THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 43, No. 4 April, 2000
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Blindness, Quotas, and the Disadvantages of Civil Rights
by Marc Maurer
When the Doorbell Rings:
Changing What It Means to Be a Blind Test-taker
by Doug and Peggy Elliott and Dan Sutherland
NEWSLINE--It Changed My Life!
by Norm Gardner
Walking at a Federation Pace
by Stephen O. Benson
Lessons for Life
by Leeann Morrow
NFB Testifies on Internet Access and the ADA
by Gary Wunder
One Soggy Step at a Time
by Patty Droppers
But the Others Majored in Music
by Hazel Staley
An Exciting Opportunity for Job Seekers
by Jennifer Stevens
Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities
NOPBC-Sponsored Convention Activities for Parents and Kids
by Barbara Cheadle
Vital Convention Information for Guide Dog Users
by Suzanne Whalen
Dialysis at National Convention
by Ed Bryant
Copyright © 2000 National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO #1 DESCRIPTION: President Maurer is standing on a lawn with a large medieval building behind him. CAPTION: #1: President Maurer stands in the quad of New College, Oxford. PHOTO #2 DESCRIPTION: President Maurer stands on the outside of a fence looking into a grassy area surrounded by college buildings. CAPTION: President Maurer stands looking into the New College Quadrangle.]
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Dr. Maurer is seated at a table while a man in academic robes stands at a podium. CAPTION: Alan Ryan, Warden of New College, Oxford, introduces President Maurer to the audience.]
Blindness, Quotas, and the Disadvantages of Civil Rights
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: By invitation of the Equal Opportunity and Disabilities Committees at Oxford University, President Maurer delivered a university-wide address at the Examination Schools on February 16, 2000. The following day he delivered a similar address at Birmingham University. Friday evening, February 18, he addressed the London Branch of the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom. Following is the address Dr. Maurer made at Oxford. Alan Ryan, Warden of New College, Oxford, and chairman of the Equal Opportunity Committee introduced President Maurer:
In 1959 the humorist Tom Lehrer said that the army had carried the American democratic ideal to its ultimate. Not only did the army "prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, and color (Lehrer said) but also on the grounds of ability." Although this remark is taken out of context, it is suggestive of a rarely expressed opinion of today that nondiscrimination legislation is created out of a sense of misplaced idealism or guilt to provide artificial protection for the incompetent. If this opinion reflects reality, then nondiscrimination legislation will ultimately fail in its object. In a well-ordered society incompetence will not long be tolerated, and the law cannot create ability where none exists.
I serve as President of the National Federation of the Blind, an organization which was formed in 1940 by a brilliant blind professor, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, along with a handful of others. The Federation, which now consists of over seven hundred local chapters in almost every large city in the United States with a membership of well over fifty thousand, was founded on the principle that blindness is a characteristic rather than a devastating handicap. Blindness can be a tragic hell if it is not properly understood, but it need not be. Although some of the disadvantages associated with blindness are physical, most of them stem from mistaken attitudes about it. With proper training and the opportunity to use that training, the disadvantages of blindness can be reduced to the level of a physical nuisance.
Blindness is widely regarded not only as a disability (which it clearly is) but also as a handicap--a fundamental disadvantage which affects all (or almost all) of the activities of living. However, the Federation believes it is a handicap only in those instances in which sight is demanded. Fewer tasks demand vision than is sometimes supposed. Nevertheless, the public perception persists that blindness renders a person unfit for most jobs, and this view of blindness is truly a handicap. The misunderstanding of blindness is not limited only to the sighted. Blind people, who are a part of the greater society, tend to accept the public perception, and this acceptance does much to reinforce the popular belief.
Such high-sounding philosophical notions are undoubtedly heart-warming, but do they not contradict human experience? Although there have been a few notable exceptions, the blind throughout history have been primarily unemployed. If blind people can work, why have they been so persistently unemployed?
In the sixty years since the National Federation of the Blind has come into being, this argument (in many different forms) has been presented repeatedly. In 1952 Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, a young blind man from an impoverished rural setting of the United States, who would later become a master builder of programs for the blind and President of the National Federation of the Blind, met Dr. tenBroek.
Dr. Jernigan was at first intrigued and then captivated by the teachings of the blind professor. He set himself the task of demonstrating what could be done in programming for the blind if the emphasis were shifted from the disadvantages to the capabilities of blind students. Dr. Jernigan established training programs for the blind which encouraged development of physical and mental skills. Blind people were taught to jump rope, lift weights, practice judo moves, attack the punching bag, and do other physical activities. Included in the training were courses in traveling independently with a white cane, water-skiing, barbecuing over a hot fire, managing the daily activities in the kitchen, operating the equipment in a wood-working shop, and learning to communicate using both print and Braille.
All of these elements of learning were important, but what held the program together and gave it life was a class in logic and the proper meaning attributable to blindness. Can a blind person be a chemist? Should blind people be expected to wash windows without leaving streaks or dirty spots? Can blind people effectively clear tables in a restaurant? These and hundreds of other questions were discussed, and they received favorable answers. Can a blind person observe people at a public beach to protect them against accidents in the water? If there is a practical way to accomplish this, we have not yet found it. Blindness, like every other characteristic, has its limitations, but they are often much overstated. The myth of inferiority is just as much a part of the culture for the blind as it is for other minority groups--in fact, until recently it has been one of the defining characteristics of blindness. However, our experience indicates that this myth is wrong.
The teachings of Dr. tenBroek, carried into execution by the work of Dr. Jernigan, changed expectations among blind people and the sighted public about what was possible for this hitherto almost unrecognized minority. Blind people became electrical engineers, insurance executives, political figures, farmers, factory workers, teachers, and participants in dozens of other professions and activities. For the first time the ordinary blind person became productively employed at the ordinary trade or business in the ordinary setting alongside the ordinary sighted person. It was a demonstration of competence by a substantial number.
These two outstanding thinkers and leaders, Drs. tenBroek and Jernigan, brought hope to a whole generation and created an unquenchable discontent. No longer were the blind prepared to accept other people's assessments of their limitations. No longer were they willing to tolerate the assertion that they might not become college graduates and that only a limited number of employment opportunities would ever be suitable for them. Blind people decided to demand equality--not all blind people, of course, but a sufficient number to command attention, and the results were immediate and striking.
When the blind refused to have others speak for them and insisted on their fundamental right to speak for themselves, bitter, prolonged, intense conflict followed. In 1957 Dr. tenBroek could proclaim to the delegates gathered at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind that today we stand "an embattled organization. Our motives have been impugned; our purposes reviled; our integrity aspersed; our representative character denied." By 1973 Dr. Jernigan, speaking to the same organization, declared, "We will never go back to the ward status of second-class citizens. There is simply no way. There are blind people aplenty...who will take to the streets and fight with their bare hands if they must before they will let it happen. In our own time and in our own day we have found leaders...willing to go into battle to resist tyranny."
Such are the words of Dr. Jernigan. What caused the confrontation? The blind declared that programs established to serve them could dominate their lives no longer. Some of the administrators of such programs hearing these pronouncements fought to retain the position of dominance they had formerly enjoyed. Furthermore, they resented any suggestion on the part of the blind that the system they had devised was other than ideal for the group they regarded as their wards. The two positions are irreconcilable, yet there are those who have said to the organized blind that we should all get together because we are all working for the same thing.
When the National Federation of the Blind was formed in 1940, the unemployment rate for blind people was almost one hundred percent. In 1920, after the close of World War I, Congress had established a program of rehabilitation for the disabled, directed primarily toward returning veterans. However, the blind were not included because it was thought that blind people could not be rehabilitated. By 1958 estimates of the employment rate for the blind indicated that three percent of blind people of employable age had jobs. By the mid 1970's the rate of employment for the blind had risen to thirty percent.
In the mid 1960's Dr. tenBroek reviewed the state of the law for the disabled in an article entitled "The Right to Live in the World: The Disabled and the Law of Torts." Stimulated by his research, Dr. tenBroek drafted a model White Cane Law which declares that the blind have a right to be on the streets, highways, and walkways and in public buildings and facilities.
Today it seems odd that there could ever have been a need for such a law, but overt discrimination against the blind had occurred fairly frequently before the statute was drafted. Furthermore, some judicial decisions had prevented the blind from receiving compensatory damages for injury on the grounds that the injured individuals had not been carrying a white cane and were thus guilty of contributory negligence. The White Cane Law declares that the failure of a blind person to carry a white cane is not evidence of contributory negligence.
In 1973 the Rehabilitation Act was amended to include nondiscrimination provisions. Those receiving federal financial assistance were prohibited from discriminating against the disabled. This broadened dramatically the statutory protection for the blind and the otherwise disabled. In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law. This applied nondiscrimination provisions to most businesses. Within less than a quarter century civil rights legislation for the disabled became the established policy of the United States.
One of the concepts of this legislation is reasonable accommodation. If a modification of the work site or the tasks of a particular job will make it possible for a disabled person to do the work and if the disabled applicant is the most qualified for the job, the modification must be made. The limitations on such accommodations are that they may not be so costly as to be unduly burdensome to the employer, and they may not be so extensive that they change the nature of the job.
How have these principles been interpreted? In many cases the modifications are slight, and there is little question that they are reasonable. A blind person attending a meeting may take notes in Braille and transcribe them later for distribution to others. Blind employees may use readers to study the material that comes to them rather than reading it in print. However, the use of readers has not been without controversy. Until the early 1990's the United States Department of State prohibited blind people from applying for jobs as foreign service officers because, they said, foreign service officers must read secret documents, and there is no way for a blind foreign service officer to use a reading machine or a live reader to perform this essential function within the requirements of security. Of course, senior personnel in other departments of government had been reading classified documents with readers or reading machines for years without violating security, but this argument failed to impress officials at the State Department.
The action that changed their minds was a Congressional hearing directed at preventing the State Department from receiving a budget appropriation unless it adopted policies in accordance with the law. Despite the long-established practice of permitting the blind to use readers to get information, the State Department did not regard the use of such readers as reasonable. It has now been permitting such practices for a decade, apparently with no ill effect.
However, there have been other instances in which the reasonableness of a requested accommodation can be seriously questioned. In 1982 a blind man named Harold Carter, working for the United States Department of Education, sued his employer for failing to provide him with reasonable accommodation. He was serving as a Congressional liaison officer, who was expected to write letters in response to congressional inquiries. The standard of the department was that twelve letters should be written by each officer each week. In order to accommodate Mr. Carter, the output requirement for him had been dropped to six letters per week--fifty percent of the standard applied to the rest of the employees. In addition, Carter was offered a reader to assist him.
Nevertheless, he still did not get the work done, and he blamed his failure on the Department of Education because he said that these accommodations were inadequate. What he needed, he said, was to have every single document that he might ever need to review put into Braille. Because the library of material available for research was moderately sizable, this request was completely impractical.
During the course of the trial Carter testified that, even if he were provided with a full-time reader and expensive equipment (which in his estimation would cost sixty-five to seventy thousand dollars), he still could not be as efficient as a sighted person in performing the duties expected of him. Carter's unbelievable testimony contains the following brief passage: "There is no way you can interpret subtle thoughts to a reader who is doing research. To delve seemingly with no direction into files to get information--I don't know how you could do it unless you can see enough to do it yourself." Such is the testimony of Harold Carter, and one wonders if he can really believe it. I myself, totally blind now for more than thirty years, have conducted legal research, and many thousands of other blind people have competently used readers to gain information, both subtle and otherwise.
The Department of Education prevailed; the justices declared that Carter's claims that additional accommodations should have been made were unreasonable. However, nobody in the case, not Carter, not Carter's supervisor, not the Secretary of Education, not the many lawyers involved, not the justices in the Court of Appeals--nobody challenged the determination that fifty percent performance is all that can be expected from a blind employee. If this is the result that comes from adopting nondiscrimination legislation, it were better that it had never been written. One of the premier judicial tribunals of the United States has tacitly accepted an argument offered by one of the major departments of our government that the blind are necessarily inferior to the sighted in employment--and it was done with the assistance (one might say with the complicity) of a blind person. He believed himself to be inferior, and he argued that this is the condition of us all.
At the same time that the Harold Carter case was being filed, one of the administrators of programming for the blind in the United States, the executive director of a workshop for the blind in Minnesota, declared that equality for the blind was a false hope. "If the blind are equal to the sighted," he expostulated, "here, let them take my car keys and drive me to work." This man thought that the way a thing is done is more important than the final outcome.
I might have told him of a blind man of my acquaintance who was having trouble getting taxis to come to his door. He established a transportation business of his own. He no longer has trouble finding a way to get from place to place. As president of the company, he can assign his drivers to be where he wants at times that please his convenience. When they are not driving for him, they transport paying customers, and the whole arrangement helps to put money into his pocket. This blind man would be quite capable of driving the sighted administrator to work.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, adopted in 1990, is the most comprehensive law prohibiting discrimination against the disabled. However, there are those who say that it has diminished rather than enhanced opportunity. A report appearing a year ago in the St. Petersburg Times indicates that the Harris Company surveyed employment statistics for the disabled. Unemployment had risen between 1986 and 1998 from sixty-six to seventy-one percent. The same report indicates that a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, Russell Redenbaugh, who is himself totally blind, speculates that the fear of lawsuits has prevented the most severely disabled from being employed. Mr. Redenbaugh believes (according to this report) that the interpretation of the ADA has been twisted to such an extent that the inability to perform a job may be cited as an indication that an employee is disabled and entitled to protection under the law.
Are employees expected to be at work on time? Not if they have a disability which would make this difficult, says the report. Is dismissal from employment permissible for sleeping on the job? Not if the disability is narcolepsy. Accommodations being demanded under the ADA attack the notion that employees should come to work on time, stay awake, and get the job done. If it takes longer for a disabled person to do the same job performed by an able-bodied employee, some people argue that the employer should be prepared to accept a lesser amount of productive work. At one time the slogan in the labor market was equal pay for equal work. There are those who argue that the slogan of disability rights is equal pay even without equal work.
It is a short step from the concept that inferior performance must be accepted by an employer to the notion that all employers should have disabled employees on the payroll--that employment is a right for those with disabilities. Such a concept involves shifting the burden of providing a livelihood for the disabled from charitable entities or government to the employment community. An equitable distribution of this burden would involve placing the disabled with employers in accordance with the size of the complement of their workers. If the benefit of employing disabled workers is not as great as that which comes from employing the non-disabled, this is simply one more cost of doing business, goes the argument.
The Americans with Disabilities Act began with the proposition that the law should require equality of opportunity. However, there are those who believe it should require equality of result. The disabled (they say) have been victimized by lack of understanding and discriminatory behavior; they are entitled to employment. Logic suggests that the long-term impact of this argument can only be destructive.
One of the members of the National Federation of the Blind is Dr. Frederic K. Schroeder, a blind person who serves as the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the federal agency responsible for rehabilitation programs. Dr. Schroeder has an annual budget of something like three billion dollars.
When Dr. Schroeder was young, he hoped that he could find a way to do something productive, but he had no training in the skills of blindness, and his parents did not have enough experience to know what a blind boy might be able to achieve. Dr. Schroeder pondered the options available to him, and he concluded that there was only one profession that he could undertake--he decided to become a radio disc jockey because he was a good talker, and everybody knows that all disc jockeys do is talk on the radio and play records. Then he became acquainted with the National Federation of the Blind, and he discovered that there are many other alternatives.
Dr. Schroeder became a teacher and an administrator of public programs of education, but he was still affected by his beliefs about blindness. With the acquisition of the new job, Dr. Schroeder had the money to buy a house. He faced the problem of how to get the lawn mowed. He thought he might hire somebody to do it, but (he reasoned) if he asked a sighted person to mow his lawn, the neighbors would believe he was not able to do it himself because he was blind. This would reinforce their assessment of him as inferior. However, he was also afraid to mow the lawn himself because the neighbors might watch him do it, and if he missed a patch of grass, they would conclude that he was incompetent. He could, of course, cover the lawn in such a way that he would not miss any grass--going over it repeatedly in narrow strips--but this too would look unusual and peculiar to the neighbors.
Dr. Schroeder did not want to look peculiar. He decided that the best solution was for him to mow his lawn when the neighbors were not likely to observe. He decided to cut the grass at night. I cannot say how the neighbors reacted to this plan. However, if the objective is to seem normal, I doubt that mowing the lawn at night is the best way to accomplish this purpose.
The efforts of Dr. Fred Schroeder to avoid looking conspicuous and to appear normal remind me of my own embarrassing experiences. How great a premium there is on seeming normal!
When I was in high school, I also wanted to find something productive to do. I wondered what my life might become. I had read books describing high adventure, big business, and politics, but I was convinced that my blindness would prevent me from engaging in these activities. Nevertheless, I hoped. I wondered if I might be fortunate enough to attend college, but I knew of no way to do it. I had met only one other blind person, a man who sat in front of a specialty shop and sold pencils. I did not want to be like him. I had delivered newspapers and mowed lawns and shoveled snow and put shingles on the roof of a garage, but I knew of nobody who made a living doing these things. I had heard of blind people who built cabinetry and sold it. I decided this was the profession for me.
Then I came in contact with the National Federation of the Blind, and my perspective changed. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who was then serving as its President, told me not to be so limited in my thinking; and he helped me get the money to attend the University of Notre Dame.
When we were young, Dr. Schroeder and I did not have sufficient knowledge or experience about blindness to know what might be possible for us. We had heard other people talk about the limitations of blindness, and we accepted their assessment--making those limitations real. We needed the help of others to give us background and perspective. Nevertheless, even with our limited information, we knew more about blindness from personal experience than most of the public. Is it any wonder that there is misunderstanding?
Is it better for a disadvantaged minority (such as the blind) to have an established law to protect them from the larger society, or is it better for that group and for society as a whole if no law exists? This depends upon the nature of the law, the way it is interpreted, the behavior of the protected minority, and the behavior of society as a whole.
If a society decides to discriminate unreasonably, it loses the talents of the affected group. The group singled out for specialized treatment cannot achieve its potential, and the overall capacity of the society is diminished. If the blind are capable, it is in society's best interest to employ that capability. If doing so requires a law, it is well to adopt one.
However, the power of law is restricted; it may set limits on behavior, but it cannot create understanding. The members of society interacting with the minority group must do that. The institution of a law may inhibit this process by establishing a set of requirements which are minimum guidelines. Employers and others may say that they have met the requirements of the law, and they may not be willing to consider anything else.
The natural laws of physics say that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. They also tell us that matter cannot be created from nothing. These principles are just as true in social affairs as they are in the physics laboratory. If the disabled demand equal treatment without providing equal service, there will be a shortfall in the equation, and somebody will pay. I fear that the payment will be exacted in the social acceptance of those with disabilities. If only fifty percent performance is required, true acceptance of those who offer it is unlikely. Promotions will not come easily to this group, and even when there is outstanding performance, recognition of it will be inhibited because the inherent expectations will be of only minimal performance. Because the employer will expect less of the disabled than is required of others, this group will always be regarded as inferior. The tragedy is that, if this standard is once put in place, many disabled people will come to believe that it is fair and reasonable.
The whole structure of rules and regulations is suggestive of conflict in which fear, confrontation, and reprisal are part of the norm. Confrontation and fear are corrosive. If society permits these attributes of life to become extensive, they will undermine the foundation of our civilization. However, all groups that have achieved first-class status within society have passed through a period of hostility. Even the barons of England confronted King John demanding that a law be established. The law was written during a period of conflict.
However, as essential as conflict may be, it cannot solve all problems. There must be a time of consolidation beyond confrontation. If the blind and the otherwise disabled insist that nondiscrimination laws be interpreted to provide equality of opportunity and that the only acceptable interpretation of them is that equal work be a prerequisite for equal pay, our society may achieve a measure of understanding that extends beyond the law.
When is it reasonable to demand that civil rights legislation be adopted? When should a group be willing to suffer the disadvantages that come with conflict, confrontation, and the imposition of legal force? Whenever conditions for that group have become intolerable and there appears to be no alternative. The adoption of legislation to protect the interests of a minority implies that many in society are not willing to offer that group equal treatment without the requirements of law. However, it also implies that the minority has the political muscle to make itself heard. It is doubtless unnecessary to observe that those with political muscle get more respect than those without it.
The law is a tool; it has the capacity to get attention. However, we must resist the seductive temptation to believe that the law alone is adequate to protect our interests--it is not. We must think beyond law and express our dreams in terms of social acceptance rather than force. The law can help us get a job, but it cannot make employers want to use our talents. It can give us the right to enter a public place or participate in a public program, but it cannot induce our neighbors to want to have us there. It can express our wish for equality, but it cannot make us equal--we must do that for ourselves.
We who are blind can dream of a time when we will not be talking of the battles, the demands, or the requirements of law. We are blind, but we are not inferior to others, and we have every confidence that our sighted neighbors will join us and accept us for the capable people we are.
When the Doorbell Rings:
Changing What It Means to Be a Blind Test-taker
by Doug and Peggy Elliott and Dan Sutherland
From the Editor: Over five years ago now Doug Elliott, already an experienced social worker, was required to take the test to become a licensed social worker after he moved to Iowa. He was forced to use an untrained, inept reader assigned to work with him by the testing authority. Doug was outraged at the injustice of the testing authority's decision and behavior, and since then he and his wife, NFB Second Vice President Peggy Elliott, have been pursuing redress in the case the Department of Justice brought on Doug's behalf against the testing authority. They have made significant progress even though one of the parties to the settlement agreement has now announced that they have no intention of complying with some of the provisions. The Elliotts reported all of this to the National Association of Blind Students at its January 29 seminar in Washington, D.C. Their report began with Doug's introduction of Dan Sutherland, the Department of Justice lawyer who has been working on the case. Mr. Sutherland then described what has happened in the case, and Peggy Elliott discussed what still needs to be done. This is what they said:
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Doug Elliott]
Doug Elliott: The reason I am up here to introduce the next speaker is that in 1994 I moved to Iowa to marry the Second Vice President. At that time I was a social worker in Nevada and the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada. I was a licensed clinical social worker working in a hospital. I had worked in hospitals for over twenty years. Through most of that time I had had some kind of license or had been credentialed and did pretty well on my evaluations. I came to Iowa, and they said, "But it doesn't transfer because you were grandfathered in."
I said, "Yes, but I helped develop the test out there."
They said, "Well, you are in Iowa now, and you are going to take the test." Because the AASSWB (American Association of State Social Work Boards), the organization nationally that provides the licensure test for social workers insisted on it, I had to take the test. I brought a reader with me who was capable of reading intelligently and assumed there would be no problem. They were supposed to provide a reader, but when I got there they hadn't arranged for one.
So I used their so-called reader, who wasn't really a reader; she was just there to help out. She announced that she was exhausted and not very good at reading. I failed that test.
Since then I have passed the test, but I went back home and thought about this experience. Testing affects all of us. It's going to affect you if it hasn't already done so. When you go into your professions or even as students, testing is going to affect you. I wanted to do something so that other people don't fail these tests simply because they have to train their readers through the whole testing process.
I hired myself a good lawyer--the Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind--and she drew up a petition and sent it off to a number of places. One of the places it landed was the Department of Justice. We had contact with a lawyer there. His name was Dan Sutherland. We talked to Dan a lot about this case. Originally he was like a lot of sighted people who tried to help us. They want very much to help, but most of the help they want to give isn't constructive. Dan was sort of like that, except that he was prepared to listen. Not all sighted people want to listen. This, by the way, is not a characteristic limited to sighted people; some blind people want to help and don't want to listen either.
Dan started listening to our arguments on readers and why we thought we should be able to supply our own readers when we take tests. Dan eventually came around to our way of thinking. Not all of his bosses did, but he did. I think he tried very hard to get us what we wanted. He didn't get it all; he got some of it. Peggy says that I didn't talk to him with as much indignation about the situation as perhaps I should have. But we did win a part of the case. The AASSWB hired a lawyer who is a complete--well I can't say it in this room. But anyway he is. He fought with us. When we settled, he was upset about the press release that said I had won the case. So he said, "Well then, he's not going to get any money." They refused to pay.
Anyway, Dan is still working faithfully on our case, and he wanted to come and talk with you. We are happy to have him with us today to talk about testing and what the Department of Justice has been doing with it. We think we have made some clear breakthroughs; we didn't get everything, but we did get a lot. I give you Dan Sutherland.
Dan Sutherland: Thank you, Doug. This is a real treat for me. I didn't know that Doug was going to give a little introduction beforehand. He has laid the ground for us. I came to this case, as he said, with no experience at all. I knew absolutely nothing about the subject. To me that was a real positive. I didn't just think I didn't know anything. I knew I didn't know anything at all, so I tried to learn as much as I could and talk to as many people as I could. Peggy sent me several things that she had written, and I talked to Scott LaBarre a few times. But to tell you how new I was to all of this, I believe that I still know only three people in the world who are members of the National Federation of the Blind: Peggy, Doug, and Scott LaBarre by phone. So I was brand new to the whole thing.
I want to tell you a little bit about this case and ask you some questions about what this might mean to you. Then, as I understand it, Peggy is going to stand up and criticize what the Department of Justice did, which is good. Let me tell you briefly who I am so you have a context. I am an attorney in the United States Department of Justice. The Department of Justice has different groups. There's an anti-trust group, a civil rights group, an environmental group; and I'm in the civil rights group. The civil rights group, of course, has more bureaucracy--other groups within it. Some people do education cases. Some do employment, and others do fair housing. I'm in the group called the Disability Rights Section. We handle cases under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
What happens for me is that I get a file. It will be a letter that somebody has written complaining about something that they feel is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. My job is to go investigate that, find out the facts, and if we figure out that the facts do present a violation of the federal law, then we would try to work out a settlement or file a lawsuit about it. The complaints we get come from all sorts of disabilities. I spent the last couple of years dealing with people with dyslexia and other learning disabilities. I've had this case, and I'm dealing with a big case in a large city dealing with people who are arrested or incarcerated and have hearing impairments, and how they interact with police officers.
I'm constantly dealing with things I know nothing about. That's good, because I just ask, and I'm not bringing to it a pre-set idea of what the right answer should be.
I have been asked to tell you a little bit about this case that I hope you will find interesting. I want to engage you a little bit about the level of your interest. This is a large group, so I don't think we can talk one-to-one, but maybe we could do a show of hands.
How many of you have had to take a standardized test? Almost everybody here. How many of you are in college now? [large number of aye's] How many are in graduate school now? [smaller response] Okay, so most of you are in college now. Are any of you high school students? [scattered response] Okay, a few. So you are a little bit early for the standardized test? [protests] No, already taking them. How many of you, when you have had to take a standardized test, have wanted to use a reader? [a good number of yeses] How many of you have been told you could not bring your own reader but that the agency would give you a reader? [about the same response] That's a common experience. How many of you have been able to supply your own reader? [perhaps three or four ayes] How many of you have found that the reader who was provided to you was fine, did a good job? [first dead silence and then a burst of laughter] Speak up now. [more laughter] Well, this has been very educational.
We may need you to be expert witnesses. That was one of the questions, and we clearly have a lot of them here. Doug and Peggy wrote a letter to us about this case, and it presented an issue that we have not dealt with before. The only two cases I am aware of that have been in the courts are the one that we have handled and the one that Scott handled with the LSAT.
So if you have problems with readers, if you are being forced to use a reader for a standardized test and the reader is not adequate for whatever reason, I really wish you would tell somebody. I will give you my phone number. Call me, or talk with Peggy, and she will call me. We would like to follow up on it. I will give you my phone now, and I'll give it to you later. My phone number is (202) 616-5540. My name again is Dan Sutherland. Feel free to call me anytime you would like. As I said, you can call Peggy, Doug, or Scott, and they will get the information to me.
Let me give you a quick description of the case; otherwise you won't know the background as well as we would want you to. Doug had been a social worker. He moved to a new state, and that state required him to take a licensure examination. Whether they should have or not, I don't know. He mailed in his application, and he said that he would need a reader and that he would provide his own reader. Within a month or so he talked with them over the telephone, and they said, "Sorry, you can't provide your own reader; we'll provide one for you." Well, he wasn't really sure if that was going to work out, so the day of the exam he brought his own reader. But as he said, they followed through on their policy, which is that you can't provide your own reader.
The reason they have this policy is that of course you are going to cheat. You'll have worked out some sort of elaborate signaling system so that the reader will be able to tell you the answers when you don't know them. Right? That is the typical reason that you have been given, isn't it? One thing that, I guess, Doug and Peggy did that was really interesting was that they also sent their letter to the American Psychological Association, which is responsible for setting industry standards on testing. The APA wrote a letter (the APA president and a couple of other people signed that letter) saying that whole idea is stupid. There is no problem of test security in allowing somebody to provide their own reader. That was significant, and it's a letter they have on file if you need to use it anywhere.
In any case the only reader the AASSWB had available for Doug to use that day was one of the college students who were there to sign people in. She was just sitting at the table. Nobody had told her anything about reading. She had never read for someone before, and she knew nothing about this examination. She didn't know anything about social work. She didn't know anything about the context of the exam. Doug and she had no time to work together in advance to establish any familiarity with one another.
They sat down to take the exam, and she stumbled over technical words as she read the exam to him. It was the first time she had done it; she wasn't familiar with it. She started writing the answers in the wrong boxes, so for the last hour or so of the exam, Doug could hear her erasing a lot. As he was thinking, she was erasing, going back and trying to get the answers put in the right boxes. She also found parts of the exam embarrassing because it was a social work exam, and there were sexual things on the exam that a social worker has to counsel somebody on in private. She needed to read those words and concepts to him. She didn't know him; she was just a college student.
Anyway, the whole thing was a disaster. Well, not to the American Association of State Social Work Boards: they didn't think anything was a problem at all. Doug and Peggy immediately complained to the American Association of State Social Work Boards and also eventually followed up with us. Doug eventually, as he said, passed the examination, but that doesn't solve the problem. You know you have a standardized test to take, and in his case it wasn't to get into college. It was to practice his profession. He could not practice his profession without passing the examination.
Then the question became, "What do we do with that?" It was easy for us to decide that this was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because the law requires that testing agencies must provide what is called a qualified reader. Now Congress did not define a qualified reader. There is nothing anywhere that defines what a qualified reader is. So in this case we had to take a stab at what that means. This is certainly a case where we could have filed suit, but we tried to work out a settlement because, if you settle a case, you get a resolution of it two or three years in advance of when you would get a decision. Plus you never really know, when you go into court, what is going to happen. If you can work out a settlement, great.
We worked out a settlement and signed a settlement agreement. I just want to tell you quickly what the American Association of State Social Work Boards has now agreed to do. The main limitation--I think this is what Peggy wants to talk about--the main limitation is that we could not get them to agree that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that they must allow you to provide your own reader. In other words, the rule, policy, position, principle established by this settlement is that they can either allow you to provide your own reader or, if they require you to take their reader, they've got to make sure that person meets certain criteria and standards.
The effect of this is going to be that a lot of the testing agencies are just going to allow you to provide your own reader because it is too much trouble to go through the things that they have to go through. One of the two lawyers whom we were dealing with (there were two agencies involved in this case: the social workers and a testing organization that administers the tests for them). Just in the last week or so, before we signed the agreement, which we had been negotiating for months, one of the lawyers called and said, "Do we have to provide a reader, or can we just let them supply their own reader?" He said, "Can we make it a little more clear in the document to let them supply their own reader?"
I said, "Sure." You see once he sat down with his clients and started to show them what they were going to have to do in order to provide what the law calls a qualified reader, they decided it would be a lot easier for the test-taker to provide his or her own reader.
One of our jobs is to try to get this Department of Justice policy distributed throughout the testing industry, but you are the ones actually dealing with these testing entities, so you need to spread the word too. When you are in this situation, you need to know that you have rights and that there is a Justice Department policy on this. It's on the Internet. Anyone can read it. You've got my phone number. Peggy knows about it. Scott knows about it. So maybe we can work together to spread the word a little.
I'll take two minutes to tell you what they agreed to do in the future about a reader. We said that, if they're going to require you to take their reader, the reader they supply must be proficient in reading, somebody who can really do it--not just somebody they picked off the line and told to go start reading. Doing this job is not that easy. We said they can demonstrate the reader's proficiency in one of three ways. One way is to allow test-takers to bring their own readers. If the person brought is not proficient, it's the test-taker's fault, not the agency's.
The second way is that they can provide somebody who is unfamiliar to the test-taker, somebody he or she hasn't worked with before but who has read tests aloud before. At least the test-taker will then have someone who has experience in reading.
The third way you can prove someone is proficient is that, although the person may never have read tests before, the testing authority can invest the time to train him or her. You have to spend hours with the reader. Have him or her read an article on what it takes to be a reader. Peggy has written a couple of articles on what it takes to be a reader, and we gave those articles to the AASSWB. The reader also needs to practice reading this examination. The reader needs to sit for hours with the test manager beforehand and practice. These solutions may not get blind test-takers to where you want to be in having a reader as proficient as you want, but at least you've got somebody who isn't just picked off the line. And besides, all this preparation makes it harder for the test agency. They are more likely to be happy to have you pick your own person.
The first thing we said to the agency is that, if you are going to supply a reader, you have to make sure it is somebody who has some basic ability to read and has done it before. The second thing we said is that you have to pick somebody familiar with this examination. On the social work examination that Doug took, there were a lot of technical terms that you and I don't know--medications and other things that we cannot even pronounce. So you have to have somebody who is familiar with that examination. The reader also has to know what the rules are, how long the test is, when the breaks are, things like that.
The third area we discussed is that, if you are going to supply a reader, you've got to have him or her work with the test-taker in advance so they can establish some familiarity. If you believe the test-taker will bring a friend and they may cheat, you can choose the reader, but then you must work with that person. This agreement says that the reader you choose and the test-taker have to work together for an unlimited period of time until the test-taker feels comfortable. The testing agency has to pay for this training. It's not the blind person's bill.
Their gamble was that the required training would not be particularly hard, that the two would be able to establish familiarity quickly. In that case it's not going to be much money out of the testing agency's pocket. On your side maybe you would establish familiarity in an hour or so of practicing, but maybe it would take you a longer period of time. Under this agreement, if you are taking the social work test, they can't object. They have to provide the time for you to establish familiarity. There is also provision in the agreement that, if after you begin working with a reader, you find genuine incompatibility, you can insist on being given another reader.
Under this agreement the AASSWB has to train its staff. They have to send a letter to every state agency that licenses social workers. All fifty states have to have a copy of it. They have to publicize it. Supposedly they have to put this information in their materials so that people like you can tell what your options are. They also had to compensate Doug for the time he lost preparing for that exam that he failed because of an incompetent reader. I can tell you, though, he did not make a million dollars from this agreement.
I'm going to leave it at that and let Peggy pick it up from there, and then have some time for questions and answers.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Peggy Elliott]
Peggy Elliott: I want to start by assuring you that the story isn't over. One of the parties to this complaint has complied, as far as we know, with all of the terms, including paying Doug. The other has not. Their failure to comply was announced not only to Dan but also in the newspapers that covered Doug's case. The lawyer wrote letters to a lot of these newspapers, including our own Des Moines Register, and said that they had no intention of complying. He said that they had no need to comply because, in effect, they were already doing the right thing.
The Department of Justice has known since the end of October that there was no intention to comply with at least the financial aspect of the settlement and possibly with other things as well. Dan is very aware of this and has recommended to the people he works for what he thinks should take place. He hasn't told me what the recommendation is, but I think I can pretty well guess what it would be. The option that comes to mind would be an enforcement action in a court of law. Dan has made his recommendation, and his supervisors have not yet seen fit to respond either yea or nay.
So we still have the issue of whether or not the agreement you have just heard described is going to be enforced with regard to both the financial payment and the other terms. The reason I emphasize the other terms is that the lawyer for the American Association of State Social Work Boards has proclaimed to the world that this settlement didn't require them to make any changes at all, that they were already complying with the law and in fact were accommodating blind people well before the Americans with Disabilities Act, so they didn't have to do anything. They just signed the agreement to be nice to the Department of Justice. We will see if that continues to be their position as time goes along. Basically the people who did what they did to Doug are now thumbing their noses, not only at Doug and blind people in general, but also at the Department of Justice. We will see if the DOJ ultimately likes that or not.
I want to talk for a few minutes about the issues that go beyond Doug's case and what we need to do. In order to do that, I need to tell you about the snail. A man went to his door one day because the doorbell had rung, but no one was there. He happened to look down and saw a snail on the mat. In disgust he flicked it into the bushes. Five years later the doorbell rang again with no one there. Again he looked down, but before he could do anything to the snail standing there, the snail said, "What was that all about?" Keep the snail in mind.
We are talking about the regulations that implement the Americans with Disabilities Act under title II and III. Title II is the set of provisions that govern state and local government and their treatment of disabled people. Title III governs private entities. Often you are dealing with both, as in Doug's case. He was dealing with a social work board that was a State of Iowa entity and the American Association of State Social Work Boards, which is a private trade group. One was part of state government, and the other was a private group. The ADA regulations are slightly different under these two titles. You need to know this so that you know you can ignore it. Title II refers to the disabled person's preference in reasonable accommodation, and title III does not, though it does require reasonable accommodation. Under the regulations and the law you have the right to reasonable accommodation. Moreover, under the section about testing, it mentions that you have a right to a qualified reader.
As you would suspect, Dan and we pulled and hauled back and forth on this question of a qualified reader. Aside from Doug's not wanting another blind person to have to go through his experience in the future, we believed that the language should define a qualified reader as the reader of your choice: there is no pool of qualified readers; the only one is the one you bring with you. Ultimately the Department of Justice decided not to implement its regulation to provide that the qualified reader is the reader of our choice. They chose to implement the regulation to give the authority to choose to the testing organization rather than us. Personally, I think that the Department of Justice showed a lack of backbone in this decision. I don't think it was Dan; we've had a number of conversations about this, and I think that the refusal to give blind people the choice was a departmental failure of nerve based first of all on lack of understanding.
Most people think that a qualified reader for the blind is like a certified interpreter for the deaf. It's a person who helps the disabled person, and you can go out and draw on a pool of them. Can anyone in this room define a qualified reader? A qualified reader for me is not a qualified reader for Shawn. One that suits Shawn will not suit Dr. Maurer. Each of us uses readers differently. The term "qualified reader" is just words that somebody grabbed out of the air and threw into the regulation, but it doesn't mean any one thing. Readers are personal. We train our readers individually. There is no such thing as the qualified reader which the law guarantees to us. Therefore the only qualified reader is the person you obtain yourself. That's my position and that of the National Federation of the Blind. In a minute I will describe the way we are going to give the Department of Justice the opportunity to take that same position.
Remember that one of the things that happens in cases like this is an overemphasis on test security. It isn't that they think we are cheaters but that we have the potential of cheating if we use our own readers. That is what they said to Doug: you would cheat if you used your own reader. That's preposterous; let them proctor us--assign someone to sit in the room and watch for those secret hand signals and whispered commands. Because most of us have taken standardized tests, I think we are all familiar with this extreme sensitivity to test security.
The point I am making here is that the effect of the Americans with Disabilities Act has been to make things worse for blind people. Before 1990 and the appearance of this term "qualified reader," many of us were able to talk our way into the use of the reader of our choice. There wasn't a national standard or rule, and mostly we brought our own readers and took the tests. As in many other situations, the effect of the ADA on testing has been to instruct someone other than the blind person to take care of us, which unfortunately includes providing the reader. I have told Dan, and I will tell you: until such time as we have a bright-line test--a clear and unequivocal test--for identifying a qualified reader as the reader the blind person brings with him or her, we will continue to have the kind of trouble that Doug had.
Before I go on to my proposed solution, I want to ask Dan a question. Dan, if I have the same experience that Doug had with an unqualified reader but I pass the test, do I still have a complaint?
"Yes, you certainly have a complaint; the damages you might get just wouldn't be as high."
Do you hear that? You have a case even if you pass the test. Now listen to me about the other problem that is coming because especially you high school students are going to run into this problem. We are beginning to grapple with the question of who gets to choose the method by which the blind person will take a test. At this time the GED test does not allow a blind person to use a reader. There doesn't seem to be any reason for this; it just is the case. I hope to find out the reason sometime this year. I hope I'm not speaking out of school, but Dan told me on the phone earlier that he would love to have the case. I told him that, if the NFB doesn't manage to resolve the situation, we just might let him help us.
The other situation that is now arising is the standardized high school test of proficiency for graduation. You high school students, are you looking forward to these tests? They are starting to rule that readers may not be used for these tests because using a reader rules out the basic test of the blind student's ability to read and write and spell. I have now heard of two states that have refused to allow readers in those tests, regardless of how recently the blind student may have lost his or her sight and learned Braille. There are all sorts of questions here, but the fundamental one is this: who gets to decide which method we use?
Remember that one of the points of the Americans with Disabilities Act is that it requires flexibility. We can't demand that everything all the time be provided for the disabled. We can't get everything in Braille or on computer disk. We have to be flexible. You wouldn't expect every agenda for every city council meeting in the country to be prepared in Braille when most of them would never be read. The question of what you are required to produce in alternative media and under what circumstances is generally settled by the ADA in the way I described earlier, where our preference is to be taken into account by state and local governments, and the communication is to be effective in the case of private entities.
But I suggest to you and to my friend Mr. Sutherland that the case of testing is different. Remember that I explained last year that there are two kinds of tests. The first is gateway testing like the SAT, the GRE, the LSAT: tests that let you in, but for which there are other ways to get the job done. I did not take the LSAT, but I got my JD. With the licensure test there is no other way to get in. That's what Doug faced. He had to pass that test to get a social work license. The high school student has to pass the proficiency test to graduate. You can get a certificate of attendance if you don't pass the test--oh great! But if the only thing between you and graduation is that test and you can't pass the test because you can't use a reader, is that right? Is that fair? Is that what the Americans with Disabilities Act means? Right now the answer is yes. The ADA gives you the right to choose neither the reader of your choice nor the method of your choice. It gives the testing authority the right, if it can come up with some purported justification, to deny your choices, which can in turn deny you entry or promotion.
Right now we can't choose our readers. In Doug's case the Department of Justice was not willing to take the position that we blind people are the ones with the choice, not the testing authority. Now we are encountering situations in which we are not permitted to choose our method of taking tests. First of all we must inform ourselves about the situation as we are doing this afternoon. Then each of us must insist on the right to make those choices of which reader we will use and what method we will choose for taking the test we are facing. Insisting doesn't mean that we are going to win, but we must do so every single time and not just accept what somebody else has decided for us. The Americans with Disabilities Act is being interpreted to mean that somebody else gets to make decisions for us. Not in my world! We must insist.
We must then pool our experiences. We must write them down. This situation goes back to 1990. If you have taken a standardized test since 1990 and had a bad experience, write it down and send it to Shawn. The people at Doug's testing agency said, "Nobody's ever complained; you're the only one who has ever complained." Dan has found the same thing. He was quite surprised at your answers this afternoon because the Department of Justice is not aware by volume of complaints that anything is going on.
We don't want to send in every complaint we can think of; let's pool our knowledge and choose the best ones. We must begin to build the record for needing to change the regulations to choose method of test-taking and choice of reader if that's the method we want. If we don't do it together, we are never going to do it. I'll quote Dan one more time. He said to me this afternoon outside the door, "You guys aren't doing enough advocacy. It's not going to change until you do." And you know what? I agree with him.
So five years later, when we come back here, are we still going to be talking about this problem? Or is each one of you going to do your part individually, and through Shawn's leadership all of us do it together? Five years from now I'll be here. Let's see what happens when that doorbell rings.
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[PHOTO/CAPTION: Norm Gardner]
NEWSLINE--It Changed My Life!
by Norm Gardner
From the Editor: Dr. Norman Gardner is the Treasurer of the NFB of Utah and a long-time leader of the Federation wherever he has lived. The following article appeared in the Winter, 2000, issue of the NFB of Utah newsletter. This is what Norm said about NEWSLINE(r):
Have you discovered NEWSLINE(r)? Have you experienced the boost to your self-esteem when you feel that you are just as informed about important current events as other people? Well, I have made this incredible discovery. Actually the full impact did not hit me all at once. In fact, at first I thought it was more of a novelty. It was neat to make a local telephone call and be connected to a voice‑synthesized computer to listen to the newspaper. I thought it was great that for the first time blind people could have timely access to newspapers.
When we first got NEWSLINE here in Utah, I remember marveling at the technology which made it all possible. I remember making another mental mark on the long tally demonstrating just why we formed the National Federation of the Blind. Without the NFB we would simply not have NEWSLINE. Without the NFB we would simply not have most of the good, progressive programs which benefit the blind.
But frankly at first I found it difficult to read NEWSLINE consistently. For years I have noticed that my wife and other sighted people regularly take significant time each day to read the newspaper. My daily routine did not seem to have enough time for that. Oh I enjoyed learning how to operate NEWSLINE. I liked the ability to select which voice and at which speed to read. I liked the way I could jump from article to article, skipping ones in which I had no interest. I also liked the ability to skim down through a given article just as a sighted person does.
I really got excited when I realized that NEWSLINE gives even better access to newspapers for blind people than sighted people have. In the first place the blind person can read the newspaper early in the morning without having to wait for it to be delivered. As a matter of fact, the blind person does not even have to get out of bed to read the newspaper. All one has to do is roll over, grab the telephone, and dial the local number! But the biggest advantage the blind person has over sighted people is the ability to search an entire section of the newspaper electronically. Within a second or so the computer will start reading an article which contains the word being searched.
In spite of all this, I still did not take the opportunity to read the newspapers on NEWSLINE more than once or twice a week. Then a truly wonderful thing happened. We got the Wall Street Journal on NEWSLINE. Let me explain. I have taught courses in finance at the college level for about twenty-five years. One of the classes I teach regularly is a course in investments. This is a course which should be sensitive to current events in the economy and in our banking system. Over the years I have developed a teaching style which included a bit of bluff and a bit of stall tactic, and I am sure at times it fooled no one. Sometimes I was simply uninformed on things about which I should have been knowledgeable.
Then we got the Wall Street Journal on NEWSLINE. I had not anticipated what a wonderful thing it would be for me. It was almost a shock actually to feel prepared for my investments class. This semester the class met early enough in the day that many of the students had not yet read that day's Wall Street Journal. On some days I was the only one in class who had read the Journal. Now I take great delight in pointing out important articles to my students and relating current events at my class lectures. What a great boost to my self-esteem. What a great thing to feel like a first-class citizen. Thanks to the National Federation of the Blind for developing NEWSLINE, and thanks to the Utah Division for Services to the Blind for sponsoring NEWSLINE here in Utah.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Benson]
Walking at a Federation Pace
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: Steve Benson is the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and a member of the NFB Board of Directors. He is also a knowledgeable and thoughtful Federationist. He recently sent us the following little meditation:
In the early '70's the NFB of Illinois rented office space in a far north-side Chicago bank building in which we held small meetings, maintained address files, stored and mailed literature, produced a Thermoformed copy of our newsletter, and Thermoformed a monthly calendar of old radio programs aired on a local radio station.
All of these activities required many hands, so we made a special effort to involve new people in keeping mailing lists up-to-date, maintaining inventory, duplicating documents, and collating and mailing materials. Often the work was done to the accompaniment of recorded banquet speeches or other recorded Federation materials. When the recording finished playing, we discussed its contents and how it pertained to us individually and as an organization.
On one occasion nine or ten of us gathered to produce and distribute a newsletter. Some of us checked addresses and stamped wrappers; others Thermoformed and collated the newsletter, while others rolled and wrapped the finished product. It was a genuine team effort, and good fellowship and high spirits prevailed. When the assembly-line work was done, we deposited several hundred Braille newsletters in a nearby mailbox.
As we stuffed the mailbox, we noticed that two or three people waited at an adjacent bus stop. When the stuffing was done, we went our separate ways, some to the bus stop across the street, but most of us headed east to the subway train several blocks away. As we walked at a Federation pace, we talked and laughed and maybe sang a little; good cheer prevailed. We were well into the second of four blocks to the train when we heard someone running after us. As the fellow drew to within a few yards of us, he began hollering, "Wait!" We stopped, amazed. He panted up to us and said: "The bus stop is back there. Aren't you waiting for the bus?" We were all so astounded by the absurdity of the question that we broke into gales of laughter. When we had regained our composure, one or more of us explained that we would most certainly have remained at the bus stop if we had wanted to ride the bus. We further explained that we were walking to the subway, and we thanked him sincerely for his concern.
After we had walked another block and were reasonably certain the poor man was out of ear shot, there was much joking about the incident. One of us observed that this was like the Boy Scout helping the old lady across the street though she had no desire to cross and though she made her intention clear.
I think this and similar situations are not so simply explained. Some folks in our society still have a compelling need to take care of us. There are those who cannot imagine that we as blind people can make decisions, know where we are, or know where we've been or where we're going. It is our responsibility, and only ours, to teach the public and our fellow blind people that we certainly do make our own decisions, that we know where we are, where we've been, and where we're going. It is essential that we convey the important fact that, when blind people have proper instruction and genuine opportunity, we can do anything that does not, by its very nature, require sight. In conveying this information, it is necessary to remain positive, poised, and polite. At the same time we should also be firm and willing to stand up for ourselves and for our rights as American citizens. We should not allow ourselves to be walked on like rugs.
Dr. Jernigan used to put it this way: when dealing with the public, we must use a glove and a club and have the sense to know when to use which.
Lessons for Life
by Leeann Morrow
From the Editor: Last spring I received an article from a young woman finishing her junior year of high school. Leeann Morrow was adopted at the age of five. Hers is a large family, and for several years she was home-schooled. When she decided to return to public school, she faced the whole range of fears and fantasies that any other student would experience in the circumstances. But Leeann faced the additional concerns of a blind student contemplating the reactions of a school full of people with no previous experience of blindness. This is the way she tells about what happened:
Mine is a true story of success and resilience. I have learned the actual meaning of the phrase "to whom much is given, of them much is required." Although I have only lived a small portion of my life, it seems as if I have had enough experiences to fill a lifetime. Still I have much to learn.
Last year I decided to return to public school after five years of being home-schooled. I knew such a decision would change my life, and I had serious reservations about what the outcome would be, but I felt that I had made the best decision for myself.
I started this school year with many paranoid thoughts. My brain was jumbled with questions: "Will I be accepted by my peers?" "What if they don't like me?" "What if everyone sees me as only that blind girl?" "What if everyone feels sorry for me?--That would be the worst of all."
I also had fears concerning my academic abilities. I worried that I wouldn't be able to keep up in a fast-paced, public school atmosphere. But all of those fears diminished as the school year progressed.
With the help of Amy Weist, my persevering mobility instructor, I have learned to travel independently to the important parts of the building. I have been drilled extensively, as Amy has attempted to teach me the necessary cane techniques for the survival of a blind person. At first I was quite resistant to the idea of using a white cane. I did not believe it was necessary. I have now discovered the near-fatal error of my thinking.
One particular school day has been permanently burned into my memory of painful learning experiences. (I have quite a collection.) I was chatting with a friend as we made our way down the hall to public speaking class. As usual I was nonchalantly sliding my cane back and forth across the floor in front of me; one second I heard a strange noise emanating from the vicinity of my friend's throat; the next second my head was spinning. I had just slammed full-force into a metal post whose job it was to stabilize a set of double doors. If I had been only a few inches to the left or the right or if I had been using my cane with attention, I would have grazed the post and continued on my merry way through an open door. Instead, the gift of humility in the form of a bruise on the bridge of my nose was bestowed on me. Now I fully realize the necessity of taking advantage of a simple little contraption called a cane.
Along with the physical aspects of re-entering school, I have had the pleasure of discovering its social aspects. I have not run into direct discrimination during my time thus far at Presque Isle High School. I assumed that I would have to deal with quite a bit of reticence from my peers and the school faculty. Fortunately I was wrong. Yes, the faculty were worried about having a blind student under their direction, but they have come to realize that a blind person can work just as hard as sighted person. I have been able to develop a good relationship with all of my teachers. I have enjoyed academic success along with good friendships. In fact, a friend of mine even forgot that I was blind for a moment. She and I were enjoying our normal repartee, when, in response to one of my comments, she automatically stuck her tongue out at me. We laughed about that for days.
I realize how fortunate I am to be among people who have been so accepting of my blindness. I know that this is not always the case for blind people. However, it is important for all blind people to remember that it is necessary to work hard, just like every other successful person in the world. Adaptations may be needed, but not special treatment. Many of my endeavors have been unsuccessful. Life isn't always easy, but it is worth every disappointment and failure.
Although I do not have perfect vision, I do have a great deal. My responsibility is to help others see that success is possible in every situation. I have learned to use my disability as something positive; I do not let it disable me. I try to spread a message of hope to others by taking every opportunity that comes my way to speak about my positive experiences--but speaking is not enough for me. I must also attempt to reach others through my actions because it would be meaningless for me to say that people must work hard to be successful if I chose just to sit back and swallow air.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Gary Wunder]
by Gary Wunder
From the Editor: Early this year a staffer for the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Judiciary Committee of the House of Representatives wrote a memo to the chairman worrying that, if the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) really does apply to the Internet, insuring access for disabled people might create undue hardship for small businesses, slow the expansion of the fastest-growing segment of the economy, and in general stifle creativity. The memo also suggested that Web-site creators would have their First-Amendment right to free speech limited by requirements to make their sites accessible. All this furor arose from legal discussions of the NFB's suit filed last November against America Online. Since the Department of Justice has in fact produced a memo expressing the opinion that the ADA does indeed apply to the Internet, the suggestion was made that the Committee look into the situation and perhaps do something about it.
The Committee conducted a hearing February 9, and the NFB scrambled to arrange the most persuasive witnesses we could present. A number of organizations helped to assemble effective speakers to argue that requiring equal access to the Internet would not restrict the content of any Web site and to explain what blind people do need and want. Gary Wunder, President of the NFB of Missouri, Member of the National Federation of the Blind Board of Directors, and a computer professional, flew to Washington and testified in person. He also submitted written testimony.
Was our effort successful? It is still too early to be sure, but no proposed legislation preserving the right to create inaccessible Web sites has yet been introduced. We must remain alert to the threat during the months ahead. Here is Gary Wunder's written testimony:
Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution
Committee on the Judiciary
United States House of Representatives
February 9, 2000
Statement of Gary Wunder
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee. My name is Gary Wunder, and my address is 1209 Ireland Court, Columbia, Missouri 65203-2088. I work as a programmer-analyst expert for the University of Missouri and serve in a volunteer capacity as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
I come today to speak to the issue of access to the Internet and the extent to which that access is protected under federal law. I do not come as an expert on the law. I am here as a person who makes his living writing programs and getting information to medical doctors and hospital administrators. I am also here as a person who has been the beneficiary of the computer age and the Internet, and I also come as one who has paid the price when access to computers and the Internet was off limits to me because only the needs of visual users were considered in the design of some very important products. Last, Mr. Chairman, I also come as a person who is blind and who knows both how difficult accessing electronic information can sometimes be and how liberating that access can be when just a little thought is given to alternative methods of access.
Blind people look to the Internet as a long-sought solution to the problems of communication that result from lack of sight. Ask any blind person what physical problems confront him as a result of blindness, and he'll tell you they are access to the printed word and not being able to drive. Think now about the beauty of the Internet for this group. Material typed into a computer can generate print for the sighted, Braille for the blind, or synthesized speech for either group.
Because a user can travel from Web site to Web site without ever leaving his chair, the difficulty posed by transportation in the conduct of business is also significantly reduced. I should note in discussing access that the vast majority of blind people are over age sixty-five. I think it would be a costly mistake for us to overlook the needs of this community and the significant purchasing power they represent.
Since members of this Committee are sighted, perhaps it would be helpful for me to explain how a person without vision uses the Internet. Many of us purchase programs called screen readers, which look at the information sent to the screen and attempt to tell us, through speech or Braille, what is displayed there. The text on the screen and the little pictures and graphics known as icons are converted to something we can hear or feel. If there is a button we are to push to move to the next screen, our screen readers say "NEXT BUTTON." If we are presented with a form where we are to enter our name and address, the screen reader will say "NAME" when we are in the name field, and when we come to the area of the screen where we are to enter our state, it will say "COMBO BOX" and allow us to move through the choices until the two-letter abbreviation we want is found. Those kinds of boxes, which usually appear in alphabetical order, leave me wishing I was from Alabama or Alaska instead of Missouri.
Most of you make extensive use of a mouse when you navigate the Internet, but blind people cannot do this. Instead of a mouse used to point and click, we use the tab and arrow keys to move from item to item on a screen. Therefore our request of Web site developers is that each item which can be accessed with a mouse also have provision for being accessed by the keyboard. This could mean a tab stop or perhaps a key sequence which could perform the same task as clicking with a mouse.
In many ways living in what has come to be called the Information Age is a dream come true for people who are blind. Not so long ago writing this testimony for you would have meant first writing a draft in Braille, writing a second Braille copy to perfect the draft, and then typing that Braille document so you could read it in print. Imagine the difficulty if, while trying to transcribe the Braille into print, I was interrupted by a phone call. Where did I leave off in the transcription? Have I made any typographical errors, and, if I have, can they be corrected with white-out? The fact is that to ensure I had written a quality presentation for this subcommittee would have taken the involvement of someone with sight to proofread my final product.
Now, with the advent of the personal computer, speech and Braille technology, and the Internet, I can write my material myself, proof it myself, send it to others for their comments and criticisms, and eventually send the final draft halfway across the country for printing and distribution. Never in my wildest imaginings did I conceive of this possibility when I was typing my high school and college papers, but I would be hard-pressed to do without this now.
For all of our progress and the opportunity the Internet holds, there are still some problems we face in using the services which more and more Americans take for granted. One of our biggest difficulties comes when we try to shop on-line using pages where the creator of the Web site has failed to label the pictures he shows with a brief textual description. Computer technology is not yet sufficiently advanced to recognize a picture and tell us what appears on the screen. For this information we must rely on the creator of the page we're viewing to add a line of text which says, for example, "Swiss Army Knife" or "Queen Size Electric Blanket." These explanations are easily added and are of tremendous benefit not only to the blind but also to people who see.
Sometimes newspaper articles, in an attempt to be helpful to the blind, have left the impression that graphical displays are an obstacle for us. The presence of graphics is not the problem, but the presence of unlabeled graphics and the design of systems which rely only on graphics are what cause us tremendous difficulty. People who have things to market should make their pages as visually attractive and marketable as they can, in the same way they would design a store window. Making services available to the blind isn't a matter of deciding whether to make a screen visually appealing or audibly accessible. It means taking thirty seconds to add a textual description to the graphic you've decided to display and thereby expanding your customer base to include the ever-growing number of persons who either do not see or do not see well.
Some have suggested that labeling graphics and push buttons might constitute an undue burden on small businesses and Internet start-ups. This is to state the problem in the negative. However, one could also say with equal plausibility that choosing graphics rather than text is the burden. Either one--used exclusively--limits the audience that can be reached and results in missed opportunities to communicate and sell products. Whatever costs there are in making the Internet accessible, one thing can be stated without argument--designing accessibility in from the start is easier than trying to incorporate it after the fact. As we know from experience with physical structures, it is much easier to plan for an elevator than it is to figure out where to put an elevator shaft in an already occupied building.
In recognition of this concept and because of the economic benefits derived from an accessible Internet, representatives from industry, government, and the general public have collaborated through the Web Access Initiative of the World Wide Web Consortium, which has developed and promulgated guidelines and recommendations to enhance and ensure accessibility to the World Wide Web. This group has made great strides in achieving a consensus, and its work has been largely responsible for developing the infrastructure, which has incorporated concepts to encourage full access in its basic design.
When we discuss the economics of access, we dare not overlook the broader commercial applications for the products created to meet special needs. Well known are the spin-offs from our exploration of space which have resulted in diverse products from those as technologically simple as the Corning Ware used in our ovens to the relatively complicated hand-held calculator which helps us balance our checkbooks. Less commonly understood is the role of access technology in advancing the frontiers of consumer products.
In 1976 the first reading machine for the blind was developed, which could look at ink print on a page, scan it into a digital image, recognize its ink shapes as letters, and then verbalize the resulting text in human-like speech. Now scanning devices are readily available to the general public. The recognition of text from a page allows many companies to store paper documents in their electronic data banks, and the text-to-speech pioneered in this first machine is now common in everything from simple children's toys to complicated telephone answering machines.
Let us also not forget that the first efforts to get a computer to understand human speech came as a result of trying to give people who could not use a keyboard access to the world of computing. Now this technology is sufficiently advanced to allow the dictation of this very statement and its accurate transcription.
Sometimes, when I've spoken on behalf of accessibility, the argument that adding textual labels will result in the elimination of visual attractiveness and program responsiveness has been advanced. Technologically there is little merit in this position. A graphic displayed on a screen may take upwards of half a million computer characters to display, while its text description will take less than 100. The text we need is displayed on the screen only when a user focuses on the graphic to which it pertains. It is even possible to have text labels which are never displayed on the screen but which exist in the background and are retrievable only by the screen readers we use.
Mr. Chairman, blind people are caught in a catch-22 when arguing for accessibility. When we go to a company that is trying to develop a new product, as we did when Microsoft started marketing the Windows operating system, we are told that we need to wait and see whether the product will be accepted by the public. We're assured that blind people are valued customers and that our needs will be addressed as soon as the technology demonstrates its viability. Then, after the product is selling like hot cakes and we're losing access to jobs and information, we're told that it is difficult and time-consuming to modify the existing product. It may not be the next release or the one after that, but be assured that eventually our needs will be considered.
My own experience as a programmer testifies to the fact that it is often easier to write a program from scratch than it is to go into someone else's program, figure out what he was trying to accomplish, and then determine what I can do to make the requested changes. The place for considering usability by people who will not use the computer under the traditional mouse/screen paradigm is here at the beginning. This is where it is least expensive and most likely to be truly integrated into the product.
What we are discussing when we talk about access is not whether it is technologically possible but whether we plan to use this technological revolution to include people who have all too often been excluded. Let me give you an example of the technology which gives me difficulty as I try to earn my living and advance to ever greater responsibility.
Microsoft Project is a program that lets people manage the work tasks they've been assigned. Each project has a due date, and, if it is large, as many projects are, it will have subtasks which themselves have intermediate due dates. When a manager looks at his projects, he is presented with a screen showing those projects which are most critical in bright red and those of less criticality in lighter shades. It is intuitively obvious as he looks at the screen which projects need his immediate attention and which will wait. The calculations done by this program are simple and straightforward: check today's date against the due date of each project, and assign a color for display based on the difference between the two.
No matter how obvious the technique, that number is still inaccessible to me. If someone had thought about the nonvisual user when designing this system, it would have been easy to put out a list in order of due dates. A list with the most critical project first and the least critical last would have given me exactly the same information gained by my sighted colleagues, but a mechanism for making that program produce a simple list was not a part of its design.
I could give you many other examples of software which has been similarly inaccessible, but the important point is that the information which was needed was displayed with only one audience in mind--the visual user--although there is nothing inherently visual about two dates and the number of days which separate them. In fact, much more effort went into figuring out how to display those projects in a visually attractive color scheme than went into determining their order.
I said at the beginning of this testimony that I knew the blessing of access and the curse of inaccessibility. Programs such as the one I have described resulted in my taking a demotion from Project Manager to Senior Programmer. No one had problems with my job performance as long as we used systems which were primarily textual, but five years ago the technology I had available could not help me answer the question of how I would supervise the development, testing, and implementation of new computer systems using the tools which my organization had committed itself to purchase.
I've never seen any figures to indicate that the cost of accessibility is economically impractical, and I submit that the issue may have more to do with ideological objections to government involvement than the real cost of implementing accessible systems. Mr. Chairman, our society and its disabled people have entered into a contract in which society says to the disabled, we will give you training and we will provide opportunity if, in return, you will do what you can to join with us in work, in community, and in taking responsibility for pulling your own weight.
As blind people we have interpreted this contract to mean that we must be as self-reliant as we can, asking from society only those things we really need in order to compete. If it were possible for the makers of screen-reading programs accurately to read any Web page a designer could concoct or if I could figure out a way to deal with such pages through memorization or other mental gymnastics which we who are blind are called upon to employ, then I wouldn't be here today to ask for the help of the Congress and the business community in focusing on the special needs of blind consumers.
There are many examples of companies and small businesses which have enthusiastically joined with us to make their E-businesses friendly for blind users, but the importance of government's leading by example and the law's expressing the clear expectation that all segments of our society have access dare not be overlooked.
A decision to lessen the expectation that E-business be accessible is ominous for the blind, for we know that the Internet is not just a window on the world, but more and more it is the world. It is where people talk, where people shop, and where people increasingly make their living. Lowering the bar for access won't simply mean fewer shopping sites for people with little or no vision.
Since the Internet is only an extension of our personal computers, lessened access will mean fewer programs we can use and fewer employment opportunities for us. The line between the Internet and business is almost nonexistent. In my job electronic mail conducted via the Internet is the standard way we communicate. Our meeting calendars are maintained electronically and shared using this same technology. Even the list I use to telephone my colleague in a neighboring building is maintained on a mailing list, accessible only by using the tools of the Internet.
I urge this Subcommittee to affirm the importance of access to this new world we're entering and to differentiate between the real-world needs of blind people and the hypothetical and yet unproved burden placed on small businesses being required to ensure access. The effort required of the business community is minuscule when compared with the benefits to blind and disabled people and to the society in which we live. The cost of isolating the blind, the disabled, and the senior citizens of our nation is far too high, and the benefits to all of us will be immense if only we stay the course.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Patty Droppers]
by Patty Droppers
From the Editor: Patty Droppers is a rehabilitation teacher who has passed the NLS Braille Competency Test. She is an excellent Braille instructor and an active member of the Potomac Chapter of the NFB of Virginia. The following little story first appeared in the Fall, 1999, issue of the Vigilant, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia.
It was the end of the work day. I was running late, and of course I had a time crunch. As I was about to leave the office, a colleague informed me that it was pouring--the kind of rain that immediately soaks you right through to your skin. I waited several minutes before trying to leave. When I stepped out of the building, I thought it had stopped raining enough for me to get to the corner and try out a new free bus service to the Metro subway station. Normally I would have undertaken the ten-minute walk, but this particular day part of my job was to carry some items home for folks to purchase. Like magic, the rain started coming down harder again. As the skies opened up, there was a very powerful clap of thunder, the kind you want to run indoors from. Neither my guide dog nor I was happy.
A woman pulled up and offered us a ride. I told her I was on my way to the Metro, and she said she'd be willing to take us. I reminded her that both my dog and I were soaked. She said that was all right. I decided that it would be safe to ride with her, and I didn't want my precious items to become any more water-logged than they already were.
What was so wonderful about the ride was that she was not over-solicitous. She dropped us off at the Metro and continued on her way.
The story didn't end there. Once I got on the train and settled in, I pulled out the Braille Monitor to read. I was so engrossed in the reading that I didn't get the magazine put away before reaching my train transfer point. Hence, before walking to the transfer train, I needed to move out of the way and reorganize all my bulky items. At this point a woman asked if she could carry something for me. When we established that we were headed in the same direction, I gave her one item to carry, picked up my remaining items, walked down the train platform, and proceeded to the transfer platform. Again my companion just walked along somewhere nearby with no grabbing, no statements about how amazing it was that a blind person could travel alone, and no nervous chatter.
When we reached the transfer point, she informed me of the color of the train, and we both boarded. We talked about the weather. She was dry because the storm didn't reach her before she boarded the train, and I was still very wet. She got off the train before I did with no indication that she thought I needed further assistance. That was it.
It's too bad that such ordinary travel merits a story. However, I was very pleased that these two women offered help in an appropriate manner and that they continued to treat me as an adult throughout our entire interaction. And for all of that, I have my fellow Federationists to thank, as we all continue traveling together, changing what it means to be blind, sometimes one soggy step at a time.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Hazel Staley]
But the Others Majored in Music
by Hazel Staley
From the Editor: The following story first appeared in Remember to Feed the Kittens, the sixteenth Kernel Book. It begins with Dr. Maurer's introduction:
Hazel Staley served for many years as President of the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina and at age eighty-two continues to be one of its principal leaders. Here she reflects on what it was like for a blind girl entering college in 1936. Hazel wanted to be a teacher, but in those days that was not to be. Hazel has worked for more than three decades helping to change what it means to be blind for those who are to come after her. This is what the National Federation of the Blind is all about. Here is what she has to say:
I lost my sight when I was two years old as a result of meningitis. I was number five in a line of six children brought up on a farm in Union County, North Carolina.
My parents sent me to the state school for the blind in Raleigh, some 200 miles away. It was not easy for them to send me so far away, but they knew I would need an education, and that was the only place I could get one.
I finished high school with a fine record. I applied to and was accepted by Flora McDonald College. On registration day I took my place in line with the other freshmen. When it was my turn, I stepped up to the registrar's desk and gave her the preliminary information that she needed. Then she asked what degree I would be working toward. I said, "An A.B. degree."
She said, "Oh, Honey, I don't think you can do that. You see, it requires several hours of science lab, and you can't do that."
I said, "How do you know I can't? I haven't even had a chance to try."
She said, "We have had four other blind girls here, and they all majored in music. Why don't you do that?"
I said that I had had a lot of music in elementary and high school, but that was just not what I wanted to do.
At this point the girl in line behind me stepped up and said, "Excuse me. We always work with partners in lab, and I'll be glad to be her partner. I don't think there will be a problem."
The registrar then said reluctantly, "Well--ah--I'll go ahead and put you down and--we'll see."
I hung around until the girl who had been behind me finished registering and walked out with her.
I said, "I appreciate what you did for me, but I can't help wondering why you did it, since you have never seen me before and don't know me."
She laughed and said, "I just liked the way you stood up for what you wanted, and I really don't see any problem. I believe that, when a person spends money to come to college, she ought to study what she wants and not what some stranger thinks she ought to do. That just doesn't make sense. You obviously have dealt with situations before and know what you can do."
The next morning someone knocked at my door and said that the dean wanted to see me in her office. I thought, "Oh, my! They're going to kick me out for being sassy. What will I tell Mama?"
When I walked into the dean's office, she said, "We had a faculty meeting, and we have decided to put you on probation for the first quarter. If you do all right, you can go ahead with your A.B. degree."
I thought, "Probation indeed!" The only probation I knew about was what the court put bootleggers on down in Union County, where I was raised. My first impulse was to tell her that she could take her probation, her lab, her degrees, and the whole blankety-blank school and shove 'em. However, I realized that there was a lesson here that needed to be taught and that I was the person at the time and place to teach it. So aloud I said, "Thank you. I'll accept that."
Now I'm about as unscientific as anyone you're likely to meet, but my other subjects came easy. So I zeroed in on science. My friend was right. There wasn't a problem. At the end of the quarter I made the science honor roll and the dean's list. Four years later I received my A.B. degree.
I entered college in 1936, four years before the National Federation of the Blind was even organized, and it was more than thirty years later before I learned of its existence. But I knew instinctively that the registrar had no right to tell me what I could or couldn't do.
I had wanted desperately to teach high school English and French. I learned that in 1940 a blind teacher in a public high school from North Carolina was out of the question; so I turned to social work. I liked social work and was a good worker, but I gave it up in 1947 when I married. My husband was in military service, and I wanted to be free to go where he was.
In 1969 Federation leaders came to Charlotte to talk with us about organizing a chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. I was excited and delighted to learn that there were others who believed as I did. I knew that I had to be a part of this group. I became active in our local chapter immediately and went on to serve as state president.
At age eighty-two I'm still doing all that I can with the organization and will continue to do so as long as I live. I believe that the NFB is the greatest thing that has ever happened to blind people, and I'm proud to be a part of it. I want its work to continue for future generations of blind people.
To do what I can to make this happen, I have designated in my will a good portion of my estate to go to the Federation. My one regret is that they were not teaching mobility in North Carolina when I was growing up. This has been a real handicap to me. After I learned about the Federation, I fought a real battle with our state agency for the blind to get mobility instructors in the state.
We still don't have enough instructors, but the agency's philosophy has changed for the better. I am thankful that in my own small way I have had the privilege of being a part of the National Federation of the Blind.
Have you considered leaving a gift to the National Federation of the Blind in your will? By preparing a will now, you can assure that those administering your estate will avoid unnecessary delays, legal complications, and substantial tax costs. A will is a common device used to leave a substantial gift to charity. A gift in your will to the NFB can be of any size and will be used to help blind people. Here are some useful hints in preparing your will:
* Make a list of everything you want to leave (your estate).
* Decide how and to whom you want to leave these assets.
* Consult an attorney (one you know or one we can help you find).
* Make certain you thoroughly understand your will before you sign it.
For more information contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
An Exciting Opportunity for Job Seekers
by Jennifer Stevens
The National Federation of the Blind's Job Opportunities for the Blind Program, in collaboration with the Colorado Center for the Blind, is hosting Job Fair 2000 at the National Convention in Atlanta. The fair will take place from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, July 6, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel.
We are constantly developing relationships with nationwide employers committed to providing employment opportunities to blind people. We expect that over twenty employers will attend Job Fair 2000. This will give job seekers a chance to meet recruiters, distribute their resumes widely, and interview for open positions.
Those interested in Job Fair 2000 must submit a resume and cover letter outlining their skills and qualifications to the Colorado Center for the Blind, 1830 South Acoma, Denver, Colorado 80223. If you are interested in attending Job Fair 2000, please send this information immediately since we will be forwarding it to all companies attending the fair. Space is limited, and we must match the skills, knowledge, and abilities of applicants with employer needs. Those who match the skill requirements will be notified by telephone. While we cannot guarantee to have companies to match all applicants' needs, we will do our best to have a wide range of industries represented.
If you are a professional working with job seekers and want to attend Job Fair 2000, please RSVP to Jennifer Stevens as indicated below.
We are proud to work with one of the leaders in technology as a corporate sponsor. IBM is actively recruiting high-tech professionals in the areas of systems administration, networking, support integration, customer support, database administration, and deskside support. All positions require a bachelor's degree and various high-tech experience. If you are interested in a job with IBM, please submit your resume immediately to Jennifer Stevens for possible consideration before the job fair. This is one of many new job opportunities available through the JOB program.
If you have any questions about Job Fair 2000 or related employment opportunities, please contact Jennifer Stevens, Director of Career Services, (800) 401-4632, e-mail <[email protected], or Web page <www.ccb-denver.org>.
2000 Convention Attractions
From the Editor: Every year's National Convention is an absolutely unique event. The agenda items, the exhibits, the new friends and business acquaintances: all these give each convention its own character and significance. Some activities lend a luster to the convention in part because they do take place every year and provide helpful fixed points in the whirl of events. In this category are the meetings of the Resolutions Committee and the Board of Directors, the annual banquet, and the many seminars and workshops of the various divisions and committees. Here is a partial list of activities being planned by a number of Federation groups during the 2000 Convention, July 2 through 8. Presidents of divisions, committee chairpeople, and event presenters have provided the information. The pre-convention agenda will list the locations of all events taking place before convention registration on Monday, July 3. The convention agenda will contain listings of all events taking place beginning that day.
The Agricultural and Equestrian Interest Group
by Fred Chambers
Do you like animals? Do you enjoy eating foods fresh from the garden? Ever wondered about running a ranch of your own? Then you're welcome to join the Agriculture and Equestrian Interest Group! Come share your stories with us at our meeting on the evening of Tuesday, July 4. Get advice from the pros, and get the inside scoop on government programs helping the blind start careers in agriculture.
Simply contact us in any format: e-mail, <[email protected]>, telephone (760) 505‑8500, mail to Agricultural & Equestrian Interest Group, 3510 Bedford Circle, Carlsbad, California 92008.
Contact us right away. We can help match you with compatible roommates, and invite you to join any Atlanta farm tours!
The Blind Merchants Association
by Donald Morris
Once again the Blind Merchants Association will have a $1,000 raffle to be drawn at the banquet. One-dollar tickets can be purchased from any member of the Blind Merchants Association or at the Merchants booth in the exhibit hall, where we will be passing out free soft drinks, selling snack packs, and providing corsages and boutonnieres for the banquet at a truly modest cost. The snack packs contain an assortment of munchies--candy, chips, and snacks: a nearly $20 value for $5.
Finally, our annual business meeting will occur from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 4. Sheldon Berman, CPA, a Partner in Rosen, Sapperstein & Friedlander, Chartered (management consultants and certified public accountants), will speak to us about tax strategies and estate planning. I look forward to seeing you all in Atlanta--come early, stay late.
Blind Professional Journalists
by Liz Campbell and Bryan Bashin
The Blind Professional Journalists group is planning an exciting, informative meeting at convention that you don't want to miss. Our meeting will take place Tuesday, July 4, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Consult your convention agenda for our meeting
If you are a student interested in pursuing a career in either print or broadcast journalism or if you want to make a career change, this meeting is an excellent opportunity to meet blind people who are working journalists. We will have interesting speakers and discussion topics, so please come and learn.
Make sure to check upcoming issues of the Braille Monitor for announcements concerning other journalism‑related activities during Convention. We have some exciting possibilities, including a tour of CNN and a dinner for those involved in the Blind Professional Journalists group.
If you have additional questions, please feel free to call Elizabeth Campbell evenings at (817) 738‑0350 or Bryan Bashin at (916) 441‑4096.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: One edge of a table cloth has been folded back onto the top of the table so that children can play in the resulting space. CAPTION: Four NFB campers play in the table tent they have constructed in the NFB Camp room.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Catherine Jacobson works on a puzzle in NFB Camp while new friends help and look on.]
NFB Camp: It's More than Child's Play
by Carla McQuillan
During convention week children between the ages of six weeks and twelve years are invited to join in the fun and festivities of NFB Camp. It offers more than just child care. It is an opportunity for our blind and sighted children to meet and develop lifelong friendships. Our activities schedule is filled with games, crafts, and special performances designed to entertain, educate, and delight. If you are interested in this year's program, please complete and return the registration form below. Registration by June 15 is required for participation in NFB Camp.
About the staff: NFB Camp is organized and supervised by Carla McQuillan. Carla is the Executive Director of Main Street Montessori Association, operating two schools, parent education courses, and a teacher training program. Carla is the mother of two children, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, and a Member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind. Michelle Ros is this year's activities director for NFB Camp. Michelle is a Montessori teacher employed by Main Street Montessori Association. Carla and Michelle will supervise a staff of experienced teachers recruited from Head Start, Catholic Schools, and Montessori programs in the Atlanta area.
Activities and Special Events: The children are divided into groups according to age: infants and toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children. Each camp room is equipped with a variety of age-appropriate toys, games, and books. In addition, there will be daily art projects prepared by Corrine Vieville, an NFB member and former scholarship winner. We will sing, dance, and play instruments with blind singer/songwriter Daniel Lamonds. The Atlanta Center for Puppetry Arts is providing the Puppet Trunk, a trunkload of puppets and props for the children's own shows. The National Association of Guide Dog Users will be making a presentation, blind teens will come in to read stories in Braille, and the children will make excursions to the mall for ice cream and snacks.
Banquet Night: NFB Camp will provide dinner and a show during the banquet. The Center for Puppetry Arts is sending over a troupe of puppeteers to perform "Folk Tales from Around the World." The pizza party begins at 7:00 p.m. and the puppet show at 7:30 p.m. The cost for the banquet activities is included in the weekly fee for camp, or $15 per child for those attending part time. Camp is for children twelve and under.
NFB Camp will be open during general convention sessions, division and committee meeting day, and banquet evening. Plenty of teens are always available to babysit during evening and lunch-time meetings. The schedule this year will be as follows:
Sunday, July 2, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (you are responsible for lunch)
Monday, July 3, Camp is closed
Tuesday, July 4, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (you are responsible for lunch)
Wednesday, July 5, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 6, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Friday, July 7, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.; and banquet
Saturday, July 8, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.
These times may vary, depending on the timing of the actual convention sessions. NFB Camp will open thirty minutes before the beginning gavel and close thirty minutes after session recess.
Fees: for the entire week (including banquet), first child, $80, second child, $60. By the day (does not include banquet), each child, $20, banquet, $15.
NFB Camp Pre-registration Form
Return no later than June 15, 2000
Please print or type:
City, State, Zip ________________________________________________
Include description of any disabilities we should know about.
Include description of any disabilities we should know about.
Include description of any disabilities we should know about.
Include description of any disabilities we should know about.
$80 first child, $60 siblings (includes banquet) $_________
$20 per child per day, # of days _____ $_________
Banquet Fee: $15 per child $_________
Total Due $_________
Completed pre-registration form and fee must be received by June 15, 2000.
Make checks payable to NFB of Oregon and mail to National Federation of the Blind of Oregon, 5005 Main Street, Springfield, Oregon 97478, (541) 726-6924.
The Committee on Associates
by Tom Stevens
The Associates Committee will meet on the evening of July 4 as listed in the convention agenda. We will give attention to the results of the 2000 contest year. This program has existed since 1979. I heard the first proposal at the National Board meeting in a room at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in Des Moines that year. I was an observer. Everyone in the room pledged to get a few associates. My pledge was two, and I met it. I climbed progressively, learning from my associates that they were curious, impressed, and often quite glad to be invited to participate. I also learned that they had a far more positive perspective as a result of becoming members-at-large.
Each of us has the opportunity to influence those around us regarding their perception of blindness. I submit that it is our obligation to do so. If we do not, then we simply encourage the existing misconceptions to continue. In fact, we have absolutely no reason to complain. Keep in mind that prevention is a wonderfully economical tool.
Numerous folks tell me that they forget about recruiting associates. But do we forget to stop at a stop light? So, let's come to the committee meeting armed with the knowledge that we've done our share--no, lots more. And to those who do, I for one express appreciation. By the way, be sure to get your associates ribbon early.
by Jerry Whittle
We invite all state affiliate newsletter editors and other interested people to attend this informative meeting. Brainstorming new ideas, laying out your newsletter, using the best font possible, and writing with good grammar and punctuation are just some of the topics we will discuss Tuesday evening, July 4, at 8:00 p.m. If you have an interest in preparing good publications for the organization, don't miss it.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jaime Fradera and Doug Trimbel talk using a Tel-a-touch machine.]
by Joseph Naulty
Two Deaf-Blind Division meetings will take place at convention this year, and each will be three hours in length. The first will be on Sunday, July 2, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. The second will be on Wednesday, July 5, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Registration will begin at 6:30.
Here is what you can expect to find.
* Susan Brooks Lascek, regional representative of the Helen Keller National Center
* Keynote speaker: Sandra L.H. Davenport, M.D., medical geneticist, specializing in deaf-blindness, Minneapolis, Minnesota
* Elaine Ducharme, consumer facilitator, Northwestern Connecticut Community Technical College, Winstead, Connecticut
* Annual general business meeting
Since this is an even‑numbered year, elections will be held for the entire board.
* Several panel discussions, including perspectives on deaf‑blindness from three members of the NFB Board of Directors and higher education and the deaf‑blind
* Presentation on medical information in alternative formats.
Again this year we are pleased to offer FM systems (receivers only) to those who may need them during general sessions and the annual banquet; however, we would like to announce some changes from last year's procedures. This year we will ask everyone to provide the following information as well as a $25 deposit, which will be returned to you upon return of the FM unit in good working condition, at or before the conclusion of the final convention general session.
When you pick up your FM system, we will be asking you for (1) name of hotel in which you are staying and room number; (2) your state, name, postal mailing address, and home phone number; (3) cash or certified check in the amount of $25. Certified checks must be made payable to the National Federation of the Blind, Deaf‑Blind Division. Time and place of equipment checkout and return will be announced.
If you currently have your own equipment, please make sure your unit can be set to channel 36 because this is the broadcast frequency we will be using during general sessions and the banquet. If you have listening equipment but it is not currently able to receive channel 36, please contact Kimberly Johnson, Treasurer of the division, at (303) 765‑1307 or (800) 401‑0632. She will be able to provide you with information about possible funding sources for the needed crystal.
Questions or suggestions regarding the deaf-blind convention program should be directed to Joseph Naulty, President, Deaf-Blind Division, 11943 Suellen Circle, Wellington, Florida 33414, (561) 753-4700, or e-mail: <[email protected]>.
As we prepare for the 2000 National Convention, it is also time to remind everyone that $5 annual dues should be mailed to Ms. Kimberly Johnson, Treasurer, Deaf-Blind Division, Colorado Center for the Blind, 1830 South Acoma Street, Denver, Colorado 80223.
For additional information, please see our Web page at<http://www.nfb‑db.org>, or send E‑mail to <[email protected]‑db.org>.
You can also contact Maurice Mines, First Vice President of the division, at <[email protected]‑db.org>.
Diabetes Action Network
by Ed Bryant
At the 2000 convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Atlanta, Georgia, our Diabetes Action Network will conduct its seminar and business meeting on Monday, July 3, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. We will hear a presentation about a new talking device providing information on any prescription medication (insulin included).
Our keynote speaker will be dietitian and diabetes educator Brooks Kent, RD, CDE, who will discuss all phases of the healthy diabetic diet (healthy for non‑diabetics too). We will also hear from blind diabetic Bernadette Jacobs, who will share views of life, diabetes, and a humorous bus ride. An open panel discussion on diabetics in the workplace will also spark your interest.
Once again we will have our Make-the-President-Pay diabetes quiz game, and President Ed Bryant says he will give a nice donation to the Division for each right answer. Our seminar is free and open to the public. Its location will be posted in the agenda (provided when you register).
Human Services Division
by Doug Elliott
The Human Services Division will meet Tuesday afternoon, July 4. Many interesting discussions have occurred on the Human Services listserv this year. A number of questions have related to rehabilitation and to resources and information about psychotropic and other drugs commonly used by practitioners in the human services field. Some states are now licensing social workers and psychologists to prescribe these drugs.
As a result of these discussions, we will have a keynote speaker named Anthony Cobb, who worked in Iowa as a rehabilitation specialist under Dr. Jernigan and currently works at the National Center for the Blind as the director of Job Opportunities for the Blind. He helps blind people find jobs and at the same time works with staff at agencies serving the blind so that they do not feel their territory is being invaded. Tony will be an exciting and dynamic keynote speaker. Be there at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, July 4, to hear the beginning of Tony's presentation.
Dr. Mark Stracks, a former NFB scholarship winner and tenBroek Fellow, will be presenting on new medications in the field of psychiatry. He is currently interning as a psychiatrist in Salt Lake City, Utah. We will have plenty of time for questions to Dr. Stracks and plenty of time for him to answer.
Sharon Omvig is a long‑time member of the National Federation of the Blind and worked for Dr. Jernigan when he was director of the Commission for the Blind in Iowa. She will be talking about how a person who has not lost his or her sight can still use the NFB message to enlighten himself or herself and also others who are blind. Many agency workers are sighted but do not know how to treat their blind clients as equals.
We will have many more guest speakers. Our meeting will be packed with information and good attitudes about blindness from the very first minute to the very last one. Don't miss any of them! Note: Please register so the division has your name and address; however, please note that no registration fees will be charged this year.
by Richard Ring
Are you one of those people who have thought about getting online but didn't know quite how to do it? Are your friends sending and receiving e-mail, surfing the Web, shopping online, and listening to Real Audio while you stand on the sidelines wishing that you knew how to put all of this stuff together? Do you want to learn more about shopping on the Internet at such well-known sites as amazon.com? If you answered any of these questions with a resounding "Yes!" then you will want to come to the Internet Seminar which will be held during the 2000 National Federation of the Blind convention in Atlanta.
Curtis Chong, Director of Technology for the National Federation of the Blind, and Richard Ring, Supervisor of the Federation's International Braille and Technology Center, both nationally- and internationally-recognized experts on technology for the blind, will talk about the Internet: how to get online, what to look for when selecting an Internet Service Provider (ISP), what works well with screen access technology on the Internet and what doesn't. In addition, the subject of online shopping will be discussed at length by Rick Fox, a technology consultant who has trained many people to shop on the Internet.
The date of the seminar is Sunday, July 2. The time is 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The room location will be listed in your pre‑convention agenda.
This is an excellent opportunity for those of you who want to learn more about how a blind person can go online or how a blind person can benefit from the Internet. It should be emphasized that the seminar will cover a lot of very basic topics. This is not a seminar for skilled Internet surfers who have all the answers and only want an opportunity to swap information with fellow Internet surfers. Rather, it is intended for those who have not yet jumped into the fast-paced world of the Internet but who would if only they could be shown how.
The specific information that blind people want and need to get online is often hard to find. We promise that you will find it at the Internet Seminar on Sunday, July 2.
The Louisiana Center Play
The Eloquence of Courage
by Jerry Whittle
The Louisiana Center for the Blind Players present a play about Louis Braille and his lifelong struggle with tuberculosis. Louis must overcome many obstacles in order to keep his Braille code alive. Admission $5. All proceeds from this play go to the summer training program for blind children at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Tuesday evening, July 4, is the date; consult the convention agenda for curtain times.
Come experience the hospitality of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Following the play's final performance at nine o'clock, everyone is invited to celebrate with LCB students and staff members. Aside from the festivities, we will be on hand to answer any questions about the training we offer at our Center in Ruston, Louisiana. We hope to see you there.
The Masonic Square Club
by Harold Snider
The Square Club is a group of men and women within the NFB who are involved in Freemasonry. They may be members of any Masonic organization. For the past several years Square Club members have met for breakfast at National Conventions. This year's breakfast will take place at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, July 5, in a private meeting room at the Marriott Marquis Hotel. The exact location will be announced in the convention agenda. The cost of the breakfast is $25 per person. Payment will be collected at the breakfast. Reservations are required in order to attend this event.
Reservations must be made by June 30 in order to participate. There are no exceptions to this requirement. Contact Harold Snider at (301) 460‑4142, 3224 Beret Lane, Silver Spring, Maryland 20906, e‑mail <[email protected]> to make your reservation. Cancellations must also be received by June 30.
by Scott LaBarre
The National Association of Blind Lawyers will sponsor the third Annual Mock Trial at the 2000 Convention. This trial will reenact an old Federation case. Federation lawyers will be pitted against each other arguing the merits of the two positions. We will revisit the Louisiana Dance Hall Case from the late 1980’'s in which four Federationists were arrested because they insisted upon using their canes and travelling on their own inside a local dance hall. This case was never tried to a jury because the criminal charges were dropped, but the mock trial will assume that the case eventually went the whole route. See your favorite Federation lawyers strut their legal stuff.
You, the audience, will serve as the Jury. This year's trial promises to be as entertaining and thought-provoking as the past trials. A nominal charge of $5 per person will benefit the National Association of Blind Lawyers. The trial will take place on Monday afternoon, July 3, at 4:30 p.m. somewhere in the convention hotel. Consult the convention agenda for the exact place.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jennifer White sings a song at the Showcase of Talent.]
by Linda Mentink
The Music Division will again conduct its Showcase of Talent at this year's convention. It will take place on Wednesday evening, July 5. If you would like to participate in the Showcase, here are the guidelines: 1) Sign up no later than noon, Wednesday, July 5. 2) Perform only one number, taking no more than four minutes to perform. 3) If you are using a taped accompaniment, be sure that the tape is cued up properly. Do not sing along with a vocal artist; you will be stopped immediately. 4) If you need live accompaniment, make your arrangements before the Showcase begins.
Children who plan to participate will be invited to perform first. The Showcase will be limited to two hours, about twenty-four performers. Come help us enjoy music.
The Music Division's annual meeting will take place Monday evening, July 3. We are still working on agenda details, but you won't want to miss the meeting. This is an election year, so come and make your presence felt. If you are serious about music, we hope to see you at Music Division events in Atlanta. Remember that division dues are $5 and may be paid any time before the meeting. Treasurer Ben Snow's address is 358 Orange Street, Apartment 409, New Haven, Connecticut 06511.
National Association of the Blind
in Communities of Faith
by Robert Parrish
Believe it or not, it is time to plan for another convention. The National Association of the Blind in Communities of Faith (NABICF) is excited to be a part of it. As in recent years, the division will host a seminar for those who struggle with issues concerning religion and the blind. Several insightful speakers will be a part of our seminar, including Linda Mentink, President of the Music Division.
Division building will once again be emphasized at our seminar. If this division is to develop, and I firmly believe that it will, we must bring together a core group of people in each state to discuss problems that the blind have in church and synagogues and to communicate with various leaders about them. It could be that you are one such leader.
The theme of the NABICF seminar for this year is leading the way into the twenty-first century. I hope to see you at the seminar. Please check the convention agenda for time and location.
I am very excited about a new thing that NABICF will be doing at this year's convention. The division will be conducting a survey. Like many of you, I have personal thoughts about how blind people are portrayed in the religious world. Also like many of you, I have wondered if religion has sometimes harmed us more than helped us. Doing our own survey will help put such questions into perspective as well as confirm many of our instincts. The results of the survey will be compiled and sent to various religious leaders around the country. We hope that this survey will serve as a tool to educate those in the religious world about who we really are and to guide them about how to include more of us in that world. I encourage you to stop by the NABICF table in the exhibit hall during the convention and fill out a survey. You do not have to be a part of a church or religious community to fill out the survey.
Also, as in past years, we will conduct a raffle to raise money for the division. I hope that you will participate. The amount of the prize will be announced at convention.
National Organization of Blind Educators
by Mary Willows
The National Organization of Blind Educators will meet on Tuesday, July 4, at 1:00 p.m. Speakers will include leaders in the field of education who are blind. We will share tips on techniques for running a smoothly operating classroom. The philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind is an integral part of success for every new and veteran teacher. If you have any questions about teaching, please plan to attend our meeting this year in Atlanta.
The National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs
by Connie Leblond
The National Association of Blind Entrepreneurs (NABE) will hold its annual division meeting on Tuesday, July 4, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Atlanta will be a great place to meet and discuss strategies for successful business-building. We will set goals and review the past year, noting our accomplishments.
Those looking to network with others who have successful businesses should plan to attend. Those thinking about starting their own businesses will have an opportunity to ask pertinent questions and formulate plans for their next steps.
Our greatest assets are one another. This division was established to assist blind people in their endeavors to be self‑employed. Your participation will ensure that this will occur. See you all in Atlanta.
National Association of Blind Lawyers
by Scott LaBarre
As the hot and humid days of our Atlanta Convention draw near, activity in the National Association of Blind Lawyers is beginning to heat up. First, I would like to invite all of you to join us in Atlanta to take part in the largest meeting of blind lawyers and legal professionals held anywhere in the country. The National Association of Blind Lawyers will meet Tuesday, July 4, 2000, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Marriott Marquis in downtown Atlanta as part of the sixtieth annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
We will discuss many exciting topics on that afternoon. Speaking from their expertise, lawyers will give an update on the current status of laws affecting the blind. We will hear reports on various advocacy matters in which the Federation has been involved throughout the last year. We expect that officials from the American Bar Association, Georgia Bar Association, and Atlanta Bar Association will address the group about what's new and exciting in the organized bar of the nation and of Georgia. Experienced practitioners will offer strategies on how best to conduct various types of cases.
We will share strategies and techniques about how to secure the best possible job in the legal field. We expect to hear from on-line legal research company representatives about the latest developments in on-line research and how the blind can access this important research tool. We will have a discussion about the Constitutional challenges being brought by states against the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, IDEA, and other similar federal laws. This and much, much more will take place at our annual meeting in Atlanta.
As NABL President I am also pleased to announce that we will be hosting our third annual reception after the NABL meeting for blind lawyers, law students, and legal professionals. This reception will give us the opportunity to get to know each other and share ideas. Blind law students will be able to learn how their predecessors did it. Practicing professionals will learn new tips from their colleagues.
With our regular meeting, the mock trial, and the reception, the National Association of Blind Lawyers plans to be busy in Atlanta. Make your plans now and join us in Hotlanta.
National Association of Blind Secretaries and Transcribers
by Lisa Hall
The National Association of Blind Secretaries and Transcribers, a Division of the National Federation of the Blind, will hold its annual meeting on Sunday, July 2, 2000, with registration beginning at 6:30 p.m. and meeting beginning at 7:00 p.m. Please consult your pre-convention agenda for location. At this writing, plans are being made to invite several speakers to talk about topics of interest to blind people in various office jobs such as customer service training, medical transcription training, problems members may be having on their jobs, etc.
This year is an election year, so please think about people who would be good leaders of this organization. The current officers are Lisa Hall, President, Texas; Janet Triplett, Vice President, Oklahoma; Mary Donahue, Secretary, Texas; and Carol Clark, Treasurer, Kansas. Anyone wanting more information may contact Lisa Hall at 9110 Broadway, Apt. J102, San Antonio, Texas 78217, phone (210) 829‑4571, e-mail <[email protected]>.
I also want to announce that for several months now we have had an Internet listserv. I would like to see more traffic on this list.
The list name is <nabstalk>, and the digest name is <nabst‑d.>. To subscribe to the list, write to <[email protected]> and in the body of the message write the following: subscribe nabstalk, or subscribe nabst‑d. I am serving as moderator on this list, and David Andrews is the list owner. See you in Atlanta or on the Internet.
The National Association of Blind Piano Tuners
by Don Mitchell
The National Association of Blind Piano Tuners will gather for its annual meeting at the National Convention on Tuesday, July 4, at 7:00 p.m. Please see your convention agenda for room location. For more information, contact Don Mitchell, President, e‑mail <[email protected]> or phone (360) 696‑1985.
National Association to Promote the Use of Braille
by Nadine Jacobson
During this year's National Convention the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) will meet on Tuesday, July 4, at 7:30 p.m. A portion of our meeting will be devoted to celebrating the life of Betty Niceley by sharing our memories of her and all of the contributions she has made to the advancement of Braille in this country. In addition to the report about the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest, we will hear from several Braille producers.
Betty Niceley was an inspiration to all of us. We plan to continue the wonderful work she started. Please make plans to join us for our annual NAPUB meeting. We look forward to sharing ideas and seeing you there.
[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Seven people sit at a round table with cards and chips visible on it. CAPTION: Federationists enjoy themselves at the NABS-sponsored Monte Carlo Night.]
National Association of Blind Students
by Shawn Mayo
Students on the National Association of Blind Students listserv have already been talking about and preparing to attend the National Convention. This year's seminar will address issues that blind students currently face and present speakers that lead to thought-provoking discussions. Come see what the talk is all about at the NABS seminar on Monday, July 3, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. Registration will open at 6:00 p.m., and the fee is $5.
What do ice cream and Dr. Maurer have in common? Buy a raffle ticket and find out. Dr. Maurer has set aside a specified time on the evening of Thursday, July 6, to converse and eat ice cream with the winners from this NABS-sponsored raffle.
Those who are not eating ice cream with Dr. Maurer should join the National Association of Blind Students from 8:00 p.m. to midnight to face the sharks--card sharks, that is. Card games of all types will be played, and good fun will be had by all. A generous donation has raised the ante to $350 for first prize with cash prizes also going to the second and third place winners.
Students attending the convention for the first time as well as blind teenagers will have the opportunity to be matched with a NABS mentor. NABS is working in conjunction with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children to establish a mentoring program. Mentoring can take place during the convention or continue throughout the year. So if you would like to ask questions of and spend time with a competent blind student who has a positive attitude about blindness, come sign up at our booth at the NOPBC Family Event Sunday, July 2, from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. You can also come and have fun with us at the Braille Carnival later that day from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
NFB Amateur Radio Group
by D. Curtis Willoughby
In accord with long‑standing tradition, the first meeting of the 2000 convention will be the Emergency Preparedness Seminar conducted by the NFB Ham Radio Group. The seminar will be held at 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, July 2. We will discuss frequencies to be used during the convention, especially those to be used in the event of an emergency call‑out during the convention. We will also discuss those architectural features of the convention hotels and other information that NFB hams need to know if an emergency response is necessary.
Any Atlanta hams willing to do a little frequency scouting before the convention are asked to contact D. Curtis Willoughby, KA0VBA (303) 424‑7373, <[email protected]>.
The annual business meeting of the NFB Ham Radio Group will be held at noon on Friday, July 7.
National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science
by Curtis Chong
This year's meeting of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science will be held on Tuesday, July 4, from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Marriott Marquis hotel. The specific room location will be found in the Convention agenda.
The meeting will explore issues and questions on the cutting edge of computer technology and nonvisual access to it. We will hear from Microsoft about the latest work it has done in the area of accessibility. Sun Microsystems will unveil some very promising developments in access to applications using Java, a cross-platform language typically used for developing some Internet-based applications; I am assured that Sun will have something concrete to demonstrate how Java can really work for the blind.
Gregg Vanderheiden, Director of the Trace R&D Center at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wisconsin, will present the provocative topic: "Where is Technology Going, and Will Accessibility Go Along With It?" We are also hoping to have a presentation on the Linux operating system and a discussion of how the blind can use Linux to do many of the same things we do with Microsoft Windows.
Over the past few months the NFB in Computer Science has been trying to come up with a workable definition of accessible software--especially, software that is accessible to the blind. A committee, chaired by Steve Jacobson of Minnesota, has put together a straw document on the subject, and we want to air the issue of nonvisual access at the meeting to get the thoughts and opinions of everyone present. Those who have ideas about how we should approach the issue of accessible software are more than welcome to participate in the discussion.
The year, 2000 being an even-numbered one, the NFB in Computer Science will hold an election of its officers and Board members. Our current officers and Board members are President, Curtis Chong (Maryland); Vice President, Steve Jacobson (Minnesota); Secretary, Mike Freeman (Washington State); Treasurer, Susan Stanzel (Kansas); and Board members Lloyd Rasmussen (Maryland), Richard Ring (Maryland), and D. Curtis Willoughby (Colorado).
Membership in the NFB in Computer Science costs $5 per year. For more information about the meeting or to join the division, contact Curtis Chong, President, National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. Phone: 410-659-9314. E-mail: <[email protected]>.
NFB NET Training Seminar
by David Andrews
Each year NFB NET, the official bulletin board system of the National Federation of the Blind, continues to expand and add new services. Last year we added access to our large collection of files via FTP or a standard Web browser such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape, Lynx, and the like. This year is no different. We have added access to our large message base via the World Wide Web. This means that you can use your browser to look at an archive of messages which have been posted to one of our eighteen mailing lists, going back to March of 1999. To learn how to use this Web archive of messages or how to Telnet, FTP, or use your browser to access NFB NET and our mailing lists, attend the 2000 NFB NET training seminar. It will be held on Sunday, July 2, from 9:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. See the pre-convention agenda for location.
National Organization of the Senior Blind
by Christine Hall
At the time of this writing, in February, the officers of the National Organization of the Senior Blind are putting together an exciting and informative program, which we think will inspire all of you to become more involved in reaching out to seniors who are experiencing vision loss. Please come and join us on Monday, July 3, 2000, from 6:30 to 10:00 p.m., meeting room to be announced in the convention agenda. Plan to come early since we will be collecting membership dues of $5 along with names and addresses to be placed on the National Organization of the Senior Blind mailing list so you can receive our division newsletter on cassette and other information as it becomes available. For further information contact Christine Hall at (505) 268‑3895 or Ray McGeorge at (303) 765‑1313.
Science and Engineering Division
by John Miller
Come participate in the Science and Engineering Division activities at National Convention in Atlanta. Once again our division meeting appears in the convention agenda so that we may attend both the NFB in Computer Science Meeting and the Science and Engineering Division meeting without missing a jam-packed minute of either one. Learn what we are doing to increase the accessibility of scientific literature in Braille for literature published on the Web. Also, if you have questions about turning in graphing assignments or writing on the chalk board, this meeting will be one you don't want to miss.
The Science and Engineering Division will be presenting an award this year to recognize a person or organization whose efforts have helped the blind succeed in science. With this new award we are challenging developers to remove barriers for the blind in doing science. Contact President John Miller to reserve a place at the Science and Engineering Networking Breakfast at 7:00 a.m. Wednesday, July 5. His e‑mail is <[email protected]>, phone: (858) 587‑3975, address: 8720 Villa La Jolla Drive 118, La Jolla California 92037.
Social Security Seminar
by James Gashel
An outreach seminar (Social Security and Supplemental Security Income: What Applicants, Advocates, and Recipients Should Know) will take place on Thursday afternoon, July 6. The purpose of this seminar, which will be conducted jointly by the National Federation of the Blind and the Social Security Administration, is to provide information on Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits for the blind. Seminar presenters will be Jim Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, and a representative to be announced from the Social Security Administration.
The Writers Division
by Tom Stevens
In 1999 we heard from author and educator Dr. Steven Sheeley of Rome, Georgia, about writing. No, it was not a dry, but an invigorating presentation. This year we will hear from Dr. Ruthann Weaver of the Department of Communications of the University of Georgia at Athens. Ruthann is the daughter of NFB members Billie and Lawson Weaver of Springfield, Missouri, and is in demand nationwide for her lively and potent presentations.
The Writers Division will hold a workshop on July 2 at 1:30 p.m., featuring Dr. Weaver. We will need to recoup the cost, so be ready with your $5 and come. This presentation will be motivational and uplifting. Educator, mother, public speaker, and accomplished writer, Ruthann has the expertise that will help you expand your horizons. Keep in mind that one does not need to be a writer to benefit. Regardless of your interests, you'll find that this presentation, which will also include a question-and-answer session, will be right up your alley.
The division will meet formally on Tuesday afternoon, July 4. Everyone is invited, and several interesting presentations will be made. See the convention agenda for time and place.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Federation kids enjoy the Braille carnival while Pam Dubel (left), Melody Lindsey (right), and Mary Wurtzel (seated at the table) prepare another activity.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Hastalis helps a young Federationist master escalator travel.]
Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities
NOPBC-Sponsored Convention Activities for Parents and Kids
by Barbara Cheadle
From the Editor: The events planned for parents of blind children and their entire families at our annual conventions have become so numerous that it seemed to make sense to pull them out of the previous article and give them space of their own. Barbara Cheadle is President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. She and her board have planned all these activities. Just read through them and anticipate what fun families attending this year's convention are going to have.
The activities sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) at this year's Convention will be a wonderful mix of the tried and true and the new and creative. Orientation and mobility instructors and some of the most outstanding teachers of the visually impaired will be there, eager to share their knowledge with parents. Unique, however, to this event is the opportunity to interact with thousands of the real experts on blindness--blind people themselves. Here is the line-up of NOPBC events day by day:
* Saturday, July 1: NOPBC Welcome Wagon
Parents who arrive in Atlanta on Saturday, July 1, may get parent-related convention information, tips, and NOPBC seminar and workshop agendas from the NOPBC Welcome Wagon in president Barbara Cheadle's hotel room. Call on the hotel house phone and ask for Barbara Cheadle. (Note: please do not call after 10:00 p.m.)
* Sunday, July 2:
8:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Family Event, registration, continental breakfast
9:30 a.m.-10:00 a.m. Register children and youth for the Braille Carnival. Check pre-registered children into NFB Camp.
9:45 a.m. Children and Carnival Buddies depart for Braille Carnival.
10:00 a.m.-Noon Roles, Rights, and Responsibilities (Parent Seminar session)
10:00 a.m. Braille Carnival begins.
Noon Recess. Pick up children at NFB Camp and Braille Carnival for lunch
1:30-5:00 p.m. Baby-Sitting Course. Carla McQuillan, instructor. Ages twelve and up
1:45-5:30 p.m. NFB Camp
2:00-5:00 p.m. Six Concurrent Parent Workshops
(1) Beginning Braille for Parents (one three-hour session)
The following five workshops will be repeated three times:
2:00-2:45 p.m., 3:00-3:45 p.m., and 4:00-4:45 p.m.
(2) Got a Hammer? Blind Kids Can Take Shop Class
(3) Modeling Social Skills for Blind Kids: Discussion Group
(4) Teaching Self-Advocacy Skills
first session: Young Children
second session: Older Youth
third session: Blind Multiply Handicapped Children
(5) Tactile, Auditory, and Visual Techniques for Low-Vision Children
(6) The Braille Lite in the Classroom
2:00-4:00 p.m. Discussion Groups for Blind Teens Only:
* Guy Stuff. Doug Elliott, Leader. Young men ages twelve - eighteen
* What Your Mother Couldn't Tell You. Young women ages thirteen-eighteen
6:30-9:00 p.m. Family Hospitality
7:30-9:30 p.m. Kids' Scavenger Hunt: All kids ages nine-twelve
7:30-9:30 p.m. Teens' Scavenger Hunt. All teens ages thirteen-eighteen
From 8:00 in the morning to 9:00 at night this day is packed with NOPBC events for parents, children, and youth. This year the day will start on a more relaxed note. From 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. parents and kids are invited to start the day together at our informal Family Event. Here parents can munch on bagels while they visit special information booths on Early Childhood, the Blind Multiply Handicapped Child, the Gifted Blind Child, Homeschooling, Residential Schools for the Blind, Convention Information, and a Blind Mentors and Models booth sponsored by the National Association of Blind Students. Children and teens can enjoy their juice while they talk to Louis Braille, Helen Keller, and other blind historical figures (in full period costumes) who will be our special guests at this event. For the more rambunctious youth, there are rumors that there will be a Bop-It playing corner. Braille Carnival Buddy volunteers will also be on hand to meet the kids and parents.
The registration fee of $25 per couple plus children, $35 for three adult family members plus children, and $15 for one adult plus children, includes the continental breakfast at the Family Event, the Parents Seminar, the Braille Carnival, and all other NOPBC-sponsored workshops throughout the convention week. Although we have streamlined our registration procedure, we strongly recommend that you pre-register for the seminar this year. This will allow you to enjoy a more relaxed, leisurely morning at the Family Event.
From 9:30 to 10:00 a.m. parents will have thirty minutes to check pre-registered children into NFB Camp before returning for the traditional seminar session at 10:00 a.m. Alternatively, parents may remain in the Family Event room and register children ages 4 and up for the Braille Carnival. Under the supervision of Carnival Buddy volunteers, children may go to the Carnival in small groups, pairs, or even one-on-one if age and other factors make this desirable.
Each volunteer will have personal data sheets to give parents whose children they will be supervising, and the parents will be asked to fill out a short information sheet about each child. All children and youth under the age of seventeen must be supervised by an adult at the Braille Carnival. Carnival Buddies will be available to supervise children from 10:00 a.m. to noon, when the Parent Seminar adjourns. Parents are asked to go to the Braille Carnival and pick up their children within thirty minutes of the recess of the morning seminar session.
NFB Camp will also be closed over the lunch break this year. Parents will have fifteen minutes after adjournment at noon to pick up children. Children may be checked into NFB Camp at 1:45 p.m. for the afternoon workshop sessions.
The Braille Carnival will feature exciting and fun games, competitions, demonstrations, and prizes with Braille themes. Carnival booths are sponsored by NFB divisions, state affiliates, NFB centers, and residential schools for the blind. Sighted or blind, Braille reader or non-Braille reader, kindergartner or teenager--there will be lots of fun activities suitable for all. The Carnival will run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Parents are welcome to join the fun over the lunch break from noon to 2:00 p.m.
Carla McQuillan (Volunteer NFB Camp Director, President of the NFB of Oregon, and the owner and operator of two Montessori schools in Oregon) will be conducting a baby-sitting course for blind and sighted youth ages twelve and up. Registration will begin at 1:30 p.m., and the course will conclude at 5:00 p.m.
Monday, July 3
9:00-10:30 a.m. Cane Walk. Parents of blind kids of all ages (babies to teens), teachers, and blind kids can get hands-on experience in using a cane in the hotel environment under the guidance of volunteer instructors from the Louisiana Tech/Louisiana Center for the Blind O&M program. Joe Cutter, pediatric O&M specialist, will provide the demonstration for parents of pre-school-age children.
2:00-6:00 p.m. Teen drop-in room, sponsored jointly by NOPBC and Blind Services and Industries of Maryland (BISM). This is a supervised place for teens to gather and get to know others attending the convention.
Tuesday, July 4
1:00-5:00 p.m. NOPBC Annual Meeting
Wednesday, July 5
7:00-10:00 p.m. IDEA and IEP Workshop, Marty Greiser, Instructor
Thursday, July 6
2:00-4:00 p.m. IEP small-group consultations. Experienced advocates will work with parents on their personal IEP challenges.
2:00-6:00 p.m. Have Cane, Will Travel. Drop-in anytime discussion group for parents, blind kids, and teachers. Joe Cutter, instructor and discussion leader.
2:00-6:00 p.m. Parent Power. Drop-in anytime discussion of organizing and strengthening parent divisions and groups in the NFB. Barbara Cheadle, instructor and discussion leader.
NOPBC-Sponsored Activities for Parents and Kids
at the 2000 NFB Convention
Sunday, July 2 through Saturday, July 8, 2000
Marriott Marquis, Atlanta, Georgia
Name(s) of adults: ___________________________________________
Address, city, state, zip_____________________________________
Name(s) of children attending, birth dates, vision (sighted, blind, etc.), other disabilities
Fees: $25 for two adults plus children; $35 for three adults, e.g., parents and a grandparent plus children; and $15 for one adult plus children. Make checks payable to NOPBC. Fees include Continental breakfast at the Family Event, Sunday, July 2; NOPBC Seminar registration; Braille Carnival registration; and all NOPBC-sponsored workshops throughout the week.
Send completed forms and checks by June 15, 2000, to Barbara Cheadle, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Suzanne Whalen]
Vital Convention Information for Guide Dog Users
by Suzanne Whalen
From the Editor: Suzanne Whalen is President of the National Association of Guide Dog Users (NAGDU). Here is important information for all guide dog users who plan to attend the 2000 convention:
The annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be here before we know it. NAGDU has some exciting activities underway now and others in store for the c.onvention.
First of all, we are still working to create our cookbook, which is our major fund-raiser. We are in need of more recipes of all kinds. There's even a category for homemade dog treats. Please send all recipes, in any medium, to Karla Westjohn, 2009 Broadmoor, Champaign, Illinois 61821. With luck the cookbook will be ready for sale by the time of next year's convention in Detroit. Please ask your friends, family, fellow church members, co‑workers, and members of your local NFB chapter for their favorite recipes. After all, if we're going to ask them to buy the cookbook, why shouldn't they have a hand in its creation? Now let's get to convention.
Those of you who attended the NAGDU business meeting or the popular seminar "A Guide Dog in Your Life" will remember the fantastic turnout we had of both long-time members and enthusiastic new members. We also had record attendance on the part of the guide dog schools. From all indications that will be the case again this year. For the first time the schools will jointly sponsor and staff a table in the exhibit area. In the past one or two schools have had tables, but this arrangement will afford easy access for anyone wanting to ask questions and compare the programs and services of all the schools.
Anyone contemplating getting a guide dog or just interested in learning more about it can make appointments at the exhibit table to take a Juno walk. During a Juno walk the person holds on to the handle of a harness while the instructor holds the part of the harness the dog would wear, and you go for a walk. In this way you can feel what it's like to interpret the world through the signals of a harness. The schools' instructors will also be available during exhibit hours and during the seminar "A Guide Dog in Your Life." More about that a bit later.
For the first time ever, to the best of my knowledge, NAGDU has been invited to visit NFB Camp. Last year, at Joe Cutter's invitation, we attended his forum for parents of blind children entitled "Kids and Canes." Joe Cutter is a long-time Federationist and a mobility instructor from New Jersey. Gigi Firth and I represented NAGDU at this gathering. Mr. Cutter felt that everyone, including little children, needs factual information to empower and enable him or her to make informed choices when older, so he wanted us to explain about guide dog travel to parents and children. He also suggested that we coordinate with Mrs. McQuillan, the Director of NFB Camp, and that NAGDU members come and explain about guide dogs to the children in age‑appropriate language, let them examine different harnesses, pet the dogs, and maybe let them take a short walk with a guide dog, where possible. I'm excited about this chance to educate the youngest members of our movement and their families, and I also appreciate Mr. Cutter's and Mrs. McQuillan's enthusiasm and welcome.
We are once again doing evening meetings as we did last year. Our business meeting is July 2. Our seminar night is July 5, and this year we will be having two seminars back to back, each approximately two hours long--one for people considering getting a guide dog and one for veteran guide dog users. During the seminar for people considering guide dog use, instructors will be available to take interested people on Juno walks.
Now let's discuss some issues about the convention and dog care. Over the weekend of February 11 to 13, 2000, the entire NAGDU Board (Dana Ard, Gigi Firth, Priscilla Ferris, and I) met with Dr. Maurer at his invitation at the National Center for the Blind. Also taking part in the meeting were Ed and Toni Eames, the co‑chairpersons of the Committee on Canine Concerns; Diane McGeorge; and Mrs. Jernigan. Dr. Maurer called the meeting to get our ideas on how to prevent some problems the hotel had brought to his and Mrs. Jernigan's attention. So in answering some common questions, I think we'll cover the ideas agreed upon at the meeting.
Q: What are we doing about relief areas this year?
A: Toni and Ed Eames are once again coordinating the building and maintenance of designated relief areas in each hotel. They are recruiting volunteers, as they have in the past, to assist convention attendees with orientation and locating the relief areas and other key points in each hotel as people need help. Ed and Toni are also recruiting and training paid staff, as in the past, to assist in keeping the relief areas clean and well maintained. This year the relief areas will be staffed beginning on June 30 and running through July 9. Of course, we're all responsible for doing our part to pick up after our own dogs.
Q: I know that with the added stresses of convention it's probably a good idea for me to get my dog out more often than I do at home. But I remember all the trouble I had last year trying to find the relief area, and I don't want my dog to have an accident with all this wandering around. Where will the relief areas be set up?
A: We're looking at that right now. But we are doing something for the first time this year, decided upon in the meeting with Dr. Maurer. There's always a table in the lobby of the main hotel, set up by the host affiliate. Near this table for the first time there will be a NAGDU information table.
As everybody knows, there's also always an NFB information table set up outside the convention ballroom where general sessions are held. This year, for the first time, there will also be a NAGDU information table outside the ballroom. These NAGDU tables will have their own extension number. This number is not available at the time of this writing. We will provide Braille cards with the extension number for NAGDU information, and folks will be able to pick up these cards at both the host affiliate table and the NAGDU information table when they check into the hotel.
In addition to the telephone at the table, there will be several people with hand‑held communication devices linked to the NAGDU extension. These include Ed and Toni Eames, one of the paid relief staff, a representative from one of the schools, one of the volunteers, and me.
What does this mean to guide dog users? Well, for one thing, you can call the extension number for the NAGDU table from anywhere, including your room or the exhibit hall. You can ask for assistance in finding the relief area. You can also ask for assistance in time of emergency. You can't leave the accident, of course, but you can ask a friend to find a phone and call the NAGDU extension for help to come and clean it up.
Another new thing we're trying this year: We're coordinating with the schools to conduct orientation sessions throughout the hotels and especially to and from the relief areas for guide dog users, similar to the Cane Walks for youth. Also, at least in the Marriott, we're arranging more extensive coverage in the relief area. Another word needs to be said here about relief. We welcome responsible guide dog users to our conventions, and of course the vast majority of us are responsible. But those few who are not responsible--and it is a very few--are causing problems for us in negotiating with the hotel, so in our meeting in Baltimore we decided that, if someone is seen not picking up after his or her dog and there is no extenuating circumstance, we reserve the right to notify next year's hotel in Detroit that this person is not eligible to receive our special rates but will be charged the hotel's regular convention rate. Regular hotel convention rates are usually at least twice as much per night as the rates we enjoy.
Q: I'm just not really comfortable picking up my dog's feces. Isn't it a messy job?
A: It's easier than you might think, and not messy at all. Just ask! Just call the NAGDU line, and someone will gladly show you how it's done.
Q: I can leave my dog alone at home and never worry. Is it a problem if I have to leave my dog alone in my hotel room? Sometimes you just have to.
A: When you feel the need to leave your dog in your room, that's another good time to call the NAGDU extension. We'll be happy to arrange for a dog sitter for anybody who is in a bind. I've been guilty of leaving my dog in the room myself. During the 1993 convention in Dallas, I was Assistant Director of NFB Camp. Convention sessions were in one tower of the Hyatt, and NFB Camp was in the other, so Jesse (my dog at that time) and I made the quarter‑mile walk along the enclosed corridor between the two towers several times a day. I didn't know it then, but within two months of the close of Convention, Jesse would have major surgery because of bulging disks in his back. All I knew during convention was that sometimes the walking became too much for him, and he'd stumble and slow way down. I knew he was in pain, though I didn't find out how much pain he was in until later. So sometimes, when several trips between the West and East Towers of the Hyatt had taken their toll, I would leave Jesse in the room to rest, and I'd use a cane.
Jesse was a very experienced dog then, and he was nine years old. But still I should not have left him alone in the room. If the housekeeping staff had come in, they might have been frightened. To my knowledge Jesse never barked or cried, but he could have, thereby annoying other hotel guests. I should have gotten someone to stay with him. My point is that we can never predict what our dogs will do when they're not in familiar surroundings. Dogs who would never bark or chew up things or jump on furniture when left alone at home may go totally crazy when left unattended in a strange convention hotel.
We also can't predict how a maid, for example, will react when she opens a room door and an unattended dog comes running and barking at her. Heaven forbid that this dog should run past her out the door and escape. My current dog Caddo would do that, I can tell you. He's a great dog, but at the sight of an open door he will bolt if he's not in harness and I'm not careful. Therefore we decided in the meeting that it is never acceptable to leave a dog alone in a convention hotel room. If someone's dog is ill, NAGDU has information about vets in the Atlanta area. If a person has a medical emergency, call us; NAGDU will arrange for someone to babysit the dog. If you're going on a tour and it would be inconvenient to take your dog, please find a dog sitter or ask NAGDU for one.
As was decided in the meeting with Dr. Maurer, we're doing three things differently this year. First, the hotels will maintain a list of room numbers where guide dogs are staying. Second, if a member of the housekeeping staff enters a room with an unattended dog, the hotel will report that fact to us, and we will notify the hotel that the housekeeping staff will not be obligated to return that day to clean that room. Finally, we reserve the right to advise next year's hotel in Detroit that individuals who do not follow our policies with respect to guide dogs are not eligible to receive our special convention rates and should be charged the standard convention rate. This would include people who leave dogs unattended in their rooms.
Q: I practice good flea control with my dog. How can I be sure my dog won't pick up fleas at convention?
A: That was one big concern the hotel had. Therefore, as people check in, we're going to try to reduce the flea population and have a little fun at the same time. After you check into the hotel, please stop by the NAGDU information table. You'll receive a free vial of Advantage, provided by Bayer. If you ask, you'll also be shown how to put the flea control on your dog. Depending on availability, you may also receive a scarf for your dog to wear. This concept is similar to getting a PAC or an Associates ribbon. We're working on deciding what the scarves will say. At the meeting we tossed around ideas like, "I'm a dog with an Advantage." We'll ask you for your name and the hotel you're staying in so that we can ensure adequate staffing for each relief area.
One thing your dog will appreciate is that each dog whose person brings him or her to sign in at the NAGDU Table will receive a super special goody bag. We also voted to put all the names of the people who stop in for flea treatment into a hopper, and on the last day of the convention we'll draw one lucky person's name for a fifty‑dollar prize sponsored by NAGDU.
In conclusion, let me repeat that guide dogs and their handlers are welcome at Federation conventions. We have on average about a hundred dogs each year. Personally I'd be happy if we had three times as many, especially if all those folks joined NAGDU so we can make our division one of the strongest and most vigorous in the Federation. So y'all come join us at the NAGDU meetings in Atlanta. Our business meeting begins promptly at 7:00 p.m. on July 2, with registration at 6:30 p.m., and our seminar night begins at 6:30 p.m. on July 5. We look forward to meeting new people and getting reacquainted with old friends.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ed Bryant]
Dialysis at National Convention
by Ed Bryant
During this year's annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Atlanta, Georgia (Sunday, July 2, through Saturday, July 8,), dialysis will be available. Individuals requiring dialysis must have a transient patient packet and physician's statement filled out prior to treatment. Conventioneers must have their unit contact the desired location in the Atlanta area for instructions well in advance. NOTE: The convention will take place at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, in downtown Atlanta.
Individuals will be responsible for, and must pay out of pocket prior to each treatment, the approximately $30 not covered by Medicare, plus any additional physician's fees and any charges for other medications.
Dialysis centers should set up transient dialysis locations at least two months in advance. This helps assure a location for anyone wanting to dialyze. There are many centers in the Atlanta area, but that area is quite large, so early reservation is strongly recommended to avoid long taxi rides. Here are some dialysis locations:
* Dialysis Clinic, Inc.‑‑West Peachtree, 820 West Peachtree Street NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30308; telephone: (404) 888‑4520.
* Gambro Healthcare, 699 Ponce de Leon Avenue, Suite 19, Atlanta, Georgia 30308; telephone: (404) 872‑7211.
* Gambro Healthcare Atlanta, 400 Decatur Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30312; telephone: (404) 577‑9097.
* Gambro Healthcare, 524 West Peachtree Street, Atlanta, Georgia, 30308; telephone: (404) 249‑1563.
Please remember to schedule dialysis treatments early, to ensure space. If scheduling assistance is needed, have your dialysis unit's social worker contact me: Diabetes Action Network President Ed Bryant; telephone: (573) 875‑8911. See you in Atlanta.
This month's recipes are submitted by the NFB of Alabama. They are simple and require very few ingredients.
Sweet Potato Souffle
by Angela Farmer
Angela Farmer is President of the Dothan Chapter of the NFB of Alabama.
3 large sweet potatoes, baked or broiled, peeled, and mashed
1-1/2 sticks margarine
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 or 2 cups chopped pecans
2 cups corn flakes
Method: Combine and beat together first three ingredients and place in an oven-proof baking dish. Mash up corn flakes. Add pecans, sugar, and melted butter. Spread on potato mixture. Top with marshmallows. Bake in a 300-degree oven until brown, between fifteen and twenty minutes.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lisa Mauldin]
Southern Breakfast Casserole
by Lisa L. Mauldin
Lisa Mauldin is the Treasurer of the Dothan Chapter of the NFB of Alabama.
6 slices bread
butter or margarine
1 pound of bulk pork sausage
1-1/2 cups shredded longhorn cheese
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon salt
Method: Remove crust from bread. Spread bread with butter. Place in greased two- or three-quart baking dish (I usually use a 9-by-13-inch pan.) Set aside. Cook sausage until brown, then drain. Spoon over bread slices. Sprinkle with cheese. Combine eggs, half-and-half, and salt. Mix well. Pour over cheese. Cover casserole and chill overnight. Remove from fridge fifteen minutes before baking. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes, or until set. This is an excellent brunch dish and is often served with a hash brown casserole.
Oven Fried Chicken
by Lula Grissom Copeland
Lula Copeland is a member of the Dothan Chapter of the NFB of Alabama.
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Prepare chicken pieces by seasoning to taste with pepper and salt. Dredge each piece in flour as though you were frying it. Completely line the bottom of an oven-proof pan with aluminum foil. Grease the foil lightly with margarine to prevent chicken from sticking. Place chicken pieces in pan and cover the top with aluminum foil. Place in preheated 350-degree oven for approximately one hour or until meat is tender. Lift off the top foil and let meat brown or crisp on each side.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mike Jones]
Red Beans and Rice
by Michael Jones
Michael Jones is President of the NFB of Alabama.
1 16-ounce package dry red kidney beans
1 pound smoked sausage
8 cups water
1 cup rice
Method: Place water and beans in a crock pot. Cook on high for six hours. Cut sausage into bite-size pieces and cook with beans for an additional two hours. Season as you like. Cook rice according to package directions to serve with beans and sausage.
Seven Can Soup
by Michael Jones
1 can tomato soup
1 can vegetarian vegetable soup
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 can chili without beans
1 can chili with beans
1 can diced Italian spiced tomatoes
1 can whole kernel corn
Method: Drain canned corn, and mix with other ingredients. Heat and eat.
Convention Scholarships Available:
Allen Harris, Chairman of the Jernigan Fund, writes to say that the committee has established criteria for the Dr. Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarships for 2000. These factors will be considered when awarding Jernigan Convention Scholarships:
*attendance at previous National Conventions
*activity at the local, state, or national level
*recommendation from the state president (formal letter not required; we will contact him or her.)
*amount of assistance requested
*other sources of funding sought
When applying for a convention scholarship, please write a brief paragraph on why you wish to attend the convention. Submit your application letter and statement to Allen Harris, 4-1/2 Garden Alley, Albany, New York 12210 by May 15, 2000.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ed Beck]
Ed Beck Honored:
Mary Jane Fry, Secretary of the NFB of Rhode Island, has written with the following news:
On Friday, October 22, 1999, a special tribute was given to past President of NFB of Rhode Island Edmund Beck. A newly furnished conference room in the Rhode Island Department of Health Building was designated as the Edmund Beck Conference Room to honor a man who has dedicated much of his time and energy to helping other blind and disabled people.
Jack Thompson, Deputy Administrator of Rhode Island State Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, spoke and gave a brief history of Ed Beck's life from the time he emigrated from Russia as a child in 1924 to the present. After losing his sight in an accident in 1960, Ed underwent rehabilitation training. Beginning in the 1970's and into the `90's he served as a legislative volunteer for the AARP and the NFB of Rhode Island. He was President of the NFB of Rhode Island from 1977 to 1978 and 1980 to 1984. He has served on the Governor's Advisory Council for the Blind since 1976. He has also served on the Governor's Advisory Council for the Handicapped and numerous other committees.
Edmund was unable to attend the ceremony because of poor health; however, his wife Mildred accepted the citation on his behalf. Ed's daughter and many of Ed's friends from the Federation and beyond were in attendance. This was certainly a well-deserved tribute to a selfless and dedicated man.
Craft Books in Braille Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have a wide selection of knitting, crochet, and cookbooks that I have compiled at reasonable prices. They include several knitting afghan and blanket books; potpourri; sweaters for both adults and children; wash cloths; several books with hats, gloves, scarves, mittens, and slippers; knit and crochet toys; knit and crochet baby shower books; and lots more. Among the recipe books are Meals Across the Miles; three-ingredient cookbooks; Lipton Mix; Cookies Galore; and collections of crockpot, vegetarian, Mexican, chili recipes, etc. In the general section of the catalog there are three poetry books and the kitchen cupboard remedies.
If you are interested in any of the above or wish to receive a Braille catalog, please write to Marjorie Arnott, 1446 North Coronado Street, Chandler, Arizona 85224-7824 or call (480) 345-8773. You can find a shortened version of the catalog on my home page at <www.cs.cmu.edu/~rowan/marjorie-crafts.html>. Braille inquiries would be most appreciated.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Center for the Visually Impaired of Daytona Beach, Florida, seeks to fill the position of executive director. The Center is a not-for-profit United Way agency which provides education and training for older visually impaired people. Prospective candidates must have a master's degree in rehabilitation, education, or related field; one year supervisory experience with strong computer skills; and evidence of ability to work effectively with visually impaired adults. Duties include overseeing the daily operation of the agency, supervising and evaluating staff, teaching independent living classes at various sites, working with adaptive equipment, coordinating fund-raising activities, preparing and overseeing grants, and working cooperatively with the Board of Directors and affiliate organizations. The base salary is $36,000. Send resume, letters of reference, and official transcripts to Ms. Kathy C. Davis or Dr. Thomas F. Davis, 121 Deer Lake Circle, Ormond Beach, Florida 32175 or e-mail <[email protected]>.
Research Scientists Wanted:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (RRTC) on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University has an opening for a research scientist and a research scientist I. We are particularly interested in applicants who are blind or visually impaired, have experience in blindness rehabilitation, and might want to pursue a doctorate while working at the Center (the research scientist I requires a doctorate). The salaries will range from roughly $32,000 to $50,000, depending upon training and experience. For further information, contact J. Elton Moore, Director, Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision, P.O. Box 6189, Mississippi State, Mississippi 39762, (662) 325-2001, fax: (662) 325-8989, TDD: (662) 325-8693, or e-mail <[email protected]> or Web site <www.blind.msstate.edu>.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Becky Velkovich]
With sincere sadness Bernadette Dressell, Secretary of the Cincinnati Chapter of the NFB of Ohio, wrote to inform Monitor readers of the sudden death of Becky Velkovich on January 11, 2000. Although Becky was a member of the Cincinnati Chapter for a relatively short time, she quickly learned the meaning and spirit of Federationism. For the past year or so, she had been taking weekly lessons in reading and writing Braille. At her May 1, 1999, wedding to our chapter President, Ken Velkovich, she arranged for Braille programs of the wedding service to be available. At our November state convention, Becky led a seminar for sighted spouses to discuss their experiences. She entered wholeheartedly into all our activities and our struggle for equality. It goes without saying that we will miss her deeply.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I'm Czech, and my name is Lubos Smid. I am forty-one years old and live in Germany. I am eye-handicapped. I like English very much, but my knowledge of it is poor. I would like to have some pen-friends in the United States to write letters in Braille and to improve my horrible English. Perhaps somebody is interested in this idea or wants to learn a little German. In this case, I could write two letters simultaneously. My German is far better than my English. Contact Lubos Smid, Hessstrasse 34/VH, D-80798 Munich, Germany.
Braille Sheet Music Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement.
Opus Technologies has signed a Braille music publishing agreement with Hal Leonard Corp. the world's largest print music publishing company. The agreement grants Opus Technologies the rights to publish and sell Braille editions of music titles from Hal Leonard's catalog of print music.
For its first offering Opus Technologies is publishing Braille editions of twenty-five individual sheet music pieces. These consist of the piano/vocal/guitar (pvg), easy piano (ep), or piano solo (ps) versions of the following ten best‑selling popular songs:
1. Forrest Gump Main Title (Feather Theme): ep, ps
2. Great Balls of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis): pvg
3. Heart and Soul: pvg, ep, ps
4. Imagine (John Lennon): pvg, ep, ps
5. Memory (From Cats): pvg, ep, ps
6. My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme from Titanic): pvg, ep, ps
7. Tears in Heaven (Eric Clapton): pvg, ep, ps
8. Unchained Melody (The Righteous Brothers): pvg, ep
9. What a Wonderful World (Louis Armstrong): pvg, ep, ps
10. Yesterday (The Beatles): pvg, ep
Each Braille music piece is professionally transcribed and proofread according to the latest international standards for the music Braille code, using uncontracted Braille for all literary elements. The Braille material is embossed double‑sided on standard eleven‑inch by eleven-and-a-half‑inch Braille paper, with twenty-five lines per page and forty cells per line.
For the piano/vocal/guitar and easy piano versions of songs with lyrics, the Braille music consists of three parts:
1. preliminary matter: title page and transcriber notes
2. a vocal‑guitar part using the line‑by‑line method, with three lines for lyrics, chord symbols, and melody
3. a piano part using the bar‑over‑bar method, with three lines for melody, right hand, and left hand.
Each part starts on a separate sheet, so that a blind vocalist/guitarist can use the vocal‑guitar part while a blind pianist uses the piano part. For piano solo versions the Braille music typically consists of two parts: the preliminary matter, followed by a piano part using the bar‑over‑bar method, with two parallel lines for right hand and left hand.
Opus Technologies is selling both the Braille and the corresponding print sheet music at the following prices: $9.95 (Braille), $3.95 (print), and $12.95 (Braille and print). The Braille music pieces can be bound individually or together with other pieces, using nineteen‑hole comb binding with plastic front and back covers, for an additional $2 per binding. Shipping and handling is $5 per U.S. order ($10 for Canada, inquire for other countries).
Contact Opus Technologies at 13333 Thunderhead Street, San Diego, California 92129, Phone/Fax: (858) 538‑9401, e-mail: <[email protected]>, Website: <www.opustec.com>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I have the following items for sale: Openbook Unbound, Version 3.0 with print and Braille manuals for $275; Keynote Gold Multimedia Speech Software synthesizer version 1.11 with print manuals for $75; and Jaws for Windows 2.0 with print manuals and Braille reference card for $250. The entire package can be purchased for $550, or each item may be purchased separately by different individuals. If interested, please respond by calling (888) 362‑4563 and leaving a message for member 856001; or by sending e-mail to <[email protected]>.
Candle in the Window, 2000:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Candle in the Window is a small, national, non‑profit organization aiming to build both individual skills and a sense of community among persons with visual impairments. We welcome blind people from a variety of faith traditions (or no faith tradition at all) to join us at our fourteenth annual conference entitled "The Souls of Blind Folk: Integrating Spirituality into the Fabric of Our Lives." The conference will take place between Wednesday, August 9, and Sunday, August 13, 2000, at the Kavanaugh Life Enrichment Center just outside Louisville, Kentucky.
We will explore the experiences that led each of us to join our respective faith traditions; share activities that center us spiritually; and develop strategies to build more harmonious relationships with each of our chosen faith communities. In addition to provocative presentations and stimulating discussions, there will be plenty of time for swimming, hiking, eating, singing, quiet reflection, and just plain hanging out.
Two lodging options will be available: a dorm‑type setting with three or four people to a room, and a double‑occupancy hotel‑type setting. Cost: $200 for the dorm setting and $295 for the hotel setting ($15 discount if we receive a $35 non‑refundable deposit by July 1); limited scholarships and payment plan are available.
New York School Reunion:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The Alumni Association of the New York State School for the Blind will hold its annual reunion at the Holiday Inn in Batavia, New York, June 9 to 11, 2000. Room rates are $52 per night. Anyone who registers before May 1, 2000, will not have to pay tax on the room. Contact Sukosh Fearon, 501 Broad Street, Oneida, New York 13421, phone (315) 363-4460. Financial assistance may be available to an alum who has never attended a reunion or who has not attended in several years. The alumni reunion is always lots of fun, and our millennium reunion will be a good one. Please join us.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Perkins Braille Writers accepted with or without all parts, working or not. Reasonable prices paid. Call evenings or weekends (313) 885-7330 or e-mail me at <[email protected]>.
Business for Sale:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
I am selling my mail order canes/tips business. It comes complete with tip molds, inventory, customer base, existing accounts, etc.: everything needed to carry on this fourteen-year-old business. I am willing to teach you how, where, when, etc., needed to make this venture as successful for you as it has been for me. Average time invested weekly is two to four hours. If interested, call evenings/weekends (313) 885-7330 or e-mail me at <[email protected]>.
Tactile Biblical Maps Available:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
Maps of the Bible Lands is a two-volume set which contains twenty-five maps, accompanying key pages, and an index. It is bound with a total of ninety-six Braillon pages. The set is intended for serious students of the Bible or of ancient Near Eastern history. The maps are detailed, and no descriptive background material is included. Familiarity with the subject material and some tactile experience is recommended. Key letters are used to label cities and areas on the maps. These key letters are identified on key pages preceding each map. The maps frequently have foldout sections and sometimes appear on facing pages. A general index of almost 600 place names is included.
It costs $22 including shipping by free matter unless other arrangements are made. Please send check or purchase order to the Princeton Braillists, 28-B Portsmouth Street, Whiting, New Jersey 08759 (UPDATED ADDRESS). Credit card and fax service are not available. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery. For further information call (732) 350-3708 or (609) 924-5207.
Church Conference of the Blind:
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The National Church Conference of the Blind (NCCB) will hold its annual convention at the Kentucky Inn, Lexington, Kentucky, July 23 through 26, 2000. The conference will feature a guest Bible teacher, talent evening, tours of local interest, display room, music, and lots of good Christian fellowship. For additional information and registration forms contact NCCB Secretary Rheba Finkinbinder, P.O. Box 163, Denver, Colorado 80201, (303) 789-7441 or e-mail <[email protected],com> or Bob Green, President, (612) 561-6955 or Jim Fox, Board Member, 40 Seward Avenue, Toms River, New Jersey 08753, (732) 244-7057, e-mail <[email protected]>.
We have been asked to carry the following announcement:
The home and presidential museum of Franklin Delano Roosevelt can now be enjoyed through the eyes of author Julian Padowicz in a new five-cassette audio book from BFI AudioBooks entitled, "Seeing the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Museum with Julian Padowicz." This book will be available in bookstores in May of 2000 and costs $24.95. In the meantime it can be ordered directly from the publisher at (800) 260-7717.
I pledge to participate actively in the effort of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.