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The Braille Monitor October 2000 Edition
From the Editor: One of the projects many of us participated in during the National Convention last summer was the postcard-writing campaign aimed at Maryland Governor Parris Glendening. We hoped to make the case that people all over the country urged him and the legislature to earmark $6,000,000 in the next budget toward completion of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind on the grounds of the National Center for the Blind in south Baltimore. A flood of postcards certainly went to the governor's office, but in the weeks since the convention lots of folks have also written letters to him. The letters provide a bit more scope for sharing our vision of the impact the Institute will have on the lives and futures of America's blind citizens. Here, almost at random, is a sample of these letters. We can only hope that Mr. Glendening or someone on his staff pays attention to the opportunity they have at their finger tips to make a significant difference in the lives of blind people everywhere. This is what people said:
August 2, 2000
Parris N. Glendening
Governor State of Maryland
Dear Governor Glendening: Many times over the past fifteen years I have had the opportunity to visit your state. I have had the good fortune to visit the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland, seeking counsel, instruction, and support. When I learned that the National Federation of the Blind was planning to build a national research and training institute devoted to changing the way people look at blindness, I pledged my time, energy, and effort to help make the new center a reality. This new research and training institute will, of course, expand economic opportunity for the citizens of Maryland, but it will also be the focal point for programs and services for blind people all over this country. As a blind businessman from Colorado who has achieved some success, in large part due to the programs and philosophy that already emanate from the NFB National Headquarters in Baltimore, I can assure you that lending any support to help build this cutting-edge facility now will be of great benefit to society.
As a blind American from Colorado I have taken great pleasure to pledge $35,000 of my own money to see that research that will affect generations of blind people will continue. Of course that kind of pledge is a great sacrifice for my family and me, but, if it will mean greater services to blind children and the increasing number of blind seniors, it will be worth it. I know that the National Federation of the Blind has called upon you to assist in making several millions of dollars available for this project. I just wanted you to know that many of us, not only in Maryland, but all across the country, will benefit if you are able to help us.
Because of the vision of our blind leaders we chose to relocate our National Headquarters to Baltimore back in 1978. The National Federation of the Blind has grown and expanded, becoming a vital part of the Baltimore economy. Of course this new national research and training institute will help us continue our efforts to change what it means to be blind, but it will also continue our support, expansion, and interdependence with the Maryland economy.
Thank you very sincerely for considering my comments.
Very truly yours,
President National Association of Blind Merchants
August 16, 2000
Dear Governor Glendening:
I am writing to express my appreciation for the possibility that Maryland and, in particular, you can be a real hero to blind Americans.
Many blind people are subject to the charity of others. Well-meaning people try to find a way to make our lives better. I remember my parents meeting with sighted professionals who told them what would be best for me. Then, when I was a young adult, other sighted people took over and tried to shape my life.
It was, therefore, a revelation to me when I discovered that blind people could have a say in their own future through the National Federation of the Blind. Because of the Federation I have had the chance to work as a teacher of sighted children, a travel agent, a rehabilitation specialist with blind seniors, and Director of the District office for Minnesota Congressman Gerry Sikorski.
And now the Federation is embarking on an exciting new venture. Our National Research and Training Institute will provide a bright future for all blind citizens. Parents can take comfort in the knowledge that much work is being done to ensure their blind children will be well educated and qualified for productive employment. Newly blind senior citizens will not end up in nursing homes because they have lost their sight.
Your support of this initiative is a win-win situation for the blind and the taxpayers of Maryland. Not only will this project provide employment for many Marylanders, but blind people from throughout the country and the world will come and spend their money in your state. I thank you for making this possible.
September 8, 2000
Dear Governor Glendening:
I write to you on behalf of blind people and those who will become blind in the years ahead in the state of Ohio. As you know, the National Federation of the Blind is working to build the National Research and Training Institute in Baltimore. The benefits to the city of this project are obvious: quality jobs, increased property value in a marginal part of the city, and increased prestige for the community in which cutting-edge research and instruction will be taking place.
All these advantages and therefore arguments for substantial budget support from the state have undoubtedly been made before and with greater specificity and persuasiveness. But I want to assure you of the nationwide benefit the Institute will provide. At a time when the numbers of those losing sight in their later years is growing significantly and the number of effective teachers of blindness skills at every age level is falling further and further behind the demand, we must find new and innovative ways of meeting the need and training people to do the work with dedication and skill. Someone must tackle the challenge of finding these new ways and tapping new resources if we are to keep blind citizens living in and contributing to their communities.
Every day I deal with individual people losing sight or members of their families. These are mostly older people, and I have to tell them how little help is out there for them. I send the material developed by the NFB, and I send them to the overworked and undertrained agencies charged with providing services. I conduct inservices for the staff members of those agencies who know to come to the National Federation of the Blind for help. I make a difference, and I make people feel better and more hopeful, but I also know how inadequate my help is. We need more and better materials. We need to develop coordinated programs of staff training and to find effective methods for teaching people who have seen all their lives to dare to set foot into the new and scary world of accomplishing things without vision.
All this is part of what the Institute will tackle. Blind people are in an excellent position to be effective researchers and teachers. We know what works, and we carry conviction to those we teach. Tomorrow's blind population needs what we can do as soon as the Research and Training Institute begins its work. Maryland can have an impact on the lives of people across the nation and around the world because NFB members work together to compound the advances any of us make. We also pass along our discoveries to people fighting these problems around the world. Please give us a chance to make a significant difference.
I have talked about the needs of seniors. I could have talked as easily about blind children. I was not taught Braille as a young child, and I have paid the price for that neglect all my life. Teachers still refuse to teach Braille to blind students with a bit of sight, so the same sacrifices are being made by blind children today. We know what should be done and how to do it. We can help parents insist on Braille instruction and help teachers of the visually impaired learn to teach it effectively.
Whether or not the NFB gets the chance to make these differences may well rest with you and the Maryland legislature. Please do what you can to change the course of the lives of all America's blind citizens.
September 10, 2000
Dr. Alfred Maneki
Dear Governor Glendening,
The National Federation of the Blind requested a $6 million appropriation in the 2002 budget. Please give this request favorable consideration. Throughout your career you have demonstrated a keen interest in all areas of education. As governor you have made substantial improvements in elementary, secondary, and higher education throughout the state. Since the National Federation of the Blind plans to provide training and research in the fields of education and literacy for blind persons in this new facility, you have another opportunity to advance your education legacy.
I am a blind mathematician. I look forward to research on better methods of teaching mathematics to blind students. There is also a great need for research in better methods to provide mathematical materials in accessible formats to blind persons. Your assistance in this project will lead to endless opportunities for blind people. I hope you will advance the quality of life for blind people of today and of the future. Thank you.
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