Vol. 45, No. 8     October 2002

Barbara Pierce, Editor

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ISSN 0006-8829

Vol. 45, No. 8   October 2002


Minnesota Agency Director Dismantles Services for the Blind:

The Federation Strikes Back

by Joyce Scanlan

Accessible Web Applications and the Implications

of Technology in the Years Ahead

by David Greco

Advocating for Willie

by Ed and Toni Eames

Coming to Terms with Independence

by Denna Lambert

Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest Form

A Conversation with Whozit

by Mary Ellen Jernigan

The Escalation of History

and the Work of the National Federation of the Blind

by Gary Mackenstadt

Kenneth Jernigan's Prophetic Vision

by Ray Kurzweil

The Challenge of Change:

Freedom Scientific Responds to Customer Input,

Unveils New, Leading-Edge Products


Monitor Miniatures

Copyright © 2002 National Federation of the Blind

[PHOTO 1: (left to right) Gerry Sandusky, WBAL-TV Sports personality and master of ceremonies for Meet-the-Blind-Month activities at the Inner Harbor; Betsy Zaborowski, NFB director of special programs; and Erik Weihenmayer, the most recent member of the elite group of climbers to have summited the highest peaks on each of the seven continents, enjoy a moment of relaxation in front of the bleachers before the start of the Meet-the-Blind festivities.]

[PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: Erik Weihenmayer is halfway up the climbing wall. The huge Meet-the-Blind banner can be seen stretching down from the top of the wall. PHOTO/CAPTION 2:Erik Weihenmayer works his way up the climbing wall, while giving a running commentary over the microphone clipped to his shirt.]

October is now Meet-the-Blind Month. To celebrate it in Baltimore, on October 4 the NFB hosted a kickoff rally at the Inner Harbor in downtown Baltimore. Volunteers passed out brochures to passersby, and blind people spoke to those who stopped to watch. Baltimore personality Gerry Sandusky emceed the proceedings. Three blind men talked to the crowd about their experience of blindness: Mike Bullis; a high school student David Venet; and Tom Bickford. Hillary McFadden and Roberta Sandejas, both students at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM), joined Jason Ewell, Gerry Sandusky, David Venet, and Tom Bickford, in scaling the thirty-foot wall. 

{PHOTO CAPTION 3: Federationist Jason Ewell spread-eagled part way up the climbing wall]

[PHOTO/CAPTION 4: David Venet halfway up the climbing wall with Erik Weihenmayer and Gerry Sandusky standing at the bottom looking up at him]

[PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: This picture shows the huge room on the third floor of the National Center for the Blind, which has been transformed by hanging banners with sponsor names, balloons, crepe paper streamers, and elegantly draped tables. The effect is very festive.

PHOTO/CAPTION 5: The newly renovated third-floor space in the Johnson Street building just before the beginning of the October 4 party.]

On Friday evening, October 4, friends, family, and colleagues of the National Federation of the Blind were invited to a casual party, The 2002 Celebration: A Festival of Achievement. Catered food from some of Baltimore's finest restaurants was available in abundance. A band played for dancing. Guests could bid on some thirty items in a silent auction, and Erik Weihenmayer addressed the crowd, describing some of his mountain-climbing exploits and showing slides of his adventures. The participation of our friends and colleagues made this event a huge success.

[PHOTO/Caption 6: Standing together (left to right) are honorary event chairman Mark Furst, CCM, president of Greater Baltimore Allfirst Bank; NFB President Marc Maurer; and Frances Wright, vice president of the not-for-profit banking division of Allfirst Bank.

[PHOTO-CAPTION 7: Former Baltimore Orioles catcher and current coach Elrod Hendricks and Betsy Zaborowski stand together at the podium.]

[PHOTO-CAPTION 8: Erik Weihenmayer describes his Everest climb to a spellbound audience. At the right on a large screen can be seen a slide of the now famous picture of Erik on the top of Mt. Everest holding up the expedition banner.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION 9: Left to right are Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, Erik Weihenmayer, and President Marc Maurer. Jim Gashel looks on as Erik pulls a name from an NFB plastic hard hat. The drawing winner was to receive a $1,000 bill.]

[PHOTO/Description: Joyce Scanlan, wearing a picket sign hanging from her neck, walks with a cane and carries an umbrella.

PHOTO/CAPTION: Joyce Scanlan takes her place in the picket line along University Avenue.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Larry Sebranek stands beside the black box with parts of crushed blind consumers sticking out from around the bottom.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Federationists picket Minnesota State Services for the Blind carrying their signs and shouting slogans.]

Minnesota Agency Director Dismantles Services for the Blind:

The Federation Strikes Back

by Joyce Scanlan

From the Editor: In late July word spread that the funding battle for services to the blind being fought in almost every state across the country had flared up into a hot fight in Minnesota. Joyce Scanlan, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota and first vice president of the NFB, describes what happened and what led up to the current conflict. Nothing is yet resolved, but everyone knows that the NFB is now on the front line. This is what Joyce says:

Minnesota Federationists returned from the 2002 National Convention in Louisville with more than the usual excitement about upholding our rights as first-class citizens and a superabundance of energy to stand firm against any obstacle--human or otherwise--posing a barrier to our progress. Little did we know how soon we would be called upon to engage in yet another struggle to preserve valued services provided by State Services for the Blind (SSB), our state rehabilitation agency serving the blind.

Within hours of returning to Minnesota at the end of the Convention, we began to hear of further staff and service cuts at SSB. The previous two years had been filled with staff and service reorganizations and cuts, reductions in services to the senior blind, and a steady build-up in administrative personnel at SSB; an announcement in June had already revealed that services to children at the agency would be ended. But the big news greeting us after the Convention was that thirteen staff would be laid off, five additional positions would be held vacant, and the store operated by SSB to sell white canes, Braille paper, and other products not readily available to blind people in an ordinary shopping mall would be closed as of August 1, 2002.

We learned that the Department of Economic Security (DES), in which SSB is housed, had received a budget cut of $913,000, and SSB had been forced to take $416,000 of that amount--more than 45 percent of the total. Although our anger and disappointment had been rising over a period of two years, these most recent changes at SSB went much too far. Federationists had to take action. Kind words, gentle complaints, and friendly suggestions had accomplished nothing. We Federationists had reached our limit, so we launched serious plans to address these most recent unfair actions of SSB administrators.

To understand more fully why Minnesota Federationists finally reached the breaking point, here is some background information: for many years Federationists had worked in partnership with the state rehabilitation agency serving blind people. Certainly our relationship varied with the particular SSB administrator; nevertheless, we had always come together whenever threats to services or funding surfaced, and consumers had been a welcome voice in shaping programs offered by SSB. In 1995, when one-stops became the rage in the Department of Economic Security, Richard Davis, the assistant commissioner of SSB, began to feel increased pressure from DES to become a part of the one-stops. The message seemed to be that SSB should give up its program autonomy and share its meager financial resources with the larger department.

Then in 1998 the Workforce Investment Act became law and brought state rehabilitation programs into the one-stop system more formally. Despite efforts of SSB officials to seek additional funding from the legislature over a period of several sessions, SSB had gone without an increase in its baseline budget for about ten years and was forced to move to an order of selection in December of 1998. This crisis finally brought attention to the financial problem, and in the governor's budget presented to the 1999 legislative session, additional funding for SSB was finally included. Federationists put great effort into supporting the SSB budget with extensive lobbying and testimony at hearings until the final vote, which resulted in an increase to SSB's biennial budget of $3,370,000, including $1,400,000 for the Communication Center, the SSB unit where textbooks are transcribed, the Radio Reading Service is operated, and several other library services are provided. We were proud of this success and looked forward to brighter days ahead.

As everyone in the country knows, in the general election of November 1998, Minnesota elected a new governor, Jesse Ventura. This also meant a new DES commissioner, Earl Wilson. Both Ventura and Wilson came from navy backgrounds. With Wilson as DES commissioner, Mr. Davis came under more and more pressure to reorganize and redesign within the department. An increased hostility toward consumers was immediately obvious, and an atmosphere of secrecy overtook the department. By January of 2000, Mr. Davis could take no more, and he resigned as assistant commissioner of SSB.

This brought Bonnie Elsey into the picture as head of SSB. She came from a career in the job service. Her jobs had been project-oriented, and she had established a reputation for ordering frequent reorganizing. Initially we hoped that Ms. Elsey might work out, because she made positive statements like "We want to increase the number of jobs for blind people," and "We want to see more blind people placed in jobs." Who would disagree with such statements? However, it soon became clear that the deed did not follow the word, and many discrepancies arose between the two.

In fact, Ms. Elsey has become known as a first-rate public relations person; she can present a most exciting report to her council, while failing to reveal all the dismantled and dumbed-down services, lowered expectations for customers, and unhappy staff created by her arrogant management decisions. She had never worked with blind people prior to coming to SSB, nor has she demonstrated any inclination to learn how to do so from her first day to the present. She hired consultants who also knew nothing about blindness to "help" her run the agency. Like her superiors, DES Commissioner Wilson and his deputy and associate deputy, Ms. Elsey is not comfortable around blind people, and she does not cooperate with consumer organizations. She is not at all subtle in her efforts to discount anything promoted by the National Federation of the Blind. In fact, she does not even work with her rehab council, appointed by the governor, though they were carefully selected and do not make waves.

Only the Federation raises concerns about Ms. Elsey's management style and treatment of blind people. Because of our public statements and newsletter articles regarding her management of SSB, Ms. Elsey decided in 2001 that she would never again meet with the elected president of the Federation's state affiliate. Yet she is a publicly-appointed official and should certainly be accountable to the public. Such arrogance is not usually tolerated for very long.

DES Commissioner Earl Wilson and his subordinates, including Ms. Elsey, adhere to a philosophy contrary to that of the National Federation of the Blind and all other national organizations dealing with blindness. They do not support the establishment of separate agencies to serve the blind population. We became aware of this difference when we received a letter dated August 31, 2000, from the DES commissioner in which he stated his views, albeit in a rather convoluted style. His letter contains the following opening sentences: "There are two serious threats to the continuous improvement of services to individuals with disabilities and workforce development in general. First, Congress, and to some degree state legislatures, have declared victory and do not see the need to sustain program funding, and secondly, categorical programs needlessly drain even more resources by operating redundant administrative systems, at the expense of service to the customer in the interest of preserving autonomy."

Minnesota statute establishes SSB as a separate unit within DES with its own budget, separate from general rehab, and the commissioner obviously disagrees with the law. That may be the root of the problem. In addition, as a navy man the commissioner is used to issuing uncontested orders, and the vocal Federation steadily interferes with the smooth implementation of his orders.

As anyone can see, it has been a stormy two years for everyone. Countless changes have come about at SSB. Counselors and other staff call the Federation and ask, "When is the Federation going to do something about this?" The fact is that we have been trying very hard to preserve relevant and meaningful services, which once were the trademark of SSB, but to little avail. Commissioner Wilson has long since ceased appearing at legislative hearings; Ms. Elsey has no qualms about speaking contrary to the truth; she claims success while services to blind people steadily deteriorate and funding rapidly disappears. She is absolutely impervious to anything not consistent with her personal plan, and anyone who attempts to be heard is met with a stone wall.

These are shrewd people without ethics and without conscience. Ms. Elsey is interested only in counting dollars, not in providing services. Some would refer to individuals with this quality as bean counters. She is expert at finding ways to shift funds to her favorite programs. Under her management administrative structure has expanded while services have been cut back. She has built up a bureaucratic empire. All this is why Federationists concluded that the time had come for concerted action.

Our goal was to draw public attention to the unfairness of SSB's budget cuts and the resulting effects on much-needed services to blind citizens. On August 1, the first day the Store was to be closed, the Federation decided to hold a picket, rally, and press conference in front of SSB's building at 2200 University Avenue West in St. Paul. Our march was scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m. and continue until 4:30 p.m., when the SSB staff left the building. At 5:30 p.m. we planned to enter the building to attend the meeting of the Rehab Council on Blindness.

We set up committees to prepare chants and slogans, to build a symbol to point out our specific concerns with SSB, to prepare press materials, and to contact Federationists to guarantee the presence of a good crowd. In true Federation style our troops rose to the occasion with all due eagerness. Everyone was truly ready to engage in the battle. Clearly we had all had enough of the stonewalling, the unfairness, the rude treatment, and the loss of services everyone had worked so hard to create. Everyone responded with old-fashioned NAC-tracking spirit (toughness and creativity developed during the seventies and eighties during our annual pickets of National Accreditation Council gatherings). Many took the day off work; some could be available for only part of the day; the few who were unable to come at all volunteered to help in other ways: calling other members, making media contacts, assembling picket signs, helping with transportation so our folks could get to the rally on time. Federationists gathered from far and near. We had important work for everyone.

In our symbol we chose to emphasize the way blind people are overpowered by the DES bureaucracy. A large black box labeled in white lettering on all sides represented the Department of Economic Security. A doll dressed in professional clothing sat on the top of the box. Protruding from under the box on all four sides were hands, legs, and white canes, representing the blind people who had been stifled and crushed by the DES system. We placed the box in a conspicuous location to serve throughout the day as a graphic reminder of our struggles.

We carefully wrote press materials and faxed a news release late Wednesday afternoon, July 31, and early Thursday morning, August 1. We then made follow-up calls to learn who would be attending the press conference. Here is the Federation's news release identifying the major problems from our perspective:

National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota

100 East Twenty-second Street, Minneapolis, MN 55404

For Immediate Release:Contact: Joyce Scanlan

Wednesday, July 31, 2002Telephone 612-872-9363

Blind Children Lose Services and Blind Lose Their Store as Economic Security Axes Services for the Blind.

A Demonstration and News Conference Planned for 11 a.m. Thursday August 1 at State Services for the Blind in St. Paul

Twin Cities--Blind children in Minnesota will go without services, and blind people will no longer be able to buy essential items as the Minnesota Department of Economic Security (DES) targets the blind with nearly a half million dollars in budget cuts. A demonstration and news conference will be held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, August 1, at State Services for the Blind, at 2200 University Avenue West in St. Paul (just off Vandalia and University).

According to Bonnie Elsey, DES assistant commissioner for Services for the Blind, the cuts resulted from a $913,000 budget reduction by DES, of which $416,000 is targeted at State Services for the Blind (SSB). "This is grossly unfair," said Joyce Scanlan, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota. "State Services for the Blind has only 5 percent of the DES budget, but it took almost 50 percent of the cuts. DES is balancing its budget on the backs of the blind! They expect us to take the brunt of these cuts, while blind children go without services and the rest of us have to search the country for white canes and Braille watches."

Ms. Scanlan, who is blind, cites the $15 million budget of SSB, compared with the $300 million budget of DES. "We're being disproportionately targeted for cuts that have destroyed entire programs which serve the 40,000 blind citizens of Minnesota," she said. "Chapter 220 of the 2002 Session Law (the budget reduction bill) directs them to cut administrative costs rather than programs and services. Bonnie Elsey kept all her administrators and cut service positions instead. It also directs them to distribute the cuts across the agency without a disproportionate reduction from a single program. Instead Bonnie let SSB take almost half the cuts. How can anyone trust these people? They think they're above the law!"

Ms. Scanlan said the program and service cuts, accompanied by an administrative buildup, began when Ms. Elsey, SSB's current assistant commissioner, came on board in February 2000. Some of the service cuts during Ms. Elsey's administration included:

--Cutting staff and offices in Greater Minnesota; in St. Cloud, five positions were reduced to only one.

--Eliminating SSB's three child services counselors and its child services funding.

--Discontinuing a statewide program that taught basic living skills to blind senior citizens.

--Closing the Store, the only place in the state where blind people could purchase white canes, Braille watches, and other items essential to living independently.

-- Eliminating positions in SSB's Communication Center, which tapes and Brailles books for the blind.

"Bonnie and her boss, Commissioner Earl Wilson, are interested in workforce development only," said Scanlan. "Jobs are important, but so are services to children and seniors. Since Bonnie arrived, we have seen a pattern of eliminating programs that don't provide jobs, devaluing comprehensive blindness skills training, and ignoring consumer organizations of the blind. We have told her time and time again how valuable these programs and services are, but does she listen to us? No!"

"The issues and needs of the blind are not going away," Scanlan concluded. "The state's decision not to provide services does not mean blind people will disappear or there won't be any more blindness. This isn't a choice, like buying gasoline or going to a sporting event. This is our everyday life, and we need services."

Note: The demonstration at SSB will occur from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, August 1, with a rally and press conference at 11 a.m. with speakers to address the media. Blind consumers of SSB services will also be available for comment.

The National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota is the state's oldest and largest organization of blind persons. It is the voice of blind people speaking for themselves.

The entire day went very smoothly. Early in the morning rain fell, and we worried about our prospects for fair weather. However, Mother Nature was on our side, and the rain stopped exactly at ten in the morning, just as we were lining up to begin the march. We had wonderful signs with slogans visible to all vehicles passing by. Many honked their horns in support of our efforts. We had songs to sing--mostly for our own benefit, because the traffic was so loud it drowned out the words. But a rousing song is good for a Federationist's soul. We revised words to the tune of "Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall." Our rendition went like this:

Ninety-nine dollars for serving the blind,

But Earl (Wilson) had different ideas;

He took one down and passed it around;

Ninety-eight dollars for serving the blind.

And on and on until there were no dollars for serving the blind. The song was done from beginning to end at least twice during the day. We were assisted at staying together by a bullhorn, which amplified the sound well enough for us to hear a strong lead singer. Here are a few other songs we enjoyed during our march:


(to the tune of "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean")

Oh, Bonnie lies over the Metro,

Oh, Bonnie lies over the state.

It's time to say good-bye to Bonnie.

Let's dump her before it's too late.

Bring back, bring back

The services blind people need.

Bring back, bring back

The services blind people need.



(to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Club theme song)

B-o-n, n-i-e, E-l-s-e-y!

Who's the one that closed the Store the last day of July?

B-o-n, n-i-e, E-l-s-e-y!

Say good-bye, (Say good-bye!)

Say good-bye, (Say good-bye!)

Forever let us hold our signs up high, (high! high! high! high!)

Come along and join the song and help us say good-bye to

B-o-n, n-i-e, E-l-s-e-y!


At 11:00 a.m. the press conference began. Presentations were made by Joyce Scanlan, who outlined the purpose of the rally and march; Jennifer Dunnam, who spoke of the importance in her life of services provided by a rehab counselor when she was a small child; Steve Jacobson, the parent of two small blind children; and Michael Brands, who spoke eloquently of the injustice of the treatment blind people were experiencing at the hands of SSB. George Watson, an eighty-six-year-old retired college professor, was available for interviews as well. He had participated in the program for older blind people, which Ms. Elsey had abolished. The march was resumed as soon as the press conference ended.

Reporters kept some of us busy with many questions following the press conference. They asked appropriate questions and seemed genuinely interested in pursuing the story by interviewing others involved in the problem. The most balanced and well-documented report appeared the following morning, August 2, in the Minneapolis Star/Tribune. Here is that article:

Cuts in Services to the Blind Are Protested

by Jean Hopfensperger

Advocates for the blind charged Thursday that the state's Department of Economic Security is balancing its budget on the backs of blind Minnesotans.

State Services for the Blind, which accounts for about 5 percent of the department budget, is absorbing 45 percent of the department's budget cuts, said the National Federation of the Blind in Minnesota. Some casualties of the cuts are a store that sells merchandise for blind Minnesotans, the Dial-In News telephone service, and thirteen staff positions.

"Yes, everybody has to share the cuts," said Joyce Scanlan, president of the Federation, which held a protest in St. Paul. "But the percentage we got is way beyond reason."

The Department of Economic Security, like all state agencies, is implementing the budget cuts required by the legislature this year. It must cut $913,000, and $416,000 of that will come from services for the blind.

The department argues that, even though it is a large agency with about a $300 million annual budget, most of its funding is federal and is exempt from the budget cuts. Programs for the blind was one of the few areas that could be cut, said Bonnie Elsey, an assistant commissioner who oversees State Services for the Blind. "That's the only place we could look at," she said. "Those were the rules."

But Rep. Dan McElroy, R‑Burnsville, chairman of the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance Committee, which oversees the department, said he wants to know if the department "looked under every other rock" for possible cuts.

"I'm concerned that, in an agency with 1,700 employees and a wide array of programs, is this an example of protecting a bureaucracy at the expense of direct services?" he said. "What about the fairly substantial departments for accounting, human resources, building management, technology--how much of those functions are allocated between state and federal funds?" he asked. "Is federal funding a reason for what's been done or an excuse for what's been done?"

That said, McElroy said he doesn't think the $416,000 cut to Services for the Blind is excessive, considering that it has a $15 million budget. He also said he is not overly concerned about the closing of the blind store, because most of those items are available in catalogs or on the Internet, he said.

Meanwhile Senator Dick Cohen, DFL‑St. Paul, chairman of the Senate budget division covering economic security, said he plans to hold hearings on the cuts later this summer.

About fifty people protested the cuts outside the offices for State Services for the Blind in St. Paul on Thursday. They are among an estimated 40,000 Minnesotans who are blind, Scanlan said. Some brought their guide dogs. Most held white canes. And nearly all carried signs with slogans such as "Cut administration, not services" and "We need service, not consultants."

The elimination of three services counselors for young children and their parents is particularly troubling, said Jennifer Dunnam, thirty-one, a University of Minnesota Braille transcriber. She said her parents tell her to this day how important it was for a counselor to come to their home when she was young and to teach them what to expect from a blind child.

"She helped us have a vision for what our life could be," Dunnam said.

The group had several other complaints:

*The Federation was not consulted or informed about the cuts, although previous administrations did.

*The budget bill encouraged agencies to cut administration, not services, but those who were laid off were service providers.

*The store for blind people, which offers some items not available elsewhere in Minnesota, was closed July 31 with less than two weeks' notice.

Elsey said the department had no choice. It had directed agencies not to cut any state programs that leveraged matching funds or program money that was transferred to other community agencies, she said. "Basically what you had left was $3.1 million of state operation money," she said. "And State Services for the Blind had $2.3 million [of it]."

Elsey said she is trying to replace some of the lost services. She hopes to replace the state store with a private vendor, and the Dial-In News program with a less expensive digital service that doesn't use human voices. She also said she is contacting philanthropic foundations for help.

"It's a temporary setback, but I hope in the long run some of the services can be restored," she said.

Because we were busy during the day and evening of August 1, we were not aware of all the media coverage given to our issue. Radio and television coverage based on our press release was carried throughout the day and evening. Photographers came to the rally and took pictures which appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Our story was also carried by the Associated Press.

When the day was over and we had a chance to sit down together and compare notes about the day's events, we were all revved up and had many stories to relate. We had been greeted by SSB staff as they came out on breaks. We had been cheered by the passing motorists sounding their horns. We had indeed brought the problems we were enduring under the current SSB administration to the public's attention. Our message had sounded the alert, which continued until August 19 when a legislative hearing took place, and the unfairness of SSB's cuts became the theme of a three-hour hearing. DES administrators admitted at the hearing that they had not even discussed with the governor's office the harmful effect the budget cuts would have on SSB so that some other arrangements might be made. We pointed out that the DES decision makers had also not come to the Federation to allow us to provide help. Previous SSB officials would have come to us for support. The concern regarding SSB's management and structure has been the topic of extensive discussion throughout the state ever since our August 1 rally.

Most of all we knew that on August 1 we had collectively acted to make a difference on behalf of our blind brothers and sisters. We had respectfully raised our voices in opposition to an oppressive administration which had shown us no respect whatsoever. We had captured public attention for an issue which will be important to blind citizens as we enter the upcoming political campaigns. Although the battle is far from over, we are sure that we will ultimately prevail, for we will remain steadfast and fight until we do win. Federationists know how to win, and we now know we have the broad support throughout the state that will ensure our final victory.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: David Greco addresses the 2002 convention of the National Federation of the Blind.]

Accessible Web Applications and the Implications of Technology in the Years Ahead

by David Greco

From the Editor: David Greco is the CEO of SSB Technologies, Inc. On July 8 he made a presentation to the 2002 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Not only did he announce an exciting new service that the NFB is now offering to Web site owners, but he asked for the assistance of everyone who cares about Web accessibility. This is what he said:

Thank you, Dr. Maurer. This is the first time I have attended the annual convention, and it is truly an honor to be invited to speak with all of you today. When Dr. Maurer extended his invitation, my immediate reaction was, what topic should I speak about that would be most interesting and relevant to NFB members? Many weeks later that problem was solved when Dr. Maurer informed me that my presentation title was "Accessible Web Applications and the Implications of Technology in the Years Ahead." My question then became, how can I adequately address such a wide-ranging subject in just fifteen minutes? I thought to myself, answering this question is almost like answering the question, "Define the universe; give three examples."

So before I try to define the Web-accessibility universe, let me first tell you a little about SSB Technologies. SSB develops software that helps make Web sites or Web applications accessible to persons who use screen readers and other assistive technologies. By "accessible" I mean that, to the greatest extent possible, a blind person's Web experience is equivalent to that of a sighted person.

SSB was founded in November 1999 by two Stanford University students named Tim Springer and Doug Aley. Tim and Doug had a passion for what they call "making the Web a better place to live." Their passion was so strong they left Stanford to start SSB. Early in their entrepreneurial pursuits Tim and Doug met Ray Kurzweil, whom most of you in this room know or have heard of. Ray Kurzweil is a prolific inventor, value-added angel investor, and what we lovingly call a serial entrepreneur. Ray invented the first text-to-speech reader for the blind, enabling fast access to written material for millions of blind persons worldwide. Ray admired Tim and Doug's passion and provided the initial seed capital to help get SSB started.

Originally Tim, Doug, and Ray's concept was to create a Web site where people who are blind or disabled could visit to learn more about how technology like screen readers could enable or enhance their Web experience. What they quickly discovered was that Web sites were often not designed with screen readers in mind in the first place. The trio recognized that, while screen readers were potentially powerful tools for viewing the Web, using one was like trying to cross the information superhighway in a wheelchair, but without a wheelchair ramp on each curb--not a very successful experience.

So with Ray's money and mentoring, Tim and Doug began developing what was to become the world's first commercially available software product for helping Web-site publishers create accessible Web sites. This software product is called InFocusÔ. Today, InFocus is a market leader and is used by over 160 organizations worldwide, including forty-five U.S. federal agencies. SSB's customers include leading technology companies such as Adobe and Hewlett-Packard; large financial institutions like Wells Fargo Bank; and federal agencies like the Social Security Administration, the Census Bureau, and even NASA. And while accessibility remains an ongoing challenge for all Web-site publishers, the diverse organizations I just mentioned have one thing in common: a commitment to make their Web sites accessible to anyone, regardless of ability.

Recently one of SSB's investors asked me, "David, how is SSB's bottom line?" to which I replied, "which one?" Now as CEO I wasn't alluding to any accounting shenanigans, and I can assure you there are none going on at SSB. I said this because everyone at SSB is pursuing a double bottom line--namely profits and Web accessibility for everyone. Like our customers SSB is absolutely committed to making Web sites accessible so that each blind person in this room can some day have the equivalent experience on the Web as a sighted person. SSB is doing very well on both bottom lines. And, for the record, Deloitte and Touche is our audit firm.

Since my topic today has to do with technology, I thought I would briefly tell you generally what InFocus does--not because I expect each of you to run out and buy a copy to make your own Web site accessible, although that would be fine with me--but so that everyone here can get a better appreciation for the challenges Web-site publishers face in trying to make their sites accessible to blind or disabled persons.

So what are some of these problems, and how can technology help solve them? One perhaps overused example stems from the fact that the Web is getting ever more visual. Nowadays Web sites are starting to look more like photography shows or video rental stores than places to find information and conduct business easily and quickly. But as we know, these graphical images are of no use without a text description or caption that can be read aloud by screen readers. InFocus finds these missing descriptions and guides the Web publisher in the creation of not just any description but one that is truly useful to a blind person. That means the right length, the information value equivalent to that contained in the image itself, and the ability to skip around the description easily if desired.

Now, though we're here at a convention of the blind, Web-site publishers are concerned about accessibility issues for people who face other challenges as well, such as motor-skill impairments, cognitive disorders, and hearing problems. For example, if you only have the use of one hand, it's pretty hard to hit the "Control, Alt, Delete" keys all at the same time, as many Web sites or software programs often require you to do. So InFocus finds these sorts of problems too and provides a sample fix to the Web site computer code. This enables a Web publisher to correct the problem everywhere it occurs in the Web site so that the user can evoke the same command with just one simple keystroke.

Basically, you can think of InFocus or other Web site accessibility tools like it on the market as kind of a specialized spell checker for a Web site. Only instead of spelling and grammar errors, it looks for accessibility errors and, where possible, proposes ways to fix them. SSB and our competitors have only recently made this type of powerful Web-accessibility technology commercially available. And the Web-accessibility industry itself is still very young. I might be dating myself here, but I equate this to the time when we bought word processors for our PCs, but still had to rely on paper dictionaries or expensive add-on software programs to handle spell checking and grammar checking. Ultimately it was consumer demand that caused publishers of word-processing programs to offer spell checking as an integral part of their software.

So this leads me to the first of my two main messages today: accessibility is finally becoming an important issue for organizations that are required by law to have accessible Web sites and also for organizations that are developing accessible sites simply because its the right thing to do. U.S. federal agencies are in the first category. They are required to comply with Section 508 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act. Section 508 mandates, in part, that all federal agencies' Web sites be accessible to blind or disabled persons. Section 508 went into effect on June 25, 2001, just over one year ago but is just now starting to get the attention of all federal agencies.

The writer of an article published exactly two weeks ago in Federal Computer Week, in which I am quoted, stated that, so far, compliance with the Section 508 law has been "inconsistent." But inconsistent is not good enough. More work needs to be done, and more work will be done. But potentially the most significant but sometimes overlooked part of Section 508 is that it also requires all information technology (IT) suppliers to the U.S. federal government to make their software products and Web applications accessible. Ultimately this affects virtually every IT supplier in the U.S., so Web accessibility is quickly becoming a mainstream issue for all of them.

At a minimum Section 508 has served to raise awareness of the need to make Web sites accessible. In fact, every federal agency is required to designate a Section 508 coordinator whose job it is to ensure that the agency develops and implements a plan for complying with Section 508 requirements. So right now a law is on the books that says in effect that there must be a wheelchair ramp to every federal agency's Web site. Ultimately, if Section 508 language were to be incorporated into the Americans with Disabilities Act, it would instead mean that there must be a wheelchair ramp to every Web site-–not just those published by federal agencies. Again, the majority of Section 508 accessibility requirements have to do with access by the blind or sight-impaired, but it also contains requirements relevant to people who face other challenges. Together over 54 million Americans are blind or disabled, and this population is growing.

I just said that Web accessibility has now become an important issue for organizations required by the Section 508 law to have accessible Web sites. But what about those who are not so required? I'm pleased to say that the trend here is up and to the right as well. Members of the National Federation of the Blind are certainly aware of the action NFB took against America Online (AOL). That action helped compel AOL to make its Web site and e-mail service more accessible. Clearly even more needs to be done, and I predict more will be done as AOL's competitors begin adopting accessibility into their designs simply because it's the right thing to do. It also makes terrific business sense since the 54 million people who are blind or disabled control over $175 billion in purchasing power. That is a significant and loyal market for anyone who wants to transact business on the Web.

To prove my point, by show of hands, how many of you access the Web for information at least once per week? Almost everybody. How many would use the Web more frequently if Web sites were easier to navigate using screen readers? [Cheer] I can tell you that this message is finally starting to get heard, especially by certain Web-site publishers such as those in the financial services industry.

The accessibility message is also starting to get heard by software companies who make tools for creating Web sites such as Adobe with their GoLive software product, Macromedia's Dreamweaver, and Microsoft's FrontPage. And Microsoft continues to make strides to improve the accessibility of its Windows operating system and Microsoft Network online service. But ultimately it's up to every person in this room to continue to fight to raise awareness of the need for Web accessibility.

Soon I predict we will move from retrofitting existing Web sites for accessibility to integrating accessibility into the Web development process itself. A metaphor for this transformation is that, nowadays no competent architect would design a building without wheelchair access. In the future no competent Web site designer would design a Web site without it being accessible to blind users.

So my first message is that accessibility for blind and disabled users is finally becoming an important issue for Web-site publishers. But no matter if we're living in the present, where there are still a lot of static Web sites that need to be retrofitted for better access by the blind, or living in the future, where blind access is one of several personalization attributes all Web sites offer, a Web-site publisher will still need some way of validating that its Web site is accessible and, more important, truly useful to blind persons. This brings me to my second and final point: Web-site publishers need a reliable way of knowing if they have achieved accessibility. As the rabbit said to Alice in Alice in Wonderland: "If you don't know where you're going, any path will take you there." Web-site publishers need to know what path will lead them to accessibility.

Right now, if a federal agency wants to know if it is compliant with the Section 508 accessibility law, there is no government agency or other trusted third party that can state that it is or isn't compliant. If a bank wants to know if its online banking application is accessible according to international Web Content Accessibility Guidelines as published by the World Wide Web Consortium, it has nowhere to turn. Even if that same bank uses InFocus to retrofit its Web site for accessibility, it has no way to be sure that blind users can actually have an experience on its Web site equivalent to that of sighted users. Yes, you heard me correctly. Even if a Web site complies with every single accessibility design guideline, there is no way to know if it is truly usable without first having a blind person actually test the site using a screen reader. For example, an image may have text description, in compliance with accessibility guidelines, but this description may not be sufficiently meaningful. The situation for Web publishers who want to make their sites accessible is not unlike a four-year-old driving to Disneyland with his parents, constantly asking, "Are we there yet?"

Fortunately I am pleased to announce that the National Federation of the Blind is working to solve that problem. Today the NFB is launching its Nonvisual Web Accessibility Certification Program. This program is intended to provide any Web publisher with a reliable indication that its Web site is in fact accessible to blind users. This program entails having blind screen-reader users employed by the NFB test a Web site that was previously audited for accessibility by an authorized Web Accessibility Consultant to determine if it passes certain test criteria as defined by the NFB. I am also pleased to announce that SSB Technologies is the first Web Accessibility Consultant to be authorized by the NFB. The details of the NFB's Nonvisual Web Accessibility Certification Program are available in your choice of text or Braille fliers located at the back of this room. I encourage you to pick up a copy.

So my two main messages today were: first, Web accessibility is finally becoming an important issue for Web-site publishers, and they now have the technology necessary to do something about it; and second, the NFB's Nonvisual Web Accessibility Certification Program should provide further impetus for Web-site publishers to make their sites accessible to blind users.

Now in closing I want to ask for your help. No one can make Web sites accessible on their own-–not a commercial enterprise like SSB, a government mandate like Section 508, or even the NFB itself operating on its own. We need help from every person in this room.

First I want you to go to the following Web site: <>. You'll see when you get there that I'm talking about SSB's company mascot, Alice the Accessibility AdvocateÔ, not Alice in Wonderland. Anyway, just follow the instructions to receive an e-mail that will contain a link to a free report that shows you how accessible your organization's Web site is. The report will contain an accessibility score on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being a perfect score. If your site scores less than ninety, I want you to forward that e-mail to the CEO or head of your organization and ask what he or she plans to do to improve the Web site's accessibility for blind users. Again that link is <>.

Now, before I make my second plea for your help, let me ask you how many people here work at a company or government agency that employs a full-time chief accessibility officer? Anyone? SSB, with only fourteen people, is probably the only company in the U.S. today that employs such a person. Surely those of you who work for larger companies can afford one too. So the second thing I am asking you to do is to ask the head of your organization to consider establishing the position of chief accessibility officer. At a minimum, ask at least that the responsibility to ensure your organization's Web site is accessible be added to a senior manager's job description. This might be something you want to put in the e-mail with the free accessibility report I just mentioned.

Finally, while taking legal action against Web-site publishers for not having accessible sites can be an effective strategy to compel action, I think it's time to catch Web-site publishers doing something right, instead of doing something wrong. That is, if there are Web sites you use frequently and receive a lot of value from specifically because they are easy to access with a screen reader, please recommend that they consider becoming certified by the NFB. You can recommend a Web-site publisher for certification or have them inquire themselves by sending an e-mail to either <[email protected]> or <[email protected]>.

Thank you all for your help and for the opportunity to be with you today. Working together we can and will make the Web a better place to live.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Toni and Ed Eames]

Advocating for Willie

by Ed and Toni Eames

From the Editor: Ed and Toni Eames are leaders in the NFB of California and active members of the Fresno Chapter. For a decade they have been working hard to help a chapter member who was in prison. We have followed this story through the years, and now comes the long-delayed resolution of it:

 One of our most steadfast local NFB members has not been able to attend a chapter meeting for the last twelve years. Not that Willie Lee Johnson didn't want to be there; he was prevented from doing so by prison bars. On August 10, 2002, when Willie arrived at the meeting, he was warmly welcomed back into the fold with a cheer by NFB of Fresno chapter members.

Willie's encounter with the criminal justice system was detailed in an earlier Monitor article (see the December 1995 issue of the Braille Monitor). However, for those unfamiliar with the case, a short summary of events will set the background for our advocacy efforts on his behalf.

Willie's stepson invited a friend from Sacramento to stay with the family. After the visit had continued for some time, Willie asked Sanders, the twenty-five-year‑old guest, to leave. Sanders's challenging comment was that he liked it there, and Willie would have to make him leave. Willie, who believed Sanders was dealing drugs, went to the police for help. They responded by pointing out that, if they came into the home and found drugs, they would have to arrest all the adults, and Willie's twelve‑year‑old daughter would be placed in foster care. Fearing this result, Willie withdrew the police complaint.

Several weeks later another confrontation took place. Furious and frustrated, Willie went into the guest room, picked up Sanders's shotgun, loaded it, and returned to the living room to shoot out the television and other amenities in order to make the house less attractive. Johnnie, Willie's wife, tried to wrest the shotgun away from him, and it went off in the ensuing struggle, killing Sanders. At the trial the public defender never introduced evidence about the victim's past history of drug convictions or Willie's legal blindness. As a result of this ineptness, Willie was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to fifteen years to life, plus four years for using a weapon.

The incident occurred on July 1, 1990, but it was not until sentencing that Willie was able to contact us through a friend who knew where we lived. At that time Willie asked us to be his advocates on issues involving blindness discrimination. We readily agreed and have been acting in this capacity since.

Initially Willie was housed at New Folsom, a maximum-security facility. Despite having no prior criminal record, he was placed there because of his occupation as a locksmith. Willie is legally blind as a result of macular holes, But since this issue was not brought up in his defense, the custodial staff did not believe he was blind.

Our first advocacy effort was to obtain material from his Fresno ophthalmologist certifying legal blindness. Only after this evidence was produced did the authorities have Willie examined by their own medical staff. Prison doctors verified the condition and strongly recommended his transfer to a medical facility.

After Willie arrived at the California medical facility at Vacaville, he continued to face many restrictions because of his blindness. First and foremost was his inability to obtain access to the law library in order to file appeals. In addition, our effort to enroll him in the NLS Talking Book subregional library in Fresno was thwarted when prison officials would not allow him to have the tape and flexible disc player in his cell. Eventually this issue was resolved, and Willie was able to receive books from NLS, the Braille Monitor, and the Ziegler Magazine.

With Willie's blessing we filed a formal complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). To our delight DOJ sent an investigator from Washington, D.C., to check on the issues raised. In the interim Willie was in contact with and tried to advocate for many of the other blind inmates at Vacaville. When Richard Waters of the DOJ arrived, he was able to speak with more than thirty blind prisoners incarcerated at this institution and catalogued a whole list of blindness‑related complaints.

Among the issues raised were the prison administration's unwillingness to provide white canes for blind prisoners, its outlawing of Braille material, and the lack of accommodation in the library. All of these issues became part of the complaint being investigated by DOJ.

Shortly after Waters's visit Willie phoned in a panic (only collect calls can be placed), because prison authorities were taking punitive actions against him and many of the other inmates interviewed. We called Waters, and he was able to stop the harassment of those blind prisoners who had come forward with their complaints.

Despite Waters's findings in the investigation, the DOJ dragged its feet on pressuring the California Department of Corrections (CDC) to implement his recommendations to eliminate discriminatory practices against blind prisoners at Vacaville and other California prisons. Unfortunately for these plaintiffs, a case was filed against the CDC in a federal court under the ADA, and the DOJ indicated it could no longer act on Willie's behalf because the federal court case took precedence over the complaint we had filed on Willie's behalf with them.

Although the federal court eventually found CDC was violating the rights of all disabled prisoners throughout the state, emphasis was placed on removing barriers for physically disabled prisoners in wheelchairs, and blind prisoners' complaints did not receive much attention. In many ways this settlement parallels the situation blind clients of state rehabilitation agencies face when there is no separate agency, sensitive to our particular needs.

On discovering that DOJ had dropped Willie's case, we contacted lawyers at the University of California at Davis Civil Rights Clinic. That organization filed a civil suit on Willie's behalf, claiming that Willie's right to privacy and the legally guaranteed right to develop his own appeal against the conviction had been violated. By not providing reasonable accommodation in the form of a closed-circuit television, the CDC forced Willie to use the services of other prisoners, thus violating his right to privacy and his ability to handle his own appeal. The case was filed in 1993 and was finally settled in 2000, when Willie was awarded a significant sum by CDC.

During the twelve years of his incarceration, Willie was housed at six different prisons. In almost every one issues of access to Braille, cassette, and flexible-disc library material were perennial problems. Braille was frequently viewed as contraband and so not permitted to come through the system. In some prisons we were able to get a reversal of this policy; in others we were able to compromise and have the material housed in the library. When this compromise was worked out, we had to make sure that Willie and other blind prisoners were located near the library to provide genuine access for them.

One policy we were never able to get changed was the ban against personal correspondence by tape cassettes. Administrators universally claimed that, since they could not easily monitor the contents of personal or correspondence cassettes, these could pose a threat to the safety of the institution. We surmised this meant that blind prisoners would be in a particularly advantageous position through the use of tape cassettes to plot prison breaks or disturbances--not highly likely in our view.

One of our most frustrating encounters was with a mail room clerk at Corcoran who insisted she had never heard of Free Matter for the Blind. Thus, when Willie tried to send material back to NLS or other sources marked Free Matter for the Blind, she refused to send them out. We had to send her copies of the regulations and assure her these were not recent innovations before this obstinate clerk would accept Willie's and other prisoners' right to send material labeled free matter.

In addition to activities we undertook for Willie as field representatives of the NFB, we also helped in a more personal way. Aside from his attorneys, we were the only ones he could contact by collect calls. We also visited him occasionally, which entailed a car ride of two to five hours.

When Willie wanted a guitar so he could resume his musical activities, we were able to find one for him. However, getting it into prison was much more difficult. We had to bring the guitar to a local music store where the owner knew Willie and have them package it under their label. To our astonishment prison officials who would not let Braille material in because of the metal in the binders and containers had no problem allowing steel guitar strings.

Every month or so we sent two books of stamps to Willie--the maximum allowed. Occasionally we received a request for a large print or Braille book. These items could not be sent by us but had to be mailed by the publisher or bookstore. About once a year we received a prison‑approved list of items, such as toothpaste, talcum powder, aftershave lotion, sunglasses, and socks, which Willie could receive from us. List in hand, we would go out on a shopping spree to K‑Mart, Target, or Wal*Mart. Not only did each item have to conform to the approved list in brand and size, but the actual package had to meet the specified parameters. We quickly learned that a package exceeding the length and width requirements by less than an inch or the maximum weight by an ounce would be returned unopened. It didn't take us long to figure out that, when prison authorities gave specified dimensions, they meant them.

To a certain extent our early advocacy efforts led to Willie's release from prison. With access to prison libraries Willie was able to craft a writ of habeas corpus accepted by the California court of appeals. This court noted that the judge in Willie's case had improperly instructed the jury, and either a new trial had to take place within ninety days, or the charge would have to be dropped to voluntary manslaughter, a crime with a much lighter sentence than the one received by Willie in the second-degree murder conviction.

Initially the Fresno County district attorney said that he would retry the case to make the original conviction stick. However, it soon became evident that he was in no position to retry the case, and on July 18, 2002, Willie was released. Since he had served more than twelve years and the manslaughter charge would have carried a prison sentence of only ten years, Willie's release was not contingent on parole. He is now a free man, and our advocacy for him has ended rather abruptly. It is much nicer to welcome him to our home and at our chapter meetings than to visit him in prisons geographically dispersed throughout the state.

While incarcerated, Willie learned to advocate for himself and fellow blind prisoners. He is putting this knowledge to good use on behalf of our local chapter and a number of cross‑disability advocacy organizations he has joined. His is a strong modulated voice forged in the crucible of a legal system that finally acknowledged its mistake. We look forward to joining forces with him for the good of the NFB and the larger community. Toni and Ed Eames can be contacted at 3376 North Wishon, Fresno, California 93704‑4832; phone (559) 224‑0544; e‑mail <[email protected]>.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Denna Lambert]

Coming to Terms with Independence

by Denna Lambert

From the Editor: Denna Lambert was a 2002 NFB scholarship winner. Last February she was one of the presenters at the National Association of Blind Students midwinter conference in Washington, just before our annual Washington Seminar. This is what she said:

What memories do you have of your childhood? What books did you read? Did you have other blind friends? While some of my memories are neither pleasant nor painful, they do fall into the category of life's lessons and in the to-do list of things to change in myself in order to grow.

During the summers between my years in public school, I attended various summer programs for blind youth. Unfortunately, even considering the benefits I did receive over the years, they were nothing compared to the summer programs sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind. As the years flew by, I became close friends with some of the students in the program. In addition to age we also shared the same vision specialists and travel instructors.

At the time the main difference between us was the amount of vision we had. Many of you may know all too well the way that the Individualized Education Program (IEP) can be used to avoid providing a proper education to blind children. I was labeled partially sighted. My friends were blind. With the support of their confidence in my ability to see, I grew secure in my label as the sighted one. When we went on outings, I could lead my blind friends wherever our curiosity took us. With low-vision gadgets like magnifiers, which could put any Wal*Mart optical center out of business, I could read the labels, menus, and whatever was out of reach of my blind friends. This falsely superior mentality went unchecked in me for quite some time, but eventually I reached the point when I began to tackle some of those to‑dos on my list that would start to change my outlook on blindness, the abilities of blind people, and my own expectations for myself.

I noticed the way my close friends functioned in the classroom and other areas of their lives. Their fingers glided quickly and effortlessly across the pages of speeches, textbooks, library books, and even recreational reading. Those last were the very materials that I found too agonizing even to try. As a result I lack some common, cherished memories that many sighted children and early Braille readers have from growing up. I never read The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Paddington Bear, The Babysitters Club, and other childhood classics that provide a sound foundation for creativity, imagination, and reading ability. I remember listening to those stories using my Talking Book player, only to fall asleep almost immediately. Many of you

have had the same experience, I am sure. The debate whether this is functional reading is a topic for another discussion, but back to the changes I was embarking on as a young adult.

While my friends looked confident when reading Braille, I can only imagine the impression I gave as I read with the printed material two inches from my face. What type of traveler would I have been if I had had a cane in my hands at the age when a child begins to walk? I hope and believe that I would be a confident cane traveler today. Where would I be now if my introduction to functional reading and Braille had been at the age of four instead of the age of eighteen? Undoubtedly I would have read the same things my friends read as children.

What if? I would like to think that I would have come naturally to believe strongly in the philosophy that is the basis of the National Federation of the Blind. Perhaps I would never have realized that I had actually gone through the stages of independence that Dr. Jernigan wrote about in his reply to three STEP students at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in 1993 in "The Nature of Independence."

As it was, I was stuck for a long time in the fear-and-insecurity stage. I cringed whenever the teacher called on me to read the next passage in whatever we were reading. I prayed every time I went into a new environment that I wouldn't make a fool of myself as the result of taking part in the fine but dangerous art of faking vision. Effectively using a long white cane could have eliminated the fears I bottled up inside myself--like reliving the painful memory of running into the Gap's clear glass wall, a wall that a cane would easily have detected. We do not have to go any further evoking the scenarios that occur in the fear-and-insecurity stage. Many of you have stories that could top my own.

Like Dr. Jernigan and his quest to find better canes and better teaching methods, I ventured to think outside the box I was in, a box created by the misguided philosophy that focused on which label to place on a blind child. Maybe the specialists hoped that, if they labeled me partially sighted, I would not have to suffer the stigma attached to those who were called blind. I do not know. All I know now is that blindness does not detract from a person's respectability or character. I have learned this from the large family I have in the National Federation of the Blind.

Moving on to the rebellious-independence stage, I graduated from high school and was preparing for college. I came to the clear but daunting realization that I needed skills that I should have learned years before. I entered the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB). I had never seen the fire, enthusiasm, and professionalism of the instructors at LCB. At the time I did not know if this was because I arrived just after the 1999 national convention or if it was a normal occurrence at the center. Now I am more than sure it was not just any old postconvention rush; it was the daily atmosphere communicating that these blind instructors truly believed in every student. This conviction was not based on the amount of vision the student had.

After a few weeks of training, I caught the fire at the core of all of the instructors and staff at LCB, so much so that after only four weeks I felt that I had gotten what I came for and it was time to go to college. I had learned the Braille code. I had the most basic techniques of blindness. After leaving LCB and starting college, I found out that my training had only begun. Absolutely nothing can replace well‑invested time in a training facility such as the Louisiana Center for the Blind in Ruston, the Colorado Center for the Blind in Denver, and BLIND, Inc., in Minneapolis.

One occasion last semester showed me exactly how much I had grown in my quest for true independence, but also how much is left to do in breaking the ugly stereotypes that discolor the victories of the NFB. The National Federation of the Blind has fought to change public opinion about the capabilities of blind people, but we still have a lot more work to do.

Like many other college students on Friday night, a group of us went out to the Outback Steakhouse. The decision to eat out was based on the university's dining hall selection for the night: barbecue meatballs, baked squash casserole, and Razorback marble cake. Let's just say that the food that night was not to our liking. One sighted friend was with us. We could have taken a cab or public transportation--if any had been available--to the restaurant. But the outing was not a test of our travel skills, and I for one was past feeling that getting everyplace without aid was necessary to prove that I was truly independent.

At one point in my life I would not have brought my cane to such an outing since I was with friends. I would have counted on them to tell me what obstacles were ahead. But that night I used my cane, just as I do every other day of the week. When we were seated, feelings of fear, anxiousness, and dread did not fill my consciousness as they had a few years before whenever the lighting was poor or my vision wasn't good that day or I was in a place I had never been before. I did not need assistance to read the menu, because it was in Braille, which is something I am very proud to be able to read today.

After we were finished with our meal, a very interesting topic came up. Clearly we all had enjoyed our time together, but our sighted friend said something that has made its way into my personal convictions and fuels my determination to embody sound philosophy to those who are imprisoned by stereotypes and to misguided professionals who claim to know what is best. Being the honest person she is, our friend commented that spending time with us did not feel as if she was working a job. This was contrary to the way she has felt spending time with other blind people, dealing with tasks like reading menus, making sure that someone did not wander off, and describing in detail the location of food on a dinner plate.

At the time I did not know whether to take her comment as a compliment or an insult. I couldn't decide whether her perception was a commentary on our level of independence or on the inferior capacities of our blind brothers and sisters. That's another question to ponder. Believe me, such questions would have the makings of a challenging philosophy seminar. Plainly I have come a long way from where I would have been without meeting the members of the NFB. Also I have chilling evidence of how much more work is left to do in bringing a healthy philosophy to the forefront of the education, nurturing, and belief systems of both blind and sighted people.

As my understanding of Federation philosophy has grown in the past few years, I have discovered that the very aspects of blindness I once believed beneath me are now the solid foundation on which I function as a competent, first‑class blind young woman. I asked earlier if my beliefs would have been different if I had acquired the necessary tools and attitudes towards blindness earlier in my life instead of just a few years ago. My answer is that there would be a substantial possibility that I would not now personally understand the irreversible consequences of an improper education on blind children, youth, and potential leaders. I certainly would not believe so strongly in the early introduction of Braille and the long white cane. I doubt that I would see the positive changes that have taken place in me. Most important, I would not now clearly foresee the changes that are needed to continue enlarging the legacy the leaders of the National Federation of the Blind have established for us.

[PHOTO DESCRIPTION: A young girl is pictured reading Braille.

CAPTION:, pictured here, is an efficient Braille reader. No skill is more important to the success of a blind child than learning to read Braille. That's why the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille jointly sponsor the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest each year. This year's forms are now available in quantity from the Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. You can also order copies by e-mail at <[email protected]>. The text of the contest form follows immediately in the Braille and recorded editions. It appears at the end of the print edition.]

Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest

20th Annual Contest for Blind Youth  *  2002 – 2003

Sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille

Purpose of Contest

The purpose of the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is to encourage blind children to read more Braille. Good readers have confidence in themselves and in their abilities to learn and to adapt to new situations throughout their lifetimes. Braille is a viable alternative to print, yet too many blind children are graduating from our schools with low expectations for themselves as readers. They do not know that Braille readers can be competitive with print readers. This contest helps blind children realize that reading Braille is fun and rewarding.

The top ten contestants, regardless of category, who demonstrate the most improvement over their performance in the previous year’s contest receive Most Improved Braille Reader awards of $30, a T-shirt, and a special certificate. To be considered for this award, the contestant must enter the contest for two consecutive years and cannot be a winner in the current contest or any previous one.

Teacher Recognition

The certifying authority is responsible for (1) verifying that the student read the Braille material listed and that the material was read between November 1, 2002, and February 1, 2003; (2) filling out and sending in the contest entry form in an accurate, complete, and timely fashion; and (3) assisting the student in finding Braille materials to read for the contest.

Contest Entry Form

Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest

November 1, 2002 to February 1, 2003

Grand total of pages read  _______________

Mail entry form after February 1, 2003 to Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230

Student’s Name_______________________________________________

Birthdate____/____/____ Age___ Grade____
Parent’s Name____________________


City_____________________________     State__________     ZIP_____________

Phone H (____)____-______ W (___)____-_____

School Name______________________________
Phone _____________________

Address___________________________City____________State____ ZIP_______

Anticipated date of last day of school _____________

Certifying Authority’s  Name _____________________________________________

Position: Parent   [   ]     Teacher   [   ]     Librarian   [   ]


City_________________________     State____________  ZIP_________________

Phone H (___)_____-______ W (___)_____-______

Send certificate and ribbon to:
Student [   ]      School[   ]    Certifying Authority[   ]

YES  [   ]   NO   [   ]  Did you enter last year’s contest (2001-2002)?

Category: (Check only one)

[   ]   Beginning Print-to-Braille

This category is for former or current print readers who began to learn and use Braille after first grade and within the past two years. Please give month and year Braille instruction began:

[   ]   Kindergarten and First Grade

[   ]   Second through Fourth Grades

[   ]   Fifth through Eighth Grades

[   ]   Ninth through Twelfth Grades

If you should be a winner, what size T-shirt would you require?

(circle one)  Children’s: S (6‑8)     M (10‑12)     L (14‑16)

Adult: S (34‑36)      M (38‑40)     L (42‑44)      XL   

Name of Student:_______________________________________________

Book title/Magazine article                              # of Pages

Please duplicate this page as needed                               Total # of pages

To the best of my knowledge this student did read these Braille pages between the dates of November 1, 2002, and February 1, 2003.

Signature of Certifying Authority______________________________                        
Date ____________________


Common Questions

9.  Can I count books that I read for the Accelerated Reading Program? Yes.

11.  I have trouble finding enough Braille material for my older students. Do you have any suggestions? Yes. The National Federation of the Blind has free Braille materials suitable for blind youth. To request the NFB literature order form contact National Federation of the Blind, Materials Center, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; (410) 659-9314, <[email protected]>.  You may also view the literature list on the NFB Web site at <>.

12.  Can I read the same book more than once?  Yes, but only up to three times and only if you are in the Print-to-Braille or K-1 categories. 

13. What constitutes a Braille page? Each side of an embossed piece of paper is considered one page. If you read both sides, then you have read two pages. This is true even if there are only two Braille lines on one side.

Schools for the Blind

2002 - 2003 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest

Residential or specialized schools for the blind which promote the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest among their students are eligible to compete for a cash prize of up to $250 and national recognition for outstanding participation in the contest. No one criterion is used to determine which school or schools receive the cash award(s) and/or recognition. Factors that the judges consider in making this decision include:

√ The percentage of the student body (total and academic) participating in the contest.

√ Quality of material read by participating students.

√ Total number of pages read by participating students.

√ Improvement in quality and quantity of participation over a previous year’s performance.

√ Number of national winners.

√ Creative ways in which the contest is used to promote Braille literacy and a love of reading among the participating students.

[   ]  Yes.  Our school for the blind would like to be considered for the $250 cash award for outstanding participation in the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest.  Please send additional information and guidelines to:

Please print

School _____________________ Address____________________________________

City_______________________________ State ______ Zip __________

E-mail _____________________________ Fax ______________________

Attention ________________________________________________

Total number of students enrolled in our school __________________________________

Total number of students learning Braille and/or print literacy skills ___________________

Name and title of person filling out this form ____________________________________

Signature ___________________________________________

Mail or fax to:
Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Fax: (410) 685

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Ellen Jernigan in conversation with Whozit]

A Conversation with Whozit

by Mary Ellen Jernigan

From the Editor: Since the unveiling of Whozit at the convention in July many people have raised important technical questions about how to use our new logo effectively and with consistency. What follows answers many of those questions. Here it is:

National Federation of the Blind


Date: August 19, 2002

From: Mrs. Jernigan

To: Fellow Federationists

Re: My conversation with Whozit

I write to report on a long conversation I had with Whozit this morning. First of all Whozit is very proud to be our symbol and is absolutely determined to become universally and instantly recognized. Whozit is also a little intimidated by everything that has to be accomplished to get all people everywhere to know at a glance that they are truly hearing from the Voice of the Nation's Blind whenever they see any of our materials. Whozit says that people get mixed up easily, especially if they don't see exactly the same thing in exactly the same way every time they see it. But they also like bright colors and want new things to look at, and they get neat ideas that they want to try out, and everybody has a different thought about what looks best. Whozit also reminded me that printing with more than one color can be expensive and that we have to be careful with our money.

So Whozit is worried about how to achieve the kind of universal, instant recognition that Nike and Kleenex have without having to make so many rules that everybody gets confused and nobody has any fun. Whozit likes to have fun.

I told Whozit not to worry about such things--that Federationists know about discipline and how to take the long view to get where we want to be. We won't just make rules. We'll think about what will work and what makes sense. We'll think about the tradeoffs between variety and universal recognition, between flexibility and universal recognition, and between personal preference and universal recognition. In the end we'll find just the right balance between all of these things and universal recognition. Whozit seemed much relieved, and we settled down to some serious thinking about the specifics of all those tradeoffs.

"Since I'm made up of four really vibrant colors," Whozit said, "couldn't we agree that, if I'm not in all four colors, I'll at least be in one of my own colors only? I think that would help people learn to recognize me more quickly."

"Makes sense to me," I said. "Except, I would add black since so much printing is done in black only, and probably gold and silver for some specialty applications like jewelry and certificates."

"Good idea. I hadn't thought about jewelry," Whozit replied.

"What about white?" Whozit asked next. "You know everybody loved the new Monitor cover with the background in purple and me in a lighter shade."

"That's called a reverse," I told Whozit. "Reverses let you do a lot with just one color of ink, and, if you add screens, you can get even more special effects and still be paying for only one color."

"So reverses and screens are okay?" Whozit asked.

"Yes, if we stick to one of your main colors, I think we should permit them because of the variety it gives at a low cost."

"Cost is really important," Whozit agreed and then said, "What do we do about the Internet?"

"That's easy," I replied. "It doesn't cost anything extra at all to use colors on a Web site, so I don't see any reason not to put you up there always in all four of your own exact colors with black and gray text. There's no reason to make any color compromises at all on the Internet."

"That's great," was Whozit's reply. "Tens of thousands of people can see me exactly as I am every day. They'll really start to recognize us then."

"That's the whole idea," I said.

Then Whozit said, "You know, the logo isn't just me. It's me and the letters `NFB' and the words `National Federation of the Blind!' I'm really just there to get people to focus on all of us as the Voice of the Nation's Blind. So isn't it important to get visual consistency and instant recognition on this part, too?"

Resisting the temptation to give Whozit a quick grammar lesson on the use of objective- and nominative-case pronouns, I simply replied, "Right on, Whozit!" "The letters and text should always be in exactly the same font and, unless black ink isn't being used on the piece at all, should always be in black and 50 percent screened black (which comes out as gray). There is really no reason ever to vary this part except for one color, nonblack applications."

"Wait! I'm getting confused. Can we stop and summarize all this?" Whozit asked me.

"Sure," I said. "Try this:

"1. When we can afford it, you appear in all four of your vibrant colors.

"2. You can appear by yourself (that is, without our initials and name) in any one of your colors or in black, gold, or silver. You can be a reverse or screen of any of these colors.

"3. When you appear as our complete logo (that is, you along with our initials and name) in one color of ink, you and our initials can be in any one of your colors (unscreened) and our name in a 50 percent screen of that same color. Or the complete logo can be a reverse of that color.

"4. When you appear as our complete logo in two colors, one of them must be black with our initials unscreened and our name screened at 50 percent black. You can be 100 percent of any one of your colors, but blue is strongly preferred.

"5. The font (that is the type style) used for our initials, our name, and our affiliate, division, and program names can never be changed.

"6. Various parts of you (that is, any of your five elements) can be scattered about in all sorts of fun ways, but these scattered shapes have to be your exact shapes.

"7. You can be huge or tiny, but whatever size you are, our initials and name and any affiliate, division, or program names have to grow or shrink in the same proportion that you do.

"8. You should always try to get yourself on the front side of anything we publish in your complete logo version. We don't want any possibility that people will miss seeing you and our initials and name.

"9. You should stand to the left of our initials whenever you can instead of on top of them. Sometimes the shape of what you're dealing with won't let you do this, but we want your left-side version to be the standard way for you to appear.

"10. Remember to get the tag line (`Voice of the Nation's Blind') in as frequently as possible. It looks especially good at the bottom of the page or directly under the full logo. But always precede it with your crescent shape, and don't ever change the font."

"You mean, that's all there is to it?" Whozit asked.

"I think so," I replied. "At least until someone else asks something we haven't thought about."

"This isn't so bad after all. Is this how we're going to figure all this out--by talking about it and trying to decide what makes sense?"

"Yes, Whozit. That's the way Federationists always do it."

"Am I a Federationist?"

"Yes, Whozit, and you're going to be a good one. Just relax."

"But be disciplined. Right?"

"Yes, Whozit."

I expect Whozit and I will have other conversations from time to time, but for now this is how the two of us left things.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Gary Mackenstadt]

The Escalation of History

and the Work of the National Federation of the Blind

by Gary Mackenstadt

From the Editor: The following speech was given by Gary Mackenstadt, a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind, at the Fall 2001 Convention of the NFB of Washington. It had originally been a commencement speech for the graduating class at the Washington State School for the Blind several years before. Gary added to it for his convention presentation in an effort to remind Federationists of Federation history and the bedrock importance of developing healthy attitudes about blindness. This is what he said:

It was Henry Adams, a renowned historian and descendent of two presidents, who wrote about the escalation of history. By this he meant that history had been compressing as man progressed through the ages. Henry Adams lived from 1837 to 1918, and he said that more had occurred during his lifetime than had transpired in all of previous history. He specifically pointed to the advent of the railroad, the automobile, the airplane, the telephone, electricity, the telegraph, and the radio, all of which had had a tremendous impact on the United States and the world during his lifetime.

I have been thinking about the concept of the escalation of history as it pertains to the treatment of blind people since the founding of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940. I have also thought a great deal about the changes in my attitude towards blindness and life since I joined the Federation in 1971. As a matter of fact, I attended my first state convention in California thirty years ago this month. I was affected tremendously by the blind people I met and the issues which were being discussed. I was also affected by Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who attended that convention. He had a tremendous impact not only on my life but also on the lives of tens of thousands of blind people across this country.

No doubt technology has enabled blind people to travel paths never traveled before by the blind. In various fields of study and areas of employment, blind people are now accomplishing what previously seemed impossible. While there is no doubt that technology has opened some doors for the blind as well as the population in general, in my judgment it is the National Federation of the Blind that is responsible for the progress of blind people individually and collectively during the past six decades.

Since the inception of the National Federation of the Blind, there is no question that significant progress has been made in affording blind people more opportunity. I grew up in the 1950's and '60's. In those days very few school districts hired blind people to teach. In the 1950's a school district in California was not willing to hire a blind teacher to teach sighted students in the regular classroom. The district's reason for not hiring a blind person was that she would not be able to lead sighted students out of the classroom in the event of an emergency. This same school district was, however, willing to hire this blind teacher to be a teacher of the blind. This discriminatory treatment was repeated in numerous school districts, colleges, and universities across this country. Most of us in this room recognize such practices as a blatant example of gross discrimination and hypocrisy.

The discrimination in the hiring of educators is not isolated. Employment opportunities for the blind have been limited too often because of blindness and the limited support received by blind individuals from the agencies serving them. Workshops too often pay below the minimum wage and treat their employees like chattels. Until fairly recently federal agencies for the most part did not hire blind people. Frequently, qualified blind people were denied admission to institutions of higher learning solely because of blindness. Certainly the United States has had civil-rights statutes, but repression of the blind has continued. Lawsuits have been filed. Congress and various state legislatures have now adopted legislation. Since 1940 much progress has certainly been made. But note, the catalyst for this progress has been and continues to be the National Federation of the Blind.

As a blind child growing up, I did not know what a long white cane was. In those days blind children did not have an opportunity to learn to use the long white cane. I did not touch a cane until I was sixteen years of age. The attitudes of educators of the blind concerning the use of the long white cane by young blind children have undergone a profound change. I had a negative attitude about using a cane, which I believe was directly attributable to the fact that I was denied the opportunity to use one until I was sixteen. In reality I was ashamed of being blind. Somehow I thought that, by not using a cane, I could hide my blindness. No one told me about the importance of independent travel and using a long white cane. I thought I was independent without using a cane. It took me several years to figure out that nothing was wrong with using a long white cane.

As a matter of fact, it took me several years to learn that nothing is wrong with being blind. What was wrong was my attitude towards my blindness, an attitude that the system had fostered by denying me the use of a cane. I did not recognize my negative attitude about blindness until I joined the National Federation of the Blind. Through the NFB I became aware of a new attitude about blindness, an attitude that conflicted with that fostered by the educational and rehabilitation system. I learned that nothing was wrong with using a long white cane. I learned that nothing was wrong with being blind. I learned a concept of blindness which liberated any blind person who accepted it at face value--that blindness is not a hindrance. With the proper training and attitude, blindness is not an obstacle to our independence as blind people. The system taught me something different. I was a client of California Vocational Rehabilitation, which sponsored me for undergraduate and graduate degrees; yet the only job referral they gave me was to be a darkroom technician.

Independent travel is fundamental in this society, whether you are blind or sighted. In the case of blind people, for the most part, independent travel depends on using a dog guide or long white cane. While technology and the adoption of civil rights legislation concerning the disabled opened doors for blind people, it is the use of the alternative skills of blindness and a positive attitude about blindness that lead to first-class citizenship. Only through the collective action of the NFB and our individual acceptance and understanding of Federation philosophy can blind people be liberated from the age-old discrimination and repression. It is essential for blind people to believe in themselves in order for new opportunities to become reality. Not only must we exercise our rights under the law, but we must also believe in our capacity to achieve first-class citizenship. Not only do we need training in the skills of blindness, but we need also to believe in ourselves as blind people. Not only do we need the education to qualify for a job, but we also need to believe that as blind people we can do the job.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who was a leader in the blindness field for nearly half a century, spoke about a ”Triple Revolution” in the blindness field nearly thirty years ago. In his speech Dr. Jernigan said: "In the field of blindness and the world of the blind a revolution is in the making. In fact, it is not one revolution but three--a triple revolution--which aims at nothing less than the overthrow and reconstruction of three great bastions of our society. They are the bastion of public opinion; the bastion of official ideology; and the inner bastion, or state of mind, of the blind themselves."

As blind people our own negative mind-set about blindness is a major barrier to achieving first-class citizenship. I am one who had that mind-set. Certainly this is a tough world to compete in, and being blind does not make it any easier. This mind-set concerning blindness is a challenge which every blind person faces. This negative mind-set sometimes returns. I know because sometimes I still grapple with it. But I recognize it for what it is--a self-defeating attitude, a negative mind-set that I reject because I know differently and because I have learned a new, positive mind-set about blindness, a mind-set that I have learned from the National Federation of the Blind.

During the past thirty years I have had the opportunity and privilege to participate in the collective action of the NFB and to change what it means to be blind. Public opinion about blindness is changing. The agencies for the blind are changing. The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired (NAC) served as a shield for the most regressive and reactionary agencies for the blind during the 1960's, '70's, and '80's. The National Accreditation Council has been diminished to a symbol of a repressive past. In the field of work with the blind NAC and those disgraceful agencies that persist in their adherence to the policies of NAC are destined to become relics of the past and condemned to the trash heap of historical oblivion.

As an organization we are proud and willing to work with progressive agencies, as demonstrated by our cooperative efforts with the Washington State School for the Blind (WSSB), the Department of Services for the Blind (DSB), and the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library (WTBBL). We work well with those agencies for the blind that are progressive and wish to work with us. We will fight those agencies which are committed to the past, to NAC, and to the unfair treatment of the blind, whether they be clients of vocational rehabilitation or employees of the workshop.

Some (even in this state) call us radical and disseminate disinformation about the NFB and what we stand for. I ask you: Is it radical to believe that blind children should be literate in Braille and that they should be taught to use the long white cane? Is it radical to believe that shop workers should be paid a decent wage and afforded an opportunity to transition out of the shop if they desire? Is it radical to believe that blind people with the proper training and opportunity can function independently in this society? Is it radical to change the public attitude towards blindness? Is it radical to expect agencies for the blind to be responsive to the needs of blind consumers? In my judgment the answer to all these questions is clearly no.

Before joining the National Federation of the Blind, I knew very few blind people. While Vocational Rehabilitation paid for my university education, I have found another rehabilitation tool since leaving college, a tool not offered by the rehabilitation agencies, but a rehabilitation tool that is very personal--the National Federation of the Blind. I have come to know successful blind people because of my participation in the National Federation of the Blind. I have met and learned from people who achieved success beyond anything that I thought was possible. I have met blind people who overcame unbelievable obstacles. I have met blind people who inspired me and supported me. I have found out that, while I had received a good university education, I had learned nothing about life and being an independent blind person. I did learn from the blind lawyer, the blind teacher, the blind scientist, and from other blind professionals as well as from the blind auto mechanic, the blind machinist, and the blind homemaker.

I have been very fortunate. I have a family that has been supportive of me. My parents believed in my ability to achieve. I have a sighted wife and children who believe in the capacity of blind people to achieve first-class citizenship. Since college I have had the opportunity to have some very good jobs and an opportunity to work with many great people, the overwhelming majority of whom were sighted. But never would I have gotten these jobs without changing my mind-set and without the support of my family and the members of the National Federation of the Blind.

In my judgment the future for the blind in the United States is very bright. We will meet the challenges. Blindness will not smother our dreams, nor will blindness limit our capacity as individuals. Our growth as blind people has paralleled the growth of the National Federation of the Blind. It is the National Federation of the Blind that offers blind people the greatest rehabilitation available and liberation from social and psychological confinement based upon a negative mind-set about blindness, a negative public attitude towards blindness, and regressive agencies for the blind. While vocational rehabilitation may have financed my education, it is the NFB that encouraged and supported my travel to first-class citizenship.

In the history of blind Americans, there certainly has been a tremendous escalation in the achievements of blind people since 1940. I think that, if Henry Adams were to look at the blindness field, he would recognize the impact of the Triple Revolution. I believe that he would agree with Dr. Jernigan about the necessity of the Triple Revolution in the field of blindness. More agencies are becoming sensitive to the needs and desires of the blind consumer because of the National Federation of the Blind. Small children are now given the opportunity to use the long white cane because of the National Federation of the Blind. Public opinion about the blind is changing because of the National Federation of the Blind. Today individual blind people are achieving goals which we used to think were impossible, because of the National Federation of the Blind. The attitude towards blindness is changing, and it will continue to change. Our individual mind-set about blindness is changing because of our attendance at meetings like this. We bond as Federationists, whether we are blind or sighted. What we have achieved has been great, but our achievements will serve only as a catalyst to achieve more.

The Triple Revolution broke out in 1940 with the founding of the NFB. Under the leadership of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and Dr. Marc Maurer, that Triple Revolution has continued for sixty-one years and will continue into the foreseeable future, until the last barrier to first-class citizenship for the blind has collapsed.


Charitable Remainder Trusts

A trust is a plan established to accomplish goals for the individual making the trust and for the beneficiary. The donor creates the trust, appoints a trustee (the donor, a family member, a bank trust officer, etc.), and designates a beneficiary. In the case of a charitable remainder trust, money or property is transferred by the donor to a charitable trust. This trust pays income for life. After the donor's death the funds remaining in the trust go to the National Federation of the Blind.

There are two kinds of charitable trusts. The first, a charitable remainder annuity trust, is set up to pay income to the donor based on a fixed percentage of the original gift. The second is a charitable remainder unitrust. The income from this trust is based on the annual assessed value of the gift. Both types of charitable remainder trust are common and relatively easy to set up. Appreciable tax deductions are available, depending on which type of trust is selected.

The following examples demonstrate how trusts work, but the figures are illustrative, not exact:

Michael Brown, age sixty-five, decides to set up a charitable remainder annuity trust with $100,000. He asks his brother John to manage the trust for him. During Michael's lifetime John will see to it that Michael is paid $5,000 each year (5 percent of $100,000). In addition, Michael can claim a tax deduction of $59,207 in the year the trust is established.

Mary Ellen Davis, age sixty-five, sets up a charitable remainder unitrust with $100,000. She asks her attorney to act as trustee. During Mary Ellen's life her attorney will pay her an amount, 5 percent, equal to the annual assessed value of her gift. If the $100,000 unitrust grows to $110,000, Mary Ellen will be paid $5,500. If it grows again to $120,000, she will be paid $6,000 in that year, and so on. Also Mary Ellen can claim a tax deduction of $48,935 in the year she establishes the unitrust.

For more information on charitable remainder trusts, 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: Ray Kurzweil and Barbara Pierce before the induction ceremony at the Inventors  Hall of Fame]

Kenneth Jernigan's Prophetic Vision

by Ray Kurzweil

From the Editor: For more than a quarter century Dr. Raymond Kurzweil has been a faithful friend of the National Federation of the Blind. He has contributed significantly to our scholarship program for several years, and he generously lends his prestige to many of our programs and special events. On Saturday, September 21, 2002, the Federation had an opportunity to lend its presence and offer our congratulations to Ray as he was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio. Over five hundred people filled the large atrium of the Hall of Fame for a gala dinner and ceremony broadcast later by public television. NPR did a story about the induction the day before, and many of the finest minds in the country were present for this ceremony.

Ray Kurzweil was honored for his invention of the first reading machine in 1976. The Hall of Fame produced a book listing each inductee since it opened in 1973. Here is the text of the entry for Dr. Kurzweil:

Ray Kurzweil invented the Kurzweil Reading Machine, the first device to transform print into computer-spoken words, enabling blind and visually impaired people to read printed materials. When this print-to-speech reading machine was invented in 1976, the technology was regarded as the most significant advancement for the blind since Braille's introduction in 1829.

Kurzweil graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970, majoring in computer science and literature. Several years later he formed a company to explore pattern recognition technology such as Optical Character Recognition (OCR). He advanced the technology for developing the first omnifont OCR in 1974, creating software that understood letter shapes in any font. In conjunction with this, Kurzweil and the team he led also developed the first Charge Couple Device (CCD) flatbed scanner, the ubiquitous scanners in workplaces and homes. Other contributions include the Kurzweil 250 music synthesizer, which recreates the rich sounds of orchestral instruments.

Since 1973 Kurzweil has founded nine companies. A pioneer in artificial intelligence, he is the author of The Age of Intelligent Machines and The Age of Spiritual Machines. Honored by many awards, Kurzweil received the National Medal of Technology in 1999.

The NFB was proud to have worked with Ray Kurzweil to make his reading machine such a success, and we were grateful that he paid tribute to our part in that process when he responded to his medal presentation. We certainly value our friendship with this extraordinary American.

After President Maurer's banquet address on Monday, July 8, 2002, Ray Kurzweil made the following remarks:

Twenty-seven years ago I had the honor of meeting Dr. Jernigan and other leaders of the National Federation of the Blind. Back then Jim Gashel headed the Washington office and displayed the same passion and strategic brilliance then that he would demonstrate in this crucial position for the next quarter century. Marc Maurer was then a young student but was already demonstrating his commitment and leadership capacities as the NFB's student leader.

I had the privilege of working intimately with the NFB's engineers and scientists, under the leadership of Michael Hingson, to create a print-to-speech reading machine. The lessons of that experience have animated my career since that time, the most important of which is the following. If you want to create a new technology, then the people to turn to, the people who have the motivation and the knowledge to do the job right, are the intended users themselves.

I've remained involved with reading-machine technology for the last twenty-seven years, most recently with Kurzweil Educational Systems, and have remained close to the NFB, both of which have been deeply rewarding experiences. The NFB succeeds for two reasons: the endless reservoir of dedication of its members, and the genius of its leadership.

Dr. Kenneth Jernigan was a leader in the tradition of Moses and Martin Luther King. And like both of these men he would be unable to experience personally the promised land toward which he had so skillfully led his people. In his last year of life, Dr. Jernigan articulated a vision that he knew he would never get to see: the world's first world-class research and training institute for the blind. It was a prophetic vision, and in a moment I'll share with you why I believe that to be the case.

Unlike many other leaders Dr. Jernigan knew he was a mortal man and prepared for new leadership long before there was any reason to believe there was any impending reason to do so. He nurtured Marc Maurer's leadership skills and, as is evident at this convention, was as successful in this endeavor as in everything else he did. When Dr. Jernigan passed from the scene, the vision of the research and training institute was just that: a vision and a daunting challenge that many doubted would ever come to fruition. It is a fitting testament to Dr. Jernigan's lifetime of leadership, and a reflection of the dedication of its membership and the continuation of inspired leadership in the person of Dr. Maurer, that this institute now rises like a sphinx in the outskirts of Baltimore.

Let me share with you why I think Dr. Jernigan's vision came at a propitious time. Technology has always been important, but we are now standing on the precipice of an inflection point in human history. Technology is reaching what I call the knee of the curve, a point at which its inherently exponential growth is taking off at a nearly vertical slope. I've studied technology trends for several decades and developed mathematical models of its progression. The most important insight that I've gained from this study is that the pace of progress is itself accelerating. While people are quick to agree with this assessment, few observers have truly internalized the profound implications of this acceleration. It means that the past is not a reliable guide to the future. We're doubling what I call the paradigm shift rate every decade. So the twentieth century was not one hundred years of progress at today's rate of progress because we've been accelerating up to this point. The last one hundred years was akin to twenty years of progress at today's rate of progress. And we'll make another twenty years of progress at today's rate of progress, equal to all of the twentieth century, in the next fourteen years. And then we'll do it again in another seven years. Because of the power of exponential growth, the twenty-first century will be like twenty thousand years of progress at today's rate of progress, which is a thousand times more change than what we witnessed in the twentieth century.

The other insight I've had is that technology is a mixed blessing. It brings both promise and peril. If we could magically go back two hundred years and describe the dangers of today's world to the people back then (as just one example, enough nuclear weapons to destroy all mammalian life on Earth) they would think it crazy to take such risks. On the other hand, how many of us today would want to go back to the world of two hundred years ago? Before you raise your hands, consider this. If it wasn't for the progress of the past two centuries, most of us here tonight wouldn't be here tonight. Average life expectancy in the year 1800 was only thirty-seven years. And most people on Earth lived lives filled with poverty, hard labor, disease, and disaster, not to mention the ignorance and prejudice that were rampant with regard to the capabilities of the blind.

So we've come a long way through both promise and peril. And few of us would want to go back. As Dr. Maurer has said many times, we'll never go back, certainly not to the lack of opportunity that was the rule for blind people a half century ago.

We also see the promise and peril of technology in its impact on the blind. The digitization of information has brought many opportunities as blind people have led the world in rates of computer literacy. Reading machines; screen readers; voice-based news services such as NFB-NEWSLINE®; and Braille translators, printers, and note takers have all provided greater opportunity. But the downside of technology has also been evident. With the great profusion of electronic displays, access for the blind is often an afterthought if it is thought of at all. The moment that text-based screen readers were perfected, the graphical user interface was introduced. It then took at least a decade for Windows-based screen readers to become workable, at which time a new set of challenges emerged from a profusion of new Web-based protocols such as Flash and JAVA that are once again creating barriers.

This intertwined promise and peril is going to accelerate. At the end of this first decade of this new century, everyone will be online all the time with very high speed, wireless communication woven into their clothing. Will this represent a great enabler for blind students and workers? Or will it represent a new set of obstructions? To assure the former, we'll need new technology breakthroughs, public accessibility standards, and a panoply of programs for training and availability. This is why Dr. Jernigan's initiative was prophetic.

Scientists are beginning to perfect new ways of communicating directly with the human body and brain. There are already four major conferences devoted to a field called bioMEMS: biological micro-electronic mechanical systems that are beginning to place intelligent devices inside the human bloodstream and brain noninvasively. Within a couple of decades we will have established new high-bandwidth pathways of communication directly to and from our brains. Will these radical new technologies be a good thing for blind people? Well, I suspect that the National Federation of the Blind will have something to say about how these developments are deployed and about assuring that they bring promise rather than peril for the blind.

It looks like we will have the NFB's National Research and Training Institute for the Blind just in the nick of time. Despite his illness Dr. Jernigan realized he did not have a moment to lose in articulating his vision. And this is why I believe that Dr. Jernigan's foresight was a prophecy.

The Challenge of Change:

Freedom Scientific Responds to Customer Input,

Unveils New, Leading-Edge Products

From the Editor: President Maurer agreed to publish this report on Freedom Scientific's progress on meeting its timetable for rectifying problems with its Spanish-language products. The following article also reports on new Freedom Scientific products. This is what they say:

In the August/September issue of the Braille Monitor Freedom Scientific welcomed the opportunity to outline our three-point action plan to improve our Spanish-language products. The need for us to take immediate corrective action was clear following the passage of Resolution 2002-15, sponsored by Mr. Alpidio Rolόn of the Puerto Rican delegation during the 2002 NFB national convention.

We are pleased to tell you that we are on track to complete all three points of our action plan successfully: Freedom Scientific will deliver a Spanish-language solution for our Braille Lite M20 and M40 notetakers by October 15; we will resolve critical Spanish-language issues in the Braille Lite and Braille 'n Speak notetakers by November 30; and we will develop a Spanish-language version of OpenBook 6.0 by December 15.

Mr. Rolόn has been invaluable in defining and clarifying for us those applications that required immediate attention. His input has contributed to our success, and we thank him as well as all those who offered valuable suggestions during our transformation.

Organizational change brings many opportunities--and also challenges. We discovered that first-hand at Freedom Scientific when we began the process of integrating three different companies with diverse cultures into a single enterprise two years ago. The impact was felt most keenly by our customers, who let us know that we had some serious work to do. And since March, working under new leadership with a commitment to restoring the company's solid reputation, we've been making progress. We wish to report the successful results of our ongoing improvement efforts and also introduce you to some exciting new products from Freedom Scientific:

Improved Product Service

We have reduced product-repair turnaround time to an average of less than five days--down from weeks a few months ago. We continually measure our responsiveness on technical support telephone calls and have reduced the average on-hold time to just over three minutes, a dramatic improvement from a few months ago.

Product Testing

Freedom Scientific has instituted more extensive product testing across our entire product line to ensure that products perform as you expect them to. We also recently hired a Director of Quality to ensure that we maintain our focus on complete customer satisfaction.

Ongoing Product Enhancements

During the past year we have released four updates of our JAWS® for Windows® screen reader, three updates of our screen magnification product, MAGic, two updates of Connect Outloud Web access, and two updates of our OpenBook scanning and reading software. We also released software updates for all of our notetakers, which provided new features and improved performance. These enhancements allow our customers to keep pace with changing applications, operating systems, and their individual use requirements.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Freedom Scientific’s PAC Mate BNS]

New Product Developments

PAC Mate BNS and TNS:

These soon-to-be-released products go beyond what we traditionally call a notetaker. They are Personal All-Purpose Computers running Windows® CE and based on Microsoft's Pocket PC platform. With JAWS inside and Pocket versions of the usual desktop applications--Word, Outlook, Excel, and Internet Explorer--these products will offer the functionality of a laptop combined with small size, instant-on, and long battery life. The PAC Mate uses ActiveSync to synchronize with Windows applications on the desktop PC and lets you manage your Inbox, Tasks, Calendar, Contacts, and key documents on the go. Carry your work with you, reply and make edits throughout the day, and just plug in and sync up when you return to your desk.

One of the first things users notice when using a PAC Mate is that its design incorporates a broad range of modern input/output ports--USB, PCMCIA Type II (PC Card), Compact Flash, and Infrared, as well as Serial. Compatible plug-in PC card modems will be available from Freedom Scientific, or users can select off-the-shelf modems--including 56K dial-up, fast Ethernet, cellular, and wireless LAN. With today's Compact Flash cards, PAC Mate's storage is unlimited. Infrared technology provides a quick wireless connection to the desktop or printer and the capability to beam information to and from other users' PDAs and PAC Mates. The USB port provides fast connectivity as well as power to peripherals, including an optional Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver that comes with an application especially written for accessibility through the PAC Mate.

Imagine this scenario: Our PAC Mate user, Mark, sits in his project meeting Friday afternoon, taking notes as he hears updates from each of the team members. The meeting moves on temporarily to topics that don't concern Mark. He uses the opportunity to open his schedule spreadsheet on his PAC Mate and update the milestones based on the notes he's been taking.

Opening his Inbox, he finds an e-mail from his boss asking for the latest status. He selects Reply, adds several other colleagues' addresses from his Contacts, and attaches the updated spreadsheet. The meeting finally ends, late for a Friday. Returning to his office, Mark points his PAC Mate at his desktop IR port, and it synchronizes while he packs to leave. By the time he closes his briefcase, the updated schedule is on its way to his boss, and his PAC Mate has all his new e-mail messages.

In the cab on the way home, he checks his new messages and finds that one is urgent and needs an immediate answer. Mark has little desire to return to the office now. Inserting his cellular modem card, he accesses his ISP and sends the reply wirelessly.

Just then his PAC Mate chimes with an appointment reminder--Mark promised his friends weeks ago that he'd meet them for a celebration at Club Vaca Loca tonight. The cab driver has never heard of the place, so, still using his cellular modem, Mark selects Pocket Internet Explorer and looks up the address on the Internet. He also gets directions for the driver and reviews the menu, making a note of his selection. With that accomplished, Mark turns on his GPS and sits back while JAWS whispers the cross streets and landmarks as they pass. Nearing Club Vaca Loca, Mark tells the cabbie, "It's just ahead on the left." The celebration is in full swing, and Mark soon meets some new friends.

They pull out their PDAs and beam their business cards into Mark's PAC Mate, and he beams his back. This place is great. Mark notes it in his PAC Mate's Personal Points of Interest, saving its GPS coordinates so he can return to it easily from anywhere from now on. It's been a long day, so on the ride home Mark slips a Compact Flash card into his PAC Mate, puts on his headphones, selects Windows Media Player, and listens to a magazine he downloaded from the Internet yesterday. He'll work on those less urgent e-mails tomorrow or Sunday and send them when he synchronizes in the office Monday morning.

We believe the PAC Mate will quickly become the ultimate laptop replacement for blind users.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Speech Assisted Learning System]

SAL, the Speech-Assisted Learning System:

The Braille literacy rate among blind people is below 15 percent in the United States. Two major reasons for this are the complexity of teaching and learning Braille and the geographic dispersion of the blind population. Freedom Scientific has addressed both of these root causes with its recent release of the Speech-Assisted Learning (SAL) System. Educators, rehabilitation professionals, and Braille users will appreciate the unique advantages of this multimedia Braille learning station. Youth and adults can at their own pace accelerate and augment their learning of new Braille codes or study new academic areas with programmed assistance.

A slight press on the paper makes SAL voice the name of what is under the fingers. Press a word to hear it spoken; press the same word again and hear the word spelled. Press once more, and hear the SAL system describe the Braille symbols. The record-keeping feature allows students to study independently while the teacher periodically monitors their mastery of each skill. Information on each lesson completed, including the student's score and time to complete, is stored on a computer disk for the teacher to review and assess next steps.

The SAL courseware consists of diskettes and bar-coded Braille lesson sheets. The Braille worksheets introduce students to correct formats, spelling, mathematical sequencing, and special Braille symbols. The student simply places the Braille worksheet on SAL's touch screen, and SAL speaks a tutorial and asks questions. The student indicates an answer by pressing on the proper symbol on the Braille page or by typing on the eight-dot keyboard. SAL provides a spoken response on the accuracy of each answer and guides the student to the next exercise.

SAL is an inexpensive solution to expand the range and efficacy of special education and rehabilitation professionals who seek to get the most from their limited budgets for Braille instruction. We believe it will quickly become a standard for rehabilitation and training facilities.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Freedom Scientific’s Focus 44]


A third example of our recent product breakthroughs is Focus, the world's most advanced series of Braille displays, available in 44-, 70-, and 84-cell models. For nearly two decades blind computer users have relied on Braille displays along with their screen readers as a means to transform data into refreshable Braille.

Our goal for Focus was to include designs and features that would meet the increasing demands of the workplace and allow users to keep pace with advancing technology. That is why Freedom Scientific ergonomically engineered Focus to be located close to the computer keyboard and to allow individuals to adjust the display at an angle comfortable to them. An 8-dot Braille keyboard is flush mounted on the surface of the Focus display so that navigation commands can be easily sent right from the display. The result is that users no longer need to reach constantly across their Braille displays for the computer's keyboard. Ports and connections are logically placed at either end of the display to fit most workstation requirements. With our VariBraille technology, even the firmness of the Braille cells can be adjusted to your personal preference.

In addition to its focus on ergonomics, Freedom Scientific also added first-of-a-kind features including navigation using unidirectional advance bars and proprietary Whiz Wheels that allow rapid scrolling by line, sentence, or paragraph. In addition, users can set their own hot keys for individual applications.

What Makes Our Products Different?

Freedom Scientific's product-enhancement and development activities benefit greatly from our customers, who help us define and evaluate new products, and from the wisdom and insight of our Product Advisory Board, which is composed of leaders in the blindness industry. We also have a large number of blind employees who both use and develop our products. Our development teams also work in tandem with companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, Corel, AOL, and others to ensure that Freedom's products work with the applications our customers use.

In a world where keeping pace with technology is both more difficult, because the pace of change continues to increase, and yet also more important, because of the pivotal role the technology plays in everyone's life, Freedom Scientific has the resources to keep pace with technology and the commitment to introduce new software and hardware products to empower individuals who are blind.

New Leadership

In March of this year, Freedom Scientific named Dr. Lee Hamilton to the position of president and CEO. Lee has a strong business and technical background and track record of running technology-based businesses. One of his first actions was to ask Deane Blazie and Ted Henter--founders of our company and leaders in the assistive-technology industry--to rejoin Freedom Scientific. In July Ted was named to our board of directors, and Deane is now a consultant to our executive staff.

Both Ted and Deane have spent the majority of their adult lives delivering technology-based products that open the doors of employment and education for blind and vision-impaired people. We have also hired a new vice president of hardware engineering, Carlos Rodriguez. Carlos comes to us from Motorola, where he worked on handheld computers.

The Freedom Scientific team is dedicated to establishing a standard of quality that will become the benchmark in this industry and at the same time continuing to develop new products that help persons who are blind to change their world. If at any time you are not satisfied with Freedom Scientific's products or performance, please contact Lee Hamilton directly. His e-mail address is <[email protected]>.


This month's recipes come from members of the NFB of Missouri.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Shelia Wright]

Baked Pineapple

by Shelia Wright

Shelia Wright is second vice president of the NFB of Missouri and active at every level of the organization. She is also an excellent cook, as the following recipes will demonstrate.


3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup cheddar cheese

15-ounce can crushed pineapple (drained)

1/4 cup butter

1/2 tablespoon corn starch

crushed Ritz Crackers

Method: Mix all ingredients together except crackers. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle cracker crumbs on top. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty to thirty-five minutes.

Swiss Corn Casserole

by Shelia Wright


1 16-ounce can cream corn

1/4 cup flour

1 3-ounce package cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon onion salt

1 6-ounce can sliced mushrooms

1 16-ounce package frozen corn

1 to 2 cups grated Swiss cheese

1-1/2 cups buttered crumbs

Method: Combine cream corn and flour. Add cream cheese and salt. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until cheese melts. Add frozen corn, mushrooms, and Swiss cheese. Pour into 1-1/2 quart casserole dish (nine-inch square) and bake covered at 400 degrees for thirty minutes. Remove top and sprinkle corn mixture with crumbs. Bake uncovered for an additional twenty minutes.

Dilly Bread

by Shelia Wright


1 envelope active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1 cup 4% small-curd cottage cheese

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon onion flakes

2 teaspoons dill seed

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 unbeaten egg

2 to 2-1/2 cups flour

Method: Dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. Combine cottage cheese and butter and warm in microwave. Add sugar, onion flakes, dill seed, salt, soda, egg, and softened yeast. Then gradually work in flour (about 1/4 cup at a time) to form a stiff dough. Be sure not to overmix. Cover and let rise in a warm place until dough doubles in size. Stir dough to release air. Turn into a well-greased 1-1/2-quart round casserole bowl. Let dough rise for an additional fifteen minutes. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for thirty-five to forty minutes. Remove from casserole dish. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with salt.

Sunday Brunch Casserole

by Shelia Wright


12 slices Canadian bacon

2 cups cheddar cheese

6 English muffins (sliced in half)

12 eggs

3 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

Method: Grease bottom of 13-by-9-inch pan. Arrange muffin halves on bottom of pan. Place a slice of bacon on each muffin half. Sprinkle cheese over the top. Beat eggs, milk, and salt together. Pour egg mixture evenly over top. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for forty-five to fifty-five minutes. Note: this dish is even better with a hollandaise sauce.

Oriental Chicken Salad

by Shelia Wright


4 cups cooked chicken

1 5-ounce can pineapple tidbits (drain and reserve juice)

1 11-ounce can mandarin orange slices, drained

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup green seedless grapes, cut in half

2-1/2 ounce bag sliced almonds, toasted

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons pineapple juice

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon curry powder

1 can chow mein noodles

Method: Combine first six ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl blend mayonnaise, pineapple juice, soy sauce, and curry powder to make the salad dressing. Pour dressing over salad and mix well. Salad is best if allowed to chill for several hours. Stir in noodles or sprinkle over salad before serving. You may wish to serve the salad on a bed of lettuce. Recipe makes eight servings.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Gail Bryant]

Pork Chop Casserole

by Gail Bryant

Gail Bryant has been a chapter leader in Columbia, Missouri, for many years. She has held a number of offices.


4 butterfly pork chops

1-1/2 cups uncooked rice (not Minute Rice)

3 cups water

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 large onion, chopped

Method: Brown pork chops in a little oil. In the bottom of a casserole dish arrange the pork chops. Mix water, rice, and soup. Pour over meat. Slice onion and place on top of meat. Seal the casserole dish tightly with foil. Bake in a 375-degree oven for approximately 1-1/2 hours. Meat will be so tender that you can cut it with a fork.

Stuffed Pepper Soup

by Gail Bryant


1 pound ground beef

2 quarts water

1 quart tomato juice

3 medium green or red peppers, diced

1-1/2 cups chili sauce

1 cup uncooked long-grain rice

2 celery ribs, diced

1 large onion, diced

2 teaspoons browning sauce (optional)

3 chicken bouillon cubes

2 garlic cloves, minced, or equivalent amount of dehydrated minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

Method: In large kettle or Dutch oven cook beef until no longer pink. Drain. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a full boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 1 hour or until rice is tender. This recipe is particularly good on a cold, blustery winter day because the fragrance wafts throughout the house, and the kitchen is warmed by the cooking of the soup.

Ice Box Rolls

by John Murray

John Murray is a member of the Kansas City Chapter with a passion for trying new recipes. He is happy to pass along his successes. Here are a couple of his favorites:


1 package active dry yeast dissolved in 1 cup warm water

3/4 cup sugar

1 stick margarine

1 cup warm mashed potatoes

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup water

6 cups flour

Method: Mix first four ingredients and let stand covered in warm place for two hours, possibly in turned-off oven with the light on. Then stir in the cup of cold water, salt, and about six cups flour to make a stiff dough. Place the dough in large container and cover with clear plastic wrap. Set in fridge and let stand for at least twenty-four hours. You can keep the dough chilled for several days. There is no need for kneading. Shape

dough into rolls and place in greased muffin or other pans to rise in a warm place for about two hours. Bake at 375 to 400 degrees for twenty minutes. Remove from oven and brush rolls with melted butter. Makes forty-eight.

Bourbon Balls

by John Murray


1 box of vanilla wafers

1 16-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips

2-1/2 cups chopped pecans

1-1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 tablespoons light Karo syrup

1/2 cup bourbon

Powdered sugar for rolling

Method: Melt chocolate in double boiler. Crush wafers and nuts. Add granulated sugar, syrup, and melted chocolate. Stir well to mix thoroughly and drop spoonfuls into powdered sugar. Place rolled candies in tightly covered tins.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family


In the June issue we incorrectly identified the secretary of the new Flatirons Chapter of the NFB of Colorado. The secretary is actually Robin Smithtro. We regret the error.

New Chapter:

The Visually Impaired Persons of Sequim, National Federation of the Blind of Washington, adopted a constitution on Friday, June 21, 2002. The new chapter officers are Kyle Parrish, president; LeRoy Carlson, vice president; Margaret Carlson, secretary; Millie Gersenson, treasurer; and John Scolvield and Bette Oliver, board members. Congratulations to these new members of the Federation family.

National Training Conference for Merchant Vendors, Program Staff, and Corporate Partners:

Get out your 2003 calendar and mark the dates of the National Association of Blind Merchants spring conference, Business, Leadership, and Superior Training II (BLAST II). It is scheduled for April 22 to 25 at the Doubletree Hotel Nashville, in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Travel to Nashville for a truly rewarding experience, and receive unbelievably low room rates which are good from Saturday, April 19, through Saturday, April 26. This means you can visit with merchants, agency partners, and suppliers and even give yourself time to relax and enjoy the musical spirit that Nashville has to offer. Conference activities blast off on Tuesday evening, April 22 and conclude midday Friday, April 25. So, if you wish, you can travel to Music City USA on Saturday, April 19, and leave Sunday, April 27, after experiencing a great minivacation and Business, Leadership, and Superior Training.

We will be in meetings Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. We are planning receptions, a leadership breakfast, and a luncheon banquet. Also we are developing a first-class training agenda. Those who attended our Las Vegas BLAST say that they gained much from the innovative, interactive, and informative training. We are working now to develop the training curriculum for BLAST II. Your suggestions are welcome and appreciated. The goal of the BLAST II spring conference is to target training to meet the specific needs of blind entrepreneurs and our agency partners.

This year registration is $130 and will cover all conference activities and training materials. Those who register prior to April 1, 2003, will pay only $100. Checks should be sent to 18121-C E. Hampden Avenue PMB No. 196, Aurora, Colorado 80013.

The Doubletree Hotel Nashville offers luxurious lodging at tremendously low rates. The rates start at $79 singles and doubles, $99 triples, and $119 quad per night all week long. The Doubletree Hotel is located in downtown Nashville with easy access to the historic Second Avenue entertainment district, as well as the Nashville State Capitol and the Country Music Hall of Fame. With its wonderful array of musical entertainment Nashville can be fun for the whole family. All rates quoted are net per room, per night, plus the current 14.25 percent tax.

For hotel reservations call Doubletree Hotel Nashville at (615) 244-8200. Inform the agent that you are booking for the group rate for the National Association of Blind Merchants. Make your reservations now. Tennessee Business Enterprise (TBE) is regarded as one of the best programs in the country. They and our Federation Merchants are excited that BLAST II is coming to Nashville. BLAST II is a National Training Conference for you. We want your input and ideas as we develop the specifics of this high-caliber conference. For further information and to offer your suggestions, contact Kevan Worley, President, National Association of Blind Merchants at (720) 859-6784, e-mail <[email protected]>. Y'all come! It's going to be a BLAST.

NFB-I Potato Cookbook:

Does your family love potatoes? Are you looking for new ways to prepare and serve them? The NFB of Idaho has compiled and produced the Idaho Potato Cookbook, a collection of more than 100 recipes with information about potatoes and their history, notes about blindness, pictures, and a place for the cook to make his or her own notes. The book is available in either Braille or large print at a cost of $15 per copy. Contact NFB-I, 1301 S. Capitol Boulevard, Suite C, Boise, Idaho 83706; phone (208) 343‑1377 or fax (208) 336‑5333. Checks should be made payable to NFB-I. There is no cost for shipping to blind people. Besides your own copy, you may wish to give this cookbook as a Christmas gift or on other occasions.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Caroline leans to kiss baby Meghan sitting in Alice's lap while proud daddy Michael looks on.]

New Baby:

Big sister Caroline and proud parents Michael and Alice Gosse announce the birth of Meghan Elizabeth Gosse, who was born on May 30, 2002, at 7:10 p.m. She weighed eight pounds, six ounces and measured twenty-and-a-half inches long. Dr. Gosse is a longtime Federation leader and works with the technology department at the National Center for the Blind. Congratulations to the entire Gosse family.

New Chapters in Tennessee:

Jason Ewell writes to report that on Saturday, August 10, 2002, the Volunteer Federation of the Blind, serving the Smokey Mountain region of the NFB of Tennessee, was formed. Elections were held with the following results: president, Suzy Barnes; vice president, Cher Bosch; and secretary/treasurer, Don Bosch.

On Saturday, September 14, 2002, the National Federation of the Blind of Tennessee, North River Chapter was formed and held elections with the following results: president, Rick Williams; vice president, April Jones; secretary, Amanda Jones; treasurer, Bruce Cooper; and board member, Eric Gashel. Congratulations to both these new chapters.

New Chapter:

The NFB of New York is proud to announce the formation of its newest chapter, NFB-Southern Tier New York. The new officers are Elaine Rink, president; Theresa Northrup, vice president; Sally Stiles, secretary; Lori Donguines, treasurer; and Norma Jean Barr and Jason Clark Hansen, board members. While the organizing team was in town, the local newspaper carried a wonderful story about the organizers and the new chapter. Congratulations to all who worked together to bring this new member into the Federation family.

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.

New Catalog Available:

Ann Morris Enterprises, Inc., announces the new 2003 product catalog with over 230 items including a talking VCR remote, Braille appointment calendar, Talking Book player with AM/FM radio and large TV/computer monitor magnifiers. Request a free copy in large print, four-track audio cassette, or disk. Braille edition is $12. If you have questions, call (800) 454-3175. Download a copy and visit the store at <>. Join the announce-only list by sending a blank e-mail to <[email protected]>.

Fortieth Anniversary for Choice Magazine Listening:

Choice Magazine Listening, a free nationwide service that provides current outstanding magazine writing on tape, celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year. CML is offered at no cost to any U.S. resident unable to read standard print due to loss of vision or other disability. Six times a year CML selects eight hours of unabridged articles, short stories, and poetry from leading publications such as The New Yorker, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Granta, Sports Illustrated, Foreign Affairs, Gourmet, Time, The Paris Review, Fortune, and many more. The special-speed cassette player required to listen to four-track tapes is also free on permanent loan from the Library of Congress.

Those interested in receiving a free subscription can contact Choice Magazine Listening toll-free, (888) 724-6423; fax (516) 944-6849; or mail to Choice Magazine Listening, 85 Channel Drive, Port Washington, New York 11050; e-mail <[email protected]>. The Web page is <>. CML can also provide information on how to obtain the free special-speed cassette player.

Cruise Ship Sailing Soon:

Don't miss the boat! Limited space is still available for a cruise especially designed for the visually impaired. The Carnival Triumph will be sailing out of Miami on November 30 and returning on December 7, after visiting the exciting ports of Cozumel; Grand Cayman Island; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Special activities are being arranged for the group. For more information or to make a booking, e-mail <[email protected]> or call (800) 999‑6101 and ask to speak to Ginger Davis.

2003 Jett Enterprises Catalog:

Jett Enterprises, your one-stop shopping center, announces the arrival of its 2003 catalog. Not only do they have products for the blind and visually impaired, they carry guide dog and pet products, jewelry, kitchenware, and gifts for all occasions. Free gift tags and instructional tapes are available. Personalized service is their first priority.

For a free, easy-to-listen-to catalog on cassette or 3.5 inch computer disk, call (800) 275‑5553, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., PST. To order a Braille catalog, send $10 to Jett Enterprises, 3140 Cambridge Court, Palm Springs, California 92264. You will receive a $5 credit on your first order. E‑mail <[email protected]>; Web site <>

Large Print Megillas Eicha Available:

The Jewish Heritage for the Blind is offering free of charge a large-print Megillas Eicha. Please provide the name, address, and telephone number of the person placing the order. If you are ordering the publication for someone else, please provide the name and mailing address of the person to whom the complimentary publication should be sent.

Send your request to the Jewish Heritage for the Blind, 1655 East 24th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11229, toll-free fax (877) 230-2205, e-mail: <[email protected]>. Also available in Braille: laws concerning the three weeks, laws concerning the nine days, and laws of Tisha B'Av. Request these items when you call or write.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Doris Willoughby holding a copy of the book she wrote with Sharon Monthei.]

Now Available from NLS:

Modular Instruction for Independent Travel for Students Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: Preschool Through High School is now available in Braille and on tape through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress. Written by Doris M. Willoughby and Sharon L. Monthei, and published in inkprint by the NFB, this book has proven to be popular and helpful.

Descriptive Video Circulating Library:

Descriptive videos are movies with additional audio information to make it easier for visually impaired watchers to enjoy the movie. For a limited time you can become a subscriber to this circulating library service.

If you like placing a descriptive video into your VCR before sitting back to enjoy a good movie, you can have 175 evenings of pleasure. If you are not yet a subscriber, here is how you do it.

Send a one-time $15 payment made out to Library Users of America/Texas Chapter, Bob Langford. Mail this to 11330 Quail Run, Dallas, Texas 75238. You will receive a partial list of the 175 titles in print and on cassette. Soon you will receive your first movie from your mail carrier. Remove it from the container and place it in your VCR. When finished, rewind and return it to the container. A return label will be provided in the enclosed envelope. Hold the label with the folded corner at the upper right; it will be right side up and facing you. Peel off the backing and place the label on the container. Seal the container with two-inch-wide clear tape and give it to your mail carrier for a free postage return.

A couple of rules: Please return the video within two weeks so that another person can enjoy the movie; failure to return a video or seal the box will forfeit your $15 and disqualify you to enjoy other titles. For a short time we will accept new subscribers. To join, call (214) 340-6328.

Business Opportunity Available:

Are you blind and unemployed? Want to get off SSI or SSDI? Watkins may be the answer for you. By having a Watkins home-based business, you can earn significant income for college, family, vacations, or whatever. Watkins is a 134-year-old direct sales company, specializing in specialty food items, cleaning supplies, health care products, and much more. Also Watkins can provide a great fundraiser for your chapter or affiliate. I am giving a great postconvention special of Watkins world-famous vanilla, cinnamon, and black pepper, regularly valued at over $32, for $22. This special will run through February 1, 2003. For more information call Olivia Ostergaard, Watkins associate, at (559) 226-4557 or e-mail <[email protected]>.

Jim Fruchterman Honored:

We recently received the following news release:

Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman Selected by Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship as One of World's Top Social Entrepreneurs

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship has announced the annual selection of its top Social Entrepreneurs of the Year for 2003. Jim Fruchterman, president and CEO of the Benetech Initiative, has been selected as one of this year's outstanding individuals. The other U.S. winners were Millard Fuller, the founder of Habitat for Humanity, and Wendy Kopp, founder of Teach for America.

Social entrepreneurs identify practical solutions to social problems by combining innovation, resourcefulness, and opportunity. Deeply committed to generating social value, these entrepreneurs identify new processes, services, products, or unique ways of combining proven practice with innovation, driving through pattern-breaking approaches to seemingly intractable social issues. Most important, they act as social alchemists, converting under-used resources into productive assets by working with and motivating groups of people and communities.

Jim Fruchterman, president, CEO, and founder of the Benetech Initiative, is one of the twenty outstanding social entrepreneurs selected by the Schwab Foundation. Benetech is an innovative Silicon Valley nonprofit founded by Fruchterman in 2000 that develops technology projects addressing major social problems in areas such as disability, human rights, literacy, education, and the digital divide. Its first two projects are, an online library that offers accessible digital books to people in the U.S. who are blind or have significant reading disabilities, and the Martus Human Rights Bulletin System, a new technology tool to assist grassroots human rights workers worldwide to collect, safeguard, and disseminate human rights violation information.

Fruchterman founded Benetech's predecessor organization, Arkenstone, in 1989 to provide reading tools for people with disabilities. For over a decade Arkenstone helped over 35,000 individuals in sixty countries to live and work independently. The sale of the Arkenstone business operations in 2000 to a for-profit company provided the initial capital to launch Benetech.

"I am honored to have been selected by the Schwab Foundation," Fruchterman said. "This recognition is a tremendous success for Benetech and a validation of our mission of using technology to help disadvantaged people and communities. I look forward to working with the support of the Schwab Foundation and the other Schwab Social Entrepreneurs to spread this message worldwide in the coming year."

The Schwab Foundation works through a worldwide network of confidential nominators to identify potential Schwab entrepreneurs. This year 136 candidates were submitted for consideration to the 2003 network. All nominated candidates underwent an extensive in-depth process to ensure that the most accomplished were selected. The Foundation selects approximately twenty social entrepreneurs every year. There are five criteria for selection:

* Innovation: has brought about demonstrable, high-impact social change by transforming traditional practice.

* Sustainability: has generated the social conditions and/or institutions needed to sustain the initiative.

* Reach and scope: has spread beyond its initial context and been successfully adapted to other settings.

* Replicability/expandability: aspects of the initiative can continue to be transferred to other regions and are scalable.

* Ethical fibre: the entrepreneur is an individual who can serve as a role model for future social entrepreneurs and the general public.

The Schwab Foundation identifies and supports a global community of stellar social entrepreneurs because their know-how and insights can be shared with others seeking to solve similar problems elsewhere. It uses its leverage to attract the notice of governments and business leaders so that the solutions of social entrepreneurs can be replicated, improved, and expanded, and so that their practical insights can be incorporated into government policy and business initiatives.

Opportunities provided to Schwab entrepreneurs selected to this exclusive network include, among others, participation at events such as the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the annual Social Entrepreneurs Summit in Geneva. These venues put them in contact with leading business entrepreneurs, heads of corporations and governments, academic and other thought leaders, and other social entrepreneurs. The Foundation supports Schwab entrepreneurs as they strengthen and expand their organizations, mobilizing financial resources and the vast experience and knowledge of leaders in academia, strategic management and planning, and communications and public relations.

The Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship (<>) seeks to identify, recognize, and disseminate initiatives in social entrepreneurship that have significantly improved people's lives and have the potential to be adapted to other settings. Founded by Klaus and Hilde Schwab in 1998, the Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Geneva, Switzerland. Klaus Schwab is the president and founder of the World Economic Forum. A list of the other 2003 social entrepreneurs will be available at the Foundation Web site.

Monitor  Mart

The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.

For Sale:

Five reconditioned Perkins Braillers with covers and in boxes are available at $499 each from the Alaska Radio Reading Service. Call Trudy or Wanda at (907) 563-2121 or e-mail <[email protected]>.

For Sale:

Joe Castorina has a Perkins Braille writer for sale. It is in excellent condition and has been cleaned recently. He is asking $425 plus shipping. His telephone number is (865) 588‑2440.

Windows-Based Pentium Computer for Sale:

You can buy a refurbished computer for $100. Four NLS-speed audio cassettes by Dean Martineau provide a step-by-step tutorial on how to use Windows, including e-mail and reading Web pages. The computer comes with a demo copy of Window Eyes with a two-cassette tutorial. Keep track of your tax and insurance files. Write letters and e-mails to your friends and family. Keep your own recipes and family genealogy records. A free e-mail service, Juno, and a shareware screen-enlargement program are provided. Contact Bob Langford at (214) 340-6328 during business hours, CST, or e-mail <[email protected]>.

For Sale:

Terry Marsh has two items for sale. The first is a Power Braille 40-character display, asking $3,000 or best offer. (It originally sold for $5,000.) Second is a Power Braille 80-character display, asking $7,000 or best offer. (It originally sold for $11,500.) He can be reached during the day on his cell phone, (302) 893‑0451, and in the evening at (302) 994‑7984.

Rrisconnect Internet Services:

Rrisconnect provides unlimited dial-up and hosting services. Twenty-four-hour-a-day tech support, eight-hour blind tech support. All toll-free calls. Order by calling (888) 538‑6648. Dial-up charge is $17.95 a month. Hosting charge is $10 a month.

Go to <> for more details, or call toll-free from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., PST, seven days a week.

For Sale:

I have numerous volumes of piano teaching materials by Jane Bastien, John Smisor, J.W. Schaum, and John Thompson. They are in groups of six books, from primer levels through advanced levels. Some books are designed for children of average age, some are for younger children, and some are designed for adult beginning piano students. I have had to stop teaching for health reasons.

I am selling the print copies of the music books with the Braille copies. I will sell the sets for $200 per set. However, if a piano teacher wants to buy the entire library of teaching materials, I will sell the entire collection for $3,000 or best offer. Some of the books were done at the American Printing House for the Blind. Most of the others were done by various Braille transcribers, some certified, and a few that were not. If interested, contact Janet Cross, (662) 456-4557, 1236 County Road 405, Houston, Mississippi 38851.

Gift Suggestion:

Our Favorite Recipes is a collection of over 200 mouth-watering recipes compiled by the members of the East Bay Center for the Blind, a nonprofit organization in Berkeley, California. The book is available in Braille (two volumes with easy wipe-off covers) or large print for a donation of $25, plus $3 for shipping and handling. For additional information you may call (510) 843-6935. To order a copy, send check or money order in the amount of $28 to East Bay for the Blind, Inc., 2928 Adeline Street, Berkeley, California 94703.

For Sale:

Optacon II in excellent condition, two rechargeable battery packs, unit hardly used; asking $1,000 or best offer. Two Perkins Braillers in good condition, just cleaned and serviced; asking $200 each. All offers considered. Contact Janell Peterson, 303 Harvard Avenue East, Apartment 302, Seattle, Washington 98102, phone (206) 328-4778. Please do not send money before contacting.

Online Store:

Blind-Novel-Tees invites you to check out the new screen-reader-friendly shopping cart and the new line of shirts. You may visit the store at <>. All shirts come in medium through 2X and are $16.95 plus shipping unless noted. To place an order, call (423) 626-2075 between noon and 8:00 p.m. EST (Monday through Friday). MasterCard and VISA welcome. You may contact Rhonda Brantley, owner of Blind-Novel-Tees, at P. O. Box 460, New Tazewell, Tennessee 37824.

Tape Erasing Service:

I have a small number of blank cassettes available to sell for $.50 each. For the same price I can also erase your cassettes. If interested, write in Braille to Mark Oswald, 1701 Laguna Street Apt. 103, Concord, California 94520, phone (925) 674-1264, or e-mail <[email protected]>.

 Send the tapes you want erased Free Matter for the Blind to the address above. Indicate the number of tapes you are sending, and make your check payable to me. I will return the erased tapes the same way.

For Sale:

Lou Dellaport would like to sell a closed-circuit TV. It is an OVAC, purchased in 2001 for $2,000, but he will accept $1,000. It is to be used with a TV monitor. If you have questions, call (303) 758-3449.

For Sale:

Toula McEllen has for sale a Braille Lite 40 and its disk drive, all cables, and Braille and print manuals. The maintenance agreement is transferable and in force through June 15, 2003. Asking $4,500 or best offer. Call Toula at (973) 214‑4210 or e-mail at <[email protected]>.


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.