THE BRAILLE MONITOR

Vol. 45, No. 7   August/September, 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

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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION

SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

ISSN 0006-8829


Vol. 45, No. 7 August/September, 2002

Contents

2002 Convention Roundup

by Barbara Pierce

Presidential Report 2002

by Marc Maurer

The 2002 Scholarship Class

Leadership and the Matrix of Power

by Marc Maurer

The 2002 Awards

The Future of Rehabilitation:

Partnerships with Consumer Organizations

by Joanne Wilson

Research and Future Opportunities for the Blind

by Fredric K. Schroeder

Meet the Blind Campaign Guide for Meet the Blind Month

An Open Letter to Federationists

by Lee Hamilton

2002 Convention Resolutions Report

by Sharon Maneki

National Federation of the Blind 2002 Resolutions

Convention Miniatures

Copyright © 2002 National Federation of the Blind


[Lead PHOTO/Description: An unidentified girl of about fourteen rests her cheek on Whozit's shoulder.

Photo/CAPTION: Meet Whozit, the NFB logo unveiled during the Louisville convention. Here a young Federationist snuggles up to the full-color, free-standing replica of Whozit that graced this year's convention deliberations and now stands beneath the display of proclamations at the National Center for the Blind.]


2002 Convention Roundup

by Barbara Pierce

Did you know that Louisville hosted the 1954, 1966, 1985, and now the 2002 conventions of the National Federation of the Blind? Many of us recall the '85 convention with great fondness. Betty Niceley was then president of the host affiliate, and the East Tower of the Galt House was a new facility. During that historic convention Dr. Jernigan announced that the coming year would be his last as president of the national organization and that he intended to support the candidacy of Marc Maurer to succeed him.

Many things have changed during the seventeen years since our last visit to Louisville. Dr. Jernigan and Betty Niceley, among many others of our colleagues and friends, are no longer with us, and the Galt House itself is preparing for a major round of renovations. Our convention of nearly three thousand this year was very much larger than it was the last time we were in Louisville. In 1985 Ohio took home the attendance banner with a delegation of about eighty-five. This year, with ninety-six registered, Ohio was only eighth in delegation size.

Yet despite the changes much was familiar. Kentuckians are still as warm and welcoming as ever. The host affiliate was both charming and efficient. The Galt House staff were friendly and helpful without being intrusive. The Belle of Louisville still loads a few yards from the hotel and plays its calliope while passengers are boarding. Most of all, though the NFB has grown in numbers and complexity, this convention demonstrated that we are still the same intent and focused gathering of the nation's blind that we were in '54, '66, and '85. In short, the mood of this convention was cheerful, confident, and determined.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: President Maurer draws aside the drape revealing Whozit.]

Many babies attended their first convention this year; if we tried to list them all, we would leave someone out. But one of the youngest Federationists on hand to meet everyone was not a baby at all. Its name is Whozit, and it is the new logo unveiled shortly after the presidential report on Saturday afternoon, July 6. Whozit is a brightly colored stick figure striding forward holding what appears to be a long cane. From the 2002 convention forward, everything produced by the National Federation of the Blind will carry a version of our new logo. The NFB is the voice of the nation's blind, and we intend that everyone shall come to recognize our vigorous new symbol and associate it with the Federation.

Though we found many new faces at the convention this year, some familiar ones were missing. Priscilla Ferris, president of the NFB of Massachusetts and member of the national board of directors, remained at home because of her husband Jack's grave illness. We are deeply saddened to report that Jack died on July 19. Our deepest sympathy goes to Priscilla, her daughters, and their families. We were also concerned to learn that Karen Mayry, president of the NFB of South Dakota, had a foot amputated shortly before convention, and Lucas McQuillan, husband of national board member Carla McQuillan, was hospitalized at about the time he had expected to leave for convention. Karen is back at work, and Lucas is now doing much better and seems to be on the mend.

Convention registration opened on July 4 this year, but, as has become traditional, Wednesday, July 3, was filled with activities. In fact, by the evening of July 1, white canes were already in evidence throughout the Galt House and all over the downtown area of Louisville. By Tuesday, the second, hundreds of folks were already busy exploring the public areas of the hotel and checking out the surrounding area for fast food and shopping opportunities.

The elevators became busy that day and never again were quiet during our stay. For efficiency's sake, when the elevator cars were full, they bypassed all floors until they reached one requested by a passenger already on board. When people found themselves waiting for long periods and elevators rushing past without stopping, some concluded that a few passengers must know how to override calls from waiting hotel guests and go straight to the floor they wanted. This was not the case. It was just that large crowds take time to move at peak traffic times.

And crowds there were all day Wednesday, July 3. Division-sponsored seminars for blind entrepreneurs and musicians; eight different technology workshops offered by the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind; seminars on getting foundation grants and making the best use of the Braille Is Beautiful curriculum, led by the NFB director of special programs Betsy Zaborowski; Job Fair 2002, which brought together job seekers and employers; training sessions for technology users offered by product producers; an orientation and mobility conference for those interested in structured-discovery instruction and performance-based certification; various committee and division meetings; and even an organizing meeting for those interested in travel and tourism: this is a sample of the activities available for those not engaged in unloading the truck and setting up the exhibit hall.

[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: A little girl stands, decorated cane and smiley face in one hand, and a flag and balloon dog in the other. She has Braille dots on her face. CAPTION: Rebecca Budney (Michigan), age seven, is clearly enjoying herself at the Braille Carnival.]

This list also omits the wide range of events conducted for families and educators of blind children. Each year the activities organized by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) becomes more ambitious, and experience makes them more successful. Following registration, the first session of "The Serious Work of Play," this year's NOPBC seminar topic, was aimed at the entire family. Then the kids went off to the Braille Carnival, where fifty volunteer Braille Buddies were waiting to accompany them as they had fun at stations where they could learn and use Braille in various games and activities.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kids enjoy the old favorite game of tug of war.]

Parents enjoyed two hours of formal presentations in the morning session of the seminar before everyone gathered for the short bus trip to the Kentucky School for the Blind for a box lunch and an afternoon of fun-filled activities. Twenty blind kids made metal masks in an art activity led by Angela Wolf, student division president. The gym was very hot, but that didn't stop the kids from enjoying goal ball and other active play. In air-conditioned kitchens blind cooks showed kids and parents how to have fun cooking. Families moved from session to session in which no one could tell when the learning stopped and the play began.

That evening teens were invited to individualized discussion groups to talk about issues of importance to them. Parents and younger children enjoyed informal discussion and exploration of a display of Discovery Toys.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: President Maurer was one of the performers at Karaoke Night. He sang, "The Preacher and the Bear." He is pictured here at the microphone with Joyce Scanlan looking on.]

Meanwhile the host affiliate was sponsoring Welcome to Kentucky, an evening of dancing to popular music from the fifties to the present played by a DJ. For those who like to perform or to watch others do so, BLIND, Inc., sponsored Karaoke Night, which also drew large crowds.

Registration day started early with lines that moved faster than ever. Sensory Safari and the exhibit hall opened at about the same time, and the crowds swirled among activities and displays all day long. The exhibit hall was full of interesting displays: sixty-four outside or individual exhibitors and thirty-four organizational exhibitors. By the close of the day, more than two thousand people had registered for the convention--not quite a record, but almost.

The Resolutions Committee met early Thursday afternoon and considered twenty-six resolutions, twenty-three of which it passed on to the Convention for debate and vote later in the week. A full report of the resolutions considered appears elsewhere in this issue.

Following resolutions, the fifth annual mock trial took place before almost four hundred observer/jurors. Each year the National Association of Blind Lawyers, with a little help from its friends, reenacts a case from Federation history. The intent is to entertain and instruct members about a piece of our legal history. This year the subject was the Norwegian Cruise Lines case, in which a blind couple was told that a sighted person would have to be present in their cabin during their honeymoon cruise in order to ensure their safety. Neither bailiff Peggy Elliott nor Judge Charlie Brown could have been said to keep a firm hand on opposing counsel, so the entertainment value of the testimony was quite high, and everyone went away clearly remembering the nonsense argued by the defendants and rejoicing in the real-life victory for the good guys in the original case.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Some of the most stimulating and informative activities at convention take place during division meetings. As the years go by division agendas become more and more exciting. The student division, pictured here, always has a large and exuberant audience.]

Thursday evening and Friday afternoon and evening were filled with division meetings, seminars, and committee meetings of every kind: ten Thursday evening and twenty-two Friday afternoon and evening. Here are a couple of highlights: the Agricultural and Equestrian Interest Group approved a constitution and elected officers to become a division as soon as its constitution is approved by the NFB board of directors. The West Group, creator of Westlaw, the most important online legal database, was present at the convention most of the week and was clearly interested in improving access to its database for blind legal professionals. The teen drop-in room, jointly sponsored by Blind Industries and Services of Maryland and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, was a great success throughout the week and did a booming business Thursday afternoon, as well as other times.

As usual Carla McQuillan and her staff did a superb job all week with NFB Camp, the childcare facility available to parents during the convention. NFB Camp continues to be a wonderful place for children to explore and play together and for teens to volunteer their time to help. It also frees parents to take advantage of convention opportunities they would otherwise miss.

Promptly at 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning the 2002 meeting of the NFB board of directors opened, with all members but Priscilla Ferris present. As usual the meeting began with a moment of silence for NFB members who had died during the past year. President Maurer then reviewed the offices open for election this year, which included the five constitutional officers and six board positions. As soon as he completed the list, Ramona Walhof, NFB secretary, asked for the floor and said:

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ramona Walhof]

Mr. President, members of the board, and friends, I have been a member of the NFB for thirty-seven years. I have held office in several chapters, divisions, and state affiliates, and I have served on this board for more than a decade. I have chaired a number of committees and served on more, and I have done my best to carry out responsibilities and assignments as asked. I have recommended that we take on projects, knowing that a number of responsibilities to carry them out would come to me. Through the years I hope that my contributions have been worthwhile, and I know that I have received a huge amount of payback in education and love from others in the Federation. This is valuable to me beyond measure, and I will continue to do as much as I possibly can for the Federation and for the blind.

However, during the past few years and especially this year I have found it necessary to back out of some of the tasks that I would have liked to do. I have found myself spread so thin that I fear the quality of my work has not always been as high as I wanted it to be. Besides that, I have worked throughout the country, and I have had the privilege to get to know many new, young leaders who in my judgment are ready to take on more important responsibilities in the Federation.

Therefore, Mr. President, I'd like to ask that my name not be placed in nomination for a position on the board at this convention. I repeat that I am not done with my Federation work--far from it. I look forward to many years of Federation activity to come. You'll be seeing me around the country, and I'll continue to try to promote new voices and find new hands to carry the load. But I believe that I should no longer serve as an officer or on the board of directors at this time.

Treasurer Allen Harris then sought and received the floor. He said:

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Allen Harris]

Thank you, Dr. Maurer, my colleagues on the board, and fellow Federationists, all of my friends. It's a pleasure to be here; this is my thirty-second consecutive convention. I joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1969, and the very day I joined I was elected to an office in this organization. I was not sure that had happened to me, but I found out that it had. I'm glad that it did. I have had such wonderful opportunities over all of these years. I have been able to work with the Federation and watch us grow, watch us celebrate the progress that we have made and set our plans for the future. I feel more fortunate than almost anyone I know, which is not to make any of the rest of you feel poorly--but I feel very fortunate.

I was first elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind in 1981. I became secretary of the National Federation of the Blind in 1985 and treasurer in 1988. I have served to the best of my ability. I have had the pleasure of working with tens of thousands of our members and friends around the country. I have worked in the fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and some other places. I have had much good fortune. In the recent past I came to Dr. Maurer and said that I thought that it was time for me to step aside, not from the Federation, but from the job as treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind. I will not seek reelection. I simply want to thank you for the honor that you have bestowed on me, the support you have given me and tell you that I expect to see you often and everywhere. Thank you, Mr. President.

Then Bruce Gardner asked for the mike in order to say:

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bruce Gardner]

Dr. Maurer, fellow members of the board, fellow Federationists: I have enjoyed the opportunity to serve in this organization. I have appreciated the opportunity of learning and growing from my Federation family. I joined the Federation twenty-six years ago, and in many respects my life began then. I've had the privilege of serving on this board for five years. My term does not expire till next year; however, as a result of a combination of circumstances, I feel the need to focus on my family and at this time would like to submit my resignation from the board, certainly not my resignation from the Federation or from the Federation family. I will continue to serve wherever I am called upon to serve. I have particularly appreciated the opportunity to attend many state conventions and get to know my brothers and sisters in other states. I have learned and grown from every convention and every seminar I have attended and have participated with a learning spirit. I leave the board with mixed emotions but appreciate the opportunity to serve wherever you would like me to, sir. Thank you.

Dr. Maurer warmly thanked all three for their leadership on the board and their devoted service to the organization and assured them that we depend on their continued leadership.

President Maurer next briefly reviewed convention plans in the next several years. In 2003 convention rates at the Galt House are $57 for singles and doubles and $63 for triples and quads. Convention registration will take place on Sunday, June 29, and the closing day of the convention will be Friday, July 4. In 2005, also at the Galt House, the rates will be $59 for singles and doubles and $64 for triples and quads. The dates will be Sunday, July 3, to Friday, July 8. President Maurer then announced that in 2004 we will return to the Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel with convention rates of $59 a night for singles and doubles and $65 for triples and quads. Convention registration will open on Wednesday, June 30, and the convention will adjourn on Monday, July 5.

Mindy Fliegelman, representing the Jewish Braille Institute, gave a brief report on JBI's new arrangement with the National Library Service as an affiliated library, which will mean that JBI's Braille collection will be maintained by NLS and can be borrowed from either JBI itself or cooperating libraries in the NLS network. JBI is about to increase its Hebrew Braille collection because Duxbury's Hebrew Braille translation program is almost ready for use. As soon as it is, borrowers will be able to request publications on paper rather than the familiar plastic pages.

The twenty-second volume in the Kernel Book series of paperbacks was officially released when Dr. Maurer read the introduction aloud to the audience. The book is titled The Summit and addresses itself in part to the events surrounding Erik Weihenmayer's successful climb last year of Mt. Everest.

Another book available at the book table this year is Reading by Touch--Trials, Battles, and Discoveries, by Pamela Lorimer from England. She described her book briefly, pointing out that biographies of Louis Braille are quite different in France, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. In the book she examines both the man and the code, particularly during the early years, from all perspectives.

Jim Gashel, NFB director of governmental affairs, brought Jim Vollman from the Center for American Jobs to the microphone to announce a strategic partnership between the two organizations. Mr. Vollman was instrumental in the development of our America's Jobline® service, which offers telephone access to all the jobs listed on America's Job Bank. Beginning in August interviews for every job category in the Jobline® list have been created, enabling callers to prepare an online résumé based on their individual profiles if they are interested in applying for a job. A Spanish version of Jobline® will also shortly be available.

President Maurer then reminded people that we regularly distribute Braille books to blind children interested in receiving them. Another organization supplies the books, and we circulate them. Those interested in adding children's names to the recipient list should contact Barbara Cheadle, president of our parents division.

Steve Benson, who chairs the Blind Educator of the Year Selection Committee, came to the podium to make this year's presentation. The plaque and $1,000 prize went to Mary Willows of California. A complete report of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.

Sharon Maneki, who chairs the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee, presented that award to the 2002 recipient, Debbi Head of Missouri. A full report of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.

Throughout the morning people chairing fundraising committees and programs within the organization came to the podium to make reports of activity as of the beginning of the convention. Various announcements were also made about convention activities.

Jim Omvig, a longtime Federation leader and president of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB), came to the podium to present the first Fredric K. Schroeder Award for outstanding work in the orientation and mobility field. The recipient was Roland Allen of Louisiana Tech University and the Louisiana Center for the Blind. A complete report of this presentation and Mr. Omvig's remarks about the establishment of this award appear elsewhere in this issue.

President Maurer made an important announcement following the NBPCB presentation. As of July 29 Ron Gardner has been named the director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University. Dr. Fred Schroeder had been the part-time director of the institute, but the program is growing quickly and clearly requires a full-time director. Ron Gardner, who is president of the NFB of Utah, has no plans at present to move to Louisiana but will undoubtedly be giving the airlines plenty of business.

Late in the meeting this year's thirty scholarship winners came forward to introduce themselves to the organization. A full report of the scholarship program and awards appears later in this issue.

Gary Wunder then presented the Distinguished Service Award to Ed Bryant, editor of the Voice of the Diabetic and president of the Diabetes Action Network. A full report of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.

Tom Stevens, chairman of the Associates Committee, made the final report of the morning. The top associates recruiters were Art Schreiber of New Mexico, who enrolled 274 NFB members-at-large as associates, and Patricia Maurer of Maryland, who raised $5,319 in this program.

In addition to all the afternoon and evening activities already mentioned a couple of others were of special note. At 5:30 p.m. the first ever Oneg Shabbat, celebration of the Jewish Sabbath, organized by several Federationists, took place. The event was so popular that the group plans to conduct it again next year. First Step Forward, an original play by Jerry Whittle, had two performances Friday evening with proceeds going to fund the Buddy Program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. LCB students, alumni, and friends comprised the cast.

[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: A group of singers, the women in long blue dresses, stand singing with a violinist beside them. CAPTION: The new generation singers.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Buttleman, dressed in full regalia, plays the familiar race day bugle call.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Paul Rogers narrates the race at Galt House Downs.]

At 9:30 sharp Saturday morning the gavel fell, opening the 2002 convention. When host affiliate president Cathy Jackson came to the microphone to welcome conventioneers, we had no idea what to expect. The ceremonies began with a rendition of "My Old Kentucky Home" sung by the Generation Singers. Before the audience had time to settle back into their seats, Steve Buttleman, the bugler at Churchill Downs, appeared in full regalia to play the familiar fanfare that opens every race meeting at the home of the Kentucky Derby. As the notes of the fanfare died away, we suddenly heard the voice of Paul Rogers, broadcaster of the race of the day on Louisville's WHAS Radio. He narrated a race at Galt House Downs with such runners as Door Prize Diane, Jernigan's Journey, Dr. Marc, Capital Campaign, Have Cane Will Travel, Give Me Braille, Conventioneer, Scholarship, and Erik's Big Climb. The commentary was backed up with the sound of horses galloping, and the comments were filled with puns and wicked little plays on words.

As the final part of the opening ceremonies, Jefferson County Commissioner Rus Maple presented a Community Excellence Award to the National Federation of the Blind.

During the roll call of states several interesting announcements were made. Anil Lewis of Georgia told a cheering convention that Georgia was the first state to legislate accessible voting machines throughout the state. Ron Gardner boasted that the Utah delegation had thirty first-time attendees, and President Noel Nightingale announced that about a tenth of the Washington State delegation (four women, including her) were pregnant. When Carl Jacobsen, president of the NFB of New York, came to the microphone, he provided the requested information about the delegation; then he made the following brief statement:

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carl Jacobsen]

Sir, if I may beg your indulgence for two minutes. Since the last time I answered this roll call, a lot has changed for us as Americans and for me personally. On September 11 New York was seriously affected as everyone knows by a terrorist attack on our nation. Many Americans suffered that day and continue to suffer, among them blind Americans. I need to remind this convention and thank you, sir, that the first people on the scene with any aid to blind New Yorkers was the National Federation of the Blind. Also it is through the efforts, the good offices, and the respect in which government agencies hold the National Federation of the Blind that aid continues to come to those blind New Yorkers who continue to be seriously negatively impacted by the terrorist attacks on our nation.

The terrorists who attacked New York, the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon seriously underestimated America, not unlike the way society has underestimated blind people. Americans will prove the terrorists wrong; the National Federation of the Blind will prove society wrong. America will emerge bigger, better, and stronger from this, and we as a Federation will, when we finish our National Research and Training Institute, emerge bigger, better, and stronger for this also.

On a very personal note, sir, since February 22 many things have changed for me and my family. That was the day, after a long illness, that my wife Sally passed away in the evening. I had just returned from a trip to take two dozen of our teenagers to the National Center--a trip made at her urging. She had been in the hospital for a month and insisted that I go to this event with our kids. (I guess that I can say, "Federation to the end.") We in leadership have all said publicly that we are a Federation family, and our detractors say, "Sure you are. That's a lot of rhetoric." I am here to tell you that is not rhetoric.

After February 22 my children and I didn't realize how big our family was. Calls and telegrams and condolences and words and hugs and you name it came from all over this country to me and my family. It just puts the lie to anyone who says that we are not a family. We are a philosophy; we are a civil rights movement, yes sir. But the reason we can sustain this is that we are a family.[applause] So, Dr. Maurer and fellow delegates and fellow Federationists, on behalf of myself and Linda (Sally's sister who is here with me today) and Sally's other sister and my children Brad and Christine, who are at home, I want to thank our family for being our family. God bless America, and God bless the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you, sir.

The opening general session concluded at noon, and the afternoon session began promptly at 2:00 p.m. with Dr. Maurer's presidential report, which appears in full elsewhere in this issue. These reports are always exciting and impressive reviews of what the organized blind have accomplished in the year since the last convention. This report was no exception, but it was only the beginning of a very lively afternoon.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Congressman Dennis Kucinich]

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Democrat representing the tenth district of Ohio, had the unenviable task of following President Maurer. Mr. Kucinich has a 100 percent favorable record of supporting issues that the NFB advocates, so he was welcomed warmly and expressed his continuing support for the legislation we care about.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Left to right: Chris Matthews, Frank Luntz, Marsha Dyer, Barbara Walker, and Marc Maurer]

The next agenda item was a combined presentation by Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball," and Frank Luntz, president of the Luntz Research Companies. Matthews, a Democrat, and Luntz, a Republican, brought the same message. They believe that since September 11 Americans have become more interested in authenticity and getting the job done. They care more about family and freedom, and they are looking for community. Both men urged NFB members to call Congress with our concerns, visit their offices, bring along reporters, present awards when possible--all these things will help us get our message heard and acted upon.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Members of the audience examine the replicas of Whozit passed out to everyone present. Later people discovered that clapping with Whozit in one hand made a very interesting sound.]

The convention then turned our attention to an enigmatic agenda item titled "Whozit." The word had been scattered randomly through the convention agenda, and no one would say what it meant. President Maurer explained that Whozit is our new logo, a vibrant, vigorous symbol to identify the National Federation of the Blind from now on. Dr. Maurer urged that every segment of the NFB now adopt this logo for its own to identify all our activities as part of the whole movement of the organized blind changing what it means to be blind and speaking as the voice of the nation's blind. We will use the month of October as an opportunity to engage in activities that will enable our neighbors to meet the blind in Meet-the-Blind Month. Elsewhere in this issue is the text of the campaign guide for making the most of such opportunities.

Each affiliate and division received a kit of materials to assist with this project. Along with other materials was a brand new video called Meet the Blind in Our Voices. It is a powerful and lively fourteen-minute video suitable for showing to civic organizations, classes, church groups, and other groups during October or any other time. At the close of the video President Maurer can be seen striding along using his white cane. Gradually his image morphs into Whozit, a transformation that underlines the vigor of this logo. As part of this program item, volunteers passed out blocks of firm, resilient foam, gold in color, with a raised representation of Whozit in blue on one side and the entire NFB logo printed in black on the other. The colors in the full-color Whozit, by the way, are gold, blue, red, and purple, with the letters "NFB" in black and the words "National Federation of the Blind" in gray.

The final item of the afternoon was an address by Judge Richard Teitelman titled "A Blind Jurist in the Highest Court in Missouri." Judge Teitelman outlined his struggles with discrimination and told the audience how he works on Missouri's Supreme Court to see that justice is done. He also answered questions from the audience.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marsh Smith and Susan Feazell dance at the Bluegrass Ball.]

When the session recessed, delegates scattered to an evening full of meetings and activities. One of the most popular was the Bluegrass Ball, with music provided by the Ovations Orchestra. The dance floor was filled all evening long. Yet not everyone was there. The Showcase of Talent boasted twenty-three acts and an enthusiastic audience. Barbara Hadnott, vice president of the NFB of Mississippi, conducted a workshop on "Choosing Your Best Attitude," and the Jacobus tenBroek Fund auction also took place that evening. A number of useful and valuable items were put on the auction block. The one most sought after was four bottles of wine from Dr. Jernigan's collection.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kathy Jackson]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carlos Servan]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pam Allen]

The Sunday morning general session began with the annual election. Since both Ramona Walhof and Allen Harris had declined to have their names placed in nomination as officers and Bruce Gardner had resigned from his position on the board, the report of the Nominating Committee was awaited with great interest. The following names were placed in nomination by the Nominating Committee and were elected by acclamation: Marc Maurer (Maryland), president; Joyce Scanlan (Minnesota), first vice president; Peggy Elliott (Iowa), second vice president; Gary Wunder (Missouri), secretary; Charles Brown (Virginia), treasurer; and board members Pam Allen (Louisiana); Steve Benson (Illinois); Sam Gleese (Mississippi); Diane McGeorge (Colorado), Carla McQuillan (Oregon), and Carlos Servan (Nebraska). Cathy Jackson (Kentucky) was elected to complete the Gardner term.

At the close of the election President Maurer made an important announcement. He prefaced it by saying that part of this organization's success has been that we plan for the future. While Dr. Jernigan was still fit and healthy, he stepped aside and supported Dr. Maurer for the position of president. Dr. Maurer went on to point out that he is now fifty-one and expects to be able to serve with vigor for many more years. But we must face the possibility that accident or illness might alter that expectation, and in such a case he wished to tell the convention that his preference for his successor would be Fred Schroeder. They have worked together closely, and he has faith in Dr. Schroeder's ability and commitment to the NFB and all it stands for. Dr. Schroeder is now forty-five, so, if President Maurer does serve until the usual time of retirement, Fred Schroeder would not be a practical candidate to succeed him, but for the next decade or so this would be his choice.

"The Digital Future: A Précis" was the title of the presentation by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Frank Kurt Cylke, director of the program, has been attending our conventions for more than twenty-five years. This year he asked Michael Moodie, Research and Development Officer for the National Library Service, to make the substantive part of the presentation as the senior member of the staff personally involved in guiding the NLS through the transition to the next generation of Talking Books.

Mr. Moodie said that this effort has a foundation and three pillars. The foundation is the digital standard for accessible recorded materials, and this is now established and generally agreed upon. About 5,000 digital books that meet the standard are in the NLS collection today. The goal is to have 20,000 digital books in the collection by 2008, when the transition will officially be made. Book producers are beginning to be required to produce books digitally, and in three years all such books should be digitally recorded.

Plans to develop the machines to play the new generation of NLS books are underway, and design ideas and requirements will soon be handed over to a design firm, which will work with sophisticated users to create and test the machine.

Flash memory will be used, at least at first, as the technology to circulate books. These chips can be used in solid-state cards and machines, which will be far less fragile than CDs and CD players would be. The Internet may eventually be the delivery method of choice, but not for some time since using it is still too slow and expensive and requires too much expertise for ordinary users.

During a brief question period Mr. Moodie assured his listeners that variable speed will be built into the new system and that portable units will undoubtedly be on the market shortly after the changeover. He also said that a panel of users is charged with ensuring that the design of the new playback machines will be intuitive and simple so that older borrowers can use them easily.

Eileen Curran, chairperson of the Braille Authority of North America and director of education for National Braille Press, addressed the convention on "The Unified English Braille Code" (UEBC). She began by evoking our memories of three Federation leaders who, before their deaths, had been staunch supporters of the UEBC. She then reviewed her reasons for believing that adopting this unified code is important. Without doing so, she said, truly literate Braille users will be forced to master the computer Braille code as well as the Nemeth and literary codes. Today back-translating from Braille to print is fairly sophisticated, but the ambiguities in the code still lead to mistakes and confusion when a computer is doing the job. The need for better translation from Braille to print in math and science for school students is very great now that students are being held to the standards of their sighted classmates. With the UEBC such problems would be solved.

The computer and math codes of the Braille Authority of the United Kingdom, which is the other major Braille authority in the English-speaking world, are very different from ours, so Braille readers from those countries coming to the U.S. must learn two new codes if they are to study math, science, or computer science here. She fears that, if we turn away from the UEBC and the BAUK continues to work toward it, the divide between these two groups will widen. She urged her listeners not to put the brakes on UEBC researchers. They need to continue to learn what makes reading Braille faster and easier to teach.

Abraham Nemeth was given an opportunity to respond. He stated that the UEBC does not work for any but the most simplified math, science, or computer uses. For complex materials it is much too bulky. As things are going, BANA is preparing to surrender its responsibility for North American Braille users, the largest Braille-reading population in the world, to the International Council on English Braille, where BANA will have only one vote. Braille should be left to evolve as it has always done.

The next speaker was our own Dr. Norm Gardner, a professor at Utah Valley State College. His title was "Researching Reading Speeds for Braille Grade I and Braille Grade II." He reported on some research he has done comparing Grade I Spanish readers and Grade II English readers. The Grade I readers in his small sample read more characters per minute than Grade II readers do. He hypothesizes that we continue to translate Grade II symbols long after we learn them, just as second-language speakers do with speech in the second language. His data were interesting, but many came away with questions about the study and its methodology.

"Reading by Touch: Trials, Battles, and Discoveries" was the title of a presentation by Dr. Pamela Lorimer, a researcher and author from England. She has written a book by the same title, published by the NFB. She reviewed the history of the evolution of Braille and concluded her remarks by commenting: "I am convinced that the Braille code not only has a history but also a future," a sentiment shared by her audience.

The next convention item was "Report from the American Foundation for the Blind," by Carl Augusto, president of the AFB. He reviewed the warming relations between our two organizations and reported on recent activities of the AFB. He also presented to Dr. Maurer a bottle of French champagne to be opened when the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act is signed into law. Dr. Maurer accepted it with thanks and said that he would wait until they were together to drink it.

The final item on the morning agenda was titled, "Blind Actress Performs on ‘Rugrats.'" It was presented by Dionne Quan, the voice of Kimmy Finster on the popular children's program, "Rugrats." She told her story of struggle to independence as a blind person and blind actor. Her story was punctuated by comments by Kimmy and her other child characters, which delighted her audience. Dionne was a poised young woman, clearly dealing with the issues that face all blind people and doing so in a very unusual environment. Her presentation charmed the audience.

With this presentation the morning session recessed, and delegates scattered to many different activities.

The 2002 Job Opportunities for the Blind Seminar took place that afternoon, as well as a Social Security seminar and a group of workshops for parents and teachers of blind children. In addition to the tours, Federationists could attend receptions and even take in a video-described movie. Committees and divisions scheduled meetings during the evening, and the National Association of Blind Students sponsored its Monte Carlo Night filled with games and fun.

On tour day in 1985 a large contingent of Federationists enjoyed an evening trip on the Belle of Louisville, the paddle wheel steamer docked on the Ohio just outside the Galt House. During that tour a group wrote the words to our popular song: "Let's Go Out to the Airport." This year the paddle wheel tour adventure was entomological rather than musical. The mayflies, which hatch along bodies of water in the Midwest and then live for only twenty-four hours, chose this evening for their mating dance, and millions of them chose the Belle of Louisville, which of course was sailing up the Ohio, as the location for their one evening of life. The result was a memorable experience for those who met the mayflies.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Erik Weihenmayer stands with his arm around the shoulder of Maurice Peret.]

Monday morning we launched into the most crowded agenda of the week at 9:00 a.m. with an exciting address by our own Erik Weihenmayer titled "Six Up and One to Go." Erik recalled some of the high points of his earlier continental summit climbs and reported on his most recent successful effort, Mt. Elbrus in Russia, which he and his team climbed in early June. For a change of pace Erik skied down the top 10,000 feet of the mountain after reaching the summit. The first part of that route was survival skiing, fighting elevation sickness. The final section was through almost perfect deep powder, though in virtually white-out conditions. Erik was obviously stimulated by the adventure, but his description made it sound formidable. We were proud to have been a sponsor of this climb and of the Everest expedition a year ago.

Jim Sanders, president and CEO of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, spoke on "The Blind of Canada Seeking Equality." He reviewed the founding and evolution of the CNIB and described current efforts to ensure equality for blind Canadians.

"The Right to Cast a Secret Ballot: Accessible Technology for Everybody, Including the Blind" was the next topic considered by the convention. Three presenters contributed to the discussion: Linda Lamone, state administrator, State Board of Elections for Maryland; Walden O'Dell, chairman of the board, president, and chief executive officer of Diebold, Inc.; and Robert Ney, chairman of the Committee on House Administration, United States House of Representatives. Ms. Lamone reported that in Maryland 40 percent of the electorate will be able to use accessible voting machines this fall. She urged us all to pass the NFB model technology legislation in our own states because officials are unlikely to make accessible voting a priority until they are forced to. She also urged us to work on encouraging Congress to pass federal legislation to help states pay for accessible systems.

Mr. O'Dell spoke with great energy about Diebold's efforts to create technology enabling everyone to perform those functions independently. He urged us to advocate for every voting machine purchased in the future to be accessible. Diebold technology has become more useful to blind people precisely because of the partnership established between the company and the NFB.

Congressman Ney thanked the NFB for its support from the beginning for nonvisual access to voting machines. He reviewed the history of the effort to pass the legislation that will protect this right and pledged his commitment to seeing that blind Americans achieve the secret ballot as quickly as possible.

"Accessible Web Applications and the Implications for the Years Ahead" was the title of an exciting presentation by David Greco, CEO of SSB Technologies. He explained that his company is dedicated to making the Internet a comfortable place for everyone to live. Its founders have developed a program called InFocus, which enables a Webmaster to determine how accessible a Web site is to all sorts of users with unusual physical or learning requirements. SSB Technologies and its competitors can determine whether a Web site complies with existing legal requirements, but they cannot assess whether blind people will actually find it functional.

He therefore announced the establishment of the NFB's Nonvisual Web Accessibility Certification, which will assess Web sites for actual usability and then provide a seal certifying that the site is usable. Brochures about the program are available from Allison Joyce at the National Center for the Blind.

Jim Fruchterman, president and CEO of Benetech, reported to the audience on "BookShare: The Project for Creating Accessible Books Through Computers." This is one of the most exciting new advances for blind people using the Internet, and it harnesses the skills of everyone who scans books for personal use or use by blind people close to them. The copyright laws now allow us to share these texts through the Web as long as we promise not to pass the downloaded texts along to those who do not qualify to use alternate-format books. These texts are not flawless, and they do not have charts and graphs, but, if someone else has already scanned the book, it is certainly a blessing not to have to scan it for personal use. Ten thousand books are already on the Web site. Applying for service is easy to do. Just go to <www.bookshare.org> and sign up.

The final item of the morning was a report from Allen Harris, director of the Iowa Department for the Blind titled, "Kindling the Dream of Independence for the Blind in Iowa." He reviewed the history of the program in Iowa from the point when Dr. Jernigan was appointed. Then he explained the way he was hired. The demands and pressures on state services for the blind are growing across the country, but the Iowa program remains true to the conviction that excellent training and equal opportunity must be founded on healthy attitudes about blindness if blind people are to move forward.

The afternoon session opened with remarks titled "Speechio, a Revolutionary Reading System for the Blind," by Satoshi Mizoguchi, inventor of Speechio, and Kazunori Notoya of Kosaido Company, manufacturer of Speechio. They described this system, which can place almost a full page of printed material in an array of tiny dots about the size of a postage stamp. When a page containing such a code is placed in a special reader, a blind person can access it easily. This system has been used with some success in Japan and may have a promising future in the United States.

"Research and Future Opportunities for the Blind" was the title of an address by Dr. Fredric Schroeder, executive director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University and research professor at San Diego State University. The text of this address appears elsewhere in this issue.

Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, NFB director of special programs, made the next presentation: "Research on Blindness: By the Blind for the Blind." She looked ahead over the next several decades and speculated on the kinds of research that we may engage in at the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind.

Bob Root, partner, ORION Learning International, Inc., drew on his knowledge of scientific research and the methods used by inventors to make educated guesses about what will be possible in the blindness field in the next few years. His title was "Imagination Makes the Future."

"The Future of Rehabilitation: Building Partnerships with Consumer Organizations" was the title of remarks by Dr. Joanne Wilson, commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. The text of her speech appears elsewhere in this issue.

We next heard a stirring address by Kevan Worley, president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, on the subject, "The Randolph-Sheppard Program: Offering Employment Opportunity for the Blind." Without ignoring the problems that beset the Randolph-Sheppard Program, Mr. Worley argued that the future is bright for those who choose this employment opportunity and are prepared to work hard and participate actively in the National Federation of the Blind.

David Chu, undersecretary for personnel and readiness of the United States Department of Defense, then spoke about "Employment for the Blind: Working at the Department of Defense." He reported that the Department hopes to increase the number of its disabled employees from 1 percent to 2 percent of its work force. Its program for getting access technology and other accommodations to disabled workers is among the best in the nation, and following the passage of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Department of Defense is working hard to see that its Web sites and other sorts of technology are readily usable by disabled employees and their disabled family members who need to use them.

The final presentation of the afternoon was a complete surprise to many of us. United States Secretary of Education Rod Paige made an appearance and spoke about the Bush administration's commitment to "leave no child behind," including blind children. He spoke warmly of RSA commissioner Joanne Wilson and assured the group of his department's commitment to helping disabled adults get back to work.

Monday evening thousands of Federationists made their way through a sea of tables to find their seats at the annual banquet of the National Federation of the Blind. Fred Schroeder was the master of ceremonies. The festivities began with door prizes, division drawings, and some group singing led by the Sligo Creek Digital Communications Consortium, whose members were Debbie Brown, Lloyd Rasmussen, and Tom Bickford. On behalf of the International Braille Research Center, Harold Snyder then presented its Louis Braille Medal to Dr. Pamela Lorimer; and Nadine Jacobson, president of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille, presented the division's Golden Keys Award to Debra Bonde, founder of Seedlings Braille Books. These two ceremonies appear in full elsewhere in this issue.

The high point of the evening was, as always, President Maurer's banquet address. It was titled "Leadership and the Matrix of Power." The entire text of this stirring address appears elsewhere in this issue.

Dr. Ray Kurzweil, called by one convention speaker a "serial venture capitalist" but known to us as a dear friend and the inventor of the first effective reading machine, addressed the banquet audience briefly following Dr. Maurer's speech. His theme was the critical importance of our new Research and Training Institute at this point in history.

Peggy Elliott next presented the thirty scholarships, and Anil Lewis, the winner of the $10,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship, addressed the convention briefly. See the report later in this issue.

Nearing the close of the festivities, Allen Harris presented the Newel Perry Award to Dr. Daniel Reneau, president of Louisiana Tech University. Then Dr. Maurer presented the Jacobus tenBroek Award to Sharon and Al Maneki of Maryland. Both presentations appear in full elsewhere in this issue.

The closing item of the banquet agenda was the presentation of a prize of $1,792, which everyone will recognize as the date that Kentucky became a state. With that the audience adjourned to the after-banquet party, though perhaps the most sensible folks retired to bed in preparation for the Tuesday business session, which as always began on time.

The morning session was devoted to various financial and fundraising reports and the honor roll call of affiliate and division gifts and pledges to several funds of importance to the organization. Jim Gashel and Jim McCarthy of the NFB Governmental Affairs Department then gave their annual report of pending legislation and needed action in the coming months.

The session concluded with Sandy Halverson singing a takeoff on the song, "My Favorite Things," from the musical, The Sound of Music. The words had been rewritten for senior citizens, and the National Organization of Blind Seniors has now added a third verse devoted to vision loss:

Cake mixes, canned goods, those things in the freezer,

Bottles, containers, and mystery cleaners,

Then there's that junk mail and bills I must pay.

Since I can't see, I won't do that today.

I went to the doctor who said I am blind.

"Be glad it's your eyes and you didn't lose your mind!"

Now I am learning all kinds of new things.

This is the joy independence will bring!

Taking buses, using readers, I am very glad,

The NFB gave respect and dignity,

And now I don't feel so bad.

Debating and voting on resolutions took the entire afternoon session, but by the time of adjournment the crowd was still capable of a final enthusiastic Federation cheer, which brought the 2002 convention to its triumphant close.

The coming year will bring much challenge: the first Meet-the-Blind Month, our continued effort to fund and build the Research and Training Institute, important legislation to pass, lawsuits to win, and individual blind people to rescue from despair: these things will require boundless energy and dedication. We left Louisville grateful for the laughter and fellowship, the inspiration and information we had received, and ready once again to take up our task of changing what it means to be blind.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Marc Maurer delivers the 2002 presidential report.]

PRESIDENTIAL REPORT 2002

National Federation of the Blind

July 6, 2002

by Marc Maurer

During the year since our last convention, the growth of the National Federation of the Blind has continued at an accelerating pace. We have established new programs and begun the process of outlining new directions for our organization. Despite our plans for broadening our field of endeavor, we remain what we have always been--the blind organized for collective action. The organized blind movement takes its spirit and its fundamental faith in the ability of the blind from the experiences of tens of thousands of our blind members.

Those willing to work, those with the capacity to believe in the innate ability of the blind, those committed to share one another's burdens--these are the members of the National Federation of the Blind--blind students, blind sheltered shop workers, parents of blind children and the children themselves, blind people who have not yet received the training they need, blind people who are seeking employment, blind professionals in the field of work with the blind, blind lawyers, blind teachers, blind factory workers, blind people employed with the government and in the private sector, and the sighted family members and friends of the blind. We are the blind, determined to build opportunity for ourselves and those who come after us.

In 1999 we initiated a capital campaign to secure funding for the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind, a new building to be constructed at the National Center for the Blind. Braille literacy for blind students and adults is weak, and the unemployment rate for working-age blind people remains at 74 percent.

The most effective programming for the blind has been organized, conducted, and led by the organized blind movement. We are justifiably proud of the accomplishments we have made, but we are far from finished. In our new research and training institute we intend to explore methods of training that integrate the techniques used in the best orientation centers with the expanding technologies that are being developed. Furthermore, if the technologies have not yet been created and the training methods have not yet been discovered, we will do the work ourselves.

When I came to the convention in 1999, I said that the cost of the capital campaign would be eighteen million dollars. This is an extraordinary number. I said that we would find a way to raise the money, but I was aware that many people doubted, and sometimes I wondered myself how we would manage it. My current best estimate of the cost for the capital campaign is nineteen and a half million dollars. This is even higher than the astonishing price I stated in 1999. Although this is an increase from earlier, we want our institute to have in it all that is necessary for the best research and the best training programs that can be devised. We could cut back on our ambitious plans, but this is not advisable. For example, we are running the most up-to-date computer cable to every single office and conference room in the new facility, many miles of it. We are building the infrastructure for communication throughout the building and throughout the world by computer, by telephone, and by the next generation of communication devices. We do not yet know what these devices will be, but we will have the cable for them, the air conditioners to cool them, the electricity to run them, and whatever else we need to operate them.

Eighteen million dollars is an ambitious number. Nineteen and a half million is more ambitious still. We have not completed the capital campaign, but we have done well. At the time of this convention we have raised in pledges, in actual gifts, and in promises $18,675,432.14. This means that we have less than $900,000 left to go, which is less than 5 percent of the total. Consider what I have said. Nine hundred thousand dollars is not an insignificant amount of money, but compared with what we have already raised, it is only a fraction of the total. This shows the commitment of our organization. This demonstrates that we can and will determine our own future. This illustrates the strength of the National Federation of the Blind.

On October 19, 2001, we broke ground for the new institute. Several hundred Federationists attended the ceremony, and I took a shovel in my hand along with approximately fifty Federation leaders, public officials, and company executives to commence the excavation. My shovel struck an object in the ground, and I invited members of Congress to help me dig. We uncovered a model of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind. When we had hoisted it to the platform we were using for the ceremony, we discovered that it contained artifacts from the future as we imagine it to be--documents from the training programs we intend to create, machines to provide access to information, devices to assist the blind in travel, and scholarly papers describing the innate normality and capacity of the blind.

Later that evening several hundred of us gathered for a gala celebration. In addition to members of the Federation, public officials, and business executives, we were joined by members of the Baltimore Ravens football team. Blind people today do not play football effectively, but with new research and innovative training techniques, who can tell?

Since the groundbreaking, progress has been steady in the construction of our new building. The structure consists of five levels: one below ground, one at ground level, and three more above ground level. The bottom two floors are for parking. The three floors above ground level are for office space, classrooms, a research library, computer laboratories, incubator space, an auditorium, and other meeting rooms. The required excavation has been completed; we removed 2,030 cubic yards of concrete, 1,200,000 pounds of brick and other miscellaneous material, and 15,654 cubic yards of soil requiring 1,505 trucks for its removal. We have poured the foundations, laid concrete on the below-ground level, and installed support columns and concrete for half of the ground level and half of the story above the ground level. To do this we have installed 200 tons of reinforcement steel and poured 2,140 yards of concrete weighing 4,280 tons.

The completion date for the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind is estimated to be not later than the fall of 2003. By the time we come to the convention in 2004, the structure will be completed, furniture will be in place, equipment will be installed, and we will be developing the programs for this new facility. Already we have created a policy advisory board to assist in developing imaginative programming and the organizational structure for the institute. Ideas are being contemplated, and communication is occurring with universities to initiate partnerships for training classes and research efforts. The difference between our research institute and those established by others is that the blind will be involved at all levels and that the experience of blind people will be part of the research and training. We confidently expect that this participation by the blind will produce positive results.

In 1958 Dr. Kenneth Jernigan became director of the Iowa Commission for the Blind. At the time he became director, programming for the blind in Iowa was estimated to be the poorest in the nation. Within a short time he established in Iowa an Orientation and Adjustment Center for the Blind based upon principles established within the National Federation of the Blind. That center soon became regarded as the best in the world, and it has served as a model for many others, including the Louisiana Center for the Blind, the Colorado Center for the Blind, and our orientation center in Minnesota, Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions.

Dr. Jernigan ceased his directorship of the Iowa Commission for the Blind in 1978. When the inspiration and leadership of the National Federation of the Blind were no longer a part of the orientation center in Iowa, it ceased to have the effectiveness it had previously possessed.

At the end of last summer Allen Harris, the treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind, who had been serving as second in command at the New York Commission for the Blind, became director of the agency for the blind in Iowa. For more than two decades, the emphasis in work with the blind in Iowa had been less than cutting edge, focusing more on what the administrators were against than on what they were trying to accomplish. This has now been altered. More than two decades of decline will not be reversed in a day, a month, or a year; but it will be reversed. With high hopes and hard work dreams of a productive future can be made real. In Iowa we have returned to the hard work and the high hopes.

At our convention last year we heard from Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person ever to climb Mount Everest. Following the convention, we invited members of Congress to participate in a congressional reception recognizing this outstanding accomplishment and featuring along with it other efforts of the National Federation of the Blind including our plan to establish a research and training institute. Many Senators and Congressmen attended the reception and learned about our work.

Later that day a number of us were invited to the White House to visit with President Bush. Erik Weihenmayer, members of the Everest climbing team, my wife Patricia, and I spent half an hour in the Oval Office talking with the president about his hopes for America and the work of the National Federation of the Blind. Although the exploits achieved by the National Federation of the Blind Everest Expedition had originally attracted the president's attention, the focus of the conversation was on the spirit of the American people and the reality that the blind too share that spirit and want to make our contributions to our country. The president was personable, warm, and friendly; he made it plain that he cared about us. He cared especially about the spirit we represent--the spirit of the National Federation of the Blind.

For more than twenty years we have been working jointly with the United States Department of Labor to assist blind people in getting jobs. Part of the problem consists in getting timely information about the jobs that are available. To address this problem, we have created America's Jobline®, a telephone service which provides access to all of the job listings on America's Job Bank. Although this system was devised to meet the needs of the blind, it soon became evident that it was equally usable by sighted job applicants.

Last summer shortly after our 2001 convention, I was invited to give an address at the largest gathering of officials from state and federal programs regarding employment, the Joint Employment Training and Technology Conference (JETTCON). The segment of the program in which I appeared included three speakers: Doug Becker, the president of Sylvan Learning Systems, a five billion dollar company; Elaine Chao, secretary of the United States Department of Labor; and the president of the National Federation of the Blind. When I had concluded my portion of the program, Doug Becker remarked to the assembled audience that he thought my presentation was of such a nature that it put him at a disadvantage--he had clearly not expected it to be of the quality we have come to expect in the National Federation of the Blind.

This year we are expanding the America's Jobline® service. Not only does it provide access to several hundred thousand job listings, but it also permits users to apply directly for employment while on the phone, filling out job applications using the touch-tone telephone. Once again our expansion of Jobline® is supported by the United States Department of Labor. This upgraded system will significantly increase the ability of job applicants to apply for work. This is one more example of the imagination and the technical expertise of the National Federation of the Blind.

On March 1, 2002, we started the brand new NFB-NEWSLINE® service, a much upgraded and re-engineered version of NEWSLINE. Through NFB-NEWSLINE® we now provide fifty-three daily newspapers to blind people in the fifty United States, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico via touch-tone telephone. In the first four months of operation we have furnished eligible readers with approximately five million minutes of newspaper reading, making this one of the most popular and beneficial services now available to blind people anywhere in the world. Readership has increased by 40 percent within one year. Further developments are under consideration, but they can occur only if we all work together to secure the long-range support needed. Nothing like this has ever before been done, and it was accomplished by the imagination and the effort of the National Federation of the Blind.

A long-time leader of the National Federation of the Blind is Joanne Wilson. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors, as president of our Louisiana affiliate, and as the founder and first director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

Joanne Wilson's leadership and effectiveness have been recognized by the Bush administration. She was appointed by the president to serve as the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

On April 15, 2002, Joanne Wilson received further recognition of her outstanding contributions to America. She was awarded a doctorate of Humane Letters honoris causa by Menlo College in California. In conjunction with the degree ceremony, the university conducted a symposium on the blind civil rights movement. Professors from the college, leaders from the National Federation of the Blind, and a vice president from the Microsoft Corporation participated in the symposium. Giving the keynote address at the gathering was our own Joanne Wilson.

Development and promotion of technology that provides equal access to information for the blind is a high priority of the Federation. In 1990 we established the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind, which is now incorporated in the Federation's technology department. Our commitment is that we will have in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at least one of every device or computer program that provides information to the blind in Braille, in refreshable Braille, or in speech. During the past year we have acquired in this center seventeen electronic Braille notetakers, five different talking voting machines, seven distinct refreshable Braille displays, two devices for reading labels on medicine bottles, eight Pentium-class computers, one talking graphing calculator program, two separate communication systems for the deaf-blind, two machines for producing tactile drawings on Swell paper, ten different computer games configured so that they can be played by the blind and the sighted at the same time, two high-speed Braille embossers, two devices for displaying dynamic tactile images in real time, and two talking computer systems designed and configured specifically for use by the blind.

In addition we have been continuing our work to promote nonvisual access. We have reviewed the Medicare System Web site to determine its accessibility to blind computer users. We have also provided feedback to Hewlett Packard regarding the accessibility of an unusual approach it is taking to permit blind computer users to interact with their printers.

We have continued to work with both Microsoft and America Online (AOL) to assist in developing nonvisual access to their products. At times progress seems incredibly slow, but still it exists. Although accessibility to Windows XP, the new operating system from Microsoft, is not all that we could have wished, it has many accessibility features built into it, and more are being developed.

Last fall AOL released its version 7.0 along with configuration files designed to improve performance with screen-access software. AOL is more accessible to the blind than it has been in the past, and we are encouraged by the strong commitment of the company to solve access problems.

At this convention we are initiating a new program to stimulate development of accessible Web material. One of the first companies to focus on a systematic approach to establishing nonvisual access to information on the Web is SSB Technologies. This company recognizes that the end users of the products, the blind themselves, are best able to judge when accessibility has been achieved. They have asked that the National Federation of the Blind be prepared to offer our opinion about accessibility; they ask that we certify sites as accessible when this has been achieved. The president of SSB Technologies will be appearing on the program later during the convention.

We have continued to maintain and upgrade our Web site. With almost four thousand pages of information available and with a range of topic material as broad as the aspirations of the blind, our Web site is the richest source of information about blindness that exists on the Internet. Within the last year we have received almost nine hundred thousand visits to our Web site from people within the United States and from 124 other countries. As valuable as this resource is, it must be expanded, and we are determined that it will be.

The National Federation of the Blind continues its participation in the World Blind Union, the world organization composed of agencies for the blind and organizations of the blind. Mrs. Mary Ellen Jernigan and I are the delegates from the Federation to the world organization, and I am a member of the constitution committee. Representing the Federation and our region of the world, we traveled to Denmark to participate in meetings concerning the constitution. The World Blind Union has never developed a set of philosophical understandings which give it clear direction. However, it does provide a forum for interaction among representatives from different parts of the world, and it brings blind people together to talk about what we can jointly do to improve conditions for the blind. Consequently, it is important that we continue to participate in it.

This spring I traveled with a number of other members of the National Federation of the Blind to Japan to examine programs dealing with blindness there, to interact with corporations devising new technology for the blind, and to talk with business leaders and government officials about the work of the National Federation of the Blind. I was introduced to a number of members of the Japanese Diet, the legislature of Japan, and I was asked to present a lecture to a gathering of several hundred business leaders, representatives from the press, members of the Japanese Diet, and executives from agencies and organizations dealing with the blind. Our hosts indicated that participation in the conference was by invitation only and that they felt cooperation with us in the United States would be of considerable benefit.

One product they showed us is the Speechio, a reading machine that verbalizes text which has been printed in a two-dimensional array of tiny dots. The inventor of this device and one of the senior managers from the company that manufactures and distributes it will be on the program later during the convention. We have not finalized our arrangements, but we believe that the spirit of the Federation in the United States will join in partnership with the technical inventiveness of Japan to bring greater opportunity to the blind.

The Federation has fought to ensure that textbooks are provided to blind students at the same time that they become available to others. At a press conference on Capitol Hill which took place on April 24, 2002, we appeared along with Senator Dodd and Congressman Petri to announce the introduction of the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act. This legislation, which is now moving through Congress, will require the school districts and publishers to make textbooks available to blind students at the same time that they are distributed to the sighted. The legislation was developed in cooperation with the Association of American Publishers, the entity representing the businesses that print the textbooks. On Friday, June 28, 2002, only a few days ago, a hearing on this bill occurred in the Senate at which I testified. We will work to ensure that this bill becomes law. At long last blind students in school will receive their books not weeks or months late but right on time and in a form they can read.

New voting machine technology makes it possible for blind people to cast a secret ballot without assistance from the sighted. We have been seeking the inclusion of nonvisual access technology provisions in election reform legislation being considered by Congress. Provisions to assure nonvisual access to voting are prominently included in the major reform bills passed by the House and the Senate. This legislation is expected to be signed into law by the president before Congress adjourns this fall. The ballot is a fundamental element of democracy, and we have determined that the blind will participate as fully as anybody else. This is one more reason for the National Federation of the Blind.

We have continued to assist blind people to protect their rights through the courts. Last year I spoke of Janet Mushington, who was in the midst of a discrimination suit with the Baltimore City Schools. She had been offered a teaching position by school district personnel until they learned that she travels with a guide dog. They told her that she could come to school to teach but that the dog could not come because its presence would violate the school's no-animals-allowed policy. Such a declaration is a violation of the law. However, school district personnel seemed completely unaware that nondiscrimination legislation regarding blindness exists. When Janet Mushington protested, they failed to change their ruling. We assisted with a complaint, and we were prepared to take the matter to court.

However, with the prospect of standing before the judge, school district officials had a change of heart. The school district has agreed to post notices in every school indicating that blind teachers have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Those doing the hiring must undergo training concerning the rights of people with disabilities in employment. Officials are required to designate a coordinator of disability issues in the schools, and they must pay Janet Mushington $55,000.

Arland Stratton is a blind vendor living in Illinois. The Illinois Business Enterprise Program revoked his license to operate a vending facility and forced him out of the interstate highway location to which he had been assigned. These actions were taken in clear violation of the Randolph-Sheppard Act. The National Federation of the Blind and our merchants division, the National Association of Blind Merchants, represented him at a hearing, but he has been out of work for weeks with no income to support himself, his child, or his wife, who will soon be having a baby. Arland Stratton has a right to the protections guaranteed to blind vendors in the Randolph-Sheppard Act and guaranteed to U.S. citizens in the Constitution of the United States, and we will be with him to ensure that his rights are respected. We will be with him until his license is reinstated. We will be with him until he returns to the vending facility from which he was summarily dismissed. We will be with him until he recovers what the law prescribes.

April Davis is a bright blind woman who graduated this spring from Northwestern University. She wants to be a lawyer, but before beginning law school, she believes that she needs training in the skills of blindness. She wants to receive this training from the Louisiana Center for the Blind, but the Illinois Office of Rehabilitation Services refused to provide the necessary funding; they wanted her to stay in Illinois. With the assistance of Jim McCarthy, assistant director of governmental affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, April Davis requested a fair hearing. The amendment to the Rehabilitation Act granting clients the right to make a free and informed choice of rehabilitation services is a part of the law because the National Federation of the Blind worked to make it a part of the law, and we intend to see that it is recognized. Before the scheduled hearing could occur, Illinois rehabilitation officials recognized our determination and changed their minds. As a result April Davis is a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and she is here in Louisville attending her first convention.

In the 2000 Presidential Report I indicated that Norwegian Cruise Lines had been discriminating against the blind. It required blind travelers to waive the right to claim damages in case of injury, demanded a note from a doctor stating that blind passengers are fit to travel, directed blind passengers to purchase liability insurance to cover the allegedly greater risk involved in travel for the blind, and insisted that blind passengers permit nondisabled people to travel with them in their cabins. Robert and Joy Stigile, two newly married blind people, had applied to Norwegian Cruise Lines for their honeymoon trip. Imagine their reaction to the requirement that a sighted person be designated to share their cabin on the cruise.

The Stigiles were not alone in the discrimination they faced. Steve Gomes had also sought passage on one of Norwegian's ships but had been sent home because of his blindness. Norwegian officials said that it would be too dangerous for a blind person to travel alone on shipboard.

We assisted with a discrimination case, which has now come to a conclusion. A court decree filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida declares that Norwegian Cruise Lines is ordered to treat blind passengers in the same manner that it treats sighted passengers; it is required to have its personnel undergo training about blindness and disability; and it must pay a civil penalty of $22,500 to the government and compensation to Robert and Joy Stigile and Steve Gomes of $42,500. This is one more reason to be a part of the National Federation of the Blind.

When Fred Schroeder, former commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, learned that a position to direct the Hadley School for the Blind was available, he applied. Despite his extraordinary credentials, he was not even offered an interview. Dr. Schroeder filed suit alleging that he had been the victim of discrimination on the basis of his blindness. Without admitting any wrongdoing, the Hadley School for the Blind agreed to make a donation to the National Federation of the Blind National Organization of Parents of Blind Children in exchange for dismissal of the suit. The amount of the contribution is $20,000.

The State of Arkansas put in a brand new statewide computer system to be used by all state employees. The contractor selling the system, SAP, ignored its legal requirement to make the system accessible, and the State of Arkansas did not protest. On behalf of Donna Hartzell and Larry Wayland, both blind employees of Arkansas state government, we filed a complaint against the State of Arkansas. After some preliminary skirmishing, the State of Arkansas sued SAP and is withholding payment. Whether it was the money they didn't get or the lawsuit papers they did, SAP is now interested in accessibility, and we intend to help them get more interested.

Some time ago Robert Vick, a blind vendor living in New Mexico, sought, with the help of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind, to become the operator of food service programs at Kirtland Air Force Base. Last year we persuaded the air force to recognize the priority of blind vendors on federal property, but NISH, formerly National Industries for the Severely Handicapped, filed suit against the air force. Their purpose was to prevent any vendor (in this case Robert Vick) from operating food service at Kirtland Air Force Base. We intervened on behalf of Robert Vick and the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. On January 30, 2002, the Federal District Court agreed with us in the case of NISH v. Rumsfeld that the Randolph-Sheppard priority applies to the contract to operate the cafeteria at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Robert Vick began operating the cafeteria on February 1, 2002. NISH has appealed the New Mexico trial court's decision, but we anticipate winning in the tenth circuit later this year.

Mary Blanch is a blind grandmother in Dothan, Alabama, who had been given custody of her grandsons. One day, while she was preparing their lunch and they were out at the swing set in the yard, they decided to go to the store a mile away. By the time they were found, Alabama Family Services had been notified. Family Services decided that Mary Blanch was not fit to have custody of her own grandchildren because of her blindness. A local judge agreed, saying that he did not even need to hear evidence, because after all "Ms. Blanch is blind." The National Federation of the Blind responded to Mary Blanch's call for help. When the next hearing date came, there were blind parents from Alabama, Baltimore, and Georgia in the courtroom to testify. The judge got an education, and he told Family Services it should never have put the children in foster care. Mary Blanch has her grandchildren once more. The family has been reunited because of the efforts of blind parents in the National Federation of the Blind.

We have continued to gain recognition for the work that we do and the philosophy we espouse. Last year we created the Braille Is Beautiful program to provide sighted students and teachers with an understanding of the communication method used by the blind and a comprehension of blindness itself. The National Education Association published a story this spring in its news magazine circulated to hundreds of thousands of people about the effectiveness and importance of Braille Is Beautiful. The Girl Scouts of America adopted a Braille project after reviewing Braille Is Beautiful and with our assistance distributed slates and styluses and information about the Braille Is Beautiful program and the National Federation of the Blind to two thousand scouts across the United States.

An academic conference of educators was held at the National Center for the Blind last December, planned and led by Dr. Ron Ferguson, whose work has made him one of the foremost educators dealing with blindness in the United States. The University of North Dakota has adopted our book, Handbook for Itinerant and Resource Teachers of Blind and Visually Impaired Students, by Doris Willoughby and Sharon Duffy, as required course material for one of its classes.

A record number of visitors have come to the National Center for the Blind in the past year, more than 2,600 of them from the United States and fourteen other countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Ecuador, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Togo, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Vietnam.

We continue to operate the Aids, Appliances, and Materials Center, distributing in the neighborhood of two million devices and pieces of literature to the blind of the United States and twenty-three foreign countries. In the Materials Center we handle sixty calls a day and fill over 600 orders a month.

We continue to conduct training seminars at our National Center for the Blind. The Braille and Nonvisual Access Technology Training Workshops provide information to rehabilitation professionals and teachers of the blind to assist their students and clients. Then there have been the leadership seminars for Montana, Illinois, Arkansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York. In addition to these, there have been many other meetings, classes, and seminars at our National Center.

Remodeling at the National Center continues. This year we have replaced the windows on the third floor, removed walls, ceilings, and fixtures left by former occupants, and installed a heat and air conditioning system. When we moved to the National Center for the Blind, we did not know what we would do with all of the space. However, most of the building is now fully occupied, and we are contemplating developing programs to use the remainder.

Building the National Federation of the Blind is of prime importance. Without the strong supporting network of the Federation, individual blind people will often be without a mechanism for participation. With this in mind we are putting in place the NFB Corps, an ongoing program designed to send blind people into local communities to help build and strengthen local chapters and affiliates. The first effort of NFB Corps began at the end of May. A stalwart group of seven Federationists has been at it now for more than a month. Not everything we attempt will be successful, but we will continue with efforts to expand the program, and we will refine our techniques. We have asked for a commitment of time of not less than a month, but we need people who can work for much longer--at least a year and maybe two. Our plan is to recruit those who can stay with the program and who can help to build our organization from within.

The most rapidly growing segment of the blind population is the group of senior citizens. Rehabilitation programs are designed for those of working age. The elderly are often unable to receive rehabilitation or adjustment to blindness services because they don't have a vocational goal. We have conducted seminars for blind senior citizens, and we are planning to expand this program to operate throughout the United States. What do senior citizens need? They need what the rest of us need--the knowledge that blind people of any age can compete, information about the techniques for doing things without sight, a support system to encourage them in gaining opportunity to use their God-given talents, and access to the tools that will help bring effectiveness to their lives. This is what we will offer in the Senior Enrichment Program of the National Federation of the Blind.

We have continued to distribute the Braille Monitor, the largest-circulation general information magazine about blindness in the nation; Future Reflections, the magazine for parents and educators of blind children; and Voice of the Diabetic, our magazine addressing the problems of blindness and diabetes. With a circulation of over three hundred thousand per quarter, Voice of the Diabetic is probably the most widely distributed periodical dealing with blindness.

Since our last convention we have published two new Kernel Books--Safari, which was released last fall, and Summit, which is being issued at this convention. With four and a half million of these books now in circulation, we are reaching an ever increasing group of staunch supporters of the programs of the Federation. These small volumes explain in detail what blindness is from the firsthand experiences of blind people themselves. But of equal importance, they tell of the hope and faith that we have in ourselves and in our blind brothers and sisters.

We have continued to support Braille literacy for blind students and adults. We published The Slate Book, by Jennifer Dunnam, to encourage learning to write Braille with a slate, and we produce more Braille than anybody else in the United States except the Library of Congress. We have continued the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, and we offer assistance in distributing Braille books to school-age children without charge.

As I have worked with you (the members of the National Federation of the Blind) during the past year, I have felt much satisfaction in the accomplishments we have been able to achieve. Along with you I have felt frustration when we have discovered roadblocks and impediments to our progress. Nevertheless, despite the roadblocks and the impediments, I come to this convention with boundless hope and enthusiasm. I have come to know the hearts of members of the Federation, and from this knowledge I can feel nothing but optimism.

We have pledged ourselves to a cause--one that is worth our energy and commitment--one that inspires and challenges. In the Federation we have a bond of caring and commitment from me to you and from you to me. Much of what we do is not simple or easy--some of it is hard. Furthermore, the challenges that face us often demand more than we thought we had to give--more than we thought we could do. But we always find the resources, the imagination, and the self-belief. We never give up.

As I think about the year just past and as I contemplate the future, I know that what we have done is only the beginning. When we face the challenges that will come, we must stand together; we must be indivisible; we must remain unshakable. For my part, I will not hesitate to act when I believe it is necessary. I will stand in the front lines, and I will take whatever comes. I will not waffle or attempt to avoid the difficult choices. And I will never lose my faith in what we can do and in what we are.

You must also do your part. You must be prepared to support me and each other. You must stand with me in the battle line, you must maintain your faith, and you must care for me and for your fellow Federationists as I must care for you.

I have been president of this organization for sixteen years. It has been among the most challenging and joyful assignments any human being could be offered. I am prepared to continue to serve as long as you want me to do so, and I will not permit anything to prevent me from giving to the task all of the energy and imagination and dedication I possess. This is my obligation; this is my pledge; this is my report.

Life Insurance

Life insurance constitutes a very special gift to the National Federation of the Blind. A relatively easy and direct form of planned giving is a new life insurance policy. You can make the NFB the beneficiary and owner of a life insurance policy and receive a tax deduction on the premium you pay.

For example, at age fifty you purchase a $10,000 whole life insurance policy on yourself and designate the NFB as beneficiary and owner of the policy. The premium cost to you is fully tax-deductible each year. You may even decide to pay for the entire policy over a specific period of time, perhaps ten years. This increases your tax deduction each year over the ten-year period and fully pays up your policy.

You may, however, already have a life insurance policy in existence and wish to contribute it to the NFB. By changing the beneficiary and owner to the National Federation of the Blind, you can receive tax savings, depending on the cash value of the policy. Your attorney, insurance agent, or the National Federation of the Blind will be able to assist you if you decide to include the NFB in your planned-giving program through life insurance. For more information 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: The Scholarship Class of 2002: (left to right) back row: Ben Pool, Moira Egan, Mazen Abou‑Antoun, Jessica Bachicha, Tony Olivero, Jennifer Peterson, James Konechne, Emily Wharton, Sheila Koenig, and Robin House; middle row: Anil Lewis, Alex Gray, Nicolas Crisosto, Michael Jones, Josie Armantrout, David Tseng, Andrea Travis, Ashley Skellenger, Lynn Heitz, and Jesse Hartle; front row: Raquel Silva, Rick Brown, Therese McCabe, Philip So, Denna Lambert, Deja Powell, Mary Jo Thorpe, Ryan Strunk, Cindee Wobbles, and Jay Williams.

The 2002 Scholarship Class

of the National Federation of the Blind

From the Editor: With every passing year we recognize the increasing value of the NFB Scholarship Program to our national organization. Members of previous scholarship classes--ninety-five past winners last year--stream back to take part in convention activities and assume responsibility, doing anything that they can see needs to be done. Everyone looks forward to meeting the new scholarship class and to hearing what its members are doing and planning to do with their lives.

On banquet evening, while we are still sky-high after listening to President Maurer's address, Peggy Elliott comes to the podium, presents the year's winners, giving an academic and personal sketch of each, and announces which scholarship the person has been awarded. This year each winner crossed the platform and shook hands with Dr. Maurer and Dr. Raymond Kurzweil, whose foundation presented each with an additional $1,000 scholarship and the latest version of the Kurzweil 1000 reader software. Erik Weihenmayer, representing Freedom Scientific, also congratulated each winner and presented ten of them with technology certificates from Freedom Scientific.

The final scholarship awarded in this year's scholarship extravaganza, which took place at the banquet on July 8, was the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship of $10,000, which was presented to Anil Lewis, who then spoke briefly to the group. His remarks appear later in this article.

But earlier in the week, at the meeting of the NFB board of directors, each 2002 scholarship winner came to the microphone and spoke directly to the Federation. Following is what they said about themselves. Each speaker was introduced by Peggy Elliott, saying first the student's name and then both the home and school states. This is what was said:

Mazen Abou-Antoun, Ohio, Washington, D.C.: How are you doing, everyone? I just want everyone to know that this is my first convention and that obviously it seems that it won't be my last. I am going to be a law student at George Washington University in the fall. I plan to join the U.S. Foreign Service. The thing I want to mention now is that I got married last summer, and my wife is sitting in the crowd. I didn't mention it at the first meeting. I didn't mention it at the student meeting, and this time will be strike three and out if I don't mention it. It is a pleasure meeting all of you.

Josie Armantrout, Washington, Washington: Hello, everyone, good morning. My name is Josie Armantrout, and I will be finishing at Green River Community College this year and going on to the University of Washington. I plan to earn a BA in sociology and a minor in computer applications and Spanish. I want to be able to work where the changes need to be done, and that's at the state agencies--teach them the philosophy and get people out of their homes and out into the world. Thank you.

Jessica Bachicha, New Mexico, New Mexico: [Jessica began by singing several bars of a song.] I am Jessica Bachicha, and I am double majoring in music and foreign languages at the University of New Mexico. I hope to pursue graduate studies in Europe and then understand how I can best serve from there. I want to sing. I want to really sing beyond the notes, beyond the rhythm, beyond the dynamics. There is a relation between languages and music, and I want to find it.

Rick Brown, Florida, Florida: Hi. I am going to be attending the University of South Florida, and one of my biggest achievements that I have come across this month is four years of a transplant (pancreas and kidneys), so I am no longer a diabetic. I am very proud of that. I plan on going for my master's in social work. I want to work with diabetics and people who are losing their sight. Thank you.

Nicolas Crisosto, California, California:

It's walking on the beach feeling the sun rise and a sea breeze;

It's running without doubts or electronic routes,

Freely through the trees.

More than that it's standing tall in class,

On stage, or on the street.

It's cuddling up with Braille books

And slating names of new people when we meet.

It's the joy of playing football with sighted friends

And knowing life and believing life doesn't end with blindness.

It's all of this and so much more.

That's what the NFB, the CCB, and the scholarship mean to me.

And I'm a math major.

Moira Egan, New York, New York: Good morning. I am a Ph.D. candidate in history at the City University of New York. I am an adjunct instructor now and plan to be a full professor when I finish. I am writing on a woman who was a nun, and it's wonderful because my being blind will be an asset. Nuns don't generally leave records about themselves, so my field in using alternative techniques will help me seek out all the little tidbits of information that are stored in various archives. My being blind will also equip me well to write her biography because she was a nurse and an administrator and a financial expert when such things were not possible for women. I think my being involved with this group will help me to search out her ways of using different strategies and breaking new ground. I thank you all for the opportunity.

Alex Gray, Massachusetts, Massachusetts: Hello. My name is Alex Gray. Next fall I will be attending Boston College, where I intend to pursue a degree in education. I hope one day to be a high school English teacher. I would like to briefly say, when I first was leaving Boston, I was unsure about how my being blind would affect my travel and how it would affect a lot of my life. As I went on, it started to make more sense; it seemed possible. Over the past three days people in the National Federation of the Blind have made it seem that everything is possible for blind people and for me. I would like to thank you for all the inspiration that you have given.

Jesse Hartle, Louisiana, Louisiana: Good morning. At last year's national convention I listened to a speech by Erik Weihenmayer and how he felt when he stood on top of the world, on top of Mt. Everest. In my life I have never climbed a mountain yet, but I know how it feels to stand high above the ground because I have stood on the shoulders of many giants in the Federation like Dr. Joanne Wilson and Pam Allen, who at a young age lifted me up. It is a pleasure for me now to serve in the Louisiana Center for the Blind Buddy program, where I have the opportunity to lift up the future of tomorrow onto my shoulders so that they may see the horizon of what is possible. I am currently working on my master's degree in history with plans to go into law in the field of sports and entertainment law. Thank you very much.

Lynn Heitz, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Good afternoon, fellow Federationists. I am a junior at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I will be continuing my education to get my master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. In addition to that I am president of the Keystone Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. I am also the editor of the state affiliate newsletter and have the privilege of helping to organize other state events that are run during the course of a year. I look forward to being able to continue working with the Federation and continuing its goal of improving what it means to be blind in Pennsylvania. Thank you.

Robin House, tenBroek fellow, Missouri, Missouri: Good afternoon, fellow Federationists. I am currently a graduate student working on a master's degree in elementary counseling. I recently finished up with a second bachelor's degree in education, and I earned teacher certification in the state of Missouri. Another award I recently earned, which is an honor equal to this--outstanding teacher for the fall semester 2001 by the University of Missouri Department of Education, and it was quite an honor. Just like this, they named one person for that. I believe my vision for the twenty-first-century classroom is that students feel capable, connected, and contributing members of the classroom, community, and society. I want to thank the Federation for your continued guidance, support, and confidence in me. Thank you.

Michael Jones, Alabama, Alabama: Hello, everyone. I first want to thank all the local chapter presidents and local chapter members who raised so much money for our organization that gives great opportunities like this scholarship. I really sincerely thank you, and your hard work pays off. I am a Ph.D. student at Auburn University in vocational rehabilitation. I would like to teach university-level people and spread the philosophy of the Federation and also work in executive administration in a state agency. Thank you.

Sheila Koenig, tenBroek fellow, Minnesota, Minnesota: Thank you. I currently teach ninth grade language arts at Southview Middle School in Medina, Minnesota; and I am pursuing a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, specializing in English education. On the first day of class last fall I showed my students a videotape. On this videotape they saw me, their English teacher, securely fastened in a harness being raised up about 160 feet. With the pull of a cord, I dove to the ground and glided from side to side, pendulum style. I showed this to my students because I wanted them to see that their teacher wants to stretch her possibilities, wants to challenge herself to become more. This is what I expect of them in my classroom, and it is in fact what the Federation has given to me. Thank you for this honor.

James Konechne, South Dakota, South Dakota: Hello. I am going to be a junior at the Dakota Wesleyan University. I am studying business administration and economics, and my goal in life is to live out the Federation philosophy and prove every day that blind people can be just normal members of society. Thanks.

Deana Lambert, Arkansas, Arkansas: Good afternoon, Federationists. To get to this national convention I had to leave my mother at the airport, who was crying with tears not of happiness and excitement at my accomplishments. She was afraid. She was kind of dismayed that her daughter was going off somewhere strange to meet strangers and mentors and great people she did not know. I hope to become a coordinator of youth services. I would like to show people and teach students that I believe in them and the Federation believes in them, and most importantly, that they need to and must have every right to believe in themselves so that they can have bright and fascinating futures.

Anil Lewis, Georgia, Georgia: This is very humbling. I want to take this opportunity to express to all of you that I consider this scholarship an investment as well as an award. This award will allow me to graduate next year from Georgia State University with a master's in public administration with an emphasis in policy evaluation. I intend to use that newly acquired academic tool to establish a nonprofit center that takes advantage of my experience in job placement and training to advocate for individuals, to create opportunities for blind individuals, to help fight for equality for blind individuals, and to insure the security of the others. As far as my promise to you for an investment you are making today, I have already demonstrated my ability to give you a good return on your investment as the newly elected president of the Georgia affiliate. I work on several boards to secure equality, opportunity, and security, but with this investment that you are making today, I want to assure you that you are going to make bigger and better returns; thousands upon thousands of blind people will benefit from what you are doing for me today. Unlike Enron and WorldCom, I won't cook the books; I will give you a fair return on your investment.

Therese McCabe, California, California: Good morning, everyone. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here with all of you. I am honored to have been selected for receiving this scholarship. I would like to take a few moments to express my gratitude to the National Federation of the Blind for providing me with the opportunity to become acquainted with the organization's philosophy. I have had very little exposure to blindness organizations, so this week has been a real eye-opener for me. I have been impressed by the sense of unity within the organization, the immense energy of its members, but particularly by the confidence and dignity and poise with which many of the speakers I have heard present themselves. I think that there is not enough of this self-confidence in blind people I have seen in the past. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be here and to be experiencing this organization. I plan to continue with the organization if I can. I just recently graduated from high school, and I will be a freshman at UCLA in the fall majoring in English. I am considering a double major or perhaps a minor in music or language and philosophy. After college I hope to continue on to law school and some day become a trial lawyer. Thank you.

Tony Olivero, Wisconsin, Minnesota: Thank you. I am currently working on a bachelor's degree in computer science, hoping for a career in computer security and networking administration or computer consulting. I am on the LaCross chapter board of the NFB and the Wisconsin affiliate board, and I am the treasurer of the Wisconsin Association of Blind Students. I would just like to take a moment and thank Dr. Maurer and members of the board, the scholarship committee, and all my fellow Federationists for all the incredible opportunities that this scholarship class is getting, and I hope some day to be able to pay back everything you guys have given us.

Jennifer Peterson, Iowa, Iowa: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am very honored to stand before a whole room full of people who have accomplished so much. This is my first convention, and I am just blown away, not because these blind people have accomplished so much, but simply because you have all accomplished so much. I have undergraduate degrees in religion, English, and human services, and I decided to continue in social work. I have just completed my first year of an MSW at the University of Iowa. I don't know exactly what I want to do with it, and the reason is that I would be happy working in a number of settings. I am interested in simply helping people empower themselves in whatever way is necessary. I am interested in any group who feels disempowered, any person who feels a sense of dependence on something or other, and I would like to help them to achieve independence in whatever ways I can do that.

Ben Pool, Alaska, Washington: Good morning, or afternoon, I suppose. Like Peggy said, I am from the great state of Alaska, the home of Eskimos and snowshoes and midnight sun and the Iditarod and, of course, myself. Next fall I will be enrolling at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, where I will be majoring in psychology. Ultimately my vocational goal is to be a radio therapist, i.e., not Dr. Ruth or Dr. Laura, but Dr. Ben and no one else. So thank you. This is my first experience with the NFB, and it's been thrilling to say the least.

Deja Powell, Hawaii, Hawaii: Aloha. Hi. My name is Deja Powell. I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. I graduated from high school a year ago, and I have been attending the Salt Lake Community College and have also been an active member in the Utah student division as their vice president. As of only ten days ago, I started my education at Brigham Young University, Hawaii campus. I flew in from there a few days ago on a twelve-hour flight. So if you see me nodding, that's the reason why--I skipped a night. My career goal is to become a journalist or possibly advertising, and my minor is English. This is my second convention. My first one was a great experience, and that's why I am here. Thank you.

Raquel Silva, Nevada, Nevada: Hi. My name is Raquel Silva, and I am very honored to be here today and very excited to be here. This is my first convention, and I just want to thank you all for being such a great support in my life. My goal is to be a vocational rehabilitation counselor. I am currently a junior at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I would one day like to give back what was given to me by being an example to other blind individuals and helping them get a job and find their place in the world and their dreams and hopefully how to achieve them. Thank you.

Ashley Skellenger, Florida, Louisiana: Hello. I will be attending Louisiana Tech University in the fall and will get a degree in computer information systems. Three years ago I attended my first state convention in Jacksonville, and I heard Diane McGeorge speak about the Colorado Center and what the students learn there and especially the confidence that they gained. I knew that that was something I needed and wanted to have, so as a result I attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind STEP and adult programs, and both of those were wonderful experiences. I learned so much and am still learning. I am just grateful to be a part of this convention again, and I really appreciate this opportunity.

Philip So, New Jersey, New York: Good morning, Federationists. It is an honor to be here, and this week has been overwhelming. I am from New Jersey, and I am studying economics right now at Columbia University in New York. This week I learned so much from all the people and also from the Federation's philosophy. Through that I have also learned more about myself. It is my first convention here, and I look forward to the next one and the one after that, and even more after that. Thank you.

Ryan Strunk, Nebraska, Nebraska: Good morning. You know, it's interesting: I have done a lot of work for the Federation thus far, and people have asked me, "Ryan, if you're so on fire for the Federation, why are you going into a musical education career?" I thought about this for a while, and I realized that when I stand up on a stage in front of thousands of students over the course of my career and tens of thousands of their close relatives and friends, I'm going to be showing everyone that blind people can and will participate on an equal level with the sighted population. Not only that, but I also thought it was interesting that I have to take a lot of education courses and things like that--lesson plans, working on disciplining the students, and things like this. I realized that there are only two things you really need for public education: the first is patience, which they say comes with age; and the second is philosophy. The first I'm working on, and the second I have because of the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you.

Mary Jo Thorpe, Utah, Utah: Good afternoon. I am so privileged to be here today and thank you for the opportunity. My name is Mary Jo Thorpe. I am from Woods Cross, Utah. I graduated cum laude from Utah State University. I am now attending the University of Utah interning to become a child life specialist. This is an individual who works in the hospital setting as an advocate for children and their families, who supports children in a variety of hospital procedures in preparation for surgery and things of that nature. Upon my certification and completion of this program, to my knowledge I will be the first certified blind child life specialist in the country, so I am excited for that. I am also working towards my master's in social work. I have been involved in the NFB for three years and have had a lot of opportunities to serve on the local level with our state. I am also on the Utah board of directors and serve as the Utah student division president. I am really excited to be a part of this organization. I think it is a worthy cause and has greatly helped to make me who I am and helped me come to accept my blindness and really made it easier for me to change what it means to be blind for myself. I am grateful for that.

Andrea Travis, Idaho, Idaho: Hello there, everyone. Isn't this tough competition? Wow. I am going to be a freshman at the University of Idaho in the fall, and I am really excited to go, and I think I am going to major in business administration and hopefully own my own business some day. This is my very first convention, which is really cool. It's kind of overwhelming, but it's fun. I am the Idaho Association of Blind Students vice president. Thank you.

David Tseng, California, California: Good afternoon, everybody. I will be entering my first semester at UC Berkeley this fall. I will be majoring in computer science and music, just to balance out those two fields. I would like to share one realization that I've come to. The few days that I've been at this convention, I have come to realize and truly believe that blind people can obtain any goal they want to aspire to. Now we can all say that, but to truly believe in it is another question, and seeing all the people here doing, going about their business is truly inspirational. It just makes me want to do more with my own life. Thank you very much.

Emily Wharton, Minnesota, Minnesota: Hello. Four years ago Joyce Scanlan took a chance on a young Iowan with an English degree and hired me to work at BLIND, Inc. Since then I have had the opportunity to teach and learn cane travel and life skills and computers and actually learn how to be a LAN administrator. Through BLIND, Inc., and the wonderful people I have met through National Federation of the Blind, the courage and skills and friendship that I have found here have allowed me to come with the courage to follow my greatest passion and return to graduate school so that I could earn a master's of fine arts degree in creative writing at Hamline University. I will start in the fall, and I would like to thank you all for this opportunity.

Jay Williams, North Carolina, North Carolina: I am Jay Williams, and I am from North Carolina. I got my undergraduate degree, graduating summa cum laude from NC State University. I am currently at East Carolina University to get my master's degree in counselor education. Hopefully my eastern dialect won't affect ya'll. I would eventually like to open up my own private agency working with substance abuse in the adolescent population, and I guess I want to leave you with a statement that has really meant a lot to me. It is an excerpt from the children's fable of the fox in The Little Prince. That excerpt is "One sees clearly only with the heart; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Cindee Wobbles, Connecticut, Connecticut: Hello. I really wish I had kept my maiden name about now, going last after this crowd. I will be attending Central Connecticut State University. I am in the psychology/sociology double-major program. My goal is to be a vocational rehabilitation counselor specializing in elderly services, in which I will find success because I am trustworthy, reliable, and independent. In other words, I say what I mean; I go out there and do it; and I do it on my own ability. Thank you.

Peggy Elliott: Dr. Maurer and fellow Federationists, this is the class of 2002. [applause]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Anil Lewis addresses the banquet audience.]

Monday evening, July 8, Anil Lewis of Georgia received the $10,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship. He spoke briefly to the banquet audience. This is what he said:

I'm going to try, but when I get nervous, I talk real fast. I'm going to try not to make you guys use your extra-sensory ability to listen fast. [laughter] Before I say anything, I have to give much love and a whole lot of respect to the other scholarship recipients tonight. I'd like to ask you to help me in showing my appreciation to them as well. [applause]

Dr. Maurer says that nothing can go wrong except for everything else that can go wrong. Those of you who were at the board meeting remember that I said that this is a humbling honor and that it wasn't so much an award as an investment. In the tradition of awards I have to thank a couple of people. One who was not able to make it today because he is celebrating his thirtieth wedding anniversary is Mr. Al Falligan. He was the Atlanta Chapter president before I became the Atlanta Chapter president. Long before I knew him as the NFB Atlanta Chapter president, he was the guy who told me the truth about the Federation. You guys who have heard all the propaganda and the rumors know exactly what I mean by hearing the truth about the Federation. So he brought me into this loop.

The other gentleman whom I haven't gotten an opportunity to thank for what he did for me--he probably doesn't even realize what he did for me--is our president, Dr. Marc Maurer. For those of you who know me, you know that I am the father of a wonderful four-year-old boy. That came about due to a trying divorce situation. At the same time I was nursing my mom, who died in 2000 of myeloma, a type of cancer. During that time in my life, I was falling apart. My father died when I was very young, so I had very few male role models in my life. But Dr. Maurer took the time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about some of the problems and issues that I was dealing with as a future single parent who had lost his mom. I want to thank him now publicly for all he did for me.

Now for the investment part. Just as a demonstration of how all this works, Dr. Maurer made me a very strong, independent, self-sufficient single parent. I returned that investment in me by being present when the NFB had to go get a blind mother back her child in Savannah, Georgia. I also didn't hesitate when the same thing needed to happen for the grandmother in Dothan, Alabama; I was on that plane in a heartbeat. As I said at the board meeting, I am going to give you a fair return on your investment. Let me break it down in this fashion--but before I do, let me give much love and respect to my chapter, the Atlanta Chapter, and the whole Georgia affiliate of which I have just recently become the president. They have shown me so much love that I just have to give more back. That's their investment in me, and I hope they are starting to experience the return on that.

I was afraid that I was so nervous I wouldn't be able to remember what Dr. Maurer's banquet speech was about, but I do remember: "knowledge, money, and power." So I will use that to summarize the investment you have made in me. The knowledge is the knowledge that I am going to obtain through pursuing my academic education and that I have learned through Jim Gashel and his explaining the work incentives of Social Security that help me be a better job-placement professional at the Center for the Visually Impaired. And I have learned through Dr. Fredric Schroeder that learning the rules of how to play the game of the Rehab Act has made me a better professional with respect to the Client Assistance Program that I've been working with for the past six years. With that degree I obtain I want not only to teach people how to obey the rules, be accountable, but I also want to make it possible for us to make the rules.

The money part is real easy--$10,000 is a lot of money.

Lastly, the power part. You heard me use the word "I" quite a bit tonight. But I learned when I was a young Southern Baptist boy that the I is only a reflection of the power within. I would like to thank God for this moment, for the power within and for the power without--the motivation, the encouragement, the love. I've always said that I have ten thousand angels, and I realize that more than two thousand of them are in this room now. So the power I want to leave with you is the power that you have given me--the power to change what it means to be blind. Thank you very much for this honor.

Here is the complete list of 2002 scholarship winners and the awards they received:

Freedom Scientific $1,500 Technology Certificates: James Konechne, Tony Olivero, Deana Lambert, Ben Pool, and Ashley Skellenger

Freedom Scientific $2,500 Technology Certificates: Richard Brown, Jesse Hartle, Moira Egan, Deja Powell, and Therese McCabe

$3,000 NFB Scholarships: Josie Armantrout, Lynn Heitz, James Konechne, Deana Lambert, Jennifer Peterson, Ben Pool, Deja Powell, Raquel Silva, Ashley Skellenger, Philip So, Andrea Travis, David Tseng, and Jay Williams

$3,000 NFB Computer Science Scholarship: Tony Olivero

$3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award: Alexander Gray

$3,000 NFB Humanities Scholarship: Therese McCabe

$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Moira Egan

$3,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship: Jessica Bachicha

$3,000 Lora E. Dunetz Scholarship: Richard Brown

$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Cindee Wobbles

$3,000 E.U. Parker Scholarship: Michael Jones

$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Mazen Abou-Antoun

$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship: Jesse Hartle

$5,000 Sally S. Jacobsen Memorial Scholarship: Robin House

$5,000 NFB Scholarships: Mary Jo Thorpe and Emily Wharton

$7,000 Melva T. Owen Scholarship: Ryan Strunk

$7,000 NFB Scholarships: Nicholas Crisosto and Sheila Koenig

$10,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship: Anil Lewis

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer delivers the 2002 banquet address.]

[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Two pictures have been fused to show the entire banquet room, which is filled with Federationists at dinner tables. The picture is so long that it has been turned ninety degrees, stretching from the top to the bottom of the page.

PHOTO/CAPTION: Two hours after the close of the afternoon general session the ballroom doors opened to welcome a couple of thousand Federationists to the 2002 banquet of the National Federation of the Blind. Gone were the rows of chairs in theater seating and delegation banners, and in their place stood hundreds of tables set for a festive dinner. This is the way the ballroom looked at the start of the July 8 banquet.]

LEADERSHIP AND THE MATRIX OF POWER

An Address Delivered by Marc Maurer

President of the National Federation of the Blind

July 8, 2002

The acquisition of power has often been regarded as base or disreputable. Francis Bacon said, "The desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall; the desire of knowledge in excess caused man to fall." He went on to assert that "Knowledge itself is power." Hence, (according to Bacon) man's search for knowledge is a search for power--which caused him to fall.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal, "You shall have joy or you shall have power, said God, you shall not have both." He also wrote, "Men ... very naturally seek money or power; and power because it is as good as money." Otto Von Bismarck declared, "He who has his thumb on the purse has the power."

Such statements purport to illustrate that knowledge, money, and power are equivalent. Some people believe that they are all bad. As Lord Acton, in his famous phrase, said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Though this aphorism is oft-repeated, and though it has a deceptively learned ring, can any thinking person truly believe it? Power is essential to freedom. John Dewey said, "Liberty is not just an idea, an abstract principle. It is power, effective power to do specific things." Cicero said, "Freedom is participation in power."

The political buzzword of recent time was "empowerment"--creating power within the disenfranchised. If the theories of Acton and the others who mistrust power were true, empowerment would also corrupt. It would be Machiavellian indeed if the hidden agenda of the politicians was to corrupt the innocent.

Power denotes the ability to do what the person, organization, or country wants done at the time and in the way that the entity possessing power wants it done with minimal inconvenience. It is neither morally corrupt nor spiritually invigorating. It is neutral.

However, the process of acquiring power (the method used to get it) and the purposes for which it is used undoubtedly affect the quality of the result. Mao Ze-dong believed that without weapons and force there can be no power in politics. He said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." However, John Quincy Adams said that the basis for political power is fundamentally different from that of weapons of war. "Individual liberty," he said, "is individual power; and as the power of a community is a mass compounded of individual powers, the nation which enjoys the most freedom must necessarily be, in proportion to its numbers, the most powerful nation." Malcolm X stated, "Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression."

Without power there is no freedom. Without freedom there is no independence. And without independence there is virtually no possibility of leading a productive and fulfilling life. Therefore, we must seek power.

What are the essential characteristics of this elusive commodity? What must we do to obtain it? And, once acquired, how can it best be managed?

Gloria Steinem observed, "Power can be taken but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself." Thus, gaining power cannot be done for somebody else. If an individual or an organization wishes to possess it, that individual or organization must deliberately decide to have it and must act on that decision. This is not to say that a climate cannot be created in which organizations or individuals are encouraged to seek power for themselves. This can be done, and it should be. However, no individual and no group can live the life of another. Those who want power must take it for themselves. As the old expression tells us, each tub must stand on its own bottom.

Power--being the ability to do specific things--demands that those who want to have it acquire ability. There is no alternative--without ability there is no power. Hence, one of the major routes to power is knowledge. For a blind person, learning the skills of blindness helps. Beyond that, gaining mastery of a body of knowledge, which will permit competition with other people, is also of real importance. The possession of knowledge (or for that matter of money) is, however, not enough. There must be something else to ensure that the blind have power.

One element in the matrix of power is the belief by the individual that it is proper for power to reside within that person. This belief might go by the name of "confidence." Another element is recognition by others of the capacity of the blind person. Without this recognition the power residing within the person (no matter how great) will be rejected as a myth. Can a blind person win the Nobel Prize or serve as the president of the United States? If the answer is "No," if it is believed that sight is essential to these activities, we have not yet received the recognition we deserve. Call this recognition "public understanding." With these--with ability, with confidence, and with public understanding--power can exist. However, gaining these elements cannot be accomplished single-handedly; there must be cooperative effort. No one person in a group can attain power without others gaining a measure of it also. Therefore, to assure that a colleague gains power, seek to achieve some of your own. Conversely, to increase your own, help a friend. Members of organized groups encourage one another, and they achieve recognition much more rapidly than those without an established support network.

The most powerful individuals have gained their stature and influence by inviting others to participate in the dream they have of change. They also know that generosity enhances rather than diminishes power.

Though the sighted public cannot gain power for the blind--cannot give us freedom--our sighted friends and colleagues can help. Most of the time we encounter enormous goodwill. Our sighted friends want us to gain power because with it we are able both to lead independent lives and to contribute to our society. Power helps us, but it also benefits the broader community. In other words, if our sighted friends and colleagues had known how to do it, it would have been in their best interest to have caused the formation of the National Federation of the Blind.

What does all of this mean for us--for the National Federation of the Blind, for our members, and for those blind people who have not yet become our members? Have we acquired power? Have we identified ways to increase freedom for the blind? How are the activities and efforts of the Federation structured within the matrix? And what are the prospects for us in the years to come?

In 1940, when the Federation came into being, the time and circumstances for the blind were completely different from what they are today. For many of us that time would be completely unrecognizable. Jobs for the blind were not simply hard to come by, they were nonexistent except in sheltered workshops, and these jobs were at the very bottom of the economic hierarchy. Education occurred at schools for the blind for those who could get there, but matriculation at college was severely limited and often unattainable. The Books for the Blind Program in the Library of Congress had come into being during the 1930's, but the collection of materials available was not great. For many blind people the brightest hope (and for many it was only a hope) was a tiny amount of welfare, which might be received each month.

In this dreary atmosphere Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, our founding president, and a small group who dreamed with him that conditions might be changed formed the National Federation of the Blind at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Sixteen people were present representing seven states, but there was almost no money to establish programs for the organization, pay for telephone calls or stamps, or purchase office supplies. It would be many, many years before the thought of reimbursement for travel expenses for officers, members of the board, or anybody else could be addressed in any practical way. The Wilkes-Barre newspaper carried reports about the founding of the Federation, but otherwise the organization's establishment was virtually unnoticed. No influence, no money, no staff, no office space except in the president's small apartment, no allies in the field of blindness, no recognition by the public at large: this was the National Federation of the Blind at its beginning.

However, there were other characteristics. The delegates who came together at the founding of the organization had knowledge. They knew that blindness had been misunderstood. They had an abiding faith that joint effort could bring opportunity, and they had a shared commitment to each other that nothing would prevent them from seeking the influence needed by the blind to bring independence. They decided that the blind could and would have power.

How does this description compare with the Federation of today? We have grown from a gathering of sixteen delegates from seven states to a convention of some 3,000 delegates representing fifty states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Representatives from many other countries also come. Although the unemployment rate remains dramatically high, tens of thousands of us have become employed. Through Braille, recordings, speech technology, and the NFB-NEWSLINE®, more information is available to the blind more quickly than ever before in history--hundreds of thousands of pages of it. Thousands of blind people attend college each year, and the National Federation of the Blind assists by conducting the most extensive scholarship program for blind people in the nation.

The organized blind possess an extensive program of services to blind people. We maintain a headquarters at the National Center for the Blind, and we operate a number of other offices throughout the nation. We have established orientation and training programs in several states, and we are providing leadership in rehabilitation programs both directly and through example. We have conducted a capital campaign to erect a new building, the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind, and we are pursuing the talent and resources for completing and operating it. Programs to support harmony and cooperation among agencies and organizations in the blindness field are being conducted with our leadership. The blind of the nation, the rank and file membership of the National Federation of the Blind, created the structure of our organization and control it. Such is the National Federation of the Blind today.

However, there are also other characteristics. We have the knowledge that blindness has often been misunderstood. We have the faith to believe that by working together we can bring independence to the blind. We possess a shared commitment to each other. We have the confidence to know that our future is what we will make it, and we are determined that the blind can and will have power.

Our comprehension of blindness is not shared by everybody. There are still some who look upon blindness as an unmitigated tragedy and a clear indication of inferiority. Sometimes this misbegotten attitude may be found among the very people who hold themselves out as providing service to the blind.

Consider, for example, the Maryland Society for Sight, a nonprofit organization composed largely of eye doctors. The Society is dedicated to promoting proper eye care and service to the blind. In a 1998 letter seeking contributions from the public, this society made a number of statements about the blind. Here, in part, is what the letter says:

Close your eyes and imagine not being able to see the sky, the face of a loved one, or a beautiful sunset. Imagine the panic and hopelessness you would feel if you were told you were going blind! Blindness afflicts 3 percent of adults and 5 percent of the children in Maryland. The good news is that over 50 percent of all blindness can be prevented if people know the proper precautions to take.

[I interrupt to remind you that statistics published in the last few years by Johns Hopkins University indicate that the incidence of blindness in the United States is well under 1 percent. I don't know where the Maryland Society for Sight got its numbers. One might even suspect them of padding the statistics to beef up the importance of their solicitations, but back to the letter.]

The Maryland Society for Sight [continues the solicitation] has been working to prevent blindness and preserve sight for all Marylanders since 1909. And we need your help to continue this vital work. ???With your help, we can . . . .

· Provide free eye examinations and glasses to the homeless. A pair of glasses can often mean the difference between living on the streets and having a job and functioning in society.

· Provide the blind and visually impaired with volunteers to come into their homes and help make their lives a little easier.

Please send in a contribution today and help us to give the gift of sight to so many Marylanders.

These are the words of the Maryland Society for Sight, which does thousands of vision screenings each year for school children, for adults, and for the homeless. Sight is, of course, a valuable asset, and we applaud the efforts of the Maryland Society to help people maintain or recover it. If they had only left out the dramatic language about the hopelessness of the blind, we would have no complaint to make. However, what they say about us creates a false impression. The Society preys on the fear of blindness to raise money, and they create hardship for the blind in doing so. Their letter says that they provide volunteers to come into the homes of the blind to make our "lives a little easier." What does such a statement imply--that our lives are hard because of blindness and that we need them to bring us a little comfort? Why don't we volunteer to go into their homes to make their lives a little easier? Perhaps we could provide comfort to them. After all, we have certainly had plenty of people offering it to us; we should know how to reciprocate.

I don't know about you, but I am thoroughly tired of having other people tell me that my life is miserable because I can't see the face of a loved one or the sunset. Although the sunset is undoubtedly worth seeing, its importance has been vastly overemphasized. I have noticed that most sighted people do not interrupt their evening activities to go look at it. If I had to guess, I suspect that the average sighted person would much rather watch television.

The visual image of a loved one's face is clearly more important than the vision of the sunset, but even here the emphasis is misplaced. I ask you, is it the visual image of the face or the love that is more important? Blind people have as much capacity for love as anybody else, and we can find ways to express it whether we are able to see the faces of the ones we love or not. Many of us possess the deepest, fiercest, most abiding love that exists anywhere in the world. Our blindness changes this not at all.

The image conveyed by this letter is one of hopelessness, but we are here to challenge it, and we know how to speak on our own behalf. Blindness has often been misunderstood, but we are determined that this misunderstanding will change to comprehension. Their letter suggests that we are helpless, but we are not. To the contrary, we have decided that the blind must and will have power.

Researchers, with self-proclaimed objectivity, tell us that they have discovered connections between blindness and other characteristics in virtually endless variation. A newspaper account in the Fairfax/Arlington Journal dated December 11, 1997, reported that two professors, Dr. Joel Zaba and Roger Johnson, have conducted a study establishing a link between vision loss and behavioral problems. One of the subjects of their research began to lose vision and, as the reporter says, started pulling pranks such as running through the halls of his school in his boxer shorts. Officials at the school referred him to a behavioral optometrist. When the boy's vision was restored, they say, his behavior and his marks improved.

This boy was not the only one to be studied. In a survey of eighty-one students in a school for at-risk pupils, Zaba and Johnson found that 97 percent of students with behavioral problems had vision difficulties. The conclusion they reached is that vision loss and behavioral problems are linked.

On the other hand, other researchers tell us that blind people think faster than the sighted. Here are excerpts from the report:

Blind people can pick out the meaning of a spoken sentence more quickly than sighted folks. The finding adds weight to the notion that blind people can hear better than others, their hearing compensating for the loss of their sight.

"They process language faster than sighted people," says Brigitte Roder from the University of Marburg, Germany, who discovered the effect with her colleagues at the University of Oregon in Eugene. She says it may explain why some blind people are so fast at reading books recorded onto tape. "I have a blind student who is speeding up all his tapes," she says. Yet he has no problem understanding the words.

A brain wave pattern that indicates when semantics are being analyzed, known as the N400 signal, was observed in sighted people about 150 milliseconds after the [test] sentence ended. In blind volunteers, the pattern was seen in just half that time.

The researchers also found that in blind subjects, areas at the back of the brain normally devoted to sight were taken over in part by auditory information-processing. Roder isn't certain, but she suspects this might be partly responsible for speeding up blind people's ability to process language.

There you have it. Researchers indicate that vision loss and behavioral problems are connected. They also tell us that we hear better and think faster than the sighted. How many blind people have they met? It may be that blind people are smarter and less stable than the sighted, but my observation conducted over a period of more than thirty years does not make me think so. Of course, the study I have conducted was not accompanied with scholarly papers, expensive calculation systems, or university grants; but it was more extensive than theirs.

We are building a research institute which will incorporate the experiences of blind people in the scientific process. This should help give research about blindness a grounding in reality. We are not against competent research competently performed. We are opposed to research which begins with unfounded assumptions and uses them to reach unsupportable conclusions. Knowledge is power, and we are seeking to expand the realm of knowledge possessed by the blind. We will undoubtedly study the nature of blindness itself, but this study must incorporate the daily experiences of blind people if it is to be relevant or cogent. When we have reached sound conclusions, we will provide the information to others because public recognition of what we are helps us achieve acceptance and understanding. To these we will add confidence in our own capacity to learn and teach. For we in the National Federation of the Blind intend to have power.

Some blind people try to take advantage of their blindness. Equal access to information is important for the blind, but this principle should not be twisted and misused to bamboozle the sighted. Here are portions of a letter from a nightclub owner in England to the director of Environment and Housing of the Brighton and Hove City Council, the regulatory body determining conditions and standards for nightclubs in the area. Before examining its contents, I wish to point out (even if this seems to be belaboring the obvious) that sight and touch are not the same. There are times when one may be substituted for the other, and there are also times when it is inappropriate to do so. Some of the language of the letter has been modified for the sake of propriety. This, in part, is what it says:

Dear Sir:

As you are aware, we are presently the only club in Sussex to hold a Public Entertainment License specific to striptease, and that license quite correctly prohibits physical contact between a customer and a dancer, other than the placing of notes in a dancer's garter. I write to seek your opinion as to whether you would consider a variation to this condition for registered blind persons.

Two young men, who happen to be blind, visited the club as part of a very pleasant group of gentlemen enjoying a traditional stag evening. We made arrangements for their visit appropriate to their special needs. We read the club rules to them and designated a staff member to each to assist them entering, moving around the club, and leaving. Finally, we made the dancers aware of their disability but otherwise asked the dancers to treat them quite normally.

Both blind gentlemen enjoyed a number of tableside dances. They said they sensed the proximity of the dancers and in particular enjoyed the smell of feminine perfume. They asked some dancers politely (but seriously) if there were any circumstances in which they could touch, and the dancers refused them.

They pursued their request with me, their point being that, given their disability, controlled touching ought to be permitted for registered blind persons.

Such is the letter written by the nightclub owner. Is this somebody's idea of a joke? What insufferable flimflam! There is a time and a place for touching, and from what I have been able to discover, blind people are as good at it as anybody else. But we should not tolerate using blindness as an excuse to take liberties. That practice will be as damaging to us as the failure of others to recognize the right we have to inclusion in society's activities. Ours is a serious struggle--as serious as the right of the blind to be free. We must not permit licentious interest coupled with the language of equality to mislead, and we must oppose those who would take advantage of others. If we fail to set the correct standard, somebody else will impose one upon us, and we will lose the capacity to determine the future for ourselves. The misuse of power begins by eroding it and eventually eliminates it. This commodity is too precious to be wasted or belittled or dissipated. It must be treated with respect, or it will be gone. Power implies trust, and we will not fail in our duty to exercise it with reason and decorum.

A newspaper article published in the Roanoke Times depicts the life of a person who has recently become blind and who has been fooled by the popular mythology about his blindness. The article begins with the headline, "Teacher accepts loss of sight without bitterness." Although the headline is intended to be upbeat, the language of the article demonstrates phenomenal misunderstanding. Here is part of what it says:

Phil Boyd has learned to use the human voice and touch to help him see the world.

During the past year, he has come to accept his blindness without bitterness. But some of his friends have found it more difficult. Boyd was eating dinner recently at a Roanoke restaurant when a friend, whom he had not seen in years, came over to his table. The friend asked him how things were going at Craig County High School, where he [Boyd] taught English and drama for ten years.

"I told him I had to retire because I went blind," Boyd said.

[I interrupt to say that accepting blindness without bitterness is an excellent first step. Anger, frustration, a sense of loss, sometimes the desire to strike out at the world: all of these are a part of becoming blind for many people. To accept the blindness without being twisted by it is the beginning of building for the future. But this former teacher has accepted more than blindness. In the name of facing reality, he has accepted the loss of employment. Are there blind teachers? There are hundreds of them--perhaps thousands. The article suggests that the teacher and his neighbors have internalized, without knowing they have done it, the false image of the helpless blind person, and by so doing they have made this stereotype real. Even the reporter who gives us the information is unaware that the story he is telling is tragic; he thinks it's upbeat. Here is further text from the Roanoke Times:]

But Boyd, who lost his vision in the late summer of 2000 because of a rare eye disease, has remained upbeat, adjusting to life without sight.

"I've been depressed only two or three times," he said. "My family, the students and staff at Craig County High, and the people of Craig County have been so supportive. They keep me so busy I can't feel sorry for myself."

[I interrupt once more to wonder with you what they have been asking him to do that keeps him so busy? But the article tells us.]

Boyd was the speaker [the article continues] at the school's commencement in June. He attends football, basketball, and volleyball games at the school frequently. Students and friends describe the action for him.

He stays in touch with the students by e-mail, using a software program that reads information from the computer screen and converts it into speech. He has learned to type so he can answer e-mails.

Boyd has taken trips with his family to Busch Gardens and Las Vegas, and he had roles in two theatrical productions. He played a corpse in the Showtimers' production of "Lucky Stiff" and was a taxi driver in a play by the Gamut theater group in Roanoke.

Boyd goes to the Central YMCA in Roanoke five or six days a week to work out. He enjoys "The West Wing" and other television shows.

He helps with household chores and washes the dishes after the family's meals because he can feel them, but he can't cook because he can't recognize the foods.

Recently, he has been trying out a "Jordy" low vision enhancement system, but he doubts it will help him.

This is the description in the Roanoke Times of a blind person held out to the community as an example of proper mental attitude. He is fifty years old with the prospect of living for at least twenty more. He exercises, attends the ball games, watches television, does the dishes, appears in a play now and then in which he may be called upon to assume the role of a corpse, and hopes to find some technological device to restore his sight.

All of these activities are worthwhile, but they are peripheral. A job, the tasks of caring for a home, the responsibilities of citizenship--these are the things that give life its purpose. This blind teacher has accepted his initial assumption that he is unable to work, unable to cook, unable to engage in demanding productive enterprises. Twenty years is a long time to fill the idle hours. What he needs is power--the kind that comes from knowledge. With training he could cook and teach and take charge of his life, making of it whatever he wants it to be.

Perhaps a little anger would have been better after all--enough to stimulate the man to say, "My mind is active and alert, I shall learn the skills required for a blind person to work, and I will be recognized for the talent I possess." He might have had the good fortune to join other like-minded individuals, those in the National Federation of the Blind, who would help him to tell the public at large, the school administrators, and the officials in the locality that his ability is composed of knowledge and the capacity to use it and that this ability must be recognized. If he had come to believe in himself, he could have joined with the blind of the country in our determination that we will do what we must do to gain the power for self-determination.

We receive many thousands of letters each year. Not long ago one came from a blind man in the Midwest who was considering seeking assistance from us in obtaining employment. Helping people find jobs is one of the highest priorities of the Federation, and we put a lot of effort into it. Some blind people are prepared to enter the job market, but a number of others need training in the techniques used by the blind to conduct daily activities or to handle specific employment skills. The blind man in question is in this latter category. Here, in part, is what his letter says:

Thanks so much for calling me regarding the possibility of receiving training for employment. I have been trying to crystallize my thinking about returning to employment, so I hope you will bear with me. In this letter I am trying to analyze the questions you asked.

You wanted to know [continues the letter] whether my state vocational rehabilitation agency would sponsor me for further training. Since I've been long unemployed and have not had contact with my rehabilitation counselor in almost five years, I suppose that my case is, to say the least, inactive. I shall see if it can be reactivated in order to explore this new possibility.

[In these few words the author of the letter expresses a viewpoint that tells us much. The rehabilitation program in his state has apparently written him off. There has been no contact for five years--five years of waiting, of wondering, and of diminishing hope. Nevertheless, the blind man is not angry. He wants to be able to reactivate his case so that he may seek an opportunity. But there is more to the letter.]

You asked [it continues] whether I am willing to take additional training. Assuming I can get sponsorship from the rehabilitation program, I would be more than willing. I do not have formal computer training; however, I have a Braille 'n Speak [a small Braille-based computer notetaker], a printer, and a disk drive, which I use all the time. This technology is most liberating for me. It is the best equipment I have ever owned. From working with it, I've learned a great deal though I realize that in this field there is always something new to learn. I am willing to do whatever it takes to gain the knowledge and skill which will lead to my eventual reentry into the job market.

[In this portion of the letter the man demonstrates an interest in computers and a willingness to learn more about them. His experience with the Braille 'n Speak is for him liberating, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to learn more so that he may become employed. He is not just interested--he is enthusiastic. Why is he not already employed? His letter lets us glimpse a portion of the frustration that has been a continual part of this man's life.]

You have also asked me [continues the letter] if I am willing to move to a job if a successful placement can be found. My first reaction was one of worry and concern. I don't know if I could just up and move like that. I have a family--a wife who is employed and who would be searching for another job, and a daughter in school. There is also the mortgage. Many people would say that I shouldn't try to return to work. The risks are too great; the possibility of failure is too high. They would say that I should be happy to sit back, read library books, and collect Social Security. But frankly, while I enjoy reading very much, I want to do more with the remainder of my days than that.

In my life and work experience, I've been told "No" so many times that by now it's simply become another challenge to me. My feeling is that there is a purpose in all that I endeavor to do. If one thing doesn't work out, something else will. I've never been one to give up on myself. I believe that sometimes "No" simply means that there's another way which we haven't tried yet.

My family is a high priority, [continues the letter] but at the same time, I'd like to be able to send my daughter to college. A job would make it possible. I've promised my daughter that we will not make such a move unless it involves positive changes for all of us. In that spirit I'd be willing to move if we can find a successful job placement.

These are the words of a blind father wondering whether there is opportunity for him. They are not angry words or bitter, but he has some hesitation, some doubt. His letter is thoughtful and articulate, demonstrating that it was composed by a man with a competent mind even if he has not had adequate training. He believes in supporting his loved ones, and he hopes to find a way for his daughter to attend college. However, he has been out of work for a long, long time, and he wonders if there is really a job for him.

I understand this man, for I have a family of my own--a wife, a son, and a daughter. My son will be attending college in the fall, and I very much want my daughter to get a college education when she is finished with high school. I want her to have all of the advantages that loving parents and a good education can provide.

Is it too late for this man, whose patterns of living have been set for so many years? That depends on his spirit and ours. Can we muster the strength to continue to provide encouragement? Can he muster the confidence to continue to pursue the dream? If each of us does our part, I believe that there can be no doubt about the outcome. He tells us that he does not give up, and we believe him. Consequently, the future is bright, for we are of the same mind. We never quit until we succeed. We have the knowledge about our abilities; we have the faith to trust one another; and we have the commitment to work together until we have changed forever the prospects for us all. We are determined that the blind can and will have power.

There are other things that might be said of the nature of power. One of these is that it must be exercised to be maintained and strengthened, and that the exercise of power requires leadership. To the extent that an individual or an organization exercises leadership, the power of the individual or the organization is enhanced. This leads to the question, what is required for leadership? Many characteristics are helpful--energy, imagination, enthusiasm, the capacity to empathize with others, the ability to communicate, and facility with interpersonal relationships. However, one prime element has more significance than all of these. That one characteristic is love--the willingness to care for high ideals and our fellow human beings, the willingness to look beyond the shortcomings and foibles of others to the value that each represents, the willingness to wish good for those who do not wish us good, and the willingness to recognize that generosity is its own reward. An organization which incorporates in its governance the quality of love multiplies its power. Of course, no pretense will do; it must be real. And love freely given is at least as demanding as any other taskmaster.

Dr. Jacobus tenBroek led the Federation from the time of its founding in 1940 when the organization had almost no resources. By the time of his death in 1968, it had gained dramatically in influence and power. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan became its president in 1968 and gave it his leadership until his death in 1998. The influence of the Federation expanded dramatically under his direction, stimulating growth in all parts of the blindness field. How did they do it? Each of them possessed an indomitable spirit, a driving will, and an unquenchable belief in the potential of the future. But each of them also possessed a deep and abiding love.

Now the Federation is in our hands. The eye doctors tell us that our lives are hopeless and that we need their volunteers to make our lot a little easier. The researchers say that our vision loss is linked to behavioral disorders and that we hear better and think faster than the sighted. Newspaper reporters suggest that we should accept unemployment without bitterness as an example of positive thinking and that we can't cook because we can't recognize the food. Sometimes the rehabilitation counselors write us off. Nevertheless, despite all of the put-downs, despite all of the lack of understanding, despite all of the failures of the rehabilitation system, we are not disheartened or discouraged.

Though there are those who misunderstand, there are many more who comprehend us and stand with us in the battle. Though there are those who belittle us, there are many more who reject this thinking and speak the language of equality that we have written. Though there are those who would ignore us, our voice is increasing every day and our influence spreading throughout the land so that they cannot help but hear.

We know our strength, and we know what we must do to bring full equality to the blind. We must be willing to work with every ounce of good that is in us; we must be willing to sacrifice for that which we know is right; we must be prepared to meet the challenges wherever and whenever they arise; and we must never interrupt our march to freedom. This is our obligation; this is our opportunity; this is our commitment. We have the power composed of ability, confidence, public understanding, and love; and we will not fail. Tomorrow is ours, for we will never rest until it is. Come, join me, and we will make it come true!

The 2002 Awards

Presented by the National Federation of the Blind

From the Editor: National Federation of the Blind awards are not bestowed lightly. If an appropriate recipient does not emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is simply not presented. At this year's convention six presentations were made by the National Federation of the Blind, one by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, Inc., and one by the International Braille Research Center. The first four presentations took place during the board of directors meeting Friday morning, July 5. The first was presented by Steve Benson, who chairs the Blind Educator of the Year Selection Committee. This is what he said:

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Willows, displaying her award, and Steve Benson]

The Blind Educator of the Year Award

Thank you, President Maurer, and thank you, members of the selection committee--Judy Sanders, Adelmo Vigil, and Ramona Walhof--for your contribution to this year's deliberation. The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented only to those whose talent, teaching skill, contribution to the education field, and demonstrated leadership in the community and in the National Federation of the Blind merit such singular recognition.

The recipient of this year's award teaches blind children whose cognitive level is a minimum of three years below their chronological age. She has done this for the past five years. During the previous six years she taught in regular classrooms and special education settings. She has earned the respect of her peers, administrators, and parents of the children she teaches.

The winner of the 2002 Blind Educator of the Year Award comes from Illinois. She met the NFB for the first time at the 1972 convention in Chicago. Shortly after that convention she moved to another state. Her involvement in the Federation emulates that of Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and President Maurer, for she has given unselfishly of her time, energy, and means. This year's honoree has advocated with parents of blind children. She has participated in numerous IEP meetings to make certain blind children get appropriate, quality education. She has testified on behalf of blind teachers; she has consulted with attorneys in our effort to ensure that blind people teach in a variety of classroom settings, and she has counseled many newly blind teachers, encouraging them to continue in their chosen profession.

The Blind Educator of The Year Award Committee has selected as this year's honoree, Mary Willows of California. While Mary is making her way to the platform, I will tell you that she earned bachelor's and master's degrees at San Francisco State University. She holds a special education credential called "Professional Clear Multiple Subjects Preschool through Adults," and she teaches at the California School for the Blind.

Mary has served as a chapter president for ten years. She is immediate past president of the National Organization of Blind Educators. She has also chaired the Committee on Parental Concerns. She directed NFB Camp for several years. In addition she has served as president of the Northern California Chapter of AER.

Mary, congratulations! Here is a check for $1,000 and a plaque that reads:

BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

National Federation of the Blind

presented to

Mary Willows

IN RECOGNITION OF OUTSTANDING ACCOMPLISHMENTS

IN THE TEACHING PROFESSION

YOU ENHANCE THE PRESENT

YOU INSPIRE YOUR COLLEAGUES

YOU BUILD THE FUTURE

JULY 5, 2002

Fellow Federationists, here is Mary Willows.

Thank you, Mr. Benson.This is far worse than my first day in the classroom. To receive such an award from the very people I admire most--I'm shaking; I can't even talk. I was really one of the lucky ones. As Mr. Benson said, I met the National Federation of the Blind when I was eighteen years old, so all of my life's decisions and choices about what I did with my life and what I did has been influenced and guided by the very people in this room. This is just mind-boggling. Thank you very much.

When I first started working at the California School for the Blind, I was asked to speak to a group of graduating students about the history of the NFB. As I was talking to the kids, I realized that, although the location had changed, I was doing what Dr. Newel Perry had done sixty or seventy years ago with Perry's boys. I was now working at the very place where all of this started. Thank you so much; this is just wonderful. I appreciate--it's an honor to receive this award, and it's a privilege to know all of you. Thank you.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Maneki reads the text of the award from Braille while Debbi Head holds her plaque.]

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award

Later in the board meeting Sharon Maneki, who chairs the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award Committee, made her committee's presentation. Here is the way it happened:

Good morning fellow Federationists. The selection committee of Jacquilyn Billey, Allen Harris, Joyce Scanlan, and me are pleased indeed to present to you a distinguished educator of blind children. This award originated from a suggestion by our National Organization of Parents of Blind Children to recognize teachers in the vision field who truly have vision. This morning's recipient is someone who has been teaching for twenty-one years. Fourteen of those years have been at the Wentzville school district.

She does not limit her activities to the classroom, although the classroom is certainly very important to her. She has assisted young teens in getting part-time jobs. She serves on the advisory committee of the state rehabilitation council, and she serves on an education task force. By the way, she serves in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind. In case you don't know where the Wentzville school district is, it is [in] Missouri.

So the recipient of the award this year is Debbi Head. First of all, Debbi, I am going to present you with a check for $1,000. While Debbi is holding the plaque, I will read it for you.

The National Federation of the Blind honors

Debbi Head

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children

for your skill in teaching Braille

and other alternative techniques of blindness

for generously devoting extra time

to meet the needs of your students

and for inspiring your students to perform

beyond their expectations.

You champion our movement.

You strengthen our hopes.

You share our dreams.

July 2002

Congratulations, Debbi.

Ms. Head then responded:

Thank you very much Dr. Maurer, Board of Directors, Federationists, and especially my Missouri supporters. I am greatly honored to be here today and to have the opportunity to sit in on the convention. With the work we are doing in Missouri I think we are making some really good progress with our students. I greatly appreciate the chance to be here today. Thank you.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Roland Allen and James Omvig prepare to shake hands.]

The Fredric K. Schroeder Award

Presented by

The National Blindness Professional Certification Board, Inc.

Sometime later during the board meeting Dr. Maurer called James Omvig, president of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, to the podium to make an important presentation and to announce the establishment of a new award. Mr. Omvig began by providing the background of this award and then made the first presentation. This is what he said:

The directors of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board are gratified to be here today and to have this opportunity to bestow our inaugural award for outstanding contributions to the field of travel training for the blind. As we thought about it--to come up with just the right name to attach to this signal honor--it occurred to us immediately that, among the blind of America, no name holds more weight or lends more prestige and credibility to an award in the field of orientation and mobility than that of Dr. Fred Schroeder. So it is a privilege of a very special order to present the very first Fredric K. Schroeder Award.

Although Fred Schroeder is one of today's giants in work with the blind and is greatly admired and loved by those who know him, I venture to say that many, even in this vast audience, would wonder at the naming of an O&M award for him. So what does Fred Schroeder have to do with Orientation and Mobility? Everything! Fred Schroeder was the very first blind American to be accepted in and graduate from a master's degree program at one of the old-line O&M university programs.

It is not, of course, remarkable at all that Fred graduated with high marks, earning a master's in O&M. He is extremely intelligent and highly motivated. What is remarkable is the facts and circumstances surrounding his matriculation into the O&M program at San Francisco State University and his subsequent efforts to become certified in the profession.

To give a little history, Fred's personal story is all too common among people who are blind in America. As a blind youngster he was deprived by the blindness system of the very training and attitudinal adjustment which would have empowered him. Instead of getting proper training, much of his early life was spent in hospitals undergoing surgeries--sixteen of them--in quest of vision. They didn't work.

Fred first met the National Federation of the Blind as a young man in the 1970's; and, as is the case with many of us, his life was changed forever. After he learned that he as a blind person could have a life, he attacked his future with passion. His undergraduate and graduate university work tells much about his spirit, character, and competence. He completed his undergraduate work, not in four years or five or six or even seven, but in two-and-a-half years, graduating magna cum laude. In graduate school he earned a dual master's degree--in both special education and O&M, graduating summa cum laude.

While working on his master's in special education, Fred decided he wanted to teach travel to other blind people, and Jim Nyman of the Nebraska state agency was willing to give him a chance, even though he had no formal training at the time. He later returned to California and finished the O&M work. It was while Fred and other blind pioneers were working in Nebraska that the concepts of nonvisual instruction and structured-discovery learning were defined.

At the very same time that pioneering work was being done by the blind, a vicious war was also being waged upon the blind by professionals serving them over the issue of blind O&M instructors. The good-old-boy powers-that-be of the day held fast to their tragedy view of blindness--that is, the notion that blindness means inferiority and incompetence. Since they thought of blind people as incompetent, it naturally followed in their minds that the blind were not at all suited to teach O&M, and the schools were closed to the blind.

One more factual piece of timing comes into play. Prior to the 1970's, the people running the university programs assumed they could keep the blind out with impunity, and they did. However, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act had been set in place in 1973, and it prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities by programs which received federal funds. This meant that university programs could not discriminate on the basis of disability. Fred made it known in the late 70's that he intended to get an O&M degree. So set on maintaining their position of superiority and control over the blind were these good old boys that they actually tried to persuade the heads of all of the O&M programs to stand as one on the position that sight is absolutely essential to teach O&M and that, therefore, even if the blind as a class were kept out, it could not be called discrimination.

Fortunately for Fred Schroeder and the blind of America, one program director who knew and respected Fred would not fall meekly and thoughtlessly into line. He was Pete Wurzburger of San Francisco State. Pete admitted Fred into his program. Fred of course did extremely well even though some expressed extreme hostility toward him while he was a student. Some sighted students who displayed friendliness toward Fred were told that such behavior might jeopardize their careers.

Following his graduation, the knotty problem of O&M certification came along. At that time the only possible professional certification was administered by the American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB), then Association for the Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), and now the Academy. The good old boys had decided to screen out all blind people. To accomplish this, they created a bogus document called the Functional Abilities Checklist. Relying upon visual techniques, it proved that sight--very good sight--is absolutely essential to teach travel. Fred failed the visual portions of the assessment and was refused AAWB certification.

Then Fred moved on with his life and launched the career we all know and admire--travel instructor, public school special education program administrator, state commission for the blind director, federal rehabilitation commissioner, and now university research professor and director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University.

An NFB lawsuit was filed against AAWB/AER, but in the final analysis the case was dismissed with a ruling by the court that, since AER was a private association rather than a public entity receiving federal funds, Section 504 did not apply. Even with this clear ruling by the court, certain AER officials misrepresented the facts and claimed that the judge had taken jurisdiction and had ruled that under Section 504 it was not discriminatory to bar the blind from professional certification.

Fred never received AAWB/AER certification, but, to complete the story, I would like to say for the record that Dr. Fred Schroeder is now a certified O&M instructor. It seemed particularly fitting that he receive the very first National Orientation and Mobility Certification presented by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board.

These then are the facts about Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, NOMC, but they do not reveal the true character and spirit of the man. Even so, this brief history tells the story of why it is fitting that our award for excellence be named for him. Intelligence, drive, patience, compassion, stick-to-itiveness, good sense, and a fierce passion for justice for the blind: what more can be said; what more could be wanted?

With this bit of history as a backdrop, we turn to our new award. As with National Federation of the Blind recognitions, this honor will not necessarily be presented each year but only as often as it has been earned through exemplary service. The 2002 recipient of the Fredric K. Schroeder Award is the program instructor in the Louisiana Tech O&M master's program, Mr. Roland Allen, NOMC.

Like Dr. Schroeder, Roland's life was touched profoundly and changed forever when he met the National Federation of the Blind. And he too has distinguished himself by being a first--the first blind O&M instructor in the country teaching in a university program. He has been a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind and at Louisiana Tech University and also holds our National Orientation and Mobility Certification.

Presently, although Dr. Ruby Ryles coordinates professional development and heads the Tech O&M master's program, it is Roland Allen who actually teaches the hands-on travel training part of the degree. He has become invaluable to the program and has mastered the ability to teach the nonvisual and structured-discovery techniques. Roland is a busy guy. He also teaches travel at the Louisiana Center for the Blind and is a leader in the NFB of Louisiana.

In describing Roland Allen and his significance and contributions to the program, Dr. Ryles writes,

It is profoundly fitting that Roland Allen is the first recipient of the Fredric K. Schroeder Award in that, like Dr. Schroeder, Roland is not only a beloved professional but also a true pioneer in the field of orientation and mobility. As the nation's first blind university orientation and mobility instructor, Roland exemplifies the personal dedication, teaching skills, and professional excellence that he strives daily to instill in our Tech master's students.

He demonstrates in both his personal and professional life the values to which we as Federationists dedicate our lives. I am honored to call him my colleague and blessed to call him my friend.

Roland, as a symbol of your excellence and to memorialize this occasion, the National Blindness Professional Certification Board bestows its first ever Fredric K. Schroeder Award upon you and presents you with this walnut plaque. It reads:

Life Insurance

Life insurance constitutes a very special gift to the National Federation of the Blind. A relatively easy and direct form of planned giving is a new life insurance policy. You can make the NFB the beneficiary and owner of a life insurance policy and receive a tax deduction on the premium you pay.

For example, at age fifty you purchase a $10,000 whole life insurance policy on yourself and designate the NFB as beneficiary and owner of the policy. The premium cost to you is fully tax-deductible each year. You may even decide to pay for the entire policy over a specific period of time, perhaps ten years. This increases your tax deduction each year over the ten-year period and fully pays up your policy.

You may, however, already have a life insurance policy in existence and wish to contribute it to the NFB. By changing the beneficiary and owner to the National Federation of the Blind, you can receive tax savings, depending on the cash value of the policy. Your attorney, insurance agent, or the National Federation of the Blind will be able to assist you if you decide to include the NFB in your planned-giving program through life insurance. For more information 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: The Scholarship Class of 2002: (left to right) back row: Ben Pool, Moira Egan, Mazen Abou‑Antoun, Jessica Bachicha, Tony Olivero, Jennifer Peterson, James Konechne, Emily Wharton, Sheila Koenig, and Robin House; middle row: Anil Lewis, Alex Gray, Nicolas Crisosto, Michael Jones, Josie Armantrout, David Tseng, Andrea Travis, Ashley Skellenger, Lynn Heitz, and Jesse Hartle; front row: Raquel Silva, Rick Brown, Therese McCabe, Philip So, Denna Lambert, Deja Powell, Mary Jo Thorpe, Ryan Strunk, Cindee Wobbles, and Jay Williams.

The 2002 Scholarship Class

of the National Federation of the Blind

From the Editor: With every passing year we recognize the increasing value of the NFB Scholarship Program to our national organization. Members of previous scholarship classes--ninety-five past winners last year--stream back to take part in convention activities and assume responsibility, doing anything that they can see needs to be done. Everyone looks forward to meeting the new scholarship class and to hearing what its members are doing and planning to do with their lives.

On banquet evening, while we are still sky-high after listening to President Maurer's address, Peggy Elliott comes to the podium, presents the year's winners, giving an academic and personal sketch of each, and announces which scholarship the person has been awarded. This year each winner crossed the platform and shook hands with Dr. Maurer and Dr. Raymond Kurzweil, whose foundation presented each with an additional $1,000 scholarship and the latest version of the Kurzweil 1000 reader software. Erik Weihenmayer, representing Freedom Scientific, also congratulated each winner and presented ten of them with technology certificates from Freedom Scientific.

The final scholarship awarded in this year's scholarship extravaganza, which took place at the banquet on July 8, was the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship of $10,000, which was presented to Anil Lewis, who then spoke briefly to the group. His remarks appear later in this article.

But earlier in the week, at the meeting of the NFB board of directors, each 2002 scholarship winner came to the microphone and spoke directly to the Federation. Following is what they said about themselves. Each speaker was introduced by Peggy Elliott, saying first the student's name and then both the home and school states. This is what was said:

Mazen Abou-Antoun, Ohio, Washington, D.C.: How are you doing, everyone? I just want everyone to know that this is my first convention and that obviously it seems that it won't be my last. I am going to be a law student at George Washington University in the fall. I plan to join the U.S. Foreign Service. The thing I want to mention now is that I got married last summer, and my wife is sitting in the crowd. I didn't mention it at the first meeting. I didn't mention it at the student meeting, and this time will be strike three and out if I don't mention it. It is a pleasure meeting all of you.

Josie Armantrout, Washington, Washington: Hello, everyone, good morning. My name is Josie Armantrout, and I will be finishing at Green River Community College this year and going on to the University of Washington. I plan to earn a BA in sociology and a minor in computer applications and Spanish. I want to be able to work where the changes need to be done, and that's at the state agencies--teach them the philosophy and get people out of their homes and out into the world. Thank you.

Jessica Bachicha, New Mexico, New Mexico: [Jessica began by singing several bars of a song.] I am Jessica Bachicha, and I am double majoring in music and foreign languages at the University of New Mexico. I hope to pursue graduate studies in Europe and then understand how I can best serve from there. I want to sing. I want to really sing beyond the notes, beyond the rhythm, beyond the dynamics. There is a relation between languages and music, and I want to find it.

Rick Brown, Florida, Florida: Hi. I am going to be attending the University of South Florida, and one of my biggest achievements that I have come across this month is four years of a transplant (pancreas and kidneys), so I am no longer a diabetic. I am very proud of that. I plan on going for my master's in social work. I want to work with diabetics and people who are losing their sight. Thank you.

Nicolas Crisosto, California, California:

It's walking on the beach feeling the sun rise and a sea breeze;

It's running without doubts or electronic routes,

Freely through the trees.

More than that it's standing tall in class,

On stage, or on the street.

It's cuddling up with Braille books

And slating names of new people when we meet.

It's the joy of playing football with sighted friends

And knowing life and believing life doesn't end with blindness.

It's all of this and so much more.

That's what the NFB, the CCB, and the scholarship mean to me.

And I'm a math major.

Moira Egan, New York, New York: Good morning. I am a Ph.D. candidate in history at the City University of New York. I am an adjunct instructor now and plan to be a full professor when I finish. I am writing on a woman who was a nun, and it's wonderful because my being blind will be an asset. Nuns don't generally leave records about themselves, so my field in using alternative techniques will help me seek out all the little tidbits of information that are stored in various archives. My being blind will also equip me well to write her biography because she was a nurse and an administrator and a financial expert when such things were not possible for women. I think my being involved with this group will help me to search out her ways of using different strategies and breaking new ground. I thank you all for the opportunity.

Alex Gray, Massachusetts, Massachusetts: Hello. My name is Alex Gray. Next fall I will be attending Boston College, where I intend to pursue a degree in education. I hope one day to be a high school English teacher. I would like to briefly say, when I first was leaving Boston, I was unsure about how my being blind would affect my travel and how it would affect a lot of my life. As I went on, it started to make more sense; it seemed possible. Over the past three days people in the National Federation of the Blind have made it seem that everything is possible for blind people and for me. I would like to thank you for all the inspiration that you have given.

Jesse Hartle, Louisiana, Louisiana: Good morning. At last year's national convention I listened to a speech by Erik Weihenmayer and how he felt when he stood on top of the world, on top of Mt. Everest. In my life I have never climbed a mountain yet, but I know how it feels to stand high above the ground because I have stood on the shoulders of many giants in the Federation like Dr. Joanne Wilson and Pam Allen, who at a young age lifted me up. It is a pleasure for me now to serve in the Louisiana Center for the Blind Buddy program, where I have the opportunity to lift up the future of tomorrow onto my shoulders so that they may see the horizon of what is possible. I am currently working on my master's degree in history with plans to go into law in the field of sports and entertainment law. Thank you very much.

Lynn Heitz, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Good afternoon, fellow Federationists. I am a junior at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I will be continuing my education to get my master's degree in rehabilitation counseling. In addition to that I am president of the Keystone Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania. I am also the editor of the state affiliate newsletter and have the privilege of helping to organize other state events that are run during the course of a year. I look forward to being able to continue working with the Federation and continuing its goal of improving what it means to be blind in Pennsylvania. Thank you.

Robin House, tenBroek fellow, Missouri, Missouri: Good afternoon, fellow Federationists. I am currently a graduate student working on a master's degree in elementary counseling. I recently finished up with a second bachelor's degree in education, and I earned teacher certification in the state of Missouri. Another award I recently earned, which is an honor equal to this--outstanding teacher for the fall semester 2001 by the University of Missouri Department of Education, and it was quite an honor. Just like this, they named one person for that. I believe my vision for the twenty-first-century classroom is that students feel capable, connected, and contributing members of the classroom, community, and society. I want to thank the Federation for your continued guidance, support, and confidence in me. Thank you.

Michael Jones, Alabama, Alabama: Hello, everyone. I first want to thank all the local chapter presidents and local chapter members who raised so much money for our organization that gives great opportunities like this scholarship. I really sincerely thank you, and your hard work pays off. I am a Ph.D. student at Auburn University in vocational rehabilitation. I would like to teach university-level people and spread the philosophy of the Federation and also work in executive administration in a state agency. Thank you.

Sheila Koenig, tenBroek fellow, Minnesota, Minnesota: Thank you. I currently teach ninth grade language arts at Southview Middle School in Medina, Minnesota; and I am pursuing a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, specializing in English education. On the first day of class last fall I showed my students a videotape. On this videotape they saw me, their English teacher, securely fastened in a harness being raised up about 160 feet. With the pull of a cord, I dove to the ground and glided from side to side, pendulum style. I showed this to my students because I wanted them to see that their teacher wants to stretch her possibilities, wants to challenge herself to become more. This is what I expect of them in my classroom, and it is in fact what the Federation has given to me. Thank you for this honor.

James Konechne, South Dakota, South Dakota: Hello. I am going to be a junior at the Dakota Wesleyan University. I am studying business administration and economics, and my goal in life is to live out the Federation philosophy and prove every day that blind people can be just normal members of society. Thanks.

Deana Lambert, Arkansas, Arkansas: Good afternoon, Federationists. To get to this national convention I had to leave my mother at the airport, who was crying with tears not of happiness and excitement at my accomplishments. She was afraid. She was kind of dismayed that her daughter was going off somewhere strange to meet strangers and mentors and great people she did not know. I hope to become a coordinator of youth services. I would like to show people and teach students that I believe in them and the Federation believes in them, and most importantly, that they need to and must have every right to believe in themselves so that they can have bright and fascinating futures.

Anil Lewis, Georgia, Georgia: This is very humbling. I want to take this opportunity to express to all of you that I consider this scholarship an investment as well as an award. This award will allow me to graduate next year from Georgia State University with a master's in public administration with an emphasis in policy evaluation. I intend to use that newly acquired academic tool to establish a nonprofit center that takes advantage of my experience in job placement and training to advocate for individuals, to create opportunities for blind individuals, to help fight for equality for blind individuals, and to insure the security of the others. As far as my promise to you for an investment you are making today, I have already demonstrated my ability to give you a good return on your investment as the newly elected president of the Georgia affiliate. I work on several boards to secure equality, opportunity, and security, but with this investment that you are making today, I want to assure you that you are going to make bigger and better returns; thousands upon thousands of blind people will benefit from what you are doing for me today. Unlike Enron and WorldCom, I won't cook the books; I will give you a fair return on your investment.

Therese McCabe, California, California: Good morning, everyone. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here with all of you. I am honored to have been selected for receiving this scholarship. I would like to take a few moments to express my gratitude to the National Federation of the Blind for providing me with the opportunity to become acquainted with the organization's philosophy. I have had very little exposure to blindness organizations, so this week has been a real eye-opener for me. I have been impressed by the sense of unity within the organization, the immense energy of its members, but particularly by the confidence and dignity and poise with which many of the speakers I have heard present themselves. I think that there is not enough of this self-confidence in blind people I have seen in the past. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to be here and to be experiencing this organization. I plan to continue with the organization if I can. I just recently graduated from high school, and I will be a freshman at UCLA in the fall majoring in English. I am considering a double major or perhaps a minor in music or language and philosophy. After college I hope to continue on to law school and some day become a trial lawyer. Thank you.

Tony Olivero, Wisconsin, Minnesota: Thank you. I am currently working on a bachelor's degree in computer science, hoping for a career in computer security and networking administration or computer consulting. I am on the LaCross chapter board of the NFB and the Wisconsin affiliate board, and I am the treasurer of the Wisconsin Association of Blind Students. I would just like to take a moment and thank Dr. Maurer and members of the board, the scholarship committee, and all my fellow Federationists for all the incredible opportunities that this scholarship class is getting, and I hope some day to be able to pay back everything you guys have given us.

Jennifer Peterson, Iowa, Iowa: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am very honored to stand before a whole room full of people who have accomplished so much. This is my first convention, and I am just blown away, not because these blind people have accomplished so much, but simply because you have all accomplished so much. I have undergraduate degrees in religion, English, and human services, and I decided to continue in social work. I have just completed my first year of an MSW at the University of Iowa. I don't know exactly what I want to do with it, and the reason is that I would be happy working in a number of settings. I am interested in simply helping people empower themselves in whatever way is necessary. I am interested in any group who feels disempowered, any person who feels a sense of dependence on something or other, and I would like to help them to achieve independence in whatever ways I can do that.

Ben Pool, Alaska, Washington: Good morning, or afternoon, I suppose. Like Peggy said, I am from the great state of Alaska, the home of Eskimos and snowshoes and midnight sun and the Iditarod and, of course, myself. Next fall I will be enrolling at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington, where I will be majoring in psychology. Ultimately my vocational goal is to be a radio therapist, i.e., not Dr. Ruth or Dr. Laura, but Dr. Ben and no one else. So thank you. This is my first experience with the NFB, and it's been thrilling to say the least.

Deja Powell, Hawaii, Hawaii: Aloha. Hi. My name is Deja Powell. I am originally from Salt Lake City, Utah. I graduated from high school a year ago, and I have been attending the Salt Lake Community College and have also been an active member in the Utah student division as their vice president. As of only ten days ago, I started my education at Brigham Young University, Hawaii campus. I flew in from there a few days ago on a twelve-hour flight. So if you see me nodding, that's the reason why--I skipped a night. My career goal is to become a journalist or possibly advertising, and my minor is English. This is my second convention. My first one was a great experience, and that's why I am here. Thank you.

Raquel Silva, Nevada, Nevada: Hi. My name is Raquel Silva, and I am very honored to be here today and very excited to be here. This is my first convention, and I just want to thank you all for being such a great support in my life. My goal is to be a vocational rehabilitation counselor. I am currently a junior at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I would one day like to give back what was given to me by being an example to other blind individuals and helping them get a job and find their place in the world and their dreams and hopefully how to achieve them. Thank you.

Ashley Skellenger, Florida, Louisiana: Hello. I will be attending Louisiana Tech University in the fall and will get a degree in computer information systems. Three years ago I attended my first state convention in Jacksonville, and I heard Diane McGeorge speak about the Colorado Center and what the students learn there and especially the confidence that they gained. I knew that that was something I needed and wanted to have, so as a result I attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind STEP and adult programs, and both of those were wonderful experiences. I learned so much and am still learning. I am just grateful to be a part of this convention again, and I really appreciate this opportunity.

Philip So, New Jersey, New York: Good morning, Federationists. It is an honor to be here, and this week has been overwhelming. I am from New Jersey, and I am studying economics right now at Columbia University in New York. This week I learned so much from all the people and also from the Federation's philosophy. Through that I have also learned more about myself. It is my first convention here, and I look forward to the next one and the one after that, and even more after that. Thank you.

Ryan Strunk, Nebraska, Nebraska: Good morning. You know, it's interesting: I have done a lot of work for the Federation thus far, and people have asked me, "Ryan, if you're so on fire for the Federation, why are you going into a musical education career?" I thought about this for a while, and I realized that when I stand up on a stage in front of thousands of students over the course of my career and tens of thousands of their close relatives and friends, I'm going to be showing everyone that blind people can and will participate on an equal level with the sighted population. Not only that, but I also thought it was interesting that I have to take a lot of education courses and things like that--lesson plans, working on disciplining the students, and things like this. I realized that there are only two things you really need for public education: the first is patience, which they say comes with age; and the second is philosophy. The first I'm working on, and the second I have because of the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you.

Mary Jo Thorpe, Utah, Utah: Good afternoon. I am so privileged to be here today and thank you for the opportunity. My name is Mary Jo Thorpe. I am from Woods Cross, Utah. I graduated cum laude from Utah State University. I am now attending the University of Utah interning to become a child life specialist. This is an individual who works in the hospital setting as an advocate for children and their families, who supports children in a variety of hospital procedures in preparation for surgery and things of that nature. Upon my certification and completion of this program, to my knowledge I will be the first certified blind child life specialist in the country, so I am excited for that. I am also working towards my master's in social work. I have been involved in the NFB for three years and have had a lot of opportunities to serve on the local level with our state. I am also on the Utah board of directors and serve as the Utah student division president. I am really excited to be a part of this organization. I think it is a worthy cause and has greatly helped to make me who I am and helped me come to accept my blindness and really made it easier for me to change what it means to be blind for myself. I am grateful for that.

Andrea Travis, Idaho, Idaho: Hello there, everyone. Isn't this tough competition? Wow. I am going to be a freshman at the University of Idaho in the fall, and I am really excited to go, and I think I am going to major in business administration and hopefully own my own business some day. This is my very first convention, which is really cool. It's kind of overwhelming, but it's fun. I am the Idaho Association of Blind Students vice president. Thank you.

David Tseng, California, California: Good afternoon, everybody. I will be entering my first semester at UC Berkeley this fall. I will be majoring in computer science and music, just to balance out those two fields. I would like to share one realization that I've come to. The few days that I've been at this convention, I have come to realize and truly believe that blind people can obtain any goal they want to aspire to. Now we can all say that, but to truly believe in it is another question, and seeing all the people here doing, going about their business is truly inspirational. It just makes me want to do more with my own life. Thank you very much.

Emily Wharton, Minnesota, Minnesota: Hello. Four years ago Joyce Scanlan took a chance on a young Iowan with an English degree and hired me to work at BLIND, Inc. Since then I have had the opportunity to teach and learn cane travel and life skills and computers and actually learn how to be a LAN administrator. Through BLIND, Inc., and the wonderful people I have met through National Federation of the Blind, the courage and skills and friendship that I have found here have allowed me to come with the courage to follow my greatest passion and return to graduate school so that I could earn a master's of fine arts degree in creative writing at Hamline University. I will start in the fall, and I would like to thank you all for this opportunity.

Jay Williams, North Carolina, North Carolina: I am Jay Williams, and I am from North Carolina. I got my undergraduate degree, graduating summa cum laude from NC State University. I am currently at East Carolina University to get my master's degree in counselor education. Hopefully my eastern dialect won't affect ya'll. I would eventually like to open up my own private agency working with substance abuse in the adolescent population, and I guess I want to leave you with a statement that has really meant a lot to me. It is an excerpt from the children's fable of the fox in The Little Prince. That excerpt is "One sees clearly only with the heart; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Cindee Wobbles, Connecticut, Connecticut: Hello. I really wish I had kept my maiden name about now, going last after this crowd. I will be attending Central Connecticut State University. I am in the psychology/sociology double-major program. My goal is to be a vocational rehabilitation counselor specializing in elderly services, in which I will find success because I am trustworthy, reliable, and independent. In other words, I say what I mean; I go out there and do it; and I do it on my own ability. Thank you.

Peggy Elliott: Dr. Maurer and fellow Federationists, this is the class of 2002. [applause]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Anil Lewis addresses the banquet audience.]

Monday evening, July 8, Anil Lewis of Georgia received the $10,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship. He spoke briefly to the banquet audience. This is what he said:

I'm going to try, but when I get nervous, I talk real fast. I'm going to try not to make you guys use your extra-sensory ability to listen fast. [laughter] Before I say anything, I have to give much love and a whole lot of respect to the other scholarship recipients tonight. I'd like to ask you to help me in showing my appreciation to them as well. [applause]

Dr. Maurer says that nothing can go wrong except for everything else that can go wrong. Those of you who were at the board meeting remember that I said that this is a humbling honor and that it wasn't so much an award as an investment. In the tradition of awards I have to thank a couple of people. One who was not able to make it today because he is celebrating his thirtieth wedding anniversary is Mr. Al Falligan. He was the Atlanta Chapter president before I became the Atlanta Chapter president. Long before I knew him as the NFB Atlanta Chapter president, he was the guy who told me the truth about the Federation. You guys who have heard all the propaganda and the rumors know exactly what I mean by hearing the truth about the Federation. So he brought me into this loop.

The other gentleman whom I haven't gotten an opportunity to thank for what he did for me--he probably doesn't even realize what he did for me--is our president, Dr. Marc Maurer. For those of you who know me, you know that I am the father of a wonderful four-year-old boy. That came about due to a trying divorce situation. At the same time I was nursing my mom, who died in 2000 of myeloma, a type of cancer. During that time in my life, I was falling apart. My father died when I was very young, so I had very few male role models in my life. But Dr. Maurer took the time out of his busy schedule to talk to me about some of the problems and issues that I was dealing with as a future single parent who had lost his mom. I want to thank him now publicly for all he did for me.

Now for the investment part. Just as a demonstration of how all this works, Dr. Maurer made me a very strong, independent, self-sufficient single parent. I returned that investment in me by being present when the NFB had to go get a blind mother back her child in Savannah, Georgia. I also didn't hesitate when the same thing needed to happen for the grandmother in Dothan, Alabama; I was on that plane in a heartbeat. As I said at the board meeting, I am going to give you a fair return on your investment. Let me break it down in this fashion--but before I do, let me give much love and respect to my chapter, the Atlanta Chapter, and the whole Georgia affiliate of which I have just recently become the president. They have shown me so much love that I just have to give more back. That's their investment in me, and I hope they are starting to experience the return on that.

I was afraid that I was so nervous I wouldn't be able to remember what Dr. Maurer's banquet speech was about, but I do remember: "knowledge, money, and power." So I will use that to summarize the investment you have made in me. The knowledge is the knowledge that I am going to obtain through pursuing my academic education and that I have learned through Jim Gashel and his explaining the work incentives of Social Security that help me be a better job-placement professional at the Center for the Visually Impaired. And I have learned through Dr. Fredric Schroeder that learning the rules of how to play the game of the Rehab Act has made me a better professional with respect to the Client Assistance Program that I've been working with for the past six years. With that degree I obtain I want not only to teach people how to obey the rules, be accountable, but I also want to make it possible for us to make the rules.

The money part is real easy--$10,000 is a lot of money.

Lastly, the power part. You heard me use the word "I" quite a bit tonight. But I learned when I was a young Southern Baptist boy that the I is only a reflection of the power within. I would like to thank God for this moment, for the power within and for the power without--the motivation, the encouragement, the love. I've always said that I have ten thousand angels, and I realize that more than two thousand of them are in this room now. So the power I want to leave with you is the power that you have given me--the power to change what it means to be blind. Thank you very much for this honor.

Here is the complete list of 2002 scholarship winners and the awards they received:

Freedom Scientific $1,500 Technology Certificates: James Konechne, Tony Olivero, Deana Lambert, Ben Pool, and Ashley Skellenger

Freedom Scientific $2,500 Technology Certificates: Richard Brown, Jesse Hartle, Moira Egan, Deja Powell, and Therese McCabe

$3,000 NFB Scholarships: Josie Armantrout, Lynn Heitz, James Konechne, Deana Lambert, Jennifer Peterson, Ben Pool, Deja Powell, Raquel Silva, Ashley Skellenger, Philip So, Andrea Travis, David Tseng, and Jay Williams

$3,000 NFB Computer Science Scholarship: Tony Olivero

$3,000 NFB Educator of Tomorrow Award: Alexander Gray

$3,000 NFB Humanities Scholarship: Therese McCabe

$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Moira Egan

$3,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship: Jessica Bachicha

$3,000 Lora E. Dunetz Scholarship: Richard Brown

$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Cindee Wobbles

$3,000 E.U. Parker Scholarship: Michael Jones

$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Mazen Abou-Antoun

$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship: Jesse Hartle

$5,000 Sally S. Jacobsen Memorial Scholarship: Robin House

$5,000 NFB Scholarships: Mary Jo Thorpe and Emily Wharton

$7,000 Melva T. Owen Scholarship: Ryan Strunk

$7,000 NFB Scholarships: Nicholas Crisosto and Sheila Koenig

$10,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship: Anil Lewis

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer delivers the 2002 banquet address.]

[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Two pictures have been fused to show the entire banquet room, which is filled with Federationists at dinner tables. The picture is so long that it has been turned ninety degrees, stretching from the top to the bottom of the page.

PHOTO/CAPTION: Two hours after the close of the afternoon general session the ballroom doors opened to welcome a couple of thousand Federationists to the 2002 banquet of the National Federation of the Blind. Gone were the rows of chairs in theater seating and delegation banners, and in their place stood hundreds of tables set for a festive dinner. This is the way the ballroom looked at the start of the July 8 banquet.]

LEADERSHIP AND THE MATRIX OF POWER

An Address Delivered by Marc Maurer

President of the National Federation of the Blind

July 8, 2002

The acquisition of power has often been regarded as base or disreputable. Francis Bacon said, "The desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall; the desire of knowledge in excess caused man to fall." He went on to assert that "Knowledge itself is power." Hence, (according to Bacon) man's search for knowledge is a search for power--which caused him to fall.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal, "You shall have joy or you shall have power, said God, you shall not have both." He also wrote, "Men ... very naturally seek money or power; and power because it is as good as money." Otto Von Bismarck declared, "He who has his thumb on the purse has the power."

Such statements purport to illustrate that knowledge, money, and power are equivalent. Some people believe that they are all bad. As Lord Acton, in his famous phrase, said, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Though this aphorism is oft-repeated, and though it has a deceptively learned ring, can any thinking person truly believe it? Power is essential to freedom. John Dewey said, "Liberty is not just an idea, an abstract principle. It is power, effective power to do specific things." Cicero said, "Freedom is participation in power."

The political buzzword of recent time was "empowerment"--creating power within the disenfranchised. If the theories of Acton and the others who mistrust power were true, empowerment would also corrupt. It would be Machiavellian indeed if the hidden agenda of the politicians was to corrupt the innocent.

Power denotes the ability to do what the person, organization, or country wants done at the time and in the way that the entity possessing power wants it done with minimal inconvenience. It is neither morally corrupt nor spiritually invigorating. It is neutral.

However, the process of acquiring power (the method used to get it) and the purposes for which it is used undoubtedly affect the quality of the result. Mao Ze-dong believed that without weapons and force there can be no power in politics. He said, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." However, John Quincy Adams said that the basis for political power is fundamentally different from that of weapons of war. "Individual liberty," he said, "is individual power; and as the power of a community is a mass compounded of individual powers, the nation which enjoys the most freedom must necessarily be, in proportion to its numbers, the most powerful nation." Malcolm X stated, "Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression."

Without power there is no freedom. Without freedom there is no independence. And without independence there is virtually no possibility of leading a productive and fulfilling life. Therefore, we must seek power.

What are the essential characteristics of this elusive commodity? What must we do to obtain it? And, once acquired, how can it best be managed?

Gloria Steinem observed, "Power can be taken but not given. The process of the taking is empowerment in itself." Thus, gaining power cannot be done for somebody else. If an individual or an organization wishes to possess it, that individual or organization must deliberately decide to have it and must act on that decision. This is not to say that a climate cannot be created in which organizations or individuals are encouraged to seek power for themselves. This can be done, and it should be. However, no individual and no group can live the life of another. Those who want power must take it for themselves. As the old expression tells us, each tub must stand on its own bottom.

Power--being the ability to do specific things--demands that those who want to have it acquire ability. There is no alternative--without ability there is no power. Hence, one of the major routes to power is knowledge. For a blind person, learning the skills of blindness helps. Beyond that, gaining mastery of a body of knowledge, which will permit competition with other people, is also of real importance. The possession of knowledge (or for that matter of money) is, however, not enough. There must be something else to ensure that the blind have power.

One element in the matrix of power is the belief by the individual that it is proper for power to reside within that person. This belief might go by the name of "confidence." Another element is recognition by others of the capacity of the blind person. Without this recognition the power residing within the person (no matter how great) will be rejected as a myth. Can a blind person win the Nobel Prize or serve as the president of the United States? If the answer is "No," if it is believed that sight is essential to these activities, we have not yet received the recognition we deserve. Call this recognition "public understanding." With these--with ability, with confidence, and with public understanding--power can exist. However, gaining these elements cannot be accomplished single-handedly; there must be cooperative effort. No one person in a group can attain power without others gaining a measure of it also. Therefore, to assure that a colleague gains power, seek to achieve some of your own. Conversely, to increase your own, help a friend. Members of organized groups encourage one another, and they achieve recognition much more rapidly than those without an established support network.

The most powerful individuals have gained their stature and influence by inviting others to participate in the dream they have of change. They also know that generosity enhances rather than diminishes power.

Though the sighted public cannot gain power for the blind--cannot give us freedom--our sighted friends and colleagues can help. Most of the time we encounter enormous goodwill. Our sighted friends want us to gain power because with it we are able both to lead independent lives and to contribute to our society. Power helps us, but it also benefits the broader community. In other words, if our sighted friends and colleagues had known how to do it, it would have been in their best interest to have caused the formation of the National Federation of the Blind.

What does all of this mean for us--for the National Federation of the Blind, for our members, and for those blind people who have not yet become our members? Have we acquired power? Have we identified ways to increase freedom for the blind? How are the activities and efforts of the Federation structured within the matrix? And what are the prospects for us in the years to come?

In 1940, when the Federation came into being, the time and circumstances for the blind were completely different from what they are today. For many of us that time would be completely unrecognizable. Jobs for the blind were not simply hard to come by, they were nonexistent except in sheltered workshops, and these jobs were at the very bottom of the economic hierarchy. Education occurred at schools for the blind for those who could get there, but matriculation at college was severely limited and often unattainable. The Books for the Blind Program in the Library of Congress had come into being during the 1930's, but the collection of materials available was not great. For many blind people the brightest hope (and for many it was only a hope) was a tiny amount of welfare, which might be received each month.

In this dreary atmosphere Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, our founding president, and a small group who dreamed with him that conditions might be changed formed the National Federation of the Blind at Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Sixteen people were present representing seven states, but there was almost no money to establish programs for the organization, pay for telephone calls or stamps, or purchase office supplies. It would be many, many years before the thought of reimbursement for travel expenses for officers, members of the board, or anybody else could be addressed in any practical way. The Wilkes-Barre newspaper carried reports about the founding of the Federation, but otherwise the organization's establishment was virtually unnoticed. No influence, no money, no staff, no office space except in the president's small apartment, no allies in the field of blindness, no recognition by the public at large: this was the National Federation of the Blind at its beginning.

However, there were other characteristics. The delegates who came together at the founding of the organization had knowledge. They knew that blindness had been misunderstood. They had an abiding faith that joint effort could bring opportunity, and they had a shared commitment to each other that nothing would prevent them from seeking the influence needed by the blind to bring independence. They decided that the blind could and would have power.

How does this description compare with the Federation of today? We have grown from a gathering of sixteen delegates from seven states to a convention of some 3,000 delegates representing fifty states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. Representatives from many other countries also come. Although the unemployment rate remains dramatically high, tens of thousands of us have become employed. Through Braille, recordings, speech technology, and the NFB-NEWSLINE®, more information is available to the blind more quickly than ever before in history--hundreds of thousands of pages of it. Thousands of blind people attend college each year, and the National Federation of the Blind assists by conducting the most extensive scholarship program for blind people in the nation.

The organized blind possess an extensive program of services to blind people. We maintain a headquarters at the National Center for the Blind, and we operate a number of other offices throughout the nation. We have established orientation and training programs in several states, and we are providing leadership in rehabilitation programs both directly and through example. We have conducted a capital campaign to erect a new building, the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind, and we are pursuing the talent and resources for completing and operating it. Programs to support harmony and cooperation among agencies and organizations in the blindness field are being conducted with our leadership. The blind of the nation, the rank and file membership of the National Federation of the Blind, created the structure of our organization and control it. Such is the National Federation of the Blind today.

However, there are also other characteristics. We have the knowledge that blindness has often been misunderstood. We have the faith to believe that by working together we can bring independence to the blind. We possess a shared commitment to each other. We have the confidence to know that our future is what we will make it, and we are determined that the blind can and will have power.

Our comprehension of blindness is not shared by everybody. There are still some who look upon blindness as an unmitigated tragedy and a clear indication of inferiority. Sometimes this misbegotten attitude may be found among the very people who hold themselves out as providing service to the blind.

Consider, for example, the Maryland Society for Sight, a nonprofit organization composed largely of eye doctors. The Society is dedicated to promoting proper eye care and service to the blind. In a 1998 letter seeking contributions from the public, this society made a number of statements about the blind. Here, in part, is what the letter says:

Close your eyes and imagine not being able to see the sky, the face of a loved one, or a beautiful sunset. Imagine the panic and hopelessness you would feel if you were told you were going blind! Blindness afflicts 3 percent of adults and 5 percent of the children in Maryland. The good news is that over 50 percent of all blindness can be prevented if people know the proper precautions to take.

[I interrupt to remind you that statistics published in the last few years by Johns Hopkins University indicate that the incidence of blindness in the United States is well under 1 percent. I don't know where the Maryland Society for Sight got its numbers. One might even suspect them of padding the statistics to beef up the importance of their solicitations, but back to the letter.]

The Maryland Society for Sight [continues the solicitation] has been working to prevent blindness and preserve sight for all Marylanders since 1909. And we need your help to continue this vital work. ???With your help, we can . . . .

· Provide free eye examinations and glasses to the homeless. A pair of glasses can often mean the difference between living on the streets and having a job and functioning in society.

· Provide the blind and visually impaired with volunteers to come into their homes and help make their lives a little easier.

Please send in a contribution today and help us to give the gift of sight to so many Marylanders.

These are the words of the Maryland Society for Sight, which does thousands of vision screenings each year for school children, for adults, and for the homeless. Sight is, of course, a valuable asset, and we applaud the efforts of the Maryland Society to help people maintain or recover it. If they had only left out the dramatic language about the hopelessness of the blind, we would have no complaint to make. However, what they say about us creates a false impression. The Society preys on the fear of blindness to raise money, and they create hardship for the blind in doing so. Their letter says that they provide volunteers to come into the homes of the blind to make our "lives a little easier." What does such a statement imply--that our lives are hard because of blindness and that we need them to bring us a little comfort? Why don't we volunteer to go into their homes to make their lives a little easier? Perhaps we could provide comfort to them. After all, we have certainly had plenty of people offering it to us; we should know how to reciprocate.

I don't know about you, but I am thoroughly tired of having other people tell me that my life is miserable because I can't see the face of a loved one or the sunset. Although the sunset is undoubtedly worth seeing, its importance has been vastly overemphasized. I have noticed that most sighted people do not interrupt their evening activities to go look at it. If I had to guess, I suspect that the average sighted person would much rather watch television.

The visual image of a loved one's face is clearly more important than the vision of the sunset, but even here the emphasis is misplaced. I ask you, is it the visual image of the face or the love that is more important? Blind people have as much capacity for love as anybody else, and we can find ways to express it whether we are able to see the faces of the ones we love or not. Many of us possess the deepest, fiercest, most abiding love that exists anywhere in the world. Our blindness changes this not at all.

The image conveyed by this letter is one of hopelessness, but we are here to challenge it, and we know how to speak on our own behalf. Blindness has often been misunderstood, but we are determined that this misunderstanding will change to comprehension. Their letter suggests that we are helpless, but we are not. To the contrary, we have decided that the blind must and will have power.

Researchers, with self-proclaimed objectivity, tell us that they have discovered connections between blindness and other characteristics in virtually endless variation. A newspaper account in the Fairfax/Arlington Journal dated December 11, 1997, reported that two professors, Dr. Joel Zaba and Roger Johnson, have conducted a study establishing a link between vision loss and behavioral problems. One of the subjects of their research began to lose vision and, as the reporter says, started pulling pranks such as running through the halls of his school in his boxer shorts. Officials at the school referred him to a behavioral optometrist. When the boy's vision was restored, they say, his behavior and his marks improved.

This boy was not the only one to be studied. In a survey of eighty-one students in a school for at-risk pupils, Zaba and Johnson found that 97 percent of students with behavioral problems had vision difficulties. The conclusion they reached is that vision loss and behavioral problems are linked.

On the other hand, other researchers tell us that blind people think faster than the sighted. Here are excerpts from the report:

Blind people can pick out the meaning of a spoken sentence more quickly than sighted folks. The finding adds weight to the notion that blind people can hear better than others, their hearing compensating for the loss of their sight.

"They process language faster than sighted people," says Brigitte Roder from the University of Marburg, Germany, who discovered the effect with her colleagues at the University of Oregon in Eugene. She says it may explain why some blind people are so fast at reading books recorded onto tape. "I have a blind student who is speeding up all his tapes," she says. Yet he has no problem understanding the words.

A brain wave pattern that indicates when semantics are being analyzed, known as the N400 signal, was observed in sighted people about 150 milliseconds after the [test] sentence ended. In blind volunteers, the pattern was seen in just half that time.

The researchers also found that in blind subjects, areas at the back of the brain normally devoted to sight were taken over in part by auditory information-processing. Roder isn't certain, but she suspects this might be partly responsible for speeding up blind people's ability to process language.

There you have it. Researchers indicate that vision loss and behavioral problems are connected. They also tell us that we hear better and think faster than the sighted. How many blind people have they met? It may be that blind people are smarter and less stable than the sighted, but my observation conducted over a period of more than thirty years does not make me think so. Of course, the study I have conducted was not accompanied with scholarly papers, expensive calculation systems, or university grants; but it was more extensive than theirs.

We are building a research institute which will incorporate the experiences of blind people in the scientific process. This should help give research about blindness a grounding in reality. We are not against competent research competently performed. We are opposed to research which begins with unfounded assumptions and uses them to reach unsupportable conclusions. Knowledge is power, and we are seeking to expand the realm of knowledge possessed by the blind. We will undoubtedly study the nature of blindness itself, but this study must incorporate the daily experiences of blind people if it is to be relevant or cogent. When we have reached sound conclusions, we will provide the information to others because public recognition of what we are helps us achieve acceptance and understanding. To these we will add confidence in our own capacity to learn and teach. For we in the National Federation of the Blind intend to have power.

Some blind people try to take advantage of their blindness. Equal access to information is important for the blind, but this principle should not be twisted and misused to bamboozle the sighted. Here are portions of a letter from a nightclub owner in England to the director of Environment and Housing of the Brighton and Hove City Council, the regulatory body determining conditions and standards for nightclubs in the area. Before examining its contents, I wish to point out (even if this seems to be belaboring the obvious) that sight and touch are not the same. There are times when one may be substituted for the other, and there are also times when it is inappropriate to do so. Some of the language of the letter has been modified for the sake of propriety. This, in part, is what it says:

Dear Sir:

As you are aware, we are presently the only club in Sussex to hold a Public Entertainment License specific to striptease, and that license quite correctly prohibits physical contact between a customer and a dancer, other than the placing of notes in a dancer's garter. I write to seek your opinion as to whether you would consider a variation to this condition for registered blind persons.

Two young men, who happen to be blind, visited the club as part of a very pleasant group of gentlemen enjoying a traditional stag evening. We made arrangements for their visit appropriate to their special needs. We read the club rules to them and designated a staff member to each to assist them entering, moving around the club, and leaving. Finally, we made the dancers aware of their disability but otherwise asked the dancers to treat them quite normally.

Both blind gentlemen enjoyed a number of tableside dances. They said they sensed the proximity of the dancers and in particular enjoyed the smell of feminine perfume. They asked some dancers politely (but seriously) if there were any circumstances in which they could touch, and the dancers refused them.

They pursued their request with me, their point being that, given their disability, controlled touching ought to be permitted for registered blind persons.

Such is the letter written by the nightclub owner. Is this somebody's idea of a joke? What insufferable flimflam! There is a time and a place for touching, and from what I have been able to discover, blind people are as good at it as anybody else. But we should not tolerate using blindness as an excuse to take liberties. That practice will be as damaging to us as the failure of others to recognize the right we have to inclusion in society's activities. Ours is a serious struggle--as serious as the right of the blind to be free. We must not permit licentious interest coupled with the language of equality to mislead, and we must oppose those who would take advantage of others. If we fail to set the correct standard, somebody else will impose one upon us, and we will lose the capacity to determine the future for ourselves. The misuse of power begins by eroding it and eventually eliminates it. This commodity is too precious to be wasted or belittled or dissipated. It must be treated with respect, or it will be gone. Power implies trust, and we will not fail in our duty to exercise it with reason and decorum.

A newspaper article published in the Roanoke Times depicts the life of a person who has recently become blind and who has been fooled by the popular mythology about his blindness. The article begins with the headline, "Teacher accepts loss of sight without bitterness." Although the headline is intended to be upbeat, the language of the article demonstrates phenomenal misunderstanding. Here is part of what it says:

Phil Boyd has learned to use the human voice and touch to help him see the world.

During the past year, he has come to accept his blindness without bitterness. But some of his friends have found it more difficult. Boyd was eating dinner recently at a Roanoke restaurant when a friend, whom he had not seen in years, came over to his table. The friend asked him how things were going at Craig County High School, where he [Boyd] taught English and drama for ten years.

"I told him I had to retire because I went blind," Boyd said.

[I interrupt to say that accepting blindness without bitterness is an excellent first step. Anger, frustration, a sense of loss, sometimes the desire to strike out at the world: all of these are a part of becoming blind for many people. To accept the blindness without being twisted by it is the beginning of building for the future. But this former teacher has accepted more than blindness. In the name of facing reality, he has accepted the loss of employment. Are there blind teachers? There are hundreds of them--perhaps thousands. The article suggests that the teacher and his neighbors have internalized, without knowing they have done it, the false image of the helpless blind person, and by so doing they have made this stereotype real. Even the reporter who gives us the information is unaware that the story he is telling is tragic; he thinks it's upbeat. Here is further text from the Roanoke Times:]

But Boyd, who lost his vision in the late summer of 2000 because of a rare eye disease, has remained upbeat, adjusting to life without sight.

"I've been depressed only two or three times," he said. "My family, the students and staff at Craig County High, and the people of Craig County have been so supportive. They keep me so busy I can't feel sorry for myself."

[I interrupt once more to wonder with you what they have been asking him to do that keeps him so busy? But the article tells us.]

Boyd was the speaker [the article continues] at the school's commencement in June. He attends football, basketball, and volleyball games at the school frequently. Students and friends describe the action for him.

He stays in touch with the students by e-mail, using a software program that reads information from the computer screen and converts it into speech. He has learned to type so he can answer e-mails.

Boyd has taken trips with his family to Busch Gardens and Las Vegas, and he had roles in two theatrical productions. He played a corpse in the Showtimers' production of "Lucky Stiff" and was a taxi driver in a play by the Gamut theater group in Roanoke.

Boyd goes to the Central YMCA in Roanoke five or six days a week to work out. He enjoys "The West Wing" and other television shows.

He helps with household chores and washes the dishes after the family's meals because he can feel them, but he can't cook because he can't recognize the foods.

Recently, he has been trying out a "Jordy" low vision enhancement system, but he doubts it will help him.

This is the description in the Roanoke Times of a blind person held out to the community as an example of proper mental attitude. He is fifty years old with the prospect of living for at least twenty more. He exercises, attends the ball games, watches television, does the dishes, appears in a play now and then in which he may be called upon to assume the role of a corpse, and hopes to find some technological device to restore his sight.

All of these activities are worthwhile, but they are peripheral. A job, the tasks of caring for a home, the responsibilities of citizenship--these are the things that give life its purpose. This blind teacher has accepted his initial assumption that he is unable to work, unable to cook, unable to engage in demanding productive enterprises. Twenty years is a long time to fill the idle hours. What he needs is power--the kind that comes from knowledge. With training he could cook and teach and take charge of his life, making of it whatever he wants it to be.

Perhaps a little anger would have been better after all--enough to stimulate the man to say, "My mind is active and alert, I shall learn the skills required for a blind person to work, and I will be recognized for the talent I possess." He might have had the good fortune to join other like-minded individuals, those in the National Federation of the Blind, who would help him to tell the public at large, the school administrators, and the officials in the locality that his ability is composed of knowledge and the capacity to use it and that this ability must be recognized. If he had come to believe in himself, he could have joined with the blind of the country in our determination that we will do what we must do to gain the power for self-determination.

We receive many thousands of letters each year. Not long ago one came from a blind man in the Midwest who was considering seeking assistance from us in obtaining employment. Helping people find jobs is one of the highest priorities of the Federation, and we put a lot of effort into it. Some blind people are prepared to enter the job market, but a number of others need training in the techniques used by the blind to conduct daily activities or to handle specific employment skills. The blind man in question is in this latter category. Here, in part, is what his letter says:

Thanks so much for calling me regarding the possibility of receiving training for employment. I have been trying to crystallize my thinking about returning to employment, so I hope you will bear with me. In this letter I am trying to analyze the questions you asked.

You wanted to know [continues the letter] whether my state vocational rehabilitation agency would sponsor me for further training. Since I've been long unemployed and have not had contact with my rehabilitation counselor in almost five years, I suppose that my case is, to say the least, inactive. I shall see if it can be reactivated in order to explore this new possibility.

[In these few words the author of the letter expresses a viewpoint that tells us much. The rehabilitation program in his state has apparently written him off. There has been no contact for five years--five years of waiting, of wondering, and of diminishing hope. Nevertheless, the blind man is not angry. He wants to be able to reactivate his case so that he may seek an opportunity. But there is more to the letter.]

You asked [it continues] whether I am willing to take additional training. Assuming I can get sponsorship from the rehabilitation program, I would be more than willing. I do not have formal computer training; however, I have a Braille 'n Speak [a small Braille-based computer notetaker], a printer, and a disk drive, which I use all the time. This technology is most liberating for me. It is the best equipment I have ever owned. From working with it, I've learned a great deal though I realize that in this field there is always something new to learn. I am willing to do whatever it takes to gain the knowledge and skill which will lead to my eventual reentry into the job market.

[In this portion of the letter the man demonstrates an interest in computers and a willingness to learn more about them. His experience with the Braille 'n Speak is for him liberating, and he is willing to do whatever it takes to learn more so that he may become employed. He is not just interested--he is enthusiastic. Why is he not already employed? His letter lets us glimpse a portion of the frustration that has been a continual part of this man's life.]

You have also asked me [continues the letter] if I am willing to move to a job if a successful placement can be found. My first reaction was one of worry and concern. I don't know if I could just up and move like that. I have a family--a wife who is employed and who would be searching for another job, and a daughter in school. There is also the mortgage. Many people would say that I shouldn't try to return to work. The risks are too great; the possibility of failure is too high. They would say that I should be happy to sit back, read library books, and collect Social Security. But frankly, while I enjoy reading very much, I want to do more with the remainder of my days than that.

In my life and work experience, I've been told "No" so many times that by now it's simply become another challenge to me. My feeling is that there is a purpose in all that I endeavor to do. If one thing doesn't work out, something else will. I've never been one to give up on myself. I believe that sometimes "No" simply means that there's another way which we haven't tried yet.

My family is a high priority, [continues the letter] but at the same time, I'd like to be able to send my daughter to college. A job would make it possible. I've promised my daughter that we will not make such a move unless it involves positive changes for all of us. In that spirit I'd be willing to move if we can find a successful job placement.

These are the words of a blind father wondering whether there is opportunity for him. They are not angry words or bitter, but he has some hesitation, some doubt. His letter is thoughtful and articulate, demonstrating that it was composed by a man with a competent mind even if he has not had adequate training. He believes in supporting his loved ones, and he hopes to find a way for his daughter to attend college. However, he has been out of work for a long, long time, and he wonders if there is really a job for him.

I understand this man, for I have a family of my own--a wife, a son, and a daughter. My son will be attending college in the fall, and I very much want my daughter to get a college education when she is finished with high school. I want her to have all of the advantages that loving parents and a good education can provide.

Is it too late for this man, whose patterns of living have been set for so many years? That depends on his spirit and ours. Can we muster the strength to continue to provide encouragement? Can he muster the confidence to continue to pursue the dream? If each of us does our part, I believe that there can be no doubt about the outcome. He tells us that he does not give up, and we believe him. Consequently, the future is bright, for we are of the same mind. We never quit until we succeed. We have the knowledge about our abilities; we have the faith to trust one another; and we have the commitment to work together until we have changed forever the prospects for us all. We are determined that the blind can and will have power.

There are other things that might be said of the nature of power. One of these is that it must be exercised to be maintained and strengthened, and that the exercise of power requires leadership. To the extent that an individual or an organization exercises leadership, the power of the individual or the organization is enhanced. This leads to the question, what is required for leadership? Many characteristics are helpful--energy, imagination, enthusiasm, the capacity to empathize with others, the ability to communicate, and facility with interpersonal relationships. However, one prime element has more significance than all of these. That one characteristic is love--the willingness to care for high ideals and our fellow human beings, the willingness to look beyond the shortcomings and foibles of others to the value that each represents, the willingness to wish good for those who do not wish us good, and the willingness to recognize that generosity is its own reward. An organization which incorporates in its governance the quality of love multiplies its power. Of course, no pretense will do; it must be real. And love freely given is at least as demanding as any other taskmaster.

Dr. Jacobus tenBroek led the Federation from the time of its founding in 1940 when the organization had almost no resources. By the time of his death in 1968, it had gained dramatically in influence and power. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan became its president in 1968 and gave it his leadership until his death in 1998. The influence of the Federation expanded dramatically under his direction, stimulating growth in all parts of the blindness field. How did they do it? Each of them possessed an indomitable spirit, a driving will, and an unquenchable belief in the potential of the future. But each of them also possessed a deep and abiding love.

Now the Federation is in our hands. The eye doctors tell us that our lives are hopeless and that we need their volunteers to make our lot a little easier. The researchers say that our vision loss is linked to behavioral disorders and that we hear better and think faster than the sighted. Newspaper reporters suggest that we should accept unemployment without bitterness as an example of positive thinking and that we can't cook because we can't recognize the food. Sometimes the rehabilitation counselors write us off. Nevertheless, despite all of the put-downs, despite all of the lack of understanding, despite all of the failures of the rehabilitation system, we are not disheartened or discouraged.

Though there are those who misunderstand, there are many more who comprehend us and stand with us in the battle. Though there are those who belittle us, there are many more who reject this thinking and speak the language of equality that we have written. Though there are those who would ignore us, our voice is increasing every day and our influence spreading throughout the land so that they cannot help but hear.

We know our strength, and we know what we must do to bring full equality to the blind. We must be willing to work with every ounce of good that is in us; we must be willing to sacrifice for that which we know is right; we must be prepared to meet the challenges wherever and whenever they arise; and we must never interrupt our march to freedom. This is our obligation; this is our opportunity; this is our commitment. We have the power composed of ability, confidence, public understanding, and love; and we will not fail. Tomorrow is ours, for we will never rest until it is. Come, join me, and we will make it come true!

The 2002 Awards

Presented by the National Federation of the Blind

From the Editor: National Federation of the Blind awards are not bestowed lightly. If an appropriate recipient does not emerge from the pool of candidates for a particular award, it is simply not presented. At this year's convention six presentations were made by the National Federation of the Blind, one by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, Inc., and one by the International Braille Research Center. The first four presentations took place during the board of directors meeting Friday morning, July 5. The first was presented by Steve Benson, who chairs the Blind Educator of the Year Selection Committee. This is what he said:

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Willows, displaying her award, and Steve Benson]

The Blind Educator of the Year Award

Thank you, President Maurer, and thank you, members of the selection committee--Judy Sanders, Adelmo Vigil, and Ramona Walhof--for your contribution to this year's deliberation. The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented only to those whose talent, teaching skill, contribution to the education field, and demonstrated leadership in the community and in the National Federation of the Blind merit such singular recognition.

The recipient of this year's award teaches blind children whose cognitive level is a minimum of three years below their chronological age. She has done this for the past five years. During the previous six years she taught in regular classrooms and special education settings. She has earned the respect of her peers, administrators, and parents of the children she teaches.

The winner of the 2002 Blind Educator of the Year Award comes from Illinois. She met the NFB for the first time at the 1972 convention in Chicago. Shortly after that convention she moved to another state. Her involvement in the Federation emulates that of Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Jernigan, and President Maurer, for she has given unselfishly of her time, energy, and means. This year's honoree has advocated with parents of blind children. She has participated in numerous IEP meetings to make certain blind children get appropriate, quality education. She has testified on behalf of blind teachers; she has consulted with attorneys in our effort to ensure that blind people teach in a variety of classroom settings, and she has counseled many newly blind teachers, encouraging them to continue in their chosen profession.

The Blind Educator of The Year Award Committee has selected as this year's honoree, Mary Willows of California. While Mary is making her way to the platform, I will tell you that she earned bachelor's and master's degrees at San Francisco State University. She holds a special education credential called "Professional Clear Multiple Subjects Preschool through Adults," and she teaches at the California School for the Blind.

Mary has served as a chapter president for ten years. She is immediate past president of the National Organization of Blind Educators. She has also chaired the Committee on Parental Concerns. She directed NFB Camp for several years. In addition she has served as president of the Northern California Chapter of AER.

Mary, congratulations! Here is a check for $1,000 and a plaque that reads:

BLIND EDUCATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

National Federation of the Blind

presented to

Mary Willows

IN RECOGNITION OF OUTSTANDING ACCOMPLISHMENTS

IN THE TEACHING PROFESSION

YOU ENHANCE THE PRESENT

YOU INSPIRE YOUR COLLEAGUES

YOU BUILD THE FUTURE

JULY 5, 2002

Fellow Federationists, here is Mary Willows.

Thank you, Mr. Benson.This is far worse than my first day in the classroom. To receive such an award from the very people I admire most--I'm shaking; I can't even talk. I was really one of the lucky ones. As Mr. Benson said, I met the National Federation of the Blind when I was eighteen years old, so all of my life's decisions and choices about what I did with my life and what I did has been influenced and guided by the very people in this room. This is just mind-boggling. Thank you very much.

When I first started working at the California School for the Blind, I was asked to speak to a group of graduating students about the history of the NFB. As I was talking to the kids, I realized that, although the location had changed, I was doing what Dr. Newel Perry had done sixty or seventy years ago with Perry's boys. I was now working at the very place where all of this started. Thank you so much; this is just wonderful. I appreciate--it's an honor to receive this award, and it's a privilege to know all of you. Thank you.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Maneki reads the text of the award from Braille while Debbi Head holds her plaque.]

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award

Later in the board meeting Sharon Maneki, who chairs the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award Committee, made her committee's presentation. Here is the way it happened:

Good morning fellow Federationists. The selection committee of Jacquilyn Billey, Allen Harris, Joyce Scanlan, and me are pleased indeed to present to you a distinguished educator of blind children. This award originated from a suggestion by our National Organization of Parents of Blind Children to recognize teachers in the vision field who truly have vision. This morning's recipient is someone who has been teaching for twenty-one years. Fourteen of those years have been at the Wentzville school district.

She does not limit her activities to the classroom, although the classroom is certainly very important to her. She has assisted young teens in getting part-time jobs. She serves on the advisory committee of the state rehabilitation council, and she serves on an education task force. By the way, she serves in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind. In case you don't know where the Wentzville school district is, it is [in] Missouri.

So the recipient of the award this year is Debbi Head. First of all, Debbi, I am going to present you with a check for $1,000. While Debbi is holding the plaque, I will read it for you.

The National Federation of the Blind honors

Debbi Head

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children

for your skill in teaching Braille

and other alternative techniques of blindness

for generously devoting extra time

to meet the needs of your students

and for inspiring your students to perform

beyond their expectations.

You champion our movement.

You strengthen our hopes.

You share our dreams.

July 2002

Congratulations, Debbi.

Ms. Head then responded:

Thank you very much Dr. Maurer, Board of Directors, Federationists, and especially my Missouri supporters. I am greatly honored to be here today and to have the opportunity to sit in on the convention. With the work we are doing in Missouri I think we are making some really good progress with our students. I greatly appreciate the chance to be here today. Thank you.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Roland Allen and James Omvig prepare to shake hands.]

The Fredric K. Schroeder Award

Presented by

The National Blindness Professional Certification Board, Inc.

Sometime later during the board meeting Dr. Maurer called James Omvig, president of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, to the podium to make an important presentation and to announce the establishment of a new award. Mr. Omvig began by providing the background of this award and then made the first presentation. This is what he said:

The directors of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board are gratified to be here today and to have this opportunity to bestow our inaugural award for outstanding contributions to the field of travel training for the blind. As we thought about it--to come up with just the right name to attach to this signal honor--it occurred to us immediately that, among the blind of America, no name holds more weight or lends more prestige and credibility to an award in the field of orientation and mobility than that of Dr. Fred Schroeder. So it is a privilege of a very special order to present the very first Fredric K. Schroeder Award.

Although Fred Schroeder is one of today's giants in work with the blind and is greatly admired and loved by those who know him, I venture to say that many, even in this vast audience, would wonder at the naming of an O&M award for him. So what does Fred Schroeder have to do with Orientation and Mobility? Everything! Fred Schroeder was the very first blind American to be accepted in and graduate from a master's degree program at one of the old-line O&M university programs.

It is not, of course, remarkable at all that Fred graduated with high marks, earning a master's in O&M. He is extremely intelligent and highly motivated. What is remarkable is the facts and circumstances surrounding his matriculation into the O&M program at San Francisco State University and his subsequent efforts to become certified in the profession.

To give a little history, Fred's personal story is all too common among people who are blind in America. As a blind youngster he was deprived by the blindness system of the very training and attitudinal adjustment which would have empowered him. Instead of getting proper training, much of his early life was spent in hospitals undergoing surgeries--sixteen of them--in quest of vision. They didn't work.

Fred first met the National Federation of the Blind as a young man in the 1970's; and, as is the case with many of us, his life was changed forever. After he learned that he as a blind person could have a life, he attacked his future with passion. His undergraduate and graduate university work tells much about his spirit, character, and competence. He completed his undergraduate work, not in four years or five or six or even seven, but in two-and-a-half years, graduating magna cum laude. In graduate school he earned a dual master's degree--in both special education and O&M, graduating summa cum laude.

While working on his master's in special education, Fred decided he wanted to teach travel to other blind people, and Jim Nyman of the Nebraska state agency was willing to give him a chance, even though he had no formal training at the time. He later returned to California and finished the O&M work. It was while Fred and other blind pioneers were working in Nebraska that the concepts of nonvisual instruction and structured-discovery learning were defined.

At the very same time that pioneering work was being done by the blind, a vicious war was also being waged upon the blind by professionals serving them over the issue of blind O&M instructors. The good-old-boy powers-that-be of the day held fast to their tragedy view of blindness--that is, the notion that blindness means inferiority and incompetence. Since they thought of blind people as incompetent, it naturally followed in their minds that the blind were not at all suited to teach O&M, and the schools were closed to the blind.

One more factual piece of timing comes into play. Prior to the 1970's, the people running the university programs assumed they could keep the blind out with impunity, and they did. However, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act had been set in place in 1973, and it prohibited discrimination against persons with disabilities by programs which received federal funds. This meant that university programs could not discriminate on the basis of disability. Fred made it known in the late 70's that he intended to get an O&M degree. So set on maintaining their position of superiority and control over the blind were these good old boys that they actually tried to persuade the heads of all of the O&M programs to stand as one on the position that sight is absolutely essential to teach O&M and that, therefore, even if the blind as a class were kept out, it could not be called discrimination.

Fortunately for Fred Schroeder and the blind of America, one program director who knew and respected Fred would not fall meekly and thoughtlessly into line. He was Pete Wurzburger of San Francisco State. Pete admitted Fred into his program. Fred of course did extremely well even though some expressed extreme hostility toward him while he was a student. Some sighted students who displayed friendliness toward Fred were told that such behavior might jeopardize their careers.

Following his graduation, the knotty problem of O&M certification came along. At that time the only possible professional certification was administered by the American Association of Workers for the Blind (AAWB), then Association for the Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), and now the Academy. The good old boys had decided to screen out all blind people. To accomplish this, they created a bogus document called the Functional Abilities Checklist. Relying upon visual techniques, it proved that sight--very good sight--is absolutely essential to teach travel. Fred failed the visual portions of the assessment and was refused AAWB certification.

Then Fred moved on with his life and launched the career we all know and admire--travel instructor, public school special education program administrator, state commission for the blind director, federal rehabilitation commissioner, and now university research professor and director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University.

An NFB lawsuit was filed against AAWB/AER, but in the final analysis the case was dismissed with a ruling by the court that, since AER was a private association rather than a public entity receiving federal funds, Section 504 did not apply. Even with this clear ruling by the court, certain AER officials misrepresented the facts and claimed that the judge had taken jurisdiction and had ruled that under Section 504 it was not discriminatory to bar the blind from professional certification.

Fred never received AAWB/AER certification, but, to complete the story, I would like to say for the record that Dr. Fred Schroeder is now a certified O&M instructor. It seemed particularly fitting that he receive the very first National Orientation and Mobility Certification presented by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board.

These then are the facts about Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, NOMC, but they do not reveal the true character and spirit of the man. Even so, this brief history tells the story of why it is fitting that our award for excellence be named for him. Intelligence, drive, patience, compassion, stick-to-itiveness, good sense, and a fierce passion for justice for the blind: what more can be said; what more could be wanted?

With this bit of history as a backdrop, we turn to our new award. As with National Federation of the Blind recognitions, this honor will not necessarily be presented each year but only as often as it has been earned through exemplary service. The 2002 recipient of the Fredric K. Schroeder Award is the program instructor in the Louisiana Tech O&M master's program, Mr. Roland Allen, NOMC.

Like Dr. Schroeder, Roland's life was touched profoundly and changed forever when he met the National Federation of the Blind. And he too has distinguished himself by being a first--the first blind O&M instructor in the country teaching in a university program. He has been a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind and at Louisiana Tech University and also holds our National Orientation and Mobility Certification.

Presently, although Dr. Ruby Ryles coordinates professional development and heads the Tech O&M master's program, it is Roland Allen who actually teaches the hands-on travel training part of the degree. He has become invaluable to the program and has mastered the ability to teach the nonvisual and structured-discovery techniques. Roland is a busy guy. He also teaches travel at the Louisiana Center for the Blind and is a leader in the NFB of Louisiana.

In describing Roland Allen and his significance and contributions to the program, Dr. Ryles writes,

It is profoundly fitting that Roland Allen is the first recipient of the Fredric K. Schroeder Award in that, like Dr. Schroeder, Roland is not only a beloved professional but also a true pioneer in the field of orientation and mobility. As the nation's first blind university orientation and mobility instructor, Roland exemplifies the personal dedication, teaching skills, and professional excellence that he strives daily to instill in our Tech master's students.

He demonstrates in both his personal and professional life the values to which we as Federationists dedicate our lives. I am honored to call him my colleague and blessed to call him my friend.

Roland, as a symbol of your excellence and to memorialize this occasion, the National Blindness Professional Certification Board bestows its first ever Fredric K. Schroeder Award upon you and presents you with this walnut plaque. It reads:

Public Speaking Engagements

Many civic and community groups are always looking for interesting speakers for their luncheon or dinner meetings. Before offering to speak, it is best to call and find out the current name of the president or program chairman. Groups that could be contacted include Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Elks, Masons, garden clubs, neighborhood associations, and church groups, as well as low-vision support groups, senior centers, companies which can host brown bag information luncheon meetings for employees, labor unions, PTAs, and others.

NFB members designated as speakers should receive training from experienced members. The Meet the Blind--In Our Voices video is designed to be used in just such settings. It is a fourteen-minute video that outlines the history and the programs of the NFB. It can introduce a question-and-answer session, or it can be a part of a formal talk. Also, to prepare the speaker, make a list of points to cover or a list of frequently asked questions about blindness, and review in a group the best ways to answer such questions.

Media Appearances

Efforts should be made to arrange appearances on local talk shows or arrange for media to produce features about the NFB. The media always want a hook, something that will interest the general public, something that is new, and (if television is the medium) something that generates good pictures. Approaches you could use include:

* NFB-NEWSLINE® is interesting because of the technology involved and the fact that NFB-NEWSLINE® can be demonstrated over the air on either radio or TV.

* Similarly, our America's Jobline® can be demonstrated, but you should emphasize in demonstrations and discussions with media that Jobline® is a system developed and operated by the NFB, but it is now available to all citizens, not just the blind.

* Effective use of speech and Braille output technology and the importance of proper Web site design ensure that the blind can access the Internet with speech-output adaptive equipment.

* You can promote human interest stories of how our organization changes lives. Identify people in local chapters who have benefited from involvement with the NFB: scholarship winners, people who have attended one of our rehabilitation centers, individuals who have benefited from our employment or educational advocacy, examples of those new to blindness who have benefited from supportive fellow members by moving beyond depression and hopelessness. Be careful to identify NFB members who can be fairly articulate and are familiar with our message.

* Blind children and their families are always good for the media, especially if the child has just been recognized for an achievement or is participating in some nontraditional activity or if you can identify a media source that just likes wonderful, heartwarming stories.

Points to Emphasize When Meeting the Public, Interacting with the Media, and Giving Presentations

* The National Federation of the Blind is the largest membership organization of blind people and their families in this country.

* Our membership is over 50,000.

* We have over 700 local chapters and state affiliates and many divisions and interest groups.

* The mission of the National Federation of the Blind is to achieve widespread emotional acceptance and intellectual understanding that the real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight but misconceptions and lack of information. We do this by bringing blind people together to share successes, to support each other in times of failure, and to create imaginative solutions.

* An organization of blind people is the best resource for individuals facing vision loss, their families, professionals who work with blind individuals, and governmental officials who deal with issues of importance to the blind.

* The NFB also operates many valuable programs and produces helpful materials, including:

NFB-NEWSLINE®

America's Jobline®

Braille Is Beautiful

The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind

Three model residential rehabilitation programs

National Scholarship Program

Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, seminars, and other programs conducted by our National Organization of Parents of Blind Children

The NFB Materials Center

The Kernel Book series

The Braille Monitor

Future Reflections

The Voice of the Diabetic

* We are building the first research and training facility developed and operated by an organization of blind people, the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind.

* We are leading in the promotion of access to technology for the blind by advocating for the implementation of national technology access standards, conducting educational activities to inform technology developers and others of the importance of access design, and assisting technology companies in their efforts to bring to market helpful nonvisual access technology applications.

To order materials, to coordinate affiliate and local chapter activities with the NFB National Office, and for further information, please contact:

Dr. Betsy Zaborowski

Director of Special Programs

National Federation of the Blind

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland 21230

(410) 659-9314, extension 357

E-mail: <bzaborowski@nfb.org>

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dr. Lee Hamilton and NFB president of Puerto Rico Alpidio Rolon]

An Open Letter to Federationists

by Lee Hamilton

From the Editor: The three companies (Arkenstone, Blazie Engineering, and Henter-Joyce) that joined together several years ago to form Freedom Scientific always stood to be counted as good friends of the National Federation of the Blind. Since the beginning of Freedom Scientific we have hoped that the new company would also become a close working colleague in the blindness field. Such relationships take time to develop, and we have certainly been encouraged by the fact that the company made a substantial pledge to our capital campaign and gives every indication of fulfilling that pledge. Freedom Scientific has also been a generous sponsor of at least two of our national conventions, including this one.

However, as you will read in the next article, considerable concern and frustration with Freedom Scientific products have arisen among Spanish-speaking product users, and as a result the convention considered and passed a resolution reviewing the problems and urging the company to improve its Spanish-language products.

Lee Hamilton has recently been named president and CEO of Freedom Scientific, and he has written a letter to members of the NFB and has requested us to publish it here, which we are glad to do. Here it is:

Freedom Scientific, the international leader in assistive technology for the blind, welcomes input from our customers regarding the performance of our current products or suggestions for future products. Resolution 2002-15, sponsored by Mr. Alpidio Rolon of the Puerto Rican delegation, made it clear that we need to improve our Spanish-language products.

We appreciate this opportunity to communicate to you, as we did with Mr. Rolon during the convention in Louisville, that we are committed to resolving the issues raised by Resolution 2002-15. During the convention we met with Mr. Rolon and the Puerto Rican delegation and developed a corrective action plan to resolve the Spanish-language issues.

This plan includes dedicating engineers to address the Spanish-language issues and a commitment to fund the required Spanish translations. Based on this plan, we will deliver a Spanish-language solution for our Braille Lite M20 and M40 notetakers by October 15, 2002, and we will also resolve the critical Spanish issues with the Braille Lite and Braille 'n Speak notetakers by November 30, 2002. We will also release a Spanish-language version of OpenBook 6.0 by December 15, 2002. This version will include a Spanish spell checker and a Spanish dictionary if an acceptable one can be found.

Freedom Scientific was formed through the merger of three leading companies in the assistive technology industry: Blazie Engineering, Henter-Joyce, and Arkenstone. Integrating three companies is a complex task, and admittedly there have been challenges along the road to achieving our goal of providing best-in-class products and customer service, but we are absolutely committed to that goal.

We have taken many new steps in the last several months to improve our performance. Freedom Scientific recently hired a new vice president of hardware engineering, a new director of quality, and increased our development staff. We have also instituted customer satisfaction follow-up calls to those who have recently purchased our products, called our technical support group, or sent a product in for repair. All of this is to ensure that we are meeting your expectations.

We have also established a Freedom Scientific Product Advisory Board. The members are prominent assistive technology experts from some of the most recognized public and private organizations in the blindness field, including the National Federation of the Blind. The board will meet three times a year to provide feedback on existing products and help us identify new products.

Freedom Scientific is the only company that develops and manufactures both market-leading software and hardware products. Because most future products will require both, we are moving the hardware group to the corporate headquarters in St. Petersburg, Florida. This move will be complete by July 31, 2002. The PAC Mate, one of our new products, is an example of this trend. This is a revolutionary new product which combines our JAWS software with Microsoft Pocket Windows applications running on a hand-held hardware platform designed for blind users.

Customer input is key to the design and development of our new products. These new products include SAL, a unique Braille teaching device; Focus, a new line of Braille displays which improve productivity; and PAC Mate, which will be the ultimate laptop replacement.

Admittedly we have an advantage in developing these new products--our people. We have 150 employees, fifty of whom are visually impaired, and this is the most experienced, knowledgeable, and committed group of employees in the industry. With the accelerating pace of technology, Freedom Scientific has the resources and commitment to introduce innovative new software and hardware products to empower individuals who are blind.

We value the relationship we have with the National Federation of the Blind and look forward to increased opportunities for partnership. We at Freedom Scientific are committed to improving customer service and product quality, and at the same time continuing to develop new products that help persons who are blind to change their world.

Lee Hamilton

President and CEO

Freedom Scientific

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Maneki reads a resolution in Braille at the microphone while Sharon Omvig listens.]

2002 Convention Resolutions Report

by Sharon Maneki

From the Editor: Sharon Maneki chairs the Resolutions Committee. Here is her overview of this year's resolutions:

The section of the Declaration of Independence that is most familiar to Americans is the statement of principles: "We hold these truths to be self‑evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Since the beliefs and objectives of the National Federation of the Blind are the same as those of the writers of the Declaration of Independence, it was most appropriate that the Resolutions Committee meeting at the 2002 national convention in Louisville was held on July 4. The resolutions passed by the Convention this year will further promote equality as well as life, liberty, and happiness for blind Americans. These resolutions may be divided into five categories: Braille literacy, education, rehabilitation, Social Security, and access.

Once again this year Sharon Omvig ably served as secretary to the Resolutions Committee. The forty-one men and women on the committee considered twenty-six resolutions. Twenty-three resolutions came to the convention floor. Resolution 2002‑13, which urged the entertainment industry to seek out blind actors to portray blind characters, was defeated in committee. The committee did not oppose promoting the pursuit of acting careers by blind people but did not believe that blind people should be limited to portraying only blind characters. Resolution 2002‑26, which called upon Congress and the Bush administration to develop a national passenger rail service, was also defeated. Many committee members recognized the importance of good public transportation to the blind community but concluded that our resolutions should be reserved for issues that more strictly relate to blindness.

Braille is an essential tool of literacy and communication for blind people. Throughout the convention, we held numerous discussions on the Unified English Braille Code (UEBC). The committee considered three resolutions. Resolution 2002‑03, which the committee killed, called upon the International Council on English Braille to "continue work toward the development of a set of proposed recommendations consistent with the Cranmer/Nemeth Principles that will gain widespread acceptance among Braille readers and provide for a systematic means of modifying the Braille code to meet current and future needs without compromising readability by current Braille readers." The resolution also stated that changes to the Braille code should eliminate duplication and minimize ambiguity.

The committee passed two resolutions concerning the UEBC. In Resolution 2002‑04 we express opposition to any drastic changes in Braille. In this resolution we urge the Braille Authority of North America to retain its responsibilities for maintaining and improving current Braille codes. Curtis Chong, director of technology for the National Federation of the Blind, was the author of this resolution.

Peggy Elliott, second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind and president of the NFB of Iowa, sponsored the other resolution on the UEBC. Resolution 2002‑05 calls upon the Braille Authority of North America and the International Council on English Braille "to cease and desist all efforts to make radical changes in the Braille code while the new circumstance of having readily available electronic textbooks is assimilated and understood." The new circumstance referred to in this resolution will come about when Congress enacts the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act.

The Convention passed three resolutions to improve educational opportunities for blind students. In Resolution 2002‑01, introduced by Sheila Koenig, president of the National Association of Blind Educators and a tenBroek Fellow scholarship winner at this convention, we urge Congress to pass the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act during its current session. This legislation creates a process to make textbooks and other instructional materials available to blind and visually impaired students at the same time as they are provided to their sighted peers. When this legislation is enacted, standards will be developed for electronic file formats of books. Publishers will be required to provide these electronic files to a new repository, which will enable every school district in America to use the file to create instructional materials in alternative formats such as Braille for their blind and visually impaired students.

Jason Ewell, first vice president of the National Association of Blind Students, sponsored Resolution 2002‑02. In this resolution we call upon Congress and state legislatures to enact legislation requiring that all instructional technology purchased by schools ensure the availability of non‑visual access. This resolution is necessary because more and more schools are using online courses and other computer-based learning tools. To avoid costly retrofitting, non‑visual access must be a requirement when course software is being developed.

Resolution 2002‑19 was introduced by Michael Jones, president of the NFB of Alabama and a scholarship winner at this convention. In this resolution we express our opposition to H.R. 3252 and S. 1654, bills that would create a national junior college for deaf and blind students at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind. Blind students have competed with their sighted peers in integrated colleges for decades. The creation of a special college for the blind would definitely be a step backward in education and would not prepare students for employment in an integrated setting.

The Convention passed seven resolutions concerning rehabilitation. Three of these deal with services to the senior blind. Jim Marks, a longtime leader in the NFB of Montana, introduced Resolution 2002‑20. In this resolution we call for the design and implementation of high-quality, effective rehabilitation service-delivery methodologies specifically geared for older blind Americans. Government entities can no longer afford to ignore the growing population of seniors who are losing vision. These seniors could maintain independence if they received suitable services.

In Resolution 2002‑06, introduced by Ron Gardner, president of the NFB of Utah, we urge Congress to adopt H.R. 2674, the Medicare Coverage Equity Act for the Blind. This bill amends Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to permit state rehabilitation agencies serving blind people age fifty-five and older to serve as Medicare providers and obtain reimbursement for the cost of rehabilitation. The resolution also outlines our opposition to H.R. 2484 and S.1967, which promote the delivery of rehabilitation services based on the medical model.

Jim McCarthy, assistant director of governmental affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, sponsored Resolution 2002‑08. In May of 2002 new rules were enacted to permit occupational and physical therapists to supply rehabilitation services to blind people. Now Medicare funds can be used to reimburse these therapists. In this resolution we call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the United States Department of Education to establish an ongoing training program on blindness for occupational and physical therapists so that these practitioners will be equipped to provide effective independent living services to older blind individuals.

The Convention passed two resolutions that will strengthen the enforcement of informed choice. In Resolution 2002‑18, introduced by Shawn Mayo, president of the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals, we call upon Congress, when it re-authorizes the rehabilitation act, to prohibit practices by state rehabilitation agencies that thwart informed choice.

Noel Nightingale, a member of the national board and president of the NFB of Washington, was the author of Resolution 2002‑22. In this resolution we call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration to revise its regulations to prohibit state rehabilitation agencies from undercutting informed choice. Some of the methods states use to thwart choice include the use of accreditation and certification requirements, approved provider lists, and in‑state training preferences.

Resolution 2002‑24 addresses the need to eliminate a barrier to receiving rehabilitation services for blind people who receive Social Security benefits. Larry Streeter, president of the NFB of Idaho, sponsored this resolution. State vocational rehabilitation agencies may establish an order of selection in times of fiscal problems. This order of selection institutes a method of choosing which clients will be served by the state rehabilitation agency. Blind clients who are eligible for services can be denied these services when a state agency implements an order of selection. In this resolution we urge Congress to exempt blind individuals who receive Social Security benefits from any limitation of rehabilitation services imposed by an order of selection.

Resolution 2002‑14 will help to improve the quality of rehabilitation services for blind people by enhancing the training of professionals who work in rehabilitation. A longtime leader in the Federation, Dr. Fred Schroeder, sponsored this resolution, which expresses our whole‑hearted support for the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. This board certifies professionals by using performance‑based criteria.

The Convention passed three resolutions dealing with Social Security issues. The Social Security Administration is notorious for losing information and for delays in processing all aspects of claims. To remedy this situation, Carlos Servan, president of the NFB of Nebraska, proposed Resolution 2002‑11. In this resolution we call upon Congress to amend the Social Security Act to provide specific time limits for the Social Security Administration to resolve claims and disputes. If the Social Security Administration fails to meet the prescribed time limits, Congress should stipulate that the dispute will automatically be resolved in favor of the claimant.

The remaining two Social Security resolutions deal with access to information. In today's society members of the public, including the blind, should be able to conduct all types of Social Security business online. The Social Security Administration makes the vast majority of its forms available in Adobe's portable document format (PDF) on the Internet. However, the pdf format is not accessible to many blind people. In Resolution 2002‑07, sponsored by Ryan Osentowski, secretary of the NFB of Nebraska, we urge the Social Security Administration to make all of its electronic applications and forms accessible to the blind.

Anil Lewis, president of the NFB of Georgia and a scholarship winner at this convention, sponsored Resolution 2002‑17, which urges the Social Security Administration to provide notices and other information in alternate formats accessible to blind beneficiaries, including audio cassette, Braille, computer disk, and online, and to provide it at the same time as printed information is available.

The Convention passed seven resolutions dealing with a variety of access issues. Due to advances in voting technology, blind citizens can now cast their votes independently and privately. The Convention passed Resolution 2002‑09 to make sure that the promise of this new technology becomes a reality in state and local elections. Dan Burke from Montana sponsored this resolution, which insists that state and local election officials consult with the National Federation of the Blind when configuring electronic voting systems.

Curtis Chong, president of the National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science, sponsored Resolution 2002‑10. In this resolution we urge electronic book publishers to develop policies and procedures through which the blind can obtain access to electronic books.

Resolution 2002‑15 outlines problems faced by Spanish‑speaking customers when using Freedom Scientific Spanish products. Although Freedom Scientific advertises that the Spanish version of its products is functionally equivalent to the English-language version, in reality it is not. Many features are missing while others are poorly designed. Alpidio Rolon, president of the NFB of Puerto Rico, was the author of this resolution.

Robert Jaquiss, treasurer of the Science and Engineering Division of the National Federation of the Blind, sponsored Resolution 2002‑21. In this resolution we call upon governmental agencies and textbook publishers to conduct research into better methods of producing tactile graphics with the hope that they will become an integral part of the education of blind students.

The use of point-of-sale machines is becoming more prevalent in transportation centers and retail establishments. Many of these machines now require the customer to interact by inputting identification numbers--a task which is impossible for most blind customers unless they have sighted assistance. Tami Dodd Jones, a longtime leader in the Federation, who currently resides in Indiana, introduced Resolution 2002‑23 to address these problems. In this resolution we call upon the United States Access Board to regulate the point-of-sale-machine market to ensure full accessibility and security for all customers, including the blind.

Scott LaBarre, president of the National Association of Blind Lawyers, and Kevan Worley, president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, collaborated on two resolutions opposing draft guidelines issued by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board. Resolution 2002‑12 outlines our opposition to the universal installation of detectable warnings. Resolution 2002‑16 outlines our opposition to the installation of accessible pedestrian signals at all signalized intersections in America. The guidelines on both of these subjects issued by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board disregard both the recommendations of the National Federation of the Blind and the recommendations of its own Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee.

The last resolution which the convention passed is Resolution 2002‑25. Mike Freeman, second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, proposed this resolution. The American Council of the Blind filed a lawsuit against the secretary of the treasury of the United States and the treasurer of the United States alleging that the federal government is in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act because it issues all U.S. currency in an identical size, color, and texture, which renders various denominations indistinguishable by touch. The American Council claims that blind persons are excluded from enjoying the benefits of monetary transactions because of difficulties with currency identification. Our resolution reads in part: this organization shall "take steps to counter the adverse effects of the harmful publicity arising from this lawsuit and renew efforts to educate the public that the blind can participate in commerce."

This information is merely an introductory description of the resolutions considered and passed by the Convention. Readers should examine the complete text of each resolution to understand fully our policy on these subjects. The complete text of all resolutions approved by the Convention follows.

National Federation of the Blind

2002 Resolutions

Resolution 2002-01

WHEREAS, access to educational materials and textbooks is the primary means to provide successful educational experiences to blind and visually impaired children; and

WHEREAS, inaccessibility to such materials denies blind and visually impaired children the opportunity to become successful and equal participants in school and careers after graduation; and

WHEREAS, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) do not prescribe relevant or specific accessibility standards or a means by which textbooks can be provided in the particular nonvisual format needed by a blind student; and

WHEREAS, schools do not presently have a legally enforceable or practical means of ensuring that publishers provide electronic files of textbooks in enough time for the books to be reproduced in alternate formats; and

WHEREAS, pending legislation in Congress, entitled the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA), developed in consultation with the Association of American Publishers, calls for a process to make instructional materials available to blind and visually impaired persons at the same time they are provided to other students; and

WHEREAS, once enacted, the IMAA will create a process for the development of an agreed-upon electronic file format and establish a repository for electronic files of educational materials from which all school districts in America can promptly access them; and

WHEREAS, the IMAA will also require publishers of instructional materials to provide the electronic files to the repository and will authorize grants for states to establish or augment their means of producing materials in alternative formats; and

WHEREAS, the implementation of IMAA will ensure equality and opportunity for blind and visually impaired children in elementary and secondary schools in America: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge Congress to pass the Instructional Materials Accessibility Act (IMAA) during its current session to insure henceforth that America's blind children will have access to instructional materials equal to that of their sighted peers.

Resolution 2002-02

WHEREAS, an increasing amount of instruction in schools is presented through electronic information systems, often with little or no thought given to their nonvisual accessibility; and

WHEREAS, as this trend continues, blind students will find themselves at a greater and greater educational disadvantage; and

WHEREAS, the State of Maryland recently passed a law requiring

compliance with accessibility standards in the purchase of instructional technology; and

WHEREAS, an effort is underway among a consortium of disability-related educational groups to include such a provision in legislation now before Congress to amend the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon Congress and those state legislatures which have not yet done so to enact legislation requiring that all instructional technology purchased by schools ensure the availability of nonvisual access to both the technology and content by rigorously applying accessibility standards (including standards for nonvisual access) and by using audio description where appropriate and necessary to convey essential information.

Resolution 2002-03

Failed to Pass

Resolution 2002-04

WHEREAS, Braille, with all of its various codes, represents a viable and essential tool of literacy for the blind; and

WHEREAS, the current literary, math, and computer Braille codes used in the United States have been learned and used by more than a generation of blind persons and found to be extremely effective; and

WHEREAS, the relative stability of these codes has enabled the United States to accumulate a collection of math and science textbooks which rivals that of any other English-speaking country; and

WHEREAS, since 1992 the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) and later the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) have been engaged in an effort to create a Unified English Braille Code (UEBC), which would combine the literary, math and science, and computer codes into one unified system to be used by all English-speaking countries; and

WHEREAS, the proposed UEBC would effectively destroy the mathematics, scientific, and technical codes used by Braille users in this country, not to mention making nontrivial changes to literary Braille; and

WHEREAS, the proposed UEBC does not address a particularly labor-intensive part of the process to convert printed material into literary Braille--specifically, it does not make it easier to produce properly formatted Braille from printed material originally prepared for visual presentation; and

WHEREAS, transition to a system as radically different as the UEBC would make obsolete the vast holdings of mathematics, scientific, and technical materials in the United States and require Braille teachers to be retrained, skilled Braille transcribers to be recertified, training materials to be rewritten, and computer software to be modified--all at a cost of millions of dollars; and

WHEREAS, the theory of an unambiguous, expandable, and unified Braille code for English-speaking countries seems attractive, but the inevitable sacrifices in brevity and quality--particularly in the areas of mathematics and science--far outweigh any gains that might be brought about by the adoption of an unproven, untested, and radically different system; and

WHEREAS, given the already relatively scarce resources available to the blindness community, a new Braille system in no way superior to the system currently in place cannot justify the great cost and effort required for its implementation; and

WHEREAS, with the imminent passage of a bill in Congress requiring textbooks to be made available in a predefined electronic format, Braille in the United States is poised to reach a new and exciting level of availability, making this a particularly poor time for radical changes in the Braille code; and

WHEREAS, there is no question that from time to time, in response to changes in print usage, Braille codes require alterations; and

WHEREAS, BANA has abrogated its responsibility for Braille code creation by allowing Committee II of ICEB to develop the Unified English Braille Code, which has not been adopted by other English-speaking countries: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization express strong support for the continued use of all of the Braille codes used in this country today: the Literary Code, the Braille Code for Textbook Formats and Techniques, the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science, the Computer Braille Code, and the Braille Music Code--all of which, taken together, have enabled literally thousands of blind people to achieve literacy in our society; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that while acknowledging that minor changes in Braille codes will always be necessary for this system of literacy to flourish and adapt in a constantly changing world, this organization express its opposition to any drastic changes in Braille, particularly if such changes would eliminate or severely diminish any of the valuable Braille codes used today; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge the Braille Authority of North America to retain its responsibilities for maintaining and improving current Braille codes in North America for Braille users in North America.

Resolution 2002-05

WHEREAS, the Braille Authority of North America and the International Council on English Braille have for the last decade worked on a project to unify all the English Braille codes into one single code; and

WHEREAS, proponents of this effort have expressed the mistaken belief that current Braille codes (particularly those related to math, science, and computer notation) are hard to learn, hard to teach, and hard to translate with computer software; and

WHEREAS, the only one of these three alleged flaws in Braille that has any validity is that Braille translation software has not achieved the sophistication that Braille advocates want; and

WHEREAS, with the imminent passage of a bill in Congress that would require textbooks to be made available in a predefined digital format, Braille in the United States is about to reach a new and exciting level of availability, making this a particularly poor time for radical changes in the Braille code; and

WHEREAS, the promise of much more widely available Braille throws into sharp relief a weakness of the Braille unification effort: it proposes to modify the code in vast and undesirable ways but does not in any way affect the greatest single challenge of computer Braille translation--specifically, properly formatting in Braille material that was originally prepared in print for visual presentation; and

WHEREAS, the real problem with Braille is not its alleged ambiguity, but rather the lack of a sufficient quantity of material to make computer routines and protocols easy to write, test, and validate; and

WHEREAS, with huge new quantities of easily accessed material in a predefined digital format soon to be available, protocols supporting easier formatting and significantly improved translation of the more technical aspects of the Braille code are just over the horizon; and

WHEREAS, once a vast array of textbooks in a predefined digital format becomes available, it will take at least five years for Braille translation, formatting, and educational practices to benefit from the effects of having a virtually limitless supply of material that can be readily brailled; and

WHEREAS, this desirable outcome will be thwarted if time has to be wasted relearning a new code, teaching the new code, and rewriting all the computer programs for a new code that is actually more cumbersome and bulky than the current one while not in any way solving the true challenge of computerized Braille production--formatting; and

WHEREAS, stasis in the Braille code while the reading and translating communities assimilate the changes that will result from having available textbooks in a predefined digital format is highly desirable: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) and the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) to cease and desist all efforts to make radical changes in the Braille code while the new circumstance of having readily available electronic textbooks is assimilated and understood; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge BANA, the ICEB, and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services of the United States Department of Education to make wise use of this vast change in Braille availability to study its effects and to experiment with minor changes which enhance ease of computer translation, ease of formatting during translation, and Braille readability, while retaining the fundamentals of today's Braille codes--the most flexible and powerful reading and writing tools blind people have ever enjoyed.

Resolution 2002-06

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, provides federal financial assistance to rehabilitation agencies in every state designed to meet the needs of blind and disabled adults with services such as training for independent living, including independent travel, Braille literacy, and daily living skills; use of specialized aids and devices; and other goods or services needed for blind people to work and live independently; and

WHEREAS, the emphasis of this program is on assisting individuals to achieve an employment outcome, providing only a small amount of funding needed to serve seniors who may not have a goal of employment but still need services through a program based on the rehabilitation model in order to live independently with blindness; and

WHEREAS, more than six million Americans age fifty-five and older are blind or severely visually impaired, yet fewer than 5 percent of them can receive rehabilitation services at the current level of funding specifically targeted for older blind individuals under Chapter 2 of Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and

WHEREAS, the void in quality rehabilitation services for the older blind creates huge costs, such as those reported by the Alliance on Aging Research, which disclosed that visual impairment is one of the top four reasons why seniors lose their independence, contributing to medical and long-term care costs of $26 billion annually; and

WHEREAS, without these services older blind individuals are often forced to exhaust their resources and live at public expense in assisted-living facilities or nursing homes, which, compared to living independently, results in significant expense for state and federal programs; and

WHEREAS, rehabilitation agencies have demonstrated expertise in providing services required to assist blind seniors to remain independent, active, and contributing members of society; and

WHEREAS, the Medicare program Title XVIII of the Social Security Act provides health insurance coverage and pays for reasonable and necessary services consistent with the goals of rehabilitation but delivered and supervised only in a medical model, with services provided by qualified medical rather than rehabilitation personnel; and

WHEREAS, while seniors losing vision often need treatment appropriately provided through a medical model, the reacquisition of independence for newly blind people requires professional expertise in rehabilitation and is not traditionally or effectively addressed as part of a medical discipline; and

WHEREAS, Congressman Martin Frost has introduced H.R. 2674, the Medicare Coverage Equity Act for the Blind, which amends Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to permit state rehabilitation agencies serving blind persons age fifty-five and older to serve as Medicare providers and obtain reimbursement for the cost of serving older blind beneficiaries who also qualify for Medicare; and

WHEREAS, Congressman Frost's proposal, using the rehabilitation model, will save billions in medical costs from injuries and unnecessary nursing home placements while saving the most important thing of all for seniors and those who love them: the dignity and independence of strong, able persons who happen to be blind due to aging; and

WHEREAS, an alternative proposal introduced in Congress as H.R. 2484 and S. 1967 calls for extending Medicare coverage to so-called "vision rehabilitation" services for Medicare beneficiaries of any age, when such services are provided or supervised by a physician, thereby allowing medical practitioners to be paid by Medicare for services that they are not trained to provide or qualified to supervise; and

WHEREAS, although the ability of medical doctors, ophthalmologists, and optometrists to help maintain, enhance, or restore sight is a necessary component in treating an individual's physical condition, learning to live as a blind person is not a medical condition but a confluence of skills and attitudes best learned from other blind people and qualified experts in rehabilitation; and

WHEREAS, supporters of H.R. 2484 and S. 1967 recognize the need for support of the senior blind, but the approach of this bill would place private providers beyond the reach of state and federal rehabilitation accountability or accountability to consumers and legislators: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization commend Congressman Martin Frost for his leadership in promoting the Medicare Coverage Equity Act for the Blind, which will amend Title XVIII of the Social Security Act to include Medicare coverage for rehabilitation services provided to older blind individuals by funding rehabilitation services through qualified state agencies designated under the Rehabilitation Act; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Congress and the Bush administration to adopt this legislation during the current session of Congress and continue to advise Congress that H.R. 2484 and S. 1967 represent an ill-conceived and unacceptable approach of providing rehabilitation services based on a medical model rather than a rehabilitative model.

Resolution 2002-07

WHEREAS, the continuing development of the Internet creates the potential for direct access to information for blind people, thereby reducing the necessity for reliance on assistance from readers; and

WHEREAS, it is presently possible for a blind person to apply for Social Security benefits using the Internet; and

WHEREAS, in addition to submitting an initial application, members of the public, including the blind, should also be able to conduct other business with the Social Security Administration online, provided that this information is available in a secure environment; and

WHEREAS, if all forms were accessible to blind people, routine business such as reporting work activity, seeking reconsideration of unfavorable decisions, or submitting a Plan to Achieve Self-Support (PASS) could be done much more efficiently and independently by blind persons; and

WHEREAS, the Social Security Administration makes the vast majority of its forms available in Adobe's portable document format, which is not accessible to many blind people; and

WHEREAS, the unfortunate result is that, while the promise of the Internet for fast, private, independent handling of business with the Social Security Administration is present, its reality is denied to blind people by Social Security's use of inaccessible forms, leading to the absurd situation that those most in need of alternative access to printed forms are not able to communicate with the Social Security Administration using the Internet; and

WHEREAS, the technology currently exists to make all of these forms available in a format that is fully accessible to all blind people with a minimum of time and effort: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Social Security Administration in a timely manner to make all electronic applications and forms accessible to the blind through nonvisual means.

Resolution 2002-08

WHEREAS, on May 29, 2002, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published "Program Memorandum to Intermediaries/Carriers Transmittal AB-02-078," which permits approved Medicare Providers, including occupational and physical therapists supervised by a physician, to supply rehabilitation services to a blind person under a written treatment plan; and

WHEREAS, this approach clearly imposes the medical rather than the rehabilitative model on services to blind persons; and

WHEREAS, training in the essential attitudes and skills needed for effective adjustment to blindness is not part of either the occupational or physical therapy disciplines, and neither profession currently has access to information which would allow its practitioners to be effective providers of self-sufficiency training to this specialized population suddenly placed on the list of reimbursable services; and

WHEREAS, occupational and physical therapy are both general health and medical rehabilitation professions serving a vast array of varied disabilities, while the firsthand experience of the National Federation of the Blind demonstrates that blind people achieve their greatest independence when they receive specific training in the skills of blindness designed to foster a constructive and realistic understanding of blindness aimed at building self-confidence; and

WHEREAS, all blind Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of age, are potentially eligible for rehabilitation services authorized by the transmittal referred to above although the overwhelming need for such services exists in the community of older blind people; and

WHEREAS, the services older blind people require need not be of extended duration, but must be sufficiently intensive to enable them to remain in their homes and communities and may in some cases be consistent with the practices of and be offered by trained occupational and physical therapy professionals; and

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the United States Department of Education has funds that could be made available to offer training and study opportunities to occupational and physical therapists for the purpose of learning how to provide effective services to older blind Americans: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration of the United States Department of Education to take a proactive role by funding at least one significant project having a specific priority to establish an on-going training program on blindness for occupational and physical therapists so that these practitioners will be equipped to provide effective and high-quality independent living services to older blind people; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization offer to the American Physical Therapy Association and to the American Occupational Therapy Association our firsthand knowledge of the development of positive training programs for the blind learned through our more than sixty years of practice; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon these organizations to collaborate with the National Federation of the Blind to develop model programs to serve older blind people.

Resolution 2002-09

WHEREAS, the right to vote independently, privately, and without interference should be the right and responsibility of every citizen, whether blind or sighted; and

WHEREAS, blind voters in the past have not enjoyed this privilege but now can enjoy it with the correct and timely implementation of modern voting equipment, using accessible technology properly configured; and

WHEREAS, direct recording equipment makes it possible for blind people to vote independently and in private, but this equipment can be configured to achieve this goal or to frustrate it, depending on the knowledge of election officials; and

WHEREAS, direct recording equipment can be configured to provide blind voters with the same ability to navigate within a ballot that sighted voters enjoy by enabling functions such as the ability to skip between election contests, the ability to return and confirm previous choices audibly, and the ability to interrupt audio presentations to move to the next or previous race at the direction of the blind voter through the pressing of keys, providing the exact same freedom and confirmation of choices in the voting process as that exercised by sighted citizens; and

WHEREAS, direct recording equipment can also be configured to force the blind voter to listen to items and whole races exactly as presented sequentially on the ballot, thus making listening to the ballot much less efficient and more time-consuming than reading the ballot in print; and

WHEREAS, a Joint Conference Committee in Congress is now considering legislation that recognizes the importance of nonvisual access to electronic voting by the blind, and this legislation is likely to become law; and

WHEREAS, the primary responsibility for conducting and overseeing elections and deploying election equipment rests with the individual states and local governments; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) recognizes that state and local election officials are the experts in conducting fair and equitable elections but also recognizes that these officials lack expertise in serving blind voters while the NFB, a nationwide organization of blind people with affiliated organizations and members in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, knows by experience what works for the blind and has the technical expertise necessary to advise on the configuration of electronic voting equipment to ensure the most efficient and effective access to voting by the blind; and

WHEREAS, the implementation of federal voting access legislation by state and local governments is critical to ensuring true access to independent and confidential voting for the blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the appropriate state or local legislative or regulatory bodies within each state to pass legislation implementing nonvisual access standards for voting; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization insist upon consultation with the National Federation of the Blind by state and local election officials when configuring electronic voting systems to ensure that access for blind people is efficient and equivalent to access for the sighted.

Resolution 2002-10

WHEREAS, electronic books that can be read using a standard desktop or laptop computer can now be purchased through a variety of retail outlets; and

WHEREAS, if these books could be read on computers with text-to-speech technology, an unprecedented opportunity would exist for the blind to have access to more literature than we have ever had; and

WHEREAS, a sighted computer user must read an electronic book using proprietary book-reading software tailored to a specific electronic book format; and

WHEREAS, typically the proprietary book-reading programs now available are not compatible with screen-access technology for the blind; and

WHEREAS, the publishers of electronic books have apparently decided not to allow unfettered access to synthetic speech presentations of electronic books, particularly those books which make money for them; and

WHEREAS, in pursuit of this goal electronic book publishers have secured an agreement with Microsoft preventing the Microsoft Reader from presenting a spoken-word version of the content when the book has been tagged with a "premium" security level; and

WHEREAS, Adobe Systems, another provider of electronic book-reading software, has already incorporated a setting in its electronic books which, when activated, is used to prohibit any access to the content with synthetic speech; and

WHEREAS, blind customers are eager and willing to pay for electronic books when they can be used by the blind but are even more determined that the electronic book (which is potentially far more accessible than a traditional printed book) not be perverted into inaccessibility because of ill-advised decisions made by the publishers; and

WHEREAS, the blind are confident that the interests of electronic book publishers to maintain security can be protected while still providing access for people unable to use the material in a standard printed format: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge electronic book publishers to develop policies and procedures through which the blind can obtain access to electronic books while satisfying the reasonable concerns that publishers may have regarding electronic book security and profitability.

Resolution 2002-11

WHEREAS, important responsibilities of the Social Security Administration (SSA) include all aspects of claims processing, such as initial determinations, reopening and revising decisions, and conducting an administrative appeals process; and

WHEREAS, while the Social Security Act and regulations impose certain rigid time limits on applicants or beneficiaries to respond or file reports within a specified number of days, such as sixty days for an appeal, or ten days to submit information about work and earnings during a standard disability evaluation, but few if any time limits are placed on the SSA to respond to documents submitted or even to decide on initial applications within a reasonable amount of time; and

WHEREAS, under present conditions claimants often wait a minimum of many months and often several years for the SSA to begin examination of an issue, not to mention the time it takes to achieve a resolution of the dispute, during which benefits although needed are denied; and

WHEREAS, claimants who inquire about the time taken for resolution often discover that the SSA alleges to have no record of a request or claims to have lost the file, all resulting in a further delay; and

WHEREAS, even if the SSA accepts a claimant's representations of timely filing, the claimant still bears the burden and suffers the consequences of the agency's inaction, while the SSA remains completely unaccountable to anyone; and

WHEREAS, providing specific time limits for the SSA to make administrative decisions would force the agency to address pending issues or suffer the consequences of a failure to act: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the United States Congress to amend the Social Security Act to provide specific time limits for the SSA to resolve disputes at all stages of the administrative process; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Congress to include a provision stating that failure to meet the prescribed time limits shall result in a favorable resolution for the claimant.

Resolution 2002-12

WHEREAS, the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) issued a report called "Building a True Community," which proposed new standards and regulations to govern the building and rebuilding of public rights-of-way such as streets, sidewalks, and other outdoor public areas so that individuals with disabilities can access them; and

WHEREAS, this report contained recommendations in the form of a definition and also a set of requirements for installation of detectable warnings, describing them as raised truncated domes in a strip two feet deep and spanning the entire width of the curb ramp and painted bright yellow or otherwise highly contrasting in color with the surrounding surface; and

WHEREAS, these raised truncated domes are thought by some to give the blind pedestrian a tactile warning underfoot that something hazardous lies ahead; and

WHEREAS, on June 17, 2002, the United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) published draft guidelines for public rights-of-way, substantially adopting the PROWAAC report regarding detectable warnings; and

WHEREAS, the ATBCB's draft requirement for a detectable warning surface two feet deep where the ramp, landing, or blended transition connects to a crosswalk and in other areas rests on the fallacy that public rights-of-way without such brightly colored tactile markings are unsafe for blind people and that taxpayer dollars must be devoted to universal installation of these strips of colored domes; and

WHEREAS, rather than being supported by a demonstrated and factual need, the ATBCB's draft guideline is based on nothing more than fear of blindness and lack of knowledge about how blind people travel independently and safely and could bring the entire regulation, if enacted, under fire in the courts and city halls of America; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to Federation policy as set forth by previous resolutions, the National Federation of the Blind filed a minority report advocating that detectable warnings be placed only at intersections at which the approach to the street is at a slope of one inch downward for every fifteen inches of sidewalk, commonly called a slope of 1:15 or flatter, since intersections with an approach to the street of 1:15 or less are virtually flat and are the only places where it may arguably be difficult for a blind person to determine when the sidewalk ends and the street begins; and

WHEREAS, intersections with street approaches which slope at an angle steeper than 1:15 are readily detectable underfoot whether the blind person is using a cane, a dog, or no mobility tool whatsoever, and therefore do not require the installation of expensive truncated dome strips to ensure that blind people detect the street; and

WHEREAS, the ATBCB's draft guideline is now subject to public comment and will not become a final and enforceable rule if the facts about blindness and independent travel are presented and understood, but previously suspended requirements for detectable warnings which differ from the current draft guidelines are technically now in effect, the suspension having lapsed, making a resolution of this issue inevitable: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization vigorously oppose the ATBCB's draft guidelines calling for the universal installation of detectable warnings; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization petition the ATBCB to reinstate the suspension on guidelines for detectable warnings while further consideration is given to the draft guideline on public rights-of-way, in order to avoid confusion and needless installation of warning strips that are apt to be inconsistent with the eventual guideline regardless of the result; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the ATBCB to adopt a final guideline based on facts rather than fear and which may include installation of detectable warnings only when the slope of the curb ramp at an intersection equals 1:15 or less.

Resolution 2002-13

Failed to Pass

Resolution 2002-14

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has a keen interest in promoting high quality educational and vocational rehabilitation professionals in work with the blind (because of the dismal past performance of far too many service providers, between 70 and 80 percent of all blind persons in America of working age are unemployed, and of those who have jobs, far too many are underemployed); and

WHEREAS, the reason for this distressing statistic is that many professionals in work with the blind have historically failed to understand blindness accurately and have also failed to learn and embrace those modern educational and training techniques which have been developed by the blind themselves and which offer a proven formula for successful empowerment of the blind; and

WHEREAS, these failures by blindness professionals exist in spite of the fact that a continuous professional certifying mechanism has been in place in work with the blind since 1966: first offered through the American Association of Workers for the Blind, then by the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and now by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals; and

WHEREAS, this longtime certification mechanism has failed the blind miserably in two ways--first, the certification itself has been no predictor of competence and has had no positive impact whatsoever on the caliber of blindness professionals working in the field, and, second, until very recently, the old certifying entity has practiced open and flagrant discrimination against the blind; and

WHEREAS, as an alternative to the failed old system, a new certification, the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC), has been established--the federal grant which authorized this new process requires that it be nondiscriminatory; and

WHEREAS, NOMC certification is performance-based--that is, in addition to demonstrating positive attitudes about blindness, the candidate for NOMC certification must also demonstrate his or her personal abilities by actually performing the techniques and skills to be taught to blind consumers; if the candidate is sighted or partially blind, then blindness skills are demonstrated using sleep shades; and

WHEREAS, this new certifying strategy holds the promise of being a superior predictor of professional competence; and

WHEREAS, this progressive NOMC certification, together with other performance-based certifications which will be developed, is administered by a new corporate entity, the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB); and

WHEREAS, Mr. James Omvig, who serves as the president of the NBPCB, is a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind and a man known, trusted, and respected by blind people throughout the nation for his personal and professional commitment to expanding opportunities for blind people, thereby giving the NBPCB credibility as the only certification body in the field of blindness that is led by blind people who share the National Federation of the Blind's positive philosophy of blindness: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization express its wholehearted support for this new nondiscriminatory, performance-based certifying body, since the NFB has a long-standing interest in identifying and promoting competent blindness professionals who have a commitment to excellence in outcomes.

Resolution 2002-15

WHEREAS, Freedom Scientific, Inc., offers a Spanish-language version of its note takers (Braille Lite and Braille 'n Speak), and of its print-reading software (The OpenBook); and

WHEREAS, Freedom Scientific, Inc., advertises to Spanish-speaking customers that the Spanish version of these products is functionally equivalent to the English-language version of the corresponding products; and

WHEREAS, in reality many of the features available in the English-language version such as a spell-checking program in the note takers and a dictionary in the print-reading software do not exist in the Spanish-language version of these products; and

WHEREAS, many existing features in the Spanish-language version of these products, such as the file compression program in the note takers, the capability to transfer Spanish Braille files from or to note takers, and the help files in all products, are so poorly designed and poorly implemented that they are useless to Spanish-speaking customers; and

WHEREAS, for the past few years customers of the Spanish-language version have informed Freedom Scientific, Inc., of the problems and shortcomings in its Spanish-language products, resulting in neither positive responses nor promises of improvements from Freedom Scientific, Inc.; and

WHEREAS, Freedom Scientific, Inc.'s failure to respond positively is inconsistent with its mission of meeting the information technology needs of all blind and visually impaired people; and

WHEREAS, providing functionally equivalent Spanish products should not pose serious technical difficulties since Microsoft and other key players in the information technology marketplace have provided functionally equivalent products in all of the languages, including Spanish, which they support: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization condemn and deplore the second-class and discriminatory treatment by Freedom Scientific, Inc., towards customers of its Spanish-language products; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that Freedom Scientific, Inc., undertake positive measures to provide the functional equivalence that it advertises for its Spanish-language products.

Resolution 2002-16

WHEREAS, the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) issued a report called "Building a True Community" which proposed new standards and regulations to govern the building and rebuilding of public rights-of-way such as streets, sidewalks, and other outdoor public areas so that individuals with disabilities can access them; and

WHEREAS, this report contained recommendations regarding Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APSs), which are electronic devices that alert the blind pedestrian in an audible or vibrotactile manner when the traffic signal has changed so that it is safe to walk; and

WHEREAS, the report recommended that an APS shall be provided at any intersection where the timing of a pedestrian signal is altered by push button actuation and where the signal includes a leading pedestrian interval, a period of time during which the pedestrian is allowed to start crossing before vehicular traffic is allowed to move; and

WHEREAS, the report further recommended that APSs with an optional-use feature be installed at intersections where pedestrian crossing intervals are pretimed and not affected by the push of a button; and

WHEREAS, pursuant to resolutions adopted by this organization, the Federation submitted a minority report urging that the ATBCB mandate APSs in situations only where the built environment did not provide sufficient nonvisual clues for a blind pedestrian to know when it was safe to cross and that all APSs be vibrotactile so that unneeded and distracting noise not be emitted into intersections; and

WHEREAS, on June 17, 2002, the ATBCB published a draft guideline based on the PROWAAC report, essentially disregarding both the PROWAAC report and the Federation's recommendations and calling instead for APSs with locator tones to be installed at every intersection with a pedestrian signal; and

WHEREAS, the PROWAAC report proposed installing APS in an overly broad number of places but at least limited the installation to some degree and further provided for an optional activation feature, thereby giving each pedestrian the choice of using or not using the APS; and

WHEREAS, the board's draft guidelines will force installation and use of APSs at every signalized intersection in America while costing tax payers many billions of dollars; and

WHEREAS, at the majority of intersections the existing environment and traffic pattern provide sufficient nonvisual cues for blind persons to cross the street safely without APSs, and blind people do so every day: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization condemn and deplore the ATBCB's narrow-minded and uninformed view of blindness as expressed in the draft guideline proposing to require the installation of APSs at all signalized intersections in America; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the ATBCB to reconsider and reject the extreme position taken on APSs in its June 17, 2002, draft guidelines and adopt a position on the placement and use of APSs that is more realistic and consistent with the prevailing view among the blind themselves.

Resolution 2002-17

WHEREAS, the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act of 1999 (PL 106-170) has resulted in many changes that will eventually affect all persons who receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits; and

WHEREAS, all beneficiaries, including blind beneficiaries, need to have the ability to receive prompt notice of planned actions and must also be able to access all Social Security information in a timely manner, including information pertaining to changes to their benefits and information concerning expansion or reduction of program services; and

WHEREAS, this information is necessary so that the beneficiaries, including blind beneficiaries, may comply with all requirements of the Social Security Administration and fully benefit from the work incentive provisions in the law; and

WHEREAS, for several years, the Social Security Administration has had instructions in place to make Braille notices available only in the Disability Insurance program and not until this year in the Supplemental Security Income program, but in either case notices in Braille have not been routine and were supposed to be provided only upon the request of a blind beneficiary to have a Braille transcription of a notice, a cumbersome and necessarily lengthy process at best and now apparently abandoned by the Social Security Administration altogether; and

WHEREAS, the only options currently available to blind beneficiaries in which to receive their notices are by regular mail in printed form, by certified mail in printed form, or read orally over the phone by a Social Security representative; and

WHEREAS, notices sent in print by regular mail to blind beneficiaries may not be reviewed by them promptly through no fault of the blind persons and due solely to lack of access to someone who can read print, but the failure to have prompt access to these notices can result in the loss of valuable time for taking action according to Social Security rules; and

WHEREAS, the same is true for those individuals who need Braille notices if the Braille notice is sent only after the print notice is received and the Braille notice is then requested; and

WHEREAS, choosing certified mail can alert the beneficiary that the mail may be from the Social Security Administration, but working recipients who are blind are not available to sign and receive certified mail and must make a special trip to the post office to collect the mail and still confront the reader problem when the printed notice is acquired; and

WHEREAS, phone contact fails as an effective alternative because there is no system to ensure that the staff person actually reaches the recipient; and

WHEREAS, the use of technology could allow many blind beneficiaries to access electronic information through on-line resources independently, promptly, and efficiently, but this choice is not currently offered by the Social Security Administration: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Social Security Administration to provide notices and other pertinent information in alternate formats most accessible to blind beneficiaries, including audio cassette, Braille, computer disk, and on-line by means of a secure server; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that this information be provided in a timely manner comparable to that of the corresponding printed information.

Resolution 2002-18

WHEREAS, informed choice has for ten years been enshrined in federal law as a key component of vocational rehabilitation services for recipients of services in this federal-state partnership program; and

WHEREAS, the 1998 Rehabilitation Act Amendments and the 2001 federal regulations require the informed choice of vocational rehabilitation recipients in selecting an employment outcome, the services needed to achieve that employment outcome, and the providers of those services; and

WHEREAS, a number of states continue to interfere with this federally required exercise of informed choice through imposition of state-level mandates that service providers be on "approved provider lists" or meet state-imposed certification requirements; and

WHEREAS, these states persist in making the false claim that certification standards set by the state supersede the federally required informed choice of the recipient who is selecting a training center by actively discouraging or even prohibiting individuals from attending the training center of the recipient's choice, a choice which is often to attend one of the National Federation of the Blind's training centers; and

WHEREAS, the state vocational rehabilitation agency in Ohio is claiming that service providers with which they contract for the provision of training services for blind persons, regardless of the location of the service provider, must be accredited by one of the organizations on Ohio's approved list of accrediters such as the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired (NAC) or the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), and state agencies in other states are considering adopting similar policies imposing state-level accreditation requirements; and

WHEREAS, Section 361.50(a) of the federal vocational rehabilitation regulations prohibits a vocational rehabilitation agency from establishing any arbitrary limits on the nature and scope of VR services; and

WHEREAS, Section 361.50(b)(2) of those same regulations prohibits VR agencies from establishing policies that effectively prohibit the provision of out-of-state services; and

WHEREAS, under the federal regulatory provision found in Section 361.52(B)(3), states are required to develop and implement flexible procurement policies and methods that facilitate the provision of vocational rehabilitation services and that afford eligible individuals meaningful choices among the methods used to procure vocational rehabilitation services while they exercise informed choice; and

WHEREAS, these regulations are administered by the Rehabilitation Services Administration in the United States Department of Education, which has also issued RSA Policy Directive 01-03 further declaring that the exercise of informed choice must not be limited arbitrarily by factors such as out-of-state location, time, or cost; and

WHEREAS, the Rehabilitation Act prohibits state VR agencies from preselecting services and service providers that must be used by any eligible individual: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the United States Congress to amend the Rehabilitation Act during reauthorization specifically to prohibit state-level accreditation and certification requirements, approved provider lists, in-state training preferences, and other practices to the extent that they circumvent the informed choice of eligible individuals in selecting rehabilitation programs; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration to join in this effort for the purpose of fully effectuating the express intent of Congress to endow rehabilitation clients with informed choice and to prohibit state-level frustration of that intent; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization deplore the policies in place in Ohio and efforts in any other states attempting to do likewise when such policies limit informed choice and, by their effect on such choice, discourage or prohibit clients from choosing services provided in a different state.

Resolution 2002-19

WHEREAS, the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind (AIDB), an agency of Alabama state government, has promoted the introduction of a bill in the United States Congress entitled "National Junior College for Deaf and Blind at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind Act" (now designated H.R. 3252 and S. 1654), which would authorize the United States Secretary of Education to establish a junior college at the headquarters of AIDB in Talladega, Alabama; and

WHEREAS, the approach to educating blind people taken by the promoters of this bill is an archaic and outmoded one, long since abandoned by both educators and rehabilitation professionals in the United States who, along with their blind students and consumers, have for decades used the appropriate model of integration and full participation by blind persons in all walks of life, also enshrined in federal law in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

WHEREAS, founding of a segregated junior college for the blind would be a significant departure from current and universally accepted principles of education and rehabilitation by emphasizing isolation rather than the integration which has come to be accepted as the standard for serving blind people and by ignoring the preferences and capacities of blind people; and

WHEREAS, modern strategies of educating the blind recognize the capacity of blind people to learn in classroom settings along with their peers who can see and, in fact, demand that blind students meet the same standards and challenges as their sighted peers to ready them for integrated employment in America's work force; and

WHEREAS, the proposed junior college would exactly reverse this model, creating an unnecessary artificial and sheltered learning environment, designed to shield and protect blind students who, in the minds of the proponents, must be delicate and fragile to need such protection, and designed to cater to the needs of the blind as perceived by AIDB and not by the blind themselves; and

WHEREAS, AIDB's separate programmatic approach ignores the fact that tens of thousands of blind people have successfully completed college courses in existing colleges and universities designed without reference to their unique needs and thousands more do so every year, equipping these blind men and women to work in today's work environments alongside the same sighted peers with whom they competed and earned post-secondary degrees; and

WHEREAS, blind people who learn the alternative skills of blindness such as Braille, independent cane travel, use of computers, problem-solving skills, self-confidence, and a positive philosophy of blindness are more likely to succeed alongside students who can see than those educated in an artificial and segregated environment; and

WHEREAS, these truths have been so long understood and so long embedded in federal law that the only two possible explanations for AIDB's proposal are that AIDB simply does not believe in the abilities of blind people even though they are demonstrated every day or that AIDB does not care about the abilities of blind people and only cares about getting federal dollars: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization urge the United States Congress to take no action to promote or fund this counterproductive and outmoded legislation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the Board of Trustees of the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind to withdraw its proposal to found a National Junior College through federal legislation and to work instead for programs that are of a progressive and mainstream nature for blind people.

Resolution 2002-20

Development of Rehabilitative Services

for Older Blind Americans

WHEREAS, attention must be paid to a deplorable and wholly preventable tragedy affecting over six million blind and visually impaired Americans age 55 and older, a tragedy in which many of these millions lose their independence due to utterly inadequate rehabilitation services for older blind Americans; and

WHEREAS, the void in rehabilitation services for the older blind forces many unnecessarily into nursing homes and home-bound lifestyles, all for lack of a delivery service system for providing to the growing number of seniors losing vision the training in alternative techniques for living safely without sight, such as learning safe travel, daily living skills, and the use of assistive aids and appliances; and

WHEREAS, vocational rehabilitation programs serve those striving for career development and therefore do not address the unique issues of older blind Americans, many of whom are no longer interested in employment and the kinds of activity related to finding and holding a job; and

WHEREAS, each state receives what can only be termed a token and paltry effort to address rehabilitation services for older blind Americans, money through Chapter 2 of Title VII Independent Living Services for the Older Blind of the Rehabilitation Act, which serves a mere 5 percent of those who could benefit from such programs; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind, the voice of the organized blind of all ages, deplores the preventable loss of independence and dignity through the absence of quality rehabilitative services for older blind Americans and consequently acts on this tragedy by calling for improved funding and innovative programming such as Medicare coverage of rehabilitative services for the older blind; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind advocates for the passage of H.R. 2674, the Medicare Coverage Equity for the Blind Act, which addresses a portion of the need and also advocates for development of new and exemplary service methods and models designed and implemented for the particular barriers faced by older blind Americans, services worthy of the Federation can-do spirit; and

WHEREAS, rehabilitative services expressly developed for the older blind will permit seniors who become blind to regain self-reliance and self-worth and to live independently in their own homes and communities for as long as possible; and

WHEREAS, this preservation of dignity and independence is of course the most important issue for older blind Americans as for all blind Americans, but it should be noted that the failure to provide effective service to blind seniors is also exorbitantly expensive and unjustified, leading to massive outlays of personal earnings and also Medicare trust fund expenditures for injuries and for expensive assisted living or nursing home placement when many if not most seniors could remain safely and happily in their own homes after the onset of blindness with simple, inexpensive rehabilitative training and the restoration of their can-do spirit: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration and other rehabilitative agencies serving the blind to design and implement high-quality and demonstrably effective rehabilitation service-delivery methods and models specifically geared for older blind Americans; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the United States Congress and the various state legislatures to recognize the savings in human dignity, in pain and suffering, and in medical costs to be realized by serving instead of ignoring the growing population of Americans who are strong, able seniors losing vision without access to the simple, inexpensive training they need to be safe and independent.

Resolution 2002-21

WHEREAS, from infancy sighted children are exposed to pictorial information; and

WHEREAS, educational materials increasingly rely on pictorial information to convey information at every level from infancy through college and adult education; and

WHEREAS, the use of pictorial information makes it more difficult for blind children to acquire the same knowledge as their sighted peers unless they are provided with nonvisual alternatives; and

WHEREAS, technologies exist for the production of both tactile graphics (maps and diagrams) and three-dimensional models; and

WHEREAS, tactile graphics and three-dimensional models can provide an effective and efficient means for blind students to access the pictorial information available to their sighted peers: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization express strong support for the development of techniques, technologies, and practices designed to improve the availability of tactile graphics and three-dimensional models as a means of providing access for the blind to pictorial information; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Braille textbook producers to include more tactile graphics in the material they produce and to work with the National Federation of the Blind to make the use of tactile graphics more prevalent; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon research funding agencies, including but not limited to the federal Office of Special Education, the National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research, and the National Science Foundation, to establish funding priorities to support research into the use of tactile graphics and three-dimensional models as an educational learning medium for blind students, including an investigation of the feasibility and usefulness of a lending library of electronic and tactile models for this purpose.

Resolution 2002-22

WHEREAS, the federal Rehabilitation Act seeks to help eligible blind and disabled people reach their full potential in independent living and employment; and

WHEREAS, Section 102(d) of the act promises that consumers of vocational rehabilitation services shall take an active part in selecting the providers of goods and services they need; and

WHEREAS, Congress has recognized that the choice of a provider of goods and services can make a fundamental difference in the outcome achieved and has specifically declared that informed choice means the choice of providers as well as the goods and services themselves; and

WHEREAS, in the experience of blind people distinct differences exist among providers of adjustment-to-blindness and other vocational-rehabilitation services with respect to expectations that different providers have for blind consumers and in their knowledge of the blindness skills needed to be competitively employed, with the result that, in the opinion of knowledgeable blind consumers, such providers range in quality from those which are excellent to those which can do more harm than good; and

WHEREAS, when blind rehabilitation consumers do not have a range of choices among providers of goods and services, they are often led into poor decisions actually made by someone else, such as a rehabilitation counselor or supervisor, with the predictable consequence that a poor outcome is apt to result; and

WHEREAS, the promise of a choice of providers stated in Section 102(d) is impaired by regulations of the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration at 34 C.F.R. 361.50, which permit state vocational rehabilitation agencies to limit the amount they will spend on specific goods and services through the use of bureaucratic tools including fee schedules or payment of costs up to an in-state limit, requiring consumers to pay the cost difference for the provider of their choice; and

WHEREAS, this regulation is defective because it does not require state agencies to recognize factors leading to successful outcomes such as employment rates of graduates from various training programs; the reputation of programs in specialized areas of education and training; the efficacy of short-term (quick-fix) versus long-term, intensive programs; and, with respect to the purchase of goods, the quality of the technical support available; and

WHEREAS, as a result of this regulation and regardless of the statutory commitment to informed choice, consumers still find that state vocational rehabilitation agencies prefer certain providers over others and inflict their preferences by setting the amounts they will pay for specific goods and services based on the charges of their favored providers without regard to either the quality or efficacy of the expected outcome; and

WHEREAS, even where state agencies purport to compare the costs of several providers in setting the amount they will pay for certain goods and services, the comparisons are often not based on comparable goods or services, which prevents a fair comparison and leads to the agency's predetermined outcome, regardless of the consumer's choice; and

WHEREAS, the problem is exacerbated when the provider preferred by the state agency is a program operated by that same agency and the agency either hides or fails to take into account all of the costs associated with operating that program, further distorting the facts and creating an unfair comparison to third-party providers' charges; and

WHEREAS, this system places the consumer in the position of having to select a program the consumer knows to be an unfit or inappropriate provider (unless that consumer can afford to pay the cost difference); and

WHEREAS, the federal vocational rehabilitation regulations should not undercut the statutory commitment to informed choice by embracing state policies deliberately designed to favor predetermined selections of providers rather than genuine choices being made by consumers as the law intends: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Rehabilitation Services Administration to revise the vocational rehabilitation regulations by adopting a clear and unequivocal stance in favor of informed choice and against policies and practices of state vocational rehabilitation agencies which undercut it; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge Congress to amend Section 102(d) of the Rehabilitation Act to prohibit policies and practices such as fee schedules and preferred in-state providers which continue to be used by state vocational rehabilitation agencies to limit the exercise of informed choice.

Resolution 2002-23

WHEREAS, point-of-sale machines, ranging from ticket machines in transportation centers to debit card machines in retail establishments, are more and more electronic, requiring the customer to enter numbers including personal identification numbers and to select and confirm types of transactions and amounts; and

WHEREAS, point-of-sale machines are not now required to present a standardized keypad that is tactilely discernible by blind users, with the result that keypads may or may not be discernible by touch and may in fact be touch-screen only, which is not discernible at all by blind people; and

WHEREAS, more and more of these electronic point-of-sale machines, like their better-known predecessor, the automated teller machine, are handling interactive transactions requiring the customer to make and confirm selections and confirm numbers, an impossible task when the point-of-sale machine does not have a voice component like the ones now required in automated teller machines; and

WHEREAS, without tactilely discernible keypads and voiced responses for interactive functions, these machines are unusable by blind people; and

WHEREAS, without accessible technology, assistance from a sighted person is required to use an electronic payment system; and

WHEREAS, disclosure of this critical and highly confidential piece of information to a third party in a public setting exposes the blind or visually impaired customer to extreme security risks, including, but not limited to, robbery, personal injury, credit card fraud, and identity theft; and

WHEREAS, the limited and initial phase of this issue has now been addressed by the United States Access Board, which has issued specific regulations for nonvisual access to automated teller machines, but the board has failed thus far to address the broader issues of tactile discernibility and of voiced interactivity: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the United States Access Board to face and successfully regulate the point-of-sale machine market to achieve the goal that all point-of-sale machines in use in the United States be fully accessible and secure for all customers, including the blind.

Resolution 2002-24

WHEREAS, the 1998 amendments to Section 102 of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, provide for a presumption of eligibility for blind individuals who receive benefits under Titles II or XVI of the Social Security Act; and

WHEREAS, this presumption of eligibility for beneficiaries was a congressional acknowledgement of the need of blind beneficiaries for services in order to obtain gainful employment, resulting in their leaving the benefit rolls; and

WHEREAS, blind beneficiaries currently face the distinct potential of being denied services when a state vocational rehabilitation agency institutes an order of selection; and

WHEREAS, an order of selection, with criteria established by each state vocational rehabilitation agency, is instituted in times of fiscal shortfall as a predefined method of choosing which clients will be served first; and

WHEREAS, in theory an order of selection places individuals with the most significant disabling conditions as predefined by the agency at the head of the line for the provision of services, but being blind or disabled as determined by the Social Security Administration is not currently considered significant enough to assure services, regardless of the order of selection, leading to the absurd outcome that Social Security beneficiaries, obviously in urgent need of employment, can be placed at the end of the line and designated not to receive services; and

WHEREAS, the denial of rehabilitation services to eligible beneficiaries is inconsistent with and contrary to the very nature of positive rehabilitation services and counterproductive of potential gainful employment for men and women who urgently need and want that employment; and

WHEREAS, to deny such services to eligible beneficiaries raises serious questions regarding the correct focus of governmental programs and fiscal accountability: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization call upon the Congress to amend the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, to exempt blind individuals who receive benefits under Titles II and XVI from any limitation of service imposed by an order of selection since assuring services to blind beneficiaries without delay due to an order of selection will increase employment potential and thereby better achieve the purposes of the Rehabilitation Act.

Resolution 2002-25

WHEREAS, on May 2, 2002, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and two individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the secretary of the treasury of the United States and the treasurer of the United States alleging that the federal government is in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended, 29 U.S.C. Section 794, by issuing all U.S. currency in an identical size, color, and texture, which renders various denominations indistinguishable by touch, alleging that the blind are thus largely excluded from enjoying the benefits of monetary transactions and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief by requiring the Department of the Treasury to implement design changes in the currency to make the various denominations distinguishable by touch and color; and

WHEREAS, this lawsuit is based on a false and misleading assumption that the inability to distinguish banknote denominations by touch largely excludes the blind from participating in commerce and other ordinary activities of life; and

WHEREAS, the theory of this suit is disproved by the lives of tens of thousands of blind persons who live normal lives and participate in commerce every day without difficulty; and

WHEREAS, more than having difficulty with money, blind people are apt to suffer great harm from the attendant publicity surrounding this suit, fostering and reinforcing the notion that the blind cannot easily handle currency as it now exists and, for example, needlessly creating an albatross around the neck of any blind person seeking employment in any position involving handling money; and

WHEREAS, to the extent that currency identification is truly a problem for individual blind people, various technological devices capable of identifying banknotes and audibly announcing their denomination are available for sale, and in fact giving every blind person in the country such a device would be simpler and cheaper than re-engineering the nation's cash-handling capacity; and

WHEREAS, in view of its false premise and lack of merit, there is little likelihood that the relief sought by this lawsuit will ever be granted, thus using the blind in a publicity stunt and showing little regard for the genuine needs and concerns of blind people; and

WHEREAS, more than the adverse publicity resulting from the filing of this suit itself, there is a substantial risk of a ruling that could nullify the potential benefits of Section 504 by narrowing its scope and coverage or over-turning the law altogether, as has happened with other recent court decisions in the area of disability: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization take all appropriate and legally available steps to advise the court that the failure to have U.S. currency issued as sought by the plaintiffs in this suit is not an act of discrimination against the blind and in such a fashion that the accompanying ruling does not harm current and future efforts to achieve genuinely needed and desirable accommodations for the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization take steps to counter the adverse effects of the harmful publicity arising from this particular lawsuit and renew efforts to educate the public that the blind can participate in commerce on equal terms and fully enjoy the benefits of U.S. currency as it now exists.

Resolution 2002-26

Failed to Pass

Convention Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

All Aboard for Louisville in 2003:

The National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, South Fulton Chapter is sponsoring a fleet of National Federation of the Blind convention buses, which will sweep the southern region of the country picking up Federationists for the 2003 NFB national convention in Louisville, Kentucky. The buses will pick up in Atlanta/Decatur, Georgia, and Nashville, Tennessee. Soon to be added: Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Phase 1 registration runs from July 15 to November 15, 2002. A round-trip ticket to Louisville reserved during this period is only $25. Phase 2 registration runs from November 16, 2002, to May 15, 2003. A round-trip ticket to Louisville purchased during these months is only $35. For more information or to make reservations for the sweep bus in Tennessee, call Michael Seay, state president, at (901) 324‑7056. In Atlanta/Decatur call Stephanie Scott at (404) 759‑5513. In Florida contact Dwight Sayer at (407) 877-1970. Seats are limited, so reserve your seat today.

Elected:

A number of divisions conduct elections each year at national convention. Here are the election results we have been given:

National Association of Blind Merchants:

President, Kevan Worley (Colorado); first vice president, Charles Allen (Kentucky); second vice president, Bob Ray (Iowa); secretary, Pam Schnurr (Indiana); and treasurer, Don Hudson (Colorado). Also reelected to the board were Don Morris (Maryland), Carl Jacobsen (New York), and Gary Grassman (New York). After many years of distinguished leadership, Joe Van Lent (Iowa) asked not to be returned to the board, so the division elected Stephanie Scott (Georgia) to fill that position.

National Association of Blind Office Professionals:

Elected to serve two-year terms were the following officers: president, Lisa Hall (Texas); vice president, Lois Montgomery (Illinois); secretary, Sherri Brun (Florida); and treasurer, Carol Clark (Kansas).

National Association of Blind Musicians:

The officers elected at the NABM business meeting were president, Linda Mentink (Wisconsin); first vice president, Deborah Brown (Maryland); second vice president, Karen McDonald (West Virginia); secretary, Cindy Ray (Iowa); and treasurer, Bee Hodgkiss (Minnesota).

National Organization of the Senior Blind:

The NOSB officers elected on July 4 to serve two-year terms were president, Judy Sanders (Minnesota); first vice president, Ray McGeorge (Colorado); second vice president, Roy Hobley (Nebraska); secretary, Christine Hall (New Mexico); and treasurer, Paul Dressell (Ohio).

National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals:

The results of the NABRP election were as follows: president, Shawn Mayo (Minnesota); first vice president, Noel Nightingale (Washington); second vice president, Carlos Servan (Nebraska); secretary, Pam Allen (Louisiana); treasurer, Sheila Wright (Missouri); and board members Bryan Bashin (California), Tony Lewis (California), Lea Grupen (Hawaii), and Rosemary Lerdahl (Maryland).

Diabetes Action Network:

The newly elected officers and board members of the Diabetes Action Network are president, Ed Bryant (Missouri); first vice president, Eric Woods (Colorado); second vice president, Sandie Addy (Arizona); secretary, Lois Williams (Alabama); treasurer, Bruce Peters (Ohio); and board members Sally York (California), Paul Price (California), and Dawnell Cruze (Virginia).

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children:

NOPBC board members elected were president, Barbara Cheadle (Maryland); first vice president, Carol Castellano (New Jersey); second vice president, Marty Greiser (Montana); secretary, Brunhilda Merk‑Adam (Michigan); treasurer, Sandy Taboada (Louisiana); and board members Carol Akers (Ohio), Nalida Besson (Massachusetts), Maria Jones (Kentucky), Barbara Matthews (California), Marla Palmer (Utah), and Brad Weatherd (Montana).

Travel and Tourism Group, Soon to Be a Division:

The results of the election at this organizing meeting were as follows: president, Douglas Johnson (Washington); first vice president, Stephanie Scott (Georgia); second vice president, Junerose Killian (Connecticut); secretary, Antoinette Archie (Maryland); treasurer, Sheila Chastain‑Latham (Michigan); and board members Nola Baker‑Jones (Arizona), Debi Black (Arizona), Wayne High (Georgia), and Vickie Saucier (Louisiana).

The National Federation of the Blind Deaf-Blind Division:

The division elected new officers for the period 2002 to 2004. They are Richard Edlund (Kansas), president; Burnell Brown (Washington, D.C.), first vice president; Robert Deaton (Nebraska), second vice president; Wendy Carter (Utah), recording secretary; Patricia Tuck (Florida), corresponding secretary; Kimberly Johnson (Colorado), treasurer; and Dana Ard (Idaho), Bruce Woodward (Connecticut), and Joseph Naulty (Florida), board members.

Agriculture and Equestrian Division on Its Way:

Friday, July 5, 2002, interested Federationists wrote and adopted a constitution for this new division. Offices were discussed, elections held, and one of the NFB's newest divisions was established. The board, like the membership of the group, has a wide array of interests and a wide geographic distribution. Agroforestry, apiculture, and aquaculture; composting, gardening, and landscaping; firearms and hunting; dairies and milk products; ranching and riding; tack and tractors; vermiculture and zymurgy: we cover the map. Blind people are working, studying, and hobbying in every field, while feeding and clothing the world. Put your boots on, roll up your sleeves, and join us!

Elected were Diane Starin (California), president; Liz Lewis (South Carolina), first vice president; Fred Chambers (California), second vice president; Melissa Smith (Missouri), treasurer; and Hayley Agers (Washington), secretary. At the conclusion of our business meeting members networked over a light dinner of local produce, baked goods, and beverages. Topics included naming a newsletter, choosing its editor, planning for next year's tours, and thinking about upcoming state affiliate conventions. The Field Post is our newsletter. Stories, suggestions, and questions can be submitted by e-mail to the editor, Fred Chambers, <regenerative@earthlink.net>.

Churchill Downs rolled out the roses, welcoming our tour with grace and hospitality. We spoke to staff about their jobs, found our favorite spot from which to watch the races, thrilled at the thundering hooves and cheering crowds, and can hardly wait to return. Next year we'll run another Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby Museum tour on Tour Day. For Seminar Day we are planning a trip to the Kentucky Horse Park, with a chance to ride. We will meet extension agents and AgrAbility Project staff to learn about grants aimed at blind or disabled people who want to start or continue careers in agriculture's myriad fields. Other stops will be an organic farm, a winery, and a bourbon distillery. Consult the Braille Monitor and join the Agriculture and Equestrian Division to keep posted.

Merchants Make It Happen at National Convention:

This year's national convention featured a variety of merchant endeavors. Our Randolph-Sheppard reception Sunday evening was attended by over two hundred. Again this year we were pleased to give away free Coke and Diet Coke all week at our table in the exhibit hall to help quench the thirsts of hot conventioneers. We broke fundraising records on Snack-Pack and raffle ticket sales. And our annual merchant meeting was packed with Federation merchants. The meeting featured an array of new ideas and business opportunities: everything from new ways of collecting on bad checks to a new partnership with the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA).

This year we presented lifetime membership awards to James Gashel and Joe and Lora Van Lent. Again this year Merchants President Kevan Worley provided an informative and inspiring account of the activities and accomplishments of our division. He concluded the report by saying: "My brothers and my sisters, I began this report by talking about a personal recollection of Dr. Jernigan. I believe he would be quite proud of this group. We have an ever growing commitment to our Federation, an ever expanding vision of what the Randolph-Sheppard Program can become. We are this country's blind vendors who care more than about the price of Pepsi. And again this year we have proven that we are willing to pay the price to protect and expand opportunities under Randolph-Sheppard, to share the cost of our commitment to the organized blind movement, and to reap the profit of our collective action."

NFB of Utah at Work during Convention:

The fact that the most active members of an affiliate are attending our national convention never provides assurance that activity affecting blind people will take a vacation until we can get home to deal with the problems. This year the Utah affiliate learned this lesson the hard way. Here is President Ron Gardner's report of what almost happened:

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ron Gardner]

I arrived at the convention on Monday, July 1, 2002. Just a few hours after arriving I received a call from the director of our state agency serving the blind. He informed me that he needed our help with an emergency.

On Friday afternoon, June 28, at 4:30 p.m., the Utah State Legislature received a plan and budget proposal to deal with the state's budgetary deficit. Part of that plan was a proposal to relocate the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, together with our general rehab agency, to our state's Department of Workforce Services. As Federationists know, services to the blind suffer when buried deep within another large state agency--especially workforce services, where blind people would receive greatly diminished services and training.

Because our state legislature was scheduled to act on this unfortunate proposal within one week (while we were still at the convention), we knew we had a problem. We needed to let the legislature know that the blind of Utah strongly opposed the plan to relocate our blindness agency to Workforce Services, yet there we were in Louisville, Kentucky.

We immediately met with the almost eighty members of the NFB of Utah who were at the convention. We met each day right on the convention floor after the morning session to update each other and make new assignments.

We decided to take action in three ways. First we called our fellow Federationists at home and alerted them to the problem. I asked them to attend the legislative hearings prior to our return home. Next we asked our agency director to fax us a copy of the names and telephone numbers of our entire legislature. Since we had Federationists from around the state with us, we were able to ensure that almost every member of the legislature received a call from one of us with the request that our agency not be relocated. Last of all we wrote a letter to members of the legislature. (We even used Whozit, our brand new logo.) This letter was drafted and reviewed by our members during lunch and after convention sessions. We then collected signatures from most of our members at convention. It was great! We had a powerful letter with more than sixty signatures. We sent the letter back to Utah, where it was distributed to every legislator.

I am very happy to report that the proposal to relocate the agency serving the blind in Utah was defeated. Even though we were at our national convention, the members of the NFB of Utah manned the barricades and defeated a potentially tragic bill. It was truly an exciting way to spend extra time at the convention.

Ron Gardner, President

NFB of Utah

NABOP Report:

The National Association of Blind Office Professionals (NABOP), a Division of the National Federation of the Blind, held its 2002 meeting in Louisville on July 3. Among several interesting program items, Michael Barber of the Iowa Department for the Blind spoke to the division promoting and disseminating information about their ASSIST with Windows training tutorials available for purchase as well as a new grant training program called Microsoft Office User Specialist (MOUS) Certification, which offers online training to blind users as well as rehabilitation professionals in the use of Microsoft Office applications through keyboard commands with various screen readers. This latest grant is a five‑year program which will offer opportunities for blind people and rehabilitation professionals to learn online how to use many Microsoft Office products for MOUS certification.

Spanish Translation at Convention:

For several years now, bilingual Federationists have been volunteering to assist Spanish-speakers who don't have enough English to follow convention programming. For the first time this year one channel of the system used by Federationists with hearing loss was designated for Spanish translation. In this way Spanish-speaking participants using special receivers available to them could listen to a running translation of proceedings rendered by volunteers. The effort was obviously a valuable addition to convention activities. Here is part of a letter from a grateful state president. It is written to Dr. Norman Gardner, who coordinated this effort. Here it is:

Hello Norman,

I wanted to let you know how much your efforts are appreciated by Spanish-speaking attendees at the national convention. This year we had three people from Maryland who took advantage of this wonderful service. I received a letter from one of them. I wanted to share a few of his comments with you: "Because of my experience at the NFB convention, I feel from the bottom of my heart and through my entire being that I am a different person. What one desires, one can achieve. It is only a question of putting one's effort into it."

_____'s English is very limited. He would not have been able to understand and participate in the convention without your help. We certainly could not have provided what he needed. I wanted to make sure that you know that your efforts are definitely not in vain. ____ has already enrolled in English classes and seems determined to do something with his life. We have been trying to get him to a convention for some time. Fear got in his way until this year. Now he intends to come every year. Spanish translation makes a difference. Thanks again for your efforts.

Sharon Maneki

Convention Observation:

We close with an observation about conventions by longtime Federationist Tom Bickford:

Over the decades that I have been attending NFB conventions I have noticed two gradual changes. More Braille is being used by convention goers and leaders alike. Some is being written in the old-fashioned way with slates or mechanical typewriters, and some is produced in the new-fashioned way by high-tech equipment. Either way it is Braille, and more than ever blind people are reading and writing for themselves. The other difference is that in the past, when I met people, I asked their names and where they were from. Then I had to be careful about asking what they did, that is, were they employed. We all wanted to be employed, but a lot of us weren't yet. Nowadays, the employment rate in the Federation is increasing to such an extent that I don't have to be careful about how I ask. I can just ask what kind of work people do.

We have all heard that 85 percent of blind people who are employed use Braille, and I have concluded that believing in the Federation philosophy leads people toward independence such as reading for themselves in Braille and finding employment. Anyway, that is my observation.

In Brief

Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.

Zform Poker:

One of the exhibit hall activities at this convention that caused lots of comment was high-quality, equal-access online poker. Here is part of a press release about it:

Technology and NFB literature weren't the only things on the exhibit hall floor at this year's NFB convention in Louisville. Crowds of attendees gathered around the booth of Zform, a small company dedicated to creating completely accessible online games appealing to blind, low-vision, and fully sighted players alike. Attendees could play the company's first title, ZForm Poker, against either computer opponents or each other. ZForm's mission is to create fun and engaging ways for friends and family to interact as equals regardless of visual impairment.

ZForm Poker is the first game of its kind to hit the market. Sporting a Wild West theme and an intuitive audio and graphical interface, the game is fun and easy for everyone to play. "As a blind person, I love finally having a game that my brother and I can both agree on," said Tim Keenan, ZForm's audio integrator and accessibility engineer. "In the past one of us would have to sacrifice something. Now there's no need.”

The game also includes the ability to chat with other players, which allows for the interaction that is the centerpiece of ZForm's mission. Players can choose from low-stakes social tables to high-roller, fast-paced tables.

"We designed the game to appeal not only to the die-hard poker players out there but also to people who are more interested in sitting down for a casual game with friends," said Paul Silva, Zform president and community director.

Poker wouldn't be poker without the occasional grand tournament. ZForm held such tournaments throughout the week, in which players vied for free subscriptions to ZForm Poker and thousands of dollars in prizes generously donated by several sponsors. Dolphin Computer Access, IBM, Independent Living Aids, and Freedom Scientific all contributed to the success of the tournaments.

ZForm also came armed with a thousand special ZForm Poker CD's made exclusively for the NFB convention, all of which were gobbled up by eager conventioneers.

ZForm got its start in a college dorm room in 1997. "I had a friend who was totally blind," remembers Silva. "I wanted to hang out and play games with him, but there was just nothing out there that would be equally fun and playable by both of us." Co-founders Paul Silva and Jeremie Spitzer had a dream of starting a game company, and when they realized the need for these games, they formed their company with a mission to fulfill that need. "We were sure we weren't the only ones to come up against this social barrier," said Spitzer, "and we hoped that if we could break it down, the entire blind and visually impaired community could benefit." They spent the next three years recruiting the ZForm team and securing the funding needed to bring their vision to life. Their efforts culminated in the launch of ZForm Poker in April of this year.

Everyone is invited to try ZForm Poker free for fifteen days. After that the game is available by subscription. The costs are $7.95 per month, or, for a limited time, $59.95 per year, a 37 percent discount.

To sign up for the free trial and join the ZForm community, visit ZForm's Web site at <http://www.zform.com>.

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.