THE BRAILLE MONITOR

Vol. 44, No. 11

December, 2001

Barbara Pierce, Editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT

National Office

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland  21230

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subscription requests, orders for NFB literature,

articles for the Monitor, and letters to the Editor

should be sent to the National Office.

Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year. Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:

National Federation of the Blind

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Baltimore, Maryland 21230

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION

SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND, IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

ISSN 0006-8829


Vol. 44, No. 11 December, 2001

Contents

Convention Bulletin 2002

Maxi-Aids Exposed Again: ILA Files Contempt-of-Court Motion

by Barbara Pierce

The Medicare Equity Act for the Blind: Why the NFB prefers H.R.2674 to H.R. 2484

by Kristen Cox

Reflections and Photographs

by Jennifer Dunnam

How to Get Access to Print: What It Takes to Succeed as a Blind

or Low-Vision College Student

by Dan Burke

Technology-Acquisition Strategies for Young Blind Students

by Curtis Chong

Disabled Take Struggle to Parliament

by Peta Thornycroft

The Discount

by Judy Sanders

A 3000-pound Metallic Puzzle

by Wayne Davis

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 2002

by Sharon Maneki

The 2002 Blind Educator of the Year Award

by Stephen O. Benson

National Association of Blind Merchants Presents Business Leadership and Superior Training: A National Training Conference for Merchant Vendors and Program Staff

by Kevan Worley

Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2002

by James McCarthy

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright © 2001 National Federation of the Blind

[PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: The shape of an evergreen tree picked out in vertical strings of lights reaches from the floor of the Skydeck to the roof of the building. A two-foot star adorns the tip of the tree.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: The tree of lights on the Skydeck at the National Center for the Blind is visible from I-95. When it was constructed for the first time in December of 2000, we were unable to find a star large enough for the top. Mr. Ruff of the NFB maintenance staff set about to make an appropriate star and string it with lights. He presented the finished product to President Maurer. Then Mr. Ruff, Mr. Ray, and Mr. Gashel assembled the display of white lights.

Again this year we wish our readers the peace and joy of this season and the courage to shine with hope no matter how dark the night. Happy Holidays.]

 [PHOTO/CAPTION: The Galt House at night]

Convention Bulletin 2002

It is time to plan for the 2002 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. This year we will gather in Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby.

We will return to the hospitality of the Galt House Hotel and the Galt House East Tower, where we conducted our 1985 convention. Once again our hotel rates are the envy of all. For the 2002 convention they are singles, doubles, and twins $57 and triples and quads $63. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 12.36 percent. No charge will be made for children fifteen and under in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested.

For 2002 convention room reservations you should write directly to the Galt House Hotel, 140 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202 or call (502) 589-5200. You can make reservations for either the Galt House Hotel (known familiarly as the Galt House West) or the Galt House East Tower (called the Galt House East) by calling this number. The restaurants and outdoor pool are located on the west side of the facility, and the East Tower is comprised of suites with a living room, refrigerator, and wet bar. The hotel will want a deposit of $60 or a credit card number. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $60 check. If a reservation is cancelled prior to June 1, 2002, $30 of the $60 deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.

The West Tower has twenty-five floors, and the East Tower has eighteen. Guest-room amenities include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair drier, and dataport.

The Galt House has two restaurants, the River Grill, which is moderately priced, and the Flagship, a revolving restaurant on the roof, which provides one of Louisville's finest dining experiences, with prices to match. See later issues of the Monitor for information about tours and other attractions in the Greater Louisville area.

The 2002 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a truly exciting and memorable event, with a program unparalleled and a rededication to the goals and work of our movement. Make plans now to be a part of it. The schedule this year is somewhat different from our usual one. Pre-convention seminars for parents of blind children and other groups and set-up of the exhibit hall will take place on Wednesday, July 3, and adjournment will be Tuesday, July 9, at 5:00 p.m. Convention registration will begin on Thursday, July 4, and both Thursday and Friday will be filled with meetings of divisions and committees, including the Friday morning annual meeting of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind, which is open to all.

General convention sessions begin on Saturday and continue through the afternoon of Tuesday, July 9. The annual banquet will take place on Monday evening, July 8. To assure yourself a room in the headquarters hotel at convention rates, you must make reservations early. The hotel will be ready to take your call or deal with your written request by January 1.

Remember that as usual we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Once again prizes should be small in size but large in value. Cash, of course, is always appropriate and welcome. As a general rule we ask that prizes of any variety have a value of at least $25. Drawings will occur steadily throughout the convention sessions, and you can anticipate a grand prize of truly impressive proportions to be drawn at the banquet. You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time (identifying the item and donor and listing the value in print and Braille) to Kevin Pearl, 2716 Hillside Terrace, Louisville, Kentucky 40206‑2513.

The best collection of exhibits, featuring new technology; meetings of our special interest groups, committees, and divisions; memorable tours arranged by the host Kentucky affiliate; the most stimulating and provocative program items of any meeting of the blind in the world; the chance to renew friendships in our Federation family; and the unparalleled opportunity to be where the real action is and where decisions are being made—all of these mean you will not want to miss being a part of the 2002 National Convention. We'll see you in Louisville in 2002!

Maxi-Aids Exposed Again: ILA Files Contempt-of-Court Motion

by Barbara Pierce

Independent Living Aids (ILA) has filed a motion in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York to show cause why Maxi-Aids and various members of the Zaretsky family, the owners of Maxi-Aids, should not be held in contempt of court. Both companies are distributors of products used by people with disabilities. Many of these are particularly useful to blind people. ILA alleges that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys have violated the terms of an injunction issued against them on October 24, 1998, by the Honorable Arthur D. Spatt, the United States District Judge who presided over the trial of ILA vs. Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys during November and December of 1997. ILA has asked the Court to impose severe penalties and sanctions against the defendants for these violations.

To refresh the memories of our readers, ILA and its President Marvin Sandler filed an action against Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys in 1995, which came to trial in November of 1997. The trial lasted five weeks, and the jury made an award of $2,400,000.06 to ILA, which had proved the defendants guilty of copyright infringement, trademark infringement, false and misleading advertising, and unfair and deceptive business practices. (See the March, 1998, issue of the Braille Monitor for the in-depth report.) As part of its verdict, the jury said that the actions of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys were willful, and it held the corporation and the Zaretskys personally liable. In 1998 Maxi-Aids filed a motion to have the verdict overturned and to have the amount of the award eliminated or reduced. Judge Spatt not only upheld the jury's verdict and the amount of the award but also tacked on $379,806.90 in costs, interest, and legal fees. On October 24, 1998, he issued a judgment in favor of ILA and against Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys for $2,779,806.96. As part of the judgment he also issued a permanent injunction prohibiting Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys from continuing to engage in the kind of behavior that had brought about the original lawsuit.

Among the various whereases and wherefores intrinsic to most legal documents, including this one, was a clause that has led to ILA's current motion against Maxi-Aids. In plain English it states that "Maxi-Aids, Inc., Mitchel Zaretsky, Elliot Zaretsky, and Pamela Zaretsky Stein. . . and their officers . . . and employees. . . are hereby enjoined and restrained from. . . engaging in any deceptive acts or practices in connection with the advertising or sale of their products."

Based on the injunctive paragraph above, ILA filed a motion for what it alleged were serious violations on the part of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys. Its papers claimed that ILA had uncovered a successful attempt to circumvent a proposed debarment by the Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) by establishing a sham company called "Able-Vision." Even more serious, it claimed to have discovered an illegal scheme in which Maxi-Aids has been diverting Perkins Braillers from South Africa, where the Perkins School for the Blind had established a program for the charitably subsidized production of Braillers for sale to and use by blind people and organizations for the blind in developing countries. This program has been particularly important since Braillers in developing countries are typically used by many more than one person, unlike the way we in the U.S. use them most often.

As might be expected, in response to the ILA charges, Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys, through their own sworn affidavits and their attorney's affidavit and memorandum of law, pooh-poohed the claims that ILA made. The Maxi-Aids attorney dismissed the ILA allegations with the remark that Sandler and ILA were "blowing smoke . . . in an attempt to catch a fish." It is tempting to be diverted by the contemplation of the picture conjured up by this rather startling mixed metaphor. After reading the court papers, however, it appears that, if Sandler was attempting to catch a fish, he certainly seems to have caught a big one.

The entire set of documents reads like a mystery novel—indeed two novels, one devoted to each accusation. Deception and detective work appear throughout the saga. John Grisham could hardly have done better. It seems most helpful to present each of these issues in the actual words of both sides as taken from their sworn affidavits so that readers can draw their own conclusions. Because of the length and complexity of each matter, we will present the story of the diversion of Perkins Braillers this month and discuss the establishment of "Able-Vision" in an article to be published in the January issue. For clarity we will include some explanatory material to provide continuity but will reserve editorial comment until the end of each article. Here then is the story of the Perkins Braillers.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Perkins Brailler]

As background, readers should know that Perkins Braillers were developed by the Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts. They are marketed by the Howe Press Division of the Perkins School, and the domestic price in the USA is $640 each. This price applies to all customers, individuals and agencies alike. Perkins provides no discount price, no matter the quantity purchased.

In an effort to promote Braille literacy in developing countries, however, the Perkins School decided to offer a reduced price to blind people and agencies in those areas of the world. Accordingly Howe Press established a working relationship with the South African National Council for the Blind (SANCFB), whereby Perkins would supply component parts for assembly into Braillers by workers at SANCFB, and the resulting savings in labor costs would enable SANCFB to sell the Braillers at a significantly reduced price. Perkins also enlisted the aid of the Hilton Foundation, which generously offered a charitable grant of $100 per Brailler to reduce the price further to buyers in developing countries. The net result of these efforts was to bring the price of Braillers down to $375 each in developing countries, $265 per machine lower than the regular Howe Press price in the United States.

Elliot Zaretsky apparently found out about these lower-priced Braillers and tried to obtain them for sale by Maxi-Aids. He was rebuffed, and the director of SANCFB sent him a fax on September 1, 1997, advising him that these Braillers could not be sold in or shipped to the U.S.A. according to the guidelines established by the Perkins School. This did not deter Mr. Zaretsky, however, and his successful efforts to obtain these charitably subsidized Braillers through his own creative, one might almost say devious, methods became part of ILA's motion to have Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys held in contempt of court.

Sandler's papers seem well documented with exhibits to back each statement and reply. Sandler's submissions showed that at least 1,520 Braillers were diverted from availability to blind people in developing nations and sold instead in this country, resulting in a revenue loss of $402,800 to the Perkins School for the Blind, of which $152,000 was charitable subsidy grant money from the Hilton Foundation.

Documentary responses from the Zaretskys were accompanied by a number of exhibits such as testimonials and employee acknowledgements that appeared to be more filler than substance; at least they shed no particular light on the events and actions of Maxi-Aids. Here then are excerpts from Marvin Sandler's complaint, Elliot Zaretsky's response, and Sandler's reply, explaining what has been going on, all in their own words:

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marvin Sandler]

From Sandler's affidavit: "Documents have been obtained which indicate that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys have been obtaining standard Perkins Braillers from The South African Council for the Blind in South Africa under the false misrepresentation that they were intended for "Third World" countries. By doing so, they have gotten the benefit of the reduced $375 price, including the $100 charitable grant, and have then diverted the machines to the United States, where they have been sold for full price. Thus charitable grant money from the Hilton/Perkins Foundation, intended for charitable purposes, has wound up in the Zaretskys' pockets."

Continuing from Sandler's affidavit: "Annexed hereto is a copy of a fax/letter from the Executive Director of the South African National Council for the Blind, dated as 1 September, 1997. The letter is a response to a communication from Elliot Zaretsky since it starts by referring to an order and advises that the order cannot be shipped to the United States."

From Zaretsky's response affidavit: "Prior to September of 1997 Maxi-Aids did purchase the alleged standard Perkins Braillers directly from the South African Council for the Blind and had them shipped directly to the United States, even paying for customs clearance. Howe Press, a subsidiary of the Perkins School for the Blind, knew about these purchases and never objected to me about these transactions. Maxi-Aids has been, and is continuing to do business with Howe Press."

Continuing from Zaretsky's response affidavit: "Since receiving this notification from the South African Council for the Blind, Maxi-Aids has found a company [in] South Africa who I believe purchases the Standard Perkins Braillers from the South African Council for the Blind and then sells them directly to Maxi-Aids. As far as I know, Howe Press is again aware of this arrangement and has not made any objection whatsoever either orally or in writing."

That's what Zaretsky said in his affidavit, but he was simply wrong. The Howe Press and Perkins School had objected strongly to Maxi-Aids's actions, and Sandler hit back hard by submitting a sworn affidavit from Kevin J. Lessard, Director of the Perkins School for the Blind.

From Kevin J. Lessard's affidavit: "Mr. Zaretsky's affidavit states that, prior to September 1997, Howe Press knew that Maxi-Aids, Inc. was purchasing Braillers from the SANCFB and never objected. This statement is false."

Continuing from Kevin J. Lessard's affidavit: "When my staff members informed me in late August 1997 that Maxi-Aids had placed an order with the SANCFB, I telephoned William Rowland, Executive Director of the SANCFB. I reiterated that pursuant to the SANCFB's agreement with Howe Press, the SANCFB was authorized to sell Perkins Braillers only to persons and entities in developing countries, for use by blind persons and entities in those developing countries. Accordingly, Mr. Rowland and I agreed that the SANCFB would cancel Maxi-Aids's pending order and inform Maxi-Aids that the SANCFB was not authorized to supply Perkins Braillers to persons or entities in the United States."

Continuing from Kevin J. Lessard's affidavit: "Around the same time I also telephoned Mr. Zaretsky. When I spoke with Mr. Zaretsky, I informed him that the Braillers assembled by the SANCFB are intended for sale only to persons and entities in developing countries, for use by blind persons in those developing countries. I also told Mr. Zaretsky that, if he and/or Maxi-Aids wanted to purchase standard Perkins Braillers, the Braillers would have to be purchased directly from Howe Press for $640."

Continuing from Kevin J. Lessard's affidavit: "Mr. Zaretsky's affidavit states that ‘Maxi-Aids has found a company [in] South Africa [which] I believe purchases the Standard Perkins Braillers from the South African Council for the Blind and then sells them directly to Maxi-Aids' and that ‘[a]s far as I know, Howe Press is aware of this arrangement and has not made any objection.' Perkins School and Howe Press are not aware of, and would not condone, any arrangement between Maxi-Aids and another entity concerning the purchase of Braillers from the SANCFB. As I stated above, I made it clear to Mr. Zaretsky that SANCFB-assembled Braillers are intended for sale only to individuals and/or entities in developing countries, for use by blind persons in those developing countries.

"Based on my conversation with Mr. Zaretsky and Mr. Rowland's letter to Mr. Zaretsky, I believe that Mr. Zaretsky is fully aware of the restrictions concerning the sale and distribution of SANCFB-assembled Braillers and knows that Perkins School and Howe Press would not approve of any arrangements by which Braillers assembled by the SANCFB are diverted to the United States and/or other non-developing countries."

Editor's Note: The reader will recall that Sandler's original motion papers, quoted above, complained that charitable grant money from the Hilton Foundation had wound up in the Zaretskys' pockets. Elliot Zaretsky's response and Kevin Lessard's reply follow:

From Elliot Zaretsky's response affidavit: "Maxi-Aids never received any of the complained-of rebates from the Hilton Hotels Corporation or the Hilton/Perkins Foundation and never made any representations. . . that the purchased Braillers were intended for ‘third world' countries."

From Kevin J. Lessard's reply affidavit: "Mr. Zaretsky's affidavit states that, although Maxi-Aids purchased Braillers assembled by the SANCFB, it never received the benefit of the subsidy provided to Perkins School by the Hilton Foundation. If Mr. Zaretsky has acquired SANCFB-assembled Braillers, however, he necessarily has received the benefit of the Hilton Foundation subsidy, since the price of the SANCFB-assembled Braillers incorporates this subsidy."

Continuing from Kevin J. Lessard's reply affidavit: "Mr. Zaretsky's affidavit evidences that Mr. Zaretsky has, for his own benefit, intentionally circumvented policies and requirements that have been established by Perkins School, Howe Press, and the Hilton Foundation for the purpose of benefiting blind persons in developing countries."

Readers should know that Mr. Lessard and the Perkins School and Howe Press have gone beyond mere rhetoric in an effort to stop Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys from continuing to divert Perkins Braillers from South Africa. They are now having the SANCFB put a metal plate on each subsidized Brailler to identify it as such, and they are screening all orders from developing countries for unusually large purchases. As a further indication of their anger at what Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys have done, the Howe Press has notified Maxi-Aids that for the present it will no longer do business with the company.

The intricacies of the scheme that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys set up in an effort to get these charitably subsidized Braillers and their efforts to disguise what they were doing are worthy of discussion. Reading through these affidavits and the attached exhibits reveals just how much detective work was necessary to identify and expose the lengths to which Elliot Zaretsky went after being rebuffed by the SANCFB and personally told by Kevin Lessard that the subsidized Braillers were for sale only to individuals and entities in developing countries for use in those developing countries.

At one point Elliot Zaretsky incorporated a charity in New York State, using the exact name of a legitimate overseas charity. Mr. Zaretsky's charity, however, never filed registration papers with the Division of Charities in New York State, nor has it ever filed financial statements with the Division of Charities. Only time and further investigation will tell whether the establishment of this charity was part of the scheme to obtain subsidized Braillers. But let us return to the affidavits of Sandler and Zaretsky.

Readers will recall that Elliot Zaretsky, in his affidavit quoted above, said that "Maxi-Aids has found a company [in] South Africa who I believe purchases the Standard Perkins Braillers from the South African Council for the Blind, and then sells them directly to Maxi-Aids." He then went on to enclose an airway bill showing a shipment from a supplier in South Africa and stated, "Please note that the name and street number of the address of this company has been blacked out because I do not want to reveal this source to my competitor." He must have been stunned when he read Sandler's reply affidavit, which is quoted below.

From Sandler's reply affidavit: "He could have saved himself the trouble, since we already know the name of the company, and we have all the documents, including the one that he included as [his] exhibit. Mr. Zaretsky included only an airway bill, which is but one page of the story. The complete set of documents relating to this airway bill gives away the entire scheme, and I am enclosing all of the documents associated with Mr. Zaretsky's own exhibit, which he omitted from his exhibit.

Sandler then proceeded to show that the complete set of documents covered four invoices from SANCFB to agencies and organizations in Botswana, Mozambique, and Zambia. Each invoice carried a notation that the Braillers would be picked up in South Africa by the organization's own courier. It is hard to conceive that agencies and organizations in countries hundreds, perhaps thousands, of miles from South Africa would have couriers ready to take possession of the SANCFB Braillers. In any event, just a few days later, the Braillers were flown to New York, consigned to Maxi-Aids, as evidenced by the airway bill and customs-clearance document accompanying the invoices. It was clear that these Braillers never went to their supposed destinations but were picked up by the couriers and sent right to Maxi-Aids.

Although Elliot Zaretsky's sworn affidavit stated that Maxi-Aids "never made any representations. . .that the purchased Braillers were intended for developing countries," it is certain that somebody did. The Braillers certainly wound up in Maxi-Aids's hands within a very few days, so the involvement of Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys is all but impossible to doubt. Sandler supports his contention with additional invoices and shipping documents which show that a total of 1,520 Braillers had been diverted in exactly this way.

As a sidelight Sandler introduced an affidavit from Ms. Sarah A. McPhillips, the Office Manager of the Howe Press. Sandler had previously identified the serial numbers of eight Braillers that had been sold by Maxi-Aids to the Veterans Administration. In her affidavit Ms. McPhillips listed each Brailler by serial number and identified them as having been from shipments consigned to agencies and organizations in Lebanon, Tanzania, Botswana, and Kenya. All of these Braillers were shipped on the same day, and all of them wound up in Maxi-Aids' hands and were later sold to the VA. The VA had now become an unwitting accessory by providing a market for the diverted Braillers.

Sandler also included in his complaint a statement regarding one specific Brailler, which he obtained through an intermediary and which Ms. McPhillips identified as having been originally consigned to an agency in Kenya. The Brailler arrived in a box that had been cut open and then resealed so carefully that it was difficult to see that it had been tampered with. The cover of the instruction manual in the box, bearing the name, address, and phone number of the Howe Press, had been torn off, and a new cover, without this information, had been attached. On the outside of the box was a sticker that said "For Repair Call MAXIAIDS 1-800-522-6294."

Sandler contended that this was done as a part of the deception in order to prevent users from sending the machine back to the Howe Press for repairs, since the Howe Press would then have identified the machine by its serial number, which would have exposed the fact that Maxi-Aids was diverting subsidized Braillers. As far as we can tell, Elliot Zaretsky never answered this charge in his response affidavit.

Elliot Zaretsky concluded his defense of his activities in diverting Braillers by stating in his affidavit, "I would think that the purpose of a free market is to encourage exactly this kind of competition, where the consumer can only benefit from the resultant lower price, as would be the exact result of this claimed infraction." Sandler responded with the following statement in his reply affidavit:

From Sandler's reply affidavit: "The facts are otherwise. Maxi-Aids lists the Braillers in their catalog at exactly the same . . . price as my own catalog. The consumer does not get Mr. Zaretsky's "resultant lower price"—not even a single penny. The purpose and net result is to enrich Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys. These transactions and deceptive acts by the Defendants are driven by pure greed and exhibit an absolute disregard for moral and ethical behavior. To allow this conduct to go unpunished would not only encourage the Defendants to continue their nefarious and deceptive acts but is tantamount to giving them a license to steal from the Perkins School for the Blind, the Hilton/Perkins Foundation, and any other innocent organization whose products can be illegally obtained at a Third-World price."

There you have the saga of the Perkins Braillers to date. Just as this issue of the Braille Monitor was going to press, word came down that Judge Spatt had advised that he was going to deny ILA's motion because the Maxi-Aids lawyers had successfully attacked the basic injunction as being overly broad and therefore unenforceable. During a hearing on the matter, however, he had previously said, "The fault is mine, of course, that I signed an overbroad provision." This almost apologetic remark, letting the Zaretskys off the hook on a legal technicality, was followed by the statement, on the record, that  "ILA has presented a thorough and persuasive presentation that strongly suggests that the defendants are indeed improperly obtaining subsidized Braillers intended for use in developing countries and selling them at retail prices in the United States." We believe that the operative word is Judge Spatt's gentlemanly adverb "improperly." Throughout his affidavits Sandler used the word "illegally." Whichever term you prefer, both seem to rebut Elliot Zaretsky's claim that he has done nothing wrong.

Sandler and ILA have demonstrated with extensive documentation that Maxi-Aids and Elliot Zaretsky have actively pursued a campaign improperly (perhaps illegally) to obtain subsidized Braillers at a reduced price through misrepresentation and deception, despite being clearly told by the Director of the Perkins School for the Blind that this was against Perkins's policies. In doing so, the Zaretskys have pocketed up to $152,000 of charitably donated money from the Hilton Foundation.

When we called Marvin Sandler, he declined to comment, saying that the matter is far from over, and he is considering additional options. We then called Elliot Zaretsky, who also declined to speak for the record though he made arrangements for his attorney to send us a statement, which we agreed to print exactly as sent. With the lawyer's permission, we did try to bring the punctuation into conformity with generally accepted rules of grammar and Braille Monitor house style without altering sentence construction. Following is that statement in its entirety, including the text of the letterhead:

[Graphic: Maxi-Aids logo]

Law Offices of

Michael D. Solomon, Esq.

2950 Hempstead Turnpike

Levittown, New York 11756-1960

(516) 579-6200

facsimile (516) 579-2909

Maxi-Aids Is Vindicated

Maxi-Aids and the family Zaretsky have just triumphantly withstood another round of allegations of wrongdoing brought by Marvin Sandler and Independent Living Aids (ILA) in the form of a motion for contempt against Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys for allegedly violating an injunctive order from Judge Spatt of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York that issued as a result of the previous lawsuit filed by Mr. Sandler and ILA, a competitor of Maxi-Aids. Though Maxi-Aids disagreed with this verdict rendered in that lawsuit, Maxi-Aids fully respected the terms of the judgment by settling the monetary award and has been diligently following the terms of this over-broad court injunction for more than two years. In its motion for contempt Mr. Sandler and ILA attempted to convince Judge Spatt that they had evidence that Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys were violating the injunctive provisions of the judgment. Maxi-Aids' vindication was total and complete. Judge Spatt refused to even consider the ILA claim and stated that he made a mistake in issuing an over-broad injunctive provision. Maxi-Aids, through its legal brief and arguments at a hearing in the District Court before Judge Spatt, proved that the injunction was overly expansive in its restrictive terms, and Judge Spatt had the injunctive order stricken from the record.

The Veterans Administration, as a result of the previous lawsuit, investigated Maxi-Aids and found it to be a reputable and responsible company. Maxi-Aids even worked closely with the Veterans Administration in an effort to improve its management and how the company was being run.

The bottom line is that Maxi-Aids combs the world to find the finest quality and the lowest possible prices for the specialty items it provides to physically challenged, visually and hearing impaired people. In addition the dedication that Maxi-Aids devotes to customer service is unparalleled. No stone is left unturned by Maxi-Aids when it comes to providing its customers with superior quality products at the lowest prices and best service in the industry, a reputation that has been built with care since 1986.

Maxi-Aids is committed to continue its mission of providing the most innovative and highest-quality specialty items that are truly affordable for people with special needs. This mission was formulated by Elliot Zaretsky, its founder, over fourteen years ago. Mr. Zaretsky, a registered pharmacist, was inspired to this mission when he was unable to locate the right specialty items for his son Harold, who was born deaf and who is now a co-owner of Maxi-Aids. Maxi-Aids takes great pride in being the best at what they do and pledges to insure that the needs of its customers will always be its utmost priority.

Michael D. Solomon, Esq.

Attorney for Maxi-Aids

There you have the Maxi-Aids statement. Although it claims that the denial of ILA's motion is a vindication, not a single word addresses the facts of the matter, and the statement reads more like a testimonial than a response. As a matter of fact, if anything, it is a testimonial to the cleverness of the lawyers in attacking the broadness of the injunction itself rather than trying to defend against the claims made by ILA. This effectively got Maxi-Aids off the hook through a legal technicality and spared the company from having to face and defend against the actual charges. It is worth repeating that, even while denying ILA's motion, Judge Spatt stated in open court that the ILA presentation was "thorough and persuasive."

We do feel compelled to comment on the statement that "Maxi-Aids combs the world to find . . . the lowest possible prices." As indicated by the documentation in ILA's papers, Maxi-Aids does indeed comb the world; it does obtain the lowest prices (whether legally or not). But at least in the case of the Perkins Braillers these lower prices are not passed on to the consumer; they go right into the Zaretskys’ pockets.

With respect to the Brailler  matter, we also talked with Kevin Lessard, Director of the Perkins School for the Blind, which has been deeply involved with the work of the Hilton Foundation helping blind people around the world. After confirming the accuracy of our understanding of the arrangements for producing Perkins Braillers at the Capetown not-for-profit workshop operated by the South African National Council for the Blind, Lessard said that he feels some uncertainty about how many Braillers have actually been diverted from developing countries to Maxi-Aids. He stressed, however, that Perkins is working hard to determine how many are involved so that Perkins can reimburse the Hilton Foundation its $100 per unit for those that have ended up in the U.S. To date they know of somewhat more than 200 of these.

Perkins is working with blindness organization leaders in Kenya, Lebanon, Tanzania, and Botswana, all countries from which Brailler orders came to SANCFB and later arrived at Maxi-Aids. So far Perkins has received good cooperation from these officials but has decided not to accept further orders from the four countries. From now on all orders from African countries will come to Perkins directly so that they can be checked before being passed along to SANCFB for completion. When asked directly whether Perkins was contemplating court action of its own, Lessard would say only that a range of options was being considered. He did, however, characterize the diversion of Braillers intended to reach children in the developing world to buyers in the United States as "outrageous."

So where do we go from here? The documents demonstrate what they demonstrate, and regardless of what Judge Spatt has decided on the technicalities of the case, based on Sandler's doggedness he is unlikely to cease his efforts to insist that the courts require fair competition in the blindness field. Moreover, there is an old saying to the effect that "Those who do not condemn an action or behavior condone it." We at the National Federation of the Blind yet again condemn what Maxi-Aids and Elliot Zaretsky have clearly done as reprehensible. We go on record as deploring the fact that up to 1,520 Braillers intended for use in the developing world to assist who knows how many blind people have been diverted to the American market at a profit of $265 each for Maxi-Aids.

For its own protection Perkins must now go to the time, trouble, and expense of having plates affixed to some of its Braillers and to expend energy in monitoring sales to make sure that its Braillers are not again improperly diverted to Maxi-Aids. This is an expense that takes time and money away from the basic mission of producing and getting Braillers into the hands of those who need them in developing countries. Perkins should not have to conduct its not-for-profit operations under the anxiety of having such a travesty occur again.

In passing one might also ask what problems will face the people and agencies that bought these imported Braillers from Maxi-Aids. Will Maxi-Aids be able to provide service when the Howe Press now refuses to do business with them? How will Maxi-Aids obtain the spare parts they need to repair these machines? Will the Howe Press provide warranty service at no charge for machines they did not sell? Only time will tell.

The National Federation of the Blind made its position clear seven years ago when Dr. Jernigan published a statement in the December, 1994, issue of the Braille Monitor that we had stopped buying anything at all from Maxi-Aids, even if its price was the lowest to be had, because we did not like its behavior or dealings. Each person who reads this article, knowing that a federal judge has stated in open court that ILA's presentation of Maxi-Aids's "improper" acquisition of these charitably subsidized Braillers is "thorough and persuasive," must act and then live with his or her own conscience.

It is fitting that the statement by the Maxi-Aids lawyer alluded to the Veterans Administration issue, which the Zaretskys also treat as a vindication. Although the statement claims that the VA "investigated Maxi-Aids and found it to be a reputable and responsible company," it omits the fact that for more than a year Maxi-Aids and the Zaretskys were under a proposed debarment and prohibited from doing business with the VA. Sandler and ILA claim that the proposed debarment was lifted at a time when the VA was unaware that the Zaretskys had established a sham company called "Able-Vision" as a device to evade the prohibition. Next month we will examine the presentations of both sides, in the words of the actual participants, so that our readers can judge for themselves.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kristen Cox]

The Medicare Equity Act for the Blind: Why the NFB Prefers H.R. 2674 to H.R. 2484

by Kristen Cox

From the Editor: When members of the National Federation of the Blind were on Capitol Hill last February talking with Congress about our legislative concerns for the coming year, we spent a good deal of time discussing the Medicare Equity Act for the Blind, H.R. 2674, introduced by Congressmen Martin Frost and Adolphus Towns. Congressman Michael Capuano of Massachusetts had already introduced another bill, H.R. 2484, which uses a different mechanism to try to accomplish the same goal. From the start we faced the challenge of helping Members of Congress and their staffs to understand the differences between these two bills.

The objective of both bills is to permit the use of Medicare Part B funds to cover the cost of rehabilitation for blind Medicare beneficiaries. Recently Kristen Cox, Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, wrote a letter to members of the House committee that will consider these two bills. She also sent it to House Members who cosponsored Congressman Capuano's bill, H.R. 2484. We will undoubtedly be comparing these two bills and urging Congress to pass H.R. 2674 again this year at the Washington Seminar. Therefore we are printing Mrs. Cox's letter to enable Federationists to study it carefully as a preparation for coming discussions with Members of Congress in the District and on Capitol Hill. Here it is:

On behalf of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), I am writing to voice our objections to a bill introduced by Congressman Capuano—H.R.2484—"The Medicare Vision Rehabilitation Services Act of 2001." I will begin by briefly explaining what the National Federation of the Blind is and whom it represents. Then I will detail the three main reasons for our opposition to the bill.

Organizations have been established from time to time to speak for the blind and to find ways to ameliorate their situation. However, it was not until 1940, with the founding of the National Federation of the Blind, that the blind could speak for themselves through their own elected leaders chosen by the blind to represent their interests.

Today active affiliates of the NFB exist in all fifty states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, with a combined membership in excess of fifty thousand. Each year we come together at our National Convention to elect our leaders and determine the policies and direction of the organization. The NFB is the largest organization of blind people brought together in one body to speak on issues that directly affect our lives.

During the 2001 NFB National Convention blind people from throughout the United States unanimously supported a resolution opposing H.R.2484. While the convention opposed this bill, it included language in the resolution supporting H.R.2674, The Medicare Equity Act for the Blind. H.R.2674 uses a well-established and accountable system for the delivery of quality rehabilitation services to older blind individuals. In contrast H.R.2484 will needlessly duplicate services and result in an ineffective delivery system. Following are the reasons why we oppose H.R.2484.

1. H.R. 2484 undermines the intent and purpose of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

Background:

The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides a vehicle for the coordinated and comprehensive delivery of services to blind people seeking employment. Title I of this Act authorizes designated state agencies to plan and develop vocational rehabilitation services designed to prepare blind people for employment. State vocational rehabilitation agencies provide a full array of services, equipment, and facilities to support the rehabilitation process. Services include assessment, counseling, job-related services, vocational training, corrective surgery, reader services, orientation and mobility training, adaptive technology, and training in the use of technology.

In addition the Act establishes important procedures that empower the blind individual to plan and choose goals, services, and providers of services. For example the Act establishes a policy that consumers must be "active and full partners in the vocational rehabilitation process." Amendments passed in 1992 and strengthened in 1998 require that the individual's informed choice must be obtained and exercised in developing each individualized plan for employment. This plan is used as the blueprint for the individual's program of services, including the employment outcome chosen by the individual.

Also, the plan must be "consistent with the individual's unique strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, and interests." The Act also sets forth specific rights and remedies and other important provisions which protect the integrity of the rehabilitation process. This system affords blind people a full and comprehensive approach to skills training while emphasizing self-determination and consumer choice.

Problem:

In undermining the vocational rehabilitation program, H.R. 2484 will have a substantial negative impact on services to blind consumers. This is true because, unlike the vocational rehabilitation program, services provided under H.R. 2484 will be planned and ultimately controlled by medical professionals without reference to consumer choice or other safeguards now in place in the Rehabilitation Act. Instead of the coordinated and comprehensive approach of current law, the bill will lead to a fragmented and ineffective rehabilitative process.

For example the bill provides medical doctors the authority to refer blind Medicare beneficiaries to a list of certified rehabilitation providers of such services as orientation and mobility training and Braille instruction. The providers supported by H.R.2484 would normally not be located at the state vocational rehabilitation agency already established or associated with it in any way. Instead of obtaining services which are planned and coordinated under a fabric of well-established state and federal laws, through one central source, an individual would have to obtain services from a patchwork system of providers who are not coordinated to serve the individual as a whole.

Moreover, a person may not be able to obtain all of the services now provided by a state agency since some of those services (such as job-related and reader services) are not covered by H.R.2484. Besides, the providers supported by H.R.2484 are apt to be motivated more by competing for the Medicare dollar than they are by eagerness to serve the interests and needs of the individual.

In addition the important principles and protections provided by the Rehabilitation Act would not apply to services provided under H.R. 2484. Effective rehabilitation is a confluence of tried and true principles, policies, and services. The delivery of rehabilitation services without reference to informed choice, for example, undermines the intent and effectiveness of rehabilitation.

Under H.R. 2484 the responsibility of preparing blind people for the work force will still rest with vocational rehabilitation agencies, but they will no longer have the ability to coordinate and develop a step-by-step plan for rehabilitation in conjunction with the consumer. Instead, services, energy, resources, and equipment will be needlessly duplicated as individual physicians, occupational therapists, and vision rehabilitation professionals provide services and file claims with Medicare to pay for services that could be provided more efficiently through rehabilitation programs operated under existing law.

2. Medical professionals lack the qualifications to oversee and implement rehabilitation services.

Background:

H.R. 2484 authorizes doctors to prescribe a "plan for care" for blind Medicare beneficiaries. Medical doctors and optometrists would determine an overall approach to services for the individual. While a vision rehabilitation professional could assess a client's needs and develop service plans, the doctor and not the rehabilitation provider would have ultimate authority to determine the course of action. This concept is vastly different from the existing approach. Under the Rehabilitation Act this approach empowers the blind person, jointly with a rehabilitation counselor, to determine the goals, objectives, and plans necessary to achieve competitive employment.

Problem:

Medical doctors and optometrists are not trained to provide or manage services related to adjustment to blindness. Their authority should be limited to their area of expertise—the treatment of medical conditions. Learning to live as a blind person is not a medical condition. Rather it is a confluence of learned skills and attitudes. Those best qualified to provide adjustment services for the blind are experts in rehabilitation. Allowing the medical profession to assert its jurisdiction in the field of rehabilitation would jeopardize quality services and emphasize costly medical treatment.

3. The certification process relied upon in H.R. 2484 will not assure the involvement of qualified rehabilitation professionals to work with the blind.

 

Background:

Procedures for certification and licensing of medical doctors and occupational therapists do not include standards relating to adjustment to blindness. However, under H.R.2484 both medical doctors and occupational therapists would plan, approve, and provide services to the blind. As for other providers, rehabilitation professionals would be required to obtain certification from the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (Academy) or be licensed by the state.

Problem:

No nationally recognized certification program exists in the blindness field. Specification of the Academy will inevitably lead to controversy since the Academy is widely regarded as self-serving because Academy certification is an internal process by which professionals certify each other and benefit from reciprocal validation. Their methods are not subject to external scrutiny and lack public accountability. Not surprisingly, the major proponents of H.R. 2484 are those most intimately associated with the Academy. The certification process outlined in the bill is vastly different from the licensor process generally required for other Medicare service providers such as medical doctors and occupational therapists. Unlike the Academy's internal peer review approach, the licensure process must comply with state law and is accountable to the public. Individuals licensed by the state are generally subject to rigorous review and disciplinary action if state standards are not met. This is not the case for individuals certified by the Academy.

Established less than two years ago, the Academy is essentially a spin-off of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). In fact, the incorporator of the Academy is the executive director of AER. The Academy's relationship to AER is troublesome since AER has a history of excluding blind people from the certification process which it formerly controlled. Several years ago AER forthrightly stated that orientation and mobility certification required the ability to observe a student visually. Due to pressure from the federal Department of Education and others, AER modified its policy. However, methodologies taught in programs aimed at Academy certification are still largely based upon the ability to make visual observations of student performance as a prerequisite for certification.

Consequently it is the rare exception for a totally blind person to be issued an Academy certificate. Discouraging blind instructors from working in the field of rehabilitation will only validate the myths and negative stereotypes surrounding the capacities of blind people. To codify this exclusionary practice and support the certification processes of the Academy would be counterproductive to quality services for the blind.

Conclusion:

The intent of H.R. 2484—to provide Medicare coverage for blind individuals in need of rehabilitation services—is a worthy objective. However, we believe the design and delivery system this bill outlines would set services for the blind back decades. Effective programs for the blind must include a full array of comprehensive services that address a variety of complex and individualized needs. In addition the system must be easy for the individual to understand and access. H.R. 2484 will undermine the ability of state vocational rehabilitation agencies effectively to serve the blind population in need of services. Thousands of blind people covered under Medicare would be affected.

With your help this will not happen. We ask that you support the blind by opposing H.R.2484 and cosponsoring H.R.2674. If you have any further questions about these bills, please feel free to call me.

Sincerely,

(Mrs.) Kristen Cox

Assistant Director, Governmental Affairs

National Federation of the Blind

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jennifer Dunnam]

Reflections and Photographs

by Jennifer Dunnam

From the Editor: As a child I remember holding an open hymnal or library book in order to make people think I could see what was printed in them. I often glanced down at my Cinderella watch pretending to look at the time even though I could see the face only under a strong light and using my magnifying glasses. I now know that all these little charades were unhealthy, even destructive efforts to deny the fact that I was blind. On the other hand we urge blind children to "look at the person speaking or to whom you are speaking," and to choose matching socks and clothes that go together so that they won't stick out. Parents of blind children and some blind adults are occasionally hard put to distinguish between pointless mimicry of sighted behavior and appropriate conformity to social norms.

Examining one's motive or purpose for engaging in an action usually reveals whether it is healthy or not. Seeking to hide one's blindness or delude others into assuming that one can see clearly indicates that one has not come to terms with blindness or one's identity as a blind person. If, on the other hand, one is engaging in the normal forms of social interaction in ways that will not distract other people or call inappropriate attention to one's dress or behavior, the actions are sensible and useful. I'm pretty sure that the more confident blind people are in themselves, the more naturally and easily they will pick their way through the possible pitfalls of social behavior without having to agonize about how they should behave.

Jennifer Dunnam quite obviously grew up a well-adjusted, normal kid. She and her family accepted the fact that she was blind and worked through the resulting complications of life with practical common sense. In the following article she talks about her interest in things and activities that, on their face, would seem to have little attraction for a blind child. But read what she says, and you will see that her interest was healthy and appropriate. The piece first appeared in The Slate Book, her instructive little book about how to use the Braille slate and stylus. This is what she says:

Every Christmas, when my two younger sisters and I were growing up, our family drove to a small town forty miles away from our home to exchange gifts with several sets of relatives who lived there. The Christmas I was twelve years old, one of my grandmothers gave each of my sisters a small mirror with her name embossed on the handle. I do not remember the gift I got; all I remember is that it was definitely not a mirror with my name on it, and I wasn't happy about that. By the age of twelve I knew that it was inappropriate to express displeasure about a gift, so I kept my disappointment well hidden for the rest of the visit.

My interest in having that mirror had a lot to do with my upbringing. When I was a child, my parents maintained the same expectations for me that they did for my sighted sisters. There was no tiptoeing around visual words or concepts: I learned what color things were, I watched TV, and I turned on lights when it was dark. My parents never tried to hide or deny my blindness or the fact that there were things I could not do in the same way other people did, but they always started with the assumption that I would participate in all aspects of both working and playing. For instance, I got coloring books the same as my sisters; the crayons were labeled with the names of their colors in Braille, and often someone used a tracing wheel from a sewing kit to make the outlines of the pictures tactile. (Sometimes no one had time to trace the pictures before I wanted to use the coloring book, but I used it anyway, delighted not to be restricted to coloring between the lines).

So on the way home in the car that Christmas day, I stewed. Why did my grandmother think that, just because I couldn't look into the mirror, I shouldn't have one? I had a mirror in my bedroom, and I stood before it every day to brush my hair and get ready for the day. It felt strange to me not to do so, and I wasn't concerned about not seeing my reflection. Besides, my friends frequently borrowed each other's mirrors to check their appearance during the day; how impressed they would surely have been if I had my very own personalized mirror to lend them!

Finally, with the miles between our car and Grandmother's house increasing and with Becky and Angie ooh‑ing and aah‑ing over their stupid mirrors, the ungrateful brat in me won out. "It's not fair!" I blurted. "Why didn't I get a mirror too?" My parents pointed out quite reasonably that my grandmother might not have been able to find a mirror that said "Jennifer."

That possibility hadn't occurred to me, and after a little more thought, I came to accept it as the most likely explanation. But I still couldn't help wondering. I have been blind since birth, and it took some time for my understanding of certain visual concepts to evolve. Even with the excellent foundation my parents laid for me, my grasp of my relationship to certain visually‑oriented objects has not always been very accurate. I can still remember the time one of my sisters, hardly more than a year old, poured a bowl of mashed potatoes over her own head. Photographs have always been taken copiously and valued highly in my family, and this occasion was no exception. As the photo of the mess was passed around at a family gathering, I joined everyone else in clamoring for a look. When the picture was finally handed to me with instructions to touch only the edges, I held it a few minutes, but I couldn't tell what all the fuss was about.

I didn't quite understand that everyone else could see the picture, and I could not. I thought the picture was just one of those things I was still too young to understand. As I grew up, however, I learned that most other people could get information from pictures more readily than I could. At the same time I began to understand that photographs were of greater value than just for seeing. The summer I was eight years old, I went to the zoo with some friends. My favorite part was the elephant ride, and, when I learned that photos were available, I asked our chaperone to let me buy one of myself on the elephant. The chaperone was doubtful, wondering why a blind child would want a picture. After I explained that I wanted to take it home and let my family see me riding the elephant, she agreed. At home everyone exclaimed over the picture: my parents were proud, my sisters were envious, and I wanted a camera of my own.

In school class pictures were a very big deal among the students. Each year almost everyone at the public school purchased packets of individual school pictures of themselves to exchange with their friends. I gave out plenty of photos and got quite a collection of pictures of my school friends, often with messages written on the backs. Junior high and high school yearbooks were filled with pictures and were also vehicles for messages. There were times at school when I felt left out or couldn't participate in something because of issues relating to blindness, but I could always fit right in during the great picture exchange.

In college I spent several summers abroad, and I always took along a camera so I could bring home images to share with friends and family. I tried at first to keep a list in Braille of the order of the pictures as I took them so I could explain them to people when I showed them later. But then I found a better solution: I got a very high‑quality Polaroid camera. Soon after the pictures came out of the camera, I used a slate and stylus to make Braille Dymo tape labels and stick them on the bottoms of the pictures. I live far away from the rest of my family, and it's nice on occasion to share photos of the people and things that are important to me now. The pictures are also a quick way to connect the people in my life with those from my past; I can say to an interested friend, "This is my sister and her new husband," or "Here is the house where I grew up." Recently I had a photo taken of my new kitten, scanned the picture into a computer, and sent it to my sisters by e‑mail. Now, at gatherings of friends or on special occasions, it is instinctive for me to bring a camera and make sure that pictures get taken. Usually others take the photos, but when the need arises and the subject is not too complex, I take them myself. It took some practice to learn to aim correctly and hold the camera straight; I'm no professional photographer, but I can usually do a decent job of getting the subject centered enough in the frame so no heads are cut off, etc.

I am grateful to my family for making sure early on that I participated in all the normal activities of our daily life—even the sharing of photographs, which some might have considered unnecessary (not to mention inaccessible) for a blind person. My parents' positive, practical attitude fostered in me the expectation that I would be treated as an equal in society and therefore went a long way toward giving me the tools I needed to bring that expectation closer to reality.

The matter of the personalized mirror, as it turns out, was not entirely closed on that long‑ago Christmas day. When my grandmother died about four years later, I helped sort some of her belongings. I was surprised when I found, deep in one of her boxes, a small mirror, identical to the ones my sisters had received that Christmas four years before—but with my name on it. Since I am the only Jennifer in my family, it seems fair to assume that the mirror was bought for me and then for some reason reconsidered. Did my grandmother stop short as she wrapped our gifts and redden as she realized what she thought might be a cruel faux pas? Did someone who went shopping with her perceive a mistake and tell her it made no sense to give a mirror to a blind child? Or did she just misplace the mirror and not find it until after Christmas? I will never know.

I do know for certain that, regardless of what made her choose a different gift for me, she acted entirely out of a wish to be kind and supportive. I am sure she never dreamed that, in buying a gift for her blind granddaughter, sticking to traditional thinking about blindness actually resulted in disappointing a normal child who was also blind.

From the Editor: Effective access to print is a matter of serious concern to every person who must do significant amounts of reading but who does not see print easily. Dan Burke is a former vocational rehabilitation counselor and a disability services coordinator at the University of Montana. He knows firsthand about the importance of timely access to print, and he knows the problems inherent in universities that make print access a challenge to blind and low-vision students. Here is his advice to them and to everyone facing this problem:

I am passionate about access to print, about getting what I want from the vast store of published instructional, cultural, and entertainment material. Today the tools available to us are more powerful than at any time in history. More than ever before, blind readers can read what we need or want, independently and in a timely way. For college and in our later professional lives this affords exciting opportunities to those ready to take advantage of them. But this is not a time to be passive.

Rather there has never been a time for being passive. Many of the technological advances that benefit blind people bear the stamp of the National Federation of the Blind. Either they were ideas the NFB decided to support in the research stage, ideas we asked someone to develop, or innovations of friends of the NFB; and—not surprisingly—blind engineers, programmers, and others have done the work themselves.

When I was about to enter college in the previous millennium, I was neither aware of the NFB nor interested in being blind. In my final semester of high school, a teacher who worked with blind kids came out of nowhere and told me that I couldn't read to myself as fast as most people could read out loud and that most people could read to themselves quite a bit faster than they could read aloud.

News flash: If I didn't try something different, I would not be able to keep up with the college reading requirements! In college reading turned out to be a lot more important than it had been in high school—not just because far more is assigned in college, but because the reading is much more demanding. By contrast, in high school I was able to slide by without reading much of anything, drawing on the strength of my earlier years before print became almost unmanageable.

How about you? Can you keep up as a blind student without access to print or in spite of low vision? Are you as I was at seventeen, able to read but unable to get far enough fast enough, or just not getting enough out of the text despite a lot of reading time? Do you find yourself feeling physically exhausted by the sheer effort of reading—even with a CCTV? Do you employ my most typical strategy: if I couldn't get the book on tape, I blew off the reading and made sure I went to class every day, hoping to make it through on the strength of the lecture notes I took? How will you manage reading tests?

Here are some startling facts that students who talk to me have heard over and over again: average college students read at 200 to 300 words per minute—and they understand what they read. The average speaking rate, the speed at which most people read out loud, is between 100 and 120 words per minute. Compare your reading speed with this: Can you read at least as fast as the normal speaking rate? Can you do it with comprehension?

What does this mean? It means that if you can read no faster than the average speaking rate, reading assignments will take you twice as long as most of your classmates need. If you can't read even as fast as the normal speaking rate, you are simply not competitive. If you need to reread the material or test questions because the sheer effort of reading, even with magnification, makes comprehension difficult the first time, you are that much further behind your classmates.

Scared? Good, you should be.

When I was a freshman in college, I started using recorded texts from Recording for the Blind (now Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic). Not all the books I needed were available; not always were the correct editions completed in time. Not always were the recorded texts worth the bother because of interminable and useless descriptions of graphs or illustrations or because the professor jumped around in the book, and trying to find the beginning of the right chapters on 4-track cassettes was laborious and time-consuming. (Actually, when I first started college, not long after the end of the Vietnam War, RFB was still issuing recordings on 4-track, reel-to-reel tapes. Now they are rapidly converting to the Daisy CD-ROM format.

Don't misunderstand me—books on tape made a huge difference in my academic confidence and my grades. My point here is that RFB and D did not create a seamless, foolproof solution for me. They can't. In fact, nobody can. In any given year only about one in ten newly published books finds its way into recorded formats. So, even if RFB and D recorded several thousand titles each year, you won't be able to find everything you need or want.

Before I left for college, my vocational rehabilitation counselor for the blind decided that I didn't need help buying books since I could get free ones on tape. He told me to ask for volunteers to read any books I couldn't get from RFB. In other words he instructed me to do the tin-cup routine. I asked for volunteer readers for some of the material I couldn't get, but I have to be honest: I felt ashamed doing it, and before long I dropped the effort. So for most of the courses in which I couldn't get the books, I either dropped the course or bluffed my way through without the benefit of doing the reading.

Sound familiar to some of you? As a DSS coordinator I often encounter students who have vision so impaired that they can't get a driver's license but who are not using any alternative reading strategies. They are always behind. They feel frustrated with school and with themselves because they aren't as successful as they would like to be. They think they should or could be doing better. They feel ashamed of themselves. And the truth is that they probably could be doing better.

Yet they have been equally embarrassed about employing more effective methods of reading. Often these students are already eligible for RFB and D. Maybe they tried it and were frustrated. Maybe they get the books they can on tape and struggle or fake their way through the rest of the reading. You know who you are. Ask yourself now: Doesn't it make sense to use any legitimate means you can to be as successful in school and later in your career as your natural talents allow?

What about all of you who have found yourselves in the second, third, or fourth week of classes, still trying to get your textbooks in an accessible format? Don't you deserve an equal chance to succeed? Here are your choices for accessing print. And, man, choices are everything in life!

Braille is an essential tool. It is the best medium for reading and writing—especially for taking notes on a Braille notetaker. How much you can see is irrelevant. Note taking is an essential part of learning since it requires immediate comprehension and synthesis of information and is a multi-sensory function—the best kind of learning mode. Taking one's own notes is critical to success. Even so students may be tempted to use a tape recorder for lectures or rely on a note-taker in class because they don't know Braille well enough to keep up. Tape-recording lectures necessitates transcribing notes later, using a computer for example. This in turn requires listening to the lecture another time, which on the face of it seems like an advantage. But, since the temptation is to pause the tape while typing, taking notes this way can take up to twice as long as the original class period. This quickly becomes unwieldy in time management, and students using this practice can seldom take a full course load, stretching their college career and expenses to an unnecessary length.

Imagine telling your future employer or clients that you will need to type up your meeting notes before you can respond to a question or take any action. What are the chances either will want to pay for this inefficient use of their time? Getting notes from someone else in class presents the difficulty of converting them to a format you can use or reading them on a CCTV. Even if you can read someone else's handwriting and understand the shorthand, you have created an indirect, delayed means of learning. And again, how willing will co-workers or clients be to take your notes for you? And how will you be able to respond in a timely fashion if you must wait to render someone else's notes readable? In short, why use ineffective, inefficient means when you can learn to take notes for yourself?

Laptops are better but present the difficulty of keeping your battery charged or locating a nearby outlet. Conservatively a Braille notetaker's battery can function ten times longer than any laptop's. In addition, any electronic file can be converted to Braille on a Braille display or read by the voice function in your notetaker. This can be done in one or a few steps, and text files can be translated into Braille internally for editing. Learn it and use it. Even if your Braille-reading speed isn't great at the outset, it will improve with practice.

Readers are the next most important tool for managing print access efficiently. Books on tape can fill a lot of your access needs, but not all, so learning to manage print with a reader is a critical tool for many types of material. (I suggest reading Peggy Elliott's article "On the Care and Feeding of Readers" in the May, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor. It is excellent, so there's no reason to plow that ground again.)

Recorded books from existing libraries for blind users are a big help. Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic has been around for more than half a century, focusing exclusively on textbooks, mostly for college course work. It has a huge library and constantly records new titles or editions of existing titles using its network of recording studios' volunteer readers. RFB and D is currently converting many titles to digital formats and recording new titles digitally too. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) serves a more general reading audience, much like a public library. But it contains books on tape or in Braille that find their way into college reading lists as well—particularly in literature, history, and the arts. It is often helpful to check both sources for titles.

Sighted students often highlight important passages in their books, and a few take notes on the reading. Taking notes from recorded texts is a good idea, but here is where you will encounter the chief disadvantage of recorded books—you can't always get the true structure of a sentence or paragraph from a recording if you need to copy a quote. Not all books are on tape either, and not all subject matter renders well in a recorded format. Still recorded texts are far too important a source to ignore.

Graphics printers are increasingly effective for rendering maps, math, and complicated diagrams and graphs. If you have access to such technology or materials, your competitive equality is literally at your fingertips.

Screen-reading software for computer use is also critical. Nowhere in your community will you be able to find a business that doesn't now employ a personal computer, and you can't get through college without using one if you want to be competitive. Our university, for example, is considering a computer-proficiency standard for entry into upper-division course work. That's how important personal computers and information management have become to intellectual and commercial communications. Turn it to your advantage.

Screen readers are software components that function within your operating environment and render much of what appears on the screen into synthesized speech using your sound card or into Braille on a Braille display. Some Braille notetakers can do double duty as both stand-alone notetaker and Braille-output device for a screen reader. Screen readers give you all the capabilities of writing, reading, and editing documents and e-mail using standard office software bundles. They make spreadsheets, databases, and Web browsers accessible. As operating environments have evolved, so have screen readers. Thus they are the most versatile tool for use with personal computers.

Along with your screen reader, seriously consider a scan-and-read package that will convert print to readable electronic text, making your access to those materials a more independent function. This makes it possible to get timely access to hard-to-obtain materials, such as library books, class handouts, etc. If you like, you can scan much of your assigned class reading, though this may be difficult with some texts. Still scan-and-read packages give you tremendous flexibility and independence.

The Web is not the tool of the future; it is the tool for today. The Web is a powerful resource for access to information. With your screen reader almost anything on the Web, including electronic library databases and electronically stored library files, can be your independent domain. The Web has many powerful global search engines, and both RFB and D and NLS have excellent search engines for their catalogs of books on tape and Braille. In addition to the many resources of text files on the Web, you can also obtain formatted electronic Braille files, which can be read with a Braille display or in a Braille notetaker. These files are available from the National Library Service for the Blind and from some independent sources as well. Also a new service is under development that will allow members to share files they've scanned into text or in electronic Braille files. (See the article by Peter Scialli in the November, 2001, issue of the Braille Monitor.)

If the school you attend has document-conversion capabilities, you can have much of what you need converted into usable files. This includes materials you need for research projects.

For math and science courses such as chemistry and physics there are an increasing number of audible graphing calculators. Some are portable, hand-held models, and there is at least one software-based calculator as well.

The Role of Vocational Rehabilitation: Your VR counselor for the blind can potentially pay for any or all of these services or equipment. RFB and D, for example, requires a membership fee. VR can pay for these fees, as well as purchase the screen readers, Braille notetakers, and more which are necessary for your educational and professional use—not to mention covering tuition and books.

The NFB has long advocated reliance on your VR plan to pay for equipment and readers, while recommending minimal reliance on disability services offices at colleges and universities. We have a couple of good reasons for this advice. First, logically your VR counselor for the blind knows a lot more about blindness than most DSS professionals, who work in the broader area of disability. Disability services professionals are often unsure what to do with blind students, and this uncertainty is too often fed by the stereotypes and negative assumptions about blindness that the NFB works tirelessly to change.

Second, while there are a handful of excellent programs serving blind college students, too many crave dependence from blind students, and others are absurdly restrictive about the use of their services. For example, a student told me recently that his former college provided readers but only at the DSS office during standard working hours—from eight to five. Another university legend is of a school that prohibits its readers from rereading any portion of the students' text—so you better get it all the first time through!

The result of these practices is to leave the blind student with hand outstretched in order to get what he or she needs from the DSS office—in effect a supplicant or victim. That's not what the NFB advocates, nor is it what the authors of the Americans with Disabilities Act had in mind. Neither is it a good preparation for the real world of successful professional advancement. On the contrary it's a ticket to well-educated unemployment, and it should then not be any surprise that the ADA has had almost no impact on unemployment rates among people with disabilities in general. It's not a bad law, but it is too often bent to fit some model of disability not grounded in the principles of equality, competence, and independence. The ADA and the civil rights it promises strongly imply the necessity of taking an active role in achieving equal access. For blind people there is simply no other effective or respectable way.

The NFB, on the other hand, boasts hundreds of highly successful professionals—lawyers, doctors, scientists, and more. Their success derives from taking their educations and careers into their own hands—not by holding them out in supplication.

Working successfully with your VR counselor will be easier if you know where you want to go and what it will take to get you there. VR law requires that counselors use "comparable benefits" wherever possible. This means that your counselor will want to consider services from your college's DSS office as things someone else can pay for, and therefore something he or she won't want to pay for. But VR law also contains provisions for "client choice," and you should feel free to insist on the means that give you the most control, independence, and flexibility.

Don't hesitate to remind your counselor that these are the skills and characteristics that will serve you best when it comes time to go to work—which is the whole point of VR. Remember also that you have the right to disagree with your counselor and appeal any decision not in your best interest. Call the National Center for the Blind or your state affiliate President if you need ideas or information. Your state's Client Assistance Program will also assist you if you ask it. Keep in mind, though, that you may need to teach the truth about blindness to the CAP representative assigned to advocate for you. In any case, if you want to understand more about CAP and your rights, ask your counselor for the Client Assistance phone number. (Sometimes asking that question alone brings a certain amount of enlightenment.)

Here are the three cardinal rules for success in college:

* Maximize your independent learning.

Always remember that you are preparing for a career, in which you will be expected to work independently in order to be a success. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't employ readers, for example; it simply means that you have to be in charge.

* Plan ahead.

You have to be organized well in advance. Don't expect others to organize everything for you at the last minute in the heat of the rush. This isn't a magic show, you know. Your goal should be either to have all your textbooks in an alternate format or to have your readers hired and scheduled by the first day of class.

* Be eclectic

You will undoubtedly need to employ a collection of effective strategies because no single one or two will work in every situation, for every textbook, or in every class. In other words, don't put all your eggs in one unstable basket. Be flexible.

Here is some advice I give students at my institution. With some adjustments for your own preferences and situation, it might prove helpful:

After pre-registration, go to the bookstore and write down the titles, authors, editions, and ISBN numbers of all your books that have been ordered thus far. Faculty don't always order early, but enough do to get a head start. For those texts which haven't been ordered, try contacting the professor or department to see if they have already selected the books, and gather the same information on those texts as well.

This information is what you will use to search for the texts in a recorded format. You can do this on the Web (remember, it's a good idea to check both RFB and D's database and the NLS databases), or call RFB and D's toll-free number. If you find the titles, you can order them using the appropriate shelf numbers by calling or e-mailing RFB and D. Do this right away. Titles in the NLS collection are ordered through the regional network library in your state. You can order the books which are already available, and you'll have them in time for the first day of class.

Now the easy part is done. For the books that aren't available, you now have to make some decisions. RFB and D can record them for you if you buy two copies and send them to Princeton, New Jersey. They will reimburse you for one and return the second when recording is complete, but you won't have the book until they're done. So ask how long recording will take—you want to make sure it will be ready in time for the semester. It will be sent out in installments as each cassette is completed, so you need to know the projected completion date to determine if you have the time to wait for your copy of the print book to be returned. I wouldn't go this route myself unless I had at least a year's lead time, and the book couldn't be scanned easily. In other words, it's rarely a workable solution in the time crunches in which we usually find ourselves.

Next, there is the option of e-text—you can look for some things such as literature and history on the Web. Many Web-based repositories contain only titles for which all copyright claims have expired, so you may not find many recent titles or editions. Your professor may or may not recommend their use, so it's a good idea to double-check to ensure that you have found a suitable edition or translation. Some of the many Web resources of electronic text include the On-line Books Page, the Gutenberg Project, the International Electronic Braille Library. A new Web-based exchange, the proposed bookshare.org, may prove useful as well when it goes on-line. Bookshare.org, now in beta testing, will permit members to share books they have scanned for their own use, allowing us to share the benefit of the work we put into making print accessible for ourselves.

Some colleges, like the one where I work, convert documents into e-text, so that is what I tell students their next choice should be. They must buy the book and bring it to us at DSS. If they can get a syllabus this early, we will produce the e-text by following the assignments in the order that they will be read for the class. But if we get the book early enough to have time to prepare it, the syllabus may not be available. But that's OK—with enough of a head start we may be able to do the entire book before classes begin.

E-text, as you may have guessed, must be read with a computer equipped with a screen reader, scan-and-read software, a Braille notetaker, or a nifty little device known as the Road Runner.

Planning in the case of a system like ours is even more critical. If you bring your books in at the start of the term, you will be in the production queue with all the other Last-Minute Charlies, getting your e-text files every week or two, just in time to get them read for your classes. And since there is always a delay in getting production rolling, you will begin by being behind by a week or two.

Of course, if you have your own scan-and-read package, you can take care of the scanning yourself as the term progresses. Again, if you're scanning your own books, the syllabus is helpful to ensure that you put your time into the work you will be required to read so that you can have it done at the right time. This may give you more flexibility—not to mention independence.

In our production-oriented environment at Montana, it just isn't practical to convert some books into e-text because they have too many formulas, equations, illustrations, or other problems, such as color shading on pages. These things do not permit clean scans, or they make editing of converted documents too time-consuming. In these cases it may be necessary to use readers, ideally sitting with you while they read. (Again see Peggy Elliott's excellent article in the May, 1993, issue of the Braille Monitor.) Taping is also an option for your reader, but you can't ever go back and ask a tape to repeat a mispronounced word or to spell it for you. Sometimes, though, having someone tape a book may be necessary for a variety of reasons.

Math, on the contrary, is almost useless on tape. Sitting with a reader allows the student to ask for clarification, rereading portions as necessary. Of course, using Braille or Nemeth code for math rather than a reader is a better approach. This is a good place to look at talking calculators and tactile graphs—all of which make learning more immediate than simply having a reader try to describe what's on the page.

Since we don't live in a perfect world, you will find that some professors order their books quite late. In fact, they don't even pick the books till close to the start of the semester. And some books, though ordered in plenty of time, aren't in the bookstore until just before the semester starts, and you can't begin scanning in advance.

In this case—and it will happen—similar steps should be followed, in an accelerated fashion. As soon as you can get the titles, check to see if RFB and D has them, and order what you can. It probably won't be useful to have RFB and D record them now—you'll never get the tapes in time. So students at the University of Montana bring unavailable books to DSS to see about e-text. In such cases the syllabus is critically important since we are obviously busiest at the start of each semester.

If using a reader is the best way to go, get one lined up as quickly as possible—maybe work something out in advance with your readers from the previous semester. This is an area in which having your VR counselor pay for readers is helpful because it gives you the flexibility to make all the necessary arrangements before the start of classes—something no DSS office can promise in every case or for every term.

All this seems like a lot of work, and frankly it is. But you have every right to give yourself the best opportunity to be successful. That takes some planning, some skill, and some determination, but it saves you the sweat of playing catch-up all the time. That's what the NFB advocates, and in essence that's what civil rights mean. In the final analysis, taking access-to-print seriously is an essential part of being a successful student and professional. It means being passionate!

Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchase—a house, college tuition, or car. The most common forms of planned giving are wills and life insurance policies. There are also several planned giving options through which you can simultaneously give a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, obtain a tax deduction, and receive lifetime income now or in the future. For more information write or call the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]

Technology-Acquisition Strategies for Young Blind Students

by Curtis Chong

From the Editor: Curtis Chong, Director of the NFB's Technology Department, receives a steady stream of requests for advice on various aspects of technology and technology acquisition. He recently heard from an alert and dedicated teacher of blind children who wanted help in planning the future acquisition of Braille technology for a bright six-year-old. The questions she asked and the answers and comments Mr. Chong provided will be useful to other teachers and parents grappling with the same set of problems. Here is the e-mail correspondence:

November 6, 2001

Subject: technology guidelines

Dear NFB,

I am a teacher of the visually impaired who is working with a bright six-year-old student in first grade who is totally blind. He is using Braille for reading and math along with his sighted peers and is keeping up quite nicely. I want to make recommendations to his school district about the assistive technology equipment he will need. Presently he is using the Perkins Brailler. He accesses some programs on the computer such as the software from APH that was written for Windows (Math Flash, Learn Keys), as well as some games from Bavisoft (Grizzly Gulch), and PCS (Mobius Mountain, A 2 Z). He is capable of using touch typing to locate all the letter keys of the qwerty keyboard.

He has also been introduced to the Braille 'n Speak Scholar and can recall the sequence of commands to create files, read in files, and do some editing. He writes mostly on the Perkins because I want him to spend more time with the dots, and we do not have an embosser to make a hard copy with the Scholar. Initially I thought about getting a talking word-processing program and Home Page Reader instead of getting a screen reader. However, he is very bright and interested in how to open and close programs in addition to playing the games. Now I think maybe I should just go ahead and recommend a screen reader. What do you think?

At some point in time I want to get a Braille-transcription program and embosser. Currently his Braille materials are being obtained through a variety of sources including myself and the Braillist aide. We are able to keep up with his present needs, but I know this will change rapidly. I also want to get him an electronic notetaker with a refreshable Braille display at some point. I guess what I am asking is: for this particular student, what do you see as his short term technology needs and his long-term needs? What do you suggest I recommend that the school district purchase, and in what order?

I would appreciate any help you can give me.

Sincerely,

________

November 7, 2001

Subject: Technology Guidelines

Dear ________:

Your e-mail to the National Federation of the Blind dated November 6, 2001, has been forwarded to me. You asked for some short-term and long-term technology‑related recommendations for a totally blind student who is six years old. I think that we can help you to come up with recommendations that will provide this student with not only the technology he needs—when he needs it—but also a solid grounding in blindness‑specific skills that will serve him in the long term.

To begin with, let me say how delighted I am that your student is keeping up with his sighted peers, that he is using Braille (on a Perkins Brailler no less), and that he is working with a teacher as knowledgeable and educated as you are. Regardless of any technology that he might obtain in the future, what he has available to him today has already set him on the right path—a path which will guarantee his future success. It is unfortunate that there are far too many other blind children in this country who are not as well situated.

I agree with your desire to encourage your student to work with the Braille dots. This is the best way to build up reading proficiency. While the Scholar may be a useful note-taking device, its inability to produce refreshable Braille creates a disadvantage for the student who needs to build up his Braille‑reading speed. If I were to suggest any improvement in this area, I would encourage the use of a slate and stylus as the ultimate backup to any electronic note‑taking system.

My short-term recommendation is to acquire screen-access technology for the PC (JAWS for Windows or Window‑Eyes) and to use this technology to help the student learn to produce printed work with a simple word processor such as Microsoft's WordPad. If the situation warrants, he can also start some supervised activities on the Internet. The important point to keep in mind here is that he needs to learn—as early as possible—to prepare printed material for sighted consumption using a standard qwerty keyboard as opposed to a device with Braille keys.

Preparing printed material using a Braille keyboard creates bad Brailling habits—habits which are hard to break as the child grows older and the mind less flexible. It is perfectly fine to write material in Braille for one's own use, but it is quite another to try to input Braille into a document which one intends to print. The convolutions that one must go through in order to ensure proper reverse translation from Grade II Braille to print force one to enter the Braille information incorrectly. Just think about how one would produce two hyphens (--) or how one would write the letter "K" by inputting these in Braille. The reverse translator will want to convert the two hyphens into something like "com‑" and the K into the word "Knowledge."

At some point, perhaps a few years in the future, a portable electronic notetaker with a refreshable Braille display (e.g., a BrailleNote) could be obtained. But I wouldn't rush to get this technology. It takes a few years to build up really good speed on the slate and stylus, and having an electronic notetaker available creates a powerful disincentive.

Ultimately, when the student reaches high school, consideration needs to be given to developing skill in finding, managing, and (if necessary) dismissing sighted readers. This skill is indispensable in the later years as less and less material is available in the format of the student's choice. Of late we have been noticing that students who are able to obtain 100 percent of their materials in Braille while in high school tend to be quite frustrated when entering college, where there is far less Braille available. They find themselves unable or reluctant to work with sighted assistance. This problem grows even worse when the student graduates from college and enters the workplace, where almost nothing is available in alternative formats.

As your student progresses through school, I hope you will be able to consider how to provide him with tactile graphics—that is, raised-line drawings and tactile representations of three‑dimensional objects. Many of us, growing up blind, had little or no opportunity to feel raised-line drawings, and as a result we find that we are not able to deal with such drawings when they become available. In my opinion, if blind students are constantly exposed to raised-line drawings and raised-line representations of three‑dimensional objects, they will soon be able to use these representations to learn far more than some of us did who were not quite so lucky.

I trust that I have given you some useful information. Please feel free to write to me directly if you need additional help or recommendations.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Chong, Director of Technology

National Federation of the Blind

Disabled Take Struggle to Parliament

by Peta Thornycroft

From the Editor: The following story appeared in the Johannesburg Mail and Guardian on July 27, 2001. In many ways South Africa continues to demonstrate to the world how to build community in the twenty-first century. This story illustrates yet another way in which South Africa is doing valuable things. Here it is:

Johannesburg—The disabled have taken their struggle to Parliament with remarkable results.

"It's all getting better. We are getting more jobs now. We no longer feel like rejects. People with disabilities even appear in television dramas, like ‘Soul City,'" says partially sighted MP [Member of Parliament] Hendrietta Bogopane (thirty).

Bogopane is one of eleven disabled MPs in Parliament, who are not necessarily all African National Congress loyalists, but sit on their benches. She says she is an optimist, but even she is surprised at how far disabled people have come since the first democratic election.

Bogopane was born blind, had several operations as a child and can now see a little, but was chucked out of school before matric [matriculation] because she told the principal she had been raped by a teacher. The authorities believed the teacher, not her, and at seventeen Bogopane was left with a baby from that violent union.

Rejected by her father, it seemed there was no hope for this unskilled teenage mother, literally stumbling around in the dark. Bogopane was rescued by her grandmother, wrote six subjects for matric, passed them, and began meeting blind people. She got some piecework, joined organizations, and discovered how hard it was for a disabled person to survive in South Africa.

And so she became an activist. Before the 1994 election Bogopane and colleagues looked around for the political home to advance their cause. "I was a member of the ANC, but not all of us were. They used the Disability Rights Charter they had produced as a bargaining chip. The ANC established a disability unit."

Within three years the national disability strategy was passed, and the unit was moved to the Office of the Deputy President because, Bogopane says, disability is not a welfare issue but one of human rights.

Bogopane and her colleagues succeeded in getting inclusive education for the disabled, even before the Schools Act was passed. Now children with many disabilities can go to any school. Tertiary institutions have also established disability units.

"The Employment Equity Act is having an effect. It is slow and there have been problems, but its demands are gradually being realized." Bogopane says many companies became "hysterical" when the Act was passed. She says there were few consultants available to address companies' fears. Some consultants were only in it for the money, she says, and most were fully abled and couldn't get to grips with the issues.

"But, bit by bit, some of the fruits of the disabled's struggle for their place in the sun are ripening. There is still stereotyping. Blind people are mostly employed as switchboard operators, but the equity plans presently being submitted to the Department of Labor are going to show that real progress has been made," Bogopane says.

The Department of Labor has established a disability unit to ensure progress and to check on any corporate cheating or misunderstandings in employment returns. The public service is way below its goal of employing 2 percent of disabled people by this year, but Bogopane says this has been acknowledged at the top.

"Posts are being advertised differently, and recruitment strategies are being adjusted," she says. Bogopane says a job cannot merely be advertised; people have to be found through links with organizations for disabled people.

Eight years after assuming membership of Parliament, Bogopane is nostalgic about her activist days. "Parliament is very boring; my mind starts wandering; I have too much energy

to be in such a restricted environment; but I am chairing an important joint [National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces] monitoring committee on the improvement of the quality of life and status of children, youth, and disabled people."

Disabled MP's say they are independent of the ANC. "We have to be ourselves and are not bound by the party. We argue with them a lot; we won't say something is right or wrong for the sake of it. Going in with the ANC was a deal, not a compromise. But they do recognize us as disability experts. We are in Parliament on behalf of all the disabled. We have had parliamentary rules changed to accommodate us. We now have a guide dog in Parliament and a sign language interpreter. For us, the disabled, there is really a new South Africa. Not only are we now accepted as part of the mainstream of society, but we are getting jobs."

She cites "Soul City," the television series on health and welfare issues, as an example. "[‘Soul City'] created a new role for the current series, a deaf doctor who heads up the Masakhane Clinic. That's amazing."

Bogopane supports twenty-two members of her family who live in her house. In return her older relatives look after her children when she is beating the disabled movement's drum in Cape Town.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Judy Sanders]

The Discount

by Judy Sanders

From the Editor: The following thoughtful little story is reprinted from the Summer, 2001, issue of the Minnesota Bulletin, a publication of the NFB of Minnesota. Judy Sanders is a long-time leader of the National Federation of the Blind. She thinks carefully about the implications of her actions and those of the people around her. This is what she says:

The one good thing about the end of summer is the Great Minnesota Get Together, otherwise known as the Minnesota State Fair. As I walk through the fair, I hear a variety of sounds: all kinds of music, people hawking their products, the laughter of children, and the wild sounds on the midway. Even better than the sounds are the smells; the combination of fried food, sweet food, and grilled food lasts in my mind for the entire year.

So that I can rationalize attending the fair several times, I volunteer my time at a variety of booths. Whether for a favorite political candidate or through work, I need to be at the fair. The work goes much more easily if I can sip on a large soft drink. This is the story of the purchase of one such drink.

Having received directions from another fair-goer, with my white cane out in front, I went purposefully to the drink stand. My question to the proprietor was: "How much is a large drink?"

"Normally," he said, "They are $2.50, but for you, $1." What to do? Do I accept this discount without question? Are there any consequences that come with the cheap drink?

As a child I loved to go to amusement parks. Occasionally my parents would be offered a free ride for their little blind girl. I was of course their first real experience with blindness, and they had no way of knowing what implications were attached to these offers. Therefore they politely accepted the rides and my day at the amusement park was longer than it might otherwise have been.

As a young adult I wanted to be a teacher in a classroom of sighted children. I saw no reason why I could not excel in this field, but I quickly discovered that others with more say thought differently. I found that, while people were willing to give me a free ride, they were not willing to pay me to work. Here was a consequence that neither my parents nor I had foreseen.

It was about this time in my life that I first learned of the National Federation of the Blind. Federation members taught me a new way of thinking about my blindness. I slowly learned that blindness did not entitle me to special things—especially if I wanted to earn my way in society. It is difficult to have it both ways.

My response to the proprietor: "Here's five dollars; if you'll give me $2.50 in change, that will be fine. Thank you." He said, "You mean you will not let me buy a pretty woman a Coke?" Whether he was correct in his assertion regarding my attractiveness, it was evident to me that he was not buying every pretty woman a Coke. He could not have stayed in business. Therefore I reaffirmed with a smile that $2.50 in change would be fine.

I mentioned that at one time in my life I wanted to be an educator. I was given that chance because of the National Federation of the Blind (but that's another story). For some time I worked with newly blinded senior citizens. When I asked them what they would have done about such an offer, most said they would have accepted it without question. They would have recognized it for the kindness that was intended and enjoyed the discount. They, like my parents, did not yet have the perspective of other blind people so that they could assess this question more clearly. As we talked about consequences, most of them readily saw that they needed to give more thought to such situations.

I then posed a different question. What about senior discounts? We find them in many businesses: Tuesday is Seniors' Day, menus especially for seniors, and airline special senior fares. If we agree that blindness is not an excuse for accepting such discounts, should a senior accept them? The seniors hardly knew how to respond, except to say that for years they have been using them. To arrive at my feelings on the subject, I gave thought to the basis for the discounts. In the case of blindness the person offering the discount pities the recipient. The discounter makes the offer to make the day a little brighter for the poor blind person. On the other hand, senior citizens are regarded with respect, and our society wants to say thank you for all that they have given throughout their lives. No one wants to be blind—but everyone hopes to make it to being a senior. When I am eligible (and that time is soon) I plan to use my senior discounts. There is no doubt about the motives of the soft-drink concessionaire; his last words to me were, "You must have a good job." He's right. I do.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Wayne Davis]

A 3000-pound Metallic Puzzle

by Wayne Davis

From the Editor: Wayne Davis is the energetic President of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. He is also a devoted father with a great sense of humor. Read about his adventure helping his son try to repair his car.

My wife Carmen and I are both blind and active members of the National Federation of the Blind. We are useful, productive people who believe that blind people can do anything they decide they really want to do.

We have a grown son whose name is Dave. At the time of this story David was a senior at the University of South Florida in Tampa. On the weekend in question Dave had driven home to Miami Beach to spend a little time with us and a great deal of time with his girlfriend Brenda. On his way home on Friday night, he drove through some very heavy South Florida rain, and his windshield wipers had stopped working. He finally made it home, though, and his very first words when he came into our apartment were, "I am going to fix those blankety‑blank windshield wipers first thing in the morning. It won't take more then twenty minutes, and I won't have to spend a lot of money getting it fixed if I do the job myself."

At that time his car was a 1988 Mustang with a 5.0 engine. It had every high-speed add‑on that could be put on a car and was only slightly slower than a fighter jet.

I didn't try to talk Dave out of working on his car. To tell the truth, I felt pretty proud of him for being willing to get his hands dirty in order to save a few dollars.

Saturday morning came, and, true to his word, Dave put on an old pair of shorts and went out to fix his windshield wipers. I recall that I was sitting at my computer when I heard him come into the house. "Dad," he said as he leaned against our bedroom door jamb, "Could you help me for a few minutes?"

Fatherly pride swelled my heart. My son, who is a senior in college, needs my help. Here is a chance, I thought, for some of that quality time I am always reading about. "Sure", I said as I slipped on my shoes. "What seems to be the problem?"

"I might have bitten off more than I can chew," he admitted. "I could sure use another pair of hands if you are sure you are not too busy."

"No, Dave," I told him, "What I am doing can wait." Then, like a lamb being led to the slaughter, I followed my son out to the front of our building, where he was working on the car.

"I found out what the problem is," he said. "There are two little holes that let water drain out of the windshield wiper assembly. They are stopped up, and when it rained so hard, water built up and shorted out the wipers." At that point my foot kicked a big metal something lying on the front sidewalk. Before I could even ask, he said sort of under his breath, "That's my left front fender."

"Why did you take off your fender?" I asked.

"It was in the way," he told me, "but that's not my problem, Dad. I can't get my driver's-side door back on by myself."

I tried to remain cool and cling to those earlier thoughts about quality time with my son as I asked him why he had removed his car door. "Well, it wasn't closing right. I had to lift up on it a little to close it sometimes, and I thought I would also fix that problem while I was out here. Besides, it was a lot easier to get the fender off once the door was out of the way. It all just sort of got out of hand when I removed those front bolts on the end of the fender. One end of the grill dropped down, and the left headlight sank back toward the radiator. So I went on and just finished taking off the grill. It’s lying over by the door and the fender on the sidewalk."

"Dave," I said, as I fought to see the funny side of it all, "Why don't you go into the house and get your mom to give you that large box of trash bags she bought at the grocery store. I'll help you throw the whole thing away."

"Dad," he said, "If I had wanted dumb remarks, I would have just called Brenda. What I want to know is whether we can get it put back together in time for me to make my 2:00 class on Monday afternoon." He went on to tell me that he wanted to beat out a dent or two in the fender he had taken off while he could get to them.

The problem with putting the door back on the car was holding it in just the right position while Dave reattached it. A car door is not particularly light, and with someone else working on it while you are holding it up just so, it quickly gets really heavy.

Moments later, while Dave was inside telling his mom what was going on, a guy pulled up in another Mustang and asked what we were doing. So I told him. He was impressed with all the racing gear and the big souped‑up engine.

"What will you take for it?" he inquired. I thought for a second or two and replied: "Is seven dollars too much?" At that moment Dave came hurrying back out to where I was waiting and promptly killed the sale. Somehow, he didn't find that part funny either.

I went to the trunk of his car and got out his jack. After putting my shirt between the jack and the bottom of the car door, I used it to help hold the car door in place until Dave could re‑attach the edges.

The fender was another story. It needed more work than we had the tools to do, so we loaded it into the trunk and took it over to an NFB friend's house. Bryan, who is also totally blind, has a shop, and he beat the dents out for Dave and, while he was at it, drilled out some holes for Dave to attach new 5.0 emblems to the fender.

Dave and I both worked all day Saturday and Sunday on the car. We put it back together a piece at a time and did a number of little extra things to it as we went along. We finished up in time for him to make that class on Monday. He didn't see much of Brenda that weekend, and I wasn't able to get any of my own work done, but I don't think either of us would have swapped that weekend working on that old Mustang for anything.

What does all of this have to do with being blind? Nothing really. That's the whole point. Neither Dave nor I thought my being blind would have any effect on our ability to fix his car. I am his dad, and I have been fixing things around the house since he was born. He of course knows that Carmen and I are blind, but he also knows that he has always been able to come to either of us with any problem, and the three of us have been able to fix whatever was broken or work out a solution for whatever was wrong.

I am sure he never doubted that together he and I could reassemble his car because he knows that the only difference between us and sighted people is that our eyes don't work. The rest of us, including our minds and bodies, works just fine.

Even today, five or six years after we put his 3000-pound model car kit back together, he still calls or stops by to find out what we think about some question he faces in his life. Isn't that what parents are there for?

Members of the National Federation of the Blind are far too busy living our lives to have time to say we can't do something. We may have to develop our own methods of getting it done, but you can rest assured that we will get it done, and it really isn't that big a deal. As in this story, what else could I have done but figure out a way to help Dave fix his car? Sure, I am blind, but after all, I am also his dad.

Have you made your campaign pledge yet? We need everyone's help. The construction cost of our projected National Research and Training Institute for the Blind is eighteen million dollars. Please take this opportunity to complete your pledge form. Without you our job will be just that much harder.

The Campaign To Change What It Means To Be Blind

Capital Campaign Pledge Intention

Name:_______________________________________

Home Address:_______________________________

City, State, and Zip:_______________________

Home Phone: ________________________________

Work Phone:_________________________________

E-mail address:_____________________________

Employer:___________________________________

Work Address:_______________________________

City, State, Zip:___________________________

To support the priorities of the Campaign, I (we) pledge the sum of $___________.

My (our) pledge will be payable in installments of $ __________ over the next ____ years (we encourage pledges paid over five years), beginning _____________, on the following schedule (check one): __ annually, __ semi-annually, __ quarterly, __ monthly

I (we) have enclosed a down payment of $ ________________

___ Gift of stock: _____________________ shares of _____________

___ My employer will match my gift.

Please list (my) our names in all Campaign Reports and on the Campaign Wall of Honor in the appropriate Giving Circle as follows:

__ I (We) wish to remain anonymous.

Signed: ________________________________ Date: __________________

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Maneki]

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 2002

by Sharon Maneki

From the Editor: Sharon Maneki is President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2002.

The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 2002 convention next July. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $1,000, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children early in the convention.

Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind students or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the National Convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.

The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording him or her the opportunity to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators.

NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN AWARD

2002 APPLICATION

Name:                                                           

Home address:                                                    

City:                             State:          Zip:            

Day phone:                      Evening phone:                    

School:                                                          

Address:                                                         

City:                            State:           Zip:           

List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study.

                                                                 

                                                                

How long and in what programs have you worked with blind children?

                                                                

In what setting do you teach?     residential school classroom

   special education classroom    itinerant program

    other, please explain.

How many students do you teach regularly this year?              

What subjects do you teach?                                      

                                                                

How many of your students read and write primarily using:

    Braille      large print     closed circuit television

    recorded materials     regular print

Please complete this application and attach the following: a letter of nomination from someone who knows your work, one additional recommendation also from someone who knows you professionally and knows your philosophy of teaching, and a letter from you discussing your beliefs and approach to teaching blind students. You may wish to discuss topics like the following:

*What are your views on the importance to your students of Braille, large print, and magnification devices; and what issues do you consider when making recommendations about learning media for your students?

*When do you recommend that your students begin the following: reading Braille, writing with a slate and stylus, using a Braillewriter, learning to travel independently with a white cane?

*How should one determine which children should learn cane travel and which should not?

*When should typing be introduced, and when should a child be expected to hand in typed assignments?

Send all material by May 15, 2002, to Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman, Teacher Award Committee, 5843 Blue Sky Street, Elkridge, Maryland 21075; telephone: (410) 379-6130.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Benson]

The 2002 Blind Educator of the Year Award

by Stephen O. Benson

From the Editor: Steve Benson is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Illinois. He also chairs the committee charged with identifying each year's Blind Educator of the Year. Here is what he has to say:

A number of years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators (the teachers division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. This change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.

This award is given in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information but also provides guidance and advocacy. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.

The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $1,000.

Nominations should be sent to Steve Benson, 7020 North Tahoma, Chicago, Illinois 60646. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current resume and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 15, 2002, to be considered for this year's award.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kevan Worley]

National Association of Blind Merchants Presents

Business Leadership and Superior Training:

A National Training Conference for Merchant Vendors

and Program Staff

by Kevan Worley

From the Editor: The following important notice will interest all vendors. This is what Kevan Worley, division President, says about the group's spring meeting:

Vendors, get out your 2002 calendar and mark the dates of our spring conference scheduled from March 5 to 8 at the Circus Circus Hotel, Casino, and Theme Park in Las Vegas, Nevada. Travel to Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 5 and return home on March 10, after experiencing a Business Leadership and Superior Training (BLAST) and mini-vacation. The unbelievably low rates are good Tuesday through Saturday nights, which means you can relax and visit with merchants, agency partners, and suppliers before going home on Sunday. The Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday meetings feature dynamic corporate trainer Steve Efland providing concentrated education in human resources, customer recovery, and managing and embracing change in the workplace.

We are proud to announce that Joanne Wilson, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, will be the keynote speaker for our luncheon on Thursday, March 7. We will conduct a National Association of Blind Merchants membership meeting and arrange a roundtable session for agency staff and administrators. Wednesday afternoon will be largely set aside for a food and product show, where you can touch and taste the latest and greatest from vending to technology to foods aimed at helping you increase sales and profit. This show is sponsored by the National Buyers Group. Breakout sessions will also include discussions of dining halls, management, vending, and more.

Circus Circus offers us unbelievably low rates for lodging in two separate areas. The Manor is $44 a night midweek and $79 a night on the weekend. The Manor is a short outdoor walk from the main hotel. The Tower rate is $64 a night midweek and $89 for weekend nights. The three towers are in the main hotel, where training seminars, receptions, luncheon and other festivities will be held.

In addition a $100 conference registration fee will cover receptions, luncheon, speakers, and training materials. After February 19, 2002, the registration fee will be $125.

For further information about our BLAST conference contact Kevan Worley, President, National Association of Blind Merchants, at (720) 859-6784, call the Merchant's Message Line (877) 521-8363, or go to our Web site at <www.blindmerchants.org>.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: James McCarthy]

Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2002

by James McCarthy

From the Editor: Jim McCarthy is Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. Here is his annual Social Security summary:

With another new year come annual adjustments in Social Security programs. The changes include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, Social Security and SSI cost‑of‑living increases, and changes in deductible and co‑insurance requirements under Medicare. Here are the new facts for 2002:

FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers remains at 7.65 percent. This rate includes payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund of 6.2 percent and an additional 1.45 percent payment to the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund from which payments under Medicare are made. Self‑employed persons continue to pay a Social Security tax of 15.3 percent, which includes 12.4 percent paid to the OASDI trust fund and 2.9 percent paid to the HI trust fund.

Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 2001 the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI trust fund was $80,400. This ceiling is raised to $84,900 for 2002. All earnings are taxed for the HI trust fund.

Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits is based in large part on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage during a single year. During 2001 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $830 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $3,120 for the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage. In 2002 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $870 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $3,480.

Trial Work Period limit: Beginning in 2001, the SSA established a rule that changes the amount of earnings required to use a trial work month. This change is announced with the cost of living adjustments each year. In 2001 the amount was $530, and in 2002 it rises to $560. In cases of self-employment, a trial work month can also be used if a person works more than eighty hours, and this limit remains the same each year.

Exempt Earnings: The monthly earnings exemption for blind people who receive disability insurance benefits was $1,240 of gross earned income during 2001. In 2002 earnings of $1,300 or more per month, before taxes, for a blind SSDI beneficiary will show substantial gainful activity after subtracting any unearned (or subsidy) income and applying any deductions for impairment‑related work expenses.

Social Security Benefit Amounts: All Social Security benefits are increased by 2.6 percent beginning with the checks received in January, 2002. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.

Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January, 2002, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $545 per month; couples, $817 per month. These amounts are increased from individuals, $530 per month; couples, $796 per month.

Student Earned Income Exclusion: Like the Trial Work Period amount discussed above, the Student Earned Income Exclusion changes each year. Last year the monthly amount was $1,290, and the maximum yearly amount was $5,200. In 2002 these amounts rise to $1,320 per month and $5,340 per year.

Medicare Deductibles and Co‑insurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The co‑insurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's co‑insurance amount.

The Part A co‑insurance amount charged for hospital services within a benefit period of not longer than sixty days was $792 during 2001 and is increased to $812 during 2002. From the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day there is a daily co-insurance amount of $203 per day, up from $198 in 2001. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty lifetime reserve days which may be used after a ninety-day benefit period has ended. Once used, after any benefit period these reserve days are no longer available. The co‑insurance amount to be paid during each reserve day used in 2002 is $406, up from $396 in 2001.

Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days within a benefit period. From the twenty-first day through the one-hundredth day in a benefit period the Part A co-insurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility is $101.50 per day, up from $99 per day in 2001.

For most beneficiaries there is no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for ninety-three months after the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 2002 is $319 per month. This is reduced to $175 for individuals who have earned at least thirty quarters of coverage under Social Security covered employment.

The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at $100 in 2002. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B basic monthly premium rate charged to each beneficiary for the year 2002 is $54. (The 2001 premium rate was $50.) This premium payment is deducted from Social Security benefit checks. Individuals who remain eligible for Medicare but are not receiving Social Security benefits because of working pay this premium directly.

Programs Which Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for help with payments. Assistance is available through two programs—QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program) and SLMB (Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program).

Under the QMB program states are required to pay the Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium ($54 in 2002). Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.

Both programs are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in conjunction with the states. In order to qualify, the income of an individual or couple must be less than the poverty guidelines currently in effect. The guidelines are revised annually and were last announced in the spring of 2001. New guidelines will be issued in the spring of 2002. The rules vary from state to state; but in general the following can be said:

A person may qualify for the QMB program if his or her income is less than $736 per month for an individual and $988 per month for a couple. These amounts apply for residents of forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income threshold used to define poverty is less than $915 per month for an individual and $1,230 per month for couples. In Hawaii income must be less than $845 per month for an individual and $1,134 per month for couples.

For the SLMB program the income of an individual cannot exceed $879 per month or $1,181 for a couple in forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income amount is $1,093 for an individual and $1,471 for couples. An individual in Hawaii can qualify if his or her income is less than $1,009 per month; for couples the amount is $1,356.

Resources—such as bank accounts or stocks—may not exceed $4,000 for one person or $6,000 for a family of two. (Resources generally are things you own. However, not everything is counted. The house you live in, for example, doesn't count, and in some circumstances your car may not count either.)

If you qualify for assistance under the QMB program, you will not have to pay:

* Medicare's hospital deductible amount, which is $812 per benefit period in 2002;

*The daily co-insurance charges for extended hospital and skilled nursing facility stays;

*The Medicare Medical Insurance (Part B) premium, which is $54 per month in 2002;

*The $100 annual Part B deductible;

*The 20 percent co-insurance for services covered by Medicare Part B, depending on which doctor you go to.

If you qualify for assistance under the SLMB program, you will not have to pay the $54 monthly Part B premium.

If you think you qualify but you have not filed for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from your local Social Security office or Social Security's toll‑free number, (800) 772‑1213.

Remember, only your state can decide if you are eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB program. So, if you are elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local welfare or social service agency to apply. For more information about either program, call CMS's toll‑free telephone number, (800) 633-4227.

Recipes

This month's recipes are provided by members of the NFB of Louisiana.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ruby Ryles]

Chicken and Dumplings

by Ruby Ryles

Dr. Ruby Ryles is a longtime leader of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and now Director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness in Ruston, Louisiana.

Ingredients:

1 chicken

your favorite vegetables and herbs for making chicken stock, optional

6 tablespoons shortening

3 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 cups milk

Tony's Creole Seasoning

Pepper

2 teaspoons salt

Method: Cut chicken into pieces and cover with water in a large pot. You will need lots of headroom later when the dumplings rise. Bring chicken and water to a boil. If desired, add vegetables such as carrots, onion, and celery along with whole cloves, allspice berries, poultry seasoning, thyme, and sage. Simmer covered until chicken is tender. Remove chicken from broth, cool, and debone. While chicken is cooling, strain liquid, discard vegetables and spices, return stock to the pot, and keep hot. To make dumplings, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt and cut in shortening with pastry blender or two knives used scissor-fashion until mixture resembles crumbs. Stir in milk and knead lightly. Roll out on floured cutting board until dumpling dough is evenly rolled and less than a quarter-inch thick. Cut dumplings in about one-inch strips. Drop one by one into boiling chicken broth. Then return deboned chicken to pot. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Tony's. Cook uncovered fifteen minutes. Cover and cook about twenty minutes longer over low heat.

Sweet Potato Casserole

by Ruby Ryles

Sharon Omvig agrees with Ruby that this recipe is first- rate. She commented that it is the sort about which people say, "Oh, sorry to hear that you can't make it to brunch, but would you send that casserole along anyway?"

Ingredients:

3 cups cooked sweet potatoes

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup evaporated milk

Topping:

1 box light brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup self‑rising flour

1/3 cup melted butter

Method: Using an electric mixer, beat first six ingredients together until smooth and place in casserole dish. Mix topping ingredients till crumbly and sprinkle over top of sweet potato mixture. (This may make too much topping. You can save it in a jar in the refrigerator for the next sweet potato casserole.) Bake twenty-five to thirty minutes at 325 degrees.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Neita Ghrigsby]

Cheesy Potato Casserole

by Neita Ghrigsby

Neita Ghrigsby is the office manager at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

Ingredients:

8 to 10 good-sized potatoes (either white or red will do fine)

3-4 strips of crisp fried bacon, crumbled

1/2 cup finely chopped green bell pepper

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 roll Kraft Garlic Cheese

1 roll Kraft Jalapeno Cheese

1 jar Cheez Whiz (if you like things really hot, use the Jalapeno Cheez Whiz)

1/2 cup milk

1/2 stick oleo

salt and pepper to taste

Method: Peel and cut potatoes into good-sized chunks. Wash and drain. Place them in a large pot and cover with salted water. Bring to a boil on the stove and cook covered until almost tender. While they are cooking, melt 1/2 stick of oleo in a small skillet, add finely chopped onion and bell pepper. Sauté until tender. In another pan mix milk, Cheez Whiz, and the rolls of garlic and jalapeno cheese cut into small pieces. Cook over low heat to melt cheeses, stirring constantly to keep mixture from sticking. Add the oleo, onion, and bell pepper mixture and stir together. After potatoes are cooked, drain completely and spread them into a buttered thirteen-by-nine Pyrex or other baking dish. Sprinkle the crumbled bacon over potatoes. Then spread with cheese mixture. Bake uncovered in a 350° oven for twenty to thirty minutes or until the potatoes are completely tender and mixture is bubbly.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Omvig]

Swiss Steak

by Sharon Omvig

Sharon and Jim Omvig have recently moved to Ruston, Louisiana, where Sharon now works as the Assistant to the Director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Technical University. She reports that this is an old family recipe handed down from her grandmother. She cannot give actual measurements, but she reports that it is one of Jim's absolute favorite dishes in the world.

Method: In oil brown enough swiss steak or round steak for six to eight people. Transfer meat from skillet to crock pot or dutch oven. Add a little more oil to skillet and stir in enough flour to make a smooth paste. Stir and brown until paste is very dark brown, but not burned. Next stir in enough boiling water to make a thick gravy. Be sure to stir constantly to keep gravy from lumping. Add a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce. The result should be of a nice gravy consistency. Slice several onions over the steak and pour gravy over everything. Slow cook or bake covered tightly while you are at work. We always serve this dish over mashed potatoes with peas and carrots on the side. The end result should be very tender steak with a rich, dark brown gravy (no hint of tomato-sauce taste).

Cheesy Corn Chowder

by Sharon Omvig

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup sliced carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1/3 cup chopped onions

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 can whole corn

2 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1/2 large link Hillshire all-beef smoky sausage

1/2 cup evaporated milk

Method: Cook carrots, celery, and onions in water until slightly tender. Do not drain. In a heavy saucepan melt butter and add flour, stirring constantly, to make a roux. Add roux to the vegetable mixture. Stir constantly to keep the flour from lumping. When liquid has thickened, add the rest of the ingredients and simmer till soup is heated through and vegetables are tender. Instead of sausage you can try diced chicken, turkey, or ham.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Arlene Hill]

Roasted Cauliflower with Onions and Rosemary

by Arlene Hill

Arlene Hill is a cane travel instructor at the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

Ingredients:

2 heads of cauliflower, separated into flowerettes

2 medium onions, cut into wedges

4 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Method: Toss together all ingredients except parsley. On 2 jelly roll pans bake vegetables at 350 degrees for forty minutes, rotating pans and reversing their positions on the two oven racks mid-roasting. Arrange vegetables on platters and garnish with parsley. This can be made and cooled up to 6 hours in advance and then reheated in microwave.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pamela Dubel]

Pecan Sandies

by Pamela Dubel

Pam Dubel is the Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind and President of the NFB of Louisiana.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

1/4 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon water

2 cups sifted flour

1 cup chopped pecans

Method: Cream butter and sugar. Add water and vanilla. Add flour and mix well. Add chopped pecans. Shape dough into crescents about 1-1/2 inches long. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 300 degrees for about twenty minutes or until brown. While warm, roll in powdered sugar. Makes about 3 dozen.

Monitor Miniatures

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Roland and Pam Allen ]

Wedding Bells:

We are delighted to announce that on November 17, 2001, Roland Allen, O & M instructor at Louisiana Tech University, and Pam Dubel, President of the NFB of Louisiana and Director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, were married at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in New Orleans, Louisiana. A reception followed the service, and the next morning friends and family joined the newlyweds for a jazz brunch cruise on the Cajun Queen. Many Federationists attended the wedding, and several took part in the ceremony. Congratulations and best wishes to the newlyweds.

Elected:

On June 1, 2001, the Greater Brockton Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts conducted its biennial election. The new officers are Arthur Otto, President; Brandy Rose, Vice President; Sandy Cassidy, Secretary; James Daley, Treasurer; David Keller, Sergeant at Arms; and Richard Downes and Mary Szczerba, Board Members.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I am asking $3,000 or best offer for a Juliet Braille embosser. It is only one year old, prints up to fifty-six characters on a line, and prints single-side or interpoint pages. It uses continuous tractor-feed paper. I have used it very little, and it operates beautifully.

I also have a HumanWare Braille window display, eighty-cell board, which I am willing to sell for $7,500. Negotiable. It is only one year old and has been used very little.

Contact me by e-mail, <barbiesew@earthlink.net>, or call me using Texas Relay System, my interpreter for the hearing-impaired: (800) 735‑2988. Ask for (210) 694‑0774.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Gloria Mills Hicks]

Honored:

We recently received a press release about NFB of Florida leader Gloria Mills Hicks. Here it is:

On Tuesday, October 16, 2001, Florida Governor Jeb Bush presented Gloria Mills Hicks of Tampa as the previous week's Points of Light Award recipient. The Award, which was presented at the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee, recognizes exemplary volunteer and community service throughout the state.

"We are very fortunate to have Gloria...as an advocate for disabled services in the State of Florida," Governor Bush said. "Through her efforts persons who would otherwise be isolated in their homes now have county door‑to‑door service and improved local bus service in Hillsborough County."

Gloria, a tax professional and owner of IReScue Tax Planning and Consulting, does business as Gloria Mills. She is a member of the State Board of Directors of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida and President of the Tampa Bay Chapter. She is the Governor‑appointed Business and Industry Representative on the Florida Division of Blind Services Rehabilitation Council. She is recognized as a voice for the disabled community in Hillsborough County.

She tirelessly advocates for accessible transportation for all, working closely with HARTline, Tampa's local transit service, to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Gloria chairs the HARTline Citizens Advocacy Committee and is active on the Paratransit Advisory Committee and the HARTplus Task Force. She has also served as a board member, chairperson, and current executive committee member for Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST), is a member of the Task Force for Voting Accessibility, and is Legislative Chairperson for the National Federation of the Blind of Florida.

In 1997 Gloria founded an advocacy group called Save Our Rapid Transit (SORT) to advocate for and prevent reduction in local bus services. Through SORT she has successfully advocated for additional routes and sensitivity training for drivers and has pushed for the implementation of the ADA-mandated door‑to‑door paratransit service.

Born legally blind, Mills is a role model for advocacy and achievement to many. She is a successful business owner and has served as Public Policy Liaison for the National Organization for Women Business Owners. In addition to hiring and training several young people with disabilities in her office, she also serves as a mentor for interns who have a disability.

The Governor's Points of Light Award, sponsored by Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, recognizes a Florida resident or organization that demonstrates exemplary service to the community. Award recipients are announced weekly.

Gloria Whipple, Changing Attitudes About Blindness:

Maria Bradford, one of the leaders of the NFB of Washington, writes as follows: for the past two years Gloria Whipple, a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington's Spokane chapter, has pursued her goal to acquire her G.E.D. and go on to college to prepare for a position as an office assistant. Although she faced some obstacles, Gloria overcame them and proved that she could meet the challenge. During her graduation ceremony she was one of three students asked to speak.

This is how the Spokane Spokesman Review of June 14, 2001, told the story:

Graduation Opens a Brand New Life

by Jonathan Brunt

After thirty years woman earns GED, proves doubters wrong.

Gloria Whipple felt stupid and unmotivated for much of her life. But almost thirty years after giving up on her education, she has a new outlook.

Whipple and 619 others earned General Educational Development (GED) certificates (high school completion diplomas) or English-as-a-second-language certificates at a ceremony Wednesday night at Spokane Community College. Whipple was picked as one of the three student speakers.

"It's hard to describe," Whipple said after the ceremony, clutching her diploma. "I feel like I'm worth something. I feel like I'm still waking up from a dream. I didn't think I'd ever get here."

Whipple, forty-nine, has spent the past two years earning her development certificate at the Adult Education Center at the Institute for Extended Learning.

Whipple was born three months early and without sight. She went to a state boarding school for the blind in Vancouver, Washington, when she was five and stayed there until she was twenty-one when she quit in the tenth grade.

"At that time I didn't give a hoot if I passed or not," she said.

Whipple hasn't worked much since she left school and has received support from welfare. She said she developed an alcohol problem but kicked that eight years ago.

"I like to keep busy now that I've had the chance to see what it is like," Whipple said. "It's changed my life completely around, knowing that I don't have to be dependent on the state."

Whipple, who has been married for twenty-eight years, plans to enroll at Spokane Falls Community College and pursue a career in secretarial work.

Her desire to change her life came after joining Change Point, a counseling and training program for women sponsored by the Community Colleges of Spokane.

When she signed up for classes, Whipple was teamed with Marion Bagley, the center's disability support services coordinator. Bagley would read texts and questions to Whipple and write Whipple's answers. She also led her to classes—and through Wednesday's ceremony.

"After about two weeks I knew she had what it took to get to tonight," Bagley said. "She was determined to do what she had to do."

When Whipple crossed the stage led by Bagley to get her diploma, her face went from expressionless to an ear-to-ear grin. As she paused to get her photo taken by a professional photographer, Marion kissed her on the cheek.

"I was told at the school (for the blind) and by my family that I wouldn't make it," Whipple said. "It's nice to know that you've proven them wrong."

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Signs hand-crafted by Allen Golabek]

For Sale:

 We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Custom handcrafted wooden engraved signs are great gifts for the holidays, birthdays, or any time of year. We can engrave people's last names, pet names, business names, house numbers, and children's names. In fact we can custom make any creative idea.

These signs made of cedar wood are created by A G Originals. The engraved block letters are easy to identify by touch and can be custom painted in any color to match building, house, garage, etc. The signs are one inch thick and six inches in height. The length depends on the number of letters. The signs are decoratively routered on the top edge, and the ends of the board can be cut in any one of three styles. The first is a standard square cut on each end. The second is a rounded edge on each end. The most popular style is the third, a 45-degree miter cut on each end. All signs are finished with a hand-rubbed tongue oil for a smooth, shiny finish.

Each sign is created by blind craftsman Allan Golabek and is crafted for outdoor use. The signs do not rot; they weather, giving them a rustic look. They have a great cedar smell and look fantastic. Two counter-sunk holes and screws are included for easy hanging.

The cost of these decorative signs is usually $55, including shipping and handling in the continental U S. Prices may vary depending on size. Please make checks payable to Allan Golabek and send to him at 70 Greenwood Avenue, Bethel, Connecticut. 06801.

To place an order, e-mail me at <allan.golabek@snet.net>. Specify engraved name, color of letters, and style of cut. For more information call (203) 743-9238.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Braille bracelet and ring, custom made by Designs in Braille]

Elegant Braille Jewelry Now Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Designs in Braille has created a line of beautiful, tactilely satisfying custom jewelry personalized with your choice of name, word, or short phrase. Made of sterling silver with raised eighteen-karat gold accurate Braille cells, this jewelry can be worn every day or kept for more formal occasions. Some people have even had Designs in Braille create their wedding bands. Pieces are available in any precious metal, including gold and platinum, and the assortment of jewelry includes rings, I.D. bracelets, and necklaces, as well as key-chains and cuff links. Each item is engraved with the translation of the Braille on the reverse side, and most pieces can be engraved with medic alert information if necessary. For more information call (908) 930-8883 or visit the Web site at <www.designsinbraille.com>.

Honored:

We recently received the following announcement:

Four Received 2001 Neuharth Free Spirit Award: Weihenmayer, Randall, Woods, and Yeager share $1 million prize.

The Freedom Forum has presented its second Al Neuharth Free Spirit Award of $1 million to four winners:

* Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to reach the summit of Mount Everest, as he did last May 25.

* Alice Randall, controversial author of the 2001 best‑selling novel The Wind Done Gone.

* Donald Woods, courageous South African anti‑apartheid journalist, who died in August.

* Brigadier General Charles E. Chuck Yeager, combat pilot, test pilot, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Charles L. Overby, chairman and chief executive officer of The Freedom Forum, said, "These four individuals embody the essence of free spirit: each has achieved great things in his or her own way, and none has accepted the status quo."

The Al Neuharth Free Spirit Award is given annually to honor an individual or individuals who have demonstrated an abundance of free spirit, either through a single significant act or through a lifetime of achievement. The $1 million award, which will be shared equally among the four winners, was presented at the Free Spirit Award dinner held on November 9 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington. Weihenmayer, Randall, Yeager, and Wendy Woods, Donald Woods's widow, were present to accept the awards at the dinner. Congratulations to all the winners, but especially to our own Erik Weihenmayer.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

For Sale: Standard Perkins Brailler in fine condition. Asking $500. Call (831) 372‑4131 or e-mail <aharris@redshift.com>.

Creative Contribution:

The NFB of Ohio just completed its annual convention. We raised several thousand dollars for the capital campaign, but the most creative contribution by far was the pledge arranged by Michelle Napier, granddaughter of NFB of Ohio leader Ken Velkovich. Michelle is a junior at Seton High School in Cincinnati. The students wear uniforms, and every Friday they have the option of wearing street clothes instead as long as they contribute a dollar to the approved charity of the week. Michelle took information to school about our capital campaign and had it approved as a charity. So January 25, 2002, the students of Seton High School will contribute about $800 to building our new institute. Thanks and congratulations to Michelle and her fellow students.

Custom Braille Transcription Service Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

VISION Community Services, a division of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind, offers custom Braille transcription. We produce a wide range of documents designed to meet the needs of the Braille-reading public. Recent work includes menus, financial statements, user's guides for consumer electronics, presentation hand-outs, and hymnals. While VCS specializes in shorter documents in order to reduce turnaround time, we also produce some larger documents. All documents are formatted to meet individual customer needs.

If you wish to have any documents transcribed into Braille or if you have any questions, please contact Bob Hachey, Braille Program Supervisor, Vision Community Services, 23A Elm Street, Watertown, Massachusetts 02472, Phone: (617) 972-9109, e-mail: <rhachey@mablind.org>.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Joanne Wilson swears in Allen Harris as Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind.]

Sworn In:

Blind Iowans from across the state joined staff members of the Iowa Department for the Blind and the Commission for the Blind, the agency's governing body, in witnessing the formal swearing-in of Allen Harris as director of the Iowa Department for the Blind in a ceremony held on October 23, 2001, in the agency's assembly room. Joanne Wilson, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration and a native of Iowa, performed the swearing-in duties and then provided Harris with a copy of the oath in print and Braille for display in his office.

Wilson attended the Iowa Orientation and Adjustment Center for the Blind before entering Iowa State University and in late August was sworn in herself as the highest federal official serving disabled persons. She was honored by the Commission for the Blind with a Distinguished Alumna Award bestowed by Commission member Bob Martin and also by Tom Andre, Dean of the College of Education at Iowa State University, which granted Wilson her bachelor's degree in education. Andre showered Wilson with Iowa State memorabilia to Wilson's delight and the audience's amusement.

Wilson reminisced with the audience, saying that in the very building in which she was standing she had learned about herself and blindness through the teaching of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, then director of the Iowa agency, and explained how she took those teachings with her into her job as a teacher in the Ames public schools; her founding of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, which provides adjustment training to blind people; and her current position at RSA.

Allen Harris presided over the festivities and welcomed many guests to Iowa and to the reception that followed the ceremonies. Dr. Doug Burleigh, regional commissioner of RSA for the region including Iowa, also attended the ceremony. Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind and also a graduate of the Iowa program, joined Wilson and Burleigh in welcoming Harris to Iowa. Dr. Maurer challenged Harris to serve the blind of Iowa creatively and effectively, according to the standard set by Dr. Jernigan.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Alva Braille Terminal 380 80‑cell (plus status cells) refreshable Braille display very rarely used, new condition. See <http://www.humanware.com/E/E1/e1a.html> for more information. Includes parallel connector cable, Braille manual, and padded soft‑sided case.

List: $9,995. I am asking $6,500, or make me a reasonable offer. Contact Loren Mikola, Bellevue, Washington, day phone (425) 705‑3394, evening phone (425) 558‑0131, cell phone (425) 269‑1013, e‑mail <loren.mikola@gte.net>.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

CCTV nineteen-inch screen C-Tec, works perfectly, excellent condition, $600. Contact Hyman Easton, 320 E. Shore Road, Great Neck, New York 11023, (516) 487-7882.

Audio Edition of New Publication Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

On August 24, 2001, Jim Gashel received the following letter from the Department of Health and Human Services. Here in part is what it said:

Dear Mr. Gashel,

The purpose of this letter is to introduce you to a free audio edition of a new publication developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, formerly the Health Care Financing Administration. Protecting Your Health Insurance Coverage relates to the health insurance protections of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

HIPAA was designed to improve the portability of private health insurance coverage in the group and individual markets for employees and their dependents. HIPAA created valuable—though limited—protections for millions of Americans (including those with pre-existing medical conditions) who change jobs, become self-employed, or lose their jobs. The law provides better access to health coverage; prohibits discrimination against employees and dependents based on health status; guarantees availability of coverage in the small group market; improves availability of individual health coverage; and establishes renewability of health insurance coverage in both group and individual markets.

Although most HIPAA provisions took effect in 1997, many consumers and employers are still not aware of the rights they have under the law. Since several of its most important rights must be exercised within a short timeframe, the agency is requesting your assistance in publicizing the availability of Audio Publication HCFA#10199RE. To order, call (800) 633-4227.

Sincerely,

Gale P. Arden, Director

Private Health Insurance Group

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

New Braille Book:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The Louis Braille Center has Brailled the new book, To Love This Life—Quotations by Helen Keller ($12). This book includes a foreword by former President Jimmy Carter and a preface by Keller Johnson-Thompson, great-grandniece of Helen Keller. Many of these quotations come from unpublished letters and speeches by Helen Keller sharing reflective ideas on the meaning of life and being a human being. The LBC Brailled version of To Love This Life is 114 pages, including thirteen pages of introductory information.

To order, contact the Louis Braille Center, 320 Dayton Street, Suite 125, Edmonds, Washington 98020-3590. Phone (425) 776-4042 (V/TTY). E-mail <lbc@louisbraillecenter.org>. A complete catalog is available in large print, in Braille, or on the Web site, <www.louisbraillecenter.org>.

Free Braille Book Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Keeping Your Child Safer in the World: Tips for Children, Teens, and Parents is now available in one Braille volume from National Braille Press (NBP).

Thanks to a grant from NCMEC, the Braille book is free. One in five children who go online regularly is approached by strangers for sex. The fact that children can be approached by predators online is a reality—our children must be educated to deal with these experiences.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a national clearinghouse and resource center, has just compiled a number of informational brochures on teen and child safety into this volume. Topics covered include:

‑ Parental Tips to Help Keep Your Children Safer

‑ Child Safety in Amusement Parks

‑ Online Safety for Teens and Preteens

‑ Safety Tips for Halloween

‑ When Your Child is Flying Unaccompanied

‑ Babysitters and Daycare

- and much more.

See a full table of contents at <www.nbp.org/safeconts.html>. To order this free book, contact National Braille Press, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115‑4302, or call (800) 548‑7323 toll-free or (617) 266‑6160, ext. 20. You may also e-mail orders to <orders@nbp.org>.

Reminder about North American Van Lines:

For some years now the National Federation of the Blind and North American Van Lines have had an agreement that we should all remember when moving or moving storage is in our plans. NFB members and friends who notify North American Van Lines that they want the discount will receive a 35 percent discount on moving costs and a 25 percent discount on moving storage costs. The NFB will also receive a 2-percent donation from North American Van Lines on all the business NFB members and friends give the company. The person to contact is Cindy Rupples, and her telephone number is (800) 625‑4221.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I have for sale a Braille Lite 18, September 2000 revision, hardly used. Asking $2,000 or best offer. Please contact Eric Woods, 4319 S. Galapago Street, Englewood, Colorado 80110, phone: (303) 789-7689, e-mail: <ewoods@ccb‑denver.org>.

Emergency Weather Information by E-Mail:

The Emergency E‑Mail Network is a free service that provides weather and natural-disaster information in all fifty states through both e‑mail and pager. Users register by county so that they can receive the appropriate local warnings from local emergency management agencies. Users can receive warnings about hurricanes, tornadoes, other severe weather, evacuations, health emergencies, and natural disasters.

To sign up for this free service, visit <http://www.emergencyemailnetwork.com/>.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

For sale, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens with an introductory sketch by May Lamberton Becker, embossed in five Braille volumes, this edition published in 1942, and the American Printing House date on it is 1955. It's in excellent condition, no dust. I'm asking $150 for it.

I also have a Language Master made by the Franklin Mint. This is an electronic dictionary and thesaurus with carrying case, user's manual, and four AAA batteries installed. You can play word games to expand your vocabulary or find unknown letters in a word. It has a “say" key, which you can press to say each word, and it's great for those with good usable low vision. Since mine is only 4 percent, I can't use it effectively. It was bought for $250 new, has been little used, and is in perfect condition. I'm hoping to get $50 for it.

In order of contact preference, my phone is (816) 254‑9670; e-mail, <nyale928@cs.com>. My address is 2600 N. Hub Drive, Apt. 314A, Independence, Missouri 64055.

NFB PLEDGE

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.