carnival and they suggested talking to other committees like the education committee. They also thought they could be volunteers, helping people find rooms and things.
My final thought is that the outcome of our trip to the NFB 2004 convention was ultimately so valuable to the students that I believe it is critical that this opportunity become available to a wider group of students from residential schools throughout the country.
On the Other Side of the Microphone
by John Cucco
“Ms. Plenerleath puts down the clubs and looks over her shoulder once again. She swings her arm, and flings the briefcase into the lily pond in front of her. It bobs for a moment, then slowly sinks into the murky water.”
This is an excerpt from an audio description I wrote and performed at a workshop at the 2004 NFB National Convention in Atlanta. The workshop was led by one of the pioneers of audio description, Joel Snyder, who is the founder, president, and CEO of Audio Description Associates. The workshop was specifically geared towards teaching the basics of audio description to sighted teenagers. Mr. Snyder explained the uses of audio description in visual museum exhibits, as well as for theater productions, television, and movies. We learned the four skills of audio description, watched a few samples of description, and then wrote our own. Later that night, we performed our audio descriptions for an audience of blind people.
At the beginning of the workshop, Mr. Snyder led an exercise to show us the importance of audio description to a blind person’s understanding of a movie. Participant Tracy Yeager noted, “We watched a scene from The Shining three different ways. First, with just the soundtrack and no audio description or video. It was very hard to understand what was going on. Then we watched it with the audio description added, and I could picture the action in my mind. When we saw it with the visuals and audio description in addition to the soundtrack, I realized that the description had given me a very accurate sense of the action.” This activity showed that audio description can be very effective in portraying visual images, and without it, the sounds of the movie are not always sufficient for understanding.
Observation is the first step to good audio description. In the words of participant Donna Neddo, “We see things without taking the time to observe them. Audio description brings our attention to things we may have missed.” To produce useful audio description, it is imperative to notice all important details that need to be described. Often when I am watching an audio described movie, my attention is brought to important objects or actions that I wouldn’t have noticed without it. In this way, audio description can also help a sighted person understand a movie. An audio describer needs to notice all details, and must learn to see actively instead of watch passively.
Editing the observed information is the second step of audio description. Usually, the fewer words used to accurately describe something, the better. A describer must take full advantage of the short time between dialogue lines and sound effects to describe only the most important things.
Use of language is the third step in audio description. Mr. Snyder illustrated this by asking each of us to describe walking with a more descriptive word choice. We realized that a person may saunter, scamper, stomp, or stroll, but rarely does the person simply walk. More descriptive words instead of common or vague ones help to paint a picture in the listener’s mind. Metaphors and comparisons can also be useful tools for describing qualities like size. “As tall as a skyscraper” or the “car-sized dog” give a better sense of size than a measurement in feet.
The last important item in audio description is vocal skills. Expression with the voice adds to both mood and meaning. Workshop participant Michelle Povinelli noted that “saying the same exact words in a different way can totally change the meaning.” An example is the unpunctuated sentence “Woman without her man is a beast.” This can be made sense of in the following way: “Woman, without her man, is a beast.” However, a change in the punctuation makes the sentence read like this: “Woman: without her, man is a beast.” These sentences mean the opposite thing, but contain the same words in the same order. In audio description, pause and emphasis on certain words can also determine and expand meaning.
After we learned the fundamentals, each of us wrote audio descriptions for clips from PBS’s Mystery!, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and a Star Wars movie. We watched the clips a few times and practiced timing our words to the sound effects and dialogue. Later that day, the group convened again along with an audience made up of blind and sighted listeners. Each of us performed the audio description we chose and was critiqued by the audience. A blind twenty-year-old, Serena Cucco, observed, “They were pretty good. It seemed that they learned how to audio describe pretty well in only a few hours.” Interesting issues came up, including the place of color in audio description. Most professional describers include colors in their descriptions. Some blind people find the colors useless information, while others feel that they are helpful to understanding.
All in all, the audio description workshop was both interesting and informative. Many blind people and their family and friends have taken advantage of audio described movies, theater shows, and museum tours. However, it was a unique experience to be on the other side of the microphone, describing the action for someone else. I have no doubt that Joel Snyder’s workshop brought a new interest to the participants, and I would recommend the experience to anyone who has the chance to be a part of it.
by Connie Bernard
Editor’s Note: Connie Bernard is an active member of the Indiana NFB affiliate and the Indiana Parents of Blind Children. She wrote the following item shortly after attending the 2002 NFB Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Here is what she says:
I knew that this year’s National Federation of the Blind Convention was going to be a learning experience for me. This was my third convention, but my first as a parent of a blind child. My seven-year-old daughter, Aryel, was diagnosed with tunnel vision and night blindness earlier this year. At the convention, I planned to learn about such things as IEP’s and print-versus-Braille for partially sighted children. I had even decided to explore whether or not to get Aryel a long white cane.
After talking to Joe Cutter (an early childhood O&M specialist) at the parent seminar, I decided to get up bright and early the next morning and take Aryel to the annual Cane Walk; an activity sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the Louisiana Tech orientation and mobility master’s degree program. I listened to the speakers talk about the need to get white canes into the hands of children as early as possible, and how even children with partial sight can benefit from using a cane, and I began to conclude that Aryel should get a cane, even if she only needed it in certain situations, as I do.
Next was the hands-on part of the walk. I knew that the instructor was going to put a sleepshade on Aryel and teach her how to gain information using the long white cane and her other senses. Imagine my surprise when that same instructor said, “You’re going to try it too, aren’t you, Mom?” and handed me a pair of sleepshades. I couldn’t refuse. I was not about to give my child the idea that using sleepshades was frightening. So, I slipped my glasses in my pocket, put the sleepshades on, took a firm grip on my cane, and said, “Let’s do it.”
Now, I’m not new to orientation and mobility lessons. As a partially sighted teenager, I had some minor training in high school and than a little more a few years ago. But I had always avoided the sleepshade. It scared me. I had a nagging idea that I wouldn’t be able to avoid hazards in time. Even when using my vision, I have a huge fear of falling down stairs. But I wasn’t about to show fear or hesitation to Aryel.
My instructor gave me directions on how to get around the large room we were in. There were tables and lots of people to avoid, but by trusting her directions and the information from my cane, I safely traveled the room. This was starting to be fun. Then she directed me to an area of the room and asked me to figure out what was there. I hit something slightly rounded with the tip of my cane. My first thought was a table, but it didn’t quite feel right for a table. I put my hands up and out to see what it was, and was immediately stopped by my teacher. “Walk up to it, and then put out your hands,” I was told. In no time I figured out that it was the cold drink machine. My instructor asked me to pretend to buy a soda; Coke, since it’s always the top one. Once we examined the microwave, the microwave stand, and the other vending machines, it was time to take that Big Step out into the hallway.
At first, walking down the hall was disorienting. I had an odd floating sensation. I could feel every dip and rise in the floor under my feet, and feel the air currents on my face. I could tell simply by the air movement and the sounds whether the hallway was wide or narrow at a given point.
After learning the basics, my instructor began to give me more challenging assignments. She asked me to identify the elevators, a fire extinguisher, and finally a mail slot. At this point, she put something into my hand and asked me what it was. I knew by the feel, and the stamps, that they were postcards. She asked me to mail them for her. This required me to find the slot to put them in. That was one of the hardest things I did.
I didn’t always get everything right. When I was directed to a window-like spot, and asked what it was, I had no idea. She
suggested I use my sense of smell. It didn’t help. I was stumped, so guessed something to do with food service. I was wrong. It was a window that looked into a space with some sort of tarp in it. It looked like some kind of construction area. As soon as it was described to me, I knew right where I was though, because I had noticed it the night before. It was encouraging to know that I could use visual memories combined with other information to figure out exactly where I was.
After that, we rejoined Aryel and her instructor so that she and I could show each other what we had learned. Aryel had been a very good student, both under sleepshade and out. By the end of the lesson she could use proper cane technique. She also knew how a blind orientation and mobility instructor checks on how a student is doing. She watched my instructor checking my technique by letting me hit her cane with mine while she walked backward. A few minutes later, when my instructor was using sleepshades, Aryel got in front of her and did just what she had seen the instructor do with me. We were all very surprised at how quickly she learned.
As soon as the cane walk was over, before she lost her enthusiasm, I took Aryel to the exhibit hall and bought her a cane. She used it, sometimes willingly and sometimes not, the rest of the week. I also bought two sets of sleepshades so that we can both practice what we learned. I still want to learn to trust myself on stairs, and Aryel needs to continue to gain confidence in her newfound skill.
This experience taught me that just because a person is blind it doesn’t mean that he or she doesn’t have as clear an understanding of his/hers surroundings as does a sighted person. Sometimes I think a blind person may even have more awareness because he/she pays attention, whereas most sighted people just look and go on by. Blind people don’t have better senses than sighted people; they just have better trained ones. I was amazed at what can be learned about a place without seeing it.
I recommend that any parent of a blind child try working under sleepshade with an orientation and mobility teacher so that he or she can better understand the amount of information that really is available through the use of a long white cane.
2005 National Federation of the Blind Science Academy
The NFB Jernigan Institute is proud to announce the second annual NFB Science Academy. Established in 2004, the NFB Science Academy has dramatically changed opportunities for blind youth in science by demonstrating that the blind can compete in complex scientific exploration and learning. The 2005 Academy will keep with the tradition of high expectations and life-changing exploration that was the benchmark of the 2004 Academy. If you are an interested individual, you should submit the attached interest form to ensure that you receive application materials in a timely fashion.
2005 NFB Science Academy
Session One: “Rocket On!”
(high school age blind youth)
July 15-23, 2005
Session Two: “Circle of Life”
(middle school age blind youth)
July 30 - August 6, 2005
Application packets for the 2004 NFB Science Academy will be available in late 2004 or early 2005. To ensure that you receive this information early, please fill out the following form and send it by mail or email to:
Mark A. Riccobono, Manager, Education Programs
Jernigan Institute, National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Please check one: * Teacher * Parent * Student
City, State & ZIP: ________________________________________________________
Daytime Telephone: ______________________ Email Address: ___________________
Please notify me of 2005 programs in: r Print r Braille r Email
For parents: Please provide the following information about your child.
Age: _________________ Current Grade: _____________________________________
[PHOTO: Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway with her family; husband, Richard Holloway; daughter Kendra; and step-daughter Sarah (standing).]
Georgia Parents Organize
by Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway
President, Georgia Organization of Parents of Blind Children
I recently had what I like to think of as a “Frank Capra moment.” For those of you who can’t quite place the name, Frank Capra was the director of “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart. In the movie, Jimmy Stewart’s character is given the chance to see what life would have been like if he had never been born. My experience wasn’t quite that profound, but I do feel like I was given the chance to travel back in time two years and see myself as I was after finding out that my daughter Kendra was blind.
Last week as I was standing in the observation room watching Kendra singing and bopping around in the class she attends at The Center for the Visually Impaired, a young mother walked in with her four-month-old daughter. We started talking and discovered that our daughters had a lot in common, including that they are both totally blind. I could see the sadness on the mother’s face as she asked me if my little girl was happy. I told her that two years ago, that had also been my greatest concern. What I have discovered since then is that having vision does not automatically make you happy and not having vision does not automatically make you sad.
When people ask me why I added the presidency of the new Georgia Organization of Parents of Blind Children (GOPBC) to a life that already includes a full-time job, a husband, a ten-year-old stepdaughter, and an extremely energetic two-year-old, I can honestly point out that a moment like the one I just described makes it all worthwhile. I have learned so much over the past two years and I welcome the chance to share some of that knowledge with other parents.
The GOPBC was chartered in September, 2004, at the Georgia state convention of the National Federation of the Blind. We are still a very small group although I am pleased to report that we now have more members than officers. Our vice-president is Deirdre Watkins, our secretary is my husband Richard Holloway, and Miki Causey is our board member. The other positions will be filled as we go along.
Even though we are a very new organization, we have already requested canes from the NOPBC for two children. A goal of ours is to spread the word to parents that if they believe their child should have a cane, the GOPBC (through the generosity of the NOPBC) will provide one. My daughter got her first cane at about eighteen months old. I will be the first to admit that she does not use it as an adult would, but she does seem to understand its purpose and, for me, that’s reason enough for her to have one.
In addition to the cane bank, the GOPBC is in the process of putting together a Web site at www.gopbc.org. We hope that this will be a valuable resource for our families and a good way to disseminate information about our services and activities. We will be scheduling field trips to the Georgia Library for Accessible Services (GLASS) and perhaps starting a story hour for children at GLASS next summer. At the suggestion of Linda Stetson, the coordinator at GLASS, we will be collaborating on a survey to determine what services and materials are available for the visually impaired at all Georgia libraries.
Another project that I can’t wait to get started is one in which a parent can call the GOPBC and request that a blind adult go to their child’s school to talk to the students and faculty. I think that many of the misconceptions people have about the blind are largely due to a lack of exposure. Before my daughter was born, I had never met a blind person and I have to admit that I had some incorrect assumptions about what a blind person could do. I have been privileged to meet people through the NFB who have shown me by their example how wrong I was.
We have many more projects planned for the future and we welcome the chance to discuss our organization with anyone who is interested. Suggestions and questions are also welcome. The officers are committed to making the GOPBC an organization which parents, grandparents, and educators can turn to for advice and assistance.
President, Georgia Organization of Parents of Blind Children
Email: [email protected]
Web site: www.gopbc.org
[PHOTO: Kimberli Sollenberger]
Victory for Textbooks on Time
by Kimberli Sollenberger
We’ve done it! The major obstacles to blind children receiving their textbooks at the same time as their sighted classmates have been eliminated. After a long battle, the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA) provisions have been included in the bill to reauthorize the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Passed by both the House and the Senate on November 14, 2004, the bill is on its way to the President and is expected to be signed into law any day. This is the biggest advancement for the education of blind children since the Braille provision was included in the 1997 IDEA amendments. The future of our children’s education now looks much brighter. Finally, there will be a mandated single-file format and a national repository to organize and distribute files to state and local education agencies that have blind students (see Sections 612(a)(23), 613(a)(6), 674(e), and 306 of H.R. 1350 as enrolled). Once implemented, these provisions will significantly cut the time needed to convert textbooks into Braille and other alternative formats. Waiting for textbooks while getting further and further behind in schoolwork—now a common scenario for blind students—will soon be a thing of the past.
But it has been a long road. We have had to overcome many obstacles (including obstacles erected by the United States Department of Education) in order to win this long-awaited victory. Below, is a review of how accessible textbooks have been procured up to this point, followed by an explanation of how the NFB led the way in securing the passage of the IDEA provisions for Textbooks on Time. Let’s start with the review of the status quo:
THE ACQUISTION OF ACCESSIBLE TEXTBOOKS FOR BLIND AND
VISUALLY IMPAIRED STUDENTS—HOW IT WORKS NOW:
The Selection of Instructional Materials for Classroom Use
How schools and states go about selecting instructional materials for classroom use has a significant impact on the problem at hand. Converting instructional materials into accessible formats is labor intensive. Without adequate time, the best Braille transcriber in the world cannot produce high quality Braille in a timely fashion. If schools determine which texts will be used early on, accessible format producers have a better chance of converting the text and delivering it to the student on time. In contrast, the late adoption of instructional materials inevitably leads to the late delivery of accessible formats to blind students.
The process of selecting and approving the use of instructional materials for classroom use differs from state-to-state. Some states, known as adoption states, approve the use of textbooks on a statewide basis. For example, Florida, an adoption state, employs a group of individuals to decide which math, reading, science, and other texts will be used for all grade levels in all schools throughout the state. This standardized approach to textbook adoption tends to be predictable. Very often adoption states determine which books will be used at least six months before the school year in question begins.
In other states, known as open territories, the teacher, school, or school district can determine which instructional materials will be used. The inherent flexibility in open territory states can result in the selection of instructional materials closer to the beginning of the school year. For example, a teacher could decide to use a particular science book just weeks before school begins. Because textbooks can be chosen so close to the start of the school year, it is often impossible to ensure that blind and visually impaired children receive their books on time.
How and Where Accessible Instructional Materials Are Located Now
Once the textbook selections are made, the teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) or other designated individual has to locate, purchase, or produce the accessible versions of the materials. For Braille and electronic texts, there are three primary resources available to accomplish this:
• Ex officio trustees (agencies designated by state departments of education) which have a prepaid credit line with the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) from which accessible instructional materials and supplies can be purchased;
• Individual state resources for the production and purchase of accessible instructional materials (Texas, for example, is well-known for its vast and comprehensive collection of internally produced accessible formats. In fact, Texas often produces accessible formats for other state and local education agencies); and
• The Louis Database of Accessible Formats for people who are blind or visually impaired, housed at the APH, which acts as a centralized clearinghouse of over 145,000 titles in accessible formats produced by over 200 agencies.
The production of accessible formats by different instructional resource centers, schools, and other agencies have resulted in duplication of effort.
The Mechanics of Converting Instructional Materials into Accessible Formats
Under the current system, converting instructional materials into accessible formats is easier said than done. Typically, it involves a labor-intensive process of either scanning or manually inputting original information into an electronic format. This electronic version is then used to produce non-visual formats, such as Braille, or synthetic speech. The conversion process for a single textbook can take six months or more to complete. The cost, time, and labor needed to convert materials into accessible formats vary depending on the complexity of the information being converted. For example, math and science textbooks take more time to convert into alternative formats than English textbooks.
In order to streamline the conversion process, approximately twenty-seven states have required publishers to provide an electronic version of any textbook that a state or local educational agency purchased. However, electronic formatting standards vary from state-to-state and these incongruities lead to inefficient duplication for publishers. Even more important, the standards are imprecise and often result in file formats that are not easily used for the purpose intended.
THE ROAD TO THE PASSAGE OF THE IDEA PROVISIONS FOR
TEXTBOOKS ON TIME:
The road to the provisions for Textbooks on Time started back in the early 1980’s when NFB members started working toward passing model Braille bills in each state. The first Braille bill to pass that included a requirement that publishers doing business in the state provide an electronic format file of textbooks for conversion into alternative formats was passed in Texas in 1991. Several years later, a panel discussion occurred at the 1995 NFB National Convention. On this panel were Dr. Jernigan, Dr. Maurer, members of the publishing community, and two representatives from the Association of American Publishers. This discussion finally opened the lines of communication, after years of reluctance on the part of the publishers, and ultimately led to the successful passage of the Chaffee Amendment. This amendment said that it was not a violation of the copyright laws to reproduce or to distribute copies “of a previously published, non-dramatic literary work if such copies or phono-records are reproduced or distributed in specialized formats exclusively for use by blind or other persons with disabilities” (17 USC 121). It was this language that paved the way for the Textbooks on Time provisions included in the IDEA. However, it wasn’t until after the NFB presented a proposal for Textbooks on Time to the Congress in the year 2000 that the publishers started to work again with the NFB on this issue.
The NFB proposal, entitled “The Accessible Instructional Materials Act of 2000,” (IMAA) was presented to United States Representatives and Senators in early February 2000. The four primary objectives of this proposal were:
• Publishers should provide electronic versions of instructional materials purchased by state and local education agencies;
• Electronic files submitted by publishers should be compatible with Braille transcription software;
• A national repository should be established to house and distribute the electronic files; and
• Congress should appropriate funds for the training and development of individuals responsible for producing alternative formats, such as Braille.
In addition to meeting and negotiating with the Association of American Publishers (AAP) after the presentation of this proposal in February, 2000, the NFB met and negotiated with the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), the American Council of the Blind (ACB), and the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, the Library of Congress (NLS). After many meetings throughout 2000 and into the following year, in June 2001, all parties reached agreement on a bill that was to become known as the “Instructional Materials Accessibility Act” (IMAA).
On April 24, 2002, Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) introduced the IMAA in the U.S. Senate as S. 2246. On the same date, Thomas Petri (R-WI) and George Miller (D-CA) (the ranking democrat of the committee with jurisdiction over the bill—the Education and the Workforce Committee) introduced the IMAA in the House of Representatives as H.R. 4582. A public hearing on S. 2246 was held by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on June 28, 2002. At the hearing, Jesse Kirchner, a blind student from Connecticut, gave compelling testimony about her personal experiences with late textbooks; Barbara McCarthy, head of the Virginia Instructional Materials Center, outlined the inadequacies of the current system and presented some startling statistics about the projected long-term cost savings of the IMAA; Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the NFB, impressed upon the
Committee the need for the implementation of the IMAA to make sure that blind students receive their textbooks on-time; and former Congresswoman Pat Schroder, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, gave testimony supporting the need for blind and visually impaired students to receive accessible textbooks on time and highlighted the difficulties presented by the differing standards for electronic files of textbooks required by twenty-six states.
The Senate Hearing was extremely effective and gave us momentum for negotiations with members and staff of the House Education and Workforce Committee. However, at the same time, some officials in the Department of Education vocalized doubts about the need for the bill. These officials were reluctant to mandate that states adopt a uniform electronic file format standard. In addition, they expressed the hope that publishers would provide electronic texts voluntarily, and consequently there wouldn’t be a need for a national federally supervised repository center. However, publishers, as represented by the AAP, repeatedly explained to the Department of Education that there are legal and marketing reasons why legislative mandates were necessary.
The Department of Education, and specifically the Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Robert Pasternack, had become a major roadblock to the adoption of the IMAA. But the NFB and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) would not be thwarted in the effort to guarantee blind students textbooks on time. Members of the NFB, NOPBC, and other stakeholders flooded the Department of Education with emails, phone calls, and letters in support of IMAA, and demanding that blind students receive their textbooks at the same time as their sighted peers. To buy some time and to perhaps appease the IMAA supporters, the Department of Education gave a grant to the National Center for Accessing the General Curriculum (NCAC) at the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) to study and create a national electronic file format standard. In view of the Department of Education’s position on the matter, this standard would be strictly voluntary. CAST put together an advisory committee primarily made up of representatives from the blindness field, but also some from other disability groups. On this committee, Mrs. Barbara Cheadle represented the NOPBC and Mr. Curtis Chong represented the NFB.
CAST released their report in July 2004. In it, the committee set forth the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS). CAST also reported that to be truly successful in providing books on time to blind, visually impaired, and print disabled students, a central repository would need to be established. The release of this report was delayed by the Department of Education, which a cynic might assume was because the report did not support the department’s case for not establishing a central repository.
In the meantime, both the House and the Senate incorporated provisions of the IMAA into their legislation to reauthorize the IDEA. While the Senate version included all of the important provisions of the IMAA (the mandatory electronic file format and the national access center) the House version only provided for the mandatory electronic file format. After much negotiation, some of it contentious, the language in the Senate version of the bill to reauthorize the IDEA won out.
The final IDEA provisions established a National Instructional Materials Access Center (Center), to be housed within the American Printing House for the Blind and mandated that publishers provide electronic files to the Center in the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) format. Insistence by the House of Representatives resulted in a provision that allows states and local education agencies to “opt out” of using the Center. It is not expected that many (if any) states or local education agencies will chose to opt out. If a state or local education agency does decide to opt out of using the Center, those states or local education agencies will have to provide assurances that blind students will receive textbooks in an alternative format in a timely manner.
What these provisions will mean for the education of blind and visually impaired primary and secondary school students cannot be overstated. If it is expected that sighted students need textbooks in order to learn, then blind and visually impaired students also need textbooks. However, for decades blind students have been expected to wait as much as six or more months to receive their textbooks. With these provisions the time delay will be significantly decreased. The system put in place by the Textbooks on Time provision in the IDEA will reduce duplication of efforts and will speed up the conversion process through the use of a file format that is compatible with Braille conversion software. The day has come for Textbooks on Time to be transformed from a dream into everyday reality for blind and visually impaired students throughout the country.
The 2004 Scholarship Winners
Whether a student is bound for an Ivy League school, a state university, or a small private college, a few thousand dollars here or there in scholarship money is always welcome. That’s one very big reason why parents and teachers should be more than a little curious about the National Federation of the Blind scholarship program. The NFB Scholarship program is one of the largest award programs in the world for blind students. In 2004, thirty blind students received a total of $122,000 in cash awards, an all-expenses paid trip to the week-long NFB convention, a beautiful plaque, and, from the foundation established by Dr. Raymond Kurzweil, an extra bonus of $1,000 per winner ($30,000 total) and the latest version of the Kurzweil 1000 reading software. It’s clearly a program every academically competitive blind student should consider carefully.
But there is another reason parents and teachers ought to be interested in the NFB scholarship program. These blind students, who had the capacity and character to win highly competitive scholarships, can also be inspirations and role models to younger blind students. Parents, students, and teachers who attend the convention get the opportunity to observe, listen to, and meet current and past scholarship winners; to find out what they have accomplished so far, how they did it, and what they plan for their futures. Many past winners (ninety-one to date) have gone on to distinguished careers, and they return to the conventions eager to mentor other students.
Every year, the current class of scholarship winners is introduced at the NFB board of directors meeting; which is the first large, public meeting of the convention. Peggy Elliott, chairman of the scholarship committee, announces first the student’s name and then both the home and school states. Each winner then comes to the microphone and speaks directly to the Federation. Below, in alphabetical order, are the portraits, names, home state, school state, the student’s transcribed remarks from the board meeting, and the name and amount of the award that the student received later in the week at the NFB Annual Banquet. Also at the banquet, the top award winner is given one more opportunity to address the convention. Those comments by winner Darrel Kirby are printed at the end of the article. Here now, is the 2004 NFB Scholarship Class:
Monty Anderson, Hawaii, Hawaii: Aloha, everybody. I’m attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa on the island of Oahu. I’ll be entering a graduate program in clinical psychology with a dual in cognitive psychology in the fall. I plan to research therapies for people who have newly acquired disabilities. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Rebekah Blackburn, Indiana, Indiana: Thank you. My name is Rebekah Blackburn, and I am excited to be here. I’m currently enrolled at Ivy Tech State College in Indiana, and I am getting ready to finish my internship in the fall. Then I will pursue my master’s degree at the University of Indianapolis with a master’s in social work. After that I hope to practice working with and helping people, just giving them hope. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Stephanie Brown, Kentucky, Kentucky: Hello, everyone. I’m Stephanie Brown. I am currently attending the University of Louisville, where I am pursuing my bachelor’s degree in elementary education and learning and behavior disorders. I plan to get my master’s degree at Louisiana Tech, where I will get the master of education in teaching blind students and possibly the mobility certification. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Amelia Cavallo, New Mexico, New Mexico: Hi, everybody. I am attending the University of New Mexico and going into my junior year. I am majoring in theater with an emphasis in acting and musical theater. I am planning on going on an international exchange through my home university to England this fall. I hope to go to grad school and become a professor of theater and also work with either existing theater companies or create a new theater company that works specifically with blind and disabled actors. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Amber Chesser, Louisiana, Louisiana: Good morning to the board of directors. It’s great to be here. I will be a freshman at Louisiana Tech in the fall, majoring in psychology. I hope to work with children and their families. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
April Davis, Illinois, Louisiana: I am currently working on a master’s degree in education with a concentration in teaching blind students, and I am really excited about this because I didn’t have the opportunity to learn the skills of blindness until after I finished my bachelor’s degree and attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind. I’m really excited about reaching out to blind children and their families. [$3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award]
Ricardo Flores, Texas, Texas: I am a senior at Texas A&M University, majoring in history and minoring in geography with plans to pursue a master’s in education administration. Some may be of the opinion that history belongs in the past. With my future credentials I plan to improve the future through education and political means. I will be certified to teach, and I have a long-term goal of participating in local and state politics. I will owe a large part of my success to this organization, and I am grateful for your generosity. [$5,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship]
Yolanda Garcia, Texas, Texas: Good morning, everyone. I am currently attending the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, where I am a senior pursuing a double major in psychology and sociology. I plan on attending grad school in the near future after graduating to become a licensed professional counselor for adolescents. Some day I hope to have my own private practice. The Federation has given so much to me, and coming here six years ago after two weeks of being blind instilled a philosophy in me to give me hope that I can pursue the dreams I had before. Now blindness is not a hindrance. Thank you. [$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship]
Sharon Giovinazzo, New York, New York: I’m attending Mohawk Valley Community College. I’m getting ready to finish my associate degree in human services with plans of pursuing my bachelor’s in health sciences and then going on for a graduate degree in occupational therapy with an emphasis on technology. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Lynn Heitz, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Good morning, everybody. I will be attending the University of Pennsylvania in the fall for a graduate degree in social work, but, most importantly, I’m going to use the degree to work with older adults who are losing their vision and their families to spread the word of the only positive philosophy of blindness, that of the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship; tenBroeck Fellow]
Laurel Henry, Wyoming, Florida: Good morning, everyone. It’s great to be here. This fall I will be a first-year graduate student at the University of South Florida, working on my master’s in social work with certification in marriage and family therapy. I would eventually like to become a licensed clinical social worker. I would just like to say that it’s a wonderful honor to be here as a tenBroek Fellow. I won my first scholarship in Atlanta in 1999, and it’s great to be back. I look forward to seeing you guys for many more years. Thanks so much. [$5,000 Hank LeBonne Scholarship; tenBroeck Fellow]
Stephanie Hirst, Alabama, Alabama: Hello, everyone. I am a sophomore at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where I study biology and chemistry. After I complete my undergraduate studies, I would like to go to graduate school and pursue a doctoral degree in biochemistry because I want to do research. I just want to thank you for letting me be here. It’s my first convention, and I am very excited. [$3,000 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Contractors Association Scholarships]
Nick Hoekstra, Michigan, Michigan: Good morning. I’m Nicholas Hoekstra attending the University of Michigan. I’m going to be a junior in the fall. I am majoring in philosophy and psychology, and this coming winter I plan to study in Chile, so I hope to major in Spanish. This is my first NFB-related activity in my life so I am really excited, and I figured, so far in my life I have managed to rock a high school, rock a university, and now to rock the rest of the world. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Lia Jacobsen, Florida, Vermont: Hello. I will be a freshman at Middlebury College starting in the fall studying comparative linguistics, which is the shortest track to get six languages so that I can be working in translation, politics, and as a professor. I am also going to be minoring in psychology, so hopefully I will be able to use that to aid in both the situation culturally dealing with blindness in different nations and politically. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Darrel Kirby, Iowa, Iowa: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am up here today because a group of Iowans believed in me. Two years ago I became blind. I did not have the NFB. I was out to dinner with a friend, and a waitress came up to me, looked right past me, and asked my friend what I wanted to eat. The NFB has given me back my voice, and I am thankful for that. I currently serve as the president of the Iowa Association of Blind Students and was newly elected as the president of the Old Capital Chapter. I will be starting my master’s degree in social work in the fall at the University of Iowa, where I will show many people that they too have a voice that can be heard. [$12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship]
Domonique Lawless, Tennessee, Tennessee: Hello. This past May I graduated in the class of 2004 from high school, and in August I will be entering Belmont University as a freshman. Right now I am planning on double majoring in psychology and German with a music minor. I have an inkling about what I want to do—I can either open up a practice or do criminal profiling. Then there is a possibility I could teach German. I am looking forward to that, and I still have enough time to decide. I am honored to be here. Thank you. [$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship]
Kagan Nuss, Delaware, Virginia: Good morning, everybody. As a first-time convention attendee, it is a great privilege to be able to speak here in front of the group, albeit for a brief moment. This year I will be an incoming freshman at the newly dubbed University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia. They accepted me in the honors program. I was kind of happy about that. I plan on obtaining an undergrad in business administration, and later I would like to go to graduate school for law. [$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship]
Tom Page, Kansas, Kansas: Thank you. I am so honored to be here today. I am pursuing a master’s degree in interdisciplinary research methods—got about three semesters left. I want to thank the NFB of Kansas, especially Donna Wood, and also the KRCB for helping me be here today, and all of you for everything you do here. Thank you so much. [$3,000 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Contractors Association Scholarships]
Lindsey Palumbo, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Thanks, guys. Apparently some of you out there have heard of me. I’m attending Clarion University. I will be a senior there this fall. I’m double majoring in special education and rehabilitative sciences. I’d later like to go on for my master’s and explore a career as a diagnostician. If you don’t know what that is, it’s people who administer and score tests. I’m also attending the Colorado Center for the Blind this summer. I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to be up here today. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Jerry Rodabaugh, Idaho, Idaho: Good morning. I am currently attending the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, Idaho, trying to achieve a degree in psychology with hopes of becoming a rehabilitation counselor. Thank you. [$3,000 E.U. Parker Scholarship]
Ahmed Salem, California, New York: Good morning. Can everyone hear me all right? Awesome. I am from California. This is my first time in the National Federation of the Blind. Actually I’ve been in the United States for four years, and this is my first involvement with any organization which is for the blind and by the blind, so I am extremely, extremely happy to be here. I am going to be attending Cornell University in the fall, hopefully triple majoring in economics, psychology, and government. I am planning to go to Yale Law and practice international law or civil rights law. That’s what I plan to do, and I am very honored to be here. I am very honored to call myself a Federationist. Thank you very much. [$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship]
Kallie Smith, Iowa, Iowa: Good morning, fellow Federationists. This fall I will be attending the University of Northern Iowa as a freshman. Right now I would like to pursue a career in social work, so I am majoring in social work. I am going to keep my options open and see what my interests are really like. I would like to say that without all of you I would not be where I am today, so thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Caitlin Snyder, Michigan, Ohio: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am Caitlin Snyder, and this fall I will be a freshman at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I’m planning to study political science and philosophy. I would just like to thank the scholarship committee and especially the board of directors for giving me the opportunity to come here this year. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Lili Stansberry, Washington, Washington: Hi, everyone. First of all, I’d like to say that I am grateful for this opportunity to be here and deeply honored to be a scholarship recipient. I am a senior seeking a master’s degree in business administration with a specialization in human resources and a minor in pre-law. It is my goal to attend law school and become an attorney. In closing I’d like to say that prior to the Federation I lived my life using the word “if.” What if I could drive? What if I could see? But now I live my life saying “when”: when I get my bachelor’s, when I get to law school, when I become an attorney. For this I am deeply grateful. [$5,000 Sally S. Jacobsen Scholarship]
Reanne Yvonne Tangedal, Montana, Montana: Good morning, fellow Federationists, board of directors. It’s an honor to be here. It’s my first national convention. I’ve had a very positive, fulfilling, wonderful experience so far. I know that I will be coming back to national convention for many years to come. I am currently attending Montana State University in Billings. I will be a senior this fall. I am double majoring in elementary and special education. My plans eventually are to attend a graduate program (I am not sure where yet, but I will decide eventually) to receive a specialty in low vision teaching at the elementary level. I became involved with the NFB in 2001 shortly after I graduated from high school, so I am on my fourth year of being a member of the Montana affiliate of the NFB, the Montana Association of the Blind. It is a great honor to be here. I plan to learn a lot, and thank you very much. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Mary Jo Thorpe, Utah, Louisiana: Hello again, I am a graduate student at Louisiana Tech University. I am pursuing a master’s in education with a concentration in teaching blind students in orientation and mobility. I recently received my orientation and mobility certification, which I am very excited for and very proud of. I hope after graduation to work with blind students in the school system to teach blindness training to them. I just want to thank everyone for the opportunity to be a tenBroek scholar this year. This organization has come to mean such a great deal to me over the last few years that I have been part of it. Thank you. [$7,000 NFB Scholarship; tenBroek Fellow]
Teresa A. Tomasi, Utah, Arkansas: President Maurer, board of directors, fellow Federationists. It is an honor to be here as a tenBroek scholar this year. My first Federation convention was in 2000 here in Atlanta. I have just graduated from the University of Arkansas with honors with a degree in political science, and will be going on in the fall to pursue a joint degree program in law and political administration at the University of Utah. As one of twenty-three adopted siblings with a single mother, I learned at a very young age the importance of staying tenacious. With this tenacity came the desire to be treated equally. Our Federation has taught me to understand that I cannot expect equal rights without assuming equal responsibility. This concept has seen me through many challenging situations, and it will allow me to achieve my goals. It is for that that I wish to thank my Federation family. [$10,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship; tenBroek Fellow]
Duronne Walker, Illinois, Illinois: Hello, everyone. I am extremely honored to be here. I am attending the University of Illinois and working on my Ph.D. in educational policy studies. I am currently writing a dissertation on student disability in higher education. My goal is to show the world that people with disabilities can be an asset rather than a liability. Thank you. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Rachel Werner, Oklahoma, Oklahoma: Hey guys, how’s it goin’? You guys are great. I am a senior at the University of Central
Oklahoma, where I am pursuing a double major in psychology and sociology. I will be attending graduate school at the University of Oklahoma. I will pursue a doctorate in psychology with a focus on children who have experienced rape trauma and been the victims of other deviant acts. I really want to do counseling with those kids and their families and just try to get to the bottom of that whole psychological mentality behind that. Louisville was my first convention last year. I had really thought I was alone in wanting to be a blind person who was successful, who had a competitive edge with her sighted peers, but I came to Louisville and found out I was dead wrong. I had a family, and I thank you guys for that. [$3,000 NFB Scholarship]
Victor Wong, New York, New York: I’m deeply honored to be here. Thank you for this chance. I am currently attending Cornell University at the graduate level, studying physics—to be specific, space physics—and doing the solar-system-type things. So I am hoping either to teach or to end up being a researcher somewhere, like NASA, if I cannot find a job as a faculty member. Thank you. [$3,000 NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Contractors Association Scholarships]
The winner of the 2004 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship of $12,000 was Darrel Kirby of Iowa. He spoke briefly to the banquet audience. This is what he said:
I would just like to say I hope everyone in this room gets the chance, at least once in their life, to feel the way I do right now. I am honored. I would like to thank all Federationists—my family, my friends, my brothers and sisters. I am here because of your love and support. I’d also like to extend a thanks to the leaders in our movement both present and past. They’ll never be truly past; they still live in us today—Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. I’d also like to thank Dr. Maurer. He’s worked hard up to this point and has convinced us that he’s going to work hard into the future.
I sat in a room much like this just one year ago in Louisville, Kentucky. It was my first convention. I was new to blindness, and I listened to the address of Dr. Maurer. After his address I made it a priority to remove one phrase from my life. That phrase was, “But I’m blind.” I had said, “I want to return to school, and I want to do well, but I’m blind. I want a job; I want to be successful, but I’m blind. I want to have a family, but I’m blind.” I realized that I must remove that one phrase if I was ever to go anywhere in my life.
This year, since I removed that phrase from my life, I’ve adopted a new one. With the help of my mentors this week and every person in this room, I’ve adopted the phrase, “because I am a Federationist.” I have found myself saying, “I will succeed because I am a Federationist. I will never be alone because I am a Federationist, and I will not be lost because I am a Federationist.” Like everyone in this room we will succeed, we will never be lost, and we will never be alone because we are Federationists.
I encourage you to take tonight, this day, this week, or all of your accumulated experience in the National Federation of the Blind and let them motivate you. Let this be your Independence Day. Thank you. [applause]
National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Application Form
Please read all pages of the program rules and instruction. This form may be photocopied but only if accompanying pages of the program rules and instructions are also included.
To apply for a scholarship, complete this application form and mail completed application and attachments to Mrs. Peggy Elliott, Chairman, National Federation of the Blind Scholarship Committee, 805 Fifth Avenue, Grinnell, Iowa 50112; (641) 236-3366. Form must be received by March 31, 2005.
Name (please include any maiden or other names by which you have been known):
Date of birth: ____________________________________________________________
School address: __________________________________________________________
School phone number: _____________________________________________________
Home address: ___________________________________________________________
Home phone number: _____________________________________________________
Email address: ___________________________________________________________
Institution being attended in spring semester, 2005, with class standing (freshman, senior, etc.):
Cumulative grade point at this institution: ______________________________________
Institution to be attended in the fall of 2005, with class standing. (Send by separate letter if admitted to school after submitting completed application.): _____________________
List all postsecondary institutions attended with highest class standing attained and cumulative GPA: ______________________________________________________________________
High school attended and cumulative grade point: _______________________________
For High School Seniors Only: College Admission Composite Test Scores
SAT _________________ ACT ___________________
Note: Please attach copies of all score reports as requested in number five of the list of attachments.
Vocational goal: __________________________________________________________
State your major: _________________________________________________________
Awards and honors (attach list if necessary): ___________________________________
Community service (attach list if necessary): ___________________________________
Please see the following list of required attachments. If you received only this portion of the application form, please request complete application and rules from the above address or www.nfb.org.
Fill out the application and attach the following documents or arrange to have them sent to the Scholarship Committee:
1. Personal Letter from Applicant. NFB scholarships are awarded on the basis of scholastic excellence, financial need, and community service. In preparing your personal letter, keep in mind that the committee members are all successful blind college graduates. Consider how you can most effectively convey your best qualities. Since the awards are restricted to blind people, the committee will be interested in the techniques and approaches you use. Almost all blind students have financial need. Committee members will assume basic need, so you may choose merely to refer to this topic unless your need is unusual.
2. Two letters of recommendation.
3. Current transcript from institution now attending and transcripts from all other postsecondary institutions attended. If you have not yet attended such an institution or have not completed one year of study, send high school transcript.
4. Letter from a Federation state president or designee. The Federation has affiliates in every state. Some state presidents write the letters personally; others assign them to officers and board members. Federation state presidents and their designees are volunteers. Many take messages and then return calls in evenings or on weekends. They will wish to speak with applicants personally; parents or school officials may help set up appointments but cannot do the actual interviews. Most state presidents and their designees send scholarship letters directly to the Scholarship Committee, where they are added to the student’s file along with transcripts and other materials mailed separately. Applicants should mail materials to the Scholarship Committee and should check that the interviewer’s letter is sent. If you do not know the name or phone number of your state president, call the scholarship office at (641) 236-3366 for this information. If you live in one state and attend school in another, you may contact either state president.
5. Score Reports (for high school seniors only). Please attach a copy of your score reports for all standardized tests taken for college admission. Copies are acceptable; there is no need to attach official reports.
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND 2005 SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM
Each year at its National Convention in July, the NFB gives a broad array of scholarships to recognize achievement by blind scholars. All applicants for these scholarships must be (1) legally blind and (2) pursuing or planning to pursue a fulltime, postsecondary course of study in a degree program at a United States institution in the fall of 2005, except that one scholarship may be given to a fulltime employee also attending school part-time. In addition, some scholarships have been further restricted by the donor. Each applicant will be considered for all scholarships for which he or she qualifies. The scholarship application deadline is March 31, 2005. Scholarships to be given at the National Convention in 2005 are listed with special restrictions noted:
1 SCHOLARSHIP FOR $12,000
Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship—Given by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, a nonprofit organization which works to assist blind people, in memory of the man who changed perceptions regarding the capabilities of the blind in this country and throughout the world. Kenneth Jernigan is viewed by our field as the most important figure in the 20th century in the lives of blind people. The Action Fund wishes to keep fresh and current in the 21st century the understandings he brought to the field and thus has endowed this scholarship dedicated to his memory and to the continuation of the work he began. No additional restrictions.
1 SCHOLARSHIP FOR $10,000
Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship—First established by Charles Owen in loving memory of his blind wife and now endowed by his last will and testament to honor the memory of both. In founding the scholarship, Charles Owen wrote: “There shall be no limitation as to field of study, except that it shall be directed towards attaining financial independence and shall exclude religion and those seeking only to further general or cultural education.”
2 SCHOLARSHIPS, EACH FOR $7,000
Two National Federation of the Blind Scholarships—No additional restrictions.
4 SCHOLARSHIPS, EACH FOR $5,000
Hank LeBonne Scholarship—Hank LeBonne was a man who loved life and loved the National Federation of the Blind. His last wish was that his remaining assets be used to help young blind men and women have the same opportunities in life he enjoyed. No additional restrictions.
Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship —Given to keep alive the memory of a young woman who dealt with her blindness and terminal illness with a grace and strength she frequently assured others she drew from the Federation and from her faith in God. No additional restrictions.
Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship —Given by two dedicated and valued members of the NFB of Maryland. The winner of this scholarship must be studying a foreign language or comparative literature; pursuing a degree in history, geography, or political science with a concentration in international studies; or majoring in any other discipline requiring study abroad. The winner’s file must also show evidence of competence in a foreign language.
Sally S. Jacobsen Scholarship—Endowed in loving memory of a long-time New York State leader by her husband Carl and family and by many others who wish to commemorate Sally’s indomitable spirit; education (education of disabled youth preferred); no additional restrictions.
22 SCHOLARSHIPS, EACH FOR $3,000
Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship—Dr. Isabelle Grant endowed this scholarship in memory of her daughter. Winner must be a woman.
Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship—Given in loving memory of her parents, Charles Albert Kuchler and Alice Helen Kuchler, by Junerose Killian, dedicated member of the NFB of Connecticut. No additional restrictions.
E. U. Parker Scholarship—Endowed by his wife, who joined him in a lifetime of Federationism, this scholarship honors a long-time leader of the National Federation of the Blind whose participation stood for strong principles and strong support of the Federation’s work. No additional restrictions.
Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship—Winner must be studying or planning to study in the fields of law, medicine, engineering, architecture, or the natural sciences.
National Federation of the Blind Computer Science Scholarship—Winner must be studying in the computer science field.
National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Award—Winner must be planning a career in elementary, secondary, or postsecondary teaching.
Sixteen National Federation of the Blind Scholarships—No additional restrictions.
All scholarships awarded to blind women which are not otherwise endowed are made possible by a generous bequest from the estate of Dorothy R. Olson.
CRITERIA: All scholarships are awarded for academic excellence, community service, and financial need.
MEMBERSHIP: The National Federation of the Blind is an organization dedicated to creating opportunity for all blind people. Recipients of NFB scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the Blind.
REAPPLICATION: Those who have previously applied are encouraged to apply again. It is the intention of the NFB to award at least three scholarships to men and women who have already received one Federation scholarship in the past if enough strong and worthy candidates apply.
WINNERS: The Scholarship Committee reviews all applications and selects the scholarship winners. These winners, the same number as there are scholarships to award, will be notified of the selection by telephone by June 1 and will be brought to the National Federation of the Blind convention in July at Federation expense. This is in addition to the scholarship grant. Winners will participate in the entire convention and in the scheduled scholarship program activities, beginning with functions on Saturday, July 2, 2005. All decisions by the Scholarship Committee are final.
The National Federation of the Blind convention is the largest gathering of blind people (more than 2,500) to occur anywhere in the nation each year. You will be able to meet other blind students and exchange information and ideas. You will also be able to meet and talk with blind people who are successfully functioning in your chosen profession or occupation. Federal officials, members of Congress, and the makers and distributors of new technology attend Federation conventions. Above all, a broad cross section of the most active segment of the blind population of the U.S. will be present to discuss common problems and plan for concerted action. It is an interesting and exciting week.
AWARDS: The day before the convention banquet the Scholarship Committee will meet to determine which winners will receive which scholarships. The scholarship awards will be made during the banquet.
OTHER SCHOLARSHIPS: Many state affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind also award scholarships, using eligibility criteria identical to or very similar to the standards for this national program. Check with your state president about deadlines, criteria, and levels of scholarships.
ENHANCEMENTS TO THE NATIONAL PROGRAM: Each year, generous donors add to the amounts listed here, sometimes for all winners and sometimes for a few. Check on the NFB Web site, www.nfb.org, to determine if enhancements have been added after this form was printed.