THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 45, No. 10 December 2002
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 45, No. 10 December 2002
Convention Bulletin 2003
NAC: A Moribund System Hoping for Revival
by Marc Maurer
Rhode Island Department of Education:
Cutting or Gutting Services to Blind Children?
by Barbara Cheadle
Victory for the Blind in California Rehabilitation
by Jim Willows
What to Do in Washington, D.C.
by Sandy Halverson
By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them
by Peggy Elliott
Peirce Makes It Possible for Blind and Visually Impaired
Students to Earn a College Degree
by Patricia Rucker
NFB Launches National Meet-the-Blind Campaign
by Lorinda Riddle
Why You Should Take a Risk
by Julie Deden
A Morsel to Chew On
by Barbara Walker
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 2003
by Sharon Maneki
The 2003 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by Stephen O. Benson
Letter to Blind Vendors:
Suggestion to Us All
by Kevan Worley
Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2003
by James McCarthy
Women Volunteers Needed
by Barbara Pierce
Copyright © 2002 National Federation of the Blind
Thursday morning, November 21, a large group gathered at the National Center for the Blind to celebrate the publication of a sixty-four-page book titled Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy. Blind students from five states (Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Maryland, and New York) came to the event. The visitors had a chance to explore NFB headquarters as well as getting their hands on the book with its fourteen photographs taken by the Hubble Telescope. The book presents color images of planets, nebulae, stars, and galaxies. Each image is embossed with lines, bumps, and other textures. The raised patterns translate colors, shapes, and other intricate details of the cosmic objects. The book also incorporates Braille and large-print descriptions for each of the photographs.
1. [PHOTO/CAPTION: Students gathered in the Harbor Room, where Barbara Cheadle talked with them about the significance of the fact that blind students now have access to some of the photos their sighted friends have been able to study for years.]
2. [PHOTO/CAPTION: Several officials from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) took part in the morning's activities. Pictured left to right are Mr. Courtney Stadd, NASA chief of staff and White House Liaison; NFB President Marc Maurer; Dr. Edward Weiler, NASA Associate Administrator, Office of Space Science; and Dr. Kent Cullers, blind radio astronomer and director of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence R&D, SETI Institute.]
3. [PHOTO/CAPTION: In the large conference room at the Center, students were able to examine copies of Touch the Universe. Here Amy Herstein of Maryland inspects one copy of the book while President Maurer leans over Jenny Suchan of Maryland as they both examine another.]
4. [PHOTO/CAPTION: Also in the conference room, book author Noreen Grice shows a copy of Touch the Universe to Mikaela Stevens of Washington (left) and her twin Makenzie (right). A large book poster can be seen behind them.]
5. [PHOTO/CAPTION: Anne Taylor of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind staff demonstrates the Tactile Image Enhancer Junior to a group of students. They are examining an astronomy picture downloaded from the Internet.
6. [PHOTO/CAPTION: President Maurer stands at a podium in the dining room. Seated at the head table are (left to right) Terry Garrett and Paul Clarke, students, and their science teacher Ben Wentworth from the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind and author Noreen Grice. Mr. Wentworth served as consultant to Ms. Grice as she was creating the tactile versions of the Hubble pictures. Mr. Garrett and Mr. Clarke assisted their teacher.]
7. [PHOTO/CAPTION: Noreen Grice signs a copy of her book for Joshua Gregory of Maryland. Karl Merk-Adams of Michigan waits his turn in the background, book and cane in hand.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Galt House at night]
Convention Bulletin 2003
It is time to plan for the 2003 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Again this year we will gather in Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby and site of the memorable 2002 NFB convention.
We will return to the hospitality of the Galt House Hotel and the Galt House East Tower. Once again our hotel rates are the envy of all. For the 2003 convention they are singles, doubles, and twins $57 and triples and quads $63. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 13.95 percent. No charge will be made for children fifteen and under in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested.
For 2003 convention room reservations you should write directly to the Galt House Hotel, 140 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, or call (502) 589-5200. You can make reservations for either the Galt House Hotel (known familiarly as the Galt House West) or the Galt House East Tower (called the Galt House East) by calling this number. The restaurants and outdoor pool are located on the west side of the facility, and the East Tower contains a number of suites consisting of a bedroom, bath, and living room with a refrigerator and wet bar. The hotel will want a deposit of $60 or a credit card number. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $60 check. If a reservation is cancelled prior to June 1, 2003, $30 of the $60 deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.
The West Tower has twenty-five floors, and the East Tower has eighteen. Guest-room amenities include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and dataport.
The Galt House has two restaurants--the River Grill, which is moderately priced, and the Flagship, a revolving restaurant on the roof, which provides one of Louisville's finest dining experiences, with prices to match. See later issues of the Monitor for information about tours and other attractions in the Greater Louisville area.
The 2003 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a truly exciting and memorable event, with an unparalleled program and rededication to the goals and work of our movement. Make plans now to be a part of it. The schedule this year is back to our usual one. Preconvention seminars for parents of blind children and other groups and set-up of the exhibit hall will take place on Saturday, June 28, and adjournment will be Friday, July 4, at 5:00 p.m. Convention registration will begin on Sunday, June 29, and both Sunday and Monday will be filled with meetings of divisions and committees, including the Monday morning annual meeting of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind, which is open to all.
General convention sessions begin on Tuesday, July 1, and continue through the afternoon of Friday, July 4. The annual banquet will take place on Thursday evening, July 3. To assure yourself a room in the headquarters hotel at convention rates, you must make reservations early. An ambitious renovation program will remove some rooms from our block this year, and the suites in the East Tower are always snapped up quickly, as many learned to their regret last year. The hotel will be ready to take your call or deal with your written request by January 1.
Remember that as usual we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Once again prizes should be small in size but large in value. Cash, of course, is always appropriate and welcome. As a general rule we ask that prizes of all kinds have a value of at least $25. Drawings will occur steadily throughout the convention sessions, and you can anticipate a grand prize of truly impressive proportions to be drawn at the banquet. You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time (identifying the item and donor and listing the value in print and Braille) to Kevin Pearl, 2716 Hillside Terrace, Louisville, Kentucky 40206‑2513.
The best collection of exhibits, featuring new technology; meetings of our special interest groups, committees, and divisions; memorable tours arranged by the host Kentucky affiliate; the most stimulating and provocative program items of any meeting of the blind in the world; the chance to renew friendships in our Federation family; and the unparalleled opportunity to be where the real action is and where decisions are being made--all of these mean you will not want to miss being a part of the 2003 national convention. We'll see you in Louisville in 2003!
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer]
NAC: A Moribund System Hoping for Revival
by Marc Maurer
From the Editor: For many years Federationists considered that the annual meeting of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired (NAC) provided the highlight of the fall social season. Not that we participated in the meeting each year, but we were certainly present, making sure that the public knew that consumers of services in the blindness field were not satisfied with the accreditation process provided by NAC.
Then NAC sank into almost total obscurity, and picketing its meetings appeared to give the body more significance than it deserved, so with some regret for past enjoyment and much optimism for a future free of NAC, we abandoned our annual NAC-tracking and NAC carol singing.
Recently, however, we learned that NAC has decided to conduct what NAC officials characterize as a summit meeting in an attempt to revitalize NAC and its view of the world. The event seems an excellent opportunity to dust off our hiking shoes and revive the NAC carols of NAC holiday seasons past.
In the following article President Maurer explains how we got to this point. This is what he says:
NAC (the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired), perhaps the most controversial and destructive entity ever created in the field of work with the blind, came into being in the latter half of the 1960's. With its establishment, it brought to programming for the blind the most confrontive and strife-ridden era known to the blind. NAC sought to control all of work for the blind through a system that made funding dependent on NAC's approval. At the same time NAC ignored the views of the organized blind movement, and it accredited agencies that permitted some of the shabbiest practices.
In 1972, with the influence of NAC increasing and with NAC officials continuing to refuse to consider the views of the blind except as a matter of tokenism, the blind declared that NAC's unethical practices would no longer be permitted to go unchallenged. We decided we would track down NAC wherever it went and expose its questionable tactics to the public. With this declaration began the NAC-tracking period. Whenever the NAC board met to try to expand its influence and cut out the blind, blind representatives from across the United States met on the streets to protest. These confrontations continued late into the 1980's. By that time NAC's capacity for destructiveness to the blind had diminished--the failure of ethics had become clear. Furthermore, a period of harmony and growth had begun.
About two years ago the man who was to become executive director of NAC, Mr. Steven Hegedeos, came to the National Center for the Blind to discuss the value of NAC. He said he was unfamiliar with the history of NAC but that he believed in the value of the accreditation process. Members of the National Federation of the Blind told him about the spirit and performance of NAC and gave him background material. We agreed that good programs for the blind are important, but we pointed out that NAC is not the way to get them. It has always been a political organization established for political purposes and functioning in a political way, and it cannot improve the performance of agencies for the blind.
At the 2001 convention of the Federation held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, NAC made a presentation inviting the Federation to believe that its standard of operation had changed. NAC urged the Federation to work with it to bring NAC back to life. The Federation declined the invitation but agreed to have three representatives meet with three NAC representatives. The NFB representatives were Mr. James Gashel, Mrs. Peggy Elliott, and I serving as our president. NAC's representatives were its president, Mr. Steven Obremski; its executive director, Mr. Steven Hegedeos; and a member of its board, Dr. Lee Robinson, who also serves as the head of the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. A report of this meeting was printed in the Braille Monitor for May 2002.
The report of the NAC meeting was delayed in publication from September until May because the meeting had relatively little new content. However, NAC was suggesting to people that it and the Federation were working closely with each other, and this false impression had to be corrected. Consequently, the May 2002 issue of the Braille Monitor contained a fairly detailed description of the meeting.
Included in the report was a reprint of an article that had been reviewed at the meeting--an article about questionable practices at the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. I asked the NAC representatives whether they had knowledge of the allegations of misconduct at the school and what NAC intended to do about those allegations. Mr. Obremski and Mr. Hegedeos indicated that they had no prior knowledge of these allegations. Of course Dr. Robinson knew all about them. He said that, since there had been no criminal convictions, he believed the allegations of misbehavior were irrelevant.
I asked NAC to give the Federation a report of any investigation it decided to conduct of the policies and practices at the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. Keep in mind that this meeting occurred on September 10, 2001. By the time the Braille Monitor article appeared in May of 2002, no report had been received about the Utah School. However, NAC accreditation of the school continued in effect. Apparently a re-accreditation had occurred in 2001 during the time that many of the allegations about the Utah School were being made.
Now a letter has come from the president of NAC dated October 14, 2002. In context this letter is nothing short of amazing. The letter comes well over a year after the September 10 meeting with NAC. Mr. Obremski attempts to shift the blame for the delay by arguing that the Federation had a responsibility to provide transcripts of the meeting (a thing the Federation has never promised to do), but of course in the intervening months he has not sent a note indicating that he had received no information from us. In one sense the attempt to explain the delay is characteristic of the rest of the communication. Whatever happens, it is always somebody else's fault.
The letter says that bad practices happen everywhere and that no system of accreditation can prevent them. One is left with the impression that the bad practices do not have an impact on the question of NAC accreditation. Mr. Obremski does not say that, as long as the paperwork is in order, poor practices may be tolerated. He even asserts that practices that are bad enough could (when repeated numerous times) cause a withdrawal of accreditation. However, one is left to wonder how bad is bad enough, and, although many self-serving statements are made about the value of accreditation, we do not hear about a system for evaluating allegations of misconduct. According to Dr. Lee Robinson, a criminal conviction must occur before allegations of misconduct are serious. Would that be enough for the withdrawal of accreditation? Mr. Obremski refers to sexual misbehavior, fraud in accounting practices, and mass killings in schools. The implication is that, if these things happen in accredited institutions, the accreditation body cannot be held accountable. Here in its entirety is Mr. Obremski's letter.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steven Obremski]
National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving
the Blind and Visually Impaired
October 14, 2002
Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
Dear Mr. Maurer:
I am writing in response to your question regarding a NAC member organization, the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind (USDB), which you published in the May 2002 issue of the Braille Monitor. My delay in responding is due in part to my expectation of receiving transcripts from the September 10, 2001, meeting, which you agreed to send me, in order that I might obtain a list of action items regarding what was discussed. The following is my response to your article in the Monitor that I am also publishing in the upcoming issue of the Standard Bearer as a means of sharing this response with the NAC membership. [The Standard Bearer is the NAC in-house magazine.]
The National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired (NAC) exists to develop and apply standards related to the governance, administration, and provision of services by agencies and schools serving people who are blind and visually impaired. Agencies that choose to become accredited undergo a thorough self-study and onsite review conducted by teams of professionals in the field, including persons like myself who are blind. After an onsite review agencies are awarded varying levels of accreditation or are denied accreditation if they fail to satisfactorily meet the established standards.
There are numerous accrediting bodies in existence, from the Associations of Colleges and Schools, which evaluate functions and programs of both public and private schools; to the Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission (CARF), which evaluates a diverse group of agencies in the field of rehabilitation; to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), which evaluates medical institutions. All of these accrediting organizations have a process similar to NAC's for evaluating policies, procedures, and services provided by an agency seeking accreditation. All award varying levels of accreditation depending upon compliance with the established standards.
Unfortunately, schools, hospitals, and other organizations providing services to the community experience critical incidents which may be unintentional or are violations committed by individuals, and which sometimes mandate legal action. Recent events that have drawn national attention include mass killings in public schools, unethical medical practices in hospitals, alleged sexual abuse by teachers, fraudulent and unethical practices by directors of national for-profit and not-for-profit organizations and, regrettably, incidents of alleged abuse by a teacher at the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind. The accreditation process, whether performed by JCAHO, CARF, or the school commission, is not an assurance against misbehavior of individual employees. I am sure that you would agree that this is a reasonable statement. It would be most unwise to misrepresent the value of accreditation by suggesting that accreditation is a shield against any misdeeds by individuals within an organization.
Many organizations that have experienced employee or volunteer criminal activity are accredited. Most public and private schools and most hospitals are accredited. In many cases an organization is accredited by more than one accrediting body. For example, the USDB, the agency that you referred to in our September 10, 2001, meeting and subsequently in the May issue of the NFB Braille Monitor, is accredited not only by NAC. The Northwest Association of Schools, Colleges, and Universities (NASCU) and the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD) have both evaluated the policies, procedures, and programs of the school and have recently awarded the school full accreditation.
Given all of the reported negligent or unlawful activities in accredited hospitals, schools, and rehabilitation agencies, how do these organizations remain open and accredited? And, given the allegations that were cited against the USDB, how can three different accrediting organizations continue to accredit them? The answer is found in the function of an accrediting entity.
When an agency is evaluated for accreditation, the agency's policies and practices are measured against established standards. The extent to which an agency meets a specific standard is gleaned from a review of pertinent documents; documentation of activities, both administrative and service-related; interviews with staff; contacts with collaborative organizations; and interviews with a representation of those served. If policies and practices are found to be acceptable, standards are either met or exceeded. If policies and practices are not met or not in place, the standard is not met. If there are numerous accounts of unmet standards or significant violations of consumers' rights, the organization is given a probationary status with a period of time for correcting the issue, or accreditation is withdrawn altogether.
The three organizations that accredit the USDB found that the school has acceptable policies and practices in place. Events such as the allegations of abuse at this school, as well as in other schools, hospitals, etc., are impossible to predict and, as evidenced by our society as a whole, are unfortunately unavoidable.
Contrary to your report in the Braille Monitor article, NAC's Commission on Accreditation and NAC's executive director were notified of the allegations of abuse at the USDB during their Onsite Review in late April of 2001.
[I interrupt the letter to say that this is a most curious sentence. Both Mr. Obremski and Mr. Hegedeos indicated during our meeting of September 10, 2001, that they had no prior knowledge of alleged abuses at the Utah School. Which piece of testimony are we to believe? Were the principal NAC officials aware of the allegations at the time they were accrediting the school in 2001? Did they accredit the school despite these allegations? Did they investigate before making the accreditation? Or did they ignore the reports? Were Mr. Obremski and Mr. Hegedeos forthright in September 2001, or were they pretending they didn't have the background in order to buy time to consider the matter? Many of these questions must remain a matter for speculation. Despite the length of Mr. Obremski's letter, he does not address such queries except in a most cursory and general way. But, back to Mr. Obremski's letter.]
At the same time the two other organizations that accredit the USDB were made aware of this situation. It was determined by NAC's Commission on Accreditation as well as NASCU and CEASD that this incident was handled appropriately by the school's administration, that policies and practices are in place to avoid the probability of this incident reoccurring, and that corrective action was taken. Subsequently the USDB was awarded reaccreditation by NAC and accreditation was maintained by both NASCU and CEASD.
A letter written on September 25, 2002, to Dr. Lee Robinson, superintendent of the USDB, from Dan R. Larsen, assistant attorney general of the State of Utah summarizes the circumstances related to the issue. He writes, "As counsel for defendants in all three of these cases, it is my opinion that the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind and its administrators acted appropriately in response to these incidents. The Sutton jury obviously agreed. Had the other two cases gone to trial, I anticipated a similar result. It is unfortunate that the reports in the media about the allegations in these lawsuits made it appear that school administrators were indifferent to the rights and safety of their students. These media reports ignore the hard work and dedication of the many professionals at the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind who have dedicated their careers to educating and assisting disabled students. Anyone who actually visits the school and observes the classroom activities would be impressed with the facilities and staff. The negative media campaign pursued by plaintiffs' counsel in these lawsuits was not only untrue but was harmful to the students, the staff, and to those who may be in need of the services provided by the school. Now that the litigation has ended, I sincerely hope that the school can again focus on its primary mission, to provide an education to deaf and blind students in a safe environment."
Neither NAC, NFB, nor any other organization can predict, control, or avoid actions taken by an individual. The integrity of any given organization is based upon the policies and practices the organization has in place. It is this foundation that NAC fosters through established standards. Events occur, however, which are beyond any organization's control. To evaluate an entity only on the merit of such incidents does not reflect the principles of the organization as a whole in most cases. As stated earlier, the Utah School handled the critical matter mentioned above in an appropriate manner.
As we discussed at last year's meeting, NAC is moving forward with its plans to hold a summit in the near future to receive input and direction regarding the renewal of NAC and its services. There will be many blind people in attendance to present consumers' views. I am hopeful that you will participate.
President, Board of Directors
With such arguments in mind, it is worth asking, what is the purpose of NAC? If its accreditation cannot assure proper practices, then what does it assure? Is the accreditation system created to serve as a shield for those prepared to tolerate shabby behavior or worse? Is NAC once again attempting to serve as the arbiter for the blind, deciding for us what is beneficial for us to have, even if we want something else?
Mr. Obremski's letter states, "It would be most unwise to misrepresent the value of accreditation by suggesting that accreditation is a shield against any misdeeds by individuals within an organization. Many organizations that have experienced employee or volunteer criminal activity are accredited." Such statements attempt to make a distinction between the actions of an organization and the actions of individuals serving as agents for the organization. How can an organization take an action unless the individuals who serve it act? Mr. Obremski suggests that the actions he finds laudatory are the actions of the school; those he finds reprehensible are not chargeable to the school but to the individuals at the school. Apparently he has never heard of the legal maxim "respondeat superior"--the principal is responsible for the actions of the principal's agent. A school cannot act except through the individuals who serve it.
Another letter from Mr. Obremski indicates that NAC is seeking to revive its position in the blindness field and improve its public image and prestige. Notice in this letter that once again the organized blind are relegated to one representative. It is plain from Mr. Obremski's letters that he intends to have scores of others present to discuss the value of NAC--many of them senior staff members of NAC-accredited agencies. NAC has not changed. It wants to dominate and control. It wants to plan for the blind what their lives shall be and what services will be good for them. In the midst of the rhetoric, NAC claims that its accreditation "has proven to be the preeminent management tool for organizations that provide quality services." Sometimes when reading NAC's high-flown, self-appreciative statements, it is hard to determine whether NAC officials meant them as a joke or they really believe them. Here are the pertinent portions of the letter of invitation to come to the NAC summit in Tampa in December of 2002.
National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving
the Blind and Visually Impaired
Mr. Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
October 16, 2002
Dear Mr. Maurer:
On behalf of the NAC board of directors I invite you to attend a summit meeting on accreditation for agencies serving people who are blind or visually impaired. This meeting will be held on December 13, 2002, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Tampa, Florida. Mr. Don Wells, director of the Duke University Certificate Program in Nonprofit Management, will facilitate this important meeting.
The following day, on December 14, 2002, NAC will continue with the biannual membership business meeting.
At this summit on the 13th, we are bringing together the NAC board of directors, NAC member agencies, and the top executives of national organizations in the field of services to people who are blind or visually impaired, in order to participate in the agenda concerning:
--The value of and need for specialized standards;
--Streamlining the accreditation process;
--The coordination of accrediting organizations, CARF, JCAHO, and SACS, with NAC; and
--Relationships between NAC and national consumer organizations.
In addition to leaders in the field of blindness, Dr. Brian Boon, president and CEO of the Rehabilitation Accreditation Commission (CARF), has accepted a special invitation to attend. Representatives of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) have also been invited.
All organizations are limited to having one representative in attendance. Please return your RSVP sheet in the envelope provided or by e-mail at your earliest convenience to Steven K. Hegedeos.
The detailed agenda for this summit and the NAC Biannual Business Membership Meeting will be sent in the near future.
The quality of specialized services for people who are blind or visually impaired is critical, and the peer-review process for accreditation has proven to be the pre-eminent management tool for organizations that provide quality services. Your participation in this conference is important for the future of specialized services to those whom we serve.
Thank you for your participation in the provision of specialized services to people who are blind and visually impaired. I look forward to our time together in Tampa.
President, Board of Directors
Then there is the most recent missive from NAC's executive director. In view of what has been said and written about NAC, it is apparent that NAC's executive director is attempting to use dissembling language to achieve diplomatic objectives. He wants to portray NAC as willing to listen to the blind, which of course it is not. He wants to demonstrate chumminess and friendly discourse while at the same time he is forcing a discredited so-called standards organization down the throats of the blind. He thinks his chattiness will distract us from the real mission of NAC. However, pretending that NAC is fair or even-handed or willing to consider the views of the organized blind or a force for positive change in the blindness field will not make it so. NAC is what it has always been--a divisive, destructive, discredited attempt to shield those who cannot stand on their own. This is the most recent exchange of correspondence.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steven Hegedeos]
National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving
the Blind and Visually Impaired
October 28, 2002
Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
Re: NAC Summit Meeting
Dear Dr. Maurer:
Thank you for your communications dated September 17 and October 3, 2002. Our communications with each other are valuable to me, and I appreciate the clarity that you practice.
This letter is a follow-up to my telephone message from last week, replying to your request for information about the upcoming NAC meeting. Mr. Steve Obremski said you, the president of a major organization, should receive advanced notice about the upcoming NAC meeting. The invitations to the NAC summit meeting set for December 13-14, 2002, have been sent, and I trust you have received yours by now. Your receptionist called today and asked for a faxed copy of the invitation. It has been faxed.
In your October 3rd letter you state that in the past NAC gave the impression that it prefers ". . .to do its business without the blind discovering what it is planning." I am sure that you have reasons based in history for saying that; however, I wish to assure you that it is not the preference nor the intent of the current NAC board or any of its officers nor employees to operate in such a manner. On the contrary, our aim is to solicit as much input as possible.
The summit meeting agenda will touch on the issue you laid on the table September 10, 2001. The letter from Steve Obremski to you and the NAC Newsletter being sent out this week acknowledge, privately and publicly, NFB's position regarding NAC.
While it is my belief that you and I do not disagree much about what needs to be done, I wish to communicate to you my feelings about how we should accomplish what needs to be done, based on the following premise:
The field of blindness and visual impairment rehabilitation and education needs credible specialized standards and an accreditation program for service providers. Anything less then a credible system should not be done. To be credible, such service standards and an accreditation program must be the responsibility of an independent entity. In our field special standards are needed to address issues concerning communication (including Braille), travel, activities of daily living, workplace and classroom modifications, access to new technology, and services for persons with other disabilities who also may be blind or visually impaired.
Toward this end I am working on and advocating the following long-range action plan.
* Firstly, securing funding for a national conference about specialized standards.
* Secondly, developing a plan for establishing specialized standards based on research findings.
* Thirdly, securing funding for research that will serve as the bases [sic] for specialized standards.
Support for such an action plan has been expressed by the U.S. government standards system referred to as ISO 9002, the VA, Emory University, Hopkins University, school accrediting bodies, CARF, and JCAHO. My personal hope is that NFB will participate in this process. One way of participating might be to house such activities in the NFB Research Building, which is a desirable location.
The summit on December 13th is being designed to set the course for the short-range action plan. The goal is to maintain and continuously improve specialized service standards that are implemented in a credible accreditation program.
I do not wish to feed into any acrimonious challenges of the past, however strongly the past adversities related to NFB and NAC might have affected our respective organizations. Based on my contacts with NAC-accredited agencies and participating in accreditation decisions, I can categorically testify to you that I have seen no evidence that the NAC accreditation process has damaged any service organization in delivering valuable services to people who are blind or visually impaired. On the contrary, there are many examples of the NAC accreditation promoting the improvement of service delivery.
I believe, however, that the acrimonious relationships that exist, not only between NFB and NAC, but in the field, is damaging efforts toward the elimination of barriers and disadvantages endured by people who are blind and visually impaired. There is an unacceptably high unemployment rate, a low level of representation and participation in the mainstream of our society, and ever-present indignations [sic] are suffered due to ignorance of the general public.
In your December 20, 2001, greeting, you mentioned that you suspect that your mind is made up about NAC. Since then your views seemed to be more solidly against NAC, which makes the prospects of reaching a short-term and a long-term action plan more difficult.
I wish to rekindle some thoughts from earlier conversations you and I have had regarding our beliefs and principles we live by. Whatever the final outcome of the NFB/NAC adversarial relationship will result in, education and enlightenment could be and should be part of the resolution of this and any problem. One's beliefs have to be shared to be of value.
I recently watched the news talk show "Crossfire," which caused me to reaffirm my own beliefs, and I wish to share that with you.
The attorney Johnny Corcoran [sic] was on the show last week promoting his book titled Justice. Even though the OJ Simpson circumstances are repulsive to me, the real world is what it is, and I can live with it.
However, Corcoran went on to promote his agenda of restitution for slavery in the U.S. This I cannot accept.
Corcoran said, "you have benefited from the labor of the slaves, and restitution is justified." I can accept this as partially true, but it is more completely true that all Americans, including African-Americans living in this country, have benefited from the slave labor of the past. Corcoran has certainly benefited. Restitution based on racial grounds is just as evil as slavery based on racial grounds. Where does it end? If restitution is justified, all Americans should pay.
The principle is that we should all participate. No one organization or one individual should claim to be the exclusive representative of a particular group of people. Everyone must have the opportunity to participate in processes. More to the point, service standards for organizations must be free from conflicts of interest in every possible manner. Both NAC and NFB should be part of the renaissance of specialized standards.
I am looking forward to your reply and thank you for your consideration.
Steven K. Hegedeos
November 6, 2002
Mr. Steven K. Hegedeos
National Accreditation Council for Agencies
Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired
Dear Mr. Hegedeos:
I have received your letter of October 28, 2002, and I find it positively astonishing. Perhaps I have lost my capacity to communicate. The first time we met, I told you that NAC was destructive to the field of blindness, and I recommended that you avoid becoming embroiled in it. On each subsequent occasion when we have met, I have stated the same principle. Your letter implies that we were working jointly to revive NAC, which has never been the case.
Contrary to your assertion, NAC is not independent; it has never been independent; and it cannot be independent. It is controlled and dominated by the agencies that have created NAC for the purpose of establishing a place to hide their inadequacies--they want to use the name of accreditation as a shield. This is the way it is now, and it is the way that NAC has always been. If you insist on attempting to revive this discredited, destructive system, you will create the acrimony you tell me you want to avoid. I suggested to you a way to avoid it the first time we met.
You have listened to the blind with the same attention that previous NAC directors gave to the sentiment expressed. You have ignored what we told you, and you have insisted that the blind, who are the consumers of the services allegedly provided by the agencies you accredit, may have one representative in a gathering of scores. In other words, you offer the blind the same tokenism that your predecessors offered. I strongly suspect you will get the same result.
Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Cheadle]
Rhode Island Department of Education:
Cutting or Gutting Services to Blind Children?
by Barbara Cheadle
From the Editor: Barbara Cheadle is the president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. The following article appeared in Volume 21, No. 2 of Future Reflections, the quarterly publication of the organization. Here it is:
Cutting or gutting services is the question uppermost in the minds of over 150 families of blind and visually impaired children in Rhode Island. So far no one is coming forward with any answers.
Many states across our nation (Rhode Island among them) are struggling with revenue shortfalls and other budget problems. A weakened economy has compelled several state governors to order across-the-board cuts in state government spending. In such circumstances it isn't uncommon for services to blind children to take a proportional hit. In some states this means budget cuts to the state-funded schools for the blind. In a few states (such as New Jersey) children's services provided by state-funded commissions for the blind suffer cutbacks as well.
None of this is pleasant, but neither is it unexpected, nor is it grossly unfair, providing that the programs had reasonable funding in the first place. This is not to say that parents and blind advocates should take such cuts meekly--only that cycles of fat times and lean times are normal, and all must work together to minimize the impact of the lean times. But making cuts in a program is one thing; gutting it is another. A trimmed rose bush can grow back; a gutted fish is a goner.
Rhode Island has neither a state school for the blind nor a commission for the blind charged with the responsibility for the education of blind children, but it does have a statewide program for children with visual impairments--the Vision Services Program (VSP). The VSP, in existence since the mid to late sixties, is financially administered through the Rhode Island Department of Education at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf. The program has provided direct educational itinerant teaching services to blind and visually impaired children (not to mention supplying specialized books, equipment, etc.) to all but six of the state's thirty-eight school districts. Beginning in 2000, the program also provided orientation and mobility services. In addition to these direct services, VSP has funded summer programs for eligible blind and visually impaired children statewide, continuing education training for specialized professionals, and other special programs for the entire state.
Never a completely independent department with its own budget and dedicated administration, the VSP program office is currently located on the campus of the Rhode Island School for the Deaf, and, as of September of 2001, it is administered by the superintendent of the Rhode Island School for the Deaf. Despite these limitations there has been much to commend the Rhode Island Vision Services Program since its inception.
This is especially to the state's credit since the Vision Services Program started from almost nothing at all. Prior to the passage of Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (which later became the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, IDEA), Rhode Island's education plan for blind children was simple: pay out-of-state tuition and send the kids to the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. At the peak of the program the Rhode Island Blind Beneficiary Fund budgeted about $1.5 million for this purpose.
The transition from an out-of-state residential education plan to a state program which provides support for blind children to remain in their local public schools has been a long one, with some troubling implications for funding for services to blind children. As Rhode Island children moved out of the Perkins School for the Blind (or other out-of-state residential programs), the money formerly budgeted for that tuition disappeared into other programs within the Department of Education. More and more of Rhode Island's blind children were remaining in the state to be educated, but proportionally less and less funding was allocated to the Vision Services Program, which provided specialized services to these children.
By 1999 those with a special interest in the education of blind children were becoming alarmed at the rapid bleeding away of resources. No systematic assessment of the needs and cost of services to blind children seemed to be in place. In 1999 concerned professionals in the VSP program went before the state legislature to ask that the $77,000 freed up that year by two children exiting the out-of-state tuition program be returned to the VSP budget and that a full-time position be added to the program. The efforts were partially successful for that year, but it was only a temporary fix.
In the fall of 2001 the budget axe was poised again for the most staggering cut yet. But this time a new factor had entered the picture. Parents of blind children, led by Elizabeth Frampton and Paul Loberti, mobilized. Unwilling to sit by silently while essential service after essential service was stripped away, parents organized into the Rhode Island Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children (RIPBVIC) so that they could collectively advocate to keep the VSP program and funding for that program intact. They wrote letters, made phone calls, dashed off e-mails, buttonholed state legislators, and finally got the ear of one newspaper reporter.
The following article, which appeared in the Providence Journal-Bulletin, of Sunday, July 7, 2002, picks up the story at this point. Following the newspaper article are copies of letters by Elizabeth Frampton and Paul Loberti, which bring the saga up to date as of August 2002. We begin with the report from the Providence Journal-Bulletin:
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Aria Mia Loberti]
A Young Girl
Is the One to Listen to
by Bob Kerr
Aria Mia Loberti is a charming, articulate soon-to-be fourth grader with a musical name and a deep appreciation for the people who help her to be all she can be. Sitting with her parents in a restaurant at the Providence Marriott, holding the latest book she is reading, she explains that these people, at her school in Johnston, are important people, and they make her life better.
She suffers from an eye disorder that lets her see in dim indoor light but leaves her blind in the bright out-of-doors. She seems lucky, in a way, because she has parents who insist that she get the things she needs to be just another very bright girl in elementary school. And she lives in Johnston, where school officials have been very understanding and very helpful. But she is part of a small, seldom heard constituency in Rhode Island that now realizes it has to speak up for itself, and it is having no easy time getting simple answers to simple questions.
"We want to be part of the solution," says Paul Loberti, Aria Mia's father. "The only real advocacy we have is the vision educators themselves. They're the only ones who testified on our behalf."
What happened to Loberti, his wife, Audrey Loberti, their daughter, and other families with children who are blind or visually impaired got little if any notice in the recent debate over cuts in the Rhode Island state budget. There are perhaps 150 children in the state who are blind or suffer from impaired vision and require special assistance at school. They are not a large group, and, until now, they have not been organized. And they have not been heard.
But they have been hit hard, and some of their parents wonder why they are finding it so difficult to convince state officials that, with the right kind of assistance, a child who can't see can often do darned near everything else.
"You come away with the feeling that these kids are considered a disposable part of the population," says Kathleen Williams, whose three-year-old son is visually impaired. "People seem to think that ‘blind’ means kids can't learn."
Williams met last week with the Lobertis and other members of Rhode Island Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children--the group they've formed to push for the services their children need in order to have the same kind of education that other children have. They have all received a rude wake-up call. They have learned that things they'd thought were in place and would always be in place are not.
The warning signs first appeared last October, when some of the parents were called to a meeting at the Rhode Island School for the Deaf to learn about cuts in the budget for the education of their children.
They started telephoning Peter McWalters, the state's commissioner of education. Paul Loberti says there were twenty-six calls--maybe more--expressing the parents' concerns. They finally had a meeting but came away without any sense of support. State education officials, say the parents, put the blame for the cuts on the governor's office. The parents don't really care who made the cuts. They are just amazed at how hostile their reception has been when they have made what they consider a reasonable appeal on behalf of children who can't see.
"The problem is that the people who are making the decisions are the least equipped to do it," says Elizabeth Frampton, the president of the parents' group. They say they weren't even able to get the exact figures on how much was being cut from the budget for the education of blind and visually impaired children. They had to do the math themselves and came up with the startling and disturbing fact that the budget had gone from $469,000 to $279,000. That's small potatoes amid the millions and millions of dollars involved in the state-budget battle. But for the blind children and their families it probably means the end of summer camps and training in Braille and life skills.
The parents want independence for their children--the ability to work and compete. Right now they're not sure what the state wants for the children. There are federal guidelines for what schools should provide for blind and visually impaired students; the parents believe those guidelines should be followed, but they aren't really sure that they will be. As Paul Loberti points out, they all want to be part of the solution, but they feel they are being shut out.
They did appear before the House Finance Committee to make their case, and the Rhode Island House of Representatives did approve a resolution creating a commission to develop a comprehensive education system for these students. It is, perhaps, a beginning.
Personally, I'd recommend some meetings with Aria Mia Loberti. Set up meetings for her with the governor, the commissioner of education, the leaders of the legislature. Let her tell them what these educational services mean to a very smart kid who sees no limits on what she can do. They'd understand. They really would.
Future Reflections Editor's Note: If only it were that easy! Shortly after the publication of this article, Elizabeth Frampton and Paul Loberti, on behalf of the Rhode Island Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children (RIPBVIC), sent a letter to the Rhode Island Commissioner of Education, Peter McWalters, reviewing specific concerns and asking cogent questions. Copies of the letter along with a short update memo from Paul Loberti were circulated to members of the RIPBVIC. The letter and memo are reprinted below. That was in July.
As of September parents were still waiting--waiting to hear if any of the budget would be restored, waiting for answers from the commissioner, and waiting to hear about appointments to the commission established by the Rhode Island General Assembly to study the problem.
One final observation: although the immediate educational situation for many of Rhode Island's blind children is bleak, the parents I have interviewed from Rhode Island--Paul Loberti and Elizabeth Frampton--are determined to stay the course. They have displayed a remarkable combination of patience, courtesy, determination, good will, and tenacity. The final chapter on services to blind children in Rhode Island hasn't been written yet. You can count on it!
Here now, without further comment, are reprints of the letter to Commissioner McWalters and the July update memo from Paul Loberti:
[PHOTO/CAPTION: J.W. Frampton]
Rhode Island Parents
of Blind and Visually Impaired Children
July 15, 2002
Dear Commissioner McWalters:
We are writing to you today to ask to be part of the solution to deliver effective, necessary services for blind and visually impaired children in Rhode Island.
That said, we are confused by the tensions between the Department of Education and advocates for blind and visually impaired children. While we cannot compromise our principles, we do recognize that, to become part of the solution of current problems, we must all put aside our differences and move ahead in the best interest of serving our children. We are confident that you would agree with this approach.
As a result of: 1) the recent extreme state budget cuts to the Department of Education's vision program, 2) the subsequent June 2002 termination of contracted employees to provide vision services to children in Rhode Island, 3) the elimination of line items in the vision budget pertaining to supplies and equipment for blind and visually impaired children, 4) the lack of resources of the present state vision work force to meet the needs of blind and visually impaired children in Rhode Island, and 5) the fact that there is no dedicated plan of which we are aware to work with local towns and cities effectively to allow them to realize what has transpired, as well as to address the implications of the aforementioned situation--as a result of these things--we seek an amicable solution that we can be a part of.
We realize that as a group of concerned parents we have been assertive in our requests to you and your staff. We believe, however, that we have done this professionally and courteously. As a result of our deep concern and belief that the vision education program may be nearing extinction in the state of Rhode Island, again we exert our responsibility as parents and ask that you kindly respond to this letter by answering the following questions:
1) What efforts have been made to notify local towns and cities about the crisis associated with the termination of education services for blind and visually impaired children in Rhode Island?
2) What is the Department of Education's formal stance on coordinating these services for our children? For example, should another entity in state government be responsible for the implementation, coordination, and evaluation of services?
3) Have federal grantors been notified of the documented interruption of services associated with this population--many under the umbrella of IDEA, 504, and Title IX?
4) Due to the budget cuts, how can the state adequately meet the legal requirements associated with state laws and regulations to provide an appropriate, free education for this population?
5) At present we have identified approximately twenty children with needs that cannot be met in the current financial crisis. Our question is, if these twenty children are sent to Perkins [School for the Blind] at a cost estimated at $130,000 to $250,000 per year/per student, where will the funds come from, and will this affect the current opinion of state leaders about our ability to provide adequate services for these children in-state?
We sincerely hope that you will respond to our inquiries in a timely manner. Many of the questions above have been the source of great debate and concern among the parents in our network. We would greatly appreciate your kind and considerate attention to this matter, because many blind and visually impaired children are counting on you. Please send your response to Rhode Island Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children, Old Wrentham Road, Cumberland, Rhode Island.
Elizabeth Frampton, President, RIPBVIC
Paul G. Loberti, Vice President, RIPBVIC
Rhode Island Parents
of Blind and Visually Impaired Children
July 20, 2002
Dear Supporter of Rhode Island Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children:
I hope you are well. Today I am writing to keep you informed of the events that have transpired within the last two months regarding the provision of services to blind and visually impaired children in Rhode Island.
We as parents are completely and utterly shocked by the concerted destruction of state services for our children. This year we watched as the state budget for this program was essentially dismantled at the Department of Education. We continue to seek answers as to how and why this happened but quite honestly have not received any official word.
Our organization wanted you to receive a copy of the most recent letter sent to Commissioner McWalters. We sincerely hope that the appropriate individuals will rectify the problem, but at present the situation is grim. We ask that you take an active role in assisting us in resolving this crisis. Please carefully review this letter and call me at ___ or Elizabeth Frampton, President of RI Parents of Blind and Visually Impaired Children, at ___, if you have further questions.
Currently, blind and visually impaired children who typically get services for the summer have been told they will no longer get these services. The fall is coming soon, and parents are uncertain whether local governments will have the time and resources to accommodate our children's needs. Keep in mind that more than half of the vision educators were terminated as a result of the state mandate to eliminate contract employees.
The current state-funded vision educators are at a complete loss to know how they will provide services for the children who desperately need them. In addition, line items in the current budget have been slashed, and fundamental resources to support the education of our children are no longer available.
We urge you to help us restore the necessary elements to provide services to blind and visually impaired children in our state. Thank you for your continued support of blind and visually impaired children. They need you now more than ever!
Paul G. Loberti, Vice President, RIPBVIC
There you have the article that appears in the current issue of Future Reflections. The school year is now well started, and some progress has been made in naming members to the commission to look into Rhode Island's handling of the education of blind and visually impaired students. Unfortunately, one of the most influential officials in this struggle is Dr. Reginald Redding, the superintendent of the Rhode Island School for the Deaf and the man with administrative responsibility for the vision services program. One always worries when the educational program for blind students is controlled by an authority with a clearly different interest, like deafness or mental retardation. Couple this cause for anxiety with the rumor that the commissioner of education and Dr. Redding are close personal friends and the fact that the commissioner testified to protect the budget for the School for the Deaf but did not do so for the services to blind students, and it's clear why the Rhode Island parents are frustrated and skeptical. On August 15, 2002, Dr. Redding sent a memo to public school superintendents regarding the Statewide Program for Children with Visual Impairments. The lack of useful or constructive information tells its own tale. Here is the memo:
Rhode Island School for the Deaf
Date: August 15, 2002
To: School Superintendent
From: Reginald L. Redding, Ph.D., Director/Superintendent
Re: Statewide Program for Children with Visual Impairments
As many of you know, the Statewide Program for Vision Services has had its budget reduced. The concerns relative to this program have been so great that the Rhode Island General Assembly has established a commission to be chaired by Representative Eileen Naughton of Warwick to examine these services and report back to the Legislature by March 2003.
As a result of the current budget constraints, there have been and will continue to be limits on the extent to which this program can meet the needs of eligible children throughout our state. As a result, there may [be] instances where the Local Education Agency (LEA) may have to fully provide services or augment services that cannot be provided through the statewide program. At this time it is difficult to assess the extent to which this will occur. It is hoped that the work of the Legislative Commission will result in a thorough assessment of services to children with vision impairments in Rhode Island and recommendations for how to make those services as efficient and effective as possible.
If you have any questions, please contact me at ___.
cc: Directors of Special Education
State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
There it is. The parents of Rhode Island's blind students and the blind adults who care about them have our work cut out for us. The NFB will continue to provide support and advice, and we will keep readers informed about how this struggle goes.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim Willows]
Victory for the Blind in California Rehabilitation
by Jim Willows
From the Editor: Jim Willows is past president of the NFB of California. He has worked hard to bring about the transformation in the prospects for blind Californians that he describes in the following article. This is what he says:
September 29, 2002, was a great day for the blind of California. On that day Governor Gray Davis signed Senate Bill 105, which created a division for the blind with line authority over supervisors, counselors, and counselor‑teachers serving blind and visually impaired clients within the California Department of Rehabilitation. All members of this division, from its director to supervisors and counselors in the field, will be required to have expertise in serving, rehabilitating, and placing blind clients.
The signing of this legislation was the culmination of four years of effort by the National Federation of the Blind of California and more than thirty other organizations, agencies, and individuals providing services to the blind of California. Our new division for the blind provides the first opportunity California has taken to establish a meaningful separate, identifiable entity responsible for providing all rehabilitation services to the blind of the state.
How bad is California rehab? In the fall of 1998, as president of the NFB of California, I learned a shocking fact from a survey done by researchers at Mississippi State University. The MSU report stated that the California Department of Rehabilitation was forty-eighth of forty-eight states responding to their survey in placements in meaningful employment per counselor of blind and visually impaired clients. We knew that California rehab was not putting many blind clients to work, but we had had no idea that things were this bad. Immediate action was needed.
At the time California was in the midst of a hot race for governor between Democrat Gray Davis and Republican Richard Lundgren. I was joined by Catherine Skivers, president of the California Council of the Blind, Anita Aaron, director of the Rose Resnick Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco, Bob Ralls, president of the Foundation for the Junior Blind in Los Angeles, Dr. LaDonna Ringering, director of the Center for the Partially Sighted in Santa Monica, Gil Johnson, director of the San Francisco office of the American Foundation for the Blind, and Bryan Bashin, executive director of the Society for the Blind in Sacramento and a board member of the NFB of California. This group contacted both the Davis and Lundgren campaign staffs. We heard nothing from the Lundgren staff, but Mr. Tal Finney, a prominent member of the Davis campaign, agreed to meet with us. Tal later became one of Governor Davis's chief policy advisors.
Mr. Finney met with us in late October, just a few days before the gubernatorial election. I believe he came to convince us that Gray Davis should be our candidate, but he left with a new appreciation of the high unemployment record for blind people and of how little the Department of Rehabilitation had done for us.
Of course Gray Davis was elected, and we went into strategy-planning mode. I wanted to be sure that membership in this loose group would not violate any coalition policies of the Federation. I called to brief President Maurer on the California situation. I asked what he thought of the NFB of California's joining other groups of and for the blind to improve our rehab situation. He reminded me that the Federation opposes broad, long-lasting coalitions. He said that an alliance of blind organizations formed to solve a specific problem was in line with Federation policy and cited Dr. Jernigan's participation in creating the Joint Organizational Effort (JOE) Committee.
Our next step was to call a blindness summit, held in Los Angeles in mid‑January of 1999. In addition to the seven organizations listed above, some thirty other organizations for the blind and several blind individuals were interested in putting blind people to work and came to our meeting. The NFB of California was represented by Don Burns, Nancy Burns, Nick Medina, Maria Morais, and Jim Willows.
At this meeting we agreed on the name Blind Alliance for Rehabilitation Change (BARC), and we made the decision to introduce legislation to establish a commission for the blind in California. As we went forward, we found that old-timers in the legislature and in state government recognized the historic significance of having virtually the entire blind community come together in BARC. This realization was a great help in achieving our ultimate victory in a state that had never before considered forming a separate agency for rehabilitation of the blind.
At this point Bryan Bashin calculated that, at the department's current rate of placing blind clients, even if no new clients were added to the caseload, it would take over six hundred years to find jobs for all of the current clients--a bit of whimsy, perhaps, but it grabbed the attention of some legislators.
At this time a series of four articles was published in the Sacramento Bee. The author quoted blind clients of the Department of Rehabilitation and several leaders of the blind in California. All described, and the articles emphasized, the department's lamentable state of placement efforts for blind clients. Soon after Governor Davis was sworn in (January 1999), we began hearing that he would not support creation of any new boards or commissions in state government. He wanted to evaluate the usefulness of existing boards and commissions first. Tal Finney confirmed this policy when we met with him in the governor's office. It was further confirmed when we met with Grantland Johnson, Davis's secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency containing the California Department of Rehabilitation.
We were unable to find a legislator to author our commission bill, largely because of the governor's opposition to new commissions. However, we made very good use of the 1999‑2000 legislative session. BARC adopted a three-pronged plan of operation for this period. The first involved collection of data and reports supporting our position. The second was a huge education campaign in the legislature and within various departments of state government. Our final prong provided advice to the governor in his choice of the new director of rehabilitation.
In the data-collection effort we met with Gilbert (Doc) Williams, commissioner of Region IX of the federal Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). Doc and his staff were helpful in providing comparative data between California and several states with commissions for the blind in placement of blind clients in quality jobs. This group also put together a large database of reports from many sources favoring commissions for the blind over serving the blind within umbrella agencies as we have always done in California. A large number of us worked to educate legislators and administrators about the deplorable level to which California rehab had sunk and about the need for a separate and identifiable structure for rehabilitation of blind people in California.
Don Burns, our NFB of California legislative representative, and Dan Kysor, who holds a similar position with the California Council of the Blind (CCB), took the lead in these educational efforts. We issued several press releases throughout the state telling of the rehab problems of blind clients and of what BARC proposed to do about solving these problems. As for the director of rehabilitation position, BARC had been approached by all the leading applicants to ask for our support. As president of the NFB of California, I worked with Cathy Skivers, president of the CCB, in interviewing these candidates. We concluded that Dr. Catherine Campisi should have our support, and the BARC Steering Committee concurred. Catherine Campisi turned out to be a good choice, as later events would verify. Dr. Campisi was appointed by Governor Davis to head the California Department of Rehabilitation.
Early in this preparation period we received heartening news. The Nebraska legislature had just passed and their governor had signed a commission for the blind bill. Shortly after the commission became operational, we contacted Barbara Walker, Michael Floyd, and Carlos Serván, leaders of the NFB of Nebraska, to ask questions about how they succeeded in getting their bill passed. Michael and Carlos came to California to meet with us. They reviewed many of the details involved in their efforts. They said that the Nebraska commission was the result of a cooperative effort among several organizations of and for the blind in their state. We concluded that the Nebraska experience indicated we were on the right track.
As the 2001‑2002 legislative session approached, we concentrated on finding an author for our commission bill. Our work of the past two years bore fruit. Senator John Burton, a Democrat representing the San Francisco area, agreed to carry our bill. Our legislation was introduced early in the session as Senate Bill 105. Senator Burton is a longtime champion of the rights of disabled individuals. As president pro tempore of our state senate, he is obviously a man of influence. Many long-term Federationists will remember John Burton's brother, the late Congressman Phil Burton of San Francisco. Congressman Burton worked with the NFB on many of our bills during his time in Congress.
SB 105 was quickly opposed by three cross‑disability organizations. This opposition was not unexpected because of these groups' ideological opposition to categorical services for the blind. This opposition was serious in that Senator Burton had long championed the rights of all disabled people. He asked that we try to work out some agreement with the opposition. We met with them, but they were adamant in their position.
Two events of wide-ranging impact in California also affected SB 105. These were the rate gouging of California by energy suppliers and the terrorist attacks of September 11. Both contributed to the huge budget deficit in our state. California had gone from significant budget surpluses to large deficits in a few months. Senator Burton realized that even the minor costs of establishing our commission for the blind would kill the bill in the current poor fiscal climate. He proposed making SB 105 a two-year bill to see what we could do in the next half of the legislative session. We agreed to this.
As the year 2002 and the second half of the legislative session dawned, California's fiscal situation was no better. In fact the costs of Homeland Security had made it more bleak. Senator Burton's staff sent us amendments to the bill proposed by Dr. Campisi. She proposed replacing the commission for the blind with a division for the blind within her Department of Rehabilitation. Her proposed division would incorporate services for the blind within the department's central office only. There would be no line authority over counselors and counselor‑teachers for the blind in the field offices.
We in BARC had already agreed among ourselves that, considering the current fiscal situation, a reasonable fall-back position would be a division for the blind within the department, but that we could not abandon our position that line authority over the field staff working with blind clients must be included in the statutes resulting from SB 105. We met many times with Dr. Campisi and department staff along with Diane Cumming of Senator Burton's staff. Finally Dr. Campisi and her staff agreed to our line-authority position and agreed to declare to the governor and the California Department of Finance that line authority would be an absorbable cost for the department. These were the magic words that assured the passage of SB 105, as amended.
With this agreement with Dr. Campisi, all opposition to the bill was dropped. The bill passed both senate committees and the senate with no dissenting votes. It did the same in the California assembly. The hearing rooms were packed with blind people at all of these committee hearings. Again, Don Burns, Dan Kysor, and others played a large role in educating members of both the senate and assembly. Members of the governor's staff assured us that Governor Davis would sign the bill. However, until we got the word that SB 105 had become law on September 29, we were still edgy.
Dr. Catherine Campisi worked with us in a fine spirit of cooperation in developing the final language of SB 105. I believe that we acted wisely in supporting her as director of rehabilitation. Dr. Joanne Wilson and Dr. Fredric Schroeder attended our California convention the last weekend of October in 2002. Dr. Campisi was also present at that time. Wilson and Schroeder met with Campisi on the evening of the 25th. They later declared at a convention session that they believed Dr. Campisi would work with us in good faith toward a successful implementation of our division for the blind. They said they believed she was truly consumer oriented.
Dr. Campisi is at work in implementing a division for the blind, which will come into being on July 1, 2003. As a longtime member of the Department's Advisory Committee on Services for the Blind, I attended a meeting of this committee on October 10 and 11, 2002. Dr. Campisi reported good progress in the implementation process. Many other BARC people are also members of this advisory committee. This committee, which was made a statutory committee by SB 105, will probably, along with BARC, oversee the implementation efforts.
I believe the BARC concept worked for us in California in passing this historic legislation. California is a very large state. We needed the talent and people-power provided by the many organizations and individuals in BARC. The impact of a fragmented community coming together for a single purpose helped greatly in the legislature, in state government offices, and among possible foes in the broader disability community. I also believe that the NFB of California gained as an organization from our BARC membership. We made contacts and friends through BARC. I believe our organization gained in respect from all of the blindness community in California. I also believe we gained new respect in the state legislature and in state offices. Could we have done this without BARC? Yes, but at a much slower pace. Would the BARC concept work for other Federation affiliates? Only you, the officers and members of these affiliates, can answer this question. I will be happy to help if any of you choose to ask this question.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The United States Capitol]
What to Do in Washington, D.C.
by Sandy Halverson
From the Editor: For a number of years now Sandy Halverson and her efficient volunteer staff have handled the collection and organization of the information Federationists gather during our annual Washington Seminar. Now that Sandy and her husband John have returned to the Greater Washington area, we asked her to gather information about fun things to do in the nation's capital while we are in town during the first week of February and not actually in meetings with members of our congressional delegations. This is what she offers:
At the time of this writing, many of us are making plane and hotel reservations for our upcoming Washington Seminar. Some of us come to our nation's capital a day or two early because of cheaper air fares, or we find that we have blocks of time during the week which our congressional appointment scheduling personnel cannot fill. This sample of museum information is offered to give seminar attendees an opportunity to experience some of our nation's history while we are creating a bit of our own.
The Congressional Special Services Office (CSSO), located in the Capitol, has Braille maps of the tourist areas of Washington. I'm not sure how much of the Mall is covered, but I am told much is included.
This office also has a package of Braille and large-print Capitol-related materials and an audiotape of the public Capitol tour. A table‑top relief map showing the area from the Library of Congress to Union Station, including the Capitol Hill area and the Mall, is located at the CSSO in the crypt of the Capitol--appointments are required to reach the office. Identical maps can be examined inside the South Capitol entrance of the Rayburn Building, ground floor, and outside the Disbursement Office on the first floor of the Hart Building.
Blind people can of course take the usual public tour, or, if the CSSO is contacted in advance, blind visitors can have a more private tour, which includes aural descriptions of paintings as well as an opportunity to touch some of the statues. The office requests as much advanced notice as possible for scheduling special tours. The public tour takes approximately one hour.
Since September 11, access to the Capitol itself has been greatly restricted. Although a valid picture identification is sufficient to enter any of the Congressional office buildings, visiting the Capitol now requires a visitor's pass or gallery pass. These are best obtained from a member of Congress or senator's office. You can contact the CSSO at (202) 224-4048.
Yasmin Reyazuddin, one of our Maryland Federationists, works as a volunteer information specialist at the Smithsonian Institution. She assures us that, if requested, tour guides can show blind visitors tactile reproductions of some items in the museum collections. The National Museum of African Art introduces visitors to native artifacts found in African cultures. Although the National Air and Space Museum has a number of inaccessible displays, it also now boasts a number of others that are designed for tactile exploration. The National Museum of American History is always a popular tourist attraction, and right next door is the National Museum of Natural History with plenty of exhibits to investigate. The Arts and Industries Building is adjacent to the Smithsonian Castle, the first of the Institution's buildings, which now houses the visitors center and a restaurant. The Arts and Industries Building offers a variety of scheduled exhibits that change periodically. The Hirshhorn Museum and sculpture garden displays contemporary art. A unique feature of this museum is the opportunity to examine the sculptures while wearing special gloves.
Staff at the Smithsonian are very willing to make exhibits meaningful to everyone, but cannot work with blind visitors without prior notice. To obtain additional information about specific tours, admission fees, and the nature of exhibits, call the visitors' center at (202) 357‑2700 or go to <www.si.edu>. To make tour arrangements for a specific museum, call the Smithsonian's main number (202) 357-1300 and ask to be connected with the individual museum.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, located near the National Mall, just south of Independence Avenue, SW, between 14th Street and Raoul Wallenberg Place, provides one of the most profoundly moving museum experiences in Washington. Tours with a docent must be arranged at least two weeks before your planned arrival time. For more information or to make tour arrangements, call (202) 488-0400.
One of the many small but delightful collections in the Washington area is the Hillwood Museum and Gardens. It was originally the home of Marjorie Meriwether Post, who collected furniture and objets d'art from Tzarist Russia and the Louis XVI period. Blind visitors are permitted to examine much of this collection, though using gloves for some pieces. This is a very small museum and cafe, so reservations are required for both tours and dining. It is located at 4155 Linnean Ave., NW. For more information call (202) 686-5807 for tours or (202) 686-8505 for the cafe, ext. 8517. The Web site is <www.hillwoodmuseum.org>.
If a narrated tour is more to your liking, contact Old Town Trolley Tours at (202) 832‑9800 or its screen-reader-accessible Web site at <www.oldtowntrolley.com>. This narrative service, rated as outstanding by Washingtonian Magazine, operates between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., with trolleys running every thirty minutes. The Smithsonian Institution museums, Ford's Theater, the White House, and the Capitol are just some of the stops. Passengers may leave the vehicle at any stop and board a later trolley.
If evening sight‑seeing seems in order, the Monuments by Moonlight tour, which takes approximately two and a half hours, leaves from Union Station. This tour is also scheduled through Old Town Trolley Tours at (202) 832‑9800.
Ford's Theater, located at 511 10th Street, NW, can be reached at (202) 426‑6924 or <www.fordstheater.com>. Officials anticipate that renovations currently in progress will be completed by December 2002, at which time daily tours will resume of both Ford's Theater and the Peterson House, the actual location of President Lincoln's death.
For security reasons the popular FBI building tour was discontinued during the summer of 2002. However, a virtual tour is offered at <www.fbi.gov>, but we cannot vouch for its screen-reader accessibility.
Tours of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing take place from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. all business days except federal holidays. This attraction is located at 14th and C Streets, SW, and calling (202) 874‑2330 will give you more information about its unique gift shop.
The Tourmobile tram route circulates between the Smithsonian museums, Arlington Cemetery, the Washington and Jefferson monuments, the Capitol, the White House, the Supreme Court, the FBI building, and the National Arboretum. The Vietnam and Korean War Memorials are also popular stops. Although tickets may be purchased from the driver, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is the closest stationary location to the Holiday Inn Capitol for ticket purchase. For additional information call (202) 554‑5100 or go to <www.tourmobile.com>.
The 2003 events calendar for the International Spy Museum has not yet been released. This establishment introduces ticket holders to various facets of espionage, with weekly programming. Its Web site, <www.spymuseum.org>, is not accessible. I was told that a call to (202) 393‑7798 two weeks ahead was sufficient to arrange a private, hands‑on tour, but two days later another staff person told me that, due to the small number of employees, they could not provide this special service.
If you have questions about local eating establishments or public transportation, check with the hotel concierge desk or in the Mercury Room. Mercury Room workers will not sell you a ticket, but we are glad to do what we can to make your touring more enjoyable.
Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchase--a house, college tuition, or car. The most common forms of planned giving are wills and life insurance policies. There are also several planned giving options through which you can simultaneously give a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, obtain a tax deduction, and receive lifetime income now or in the future. For more information write or call the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Peggy Elliott]
By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them
by Peggy Elliott
From the Editor: Peggy Elliott is second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind. In October President Maurer sent her to represent the NFB at a conference organized and conducted by the Milan Institute of the Blind, where she participated in the conference program by presenting a paper on October 12. She had been asked to discuss the NFB's philosophy of rehabilitation and experience in establishing adult rehabilitation training centers. Her remarks were well received. What follows is the complete text of the speech. The individual components are not surprising, but having them assembled in one place is useful and illuminating. Here is the speech:
I live in the middle of the vast North American tall grass prairie, so farming metaphors come naturally to me. I would like to describe the National Federation of the Blind using the analogy of a working farm, one designed to bring high-quality products to market. In our case, the high-quality products are capable blind people who work, earn salaries in a wide variety of jobs and professions, and participate in their community life.
To achieve a good working farm, the farmers must have four key elements: establishment of the farm; planting of the crop; harvesting of the crop; and marketing of the crop. When the first three elements are present, marketing of the resulting high-quality product is simple.
To begin a farm, the farmers must acquire land, purchase equipment, and assign chores, all based on the fundamental decision of what is to be produced. The Federation didn't begin quite as logically, but its roots determined the path its members have followed.
The Federation was founded by blind men and women from seven states, all of whom were experienced in local advocacy and all of whom were part of state-based organizations composed primarily of blind persons. No government money was involved. From the very beginning those three factors have determined our development: led by the blind; majority blind membership; no government money.
Lack of money meant that Federation members had to use their heads and their hearts as their main resource. Those heads and hearts were primarily within blind people who, in the early years of the organization, worked out a new way of looking at blindness not shared then by governmental professionals serving the blind. Blind people taught and learned from one another and worked out a view of blindness that underlies all Federation work today. The conditions of our founding led to the equipment we chose to use in our work on behalf of the blind, what we call our Federation philosophy.
We Federationists came to believe that the attitude about blindness inside the blind person is the single most important factor determining the blind person's success. We came to believe that basic skills of blindness are almost as important. And we came to believe that collective work by blind people ourselves to convince our sighted fellow citizens of these truths is the third essential factor.
First the attitude: At a time when our sighted peers and blindness professionals were certain that blind people could work in only a few menial jobs, we Federationists began to tell one another that blind people could work in virtually every job and profession. We have a joke that, every time someone says a blind person can't do something, a blind person doing that job turns up. By discussing our dreams among ourselves, we blind people came to define our place in the world as everywhere and not limited to certain professions.
We came to believe that we could achieve this goal of doing whatever our gifts inclined us to do rather than doing only the one or two jobs the world at large believed the blind could do. And we came to believe that the strength and determination to do it comes from each other, from our fellow blind people who encourage us and occasionally give us a shove in the right direction. The sighted workers around us and the world of professionals serving the blind all too often seek to define and to protect and to limit; we blind people among ourselves sought to dream and then to make the dream come true through our own lives and the lives of friends and members of each successive generation of blind people. We came to believe that, if you want to, you can do it, and we came more and more to see fellow blind people doing just that.
The second piece of equipment our founders, leaders, and members found indispensable is a set of blindness skills. These are well-known techniques: Braille, use of a white cane, simple and safe techniques for cooking, using woodworking and metalworking machinery, and in more modern times use of computers. Our use of the equipment, however, has two distinctive aspects not usually taught by professionals.
First, we challenge each other not merely to learn but to achieve mastery of these skills. Not just reading Braille but fast reading of it. Not just writing Braille but fast writing in all settings including where there is no electricity, demanding mastery of the slate and stylus. Another joke: You can always tell a room full of Federationists because some may have laptop computers but virtually everyone will have a slate. Mastery as well of the long white cane and, while we're on the subject, mastery of using a cane long enough to give you fair warning of what is in front of you. We see the cane not as a symbol or a warning to motorists but as a vital tool that keeps us safe and, along with our brains, keeps us on the path and gets us where we are going. Cooking, woodworking, and other daily living skills are abilities in which simple techniques work fine and in which the blind person, once started on the path, can begin to determine how to do other tasks efficiently and without sight.
We call these skills alternative techniques because we believe that, with mastery, these skills are as effective in most cases as the use of sight and, where not quite the same, are still safe and effective. This view of blindness skills is rooted in an attitude about blindness, the notion that blind people can do it, that there must be a way. Once this attitude is embraced and fundamental skills like Braille and cane travel are mastered or at least apprenticed, the skill of learning how to do other tasks becomes routine. In other words, with the positive attitude and the basic skills, the blind person comes to expect of himself or herself performance, achievement, and success that he or she can produce, creating a sense of personal responsibility that continues to grow with experience and success.
The final factor we Federationists learned along with attitude and skills is collective action. We learned that we learn best by teaching others; that other blind people often want to be taught and then become teachers themselves; and that the sighted public is usually willing to learn of our capabilities and pleased to find success where they mistakenly believed only pain and failure existed. Working collectively with each other and also with the sighted public, we are, as Federationists say, changing what it means to be blind. We are offering each other and our sighted fellows a new view of blindness while serving as the teachers and advocates, playing roles often thought impossible for blind people, roles our practice makes us increasingly comfortable in assuming.
These then are the basic equipment and work schedules for our farm: an attitude demanding achievement and success by blind people; mastery of basic blindness skills and the concomitant skill of working out techniques whenever necessary; and the sense of community that commands us to teach and to learn from each other and to serve as ambassadors to the broader sighted community. Once our Federation founders, leaders, and members had understood the lay of the land and the equipment to be used, they had also defined the crop: high-quality blind people suited to perform the many jobs and roles our society demands, allows, and encourages. So, now to the planting of that crop or, said another way, the communication of the attitude, skills, and community to new blind members.
The Federation for its first twenty years planted the seeds in new blind members purely by voluntary association. Blind men and women came together in monthly meetings in their cities, in annual conventions in their states, and in a large national convention once every year. Slowly, by ones and twos, the seeds were planted as each blind person learned the new ways of thinking and then taught them to other blind people. The planting was always one at a time and happened slowly. For each blind person it was a change of attitude, a learning of skills that took years to assimilate and apply before the teaching could begin. What changed this rate of planting was the founding of the first training center for intensive transmission of the attitudes and skills in my home state of Iowa by the Federation's longtime president, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan.
Dr. Jernigan pioneered the concept that planting the seeds of self-reliance and personal responsibility could be speeded up by a sort of immersion in blindness training. He used the Federation's bedrock philosophy about capability flowing from attitude and skills to create a training center in which blind people were immersed in the attitude, drilled in the skills, and drenched in real personal success. Dr. Jernigan's model has now been followed in at least seven private and public centers in the United States in which the seeds are planted every day.
These training centers have found that a good training base takes most blind people about nine months of residential training. That seems to most people a long time, but the investment of time is what makes the difference in the resulting crop. Other training centers require much shorter periods, but their success rates are much lower. Three main differences exist between Federation training centers and all other centers, resulting both in the longer investment of time and in the higher rate of success.
First, a Federation center's staff are all deeply aware of the myths and misconceptions about blindness leading both society in general and blind people in particular to conclude that a blind person can hope for limited achievement in only a few narrow predetermined tracks. For example, I and most blind people I know who lost their sight before college went through a period in which we believed we would become either foreign language interpreters or radio announcers. These are two professions demanding both great skill and great gifts, and most people, including most blind people, don't possess the gift or have the will to acquire the skill. But we blind youngsters figured these were the only two professions we knew about that were based on talking. We didn't realize how much nontalking goes into either profession, and, more important, we didn't realize we were limiting ourselves to a choice of profession based on our blindness. We thought we were being realistic. The staffs at Federation training centers are well aware of how myths and misconceptions about blindness affect all aspects of life, from fear of scrambling eggs to fear of using a band saw to fear of reading Braille aloud to fear of walking to the local grocery store to get a head of lettuce. All these are things most people do naturally as a part of daily life, and most blind people not only don't do them but fear even the attempt. Federation training center staff know this and begin working with each student from the very start both to confront these fears and to learn to overcome them. The teaching of healthy attitudes about blindness begins with the recognition that bad attitudes permeate almost everybody, including blind people who proclaim they are fear-free.
One of the most effective ways this preparing of the ground for planting is done at Federation training centers is by the consistent insistence that a majority of the staff and particularly staff members in key positions be competent blind people. The best refutation of the myth that blind people can't do something is for a blind person to do it, and this holds particularly true in a context in which blind people are learning competence.
Second, every Federation training center has at its core regular discussion classes about blindness. Many students enter a center unable to say the word "blind" comfortably and unable to identify themselves as blind. They are often unable to discuss openly simple failures and hurts occasioned by blindness and to examine such incidents for their real meaning because they feel embarrassed about being blind and yearn to hide the fact from themselves and others. Routine discussion of issues, both great and small, helps prepare the ground for healthy planting of the seeds of self-reliance by giving each student the social context in which failures and hurts occur and helping each to begin to root out the weeds of myth and misconception so that the healthy seeds can grow.
While training center staff portray and discuss good attitudes about blindness, the students are also learning the skills of blindness. These classes provide opportunity for the students to achieve success; it's an axiom that every student is good at some aspect of training, and each student excels at different subjects. In addition, entrance into the training centers is staggered in time so that there are always some beginners, some intermediate students, and some advanced students. The advanced students can help to encourage struggling beginners by telling their stories of how this or that task was hard at first but that they have now achieved competence in it. Advanced students teach by example and naturally provide encouragement to beginners while solidifying what they have learned as apprentice teachers. The result is that every student achieves success in some areas before others and can transition from student to apprentice teacher while working to achieve mastery in the areas in which he or she is not as gifted.
Dr. Jernigan first discovered and the Federation training centers all know that a few weeks or a few months of training is not enough to prepare the ground and to plant deeply the healthy seeds of good attitudes and good skills. Many other U.S. centers boast that their training takes only weeks or a few months, which can seem attractive to the busy adult who loses vision or the teenager eager to enter college with friends. Unfortunately, mere weeks or a few months simply are not enough to prepare the ground and plant successfully. Myths and misconceptions about blindness run very deep in our souls and in our culture, and it takes time to work down through that soil to the roots of those weeds and uproot them. It also takes time for the healthy seeds to implant successfully since most of us first encountering the Federation's approach say something like this to ourselves: "Sure, it would be nice if those optimistic ideas were true. But I've heard lots of people say those same words, and they didn't believe them. I sure don't believe them even if it would be nice to do so." Rooting out the unhealthy weeds and planting healthy seeds is not enough. The seeds must germinate in healthy soil and receive nourishment in their early growth, and this is best provided by that same nourishing training-center atmosphere staffed largely by blind people who believe and live the approach every day.
Dr. Jernigan also discovered that it takes time to implant good skills of blindness. For example, teaching use of the long white cane can be done in a few weeks since the hand and arm motions are basically pretty simple. What takes time to learn well is the unconscious skill, a skill so well known by hand and arm that reaction time is instantaneous. And what takes even longer is learning that the cane can acquire and one's own mind can process information about one's environment sufficient to keep one safe and oriented comfortably and without strain. It's a matter of walking longer and longer routes in more and more complicated patterns until one learns from this repetition that the hand and arm and brain work together smoothly and safely. Instruction for a few weeks can give the outline of the skill but cannot yield the unconscious mastery that daily walking for nine months guarantees. Shorter training, in other words, is merely letting the seed germinate a bit and then sending the student home to make errors; fail to drill daily; and often lapse back into poor habits and, finally, reliance on sighted assistance. Longer training allows germination, sprouting, and growth to full height, during which time the student can make mistakes, learn how to correct them, and develop self-reliance based on a valid faith in cane and brain, all in the nourishing atmosphere that continues to emphasize success.
I might add here that it was in the Federation training centers that the value of the really long white cane was discovered as blind people began to walk at a normal pace and in all conditions, including snow, rain, busy cities, and crowded malls. We discovered that, when the cane extends at least two steps in front of the stepping foot at normal walking pace, it can clear the way and warn of danger, while shorter canes must be uncomfortably stretched forward or simply do not give warning in time. These long white canes can be shortened by dropping the hand to grasp below the handle so that the cane sweeps only a step or a few inches before the stepping foot in crowded areas where the progress of all is slowed by congestion. In other words, the long cane has all options while the shorter cane has only the option of slow speed or danger.
In describing this planting of good attitudes and mastery of skills, I must mention the dedication of training-center staff, who perform the planting. These men and women, most of them blind, consciously serve as role models, deliberately challenge myths about blindness, and teach skills often resisted by blind people who are fearful or unconvinced that the skill will keep them safe. The job is an intensive one, demanding much emotional giving and much patience while each student works through the germination and sprouting at his or her own pace. The teachers must balance simple instruction with both firmness and compassion, knowing for each student when to push and when to comfort. It's a delicate balance, much more demanding than the physical planting of seeds and waiting for growth. Each teacher must know when finally to step back and watch the student finish growing by himself or herself. It's that letting go that marks the truly fine teacher.
At Federation training centers the ground is prepared by suppression of deeply rooted weeds of myth and misconception while healthy seeds of attitude and skill are planted, nourished, and encouraged to grow to full height. The result is a high-quality blind person, ready for anything.
And that's the harvest of these training centers and of the Federation. Dr. Jernigan told the story about wishing to become a lawyer and having the rehabilitation professional inform him that his goal was not feasible. Before I entered the training center that Dr. Jernigan established, I talked with another rehabilitation professional about my vocational goal. Still unsure about what I as a blind person could do for a living, I asked this professional what she recommended. She asked me what I wanted to do. Knowing I didn't know anything about blindness, I asked again, requesting that she tell me what some of her other clients were doing. She asked again what I wanted to do. Puzzled by this refusal to help me define a reasonable goal for a blind person, I asked her what she thought I should do. She asked again what I wanted to do. Having met Dr. Jernigan myself, I began to get the idea that I wasn't going to be guided or pushed in any given direction. So I meekly suggested that I might perhaps become a lawyer. Without a word, the professional spun in her chair, noisily rolled paper into her manual typewriter, and started typing that I was going to be a lawyer. I was vastly impressed that she thought I could actually do it and, I confess now years later, vastly relieved that a sighted woman thought a blind person could do it.
Well, I did it! I hold a law degree from Yale University and have had my own private practice for seventeen years after serving as a government prosecutor and trial lawyer for five years. I learned long ago at that Federation training center that, with good Braille and good cane skills, with a can-do attitude deeply rooted in me, first by role models around me and then by my own success in training, I could do whatever I wanted to do. I proceeded to do it.
And so do well over three-quarters of the graduates from Federation training centers. The harvest is not only competent blind people; it is society reaping the harvest of all its citizens instead of only the sighted ones. It is society receiving taxes from wages and salaries earned by blind people instead of using taxes to support blind people. It is blind people serving, as I do, on my local city's governing body, my husband serving as a deacon in the church, many of my friends serving as Boy Scout or Girl Scout leaders as an outgrowth of their raising children, and I could name hundreds of other vocational and volunteer roles held by blind people after they armor themselves with the attitude and the skills the Federation teaches.
The harvest is one of successful, competent blind people, and this makes the final task of marketing the crop an easy one. The task is made even easier as Federation training centers teach that third element in addition to attitude and skills--the commitment to teach others. By the time a blind person graduates from a Federation center, he or she will be familiar with the myths and misconceptions recently weeded out, with the good attitudes now firmly planted, with the self-esteem that good basic skills provide, and also with the task each blind person has of teaching others around him or her about the competence of the blind while participating in the blind community's collective effort to change what it means to be blind. Excelling in school, seeking out jobs, finding one's place in the community are all part of that original seed that was firmly planted. Instead of being unsure and apologetic about blindness, the training center graduate is imbued with the idea of success and the sense of community that encourages one to succeed for all blind people while receiving support from blind people when inevitable reverses occur.
As the Bible says, "By their fruits ye shall know them." The fruits of the Federation approach, now distilled into the training centers, are self-reliance and personal responsibility by blind people that lead to success, to jobs and payment of taxes, and to taking our places in our communities as valued members or leaders, not because we are blind, but because we are competent and wanted.
To conclude, I must step away from the farming analogy because it has served its purpose. Blind Americans, through their own association and discussion with one another, realized the potential in blind people and made up their minds to make that potential real. We faced two personal barriers: lack of belief in ourselves and lack of skills. Through our organization we began to teach each other the belief and skills. A natural outgrowth of this teaching was the founding of training centers to accelerate the training. The key to our future as individuals and as a group rests with us blind people ourselves. Hundreds of thousands of blind Americans have now picked up the key and unlocked their own futures. Some learned this through the Federation itself, some learned it at the training centers, and some regrettably have chosen to let the key drop to the ground without using it.
The key gives each of us a choice--whether to make the transition to assuming responsibility for our own lives and for our blindness as a part of those lives. Before the Federation, others owned us and our blindness. Many were kindly about it, but family members, professionals in the field, and even occasionally strangers made decisions for us and determined what we could and could not do. With the key of the Federation we have unlocked the door and made the transition to making these decisions (from when we will shop for groceries to what job we will take) for ourselves.
This transition is no different from the transition we encourage teenagers to make into adulthood or the transition a trainer at a work site encourages a new employee to make. At first the young adult or new employee is instructed and guided, but, as time goes along, the instruction and guidance are withdrawn, and the adult or employee makes decisions and succeeds or fails on his or her own. In the same way we Federationists have forged the key of instruction and guidance for blind people, have provided it to each other, and have explained that the result is for each of us to take responsibility for ourselves. Hundreds of thousands of blind Americans have responded enthusiastically and joined the ranks of people changing what it means to be blind.
We have found one final fact about those myths and misconceptions about blindness. Vigorously as they may be uprooted, they still try to creep back into the souls of blind people and into the broader society where the weeding has been less complete. Whether it is an employer refusing to hire a blind person, a judge declaring that blind parents are unfit to raise their blind child, a church insisting that all blind parishioners must sit together at the back of the church, or a health spa rejecting a blind person as a member, myths and misconceptions about blindness still bedevil the daily life of every blind person, even those proudly carrying and using the key of Federationism, and to some degree more for them, since these are the blind men and women stepping out of the roles prescribed for the blind and into the role of a citizen likely to appear anywhere and do anything other citizens do. We have found that working collectively to continue to bring about social change is the best way for each of us as individuals to keep our attitudes and skills fresh and vibrant and also the best way to keep changing what it means to be blind in the broader society.
The goal is simple and achievable: Instill in every blind person a sense of self-reliance and personal responsibility and expect each one to take his or her place in society, reaping the benefits and bearing the burdens other citizens do without predetermining those benefits or burdens by social custom or professional intervention. The method is equally well-known: teach each blind person the attitude and skills that lead to self-reliance. The barriers to achieving this are clearest of all: social certainty that blind people are weak links and should be sheltered rather than empowered or, even worse, set firmly on the sidelines so no one has to think about them. We in the National Federation of the Blind have learned that the barriers can be swept aside and the goal attained only when we associate with other blind people, forge our own futures, and remember that, until all blind people achieve this freedom, we are all still held back by those weeds of myth and misconception.
The words are true. The pattern works. The key is real. And the future for blind people is unlimited if only we ourselves will grasp and live it and if only we are strong enough to overcome the social attitudes that either hold us back or label us as unimportant.
Our challenge is to believe, to learn, and to recruit others to do the same. Knowing this and believing it, the only way we blind people can fail is for us to abandon belief, to decline mastery of skills, and to accept that our lives will be bounded and defined by the decisions of others. I for one don't plan to live that way, and I encourage every other blind person and sighted people of good will to take the same oath.
Peirce Makes It Possible for Blind and Visually Impaired
Students to Earn a College Degree
by Patricia Rucker
From the Editor: Patricia Rucker is chief academic officer and dean of Peirce College in Philadelphia. As the following article explains, the school has made a commendable effort to make certain that its online course offerings are completely accessible to students using access technology. School officials have worked closely with the NFB technology department to ensure that they did things right from the beginning.
This report does not attempt to be objective, but it does seem to be accurate, and we thought that Braille Monitor readers would want to know where they might turn for truly accessible course work and degree programs online.
For over 137 years Peirce College has made it possible for many people to achieve their educational and career dreams. Peirce has been educating leaders throughout business, industry, government, and the professions since its inaugural year of operation in 1865. Continuing this tradition, Peirce's recent partnership with eCollege is providing a new realm of convenience for the blind and visually impaired to achieve their educational and career dreams.
With so much in the news about distance education and Web-based learning, the visually impaired must wonder if this exciting new way of getting a college degree is accessible to them. The answer is "yes." ECollege, the Application Service Provider (ASP) for Peirce's Online Program, and Peirce College have partnered in their goal of providing convenient Web-based learning for blind students. For three years eCollege conducted field research that included attending assistive-technology conferences and trade shows to learn how the technology ameliorates the issues of disability. As a result of this research, eCollege assures that Peirce College's Online Program is Section-508-compliant, which translates to a certain standard of basic-level usability.
ECollege tested the screen-reader software with assistive technology. A group of expert disabled users tested the software and equipment to determine its ease of use. These testers represented new and experienced users and some graduates of the Colorado Center for the Blind. ECollege has a relationship with the Colorado Center for the Blind, providing important internship opportunities, and recently hired a graduate of that program. Joel Sanda, standards and accessibility consultant for eCollege, said, "This is the real proof. Can a blind person support our sighted users? Yes, it happens quite often. Users calling eCollege's help desk don't know they're being helped by a blind person."
Peirce is a four-year specialized private college dedicated to providing practical, leading-edge curricula to primarily working adult learners. Jon Lenrow, manager of the online program, described the program, "We are committed to providing access to students through flexible and convenient educational programs. Our courses are accelerated at seven weeks each, six sessions per year, and students may enroll in online classes every month. The online courses are available anytime, anywhere, year round with 24/7/365 help desk support." Peirce has reinforced its commitment to providing access to education for all students as a result of this combined initiative with eCollege to serve visually impaired students.
Peirce's Online Program, which has been certified by eCollege as 508-compliant, provides the convenience and flexibility that today's learners desire in order to meet the many challenges of work and family while continuing their education. Peirce College offers bachelor's and associate's degrees in business administration with concentrations in management and marketing. A bachelor's in business administration with a concentration in real estate management is also available. The Association of Collegiate Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) accredits the business administration program.
Peirce's highly successful information technology (IT) associate's and bachelor's degrees are available online with a concentration in technology management. The IT concentration in networking is another highly popular option available at the associate's level.
An exciting career degree program for students interested in the legal profession is paralegal studies, which is approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). The ABA requires students to take four of the paralegal courses on campus in a classroom, but all other courses may be taken online.
Peirce is a student-centered institution offering a curriculum focused on learning, student performance, and practical application. For each course and each degree program faculty members have identified specific learning outcomes students are expected to achieve. Online student support services, such as tutoring, library research, and career counseling, are available to help students achieve their academic and career goals. Another exciting feature about Peirce's online program is the individual support and attention that students receive from their program advisor, available online as well.
ECollege has tested and confirmed that Peirce's courseware, and <www.peirceonline.net> Web site is Section-508-compliant. While the courseware is compliant, various offices at Peirce College will need to work toward providing reasonable accommodations for blind students. For example, student academic support is available in the Walker Center for Academic Excellence, which offers tutoring and academic and career advising through e-mail and phone conferences. The library has many Web-based databases and services for students. Other areas of Peirce College such as the Registrar and the Business and Financial Aid offices will be more than willing to provide accommodations in order to support blind students. Peirce has a can-do attitude that blind students will find supportive in working toward their educational and career goals.
Peirce College is fully accredited by the Middle States Association Commission on Higher Education.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: This banner was flying over one of the busiest intersections in Burbank, California, the day of the NFB of California's wine and cheese reception and silent auction. The event was also a highly successful effort to educate the public about the many programs of the National Federation of the Blind.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Members of the Atlanta Metropolitan Chapter of the NFB of Georgia staffed a series of information booths in malls and governmental buildings around Atlanta during Meet-the-Blind Month.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Shirley Barksdale, Treasurer of the Atlanta Metropolitan Chapter, presents the Member-of-the-Year-Award to Melissa Imtiaz at the chapter’s first annual Black Tie – White Cane Appreciation Banquet while second vice president Keith Tonge looks on. ]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB of Florida Polk Chapter members Donna Kelly, Joe Dobbs, and April Stanley cross a busy intersection during the chapter’s White Cane Walk.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB of Florida East Hillsborough Chapter member Tom Goldman, Sophia Brennar, Janice Butler, Susan Strasavich, and Merry Schoch join the chapter’s annual White Cane Safety Day walk.]
NFB Launches National Meet-the-Blind Campaign
by Lorinda Riddle
From the Editor: Lorinda Riddle serves as coordinator of public affairs at our national office. Here is her report on Meet-the-Blind-Month activities during this last October:
This year's national convention attendees in Louisville well remember the introduction of Whozit, the dynamic symbol in our new logo. And just as many remember the announcement of our Meet-the-Blind Campaign, the first step in presenting that new logo to the public.
The annual campaign is a coordinated, nationwide project planned and designed to provide occasions for Americans to meet blind people and learn firsthand about their lives--for example, the way they manage day-to-day tasks and the fact that blind people are like the sighted with the same joys and concerns. This October it also provided an excellent opportunity to introduce our new NFB logo to the public to help Whozit become a nationally known symbol, instantly identifiable as the representative of the Voice of the Nation's Blind.
Many affiliates and chapters responded with great enthusiasm to the campaign and overwhelmingly participated in our first Meet-the-Blind Month this October. Over half of our state affiliates organized events, sponsoring more than fifty affiliate and chapter activities across the country. State affiliate presidents Nancy Burns, Anil Lewis, Sharon Maneki, Roland Payne, and Mark Riccobono were very helpful in providing details about their states' Meet-the-Blind-Month activities to the national office, which enabled us to publicize the many local events on the NFB's Web site. For the complete list of affiliate and chapter activities, go to <www.nfb.org> and the Meet-the-Blind Campaign link.
Using the Meet-the-Blind Campaign Guide, affiliate and chapter members organized walk-a-thons, picnics, and fundraisers and invited residents of their states to join them at state conventions. People were given handouts of our new, colorful NFB alphabet cards (proudly displaying our Whozit logo) and Meet-the-Blind fliers. They were also shown our Meet the Blind¾ In Our Voices video.
Of the known Meet-the-Blind-Month events, NFB's of California, Georgia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Wisconsin held more than twenty-six. Events ranged from state conventions (thirteen in all) to fundraisers, such as Atlanta's gospel sing, to West Virginia's NFB-NEWSLINE® conference and Wisconsin's walk-a-thons. But most groundbreaking of all was NFB of Florida's Meet-the-Blind-Month Web page listing various chapters' events. Affiliate president Wayne Davis and NFB of Florida Webmaster Dan Hicks provided this great example of the Web's potential for linking local affiliate and chapter Web sites with the national organization's Web site.
For many chapters the traditional observance of White Cane Safety Day went on as planned with the incorporation of materials from the Meet-the-Blind Campaign, thereby maintaining a traditional NFB event while introducing Whozit to the public.
The national headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland, launched its month-long series of activities with a noontime rally at Baltimore's Harbor Place, featuring local celebrity Gerry Sandusky, sports anchor for WBAL TV-11 Sports, and our own NFB member and blind mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer. Erik, who had just returned from his NFB-sponsored seventh summit expedition, provided a rock-climbing demonstration at the rally, as he and other NFB members scaled a thirty-foot climbing wall. Erik was also the keynote speaker at the Federation's 2002 Celebration--A Festival of Achievement.
There you have a brief overview of what happened during the 2002 Meet-the-Blind Campaign. It is not too soon to begin discussions of what chapters and affiliates want to plan for next October, and don't forget to keep the national office informed about your decisions.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Skiing guide Mark Masto and blind skier Mark Davis in action]
Why You Should Take a Risk
by Julie Deden
From the Editor: Julie Deden is the director of the Colorado Center for the Blind, one of our three NFB adult training centers. She was recently reminded of one of the primary reasons our adult training philosophy is effective and life-changing. This is what she says:
Have you ever been asked to do something that you don't really want to do? How do you handle this? Do you say no immediately? Do you always say yes? Or do you avoid the situation altogether? Why do we avoid certain tasks or situations? At our NFB centers we teach our students to be honest with themselves about challenges. Many times we avoid situations and activities out of fear. We think, "Can I do this?" "What will happen if I fail?" So, rather than taking on the challenges, we attempt to hide from them. Sometimes we rationalize. One might say, "I really don't have the time," or, "I have done this before, so why do it again?"
As blind people we face unique challenges each day such as going to an unfamiliar place for the first time or convincing an employer that we can easily handle all aspects of a job and that we should be hired. The challenges that we face are not insurmountable; they can be dealt with and conquered. In order to tackle these challenges head on, we must have inner strength and tenacity. If people say, "You can't do that; you are blind," we need to educate them and show them that they are mistaken.
That is why we challenge our students at our NFB training centers. We don't just go rock climbing and skiing because it is fun; we go because we want our students to know that they can face and conquer challenges.
Last week Sumara Shakeel, one of our travel instructors, sent Steve out on an independent travel route. Steve was to go to the hardware store in downtown Littleton and purchase some items for the center. On his way out the door, Steve stopped by my office and told me that he could not go on the route because he was not ready for this. I told Steve that he was ready and that he needed to complete this assignment. Steve grudgingly walked out the door and went on his way. When he returned, Steve had all of the items and was glowing. He thanked Sumara and me for having the confidence in him that he does not yet quite possess himself. Steve needed that encouragement to complete his assignment and gained a great deal of confidence in himself as a result of this experience.
So be honest with yourself when you hesitate to do something. If you let your blindness stop you from fully participating in all aspects of life, consider training at an NFB center.
Last winter I had the opportunity to ski in Vail through a very exciting program. I was scared to death because I had not downhill skied for many years. I really did not know if I wanted to go, but I realized that fear was stopping me. Then I thought, "Julie, you are the director of the Colorado Center for the Blind. You are a role model and need always to push yourself as you ask the students to do." So I went skiing, had a great time, and gained confidence in myself as a result. I was sore but happy.
If you are looking for challenge and fun at the same time, Foresight Ski Guides will give you exactly what you are looking for. With an annual contribution of $50 you can ski at many resorts in Colorado. You will receive a five-day lift ticket, trained ski guide, new equipment rental, transportation assistance, and lodging assistance. Contact Mark Davis at (866) 860-0972 for more information.
So whether you are skiing in Colorado or challenging yourself in any other way, remember to take that risk. You'll be happy you did.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Walker]
A Morsel to Chew On
by Barbara Walker
From the Editor: Barbara Walker is a longtime leader in the NFB of Nebraska. She chairs the Nebraska Commission for the Blind. She is also a lifelong Braille user and advocate. Recently Barbara wrote the following piece for consideration by a group of teachers. It appeared in the summer/fall edition of News from Blind Nebraskans, a publication of the NFB of Nebraska. Here it is:
Feeling overwhelmed about how to deal with the topic of the importance of quality Braille, I suddenly remembered the answer to the question, "How do you eat an elephant?" The answer is, of course, "One bite at a time." So here's a morsel to chew on:
Imagine that you're sitting in class at school. A packet of Braille is set before you. The teacher asks the class to scan the headings quickly and sing out whenever students find one. All around you others are doing just that. Frantically you begin to read, hoping to determine from the context what might be a heading. You wonder how they're doing it.
By now the room is quieting down. "Wow! That was a cinch," someone says. "What's next?"
"Tell me now," you hear the teacher say, "which section on page 2 has the most expensive item in it." Even more unsure now, you check the top right-hand corner of the second page. No number is there. You wonder if you should continue looking for headings so that you can distinguish one item from another, or if you should keep trying to find page 2.
While you are contemplating, the teacher comes by and says, "You look upset. Am I going too fast for you? They said you could work at grade level if you had the material in Braille, but if you can't follow even these simple directions, I don't know."
What is the problem here? Both you and the teacher understandably assume that your Braille text is identical to the print version from which the others are working. The reality is most likely that this is not the case. While the actual text may be the same, chances are that the formatting isn't. If the material was merely run through a scanner and Braille translation software, there may be no indicators--nothing centered, no blank lines, no hanging or indented paragraphs. Everything could be flush left--just one big mass of text. This might be so even if the printed text was in columns, since lines may commingle, making the information incomprehensible.
As for the page numbers, perhaps they weren't Brailled. Maybe page 1 in print took several pages in Braille, so checking the second page of Braille would reveal no number. And had you started looking in earnest for items and costs, it's possible that the dollars-and-cents symbols might have been embossed in either literary or Nemeth code or a combination of the two.
When we conclude either that a blind student is unable to grasp simple concepts or that Braille is necessarily slower and more cumbersome to use, we are missing the point. Braille, like print, is most useful when producers, proofreaders, and readers are properly trained. Let's try giving the same attention to producing quality Braille that we show for producing clear print, and then let's expect the same level of performance from blind and sighted students alike. Watch how quickly the elephant of misconception gets gobbled up.
PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Maneki]
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 2003
by Sharon Maneki
From the Editor: Sharon Maneki is president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2003.
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 2003 convention next July. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $1,000, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children early in the convention.
Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind students or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the national convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.
The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording him or her the opportunity to take part in seminars and workshops on educational issues, to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators.
Please complete the application and attach the following:
* A letter of nomination from someone (parent, co-worker, supervisor, etc.) who knows your work;
* A letter of recommendation from someone who knows you professionally and knows your philosophy of teaching; and
* A letter from you discussing your beliefs and approach to teaching blind students. In your letter you may wish to discuss topics such as the following:
· What are your views about when and how students should use Braille, large print, tape recordings, readers, magnification devices, computers, electronic note-takers, and other technology? * How do you decide whether a child should use print, Braille, or both?
· When do you recommend that your students begin instruction in the use of a slate and stylus, of a Braille writer?
· How do you determine which students should learn cane travel (and when) and which should not?
· When should keyboarding be introduced?
· When should a child be expected to hand in print assignments independently?
National Federation of the Blind
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
Deadline: May 15, 2003
Use a separate sheet of paper and answer the following:
* List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study.
* How long and in what programs have you worked with blind children?
* In what setting do you currently work?
* Briefly describe your current job and teaching responsibilities.
* Describe your current caseload, e.g., number of students, ages, multiple disabilities, number of Braille-reading students, etc.
Attach the three required letters to this application and send all material by May 15, 2003, to Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman, Teacher Award Committee, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, Maryland 21045, (410) 715-9596
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Benson]
The 2003 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: Steve Benson is a member of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind. He also chairs the committee charged with identifying each year's Blind Educator of the Year. Here is what he has to say:
A number of years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators (the teachers division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. This change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.
This award is given in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information but also provides guidance and advocacy. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $1,000.
Nominations should be sent to Steve Benson, 7020 North Tahoma, Chicago, Illinois 60646. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current résumé and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 15, 2003, to be considered for this year's award.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kevan Worley]
Letter to Blind Vendors:
Suggestion to Us All
by Kevan Worley
From the Editor: Kevan Worley is president of the National Association of Blind Merchants. He has been working with his division to raise funds for the capital campaign. Here is one of his letters:
Dear Fellow Blind Vendor,
As you may know, I am working with other blind leaders in the important effort of raising funds for the Campaign to Change What It Means to Be Blind. We are now in the midst of raising funds for the new NFB National Research and Training Institute for the Blind (NRTIB), and I have been asked to contact my fellow blind vendors and merchants. The goal blind vendors originally set was to raise at least $1,000,000, and over sixty blind vendors have already contributed more than $600,000, an achievement of which we can be proud.
As blind vendors you and I have been extraordinary beneficiaries of the work of the National Federation of the Blind. The rights and opportunities in the Randolph-Sheppard vending program we enjoy result from the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind. Like you, I have received far more benefit than I can possibly repay. However, I have made my pledge toward this historic project, and I am asking you, if you have not already done so, to do the same. My thanks to all of you who have already contributed.
Since its founding in 1940, the NFB has worked zealously to achieve the objectives set by Dr. tenBroek and other founders--to promote the economic and social welfare of the blind. Nowhere more than in the vending program has this goal been achieved.
For more than half a century NFB members and supporters have sought to integrate blind people into American society on the basis of equal rights and equal responsibilities. The NFB is built on a philosophy of self-help, self-respect, productive employment, and independence of spirit.
The National Research and Training Institute for the Blind will be connected to the National Center for the Blind, which houses the NFB's National Headquarters in Baltimore. I have enclosed a brochure that tells you more. The NRTIB's programs will focus on five related areas:
*Developing model programs enabling blind and visually impaired people to find jobs
*Undertaking research and developing products that allow the blind access to information technology
*Seeking to change the public's perception of the nature of blindness through information and resources
*Improving education for blind children, especially increasing Braille literacy
*Creating special programs for those who become blind as they age.
As of this writing we have received gifts and pledges totaling $16 million of our original $18 million goal. It is a great start, but we have a long way to go. The estimated cost for construction of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind when we began the Capital Campaign was $18 million. We have worked hard to keep costs in line, but we want a building which will be substantial enough and equipped well enough to serve our purposes for at least the next fifty years. As often occurs, the cost estimates were not quite high enough. The current projected cost is approximately $19.5 million.
Many doubted that we would be able to raise the money for the research and training institute. However, we always keep our promises--especially the ones we make to ourselves. As I have already said, we have gifts and pledges in hand totaling $16 million. This includes $3 million from the state of Maryland, and we have the prospect of an additional $3 million in appropriations from the state. This last $3 million appropriation has not yet been made, but we have been informed that it is quite likely that it will be, so we are very close to our revised goal of $19.5 million.
Please do two things. First, make a pledge toward this very important project. Second, make your pledge in an amount that lets your conscience say, "This is my best effort." Again my thanks to all of you who have already contributed.
Remember that your pledge can be paid over a five-year period. That is to say, your $10,000 commitment can be paid at the rate of $2,000 per year or $500 per quarter, if that is easier. A pledge of $5,000 can be paid at the rate of $1,000 per year or $250 per quarter, if that is easier. You can do the math. Larger gifts will result in larger annual payments, smaller gifts, in smaller ones. Pledges from blind vendors so far range from $100,000 over five years to $500 over five years. Every pledge or gift, no matter the amount, is critical.
You can give securities or stocks which have increased in value since you purchased them. When you do this, the building fund receives the full value of your annual pledge, and you do not have to pay a capital gains tax on the appreciated stocks you give. Of course you should consult your tax advisor on the tax implications of any gift or pledge.
A permanent wall bearing the inscribed names of individual donors above the $5,000 level will be displayed prominently in the new facility to recognize contributors. All contributors, including those below $5,000, will be listed in the appropriate gift level on the Campaign Honor Roll to be published and announced during the campaign victory celebrations.
$1,000,000+Jernigan Circle, Master Builder
$ 500,000+President's Circle, Program Builder
$ 250,000+Director's Circle, Opportunity
$ 100,000+Leader's Circle, Independence
Doubtless you will have questions. Please feel free to call me at (303) 306-7122 or call Vince Connelly at (410) 659-9314, extension 368.
In the meantime, please think back and add up the benefits you have received by virtue of the work of Dr. Maurer, Jim Gashel, Don Morris, and others who have vigorously defended the Randolph-Sheppard vending program and your rights and mine to work and earn and be responsible. Many of you attended the BLAST Conference in Las Vegas and heard all that the NFB is doing for every blind vendor. Rest assured that the National Association of Blind Merchants will continue to lead the way to greater opportunities for all blind vendors.
Some over the years have believed that most blind vendors care about nothing but the price of Pepsi. Together we are proving false this old stereotype of those who participate in the Randolph-Sheppard program. Together, with our support for the National Research and Training Institute, you and I prove with our financial commitment that we care about opportunity for the blind of today and the blind of tomorrow. Thank you.
President, National Association of Blind Merchants
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim McCarthy]
Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2003
by James McCarthy
From the Editor: Jim McCarthy is assistant director of governmental affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. Here is his annual Social Security summary:
With another new year come annual adjustments in Social Security programs. The changes include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, Social Security and SSI cost‑of‑living increases, and changes in deductible and coinsurance requirements under Medicare. Here are the new facts for 2003:
FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers remains at 7.65 percent. This rate includes payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund of 6.2 percent and an additional 1.45 percent payment to the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, from which payments under Medicare are made. Self‑employed persons continue to pay a Social Security tax of 15.3 percent, which includes 12.4 percent paid to the OASDI trust fund and 2.9 percent paid to the HI trust fund.
Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 2002 the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI trust fund was $84,900. This ceiling rises to $87,000 for 2003. All earnings are taxed for the HI trust fund.
Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits is based in large part on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage during a single year. During 2002 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $870 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $3,480 for the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage. In 2003 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $890 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $3,560.
Trial Work Period Limit: Beginning in 2001, the SSA established a rule that changes the amount of earnings required to use a trial work month. This change is announced with the cost of living adjustments each year. In 2002 the amount was $560, and in 2003 it rises to $570. In cases of self-employment, a trial work month can also be used if a person works more than eighty hours, and this limit remains the same each year.
Exempt Earnings: The monthly earnings exemption for blind people who receive disability insurance benefits was $1,300 of gross earned income during 2002. In 2003 earnings of $1,330 or more per month, before taxes, for a blind SSDI beneficiary will show substantial gainful activity after subtracting any unearned (or subsidy) income and applying any deductions for impairment‑related work expenses.
Social Security Benefit Amounts: All Social Security benefits are increased by 1.4 percent beginning with the checks received in January, 2003. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.
Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January 2003, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $552 per month; couples, $829 per month. These amounts are increased from individuals, $545 per month; couples, $817 per month.
Student Earned Income Exclusion: The Student Earned Income Exclusion is adjusted each year. Last year the monthly amount was $1,320, and the maximum yearly amount was $5,340. In 2003 these amounts increase to $1,340 per month and $5,410 per year.
Medicare Deductibles and Coinsurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The coinsurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's coinsurance amount.
The Part A coinsurance amount charged for hospital services within a benefit period of not longer than sixty days was $812 during 2002 and is increased to $840 during 2003. From the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day there is a daily coinsurance amount of $210 per day, up from $203 in 2002. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty lifetime reserve days, which may be used after a ninety-day benefit period has ended. Once used, after any benefit period these reserve days are no longer available. The coinsurance amount to be paid during each reserve day used in 2003 is $420, up from $406 in 2002.
Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days within a benefit period. From the twenty-first day through the one-hundredth day in a benefit period the Part A coinsurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility is $105 per day, up from $101.50 per day in 2002.
For most beneficiaries there is no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for ninety-three months after the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 2003 is $316 per month. This is reduced to $174 for individuals who have earned at least thirty quarters of coverage under Social Security-covered employment.
The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at $100 in 2003. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B basic monthly premium rate charged to each beneficiary for the year 2003 is $58. (The 2002 premium rate was $54.) This premium payment is deducted from Social Security benefit checks. Individuals who remain eligible for Medicare but are not receiving Social Security benefits because of working pay this premium directly.
Programs Which Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for help with payments. Assistance is available through two programs--QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program) and SLMB (Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program).
Under the QMB program states are required to pay the Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium ($58 in 2003). Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.
Both programs are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in conjunction with the states. In order to qualify, the income of an individual or couple must be less than the poverty guidelines currently in effect. The guidelines are revised annually and were last announced in February of 2002. New guidelines will be issued in February or March of 2003. The rules vary from state to state, but in general the following can be said:
A person may qualify for the QMB program if his or her income is less than $759 per month for an individual and $1015 per month for a couple. These amounts apply for residents of forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income threshold used to define poverty is less than $944 per month for an individual and $1,265 per month for couples. In Hawaii income must be less than $870 per month for an individual and $1,165 per month for couples.
For the SLMB program the income of an individual cannot exceed $906 per month or $1,214 for a couple in forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income amount is $1,128 for an individual and $1,513 for couples. An individual in Hawaii qualifies if his or her income is less than $1,040 per month; for couples the amount is $1,394.
Resources--such as bank accounts or stocks--may not exceed $4,000 for one person or $6,000 for a family of two. (Resources generally are things you own. However, not everything is counted. The house you live in, for example, doesn't count, and in some circumstances your car may not count either.)
If you qualify for assistance under the QMB program, you will not have to pay:
* Medicare's hospital deductible amount, which is $840 per benefit period in 2003;
* The daily coinsurance charges for extended hospital and skilled nursing facility stays;
* The Medicare Medical Insurance (Part B) premium, which is $58 per month in 2003;
* The $100 annual Part B deductible;
* The 20 percent coinsurance for services covered by Medicare Part B, depending on which doctor you go to.
If you qualify for assistance under the SLMB program, you will not have to pay the $58 monthly Part B premium.
If you think you qualify but you have not filed for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from your local Social Security office or Social Security's toll‑free number, (800) 772‑1213.
Remember, only your state can decide if you are eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB program. So, if you are elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local welfare or social service agency to apply. For more information about either program, call the CMS's toll‑free telephone number, (800) 633-4227.
Women Volunteers Needed
by Barbara Pierce
The Committee on the Status of Blind Women of the World Blind Union is eager to establish an international registry and network of blind women to support and assist women around the world. Members of the women's committee in this region are doing what we can to notify blind women in the United States and Canada of this opportunity and invite them to participate and perhaps help women in less developed countries by sharing our experience and by learning from them.
You can support this effort by filling out the following registration form or going to <www.wbuwomen.org>. Select the link, The Work of WBU Women’s Committee, then choose the link, Women’s Register, to fill out the form online. Here is the form:
WBU Women's Network Registration Form
Please return to:
PO Box 229 PRAHRAN VIC 3181 AUSTRALIA
FAX: 61 3 9521 3832
You are invited to complete all questions; however, if you are unable to answer any or choose not to answer some, we welcome you to participate at the level you feel most comfortable.
Date of birth:
Reading format: print/large print/Braille/audiocassette/diskette
Access to a computer: Yes/No
Do you have e-mail? Yes/No If yes, address:
If you have a personal e-mail address, would you like to be included in the e-mail discussion list? Yes/No
If yes, what is your e-mail address?
Are you active in your national organization of the blind and partially sighted? No/Yes
If yes, what is your position?
Is this a voluntary or paid job? voluntary/paid
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From the Editor: This month's recipes are from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ryan Osentowski]
Frozen Oreo Delight
by Ryan Osentowski
Ryan Osentowski (better known as Ryan O) is the secretary of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska, first vice president of the Lincoln chapter, and the NFB-NEWSLINE® coordinator for Nebraska.
1 package Oreo cookies, crushed
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream
1 small jar crunchy peanut butter
1 8-ounce container of Cool Whip
1 jar hot fudge sauce
Method: In large bowl soften ice cream and stir in peanut butter, then fold in Cool Whip. Set aside 2/3 cup crushed Oreos and spread the remaining cookie crumbs over bottom of 9-by-13-inch pan. Pour ice cream mixture over crushed cookies. Top mixture with remaining crushed cookies. Place in freezer for two to three hours, until set. To serve, remove from freezer and cut into squares. Top with warmed hot fudge sauce. You'll be happy for a week.
by Amy Buresh
Amy Buresh is the newly elected first vice president of the NFB of Nebraska and president of the Lincoln chapter. She works as a transition counselor at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind.
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup oil
2 cups lukewarm water
Method: Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir until all lumps have been removed. Pour batter into a greased 9-by-13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty to forty minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center of the cake comes out clean.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Robert Leslie Newman]
Quick and Easy Taco Pie
by Robert Leslie Newman
Robert Leslie Newman is secretary of the Omaha, Nebraska, chapter. He is a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He is married to a second-grade teacher, and they have a sixteen-year-old daughter. He is also the author of the blindness discussion forum called Thought Provoker: URL <http://whitsacre.info/vip>.
1 pound of pre-mixed and refrigerated dough for bread or pizza
1 pound of ground beef or shredded beef or chicken
1 package of taco seasonings
diced onions, optional
chopped green peppers, optional
Method: Slice and dice optional vegetables, your choice as to how fine. Fry meat with prepared vegetables in a skillet, draining grease at end of cooking process. Mix in taco seasonings, following package directions (usually stir in with 3/4 cup of water). Prepare dough by flattening it on a greased metal sheet or wide oven pan; flatten dough as thin as possible, keeping in mind that you will pour the cooked meat mixture into the middle of the flattened dough. After transferring meat mixture to dough, pull up all sides of the dough to enclose the meat mixture completely, crimping the dough to seal. Place the cooking sheet and taco pie in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on whether you like your bread chewy or crisp. Allow to cool a little before slicing in generous pieces; offer additional toppings such as lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, olives, hot sauce, etc.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Nancy Oltman]
Cheesy Vegetable Bread
by Nancy Oltman
Nancy Oltman says, "I have been a member of the NFB since 1975 and have served in various positions in my local chapter and on the Nebraska state board, currently as second vice president. I enjoy cooking, crocheting, and entering cooking contests. This is my favorite homemade bread recipe; the aroma while it is baking will make your mouth water."
5-1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages active dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped green or red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Method: In a large bowl combine two cups of the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Mix with a spoon. Add the water and vegetable oil. Mix with an electric mixer on low until combined. Then increase speed of mixer and beat for two minutes to dissolve the yeast thoroughly. Add another cup of flour and beat an additional minute. At this point stir in the vegetables and cheese with a wooden spoon. Add enough of the remaining flour using the wooden spoon and eventually by kneading with your hands to make a medium stiff dough. Dough will seem a little sticky when finished; when dough has nearly enough flour, you can grease your hands with a little vegetable oil or lard to insure thorough mixing without overdoing the flour. (Kneading is best done on a lightly floured surface on your counter.) Continue kneading until dough is thoroughly combined and elastic, about ten minutes. Grease bottom of large bowl and place dough in it, turning once to grease top of dough. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise in warm place until double in size, thirty to forty-five minutes. Punch down dough. (You will probably need to grease your hands again for this.) Knead briskly to remove all air pockets. Generously grease two 9-by-5-inch bread pans. Divide dough in half. Shape loaves and place in pans. Cover and allow to rise to almost double in size, about thirty minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake loaves fifty to fifty-five minutes or until golden brown and tapping loaves with your finger produces a hollow sound. Remove from pan and allow to cool before cutting (that is, if you can wait that long). This bread is great toasted. Yields two loaves.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Nancy Coffman]
Carrots au Gratin
by Nancy Coffman
Nancy Coffman has been a member of the National Federation of the Blind since the early 1980's. She joined during her wild college days in Greeley, Colorado, after being recruited by the Colorado Student Division. She loves to eat, and this tantalizing dish makes a great excuse. It is popular at potluck dinners. If you take it to a dinner, you won't be hauling it home.
2/3 cup Kellogg's Corn Flakes crumbs
3 tablespoons margarine, melted
1/3 cup chopped onion
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1-1/2 cups low-fat milk
2/3 cup reduced-fat shredded American cheese
4-1/2 cups cooked, sliced carrots, drained (about 1-1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
Method: In small bowl or shallow pan combine Kellogg's Corn Flakes crumbs and 1 tablespoon of the margarine. Set aside. Add onion to remaining margarine. Sauté over low heat. Add flour, salt, and pepper. Stir in milk. Increase heat to medium; cook until bubbly and thickened, stirring constantly. Add cheese. Stir until smooth. Stir in carrots and parsley flakes. Spread in shallow 1-1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle top with crumb mixture. Bake in 350 degree oven about twenty minutes or until bubbly and crumbs are golden brown. Serve warm.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Cheryl Livingston]
by Cheryl Livingston
Cheryl has served as treasurer of the Nebraska affiliate for the past fourteen years. She is also secretary of the Lincoln chapter of the NFB of Nebraska. Cheryl enjoys cooking, reading, and spending time with her two cats, Snooper and Tammy. You can double this recipe to serve at a party or picnic.
1 box Kraft macaroni and cheese dinner
1 6-ounce can tuna
1 8-ounce can peas, drained
2 cups celery, chopped
onion to taste
1 8-ounce jar Miracle Whip
Method: Cook the macaroni and cheese dinner according to package directions. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Chill. This is a quick and easy salad any time of the year.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jane Lansaw]
by Jane Lansaw
Jane Lansaw is a member of the board of the NFB of Nebraska and treasurer of the Omaha chapter. She says it isn't Christmas without Grandpa's divinity. You heard me, not Grandma's, Grandpa's. This W.W. II veteran was as handy in the kitchen as he was in the toolshed.
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup white corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water
2 egg whites, beaten stiff
1 teaspoon vanilla
Method: Combine sugar, corn syrup, and hot water in sauce pan. Cook to soft-ball stage, 238 degrees on a candy thermometer. Add half of this syrup gradually to egg whites, beating constantly. Continue cooking other half of syrup until it reaches hard-ball stage, 250 degrees. Continue beating the egg white mixture, adding remaining syrup gradually. Add vanilla. Continue beating until cool. Add one cup of chopped nuts or chopped candied cherries, or a few drops of food coloring. Soft-ball and hard-ball stages can be identified by dropping a small bit of the boiling liquid into very cold water so that it can be tested with the fingers. The soft ball feels gooey, and the hard ball can easily be rolled into a firm ball. Drop candies from teaspoon onto greased pan or waxed paper. Yields four dozen pieces. I prefer to spoon the entire batch out flat on waxed paper and break it up after it cools completely. It cools quickly so move with speed. Enjoy the results and remember, confection is good for the soul.
News from the Federation Family
On Sunday, October 13, 2002, the NFB of Indiana elected the following officers and board members to two-year terms: Ron Brown, president; Pam Schnurr, first vice president; Paul Howard, second vice president; Diane Graves, secretary; Tami Dodd‑Jones, treasurer; and Tammy Hollingsworth and Mike Dixon, board members.
The NFB Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia, is available to anyone by e-mail, print, or tape. Those wishing to subscribe to our quarterly publication should contact the editor at NFB Vigilant, 3880 University Drive, Fairfax, Virginia 22030, or e-mail <email@example.com>. Please let us know which format you prefer. Our newsletter is also available on the Web at <www.nfbv.org>.
On October 20, 2002, at the annual convention of the NFB of Illinois, the following officers were elected: president, Cathy Randall; first vice president, Lois Montgomery; second vice president, Patti Gregory‑Chang; secretary, Debbie Kent Stein; treasurer, Kelly Doty; and board members, Steve Handschu and Carmen Dennis.
The NFB of Washington elected the following at its recent convention: Noel Nightingale, president; Mike Freeman, first vice president; Rita Szantay, second vice president; Kaye Kipp, secretary; Gary Mackenstadt, treasurer; and Kyle Parrish, Ben Prows, and Doug Johnson, board members. Doug is filling the last year of Dan Frye's term. Dan just left the state to take a job in New Zealand.
The NFB of New Hampshire elected new officers at its convention on November 17, 2002. Elected to serve new terms are John Parker, president; Bruce Gillis, first vice president; Ed Meskys, second vice president; Donald Little, secretary; Lucille Lynch, treasurer; and Charlie Coy, board member.
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.
Second NFB Orientation and Mobility Conference:
Jim Omvig, president of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, announces that a second O&M conference will be held in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the NFB'S 2003 Washington seminar. The first conference, held in Louisville last July, was a resounding success, and we want to keep up the momentum.
The O&M conference will be held on Sunday afternoon, February 2, 2003. It will begin at 1:00 p.m. and end promptly at 4:00 to give seminar attendees time to prepare for the Great Gathering-In at 5:00. The conference is being planned jointly by Christine Brown, NOMC, from the University of Michigan and Edward Bell, NOMC, from the University of Arkansas. If you have suggestions or questions, please contact Christine by e-mail at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or Eddie Bell at <email@example.com>.
If you are an O&M instructor or if you are interested in nonvisual, structured‑discovery learning and performance‑based certification, please join us. Additional information will be provided in upcoming issues of the Monitor.
If you have someone on your holiday gift list who loves cooking, knitting, crocheting, or gardening, the new 2002/2003 Horizons for the Blind products catalog is just the ticket. Cooks will especially enjoy several new Betty Crocker cookbooks along with Miss Jackie's Cookbook, written by a blind cook. The needlework crowd will enjoy new additions to our catalog, including "Holiday Coasters" and "Knitting from the Top Down." How about a collection of 1,112 Down‑to‑Earth Garden Secrets? We've even got a book on the art of Origami. With the holidays fast approaching, our holiday crafts and learn‑how books may be just what you need to get ready. To order this free catalog, telephone (815) 444-8800 (voice/TDD); Fax (815) 444-8830; e-mail <mail@horizons‑blind.org>. Please specify whether you prefer Braille, large print, or cassette.
Singles Discussion Group by Phone:
If you are blind and single and would like to have meaningful discussions about singles‑related topics, join our new telephone conference exclusively for singles. It is held every evening at 10:00 p.m. EST. We will have different topics each evening about being blind and single and offer tips, advice, and support to each other regarding various situations in dating and relationships.
Callers will be asked to identify and introduce themselves and participate by describing themselves, telling about their physical and personality characteristics, their age group, their home city, and the qualities they possess and are seeking in someone else. Callers are welcome to suggest any singles-related topic they wish to discuss. If moderator Kathy Perillo is not able to be present all the time, callers can carry on the singles-related discussions on their own.
The phone number to call is (561) 939‑1800, and the room number is 746, which represents the first three letters of the word "singles." If you are the first caller, please press 1 to create the room after punching in the 746 room number. Then wait for others to call in. The only cost for this service is the long-distance charge for calling Boca Raton, Florida.
Attention Information Technology Professionals:
Lift is a nonprofit company that recruits, qualifies, trains, and hires information technology professionals who have physical disabilities and places them with major corporations. Johnson & Johnson and Verizon Wireless are two of more than eighty corporate clients that Lift has served. If you are interested in more information about Lift, visit its Web site at <www.lift‑inc.org> or call Lift at (908) 707‑9840 or (800) 552‑5438.
Looking for Old-Time Radio and Other Services?
Want top forties by the year? For only $5 a CD or less if you buy in bulk, R.O.F. Studios can help you. We have CD's of the top pop hits from 1937 through 1963. We can also restore your records, eight‑tracks, and reel‑to‑reel tapes and put them on CD. Interested in old-time radio? We have it. Want to know what programs we have? Visit <www.rofstudios.com> or call (720) 334-1482
Save $10 on the purchase of an Accessible Games Eight Pack or Accessible Games Eight Pack on CD‑ROM. In the spirit of the holiday season, we have taken $10 off the purchase price of our very popular packages, the Accessible Games Eight Pack and Accessible Games Eight Pack on CD‑ROM, effective November 10, 2002, through December 31, 2002. Visit our Web site and download fully functional fifteen-day trial versions of all games and evaluate them free of charge. Then, when you are ready, return to our Web site to order one of these packages online, by phone, or by mail.
The original Accessible Games Eight Pack, and Accessible Games Eight Pack on CD‑ROM are for JFW and Window‑Eyes users. These games interface directly to the JFW and Window‑Eyes screen readers, which makes them completely accessible to visually impaired gamers. The games each contain a copy of the Eloquence speech engine, which makes them accessible to everyone, even those with no screen reader at all.
All of these packages contain the following eight games: Accessible Battleship, Accessible BlackJack, Accessible FreeCell, Accessible Memory, Accessible Simon, Accessible Word Play, Accessible Word Scramble, and Accessible Yahtzee.
The Accessible Games Eight Pack is normally priced at $59 U.S., but purchase this package before December 31, 2002, and pay only $49. The Accessible Games Eight Pack on CD‑ROM is normally $69 U.S., but before December 31 pay only $59, which includes the shipping and handling fees for sending the CD-ROM to you. The Accessible Games SV Eight Pack with Eloquence speech engine normally costs $79, but before December 31 pay only $69. The Accessible Games SV Eight Pack on CD‑ROM with Eloquence speech engine is normally $89, but before December 31 pay only $79, which includes shipping and handling.
Visit our Web site at <http://www.GamesForTheBlind.com>. If you have any questions, send them to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
New Version of ZForm Poker:
ZForm announces the release of version 1.1 of its flagship product, ZForm Poker, which offers new features. The upgrade can be downloaded from ZForm's Web site <www.zform.com>.
Foremost among the new features is complete integration with the Window-Eyes screen-reading program from GW Micro, adding to ZForm Poker's existing integration with the Jaws for Windows screen reader from Freedom Scientific.
"One of the goals of ZForm is to make games that are equally accessible to the blind, visually impaired, and fully sighted," noted Jeremie Spitzer, ZForm's cofounder and CEO.
Version 1.1 of ZForm Poker also boasts significantly upgraded audio. The Wild West ambience is enhanced, complete with saloon background activity and dialogue. Starting with version 1.1, two versions of the game are now available for download. One is optimized for shorter download times, while the other is larger and includes additional ambient audio. The audio in both versions is improved over that in version 1.0.
Also new for 1.1 are several usability features. The Away From Keyboard mode lets players hold a seat at a table while attending to other tasks. An enhanced review mode allows more flexibility in reviewing prior game activity. Players can now keep track of how long they've been playing and how many chips they've won or lost in the current poker session. Ability to change the speech rate on the fly helps players keep up with those fast-paced hands, and the ability to ignore all chat lets players who are in it strictly for the gold hear game-related messages only.
"I didn't think it could get much better than 1.0," remarked one customer. "Then I played 1.1 and was impressed all over again." ZForm Poker 1.1 can be downloaded at <http://games.zform.com/download/index.html>. New customers can sign up for a fifteen-day free trial by browsing to <http://www.zform.com> and clicking on "Sign up for a Free Trial of ZForm Poker."
2003 Calendars Available:
Visually Unique is ready to ship its 2003 large-print daily appointment calendar. The font size of the day and date on each page is 35 point, and the font size of the time of the day is 26 point. The characters and lines are bold and spaced three-quarters of an inch apart, allowing you to write large enough for easy reading. Each weekday is divided into half-hour segments for detailed time management, and the pages fit in a standard three-ring binder (not included). The calendar costs $37.50.
The 2003 large-print monthly calendar is bound with a cardboard-grade paper cover and features a 1-3/4-inch square with a 26-point font number for each day, leaving plenty of space for you to write. When open, the 11-by-17-inch page displays the entire month, plus a column for notes. It costs $7.50.
The large-print check register also features a cardboard-grade paper cover and has room for 280 entries. It costs $7.50. All Visually Unique products are on heavyweight laser print paper, which allows you to use a bold line pen without showing through, and then have three holes drilled for your convenience.
You will be impressed with these three unique large-print products. Call or write for a brochure that describes them more completely and provides sample pages of each product. Prices above include shipping and handling. Mail checks or purchase orders to Visually Unique, P.O. Box 816074, Dallas, Texas 75381-6074 or call (972) 416-5568 for more information.
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.
Little-used VersaPoint Embosser in good condition. We have just not used it enough, so we are selling. Priced to move, only $480, negotiable. E-mail Jay Curren at <email@example.com>.
Kurzweil Personal Reader model 7315 with version 2.2 software. Contains both flatbed and handheld scanners. Also includes all Braille and cassette manuals. Asking $1,500 or best offer. Contact Nancy at (216) 696‑5747.
PowerBraille 40 Braille Display in very good working condition. I don't use it enough, so am selling. Asking $1,400 (very negotiable). Just e-mail Joe Victor at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts 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.