THE BRAILLE MONITOR

Vol. 45, No. 4; May, 2002

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

NFB Net BBS: http://www.nfbnet.org

Web Page address: http://www.nfb.org

NFB-NEWSLINE® number: 1-888-882-1629

Letters to the President, address changes,

subscription requests, orders for NFB literature,

articles for the Monitor, and letters to the Editor

should be sent to the National Office.

Monitorsubscriptions 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

1800 Johnson Street

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


Louisville Site of 2002 NFB Convention!

The 2002 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, July 3-9. We will conduct the convention at the Galt House Hotel and the Galt House East Tower, together a first-class convention hotel. The Galt House Hotel, familiarly called the Galt House West, is at 140 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. The Galt House East Tower, or Galt House East, is at 141 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. Room rates for this year's convention are excellent: singles, doubles, and twins $57 and triples and quads $63 a night, plus tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before May 29, 2002. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For reservations call the hotel at (502) 589‑5200.

Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made to secure these rooms before May 29, 2002, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold the block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.

Our overflow hotel is the Hyatt Regency at 320 W. Jefferson Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, phone (502) 587‑3434.

Those who attended the 1985 convention can testify to the gracious hospitality of the Galt House. This hotel has excellent restaurants, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Louisville, close to the Ohio River and only seven miles from the Louisville Airport.

The 2002 Convention will follow a somewhat different schedule:

Wednesday, July 3;Seminar Day

Thursday, July 4;Registration Day

Friday, July 5;Board Meeting and Division Day

Saturday, July 6;Opening Session

Sunday, July 7;Tour Day

Monday, July 8;Banquet Day

Tuesday, July 9;Business Session

Plan to be in Louisville.

The action of the convention will be there!


Vol. 45, No. 4;May, 2002

Contents

The ACB Attacks NFB-NEWSLINE® Again

by Marc Maurer

The Blind Climber on Mt. Everest

by Erik Weihenmayer

From Erik's E-mail

Excerpt from the Afterword

by Erik Weihenmayer

A New Professional Certification

by James H. Omvig

Building the New Randolph-Sheppard Program

by Kevan Worley

NAC at the Same Old Stand

by Marc Maurer

Another Take on the September 10 Meeting with NAC

by Peggy Elliott

The Itako--A Spiritual Occupation for Blind Japanese Girls

by C. Edwin Vaughan

Knowing the Score

by Bill McCann

Making a Place for Herself

How to Select a Suitable Adaptive Technology

Training Program

by Robert Leblond

Introducing the Galt House and Hyatt

by Max Robinson

Getting to Know the Federation

Blunkett Proves His Abilities

by Marjorie Miller

Finding a House

by Chancey Fleet

Why Did They Let Her Do It?

by Peggy Elliott and Megan O'Rourke

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright © 2002 National Federation of the Blind


[LEAD PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: Three people are pictured in academic regalia. Joanne Wilson holds her honorary degree.

CAPTION: NFB President Marc Maurer, RSA Commissioner Joanne Wilson, and Menlo College President James Waddell]

On April 15, 2002, Menlo College honored Joanne Wilson, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, U.S. Department of Education. During the morning the institution sponsored a disability rights seminar in honor of the occasion. Presenters were Fredric Schroeder, Past Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration; Marc Maurer, NFB President; Chris Jones, Vice President of Windows Clients for Microsoft; and Curtis Chong, NFB Director of Technology. The degree ceremony took place following a luncheon and program. Commissioner Wilson herself spoke at 1:00 p.m. on the topic of "Reaching Greater Heights." The ceremony awarding her the Doctor of Humane Letters then took place, followed by a reception. A number of Federation leaders from across the country attended the day's events.


[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer]

The ACB Attacks NFB-NEWSLINE® Again

by Marc Maurer

A number of people have asked me to identify the purposes of the American Council of the Blind (ACB). Some have speculated that its primary motivation is to attack the National Federation of the Blind. This would appear to be an oversimplification, but there is a lot of evidence. When the National Federation of the Blind first established the NFB-NEWSLINE service, the ACB attacked it. Now it is happening again.

The National Federation of the Blind started the NFB-NEWSLINE program in 1994. This service distributes newspapers on a daily basis to blind people by touch-tone telephone. At the beginning of the program we decided that we would attempt to provide this service to as many blind people as we could reach at no charge to them. Of course we have over the years of its development spent substantial sums in creating this service. The money had to come from somewhere, and we have been active in pursuing funding for it. On March 1, 2002, we inaugurated the nationwide NFB-NEWSLINE service. NFB-NEWSLINE now distributes fifty newspapers throughout the entire nation to blind people. We have maintained the practice of providing these newspapers at no charge to the recipient. We still have work to do to improve the service further, but NFB-NEWSLINE is quite effective as it now exists. With this one service we are offering more information more quickly to blind people than has ever been available in the past.

We announced the initiation of our nationwide service shortly before it became available. Applications began to pour in. In one week this winter we received over 5,000 requests. Management of so large a volume of applications for NFB-NEWSLINE became troublesome. To make it more efficient for this service to be provided to the end user, we asked that libraries for the blind and other entities dealing with blindness assist by signing people up. We hoped to be able to make this service available through a number of other programs that already have regular contact with blind people. By so doing, we expected to increase the efficiency of getting the service to the people who want it.

We asked rehabilitation counselors to distribute applications for the NFB-NEWSLINE service in the same way that we have asked them to provide blind students with copies of our scholarship applications. One organization that promised to help was the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. NLS said that it would put the application for NFB-NEWSLINE into circulation to patrons of the National Library Service. Inasmuch as the qualification to receive NFB-NEWSLINE is the same as the qualification for receiving library service, a library patron would be qualified to receive the National Federation of the Blind NEWSLINE service.

Now comes an e-mail letter from Chris Gray, President of the American Council of the Blind. Apparently it was distributed to a group of ACB leaders. It seeks to muster support for an attack upon the National Federation of the Blind with a side attack upon the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. What is the reason for this attack? It is that the National Federation of the Blind has been giving away newspaper service to the blind of America.

The ACB President makes it clear that the value of the service (no matter how good) is, in his view, irrelevant. He also charges that there are hidden purposes in the provision of the NFB-NEWSLINE service for the blind. But, let Chris Gray speak for himself. Here is the text of his e-mail:

----- Original Message -----

From: "Chris Gray" chrisg@brightmail.com

To: "ACB Leadership List" leadership@acb.org

Sent: Thursday, March 14, 2002, 1:44 PM

Subject: Re: [leadership] NLS & NFB Form Partnership

Regarding this topic, it's important for us to focus on what issues are relevant to ACB and blind people as a whole. It seems to me that the most relevant issues are as follows:

1) NLS is collaborating with an organization in a manner that is known to create a significant accumulation of capital (cash money) for that organization. Whether directly or indirectly, this partnership can only accrue significant financial benefit to the NFB.

2) NLS is providing potential massive amounts of hard information to a consumer organization with regard to the names and addresses of blind people that are potential members and donors to that single organization.

3) It is well-known that this organization, NFB, routinely uses such information to recruit members and raise additional funds. As a subscriber to NEWSLINE for the Blind in California, I know this to be true on a first-hand basis.

These are the issues of most significance and that ACB needs to consider.

There are many other issues we should not consider in the context of the organization or its position on this matter. I would suggest for your consideration for example that the value of NEWSLINE is an irrelevant issue with regard to whether or not ACB turns its back on the providing of this information by NLS to NFB. Also, whether or not ACB members use NEWSLINE is not a relevant issues [sic] in this specific context. By that argument, NLS ought to distribute the Braille Forum to its readers at no charge, or better yet, it ought to allow us to receive the names and addresses of all potential subscribers.

Chris

This message has come to you from the ACB Leadership list: a special List for the leadership of the American Council of the Blind. Please use discretion when disseminating information from this list.

Such is the e-mail message from the President of the ACB. In recent times (for the past dozen years or perhaps more), there has been a growing spirit of harmony and cooperation in the field of work with the blind. It is desirable that this spirit be maintained and enhanced. The ACB would like to destroy this spirit. During the past year the ACB has tried to persuade the National Federation of the Blind to engage in conflict. However, we believe that strife and confrontation should be permitted to exist only when there is no other alternative. We believe that belligerence for the sake of belligerence is counterproductive and foolish.

It is, perhaps, (in a twisted way) understandable that ACB finds it impossible to break out of its traditional pattern of jealousy and bitterness. It is worth speculating whether the fact that ACB has little or no real experience in creating and conducting major programs makes it particularly difficult for the Council's leaders to understand the concepts involved in cooperative joint agreements or the responsibilities and commitments required to fulfill them. The NFB has engaged in negotiation and joint undertakings in a wide array of innovative programs conducted in collaboration with both public and private entities. Cooperation demands give and take. It also demands recognition that others have contributions to make.

It is ironic that ACB's pathetic wish to exclude the NFB from such activities is based solely on the reality that these programs are designed and implemented by the blind themselves. The ACB does not attack programs designed by the sighted. When NLS makes similar arrangements with others, the ACB has no complaint. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is designated by law to provide as broad an array of reading matter to the blind in accessible formats as can readily be achieved. It has behaved responsibly in its efforts to do precisely that for many decades, and we have cooperated strongly with NLS because of its excellent track record and tremendous pattern of good service.

We support others who want to provide service to the blind, and we ask them to support us. We believe that one of the major problems facing the blind community today is a lack of resources to instigate imaginative programming. Consequently we are working to increase the amount of money committed to ensuring independence for the blind. We believe that any other approach is without merit.

Those in the ACB who want to read the newspaper are welcome to have it. Those who do not want to read the newspaper are welcome to leave it alone, but they should not try to destroy the service for those who want it.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Erik Weihenmayer gazes into the distance from the top of Mt. McKinley.]

The Blind Climber on Mt. Everest

by Erik Weihenmayer

From the Editor: Last May many of us found ourselves constantly preoccupied as we went about our daily tasks, turning frequently to the Web site chronicling the NFB Allegra 2002 Everest Expedition. I found myself calculating a dozen times a day the time on Mt. Everest and wondering what dreadfully difficult thing our team was attempting to do at that moment, what impossible weather conditions they were enduring, what complication was springing up to make their lives more difficult.

But as everyone now knows, on May 25, 2002, nineteen members of our expedition summited Mt. Everest, breaking several records. For members of the NFB the most important facts were first that Erik Weihenmayer had made it to the top, demonstrating in yet another powerful way that blind people are capable of doing extraordinary things when given the chance to try, and, second but equally important, that everyone in the expedition was safe. Moreover, the team returned safely to the United States despite their bone-weariness and a political crisis in Nepal.

Six weeks later Erik arrived at the NFB convention to a hero's welcome and addressed the cheering throng on Friday afternoon, July 6. This is what he said:

Thanks so much. I'm really touched; what a response. That's great. It's so good to be home among friends and family and nice warm Philadelphia. On Everest it's so cold that one day my eyelids froze together. It didn't really matter, but it was sort of strange. It's just so great to be home, and it's good that we were successful.

As you may know, before Everest I had climbed mountains all over the world and had great friends and great teams that had helped me get to summits. I have a friend whose name is Chris Morris. He's from Alaska, and he's got these wonderful Alaskan witticisms. We had climbed Mt. McKinley. When we came down, we climbed into our igloo, which we had built at about 17,500 feet. Now, when people climb mountains, they get all sorts of illnesses. Their lungs fill up with fluid, and their brains swell up. All sorts of terrible things can happen to you. The thing that happens to me is that I get nauseated, and I throw up. I have thrown up on mountains all over the world--sort of my claim to fame. But we ate a big pot of freeze-dried spaghetti in our igloo, and I immediately gave it back to the mountain gods. So now my friend Chris had to crawl through it to get out; you know, there is only one way out of an igloo.

As I said, he has wonderful sayings. My favorite is, after I'll say, "Chris, I'm pretty tired. How far do you think it is to the next camp?" he'll say something witty like, "Well, it's hard sayin', not knowin'." He has one he calls posi-pessimism. It's sort of a philosophy of his. You're sitting out in a storm, and he'll say, "Sure is cold, but at least it's windy." "Sure have climbed a long way, but at least we're lost."

I said, "Chris, you're a philosopher for very simple people." Then one time I was teasing him on a climb, and I said, "Chris, you may be slow, but at least you're dumb." Chris was with me on Mt. Everest--he was one of the real strong climbers on our team.

When I was thirteen, I became blind from a rare disease, retinoscheses. There were a few months of frustration when I wasn't really sure what I'd be able to do, but something interesting happened. I didn't really want to accept blindness and accept myself as a blind person. I didn't want to be identified as a blind person, but I found something interesting: when I actually accepted blindness--I didn't try to transcend it or go beyond it or beat it but just accepted it--that was the greatest thing I could ever have done.

I went off to a rehabilitation center where I learned how to use computers, a center like the Colorado Center, the Minnesota center, or the Louisiana Center, and learned how to use a cane and learned Braille. I found that, when I was able to read a poem in Braille in front of my class or was able to walk down a hallway with a cane with my buddies, those things that I thought would separate me actually connected me back to the world.

I started thinking, if I thought I couldn't read, but I can and if I thought I couldn't be mobile, but I can, maybe there are other things that I can do that I didn't think I could do, if I just approached it differently, if I thought about the idea that we can get to the top; we just have to do it a different way. So my dad suggested that I go rock climbing. He said, "There is a program for blind kids going rock climbing." I thought, "That sounds crazy," so I signed up.

They were teaching us that you didn't climb with your eyes, you climb with your hands and your feet. Your hands and feet became your eyes. You could scan your hands and feet across the face, and you could find your hold and do a pull-up and reach up and scan your hands again, and it was like I was creating this road map in my brain as I reached out and found the holds. It was like connect the dots. That led me to all sorts of different climbs. I thought I could ice climb. People said, "No, Erik, it's different from rock climbing; big giant pieces of ice will come down on top of you." Well, I learned to climb ice by the sounds that I would hear under my tool.

Then I thought, well, maybe I could climb big mountains around the world. At one point I thought maybe I was ready for Mt. Everest. And I came to the NFB and asked Dr. Maurer if the NFB would be interested in supporting the climb. Dr. Maurer was immediately excited because he said, "We want to associate blindness with adventure. We want to sort of wipe the dust off the image of blindness and create a new, contemporary image of blindness so that, when people think of blindness or of a blind person, they don't think about a guy or a person pining away in a dark room; they are thinking about someone standing on top of the world." I thought, that's right. [applause]

I created a good team around me, friends that I have been climbing with for years and years, people that trusted me with their lives, and I trusted them with my life. Then we went off to climb Ama Dablam. Now not everyone believed in it like the NFB. There were critics I read in magazines. There were experts on Mt. Everest whom I had never met, but they sort of judged me on the basis of knowing one thing about me, and that was being blind. They said, "A blind person on the mountain is way too risky; it's crazy. Above 8,000 meters he'll be a huge liability. He'll kill himself, and he will kill his team. I would never be a part of this climb." It was sort of a backhanded compliment because this person didn't know that we'd succeed. He said, "If they do succeed, it will be the greatest expedition in the history of Mt. Everest." [applause]

Part of me was a little worried because I was pretty sure I had the skills. I had been climbing for years and years, and I thought, "I'm ready, but maybe they know something I don't know." Then the other side of me said, "They are just wrong. They are judging me on the basis of one trait. They know nothing about me except the fact that I'm blind." That side of me was sort of offended. So I decided the best response was to go climb Mt. Everest.

Well we climbed Ama Dablam, and we got turned back by a storm, and we ran out of food and fuel, and we had a climber fall 150 feet--not such a great start for our adventure. But that day on Ama Dablam we came down through a twelve-hour storm as a team. People were helping each other carry loads through this section of the mountain that we had sort of nicknamed Abject Terror. We all came down to base camp together. I thought that was so great because the idea of this wasn't just to drag a blind guy to the summit and spike him on top like a football. That's against what we're looking for here. The idea was to create an integrated team, one of whom happens to be blind, a team where everyone contributes to the overall success of the team. We were able to do that. We worked through adversity, and we found our strength as a team, and I thought we were really ready.

So the next year we left for Mt. Everest, about four months ago. It was a long trip, and it was definitely head and shoulders harder than anything I had ever done. The hardest section is called the Khumbu Ice Fall, a 2,000-foot section of jumbled boulders, where the glacier is running down, and it just drops off a cliff and tumbles into the valley. So there are ice boulders from the size of baseballs to the size of skyscrapers, just piled on top of each other. There is no rhyme or reason. There are vertical sections.

You're weaving in and out of the ice. You're jumping over crevasses that are hundreds of feet deep, where my long trekking poles couldn't feel the other side of the crevasse. I just had to trust where I was jumping and my crampons. There were three and four ladders that were tied together that spanned these huge, wide crevasses that you couldn't jump over. I learned how to balance my weight over the ladder and get the points of my crampons, which are under my feet, locking them over the rungs and staying balanced, and be able to walk across those ladders. Sometimes they were swinging in the wind as you walked.

Then, as we got higher up the mountain, it got steeper, and I was in my element, because I was either kicking steps or I was following the kick footsteps of people in front of me. They would hike in front of me jingling a bell, and I was pretty much following their footsteps and the sound of the bell. On summit day something strange happened. We left at about 8:45 at night, so most of the climb was in the dark. The sighted team members were struggling to breathe. We all had oxygen masks over our faces, and those masks cover most of your face. The oxygen in the mask is constantly fogging up your goggles so you can't see out of the sides. I have been told that sighted climbers can barely see their feet. They had these little head lamps on, so there was just a trickle of light. So everyone was in the same boat. It got so much harder for everyone else, and it sort of stayed the same for me. It almost got easier.

So we climbed steep rock, steep snow for many hours until about two in the morning. We were stopped by a white-out, a bad storm, and it was windy. We thought we were going to have to turn back because you really can't push forward in the face of the wind and the snow like that, but a team member looked up, and he said he could see a star. On the basis of that we proceeded a little bit further. The entire time we wanted to make sure we never sat down. Our climbing leader Pasquale said something important to us before summit day. He said, "Don't sit down. If you do, you won't get up." So we had to make sure we were moving hard the whole day.

That storm died down just enough for us at 10:00 in the morning to climb over this summit ridge. It's about 500 feet--10,000-foot drop on the right, 5,000-foot drop on the left. It's about two or three feet in width. Climb up the Hillary Step, a vertical rock climb, which at sea level wouldn't be too bad, but at 29,000 feet was sort of challenging. Then from there it was about a half an hour traverse up to the summit. We had worked so hard to get there that when I took that last step, I just couldn't believe it. There was no place else to go.[prolonged applause]

My teammate Jeff--and this is how I know a good friend, because I was nervous. There was a storm coming in. Our team leader down at base camp was yelling, "Get down. There is a storm coming in. You're only half-way there. You gotta get down." Jeff said, "Erik, stop and reflect a moment. Look around and think about what you've done and where you are." So I did that for about thirty seconds.

I don't climb because I want to prove anything to anybody. It's like, if you paint a picture, you don't paint a beautiful picture because you want to prove to the world that you can do that. You paint it because it's beautiful. You love it with a passion. But there wasn't anything wrong with responding to those cynics and those critics by standing on the top of Mt. Everest and then coming down with no frost bite, all our fingers and toes, not even sunburned.

When I stood on top, there had been so many people, Federationists, blind people and sighted people all around the country and all around the world who had been praying for us and supporting us and writing to us by e-mail that we had from base camp that, when I stood on the top, I knew that I wasn't just standing there alone with my team, but I was standing there on the shoulders of thousands and thousands of people all around the world, Federationists especially.[applause]

A few people may have the privilege of getting to the top, but it takes an entire team to get them there. It takes people on a mountain fixing lines, spanning ladders over crevasses, carrying loads, and organizing base camp behind the scenes. I want to thank all the people, the staff at the NFB, and all the folks at the local chapters who have been praying for us. I could truly feel that on the mountain, and it really helped. Barbara Pierce, thank you so much, Dr. Zaborowski, Dr. Maurer, Maurice Peret--who by the way was ready to head to the summit anytime I got injured--and everyone. I could go on and on. I am so proud to be a Federationist. I am so proud that we were such an amazing team on that mountain. We did it together. Thank you.

From Erik's E-mail

From the Editor: During the course of his preparing for and executing the climbs of Ama Dablam and Mt. Everest, I got to know Erik Weihenmayer and members of his team pretty well. As the world has come to know, they are remarkable people, and they have done a great deal to inspire blind and sighted people alike. I shake my head in bemusement when I read comments from the disenchanted handful who grumble that as blind people they are tired of hearing about Erik Weihenmayer because now people will expect them to climb mountains, or, if they are sighted, they resent the possibility that blind people will begin demanding that they be allowed to endanger themselves and everybody else doing silly stunts or generally trying to do things that everyone knows a blind person can't do.

Because Erik has gotten to know me, he has occasionally passed along an e-mail plea for help that he thinks the NFB can give. I then write to the person and put him or her in touch with NFB members in the area and see to it that appropriate literature is sent. I know firsthand just how much good Erik continues to do with his message of hope and his outreach to the world.

Last November Erik's father sent me a different sort of e-mail letter that he thought I would be interested in reading. It too demonstrates the impact Erik has on the lives of Americans and, I suspect, people around the world. Here is the letter:

November 8, 2001

Dear Erik,

My name is Zachary, and I am eight years old. In school I had to do a speech on my hero, and I picked you. We did our speeches as a human wax museum. I had to do my speech as if I were you. I picked you because, when my family went to Disneyland in July, I saw you climb the Matterhorn with Mickey Mouse, and I had to learn more about your climbs. When I started researching all that you had done, I began to be inspired by you. You have done more in your life than anyone can imagine. You are my hero because you didn't let anything stand in your way. You knew what you wanted, and you went for it. I hope when I grow up I can have the same strength that you have. I may not be blind, but I can still use strength.

Thank you for everything,

Zachary

Excerpt from the Afterword

by Erik Weihenmayer

From the Editor: In the December 2001 issue of Outside magazine the following excerpt appeared from the thirty-page afterword to Erik Weihenmayer's autobiographical book Touch the Top of the World. This chapter was written when Erik returned from his successful summit effort. The paperback edition of his book, which includes the afterword, is now available in bookstores. Here is a taste of it:

Tenacious E

Last May the elite climbing community told Erik Weihenmayer he didn't belong on Everest. In this exclusive preview of the new afterword to Weihenmayer's book, Touch the Top of the World, the blind mountaineer fires back.

A few days after I arrived in the Khumbu Valley for the Mount Everest climb, a rumor began circulating. Because I wasn't flopping on my face every few minutes, the Sherpas thought I was lying about my blindness. Women would approach me in the alleys of Namche Bazaar and wave their hands in front of my face. I'd feel the wind and flinch, which only confirmed their suspicions.

Finally I resorted to drastic measures. I asked Kami Tenzing, our climbing sirdar, into the kitchen tent. "Kami," I said, "I want to give you a message to take back to the Sherpas." I pulled down my left lower eyelid, leaned my head forward, and my prosthetic eye plopped into my palm. "I can take the other out if you want," I said.

"No!" he said firmly. "Not necessary."

The greatest doubt about my pursuit of Everest didn't come from the Sherpa community; it came from Himalayan veterans in the United States. Climber and author Jon Krakauer wrote me a sincere letter attempting to talk me out of my plans. "I am not at all enthusiastic about your trip to Everest next spring," he wrote. "It's not that I doubt you have what it takes to reach the summit. . . . It's just that I don't think you can get to the top of that particular hill without subjecting yourself to horrendous risk, the same horrendous risk all Everest climbers face, and then some."

Krakauer's letter gave me pause, and though I knew his attitude had been badly tainted by the 1996 Everest disaster, I respected his honest attempt to dissuade me. Nonetheless, I held on to the view that I would subject myself to less risk than other Everest climbers. I wasn't going as a guided client, not knowing the people I'd be sharing a tent with. I had surrounded myself with a good team of friends with whom I had climbed extensively--no paid guides, no superstars, just a bunch of buddies with a shared goal to reach the top and to be a self‑contained unit responsible to one another along the way.

It was a quote from mountaineer Ed Viesturs, however, in a magazine profile of me last spring that floored me. "More power to him, and I support his going," Viesturs said. "But I wouldn't want to take him up there myself. Because he can't see, he can't assess the weather. . . . When I guide, I like people to become self‑sufficient. With Erik, they'll have to be helping him, watching out for him every step of the way."

It was tough going forward in the face of experts who thought I would be a liability, risking my own life and those of my teammates. I had only shaken Viesturs's hand once, so I couldn't figure out how he presumed to know so much about my strengths and ability to contribute to a team. He hadn't seen the sixteen years I'd been climbing, learning rope management, crevasse rescue, and avalanche safety; he surely hadn't seen the days spent on big walls when my teammates hung from anchors placed by the blind guy. Or the years I spent becoming independent, learning to build snow walls, cook meals on gas stoves, and set up tents in whiteouts. Viesturs hadn't seen any part of my life except that I was blind.

Truth be told, I had heard all the criticism before. When I rock climbed for the first time at age sixteen at a recreational program in New Hampshire designed to build confidence in blind teens, people had been supportive. "Good for you," they said repeatedly, when there was a big fat top rope to dangle from. But when I talked about learning to lead, most said I'd need to be able to see to place protection. So I learned to lead anyway, with help from friends. When I wanted to climb ice, most had warned, "It isn't stable like rock. You need eyes to know where to swing your tools and to know whether it's a good stick." So I learned to climb ice anyway, by feeling the face through the tips of my tools and assessing my placement by the sound of my axe striking the ice.

The pattern continued, with expert after expert telling me I would never be able to surmount each progressive challenge. I pushed on, even though I often staggered beneath their pessimism, feeling like I was being buried under a mountain of "you can't." Were they right this time? I decided to go to Everest to see for myself.

At the start of the climb, after crossing the Khumbu Icefall, a chaotic pile of ice, constantly avalanching and splintering, I understood why the experts believed a blind person had little chance. Kicked‑out boot marks wove a path through the jumble, often leaping over gaping crevasses. I crossed the icefall ten times with a teammate moving in front of me, ringing a bell from the loop of his trekking pole. My first trip took thirteen hours of intense focus and communication, but with each subsequent trip I cut my time, first to eight hours, then to seven, and finally to five, an average time for an Everest climber.

Above the icefall the terrain turned to steep snow and ice faces intermingled with short rock steps. I finally established a rhythm in my pace and in my breathing and grew stronger each day. Where I was stepping had become less important than maintaining good internal balance. By summit day, oxygen deprivation, the steep face, and a 9:00 p.m. departure time had reduced all of us to an arduous crawl. The mountain had become harder for my team but had actually gotten slightly easier for me-‑I was used to the darkness.

The best response to the naysayers came on May 25, when I, along with ten western teammates and eight Sherpas, stood on the summit of Everest. Ironically, my summit experience wasn't compromised by hordes of climbers clogging fixed lines. Most of the expeditions were leery of sharing a summit day with me, afraid I'd involve them in an "epic." So we had left from the South Col with only one other team behind us and with our full focus on the mountain.

Although making the summit was a great honor, far and away the greatest honor of my life was the decision made by my trusted friends, who told the doomsday experts to buzz off and linked their lives to mine. Still, despite our success, plenty of detractors continue to voice their opinions in Internet chat rooms and letters to magazines: "Now that a blind guy's climbed it, everyone's going to think it's easy. People will probably get hurt." "Why are people thinking this is such a big deal? Anyone can be short‑roped to the top by nineteen seeing‑eye guides."

"Don't let 'em get to you," Chris Morris, a teammate, said after I shared their comments with him. "You climbed every inch of that mountain and then some."

I knew he was right. There are some who will never be convinced, others who have no idea what to think, but many others for whom the climb forced a higher expectation of their own possibilities. Mountains are the most powerful places on earth, demanding the utmost respect from humans. But we enter far more dangerous territory when a few chosen experts decide who belongs on them and who doesn't. Perhaps this is a decision best left for the mountain gods.

A deferred charitable gift annuity is a way for donors to save taxes and make significant donations to the National Federation of the Blind. (The amounts here are illustrative, not precise.) It works like this:

James Johnson, age fifty, has decided to set up a deferred charitable gift annuity. He transfers $10,000 to the NFB. In return, when he reaches sixty-five, the NFB will pay James a lifetime annuity of $1,710 per year, of which $179 is tax free. In addition, James can claim a charitable tax deduction of $6,387 of the $10,000 gift in the year the donation is made.

For more information about deferred gift annuities, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: James Omvig]

A New Professional Certification

by James H. Omvig

From the Editor: Jim Omvig is a frequent contributor to these pages. His leadership in the National Federation of the Blind extends over decades, and his experience in the blindness field is extensive. He has recently become President of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. In that capacity he describes in the following pages the important work of this body and why it has come into being. This is what he says:

A new entity, the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, has been created to offer a certification process for specialists in work with the blind. At present this board offers one professional certification--the National Orientation and Mobility Certification, which emphasizes nonvisual instruction, structured-discovery learning, and performance-based certification. Other certifications will be developed in the future for teachers of blind students, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and rehabilitation or independent living teachers.

What is this new board all about? What does it do and, for that matter, why was it established? What is nonvisual instruction? What is structured-discovery learning, and what is performance-based certification? Who are the people involved with this new board? These and similar questions have been and will continue to be raised by those who are interested in the organized blind movement and high-quality state or private services for the blind: thus this article. Sadly, Monitor readers will find it necessary to familiarize themselves with yet another set of jargony words and phrases.

By way of background, travel training did not become a distinct profession until the mid-1940's. Prior to that time home teachers had provided some rudimentary instruction as a part of their duties, or a teacher at the school for the blind would have been assigned to pass on travel tips to the upperclassmen. Ever since orientation and mobility instruction developed into a full-time occupation, many uncertified professionals have been outstanding in their specialty fields and have received their training from agencies for the blind rather than university programs. They are what might be called agency-trained, and many have been of enormous help to thousands of blind people. In fact, my own travel teacher in the Iowa Commission for the Blind's Orientation and Adjustment Center, a man named Jim Witte, was agency-trained. He was as fine a travel teacher as there has ever been in America, and many of today's leaders nationally in the blind community--people who are completely independent and go where they want to go when they want to go there--were trained by Witte.

Eventually university programs began to be established and master's degrees were offered to prepare experts in work with the blind, particularly travel teachers. What had been referred to by some of the agencies as travel training became Orientation and Mobility (O&M) in the university programs, and one university went so far as to refer to its university-trained travel teachers as peripatologists. No one could argue with either the purpose or lofty intent of this effort. Who among us would be opposed to finding and training the best possible specialists to provide the training blind people need in order to become empowered and prepared for normal, independent, competitive, and successful life? After all, as many said, "We're all working for the same thing, aren't we?"

Doubtless many outstanding blindness specialists have come out of these university programs, and the blind have been the fortunate beneficiaries of this excellence. In time, however, certain problems also arose. Significant and damning myths and misconceptions came to the fore and began to be confused with facts, particularly in the area of cane travel. Some actually believed these fictions to be the fundamental truths underpinning an entirely new science: fictions such as that agency-trained specialists cannot possibly be as good or qualified as university-trained professionals and that sight is a must to teach travel to the blind. Therefore, blind students will not be admitted to the university O&M programs. When professional certification in O&M came along, agency-trained teachers were simply not certified. Further, blind travel teachers were not be certified to teach other blind people, even if they received master's degrees from university O&M programs. In a word, discrimination against the blind was both blatant and rampant in the field of travel training.

This antiquated attitude about the absolute necessity for travel teachers to have sight along with the concomitant policy that the blind must, therefore, be barred forever from this rapidly developing new profession has interesting roots. One would naturally assume of course that this absolute had been sustained by scientific evidence and had been granted some kind of validating sanction. Such, however, was not the case. It is reported that, at a 1959 conference hosted by the American Foundation for the Blind, this supposed legitimate and permanent prohibition against the blind was established largely based upon an off-the-cuff response by a conference attendee to the question, "What can a sighted mobility instructor do better than a blind one at fifty paces from the trainee?" An instructor with thirty years of experience replied, "The sighted instructor can see danger and say "Stop."

This statement is absolutely true. Blind people cannot see. Based largely upon this impulsive remark, however, professionals reached the conclusion that sight is needed to teach travel. This fallacy took root among the supposed experts of the day and spread like wildfire.

The first organizational body in work with the blind to offer professional certification for O&M instructors was the American Association of Workers for the Blind. However, for many years now (since 1984), this certification has been offered by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). Because of the aforementioned myths and misconceptions, AER certification was not offered to agency-trained specialists, and it was not offered to travel teachers who were blind. In fact, most of the university O&M programs themselves were closed to the blind. To be sure, these prohibitions have now been eliminated, at least officially, with a gentle bit of persuasion from both the National Federation of the Blind and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and some blind people have been let into the schools and are being certified, but this traditional training and certification continue to revolve around sight and visual techniques for instruction and certification.

To jump ahead for a moment from the chronology, AER certification has now been given over to a new entity, the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP)--the Academy. It now performs the certification function previously handled directly by AER.

With this brief summary of historical facts, let's turn directly to a discussion of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB). What is it, and how did it come about? For a complete understanding one must first be aware of the historic facts summarized briefly above. Second, one must also be aware that a new non-discriminatory O&M master's program has been established at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana. The project was made possible through a federal Experimental and Innovative (E&I) Grant from the U.S. Department of Education to the Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, that state's public VR agency.

This progressive state agency worked in cooperation with the Louisiana Center for the Blind and Louisiana Tech University, a member of the Louisiana university system. This historic partnership between a public VR agency, a nationally recognized private agency for the blind, and an institution of higher education pioneered the development of this new, non-discriminatory master's program, which was to be an alternative to the traditional university programs. Therefore at Louisiana Tech University all qualified students, whether blind or sighted, are invited to apply and participate. In fact, under the E&I Grant Louisiana Tech was specifically authorized to engage in targeted recruitment of blind and minority students.

The first step in the Ruston effort was to identify and clarify the actual, substantive differences in instructional strategies used by blind and sighted instructors at the progressive orientation and adjustment centers around the country and those used by graduates of the university programs historically endorsed by AER. Intensive study revealed three primary differences. The first is purely philosophical. Everything the progressive centers do is based upon the fundamental conviction that blind people are simply normal people who cannot see and that the average blind person can live a normal life and compete on terms of absolute equality with people who are sighted if given proper training and opportunity. The traditional university programs promote the belief that blindness is a monumental loss or a tragedy and that the blind can never expect to compensate fully or compete on terms of full equality with the sighted, no matter what kind of training has been provided.

Second, the instructional strategies used by the progressive centers rely upon a complete attitudinal adjustment through immersion in blindness and nonvisual training techniques for instruction. On the other hand the AER-supported university programs offer training which revolves around sight, and there is little if any serious effort aimed at emotional, attitudinal adjustment.

Third, there is also another and different philosophical issue which is just as significant as the first. The progressive adjustment centers and blindness agencies believe that the most successful and useful O&M instructor, be he or she sighted or blind, must be proficient in the very same skills and abilities being taught to students or clients. The concept is analogous to the time-honored notion that a mathematics or English teacher first know and be expert in math or English himself or herself before being considered qualified to teach it to others. This level of expertise can be gained only through complete immersion in blindness and extensive sleepshade (blindfold) training.

While the AER-endorsed university programs provide some minimal philosophical and sleepshade training (from fifty to sixty-five total hours of instruction under blindfold), this concept of actual ability to perform competently is not considered important enough to be required to demonstrate excellence. Therefore, unlike the teacher trained in nonvisual instruction, the typical AER-trained instructor would not be able to use his or her personal travel skills to serve as a positive and inspiring role model for students or customers.

As the Louisiana Center/Louisiana Tech programs progressed, certain terminology emerged and crystallized. The nonvisual kind of training offered at the Louisiana Center for the Blind is known as the structured-discovery method of instruction, while traditional AER teaching is called guided learning. Under the structured-discovery method, the new student begins by being given specific instructions, but this phase of the learning continues only as long as it takes the student to master the simple, proper techniques--cane grip, arc, staying in step, and the like--but then the instruction shifts to "problem-solving after receiving general instructions." The instructor provides only the bare minimum of information; then it is up to the student to gather and process needed information, explore the environment, and rely upon himself or herself to discover the information needed to move about safely, efficiently and freely. Students learn to think and plan and to process their own information. Before long students are going out on solo routes. Experience has shown that students learn better and retain more if they figure it out for themselves. Student monitoring is done non-visually.

On the other hand, the traditional training, commonly called route or point-to-point travel, is referred to as guided learning. The instructor continually provides very specific instructions and feedback while closely monitoring the student. Guided learning revolves around sight and sighted instructors and visual monitoring.

The alternative, structured-discovery method is based upon the concept of teaching the same nonvisual techniques to teachers of the blind that are used for mobility by the blind themselves. Clearly it is a superior method of teaching independent travel. Actually, however, it is not a new teaching method at all--having been used for years by agency-trained instructors--but it is new to the university scene and master's programs.

Therefore the Louisiana Center/Louisiana Tech master's program became totally committed to and revolves around nonvisual, structured-discovery teaching, and the outcome has been gratifying. Then one additional but significant fact comes into play. As a second part of the U.S. Department of Education's E&I grant, a new, non-discriminatory alternative certification process for O&M instructors was to be developed. This alternative was needed for several reasons: First, a growing number of states require the certification of specialists in the blindness field, and quality certification is needed. Second, historically AER certification had been closed to blind candidates. True, recently the prohibition against the blind has officially been lifted, but blind candidates seeking certification are still expected to teach others using visual techniques. Finally, there are the many agency-trained O&M specialists around the country, who, while they do not have master's degrees from university programs, are outstanding O&M instructors, deserving certification and professional recognition and qualification.

Thus the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) was developed. By way of comparison, the AER/Academy system certifies candidates based upon having received a university O&M master's degree from an AER-approved program and passing a multiple-choice test. Generally, those receiving such master's degrees and taking this multiple-choice test cannot perform expertly the very tasks and techniques which they are expected to teach to their blind students or clients. In contrast, the new performance-based procedures for qualification for certification require that, in addition to demonstrating (through rigorous testing) a knowledge of the blindness field and positive attitudes about blindness, to become certified to teach the blind, the candidate must also be able to demonstrate his or her ability to perform the tasks or techniques which will be taught to blind students or clients. Thus it is performance-based. If the candidate for NOMC certification is sighted or partially blind, then the performance part of the examination is conducted under sleepshades and tests competence performing both indoor and outdoor travel.

A number of outstanding professionals in work with the blind wrote, re-wrote, tried, and tested for more than four years developing the original NOMC documents for the certification of individuals to prepare them for public use and acceptance. Key among these were Mrs. Joanne Wilson, then director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind and current Commissioner of the Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration; Dr. Ruby Ryles, Coordinator of Professional Development, Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, Louisiana Tech University; Ms. Suzanne Mitchell, Blind Services Executive Director, Louisiana Rehabilitation Services, and past president of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind; Mr. Roland Allen, NOMC, Louisiana Tech O&M Program Instructor; Mr. Edward Bell, NOMC, O&M master's degree graduate from Louisiana Tech; reviewer comments from Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, NOMC, former Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration; and, toward the completion of the project, Dr. Ronald J. Ferguson, COMS, Senior Research Fellow, Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, Louisiana Tech University. Drs. Ryles and Ferguson have jointly developed a second package--the NBPCB'S certification process for approved university programs.

Once the NOMC process was tried, tested, proven, and in place, it was determined that an entire new national body made up of professionals possessing diverse backgrounds and experience and with broad representation from around the country should be created to handle and oversee not only NOMC certifications but also many others which are urgently needed in the blindness field. Thus the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, Inc., (NBPCB) was created. This new agency was incorporated under the laws of Maryland on June 15, 2001.

Those currently on the NBPCB Board of Directors are President, Mr. James H. Omvig, Ruston, Louisiana, blind attorney and former director of rehabilitation centers in both Iowa and Alaska, former director of a Social Security program to create greater employment opportunity among the blind and disabled within SSA itself, and author on issues concerning blindness; Vice President, Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan, Atherton, California, Professor at the University of Missouri and Menlo College, and author of numerous books in the blindness field; Secretary/Treasurer, Dr. Ronald J. Ferguson, Ruston, Louisiana, Senior Research Fellow, Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, Louisiana Tech University, researcher and author on issues concerning blindness, and Academy-certified mobility instructor; Mr. James R. Gashel, Baltimore, Maryland, Director of Governmental Affairs, National Federation of the Blind, and former orientation center director, Iowa Commission for the Blind; Jamie C. Hilton, Newark, New Jersey, Director, New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired and former President, National Council of State Agencies for the Blind; and Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, NOMC, Vienna, Virginia, master's degreed O&M instructor, former director of special education programs for the Albuquerque, New Mexico, schools, former Director, New Mexico Commission for the Blind, former Commissioner, Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration, currently Research Professor at San Diego State University, and Director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, Louisiana Tech University.

Twelve individuals presently serve on the NOMC Certification Committee, and Dr. Ron Ferguson is Committee Chairman. Three-member certification teams conduct individual examinations. As indicated at the beginning of this article, other certifications for blindness professionals will be developed eventually, and additional certification committees will be established as needed. Dr. Ferguson may be contacted for information by phone at (318) 251-2891 or by e-mail at <fergusonr@lcb-ruston.com>.

This is a new day in work with the blind. The age of enlightenment has come to this field, and we of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board are gratified and honored to be a part of the revolution. By working together in a real spirit of partnership, the organized blind and professionals serving the blind will be unstoppable. The devastating unemployment rate among blind people of working age can steadily be reduced to the point where blind people who want to work can secure and hold the jobs they want and for which they are suited and qualified. Through proper training large numbers of blind people can be empowered, and that empowerment will be their passport to freedom.

Arthur Voorhees, "Professional Trends in Mobility Training," Standards for Mobility Instructors (New York: American Foundation for the Blind, 1962): 18.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kevan Worley]

Building the New Randolph-Sheppard Program

by Kevan Worley

From the Editor: The National Association of Blind Merchants conducts a spring conference each year, which combines useful information, constructive networking, and great recreation. This year the conference was held in Las Vegas, and according to those who attended, it was probably the best spring conference the division has ever conducted. Kevan Worley is the President of the group, and he delivered an honest but up-beat opening address. It seemed appropriate to reprint it here for the benefit of all those who were not present to hear it in early March. Here it is:

I would like to welcome all of you to our BLAST 2002 Spring Conference, sponsored by the National Association of Blind Merchants. When you work to put together what I think will be a marvelous training and networking opportunity, you naturally have second thoughts and nagging fears that the conference won't include all of the elements that people in and around our program need to empower them.

As people arrived yesterday and we had our first reception last night, sponsored by our friends at Cantu Food Service, and as I looked over the agenda this morning, I became even more sure that this will be a high-caliber training conference and information-sharing forum offering all of the participants something--something you can take home, something you can use after this BLAST conference to build your businesses and our program. But if for some reason it doesn't meet everyone's expectations, if it is not really the BLAST we have planned and hoped for, I just want you all to remember that the Program Chairman was Don Morris.

I want to take just a minute to bring you greetings from Dr. Maurer. President Maurer would have liked to be here himself. When I called him a few months ago to talk with him about Business, Leadership, and Superior Training in Las Vegas, he said that he was very intrigued and that he would like to come but his schedule just would not permit it. He said, "Kevan, you know how important Randolph-Sheppard," or as  he sometimes puts it, "the vending program--how important that is to me and to all of us in the National Federation of the Blind."

Dr. Maurer asked me to bring you his greetings and to convey to you his continued involvement with and commitment to blind merchants. I was tempted to ask him if he knew the difference between involvement and commitment. You know, that's like an eggs and ham breakfast: the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed. I chose not to ask, knowing that our National President grew up in Boone, Iowa. I figured he might know something about chickens and pigs and such like, and I know he knows about involvement and commitment.

You will note that our agenda says, "’Building the New Randolph-Sheppard Program,' an address by Kevan Worley." As I considered what comments I should make to open our BLAST conference, I was reminded of a story I heard about Will Rogers. Just prior to World War Two concerns about German U Boats lurking off our country's coast ran rampant. Will Rogers offered the idea that it was easy to solve the problem. He said, "We can just bring the ocean to the boiling point; that will keep the German subs away."

But when someone asked, "Yes, but how would you do that?"

Will Rogers responded, "I don't know. I do policy, not implementation." With that in mind I thought I would begin our BLAST Conference by offering some perspective, which I hope will serve to tie together the various seminars and elements of our Business, Leadership, and Superior Training.

We are going to discuss managing and embracing change. We are going to provide training in customer service and customer recovery. We are going to tackle the sometimes treacherous task of hiring and managing our employees. We are going to talk about expanding our program by using teaming partnerships for military cafeteria contracting and in other areas where the Randolph-Sheppard priority extends. We will hear about the magic and the mystique found in one of the most successful franchises in this country, Krispy Kreme Donuts, to give us something to emulate and perhaps in which to participate.

We will have the opportunity to meet with and learn about national distributors offering us unique buying opportunities, through the National Buyers Group. And the National Buyers Group will co-sponsor ‘Cocktails and Conversation’ along with our friends at Blackstone Consulting, a company which has developed an entire division devoted to providing instruction and support to blind vendors in military dining.

In a very few minutes James Gashel, this country's leading authority on Randolph-Sheppard and related laws, will be providing his perspective, analysis, and insight. We will be hearing from Joanne Wilson, Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Federal Agency which is responsible for overseeing and insuring the health and vitality of the Randolph-Sheppard Program. There will be plenty of opportunity for both formal and informal networking and information-sharing, merchant to merchant, state to state, and partner to partner. It is a lot to tackle in about three days, and I think it is going to be a blast.

It's a lot to tackle; that's a phrase which for me often sums up the Randolph-Sheppard Program. Sometimes it seems awfully daunting with its maze of complexities and inconsistencies--man, it can be a lot to tackle. Don Morris, my merchant mentor, once described the Randolph-Sheppard Program as "An incredible opportunity with imminent disaster nipping at its heels," or, as another wise man once said, "We are surrounded by insurmountable opportunities."

One of our tasks then over the next two-and-a-half days is to uncover those opportunities and think up the strategies to surmount them, to gain as much knowledge as we can from the experts we have assembled, and to take that knowledge home and act to avoid the disaster and embrace the possibilities of the Randolph-Sheppard Program. Emily Dickinson once wrote, "I dwell in possibility." It is in that spirit that I welcome you to Business, Leadership, and Superior Training and encourage you to absorb the knowledge, make the contacts, and embrace the possibility.

It would be easy to hold another conference where everybody sat around ranting about the problems, railing against the agencies, and wringing their hands over the shortcomings of the Randolph-Sheppard Program. But that wouldn't be practical or productive. So we will leave the hand-wringing, the name-calling, and the whining to someone else.

We all know the list of challenges. There are almost one thousand fewer blind vendors today than ten years ago. The state VR agencies don't seem to have the commitment to recruit qualified blind men and women, visually impaired or totally blind, and provide high-quality, concentrated training. Those of us who have derived great benefit from this program have not done as much as we should to reach out with thanks and appreciation to those in rehabilitation and our Federation. Training and licensing requirements are as inconsistent and varied from state to state as the topography of the states themselves. The active participation called for in the Randolph-Sheppard amendments in 1974 is still mostly a promise, not a reality. Randolph-Sheppard opportunities have become more limited by a shrinking federal and state workforce over the past decade and by a migration of a portion of that workforce to leased properties. Our opportunities have also been limited on many occasions by an inconsistent understanding of and adherence to the Randolph-Sheppard Law by many federal agencies. The Randolph-Sheppard Act has been interpreted by some vendors and some state agencies as a license for litigiousness. Some states have become battlefields of conflict and confrontation with far too much time and resources devoted to tussling over turf rather than recruitment, training, and business development.

In the face of those and other challenges, we must continue to challenge ourselves and to increase operational, sanitation, customer-service, and profit standards and expectations. Yes, even that non-exhaustive list of challenges and concerns could be exhausting if we let it, but we won't because that's not what we do in the National Association of Blind Merchants and the National Federation of the Blind. More and more we are finding state agencies willing to develop real partnerships with us, to dial down the rhetoric of divisiveness and ratchet up responsiveness, innovation, and expectations in order to realize the true potential and possibility of Randolph-Sheppard.

We in the National Association of Blind Merchants dwell in possibility because we know from where we have come. We know that the hopes and dreams of blind merchant vendors have always been and remain inextricably linked to the hopes, dreams, actions, and expectations of all blind people. As the National Federation of the Blind, the organized blind movement, over the past six decades has raised awareness and increased options, daring us to dream bigger dreams, so have we seen the expansion of possibilities for blind entrepreneurs in Randolph-Sheppard. And we in the National Association of Blind Merchants understand that it is our Federation philosophy, positive attitude about our blindness, inclusion, and experimentation that will allow us to tackle the tough issues and build a new Randolph-Sheppard Program.

It has been said that "An optimist believes that we live in the best of all possible worlds and that a pessimist fears that this is true." Sometimes, when I address meetings of blind vendors around the country, I am accused of being overly optimistic about our program--too idealistic, they say. I am called an utopian when I enthusiastically embrace the possibility that we can fix many of the problems at the foundation of this program. I think I am a realist, a pragmatist.

Just think of how far we have come. In 1936, when the Randolph-Sheppard Act became law, only a handful of blind people were eking out an income at little lobby stands selling candy and cigarettes. Today blind retailers are licensed to operate a variety of outlets including vending machines at postal facilities, at prisons, and on the highways; convenience stores; gift emporiums; snack bars; full food cafeterias; food courts; and military dining halls--serving thousands of meals a day to our nation's men and women in uniform. And while the challenges I mentioned earlier and others are truly cause for alarm, I believe we have it within our power to blast away at the fundamental flaws eating at the foundation of our program and build anew. But I believe we had better start now, this week, at this BLAST Conference, before it is too late.

As you might imagine, as President of the National Association of Blind Merchants I get many calls a week from blind vendors from all over the country, and I am often struck by an almost palpable sense of powerlessness from many of them. A vendor from an eastern state believes that the agency wants to take his Coke commissions; another vendor tells me he is being persecuted by the agency because he is losing money managing a facility which he believes used to be subsidized before he took it over. When I asked if he was involved with our organization, he says he doesn't see the point. When I asked him if he has taken steps to review service and reduce labor, he says he can't. He can't tell me why; he just can't. Not long ago a vendor from Colorado told me he blamed the agency for not buying him a waffle iron. I couldn't understand why, if there were bucks to be made in waffles, this blind vendor didn't just go to the restaurant supply, Target, or Wal-Mart and buy a waffle iron.

As I write these comments, I get a call from a vendor who says she has a brand new vending machine only two weeks old, and the switches aren't working properly. But rather than taking advantage of the warranty on a brand new piece of equipment, an agency staff member just came out, took a piece of wire, and rigged the machine to work, probably nullifying the warranty. Another vendor wants to know if it is legal for the agency to make him pay a 13 percent commission to the post office. Another vendor calls to ask if the bagel shop, located in the same break area as his vending machines in a Federal building, should be paying him a commission.

And another vendor calls to tell me that he thinks the agency and the state of Florida building management are treating him unfairly by writing him up for having a filthy facility because, as he puts it, "I don't see very well, and I can't always tell what's dirty." Last week I was on the phone with a blind vendor, trying to convince him to come to our customer service training at this conference. While I was on the phone, I heard him snap at a customer, "I am tired of running to the bank to get change for your parking meters and phone calls."

To each of these vendors I say, "Our struggle may be one of circumstance; it cannot be one of excuses. You must not fear; you must join your fellows for knowledge, understanding, and concerted action. You must read the Randolph-Sheppard Act and your state's laws and regulations; you must seek the training in the skills of blindness to increase your own personal confidence. You must get the necessary business and other training by attending your state's elected committee meetings, annual meetings, upward-mobility training, community college courses, independent study, and seminars such as BLAST. You can read the Business and Consumer sections of this country's newspapers, now available on NFB-NEWSLINE, nationwide and toll-free. I suggest that you join Business Organizations, Civic Organizations, and the National Federation of the Blind for knowledge, mutual support, inspiration, and empowerment.

Why must you do all of these things? Because that's what successful entrepreneurs do. Our struggle may be one of circumstance; it must not be one of excuses. No, the agency should not unilaterally snatch your Coke commissions and give them to the school district. No, you should probably not be paying big commissions to the post office. No, you are probably not entitled to a commission from the Bagel shop in your break area; instead you should be working with the SLA to take over and operate the shop yourself. We must be recruiting and training blind people in the competencies and confidence to operate that shop, not sell out our opportunities. And, yes, you can tell if your facility is dirty, and, if customers come to your store in need of quarters for phones and parking meters, go to the bank more often or find someone to go for you and give them those quarters with a smile.

Again I say, "Our struggle may be one of circumstance; it can not become one of excuses, for down that road lie lack of self-respect, low self-esteem, and servitude. Those who are lost on that road travel far from the spirit and intent of the Randolph-Sheppard Act and very far from the empowering precepts of the National Federation of the Blind.

You know, not long after the Randolph-Sheppard Act passed in 1936 came the birth of the National Federation of the Blind. So the history of our program and the Federation are very nearly parallel in time. In the banquet address at the National Federation of the Blind Convention given by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan in 1983 entitled "Blindness: The Other Half of Inertia," Dr. Jernigan spoke of those early days. He said: "In the beginning the force of inertia worked against us (things at rest tend to remain at rest); but pressure was applied, and the acceleration was noticeable and immediate. Of course at first the progress was slow (it always is). The situation was aggravated by the mass involved, for with a given pressure the build-up is always in direct proportion to the mass which has to be moved. And the mass which we had to move was tremendous. It was all of society--all of it (including ourselves): society--with its accumulated stereotypes, misconceptions, and prejudices; society--with its mistaken ideas and "freaky" notions about blindness, going back to the dawn of history--ideas and notions imbedded in literature, locked in folklore, and sanctified by tradition."

Dr. Jernigan was a builder, and as we consider from where we have come, evaluate where we are, and plan the constructive action to take us where we want to go, I can think of no better builder for us to emulate than Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. That is why we have included that banquet address, "Blindness: The Other Half of Inertia" and his insightful and inspirational article "Blindness: Handicap or Characteristic" in your training materials packet.

I think we can reclaim, remodel, and renovate Randolph-Sheppard; but the first step of this reconstruction project must be an honest and truthful evaluation of where we are. Ron Yudd, the nationally known food service marketing and management consultant, advises managers and small business owners to walk their facility from parking lot to back dock as though it is the first time they have ever been in that facility. He says, act as if you were a customer; what do you see? Note the good and the not so good. Mr. Yudd's advice has really helped me and my staff look at our business in a new and fresh way. It is perhaps my favorite of Ron's "Fifty Points of Profit" taught at our merchants conference last spring and available on our website at <www.blindmerchants.org>.

I urge all of us to go home and walk our businesses looking and touching and tasting as though for the first time. Do it critically, with attention to every detail with a view to highlight and celebrate what you do well and challenge yourself to change what isn't working immediately. Take your key manager with you if you have one; take a spouse, parent, or someone from your SLA with you; and take seriously their input and advice. This is a hands-on, proactive small business evaluation, which really works.

Can we apply this methodology to our entire program? I think we can, and I think we must. Look around the system; walk our program from rehabilitation counselor to retirement. What do we see? What do we notice when we walk through the Randolph-Sheppard system as though we have never been here before? We should all take care to highlight and celebrate what is working well, for indeed many things are working well, and we must make up our minds to work individually and collectively to change what isn't working. We must make up our minds to reclaim, remodel, and renovate Randolph-Sheppard. We must build on the best of what we have and infuse our program with new ideas, experience, and energy.

We can build a new Randolph-Sheppard. It will happen only through our effort, based on our experience, ignited by our energy. It will be built only if we build it. I believe we can, and I believe we will, and who are we? We are the National Association of Blind Merchants, a strong and proud division of the National Federation of the Blind. We have the means, the momentum, and the muscle to take the lead; to increase the inertia; to turn the wheel of progress; and to spin the wheel of experimentation, inclusion, and expansion.

In the mid-1970’s the Randolph-Sheppard amendments gave blind vendors the promise, at least, of more rights to control our own destiny through active participation and, with those rights increased, responsibility to become true entrepreneurs. By the mid-eighties more blind vendors were on the highways, and a little over a decade ago we began to develop teaming partnerships so that some blind entrepreneurs could use their experience and expertise to manage military cafeterias. In recent years the National Association of Blind Merchants has endeavored to develop a National Buyers Group to harness the incredible buying power of Randolph-Sheppard retailers. This National Group Buying Project has not been a complete success yet. But neither has that promise of real active participation called for in the Randolph-Sheppard legislation of twenty-eight years ago, and I am not ready to give up on either one.

In the early 1990's the National Counsel of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) refused to pass a resolution endorsing real active participation; last year they did. And with the leadership of the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and the active participation of Blind Vendors and state agencies, a new federal policy has been drafted. Joe Cordova of RSA assures us that the new directive on active participation will be coming out soon.

My colleagues and friends, I do have the faith that working together we can blast into a new era and build new opportunities in Randolph-Sheppard. But I also know that, even as we improve business practices and active participation and achieve a greater acceptance of our priority and presence by federal and state agencies, we never know from where our next challenge will come.

For example, I never expected that an organization representing teachers of blind children and other rehabilitation professionals would question the purpose and possibilities of our Randolph-Sheppard Program. But let me read to you from a letter written by Brenda Sheppard, the president of the Colorado Chapter of AER [Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired]. First she quotes from our NFB of Colorado fact sheet, which supports the creation of a separate agency for the blind in Colorado. "In Colorado the Randolph-Sheppard Program has been facing severe budgetary problems and a lack of direction." At this point CAER President Sheppard interjects, "Questions have been raised as to whether or not this program is discriminatory as it is currently only a program for blind individual participation."

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by Ms. Sheppard's lack of understanding and insight; after all, history shows us that there is precedent for this attitude on the part of some who work in the blindness field. In 1936 the American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB), an AER predecessor organization, refused to pass a resolution at its national convention to endorse the pending Randolph-Sheppard legislation. You would think Brenda and her colleagues who teach blind children and counsel blind adults would be all for the most successful employment program for the blind ever.

So let this BLAST Conference serve as a focal point to strengthen our resolve to meet whatever challenges come. And there will be challenges: of that you can be sure. Yogi Berra had it just about right when he said, "You have a great future even if the future isn't what it used to be." Franklin Delano Roosevelt put it another way. He said, "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today." I have no doubt that the Business, Leadership, and Superior Training offered at this conference can serve as a foundation for building a Randolph-Sheppard Program that can withstand future challenges. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The ancestor to any action is a thought." Over the next three days we will be thinking together so that we can go home and act. Einstein said, "Nothing happens until something moves." I hope this BLAST conference is a launching pad for thoughts, ideas, strategies, contacts, and partnerships which will propel this Randolph-Sheppard Program to even greater possibility.

As Dr. Jernigan said in his 1983 banquet address, "We have learned the truth of the other half of inertia: things in motion tend to remain in motion, and it is as hard to stop something which is moving as it is to start something which is not." Dr. Jernigan said, "We are moving." Federation Merchants, we are moving. We can recapture that momentum, reclaim Randolph-Sheppard, and blast into the future together--renewed, refocused, and reenergized.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Hegedeos and Steve Obremski]

NAC at the Same Old Stand

by Marc Maurer

In the Spring of 2001, as I was sitting at my desk at the National Center for the Blind, I received a telephone call from a person (Steve Hegedeos) who said he was the executive director of NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped). (This was the original name of NAC. At our 2001 Convention NAC officials informed us that the new name--fairly recently adopted--is the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired.) He asked if he could come to see me.

I had never heard of Steve Hegedeos, but I had a very long acquaintance with NAC. In the late 1960's NAC came into being. Immediately after its formation it tried to gain control of all work with the blind. It did this in the name of accreditation. NAC said that it would be very important for people to know what agencies for the blind were doing good work and what agencies for the blind were not. It set itself up as the official accrediting body to say to the public that those good enough to achieve its accreditation were of the first quality and everybody else was second rate.

Of course there were problems with this summation of the NAC purpose and practice. NAC-accredited agencies often took advantage of the blind. NAC gave its seal of approval to those that paid less than the minimum wage to blind workers. It accredited schools where child abuse occurred. It systematically ignored the views of blind consumers. The whole business of NAC accreditation would have been an unimportant though very cruel hoax if NAC had not sought to require all funding for programming for the blind to be conditioned upon its seal of approval.

The National Federation of the Blind sounded the alarm and called the blind of America and their friends to oppose the establishment of a system that sought to institutionalize practices to exploit blind workers, students, and clients for the benefit of administrators of programming for the blind. Beginning in 1972, the National Federation of the Blind declared that it would track down NAC wherever it went and expose its unethical, shabby behavior. Public protests were mounted; cover-ups were revealed; and unethical practices were laid bare.

A group of NAC board members gathered in a room to create a list of Federation members they intended to ruin. It was all in the name of assuring quality services to the blind, they said. If they could stop the Federation, there would be no impediment to their taking high salaries while paying a pittance to blind workers who were required to do their work with broken machinery in substandard working conditions.

This is the background of NAC as I had come to know it. Consequently, the telephone call from Steve Hegedeos raised questions in my mind. NAC had once been a serious threat to the future of programming for the blind. However, its influence had diminished and almost disappeared. What could NAC possibly want? Steve Hegedeos said that he would like to come to see me, and I invited him to the National Center for the Blind.

Sometime later we talked for an afternoon about the purpose, the history, the practices, and the influence of NAC. I reviewed the events of the past in some detail, and I indicated to Mr. Hegedeos that I thought his joining the staff of NAC was a mistake. He said that he was just then becoming part of NAC, and he was genuinely interested in promoting quality services for the blind. I responded that I believed him, which is why I thought he should not join NAC. Nevertheless, I invited him to come to the convention of the National Federation of the Blind to make a presentation.

Mr. Hegedeos came to the NFB Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 2001. He brought Steve Obremski, President of NAC, with him. In their presentation they said that, although there had been problems with the accreditation process in the past, these problems were in the past. Messrs. Obremski and Hegedeos felt the National Federation of the Blind should forget the past and think about the future. They said that accreditation was important and that the organized blind should support it.

We responded that we weren't sure that the past was so completely divorced from the future. The behavior of an entity in former times is not always a predictor of its future performance, but it is often the best indicator there is. I indicated that, if NAC wanted us to engage in further discussion of the matter, I would invite NAC to send three representatives to talk with three people from the NFB at a mutually convenient time. I said that I would serve as one of our representatives and that the others would be Second Vice President Peggy Elliott and Director of Governmental Affairs James Gashel. Messrs. Hegedeos and Obremski did not accept this invitation immediately, but later they did.

Before the convention came to a close, a resolution reaffirming the position of the Federation regarding NAC was adopted. Although Mr. Hegedeos is not a member of the National Federation of the Blind and although he has no right to speak on matters of Federation business, he was permitted to address the convention regarding the merits of the resolution. He urged delay based upon his assertion that NAC was turning over a new leaf–-that NAC was becoming the quality-assurance entity that it had long claimed to be.

The meeting between the NAC representatives and those of the National Federation of the Blind occurred on the tenth of September. I had invited the NAC officials to come to the National Center for the Blind, but they declined. They said the National Center for the Blind was not a suitable meeting place because it was not neutral. They insisted that we meet in a hotel. They set the time of the meeting and the place. We acceded to their demands. However, the implied assertion that meeting at the National Center for the Blind would somehow be improper helped to determine the tone of the gathering. Although Mr. Hegedeos had repeatedly offered friendship, his demand that we meet in what he called a neutral arena lacked the appearance of friendliness.

Because there had been the assertion (even though only implied) that we were not to be trusted, we determined to record the meeting. Mr. Craig Gildner accompanied Federation representatives to the meeting for the purpose of recording it, and Mr. John Brennan came to serve as an amanuensis in case we came to an agreement which needed to be put in writing. Accompanying Messrs. Obremski and Hegedeos was Mr. Lee Robinson, a NAC Board Member and the Superintendent of the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind.

After we introduced ourselves to each other, I outlined the problem with NAC as we in the Federation understand it. Specifically, we believe that NAC's accreditation does not assure quality service. Instead, it serves most frequently as a shield to protect some of the shabbiest practices of the worst agencies of the blind. When a blind consumer complains about poor service, the agency says that it has been checked out by the experts in the field and accredited.

As an example, I asked if the President and Executive Director of NAC were aware of allegations of wrongdoing at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind. Mr. Robinson said that he was aware of such allegations. I asked if Messrs. Hegedeos and Obremski were aware of them.

They said they were not. I read a newspaper article to the assembled company which had appeared the previous Friday, September 7, 2001, in The Salt Lake City Tribune. This article alleged practices of personnel at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind which are dangerous to students. This is the text of the article:

Deaf, Blind Schools Sued by Fired Aide

by Michael Vigh

Teresa Hansen was working as an aide at the Ogden Schools for the Deaf and Blind last year when she says she saw a teacher strike a blind, disabled boy--dislodging a shunt in the 4-year-old's head.

In July the school administrators fired her, citing budget cuts. But Hansen's lawyer, Stacey Sullivan, contends her client lost her job because she told authorities about the abuse of Justus Johnstun.

"There is no other explanation for the termination of Ms. Hansen's employment than illegal retaliation for her cooperation with the police in their investigation of the school," Sullivan said in a notice of claim served on the state in August. The notice is a prerequisite for Hansen's planned $500,000 lawsuit.

On Thursday Doug and Amy Johnstun, the parents of Justus, filed a lawsuit in Salt Lake City's U.S. District Court against the school, the school's principal, superintendent, and the teacher who allegedly struck their son. The parents, who are also asking for $500,000, contend they should have been warned that his teacher had assaulted another student a year earlier.

The Johnstuns say their son has undergone four surgeries to adjust his brain shunt, at a cost of $200,000. They also contend the abuse to Johnstun was not reported to police or state social workers until Hansen came forward.

Justus's teacher, Charlotte Widdison, later pleaded guilty to class B misdemeanor assault.

Superintendent Lee Robinson said, after the abuse came to light, Widdison was fired. "We believe that we acted appropriately," Robinson said. "What else can I tell you?"

The lawsuit alleges other children have been mistreated at the school. It said the parent of another deaf student witnessed an aide kick a walker out from underneath a student as discipline. The student, who could not stand without assistance, fell to the floor.

And a teacher allegedly tied another deaf student's legs to his chair because he was swinging his legs against it. A parent who volunteered at the school also said she frequently heard the teacher call her students "little s----s," the suit alleges.

The teacher is still employed at the school, the suit states.

Meanwhile, in the alleged whistleblower case, Sullivan says the school was advertising for three teacher's aide positions when Hansen was fired. School superintendent Lee Robinson said Hansen was invited to apply for any of the open positions.

"Her position was eliminated because some classes were realigned," Robinson said. "But we told her she could apply for another job if she wanted to."

But Sullivan says that Principal Dwight Moore told Hansen that, if she submitted her resume, he would "not recommend her for any of the positions." This occurred although Hansen had a "spotless" record, Sullivan said.

In April Sullivan represented student Jimmy Sutton in his lawsuit against the school and Moore. Sutton was sexually assaulted twice in a week.

Sutton's mother claimed Moore had failed to develop a plan to safeguard her son after the first attack. But a federal jury found that Moore did not act with "deliberate indifference" toward the boy.

Following the reading of the article, Mr. Robinson asked whether we could confirm that there had been any convictions of illegal behavior at the schools. Of course we could not. However, the question posed by Superintendent Lee Robinson misses the whole point. It is not enough that the administration of a school avoid being convicted of illegality. Quality service demands a higher standard. If NAC is seeking to assure quality, it must have a system which can assure that the quality it is seeking really does exist. Not only does NAC fail in this department, its president and executive director were unaware that the allegations of misconduct had been charged. They were unaware of these allegations despite the fact that NAC had been conducting an on-site review of the school immediately prior to the time when our meeting took place.

We asked that NAC look into the question of quality at the Utah Schools for the Deaf and Blind and report to us. The NAC representatives assured us that they would do so. That was in early September. The final days of the month came and went with no report. The weeks of October passed without news from NAC about the Utah Schools. In November we looked in the mailbox, but it remained empty. December found the mail basket equally bare. As this article is being written, the winter has come and passed away. The spring season is upon us, and still there is no report.

NAC prints a document it calls The Standard-Bearer. The most recent of these contains the annual report of NAC for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2001. In this report NAC says that it came to our convention to invite us to participate in a reorganizing and restructuring of NAC. The invitation was couched in such terms that NAC's intention is perfectly clear. NAC wants to do as it pleases without accountability to the blind–-to the people it is intended to serve. In other words, there has been no change.

The fundamental problem is that NAC intends to act without any check or balance system–-that it feels no obligation to a constituency. The blind have a right to determine their own futures, and agencies for the blind have an obligation to respond to the wishes and needs of those they are designated to serve. NAC wants to be able to tell the blind that, if it disagrees with their views, those views are irrelevant–-that the blind have no say-–that NAC knows more about blindness and the needs of the blind than the blind themselves know. This has been the fundamental problem with NAC from the beginning. Those who are to be served may not be ignored. The blind must and will have a voice in their own destiny. NAC is at the same old stand.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Peggy Elliott]

Another Take on the September 10 Meeting with NAC

by Peggy Elliott

From the Editor: As President Maurer mentioned, one of the other NFB representatives to the September 10 meeting with members of NAC was NFB Second Vice President Peggy Elliott. Her view of the discussion was slightly different and completely complementary. Here it is:

Theoreticians who study ethics have two principles useful in understanding the position of the National Accreditation Council for the Blind and the Visually Impaired at its meeting with members of the National Federation of the Blind on September 10, 2001. The first principle is that a person can go wrong by either omission or commission. That is, failing to act when action is the right course is as bad as committing a wrong action. Leaving out the right thing is as bad as doing the wrong one. The second principle is that good intentions never excuse bad acts. Take for example the mother who recently concluded that she was a bad mother to her children, who would grow up into bad people likely to commit acts which would condemn them to Hell. She decided to drown all five children before they could become bad, thus allowing them, she hoped, to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Her intentions were good; her actions were horrible and not excused by the good intentions. This example comes to mind from the pages of current newspapers and not because we are discussing NAC.

Those two principles, failure to act can be wrong and good intentions don't excuse bad acts, were both prominently on display at the September 10 meeting between NAC and the NFB. NAC's participants at this meeting were its new executive director, Steve Hegedeos; NAC's new president, Steve Obremski; and a NAC board member, Lee Robinson. Each had something to contribute under both principles.

Mr. Hegedeos largely confined his contributions to descriptions of his own sterling qualities. He asserted that he had, in effect, saved two other accreditation organizations, that he had devoted his life to accreditation, and that his intentions were good. He urged the NFB to take his words to heart, have faith in him, and allow him to do good with NAC.

Mr. Obremski had a slightly different view, offering his vision of a field of work with the blind happily and firmly regulated by NAC serving clients well and achieving good results, although NFB members in the room were unclear how these "good results" would be defined or measured by the people who have brought us the NAC standards thus far. He painted a glowing picture and then asked NFB to take his words to heart, have faith in him, and allow him to do good with NAC.

In other words, both men, each in his own way, offered their own good intentions and the fact that they had not been involved in NAC before as their reason for the NFB's forming a new partnership with NAC. Neither seemed to note the irony that a large part of their pitch to the NFB involved their lack of knowledge about NAC's history and misdeeds.

That was the other huge and unavoidable part of the meeting: NAC's history. Neither Mr. Hegedeos nor Mr. Obremski seemed at all interested in NAC's history over its thirty-four-year existence. While both were polite in listening to NFB members discussing that history, neither knew much of it, and both, continuously and politely, kept reiterating the point that neither of them had been there, that neither of them knew the history, and that yesterday's news while possibly interesting had nothing to do with their good intentions and plans based upon those good intentions for the rosy future of NAC. Mr. Obremski in particular seemed interested in the depth and persistence of the NFB members' indictments of NAC, but he always reverted to the "good-intentions-for-the-future" argument when it was his turn to speak.

The NFB has reasons, dozens and hundreds and thousands of reasons, why it has so fiercely and intransigently fought NAC at every turn. Those reasons are the blind people mis-served and under-served and not served and harmed by professionals at agencies accredited by NAC. Any Federationist familiar with the history cannot stop once started in naming accredited agency after accredited agency at which investigations of criminal activity have occurred, policies demeaning to blind persons have been adopted and championed, blind people have been kept out of management and policy decisions, blind people have been physically harmed without recourse, and on and on--all dismissed by Hegedeos and Obremski as irrelevant in light of their good intentions and, to Mr. Obremski, interesting for the verve with which the stories were delivered.

NFB members tried to tell these two men of good intentions that they were exactly mirroring the people who founded NAC in their proclamations of good intentions and their ignoring of the hard, unpleasant facts in the halls and management suites of agencies serving the blind. Even this historical observation was uninteresting to Messrs. Obremski and Hegedeos, who had their own good intentions before them as compasses.

The point about history was poignantly and regrettably made by the third NAC representative in the room, Lee Robinson, who serves as superintendent of the Utah School for the Blind. The Utah school has been continuously accredited by NAC since 1985 and was, if memory serves, undergoing re-accreditation during the spring of 2001. We now know from articles in the Salt Lake papers that there was a lawsuit over mistreatment of a student at the school. Indeed, during the time NAC was considering the Utah School for re-accreditation, allegations by several students of abuse were being made, all known to Mr. Robinson, with whom the matters were discussed at the September 10 meeting.

NFB members asked Mr. Hegedeos and Mr. Obremski two questions concerning these allegations: first, were they aware of the allegations, and, second, what was NAC going to do about them? It was obvious in the meeting that neither Hegedeos nor Obremski was aware of the allegations even though they are the executive director and president of the agency accrediting and considering re-accreditation of the school. They pledged to let NFB members know what NAC's response to the allegations would be, but that pledge has yet to be kept, unless the re-accreditation of the school is that response. Yes, the Utah school was re-accredited, and, to the NFB's knowledge, no action by NAC has been taken regarding the allegations of abuse at the school. While this is horrible for the children and parents concerned, it is tiresomely familiar to Federationists, who can name school after school at which such allegations have been credibly made while NAC's accreditation and re-accreditation remained in place.

From the September 10 meeting and its aftermath it appears that, not only is NAC functioning as usual with good intentions as its only justification, but NAC is also functioning as usual in taking the position that its standards have nothing to do with allegations of abuse.

The poignant part? The case in Utah that had proceeded to trial had resulted in a verdict in favor of the school for the blind as Mr. Robinson heatedly reported. No verdict, no story, you comment. Well, not quite. The case involved only one of the allegations of abuse, and the question put to the jury was whether the school was negligent according to law. The alleged negligence involved sexual abuse of one student by another. The abuse occurred once, and the parents understandably reacted strongly to this.

The abuse occurred again a short time later, and the parents filed suit, believing that after the first incident the school should have known and taken steps to protect the student from recurrences of the abuse. In other words, there was no dispute that the abuse had occurred at least twice. The question for the jury was to decide if school officials were negligent under the strict standard of the law in not protecting the student from repeated abuse. Mr. Robinson's version of the verdict was that the school had been "found innocent by a jury of our peers."

As with much else involving NAC, the National Federation of the Blind does not see it that way. The NFB agrees with the ethicists that failures to do right are the same as overt bad acts. And the Federation is absolutely grounded on the understanding that the blind are surrounded by good intentions which are rarely carried through into real belief in the capabilities of the blind. The most common location where one can find these good intentions not matched by real belief is in the agencies serving the blind accredited by NAC. In other words, the new NAC is no different than the old.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ed Vaughan]

The Itako--a Spiritual Occupation for Blind Japanese Girls

by C. Edwin Vaughan

The itako were young-girl blind spiritualists in traditional Japan and other traditional Asian cultural regions. These cultures developed distinct occupations for blind people. There were no schools for the blind, nor were there publicly sponsored programs of rehabilitation or job training. Fortune-telling, story-telling, and massage were occupations commonly dominated by blind people in medieval China, Korea, and Japan (Vaughan, 1998). Frequently blind people managed their own guilds, the organizations that regulated access to these occupations. One of the more unusual of these pursuits, at least from the perspective of our cultural traditions, was the occupation for young blind girls-–the itako of Japan.

The women's studies movement has provided rich insights into the contributions of women to cultures around the world. This includes women's spirituality as manifested in the study of mother goddesses, healing, shamanism, and fortune-telling. An example of this research is the book by Carmen Blacker, The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan (1986, Allen and Unwin). In this book Blacker describes various ways women in traditional Japanese culture participated in shamanistic practices (including arctic hysteria), calls from the other side, and experiences claiming relationships to the deity (Blacker, 1986, p. 140). She also describes a somewhat less expressive form of spirituality which came to be dominated by blind women initiated into these practices in their early adolescence.

The training involved in becoming an itako included, often at age twelve, frequent immersions in excruciatingly cold water and intensive, tightly disciplined efforts at memorizing ancient religious texts. The following is a summary based upon the recollections of a sixty-five-year-old woman.

She got up before dawn and performed the cold water austerity. There followed a short service of chanting before the family altar and after breakfast the morning lesson. Here she would have to repeat a number of poems, phrase by phrase after her teacher until she had them effortlessly by heart. After lunch, with the other two pupils in the house, she had to go over the phrases she had learned in the morning. After supper there was more practice until the evening cold water austerity. The teacher was strict and would scold her unmercifully if her memory failed. If she showed signs of fatigue, the teacher would direct a short, sharp yell which startled her so much that she often burst into tears. (Blacker, pp.142-43).

Another woman, Suzuki Tsukayo, described the intensity of the training leading to her initiation into her new occupation. "For the week immediately before her initiation the austerities were further intensified to an almost incredible pitch of severity. She had to observe the sandachi of three abstentions. No cereals must pass her lips, no salt, nor any cooked foods. Nor, if the austerities took place in the winter, must she ever go near a stove or any form of heating."

Every day she had to pour no less than a thousand buckets of cold water, each one counted on the beads of a rosary. At the same time she must recite a thousand Hannya Singyos and twenty-one Kannon Sutras. This appalling austerity lasted from crack of dawn until late at night so that throughout the week she was allowed next to no sleep.

The first two days of this fearful regime, she recalled, were almost unbearable. The intense cold, the sleeplessness, and the semi-starvation brought her to the point of breakdown. Her joints ached so agonizingly that she could scarcely walk or lift the buckets over her head. But on the third day her pain suddenly vanished. She felt herself flooded with an extraordinary access of strength and enthusiasm such that she felt capable of enduring any ordeal in order to accomplish the final initiation.” (Blacker, pp. 143-144)

Following this initiation, she changed out of the traditional white garment of the initiate into a brilliantly colored kimono, which indicated her spiritualist status. This final initiation ceremony was held in the presence of her family, relatives, and teacher. She was now symbolically wedded to the deity who had "taken possession" of her (Blacker, p. 147).

This blind girl could now assume her place among the women spiritualists who earned their living by providing spiritual advice and insights to others. She and other blind spiritualists would make themselves available at the numerous Buddhist temples throughout Japan. The most typical user was an elderly woman who would pay a small fee (thirty yen) for each spiritual service. Blacker in her book chronicles three days at one temple where these women worked. Throughout the day and into the evening, customers would go from one blind medium to another seeking spiritual advice or consolation. Each would ask questions about the deceased person-–was the deceased a family relation; what was the cause, the date, and the nature of the death; were there surviving children? "Having thus ascertained into which type the dead person fell, the itako launched into a rapid singsong chant lasting five or ten minutes. It was not difficult to see that not a single one of the itako was in any state resembling trance. They exhibited none of the usual symptoms of stertorous breathing and convulsively shaking hands. The chants they recited, moreover, were easily seen to fall into different fixed forms." (Blacker, p. 160)

With secularization and modern forms of education, including better access to education for the blind, these spiritual occupations have nearly disappeared. According to Blacker, by 1960 these practices still existed in a limited number of prefectures in the northeast part of Japan's main island, Honshu. Blacker links the decline of shamanism in Japan to this less intensely spiritual activity, which came to be a major source of employment for young blind girls. Today one can still easily encounter blind fortune-tellers in China and Korea. However, almost all of them are men. Japanese culture provides this unusual example of an occupation primarily for blind women. Perhaps Monitor readers in Japan or elsewhere could update us on the present status of this custom.

Blacker, Carmen. The Catalpa Bow: A Study of Shamanistic Practices in Japan, 2nd, London: Allen and Unwin, 1986.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: ???]

Knowing the Score

by Bill McCann

From the Editor: Living as I do in a small town that is home to one of the finest conservatories of music in the country, I have gotten to know a number of blind musicians through the years. Unfortunately not all of these young men and women have been proficient Braille music readers. Those who are have been far better equipped to compete with their sighted classmates. Bill McCann is doing what he can to provide blind musicians the tools they need to compete equally in the music world. This is what he says:

Mrs. Bettye Krolick, whom I fondly refer to as the Fairy Godmother of Braille Music, likes to tell a story about her first experience of transcribing music into Braille. It was 1970. She had studied hard and learned to transcribe her first assignment, some clarinet music for a local elementary-school student named Jeff. Soon after, at an early morning band rehearsal, she observed the student, Braille score on his music stand, playing one of the parts before practice began. A couple of the sighted students looked on, and one said to the other in admiration: "He plays from memory!"

On hearing this remark, Jeff sat up straight and tall in his chair and played on with greater confidence than ever. This simple but eloquent gesture by a blind fourth-grader motivated Mrs. Krolick to dedicate a substantial portion of her time and energy to this very day to transcribing, standardizing, and promoting the use of music Braille all over the world. She quickly realized that memorization comes naturally to the blind and that she could provide in Braille the unfiltered information the composer meant to convey to the player.

Certainly information is power. Having the information we need when we need it empowers us blind people to participate and even lead. Knowing the score gives us confidence to succeed. This young clarinetist has gone on to succeed in areas unrelated to music. But his positive experience and elevated self-esteem gained during his school band days certainly played a part in his subsequent success.

Literacy leads to inclusion and independence. For example, although seventy percent of the blind are unemployed, the vast majority of those who do have jobs can read Braille. No doubt the benefits of literacy are not confined to the sighted. Educators are increasingly aware of the importance of Braille literacy. Unfortunately we still hear of mainstream music educators and even vision teachers who sincerely believe that a blind student need not learn to read music. Some prestigious colleges and universities continue to confer advanced degrees in music on blind graduates who are functionally illiterate when it comes to reading music. We are beginning to see a shift in these attitudes, but we still have a long way to go.

So how do we create a ready supply of material in music Braille? We simply don't have enough Bettye Krolicks to produce Braille music for students and professionals. In fact, today only a few dozen active transcribers are certified by the Library of Congress. In my own study of music from elementary school through graduation from a conservatory I was constantly confronted with the challenge of obtaining music I needed to learn in the form of Braille notation.

By 1992, having worked for almost ten years as a full-time systems analyst for a Philadelphia-based oil company while continuing to perform as a part-time professional musician, I decided that it was time for me to pursue my dream of automating the process of transcribing music into Braille. In the early 1980's I began to hear of software that allowed sighted people to print music using a PC. I reasoned that, if we could print music with a computer, we could certainly Braille it out too. In 1992 I formed what would become Dancing Dots. In 1997 we released the first version of our GOODFEEL Braille Music Translator.

Now sighted people who know something about conventional staff notation can scan and edit music using mainstream software. Once the music they see on the screen agrees with the music on the hardcopy version, they simply pass the information to GOODFEEL, which produces the equivalent Braille characters and sends them to a Braille embosser or printer. The result: students and professionals receive their Braille scores on time, according to current production standards.

Blind users can also work with GOODFEEL and related technology. They can scan printed music too, although support from a sighted helper is sometimes required to clean up scanning errors. The results can be imported into Cakewalk, a mainstream music editor and sequencer. The blind musician can add title text and other annotations to the piece and pass the information on to GOODFEEL for conversion into Braille.

Dancing Dots continues to maintain its commitment to adapt and develop new technologies and related educational resources to support the blind musician. Last year we published a new course in Braille music-reading by Richard Taesch. Our CakeTalking scripts and tutorial give users of the JAWS for Windows screen reader unprecedented access to mainstream music software for creating audio recordings and printed scores. We are still improving GOODFEEL, now at release 2.5. We work with mainstream developers to integrate GOODFEEL even more closely with their products, particularly the SharpEye music-scanning program and the Lime notation editor that come with GOODFEEL.

In dozens of countries GOODFEEL's users are bringing literacy, independence, and inclusion for blind people to life by opening doors to the world of music. I encourage all lovers of music, of literacy, and of education to advocate for the appropriate use of Braille music for blind students in any situation in which their sighted peers are using printed notation. We at Dancing Dots stand ready to support you in your efforts.

For more information please see <www.dancingdots.com>, or call toll-free (866) 336-8746 (866-D-Dots-GO).

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Allison Hilliker]

Making a Place for Herself

From the Editor: Allison Hilliker is President of the Michigan Association of Blind Students and the 2001 winner of the NFB's Jennica Ferguson Scholarship. She is also busy making a place for herself as a student at Michigan's Hope College, where she is majoring in elementary education. On January 16, 2002, the Anchor Spotlight, a student publication at Hope, carried a feature story about Allison. Shortly after that Allison wrote a post to the National Association of Blind Students listserv, describing a recent experience she had had with the second-grade class she had been assigned to. Together these two documents provide a gratifying snapshot of a young woman making a difference in her community. We can be proud of Allison and grateful for the work she is doing to educate members of the general public about the abilities of blind people. Here is a fine example of changing what it means to be blind:

Student Shares her Experience with Blindness

by Erica Heeg, In Focus Editor

Allison Hilliker ('05) doesn't consider blindness such a terrible thing. "I've dealt with it more or less my entire life. I never really had much of a choice; you either live with it or you don't," Hilliker said.

And Hilliker has definitely chosen the former; she lives. Born in Shelby Township, Michigan, Hilliker was born with glaucoma and has been blind in some form all of her life. "There are a lot of different levels of blindness. When I started out in school, I could read, but I had to read large print. I used a magnifier to read and dark pens and markers to write. But around third grade it got really difficult because the print got smaller, and there was more of it," Hilliker said. "I got frustrated because I could understand the reading material, but I could only read very slowly and with tremendous eye strain."

By the time she was in the fifth and sixth grade, Hilliker needed to be taught Braille, which meant going through the difficult process of re-learning how to read. Since she was attending regular schools, the county provided Hilliker with special teachers that taught her Braille and other kinds of blindness skills.

"I had the benefit of being in a regular class all my life. It was useful because I had the same standards, and I learned the same stuff," Hilliker said. "But, because I was in regular schools all my life, I didn't get good blindness skills training. So when I graduated, I had a high GPA and a good ACT score, but I didn't have the blindness skills." Hilliker decided to postpone going to college for a year and attend the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

"Lots of times the teachers working in the field of blindness have very low expectations because they think that blindness is really terrible, like a tragedy. They are sighted, and they think that, if you can't see, you can't do much. But most of the staff and instructors at the Louisiana Center were blind," Hilliker said. "It was such a confidence-builder to see people who do what you're learning everyday and who are professional and successful and have such good attitudes."

Hilliker spent eight months in Louisiana improving her Braille reading; becoming a better cane traveler; and learning to cook, clean, do laundry, grocery shop, and other similar skills. After applying to five schools and being accepted at all five, Hilliker decided to come to Hope for the typical reasons.

"Hope, because of its size, doesn't have an awful lot of services for disabled students. They have them, but they are very small. I don't mind that, though, because they are there when I need them, and they don't interfere with my life," Hilliker said. "At big schools the services are very custodial. They will schedule your classes for you, buy your books for you, and make all of your decisions for you."

The only accommodation that she has at all is that Hope allows Hilliker to sign up for classes early because she needs to order her books early in order to have them in time for the start of classes. Because Braille is hard to come by, Hilliker tries to buy most of her books on tape. If she can't do that, then she can do one of two things. "I can scan the book, and there is software that I can use to convert text to spoken word. And if that doesn't work, I can hire readers," Hilliker said. "I also use a Braille notetaker to take notes. It's like a little laptop, and I can make files and folders and then put them onto a disk and insert them into my computer. There is a special printer in the library too called a Braille embosser, which prints in Braille."

While at Hope Hilliker will become certified to teach elementary education. She then plans to receive her master's degree to teach blind children, a particular passion of hers. Throughout her life Hilliker has been very involved in the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the nation's largest organization of blind people. She is a national board member of the NFB's student division, founded the Michigan Association of Blind Students, a student organization under the NFB, and is currently president.

"The NFB, which has state and local chapters as well, works nationally on the legislative front and focuses on advocacy, developing technology, and forming support groups," Hilliker said. "For instance, if a student wants a degree in biology and their school says `No way. You're blind,' we will try to help them."

Hilliker's organization also offers support and networking like sharing resources. Hilliker will be speaking at a national student conference held in February. "It's one of the things I'm most proud of. It's one of my greatest accomplishments," Hilliker said.

For the most part Hilliker is happy at Hope. She's become involved in a small group Bible study, the Women's Issues Organization, and the Opus editorial board. Still life can be difficult.

"It's hard because most people don't know anything about blind people. They can't imagine how I function, but they know I do because they see me. However, they don't know how to approach me. I figure that, if I'm comfortable with blindness, then other people will be too, but that only works to some extent," Hilliker said. "I don't consider myself particularly amazing. At first I thought, 'Oh great. They are interviewing me because I'm the amazing blind girl.' I take it for the compliment it is, but I try not to see myself that way. Most of the stuff I do is regular, everyday stuff. I would rather be known for something I did."

Hilliker treats her blindness like a characteristic or trait. "I like to think of myself as a person first and then blind second. I'm blind, but I also have curly hair, and I like talking on the phone. It’s a piece that's part of me as a person," Hilliker said. "I think everything we do and everything we deal with makes us stronger. Everyone has their own challenges that they deal with in life, and, even though mine may seem bigger and more difficult, I've learned that it really is not."

Kids, Sledding, and My Education Field Placement

by Allison Hilliker

I wanted to write and share a small experience of mine with you. I think that you all may be able to appreciate it and understand why I thought it was so important. Here it is.

Here at school I am studying elementary education. With my first education class, educational psychology, I have what is known as a field placement. This means that I get to be in an actual classroom at least once a week. I have second grade, and it's gone well so far. The teacher and all of the students are sighted, so I have to do a great deal of proving myself as a competent blind person, capable of working in a classroom. Every day is an adventure, but so far things have been going well. The kids see me as a teacher-like person, and the classroom teacher has been giving me ever-increasing levels of responsibility. Basically we've all been able to learn a great deal from one another.

Last Thursday, however, was a day that tested everything I had in the way of philosophy and confidence. That was the day that we all went sledding. Now this really hadn't been something I had planned for, but when the situation arose, I had to find a way of dealing with it. I usually go to the class in the mornings, but this week saw me having an afternoon visit. The classroom teacher forgot that I was coming that day, and that afternoon turned out to be a special sledding time for the kids. When I walked in to the class, the teacher said something to the effect of, "Oh no, I forgot that you were coming; we're sledding today. Can you do that?" Those really were not the words I had been expecting to hear, but I just smiled and said, "Certainly, I can sled, not a problem." I was really thinking, "Oh boy, here goes!"

Now, having grown up in the Midwest, I have been sledding a number of times throughout my life. I knew that it was something I could do well enough as a blind person, but I also realized that the others didn't necessarily know this. I was fully aware of the possible problems associated with sledding with twenty-some kids. I was fairly certain that most of them and their teacher did not believe that sledding was something I could do safely.

Sure enough, without asking me about what I thought, the teacher announced to the class that, before heading outside, they would all sit in a circle while I explained to them how best to do things for me while we were sledding. I wanted to tell her that there really wasn't anything specific that anyone need do, but she had already made the announcement to the class, and I didn't want to make it a bigger issue than it already was. So we gathered around, and I took the chance to re-explain my cane and what it does. I also reassured them, more for the teacher's benefit than the kids', that I could do a lot by sound and that I would hear an approaching sled and move out of the way if I had to. I tried to make everything seem as normal and as easy as possible. The kids were fine with this, so we headed out.

Again without asking me first, the teacher next tried to assign one of the kids to sort of guide me around outside. I was getting a bit frustrated by this point, but I knew that I could not let it show. I instead politely explained to both the child and the teacher that a guide wouldn't be necessary. I would be able to manage. The explanation seemed to suffice, and I headed towards the hill, using my cane and following the sounds of talking and laughing children.

Well, the hill on the playground was pretty chaotic, even if it was only the one class out at that time. All I can say is, "Thank goodness for the blindness skills I've obtained." Otherwise I would likely never have managed. There were kids, sleds, snow, and ice everywhere. Sighted or blind, the hill was crazy and alive with child activity. I can't say that everything went absolutely perfectly, but when it was all said and done, I thought it had gone rather well. After a few times of people being hesitant to have me climb the hill by myself, they got used to it. I sledded down that hill with the kids, and things went all right. I managed to dodge sleds fairly well, and I never once ran over a child. The teacher was sledding too, by the way, so my sledding with the kids was not at all odd.

The best part of the experience was when a couple of the girls in the class even begged me to race down the hill with them. This was something that made me feel normal and accepted. When it was all over, I was tired, cold, and sore, but happy that things had gone well. Not one person offered to guide me on the way back into the school, so I concluded that I had done some educating. I helped the kids gather their sleds, and we walked into the school together. I like to think that everyone, kids and teacher, learned a little bit on that afternoon. I don't know, but I for one was pretty happy with the way things worked out.

The day's sledding adventure seems like a small thing in many ways, but we as blind people know that it wasn't at all small. It felt as if it was an accomplishment of sorts. As a blind student I often get tired of having to prove myself to people all the time, but on days like these, when it seems to work, when I actually see the difference, it's worthwhile. When we are challenged to do things that we are uncertain about, when our philosophy must be put into practice, and when, like today, we are able to educate even a small group of people while doing so, then it's a small victory for us all. I'm sure that many of you have experiences similar to this, but this one was special to me, so I thought that I would share it with you on the list.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Robert Leblond]

How to Select a Suitable Adaptive

Technology Training Program

by Robert Leblond

From the Editor: Bob Leblond's wife Connie and his two children, Hope and Seth, are all blind, so he has long firsthand experience with the struggle to obtain efficient access technology. Bob served as the Treasurer of the NFB of Maine for several years and the President of the New England Parents Division for several more. He and Connie recently moved to Colorado, where he is in the technology department at Beyond Sight and developed and directs the online distance learning program for the company. Bob is a Microsoft-certified professional in Internet technologies. This is what he says:

Over the years several individuals and organizations have written articles about choosing appropriate adaptive technology and reviewing competing technologies. As adaptive technology continues to evolve and proliferate, the need for proper training has become the subject of an increasingly important national discussion: namely, what constitutes appropriate training, and how can you find it?

The field of adaptive technology training is more varied than most in that this type of instruction spans age groups ranging from six to eighty-six and various user environments, including schools, jobsites, home offices, and personal recreational use. Before selecting a trainer or training facility, take a moment to evaluate your needs. What will you use the computer for? Training techniques for seniors wishing to exchange e-mail messages with family and friends vary greatly from the needs of an office employee creating databases and interpreting spreadsheets or a laboratory worker conducting research online.

The most important criterion is also the one most overlooked: can the person teaching you teach? Several people nationwide have vast stores of knowledge relating to technology of various types but cannot convey the information to their students. Ask whether or not your instructor has a current teaching certificate or has ever held a teaching certificate. The subject taught is not particularly important. My degree, for example, is in music education. What you are trying to establish at this point is whether or not the individual who will be teaching you has ever been a teacher. If the answer is yes, then the first hurdle has been cleared.

The next question to be asked is what experience the potential trainer has in the subject matter to be taught. What adaptive software will you be using, and does your prospective teacher know about it? Most adaptive technology instructors I have met know everything there is to know about one of the two major screen readers and almost nothing about the other. The same applies to OCR and magnification products. It is not unusual to find a person who knows JAWS, Open Book, and Zoomtext well, but nothing about Window Eyes, Kurzweil, or Magic. The reverse might also be true. Will you be using a notetaker like a BrailleNote or a Braille Lite? Perhaps you will be using Dragon software to dictate documents or control your computer. The possible combinations of hardware and software are virtually unlimited. Know what adaptive devices and applications you will be using, and make sure the instructor knows the technology well.

Now that you have found an instructor who can teach and is well versed in several adaptive technologies, we come to the next question: how much does the instructor know about mainstream technology? The fact of the matter is that nobody wants to use adaptive technology by itself because alone it is worthless. Nobody spends the day using JAWS or Zoomtext or Window Eyes; what you want it to do is to run the way you want it to and then get out of your way so that you can use Internet Explorer, an e-mail client, a word processor, a spreadsheet or database, or another application.

Therefore a very important question is whether or not your prospective instructor can show you how to use JAWS with Microsoft Word, or Excel, or on the Web. Ask if your teacher has any technical certifications. Has he or she graduated from a computer science course at a college or university? Other valuable professional certifications include various Microsoft certifications: MCP, MCSE, etc., or certifications available from several online sources. If your instructor holds any of these, that is a good indicator that he or she is familiar with mainstream applications.

If you find an individual or a formal training program that fulfills all of the requirements above, you have found a rare phenomenon. In the absence of a reliable accreditation process in the world of adaptive technology, the only way to be reasonably assured that you are learning from a suitable individual is to know what questions to ask, then to go ahead and ask them. Don't be shy. Your training is at stake. Know your teacher and be certain his or her qualifications match your needs. Anyone who has any of the skills or certifications above will be more than happy to provide that information to you.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: The lobby of the Galt House Hotel]

Introducing the Galt House and Hyatt

by Max Robinson

From the Editor: Max Robinson is Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. Here is his walking tour of our 2002 convention hotels:

General Information about the Galt House Hotels

The addresses for the two Galt House towers are the West, 140 N. Fourth Avenue, and the East Tower, 141 N. Fourth Avenue. The phone number for both towers is (502) 589-5200.

The Galt House is bordered on the north by River Road and on the south by Main Street. Fourth Street runs north and south between the two towers. These are referred to as the Galt House and the Galt House East Tower. The East includes suites equipped with a living-room area, refrigerator, and wet bar.

The two facilities are connected by both an outdoor pedestrian walkway between the two front doors, and above it a fully enclosed bridge on the third floor.

The East Tower has eighteen floors, sixteen of which contain sleeping rooms, and the West Tower has twenty-five floors. The lower room numbers are in the West Tower. They range from 1 to 35, preceded by the floor number. On the east they range from 46 to 98, preceded by the floor number. For example, room 1201 is found on the West. On the East side the twelfth floor numbers begin with 1246.

The Galt House West

When you enter the Galt House West Hotel, you are facing west. Walk straight west, and the front desk will be to your left, along the south wall. If you stand at the registration desk in the West Tower, the bank of four elevators will be directly behind you on the north wall.

The staircase leading to the second floor of the West Tower is to the left (south) when you enter the front door, before you reach the check-in desk.

The Galt House East Tower.

The front door of the Galt House East Tower faces west. As you enter, you are facing east. If you turn left (north) just inside the door, you pass through a small lounge area with chairs and low tables. This is the entrance to the Lobby Bar, which is located between the back of the elevator bank and the west wall of the building. To find the desk once inside the door, walk straight ahead for a few feet, then turn left, and walk several yards. You are facing north, and the hotel registration desk is to your right, along the east wall. The elevators are to your left, along the west wall. The stairs leading to the second floor are directly in front of you, on the north wall.

Restaurants, Hallways, Obstacles, and Other Objects of Interest

In the West Tower the layouts of the second and third floors are quite similar. As you exit the elevators, you enter a large open area and are facing south. The main hallway is to your left. Also to your left is a large support pillar, just waiting to embarrass you. There is about a ten-foot space between the elevator wall and the pillar. Turn left and follow the wall until you hear the hallway opening to either side. If the area in front of the elevators is congested, you should swing wide to pass the pillar on the south rather than the north.

The River Grill, located on the second floor of the West Tower, is at the northwest end of the building. Exit the elevator and turn left to reach the hallway, then turn left again and follow the hall north. The River Grill is at the end of the hall on the left and has moderate prices. The Flagship is a first-class revolving restaurant with prices to match. It is on the twenty-fifth floor of the West Tower.

The outdoor pool is located on the third floor, west side. The Galt House gift shop and barber and beauty shops are on the second floor west. Exit the elevator, turn left, then right (south) along the main north-south hallway.

D'Marie Lounge is on the twenty-fifth floor of the West Tower. It features 120 brands of Kentucky bourbon. The lobby bar is in the lobby of the East Tower. All rooms have coffee makers, blow dryers, and irons.

If you drive, you should remember that the Galt House charges a $5-a-day parking fee.

The Bridge

To reach the third-floor enclosed bridge from the West Tower, turn left out of the elevator to get to the main hallway. Turn right and walk south down the hall. Turn left at the first opening (east), and turn left again (north). After a while you will hear some noisy air conditioning equipment. Walk a bit farther until you can turn right (east). You are now on the enclosed bridge--windows on your left, wall to the right, echoes. After you leave the bridge, jog a bit to the left to avoid running into a banister like those found on stairs. You will find a wall to the left and open space to the right. Keep walking south. You will soon find a wall on the right. Then the hallway will open up to the south again. Turn right (south). The elevators of the east tower will be to the right.

To reach the West Tower from the East Tower, exit the elevator on the third floor and turn left. Turn left again almost immediately; you are now facing west. Keep walking west and jog to the left to enter the bridge--windows to the right, wall to the left, echoes. Continue west until you hear the air conditioner and the ambience changes. Turn left (south) and then right (west) and then right (north) again. You are now in the main north/south hallway of the West Tower. The openness to your left is the area where the elevators are. Pass the pillar, turn left, and the elevators are immediately on your right.

The Hyatt

Here is the Hyatt's general information: Phone number, (502) 587-3434. The address is 320 West Jefferson. If you arrive by taxi at the Hyatt, you will turn into the hotel driveway from West Jefferson, which runs east/west. The entrance faces east, and you will enter a short hallway going west. At the end of the hall you will enter what can best be described as a circular lobby. Make a right, continuing your path counter-clockwise around the circle. You will find a bank of telephones on your right and the elevators on your left. They and the escalators stand in the central area of the lobby, which includes a central atrium that the upper floors look into. In the lobby the front desk is just past the phones on your right, across from the elevator doors.

If you enter the hotel by the Fourth-Avenue door, you are walking east and will step immediately into the circular lobby. If you walk straight ahead from this door, you will step onto the escalator to the second floor. Just a few feet inside the door and to your left is the Trellis Café, a full-service restaurant featuring American cuisine and open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pepper's Bar is located at the Fourth Avenue end of the building on the second floor, directly above the Trellis. At the top of the escalator turn left. When you reach the bank of elevators, turn left again, and Pepper's is there.

On the first floor, continuing clockwise around the circular lobby, past the Trellis, you will reach the front desk. When you face the front desk, the elevators will be directly behind you.

When standing at the front desk, you can turn right, continuing clockwise around the circle to find the hotel gift shop. It is just after the bank of phones and the hallway from the West Jefferson entrance.

There is nothing unusual about the numbering system in the Hyatt. The sleeping rooms are on floors three through eighteen, beginning with room 301, the lowest, and 1828, the highest. The Hyatt rooms are equipped with blow dryers, irons, and coffee makers. Parking is $7 a day at the Hyatt.

Getting to Know the Federation

From the Editor: I recently received the following e-mail post to the NFBtalk listserv because the sender thought I would be interested in seeing how well the writer captured both the wonderful and the sometimes frustrating aspects of the National Convention. I agreed completely with the assessment and have reprinted it here as an encouragement to those who are sometimes impatient and tempted to behave inappropriately toward others at convention.

Dr. Jernigan always maintained that we are a people's movement, composed of a cross-section of the general population. He was certainly correct, but I for one would be pleased to find that members of the NFB were on the whole more courteous, friendly, and kind than the public in general. In fact this is probably true, but we can all benefit from a reminder of what impact our impatience and inconsiderateness can have on people who are new to our Federation family and still trying to find their way. Here are the reflections of one new member:

March 1, 2002

I have found the discussions about getting to know the Federation, its people, history, philosophy, achievements, and goals, etc., quite thought-provoking. They have set me thinking about how one does actually get to know an organization in that sense. I thought about how I got to know the Federation. Thinking about this has prompted this post.

I am originally from Australia, so, when I first visited America in 1995, I had never even heard of the Federation. There were some organized groups of blind people in Australia, but I had not had anything formal to do with any of them since at that time I saw them as fairly irrelevant to me and my life. I stayed and worked in the States for about a month back in 1995, so I went to the local Braille library and borrowed some leisure reading. I was attracted by a title, and quite by accident I borrowed a Kernel Book in Braille, published by a blindness group, the National Federation of the Blind. Out of curiosity I read it and was very impressed. During my remaining time in America I borrowed every Kernel Book I could, and finally, the day before I flew out, I subscribed to the Braille Monitor.

I had no contact with the NFB other than reading the Braille Monitor. When I came here to live in 1997, I was fascinated to realize that the activist blind movement had a real history here in America, and again I borrowed everything I could find from the Braille library. I read about Perry and tenBroek and Jernigan. I read about the conflict which led to the formation of the ACB. I read publications by agencies for the blind, histories of schools for the blind, and histories of codes of writing for the blind and the role of blind people in their development. I read more biographies of famous blind people in six months than I had read before in my entire life. Finally I contacted the NFB head office, and they kindly sent me Braille copies of all the speeches and articles they considered particularly representative of the movement. I read them and considered them from the perspective of an informed consumer.

By the time I decided to become active in a local chapter in late 1998, I knew the ideals of the movement and how they could work and how they could be employed by blind people to influence society, including blind people themselves. My time in the local chapter, before it dissolved, was wholly disappointing. I saw no value in factionalism. However, I was in no way discouraged, because I had a framework of thinking into which to fit this event. I concluded that the simplest answer would be to start a chapter in my own town. Due to unforeseen circumstances, this has not yet happened, but I have not given up this intention.

When I went to convention in 2000 (taking food for breakfast and a lunch snack with me for every day, and paying for the hotel with money borrowed from a friend), I was not disappointed. However, I was, I now realize, somewhat naively surprised. I met all sorts of people, quite a number of whom were rude and unpleasant. They shoved me in the crowds and whacked me with their canes. The dogs touched my hands with their wet, doggy noses. They talked in the general sessions, sometimes making it very difficult to hear. They shouted loudly near me, made heaps of noise in hotel rooms when I was trying to sleep, told me I should know where things were by now and that I should go on tours and learn a bit about American history, seeing I was now living here. They told me I should swim every day to lose weight (though I was then under‑weight), criticized the blindness organizations in Australia, stood around in large, unyielding groups blocking hallways. And a few were altogether too free with where they put their hands.

I don't need to go on. For I met a far larger number of absolutely wonderful people. They invited me to eat with them and insisted on paying. They politely directed me to sign‑up tables and Braille materials, patiently explained facilities (like the exhibit hall) and convention procedures, went with me to find the seating position of my state affiliate, included me in group outings and late‑night in‑room coffee chats, introduced me to their children and friends, swapped contact details with me, and even encouraged and assisted me in improving my cane technique when I criticized myself.

They insisted I attend the banquet and paid for my ticket and kidded me into going even though I protested that my dress was too informal, by reminding me that most people wouldn't notice. They helped me find innumerable, obscure little meeting rooms, restrooms, people, misplaced belongings, even American candy that I would like. They laughed with me as they helped me pack, carried my luggage, waited with me till my ride came, hugged me good‑bye, and have kept in contact with me since then. Alone on my veranda that first night after my first NFB convention, I realized how right my mum had always been when she'd say, "Don't complain, dear; it takes all sorts to make up the world." That was the way to understand my experience.

[Photo/Caption: David Blunkett]

Blunkett Proves His Abilities

by Marjorie Miller

From the Editor: On March 4, 2002, the following story appeared in the Los Angeles Times. It is  a heartening reminder that blind people in many places are breaking old stereotypes. Here it is:

London--By conventional wisdom, David Blunkett should not have made it to the top of British government. The home secretary is a politician who doesn't suffer fools. He is unflinchingly blunt in an administration that weighs every word. And Blunkett, the country's chief law enforcement officer, is blind.

Add to that the fact that his guide dog threw up in the venerable House of Commons debating chamber‑‑most impolite‑‑and Blunkett should be back in working‑class Sheffield, where his early teachers suggested a career in piano tuning. Blunkett, however, has never allowed conventional thinking to get in his way. Despite his hardships, or perhaps because of them, he has risen to one of the most powerful posts in Britain and is among the most effective members of Prime Minister Tony Blair's Cabinet.

Increasingly he is mentioned as a potential heir to the Labor Party leadership‑‑particularly by those who dislike Gordon Brown, the ambitious chancellor of the exchequer‑‑whenever Blair moves aside.

But could he‑‑would he‑‑do the job at 10 Downing Street? And would Britain elect a blind prime minister? "Fortunately, there isn't a vacancy," Blunkett said in an interview. "It is unlikely that Britain would be ready for a blind prime minister because it takes a long time for people to get used to the idea that someone with a disability can work at the level I am working at now," he said. “Besides,” he added, "I am working at my capacity, and I enjoy the job I have very much."

Such candor from the fifty-four‑year‑old Blunkett has not quashed speculation among the chattering classes. Nor has the fact that the job of top cop rarely serves as a springboard to the prime minister's office.

Blunkett's high standing is all the more remarkable given the times, during which he has taken responsibility for such controversial issues as immigration, law enforcement, and the nation's security. He assumed the Home Office portfolio last summer as Britain's worst race riots in decades broke out in northern England and a few months before the September 11 attacks. The events thrust him to the forefront of debates on race, crime, and civil rights almost before he had unpacked.

His responses have confounded critics and allies alike. Blunkett offended many traditional Labor Party supporters by threatening to use water cannons against rioters of South Asian ancestry. He insisted that immigrants should learn English and adopt British ways when coming into "our home," although most of the rioters were British‑born. And he introduced detention centers for asylum seekers, a move long favored by the opposition Tories.

On the other hand, he proposed a liberal, green‑card‑style program to allow skilled and unskilled workers into Britain to fill labor shortages. And although he is adamantly opposed to the use of recreational drugs, Blunkett has in effect decriminalized marijuana to free up police resources.

"David is interested in what is going to be most effective in terms of achieving his policy outcome," said former aide Conor Ryan. "He made a pragmatic decision on cannabis because he is concerned about hard drugs."

Blunkett's biggest battle so far has been with human rights activists and leftist members of his own party over the sweeping anti‑terrorism legislation he pushed through Parliament in December.

The law allows the government to detain, indefinitely and without trial, foreigners suspected of links to terrorism if they cannot legally be deported because of the threat of torture or death at home. It also gives security officials unprecedented access to information from schools, hospitals, tax authorities, passenger and freight carriers, and Internet providers.

Blunkett's new powers have fueled charges that Britain, already one of the most closely monitored societies in the West, is becoming ever more of a Big Brother state.

"He is putting through authoritarian policies which go against many civil liberties. He overreacted to terrorism attacks with speed and almost panic," said political science professor Vernon Bogdanor of Oxford University. Nonetheless, Britain's skeptical public and highly critical media give Blunkett good reviews. Some people assert that this is a reflection of his political skill, while others say no one wants to be seen beating up on a blind man. Still others believe it is because Blunkett is a rare politician.

"You can't help but like him," said Philip Johnston, home affairs editor for the conservative Daily Telegraph newspaper, which is usually hostile to the Blair government. "The hardships he has had to overcome are quite extraordinary. . . . He is likable, amusing; he's not slick."

Gary Younge, a columnist for the left‑of‑center Guardian newspaper who has slammed the home secretary for a "regressive" approach to race issues, adds that Blunkett has "an emotional intelligence lacking in the political leadership of all persuasions for some time. Mr. Blunkett does not have to go off the record to sound like a human being."

Blunkett comes from a part of northern England known for its plain‑spoken ways. Unlike most members of Parliament, he represents an area where he was born and grew up. There is a Dickensian quality to Blunkett's early life in industrial Sheffield, a city in South Yorkshire whose dreariness was made famous by the 1997 film The Full Monty. Born blind to loving parents who lived in one of the country's poorest housing projects, he was sent to boarding school at age four because there were no day schools that could cope with his disability.

When Blunkett was twelve, his foreman father fell into a vat of boiling water on the job at the East Midlands Gas Board and died an agonizing month later. The company refused to pay compensation for two years, driving the family into a poverty that few, if any, British politicians have known.

"There is nothing even faintly romantic about being poor and hungry," Blunkett wrote in his 1995 autobiography, On a Clear Day. But Blunkett has no patience for sentimentalism, least of all about his own life. When asked about the hardships he has overcome, he pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket and wipes mock tears from his eyes.

In an era of limited options for the disabled and the working class, Blunkett went to night school to take college preparation courses and then attended Sheffield University, where he graduated as a teacher. He and his wife Ruth had three sons before they divorced in 1990. He has not remarried.

Some Britons speak of Blunkett's success as a kind of American dream, but he says there are differences. "The opportunities I had, going to university and all those things, were built on other people having made decisions that changed the world," Blunkett said.

"The individualism that's built into the American psyche isn't here, and therefore we have to recognize that we have a form of welfare state which, at its very best, provides the jumping‑off point for people to improve their lives," he said. "At its worst it cushions people to the point where they don't feel that necessity to take risks and control over their own lives. Our task [as a government] is to get that balance right."

Blunkett won a seat on the Sheffield City Council at twenty-two, took over as leader of the Council in 1980, and was elected to Parliament in 1987. When Labor won power ten years later, he was named secretary of education and employment. During his four years in the post he reduced class sizes and oversaw an improvement in national test scores. He also introduced performance‑related pay for teachers and the country's first university fees.

When Labor won a second term last year, Blunkett was promoted to home secretary, where he is taking on police reform and street crime along with international terrorism. His day begins with briefings from aides, who go over newspapers and documents with him to find out what he wants committed to tape or Braille. "What sighted people forget is how much speed reading they do, moving from one page to another," said Ryan, the former aide.

After a long day of meetings, hearings, and sessions of Parliament, Blunkett takes a dozen or more tapes home in the evening, Ryan said. The home secretary compensates for his lack of sight with other senses. Blunkett easily recognizes voices and seems able to follow two conversations at once‑‑even when he is holding one of them. And he has an uncanny sense of when people have come and gone from a room, however quietly they may move.

Blunkett stands tall and moves confidently with the assistance of his dog Lucy, a black curly‑coated retriever mix‑breed. When he meets someone new, he is quick to put the person at ease. He refuses to adapt his language to his disability, often speaking of having "watched" a television program or offering to "see you later."

"He hates terms like `visually impaired,'" Ryan said. "He worries more about content than terminology." That's the Yorkshireman in him, constituents said during one of his weekly trips home to Sheffield.

When Blunkett arrived to speak to tenant associations about his war on street crime, the headline greeting him on the afternoon Star newspaper was "Police Chief Mugged." Blunkett was unfazed. "They're no less vulnerable than anyone else. Nobody is exempt," he said. "There's no point saying national crime statistics show a 12 percent overall drop in crime last year if people don't actually experience that in their own lives and families."

Brown, Blunkett's Cabinet colleague, is generally presumed to be the one who will take over the party when Blair is ready to step down. The chancellor of the exchequer has broad support among Labor members of Parliament and the trade unions.

But Blunkett's rising star became apparent to political reporter Colin Brown, who is no relation to the chancellor, last summer at the launch of the home secretary's latest book, Politics and Progress. The reception was attended by the in‑crowd of "new Labor"‑‑the secretaries of health, transportation and education, and Blair's wife, human rights lawyer Cherie Booth.

"Everybody was there, and they weren't there just for moral support," said Brown of London's Independent on Sunday newspaper. "It was easy to see what was going on. They were saying that David has the support of Downing Street."

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lori Pierce; an Olympic security official (left); and Ted Clark (right); the support runner for Lori’s segment of the run, look at the Olympic torch that Lori is holding.]

Olympic Moment Saved by Collective Action

by Scott LaBarre

From the Editor: Being a Federationist means that you never know when you will face a struggle for justice and equality. Here is the story of one such battle. It was small as such things go, but it made a difference for one young woman and who knows how many other people who learned that it is unwise to assume that blind people's rights can be ignored. Here is the story as told by Scott LaBarre, President of the Denver Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Colorado and of the National Association of Blind Lawyers:

Every member of the National Federation of the Blind will tell anyone who asks that collective action pays off. After all we are far stronger acting together than any one of us is acting alone. Recently we in Denver received a powerful reminder of this truth.

Lori Pierce is a blind junior at Arvada West, a local high school. In the fall of 2001 her sister nominated her to be a torchbearer in the 2002 Winter Olympic Torch Relay. Lori received a letter from Mitt Romney, President of the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee, inviting her to be a support runner in the torch relay. Because the number of torch-bearer spots is limited, others, who are known as guardians of the flame, are appointed to be support runners. Support runners not only guard the flame but are often given the opportunity to carry the flame themselves.

When Lori and her family attempted to secure her spot in the torch relay, the problems began. The Pierces were told that Lori would not be allowed to run in the relay because she would be using a sighted guide. The Olympic officials further stated that support runners must be able to participate "independently," without the assistance of anyone else. The following correspondence explains how the National Federation of the Blind got involved.

LABARRE LAW OFFICES, P.C.

Scott C. LaBarre

Denver, Colorado

January 16, 2002

Mr. Mitt Romney

President and CEO

Salt Lake Organizing Committee

Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear Sir:

I write you in my capacity as President of the National Federation of the Blind of Denver and as an attorney. Within the last couple of days, a matter has been brought to my attention regarding Lori Pierce and her invitation to participate as a support runner/torch bearer for this year's Olympics. Recently she received a letter from you and the Salt Lake Organizing Committee inviting her to participate as a support runner. Please see attached letter. Her mother then called the indicated numbers, and that is where the problem began.

Lori Pierce is a high school junior who happens to be blind. She is an experienced cross-country runner and can easily meet the physical and other requirements for support runners and torchbearers. When she runs, she does so with a sighted guide, who has normally been her sister.

When her mother explained these facts, she was told that Lori would not be allowed to participate. Her mother attempted to discuss this matter with a few others and received the same response.

We are quite puzzled by this incident. Your own policies make it clear that individuals with disabilities will receive appropriate accommodations. "All selected torchbearers with special needs will be accommodated within the confines of the Relay." It is also my understanding that other blind individuals have participated or will participate as torchbearers and support runners.

We ask for your immediate intervention in this matter. I understand that the torch will go through Denver at the end of this month. When Lori first received the invitation from you, she was very excited and honored. Since then she has been understandably upset and depressed because the honor and privilege of being a support runner has seemingly been yanked from her for a discriminatory reason. I am confident that this matter can be resolved, but given the narrow window of time we have, we will be forced to act quickly to protect Lori's rights if we do not hear from you promptly.

Thank you for your attention to this letter. Please contact me, see above, to discuss this matter further.

Very truly yours,

Scott C. LaBarre, Esq.

President, National Federation of the Blind of Denver

CC: Dr. Marc Maurer, President, National Federation of the Blind

There was no immediate response to my first letter. Given the urgency of the matter, I fired off the following letter a few days later.

LABARRE LAW OFFICES, P.C.

Scott C. LaBarre

Denver, Colorado

January 18, 2002

Mr. Mitt Romney

President and CEO

Salt Lake Organizing Committee

Salt Lake City, Utah

Dear Sir:

I am writing to confirm that you received my previous letter, copy attached. Given the short time frame under which we are operating, we must hear from your office immediately. Otherwise we will have to consider other measures such as media attention or emergency litigation. The opportunity offered to Lori Pierce is a once-in-a-life-time experience, and we cannot squander it.

I thank you for your attention to this letter. You may reach me over the weekend on my mobile phone, ______. I look forward to speaking with you.

Very truly yours,

Scott C. LaBarre, Esq.

President, National Federation of the Blind of Denver

On January 19, 2002, the NFB of Denver conducted its monthly chapter meeting, in which we discussed Lori's problem at length. Michael Gibson, a member of the chapter and a technology instructor at the Colorado Center for the Blind, told the Chapter that his sister-in-law was an official with the Olympic Committee in public relations. Michael indicated that his sister-in-law would know the right people to contact and that the Olympic Committee certainly would not want bad publicity immediately before the Salt Lake games.

On Monday, January 21, 2002, I received a call from Mary Tucker, Associate General Counsel to the Salt Lake City Organizing Committee. She said that Mitt Romney had directed her to call to see what could be done to get the matter resolved. She also told me that the Organizing Committee did not make the final decisions about who would carry the torch. Those decisions were made by sponsors of the Olympic games, most notably by Coca-Cola. Additionally, she informed me that she would contact the Coke people immediately and urge them to allow Lori Pierce to carry the torch.

On Wednesday, January 23, 2002, Chris Roblyer, Assistant General Counsel with Coke, called and indicated that he had been fully briefed on the matter. He said that Coke wanted Lori to participate as an official torch bearer, not a support runner. He realized that Lori had originally been selected as a support runner but hoped that she would accept the promotion to full-fledged torch bearer.

On January 30, 2002, Lori Pierce of Arvada, Colorado, carried the Olympic Torch through the streets of Fort Collins, Colorado, a community about an hour north of Denver. In an interview with her school newspaper about the experience, Lori said, "I was really nervous, but it was completely awesome. . . . They told us to cherish carrying the flame for those two-tenths of a mile because you were the only one who had the flame."

On February 16, 2002, Lori Pierce, her mother Sandy, and her dad Lou attended the meeting of the NFB of Denver. Lori described her experience from being denied and then being granted the honor of carrying the torch. Her father played a videotape of Lori running with the torch and described the scene on that day.

Lori expressed her profound gratitude to the Chapter and said how honored she was to carry the Olympic Flame. She said that without the Federation's direct intervention she would never have been able to experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity

People sometimes ask, "Why the National Federation of the Blind?" The Lori Pierce story is yet another powerful and significant answer to that question. When Lori and her family attempted to fix the problem on their own, their efforts led nowhere. When the Federation answered the call, results were almost immediate.

Often the problems we face are not as easily resolved as the Pierce matter. One thing is clear, however: without the Federation's collective action our continuing effort to realize true freedom and first-class citizenship will never be achieved. With it I am confident that we will be successful!

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Chancey Fleet]

Finding a House

by Chancey Fleet

From the Editor: Anyone who uses e-mail today has undoubtedly had the experience of coming across a little nugget in the midst of a whole group of silly, demanding, or pedestrian messages. This phenomenon is what keeps me attentive to my messages. On Easter Monday I returned to my office after three days away to find a torrent of messages pouring into my e-mail box. The following one was buried in the midst of dozens of others. Chancey Fleet, a college student in Virginia, had written to the student listserv on March 29. I hope it gives you as much of a lift as it gave me. It shows how far we have come, and it demonstrates that some of our younger members really do recognize what is happening. Here it is:

I had a great experience this month that I'd like to share. After living on campus for three years (one year in a dorm and two in an on‑campus apartment), I decided that I wanted to find a place off‑campus. I came to this decision because I wanted a room of my own and because the people I want to live with next year are of mixed gender, and college housing is not co‑ed by apartment at my school.

Finding off‑campus houses and apartments within walking distance of William and Mary is a real challenge for anybody, and public transportation barely exists here, so I couldn't consider any places outside walking distance. I used the Internet and word‑of‑mouth to track down places for rent, then called up the landlord of each place and arranged to go see it. In most cases I went with at least one of my future roommates, but a couple of times everyone else had prior commitments, and I had to scout out the place for the whole group.

There's no other way to say this‑‑I saw a lot of truly awful residences. Some had bedrooms the size of walk‑in closets; some were one‑room dwellings with fridges, masquerading as apartments; and some were optimistically billed as walking-distance to the college when they were two full miles away. But I am happy to say that my searching paid off, and I am now the future tenant of what is quite possibly the most amazing house for the least money in the Burg. It's actually closer to most of my classes than my current on‑campus apartment; it has a fireplace and hardwood floors; and it felt like home the moment I walked in.

What's amazed and delighted me about the search for a new home is that blindness barely entered into the process. My future housemates never doubted that I could assess the desirability of a place when they were unavailable to tour it with me. None of my potential landlords worried about the so-called hazards of steps or yards or furnaces, and every single one of them accepted the fact that I was the spokesperson for myself and my roommates. At the same time the topic of blindness was never avoided. My roommates and I freely discussed how we'd mark various appliances so I could use them, and several of the landlords I met asked at the start of the tour how they could best explain the features of the house to me.

In the past blind people had difficulty in finding housing because of the misconceptions about blindness held by landlords, and I imagine the search for roommates was harder too. It's true that legislation today theoretically protects blind people from housing discrimination, but what I experienced reflects something deeper than laws. I didn't encounter one negative attitude about blindness from any direction during my search and acquisition of the house. I'm positive that that's because of the work the NFB's been doing for sixty years‑‑not just the legislative work, but the subtler process that each of us engages in every day.

So here's to sixty years of individual, normal blind people living independent, active lives, patiently explaining alternative techniques to parents and children and bosses and friends, and maintaining high expectations for themselves so consistently that society can't help doing the same. Thank you for helping me get this house.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Megan O'Rourke]

Why Did They Let Her Do It?

by Peggy Elliott and Megan O'Rourke

From the Editor: Peggy Elliott is Second Vice President of the National Federation of the Blind and President of the NFB of Iowa. She persuaded Megan O'Rourke to tell this anecdote, and she wrote an introduction. Here both are:

When she wrote this little story, Megan O'Rourke was a blind high school senior in New Florence, Missouri, about to graduate with her high school Class of 2001. It tells volumes about her determination. Megan lost her sight as a teen-ager and had to decide whether she would face this change in her life with resignation or fire. Megan obviously chose fire and lit the first flame under herself. Other blind people easily recognize the link between learning to read and demanding more of oneself in other areas. When a blind person cannot do tasks for herself like jotting down notes, larger life challenges can appear to be insurmountable. Megan met the challenge of reading and then a bigger, more difficult one. Blind people are sometimes affected by what President Bush calls the "soft bigotry of lowered expectations," and as a result we sometimes demand less of ourselves than we should. Megan has learned the lesson young and well that she should expect of herself the highest and best she can imagine. Her few words paint a picture not only of determination but, unforgettably, of a blind person fully and freely participating in the life around her. Here is her small, yet very big story:

When I started middle school, my eyesight began to worsen. I began getting my books on tape and took on the challenge of learning Braille. It felt as if I were back in kindergarten, learning to read all over again. But I was determined not to give up on myself. I kept working hard, and I finally succeeded in learning to read again.

Around this time I also took on another challenge. I decided to try cheerleading. Many people thought this would be too much for me to handle, but I was determined to prove them wrong. With a lot of hard work and patience from the other girls on the squad, I learned everything I needed to know. I continued cheering into high school and eventually became captain of the varsity squad my junior and senior years.

To this day I still smile when my coach describes the reaction of the crowd from other schools. They are always surprised when I pull out my cane and walk off the field after cheering at the game.

Recipes

This month's recipes were submitted by the NFB of Michigan.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Wurtzel]

Enchilada Casserole

by Mary Wurtzel

Mary Wurtzel is the first lady of the NFB of Michigan. She is also a Federation leader in her own right. She says, "This recipe has the stamp of approval of our oldest son Fred, who is a Johnson-and-Wales-trained chef."

Ingredients:

3 cups boneless chicken breast, cut in bite-size pieces

1/2 cup onion, chopped

Minced garlic to taste

Oil

1 small package tortillas, torn into bite-size pieces (the original recipe says flour, but I have used corn.)

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

1 can mild green chilies, chopped

1 can Rotel tomatoes, if desired (I don't)

Shredded cheddar cheese for topping

Method: Brown the chicken breast and onions in a small amount of oil. Add garlic to taste. Mix together with the remaining ingredients. Place in a 9-by-13-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees till bubbly (about thirty minutes). Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and return to oven briefly to brown.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Fred Wurtzel]

Bolachingas

by Fred Wurtzel

Fred Wurtzel is President of the NFB of Michigan. He reports that this is a simple family recipe.

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Method: You can vary this to accommodate the number to be served. Mix ingredients together and then fry. These are like thin crepes. For a treat we cook them in butter. Some like to roll them with cinnamon and sugar inside. Others like cottage cheese and jam--whatever suits your fancy.

Mary's Meat Loaf

by Mary Wurtzel

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey

1/2 pound ground sirloin

2 cups oats (or whatever amount you like)

3 eggs

1 envelope dry onion soup mix

Add whatever veggies you like, chopped fine

Method: Combine all ingredients well and bake in a 9-by-13-inch pan for about an hour or until mixture is bubbly. Allow to stand for a few minutes before serving.

Strawberry Jell-O Salad

by Carol Curneial

Carol is the wife of the newly elected NFB of Michigan Treasurer Larry Curneial.

Ingredients:

1 pint whipping cream

1 large package strawberry Jell-O

3 cups chopped fresh strawberries

Method: Whip the cream until it is almost stiff and gradually pour in the Jell-O granules and continue to whip. Fold in the fresh strawberries and chill until ready to eat: simply delicious.

Banana Cream Pie

by Reggie Alverado

Reggie is the Secretary of the Western Wayne County Chapter. This recipe is often brought to chapter meetings and is also auctioned at board meetings.

Ingredients:

1 graham cracker pie crust

1 package instant banana pudding

1-3/4 cups milk

1 9-ounce tub Cool Whip

2 chopped bananas

Method: Mix together milk and pudding according to package directions. Fold in Cool Whip and add bananas. Pour mixture into crust and chill to set.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ruth Anne Posant]

Grandma's Old Fashioned Butter Cookies

by Ruth Anne Posant

Ruth Anne is the daughter of Donna and Larry Posant. Donna is NFB of Michigan First Vice President.

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar

2 sticks butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

4-1/2 cups flour

Method: Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and stir. Add rest of ingredients and mix thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove to wire rack to cool.

Monitor Miniatures

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Maria Morais, Eddy Bell, and new daughter Victoria]

New Baby:

Maria Morais and Eddy Bell, both NFB scholarship winners and Federation leaders wherever they go, have notified us that on March 9, 2002, at 1:25 a.m., they welcomed Victoria Morais Bell into the world. She weighed six pounds, five ounces and was eighteen and a half inches long. Congratulations to the entire family.

Merchants Spring Blast Shatters Records:

Kevan Worley, President of the National Association of Blind Merchants, recently sent us the following brief report:

This spring we went to Circus Circus in Las Vegas for Business, Leadership, and Superior Training, a conference that included all these elements and exceeded all expectations--record-breaking attendance (142); record-setting enthusiasm; new partnerships; an exclusive state licensing agency networking round table; superior training in customer service, interviewing, and hiring employees; and managing change in a new business climate.

The National Association of Blind Merchants Spring Conference was all that and a bag of chips. Yes, you could check out the latest in snacks, food, and other business products at the National Buyers Group Trade Show.

James Gashel, Director of Governmental Affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, spoke of the many challenges ahead for the Randolph-Sheppard Program and called on our Federation merchants to stand up and meet those challenges as we have in the past. We heard a luncheon address from Joanne Wilson, the Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. She spoke of the need for this country's blind vendors to work in greater harmony with vocational rehabilitation agencies who work hard to support Randolph-Sheppard. Commissioner Wilson talked about the application of the Randolph-Sheppard Act to increase opportunities for blind entrepreneurs in military dining contracting and in other concessions on federal properties such as national parks. She addressed the need for all of us to acquire the necessary training, not only in business, but also in the skills of blindness to increase our confidence and therefore operate our businesses more effectively.

Following Commissioner Wilson's inspiring words, we presented her a trophy with a gold star on top in recognition of her leadership and understanding. All in all the consensus was that the National Association of Blind Merchants Spring Conference was a Blast.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

For sale, standard Perkins Brailler in good condition. Asking $400. Call (831) 372‑4131 or e-mail <aharris@redshift.com>.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: : Sally Jacobsen, July 31, 1945, to February 22, 2002

In Memoriam:

Julie Phillipson, Secretary of the NFB of New York, recently wrote officially to give us the following sad news:

On February 22, 2002, Sally Jacobsen, the first lady of the NFB of New York, passed away following a long illness. For many years Sally was an active member of the affiliate, quietly lending her support and encouragement to everyone. She played a vital role in helping her husband Carl continue building and strengthening the affiliate. She will be very much missed by all who knew her.

The entire Federation family joins the New York affiliate in extending our sympathy to Carl and the Jacobsen children in their loss.

Braillewriter Cleaning and Repair Service:

Paul Dressell, secretary of the NFB of Ohio, has asked us to carry the following announcement:

Braillewriter Cleaning and Repair Service has been in operation since January of 1998. The owner, Bernadette Dressell, was trained and certified by Howe Press in Watertown, Massachusetts, where Perkins Braillers are manufactured. In addition to using the most up-to-date equipment and cleaning solvents, Braillewriter Cleaning and Repair Service has a large inventory of parts. Under normal conditions we clean, adjust, and lubricate manual Perkins Braillers in two weeks or less at a cost of $65 plus shipping and handling. Contact us about servicing your manual Perkins Braillewriters at 2714 Ruberg Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45211-8118, (513) 481-7662, e-mail <pmd@pobox.com>.

Elected:

In November, 2001, the NFB of New York held its statewide election. The new officers are Carl Jacobsen, President; Marie Kouthoofd, First Vice President; Craig Hedgecock, Second Vice President; Julie Phillipson, Secretary; and Ray Wayne, Treasurer.

Braille Transcription Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Do you need to transcribe print material into Braille for the benefit of those that you serve or teach? We offer transcriptions into Braille at very modest prices for all kinds of documents, including agendas, brochures, labels, legal documents, letters, lists, manuals, maps, menus, and more. Just let us know your needs, and we will tell you if we can do it. Contact Priscila Ayala at Translations at Your Service, phone/fax (404) 363-1731 or e-mail <Abiriam@aol.com>.

National Orientation and Mobility Conference at Convention:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The National Blindness Professional Certification Board announces that an orientation and mobility conference will be held in Louisville, Kentucky, at the annual National Federation of the Blind convention. The conference, the National Federation of the Blind Orientation and Mobility Conference: Serving the Blind Through Structured-Discovery Instruction and Performance-Based Certification, will be held on Wednesday evening, July 3, from 7:30 to 10:30 P.M.

The conference will be of particular interest to those currently holding National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC), travel teachers interested in learning more about this alternative non-discriminatory, performance-based certification process, those interested in earning credit to meet continuing-education requirements, those interested in travel training as a career, and those with general interest in cane travel for the blind. Conference Co-Chairpersons are Christine Brown, NOMC, and Edward Bell, NOMC, graduates of the O and M master's program offered through Louisiana Tech University, Ruston, Louisiana. Christine Brown is employed in the Disabled Students Office at the University of Michigan, and Edward Bell is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Arkansas.

NOMC certification is available to O and M instructors who graduate from approved university programs. In addition, however, many outstanding travel teachers in the country, though agency-trained, do not hold university O and M degrees and thus have historically not been eligible for professional certification. NOMC certification is also open to these instructors upon successful completion of the performance-based examination if they have a minimum of two years teaching experience. For more information about the conference contact Christine Brown at (734) 944-7446, e-mail <cbrown1472@aol.com> or Edward Bell at (501) 521-0788, e-mail <ebell@uark.edu>.

If you are interested in teaching travel for the blind as a career, in non-discriminatory alternative certification, or in both, please join us. When you arrive at the convention, consult your Preconvention Agenda for the location of the Wednesday night conference.

Computer and Training Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The Communicating Computers for the Blind Foundation, Inc., is a non-profit foundation established to provide free computers, software, and training to blind people with no useable sight living in the United States. The Foundation seeks to enhance the quality of life for the blind through the technology of personal computers. Through communication technology we introduce the blind to the new and exciting world of the Internet. New adventures and experiences await those who are trained in e-mail, word processing, electronic books, online shopping, online newspapers, digital radio, information searches, and much more.

All training and living expenses are free and cover a two-week period at the Foundation facilities in South Dakota. When training is completed, the free personal computer used by the student is shipped at no charge by the Foundation to the student's home. Students will be responsible for their own transportation to South Dakota and for their screen-reading software, Connect Outloud, which costs $249. Students must also be able to type. If this sounds interesting to you, call (605) 644-0445.

Elected:

At its January, 2002, meeting, the Austin Chapter of the NFB of Texas elected new officers. They are Margaret "Cokie" Craig, President; Jeff Pearcy, First Vice President; Angela Wolf, Second Vice President; Norma Gonzales Baker, Secretary; Jim Shaffer, Treasurer; and Brandy Wojcik and Diane Yoder, Board Members.

For Sale:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I have for sale a Perkins Brailler in good condition, asking $75. For further information contact R. J. Galla at (203) 744-4490.

Tactile Atlas of Central and South Asia Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The Princeton Braillists have released their newest publication, Atlas of Central and South Asia. This is a set of tactile maps covering thirteen countries and the disputed territory of Kashmir. Overall maps as well as individual maps of each country are included. The maps have considerable detail, and some experience with tactile maps is recommended.

The countries included are the five central Asian Republics of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Each country has an introductory page of facts followed by a key and full-page map of that country showing physical features, cities, and towns of both political and historic importance. Additional maps for India show states and territories and an enlargement of the Andaman Islands.

Atlas of Central and South Asia contains nineteen maps, seventy-two pages total. It is bound with cardboard covers and a multi-ring binder. The cost is $16, and shipping is free, unless other arrangements are made.

Other items available include Basic Human Anatomy, Atlas of North and South America, Maps of the British Isles, Atlas of Western Europe, and Atlas of Eastern Europe. Please send check or purchase order to the Princeton Braillists at their new address: 76 Leabrook Lane, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, (609) 924-5207.

Technology Funding Available:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

The Association of Blind Citizens (ABC) has established the Assistive Technology Fund, which will provide funds to cover 50 percent of the retail price of adaptive devices or software. The ABC board of directors believes that this program will allow blind and visually impaired individuals access to technology products that will improve employment opportunities, increase the level of independence, and enhance the overall quality of life.

The products covered by this program must retail for a minimum of $200 and a maximum of $6,000. Those eligible to apply for assistance must have a family income of less than $50,000 and cash assets of less than $20,000. Applications will be reviewed by the Assistive Technology Committee, and recommendations will be submitted for board approval. If applicants are selected to receive a technology grant, they will be asked to provide documents such as tax returns, bank statements, and any other documents that the ABC board or its designee deems necessary to assess financial need for the grant.

Applicants must be legally blind, and the grantee must be a resident of the United States. Applications must be submitted by June 30, September 30, and December 31 for each grant period (three per year). Applicants will be notified if their request for a grant is approved. Applicants may submit one request per calendar year. All applications must be submitted via e‑mail in accordance with the procedures outlined on the ABC Web site. You will be notified by ABC within forty-five days of the application deadline.

To learn more and obtain your application, visit <www.assocofblindcitizens.org> and click on the Assistive Technology Fund link.

Tape Support Group:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

I am starting a cassette tape support group for the blind and disabled dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, panic disorders, shyness or social anxiety, and sexual abuse. Do you suffer with never-ending depression? Do you feel anxious and nervous about certain situations such as going out alone or being in crowds? Do you feel inhibited in talking with other people due to shyness? Have you experienced sexual harassment or abuse by family members or someone else in your life? Do you feel alone in dealing with your problems? We will be here to support each other and share our experiences with each other and learn and grow together.

Group members will submit their discussion on cassette tape, and it will be compiled into an interactive group cassette, which is sent out each month. I will provide self-help materials on each tape to help us all learn to overcome and deal with our issues of depression, anxiety, shyness, and other topics discussed. In order to join the group you must sign a confidentiality form, stating you will not divulge names or any other information shared in the group. Dues to join are $12 a year, $1 a month. If members join during the year, the dues will be prorated. For more information or to become a member, contact us by cassette tape, Braille, floppy disk, or e‑mail (no hand-written letters please) at Mental Health Issues Support Group, 610 B Avenue, Vinton, Iowa 52349, e‑mail: <bev@prairieinet.net>, <listserv@Braille.org>.

Elected:

The Kanawha Valley Chapter of the NFB of West Virginia elected Roland Payne, President; Eddie Greenleaf, Vice President; Barbara Smith, Secretary; and Barbara Olive, Treasurer.

More Seminar Opportunities at Convention:

Betsy Zaborowski, NFB Director of Special Programs, announces the following Seminars scheduled for this year's NFB National Convention:

1. Special Events Seminar: Plans and Action Equal Success

Friday, July 5, 2002, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

A growing number of affiliates and chapters are conducting special events to raise funds and to raise the profile of our organization. This seminar will provide an opportunity to learn from each other how to plan and conduct successful events. Everything from walk-a-thons to black-tie galas will be discussed. Interested participants who are working on events will then be added to a growing e-mail network of NFB members from around the country who can share dos and don'ts of event management.

2. Getting the Foundation Grant: A Seminar on Foundation Support

Wednesday, July 3, 2002, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

This is a seminar on how local affiliates can work with the National Center to identify and solicit area foundations that will help with both local and national projects. Writing the proposal is not the problem; getting to know the funders is the real challenge. Learn how Internet research tools can help narrow the search and how we can efficiently reach out to foundations interested in funding what we want to do.

3. Braille Is Beautiful, It's Fun, and It Works: A Seminar on How To Get Your Community Interested in This Versatile Curriculum

Wednesday, July 3, 2002, 3:30 - 5:00 p.m.

At this seminar attendees will hear from parents, teachers, and NFB leaders on how they have promoted the use of the Braille Is Beautiful curriculum in public and private schools and among civic clubs and other organizations. Learn how we can get the word out on how effectively this program introduces sighted kids and adults to the Braille reading and writing system and, in so doing, educates about the capabilities of the blind.

*****

Rock-Climbing at Convention:

Do you feel the need to exercise?  Do you have a spirit of adventure?  Erik Weihenmayer, NFB member and the first blind person to summit Mount Everest, will be hosting a rock-climbing exercise at the Galt House.  We welcome young and old for some fun in fitness.

With the cooperation of a rock-climbing organization in Louisville we have arranged to have a 20-foot rock-climbing wall available to us at convention.  Consult your convention agenda for exact details and more information.

Bookshare Launched:

We have been asked to carry the following announcement:

Benetech, the nonprofit successor to Arkenstone, is pleased to announce the launch of Bookshare.org. In the November 2001 issue of the Braille Monitor you read about this new legal way to distribute copyrighted books using the Internet. Now a book scanned by one person may be shared with blind people throughout the country. Please take a look at our Web site by going to <http://www.bookshare.org>. More important, be sure to visit us in Louisville at the 2002 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind. We will be in the exhibit hall demonstrating Bookshare.org and answering your questions. If you need any information before the convention, you may write to us at <Info@bookshare.org>. See you in Louisville.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kathryn Hanks]

The Federation Village:

I recently received the following letter. It reminded me all over again how important is our work with blind kids.

Dear Ms. Pierce:

I recently received the March issue of The Braille Monitor. Reading about convention and the various articles contained in the issue caused me to reflect upon our family's personal history with the Federation, and I wanted to express my gratitude. Though I personally have appreciated my contacts with the parents' division and their continued help and Kathryn's opportunity to meet blind children and teens, it is our personal relationship with blind adults in our Idaho affiliate and the national organization that has caused significant changes in my daughter Kathryn's life and that has provided support for over eleven years.

We first met Ramona Walhof shortly after we moved to Idaho. I do not even remember what problem brought me to her door. (I do remember her expecting Kathryn to be able to do typical four-year-old tasks.) Ramona introduced Kathryn and me to other Federationists, and, though I have not been personally involved in our local chapter, the chapter has included Kathryn in many of its activities. They have also spoken to her countless times on the phone. They have, in other words, developed relationships with her as a Federationist, independent of me. And it has been a true blessing.

Larry and Sandy Streeter happen to live across the street from me. One day Larry commented on how grown up and mature Kathryn was becoming. I told him as I have told others that Kathryn is truly a child raised by a village. And if she has become mature, Larry, Sandy, Ramona, and all the others in our Federation family deserve much of the credit. In today's world adults often hesitate to tell children the truth for fear of interfering or being thought rude. As a sighted parent I have appreciated Federationists telling Kathryn such things as that posture, appearance, independence, and acceptable social behavior are important. (Those sessions for teen girls at National Convention always lead to change.)

I have appreciated the wonderful role models Kathryn knows here in Idaho and has observed at National Convention. Because of these relationships with blind adults, Kathryn sees herself as a working person, a mother, a friend, a traveler, and most important a person of worth. I attribute that to her knowing many blind individuals who are all of those things and more.

My husband died February 2, after having pancreatic cancer for over a year. During that time I came to doubly appreciate the local and national community of the blind. Kathryn was fortunate to have a support system of caring adults (Federationists) to whom she could turn. Often those within our family were exhausted and dealing with our own emotions. We were grateful that she had established relationships with mature, caring adults to whom she could turn. And in turn she learned another lesson from her role models: friends offer support and comfort to others. And I have noticed a change in her willingness to listen to others' problems. What a gift.

So thank you, NFB, for being Kathryn's village.

Suzie Hanks

Have you made your campaign pledge yet? 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, 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: __________________

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.