THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 46, No. 1 January 2003
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
Web site address: http://www.nfb.org
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should be sent to the National Office.
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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
Louisville Site of 2003 NFB Convention!
The 2003 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Louisville, Kentucky, June 28-July 5. We will conduct the convention at the Galt House Hotel and the Galt House East Tower, a first-class convention hotel. The Galt House Hotel, familiarly called the Galt House West, is at 140 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. The Galt House East Tower, or Galt House East, is at 141 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202. Room rates for this year's convention are excellent: singles, doubles, and twins $57 and triples and quads $63 a night, plus tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2003. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For reservations call the hotel at (502) 589‑5200.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made to secure these rooms before June 1, 2003, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold the block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Our overflow hotel is the Hyatt Regency at 320 W. Jefferson Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, phone (502) 587‑3434.
Those who attended the 2002 convention can testify to the gracious hospitality of the Galt House. This hotel has excellent restaurants, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Louisville, close to the Ohio River and only seven miles from the Louisville Airport.
The 2003 convention will follow what many think of as our usual schedule:
Saturday, June 28 Seminar Day
Sunday, June 29 Registration Day
Monday, June 30 Board Meeting and Division Day
Tuesday, July 1 Opening Session
Wednesday, July 2 Tour Day
Thursday, July 3 Banquet Day
Friday, July 4 Business Session
Plan to be in Louisville;
The action of the convention will be there!
Vol. 46, No. 1 January 2003
The Federation Is Attacked
for Seeking to Enhance Mobility and Safety
by Marc Maurer
Saying No to Detectable Warnings Everywhere
by Carla McQuillan
Comments to the Access Board on Detectable Warnings
by Michael Freeman
Esperanza's Story: An Oral History
by Debbie Kent Stein
Getting the Words Down in Braille
by Bill Kaufman
NFB National Convention
by Cathy Jackson
by Sheila Koenig
Computer Aids for the Blind
by Stacey Hirsh
Equal Access to a Black and White World
by Ryan Osentowski
At Sound of the Bell, Mom Comes Running
by Tom Keyser
Dividend for a Blind Mom
by Judy Jones
Copyright © 2002 National Federation of the Blind
December 4 and 5, 2002, the state of Maryland conducted its eighth annual Technology Showcase at the Baltimore Convention Center. The purpose of the event each year is to highlight technology advances made in Maryland. The National Federation of the Blind has taken part in this event several times. At our booth this year attendees could check their organizations' Web sites to see just how accessible they are for those using access technology on the Internet. They also learned about the NFB's new nonvisual accessibility certification.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the start of the showcase, NFB President Marc Maurer presented Secretary Peta Richkus of the Maryland Department of General Services a well-deserved award. Under Secretary Richkus's leadership the Department of General Services became the first state agency in the nation to receive the NFB's Nonvisual Accessibility Web Certification. Governor-Elect Robert Ehrlich spoke during the ceremony and made a point of commending the work of the National Federation of the Blind.
[CAPTION: Dan Mote, president of the University of Maryland; Governor-Elect Ehrlich; Major F. Riddick, Jr., chairman of the Maryland Technology Showcase; and Jim Herbert, vice president of E. J. Krause and Associates, Inc.]
CAPTION: President Maurer presented Secretary Richkus with a plaque during the opening ceremonies. Pictured here left to right are Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, NFB director of special programs; Peta N. Richkus, secretary of the Maryland Department of General Services; NFB President Marc Maurer; Major Riddick, Jr.; and Jim Herbert.]
CAPTION: Standing at the NFB Technology Showcase booth are Susan Casey, Department of General Services communications deputy director; Betsy Zaborowski; and Brad Hodges, member of the staff of the NFB's International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Marc Maurer]
The Federation Is Attacked for Seeking to Enhance Mobility and Safety
by Marc Maurer
Recent postings on the Internet claim that the National Federation of the Blind is a terrorist organization attempting to kill blind people. What could possibly be the basis for such outlandish statements? The National Federation of the Blind has presented testimony before the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board regarding the board's plans to install audible traffic signals (sometimes called accessible pedestrian signals) and detectable warnings--dome-like protrusions from the pavement intended to be placed in crosswalks and intersections as well as other locations so that blind people can feel them with their feet. The purpose of the dome-like protrusions is to tell blind people who walk on them that danger is nearby. There has been much controversy about the detectable warnings and the audible signals. Certain recent postings on the Internet suggest that the NFB is against them and all right-thinking people other than NFB members (and even some of our own members) are for them.
This misrepresentation is as false and misleading as the charge that the Federation is a terrorist organization. Those who make the allegations attempt to oversimplify and twist our position for the purpose of attacking the organization.
What is the position of the National Federation of the Blind regarding audible signals and detectable warnings, and why have we adopted it? Resolutions adopted by the Convention (reprinted at the end of this article) indicate that the Federation opposes the practice of installing detectable warnings and audible signals wherever pedestrians travel but supports the installation of them in specialized areas. Audible traffic signals are in many instances a disadvantage because they add so much noise pollution to the environment that listening to traffic becomes difficult. However, they may be installed at complex intersections where they will assist in the comprehension of complex traffic patterns. In those instances in which signals are to be installed, the Federation calls upon traffic engineers to consult with the organized blind.
To say, as I have heard some do, "We're for them and you're against them," is a vast oversimplification and misrepresentation. We are against the statement, the argument, and the implication that blind people are unable to compete unless the world is modified at every intersection, on every sidewalk, and in a number of other places; but such modification is valuable in certain specified locations.
Traffic signalization for the sighted has become much more complex than it was decades ago. Traffic signalization for the blind should recognize and account for such increases in complexity as well. If this is done with judgment and understanding, mobility is enhanced, safety is increased, and the spirit of independence is fostered. This is the position of the National Federation of the Blind.
Part of the problem is that some people believe audible signals and underfoot detectable warnings will do more than they are capable of doing. Just as it is not always safe to cross a street when the walk sign is illuminated, it is not always safe to cross the same street when the audible traffic signal is sounding. Those who cross the street must pay attention to traffic. If the blind pedestrian relies too heavily on the signal, is distracted by the signal from paying attention to other cues, or is unable to hear the traffic pattern because the signal has masked the sounds of traffic, the installation of these devices will diminish safety for that pedestrian. There will be times and there are places in which the safest travel is accomplished without an audible signal.
The underfoot raised dome has its own problems. Whenever the surface underfoot becomes rough, it also becomes less stable for walking or for transportation systems with narrow wheels. Rough surfaces are also more difficult to clean, and they introduce problems for snow and ice removal. The dome-like protrusions should be installed only in cases in which they provide sufficient advantage to warrant the disadvantages inherent in them.
It is dangerous to ask for modifications to the environment that we do not need, and it leads to an impression that blind people lack competence. There are sufficient numbers of people who believe that blind people are incompetent already without adding to the notion. We should seek installation of the dome-like protrusions and audible signals only as often as they will provide genuine help. When they will provide genuine help, we should press for their installation with all vigor. Here are the resolutions that embody our decisions.
WHEREAS, the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) issued a report called "Building a True Community," which proposed new standards and regulations to govern the building and rebuilding of public rights-of-way such as streets, sidewalks, and other outdoor public areas so that individuals with disabilities can access them; and
WHEREAS, this report contained recommendations in the form of a definition and also a set of requirements for installation of detectable warnings, describing them as raised truncated domes in a strip two feet deep and spanning the entire width of the curb ramp and painted bright yellow or otherwise highly contrasting in color with the surrounding surface; and
WHEREAS, these raised truncated domes are thought by some to give the blind pedestrian a tactile warning underfoot that something hazardous lies ahead; and
WHEREAS, on June 17, 2002, the United States Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) published draft guidelines for public rights-of-way, substantially adopting the PROWAAC report regarding detectable warnings; and
WHEREAS, the ATBCB's draft requirement for a detectable warning surface two feet deep where the ramp, landing, or blended transition connects to a crosswalk and in other areas rests on the fallacy that public rights-of-way without such brightly colored tactile markings are unsafe for blind people and that taxpayer dollars must be devoted to universal installation of these strips of colored domes; and
WHEREAS, rather than being supported by a demonstrated and factual need, the ATBCB's draft guideline is based on nothing more than fear of blindness and lack of knowledge about how blind people travel independently and safely and could bring the entire regulation, if enacted, under fire in the courts and city halls of America; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to Federation policy as set forth by previous resolutions, the National Federation of the Blind filed a minority report advocating that detectable warnings be placed only at intersections at which the approach to the street is at a slope of one inch downward for every fifteen inches of sidewalk, commonly called a slope of 1:15 or flatter, since intersections with an approach to the street of 1:15 or less are virtually flat and are the only places where it may arguably be difficult for a blind person to determine when the sidewalk ends and the street begins; and
WHEREAS, intersections with street approaches which slope at an angle steeper than 1:15 are readily detectable underfoot whether the blind person is using a cane, a dog, or no mobility tool whatsoever, and therefore do not require the installation of expensive truncated dome strips to ensure that blind people detect the street; and
WHEREAS, the ATBCB's draft guideline is now subject to public comment and will not become a final and enforceable rule if the facts about blindness and independent travel are presented and understood, but previously suspended requirements for detectable warnings which differ from the current draft guidelines are technically now in effect, the suspension having lapsed, making a resolution of this issue inevitable: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization vigorously oppose the ATBCB's draft guidelines calling for the universal installation of detectable warnings; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization petition the ATBCB to reinstate the suspension on guidelines for detectable warnings while further consideration is given to the draft guideline on public rights-of-way, in order to avoid confusion and needless installation of warning strips that are apt to be inconsistent with the eventual guideline regardless of the result; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the ATBCB to adopt a final guideline based on facts rather than fear and which may include installation of detectable warnings only when the slope of the curb ramp at an intersection equals 1:15 or less.
WHEREAS, the Public Rights-of-Way Access Advisory Committee (PROWAAC) of the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) issued a report called "Building a True Community" which proposed new standards and regulations to govern the building and rebuilding of public rights-of-way such as streets, sidewalks, and other outdoor public areas so that individuals with disabilities can access them; and
WHEREAS, this report contained recommendations regarding Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APSs), which are electronic devices that alert the blind pedestrian in an audible or vibrotactile manner when the traffic signal has changed so that it is safe to walk; and
WHEREAS, the report recommended that an APS shall be provided at any intersection where the timing of a pedestrian signal is altered by push button actuation and where the signal includes a leading pedestrian interval, a period of time during which the pedestrian is allowed to start crossing before vehicular traffic is allowed to move; and
WHEREAS, the report further recommended that APSs with an optional-use feature be installed at intersections where pedestrian crossing intervals are pretimed and not affected by the push of a button; and
WHEREAS, pursuant to resolutions adopted by this organization, the Federation submitted a minority report urging that the ATBCB mandate APSs in situations only where the built environment did not provide sufficient nonvisual clues for a blind pedestrian to know when it was safe to cross and that all APSs be vibrotactile so that unneeded and distracting noise not be emitted into intersections; and
WHEREAS, on June 17, 2002, the ATBCB published a draft guideline based on the PROWAAC report, essentially disregarding both the PROWAAC report and the Federation's recommendations and calling instead for APSs with locator tones to be installed at every intersection with a pedestrian signal; and
WHEREAS, the PROWAAC report proposed installing APSs in an overly broad number of places but at least limited the installation to some degree and further provided for an optional activation feature, thereby giving each pedestrian the choice of using or not using the APS; and
WHEREAS, the board's draft guidelines will force installation and use of APSs at every signalized intersection in America while costing taxpayers many billions of dollars; and
WHEREAS, at the majority of intersections the existing environment and traffic pattern provide sufficient nonvisual cues for blind persons to cross the street safely without APSs, and blind people do so every day: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization condemn and deplore the ATBCB's narrow-minded and uninformed view of blindness as expressed in the draft guideline proposing to require the installation of APSs at all signalized intersections in America; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the ATBCB to reconsider and reject the extreme position taken on APSs in its June 17, 2002, draft guidelines and adopt a position on the placement and use of APSs that is more realistic and consistent with the prevailing view among the blind themselves.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carla McQuillan]
Saying No to Detectable Warnings Everywhere
by Carla McQuillan
From the Editor: Carla McQuillan is president of the Oregon affiliate and a member of the NFB board of directors. Since the public hearing on detectable warnings and audible traffic signals (conducted by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board) took place in Portland, Carla played an active part in organizing the NFB's response to the hearing. In the following article she describes what the experience was like. This is what she says:
James Gashel, NFB director of governmental affairs, announced at our national convention in Louisville that there would be a public hearing October 8, 2002, in Portland, Oregon, on the proposed federal guidelines for pedestrian traffic as they relate to accessibility for the disabled. Specifically, we in the NFB were concerned about the proposed requirement to install audible traffic signals at every intersection where walk/don't-walk signs currently operate and detectable warnings at every street crossing nationwide. Since the hearing was to be held in my home state, I felt compelled to contact the hotel to make some preliminary arrangements for the event. I had never even attended a demonstration, much less organized one, but with a few helpful hints from Peggy Elliott, I figured I was up to the task.
After being unable to obtain reasonable rates at the Hilton (where the hearing was to take place), I spent some time negotiating with the Days Inn down the street. I reserved a block of twelve to fifteen hotel rooms and scheduled a dinner for twenty-five to thirty people for the evening preceding the hearing. In the weeks that followed I was contacted by Jim McCarthy, assistant director of governmental affairs, who informed me that the goal was to get 200 people to the hearing. "No problem," I said, swallowing hard: "I'll contact the hotel and see what I can do."
After Sunday brunch, October 6, my mom, my husband Lucas, our son Duncan, and I sat plastering slogans onto protest signs. Lucas looked at me and said, "Well, now we know what the organized blind are doing; I wonder what the disorganized blind are doing." That evening, James McCarthy, Kimberli Sollenberger, and I met in Portland to discuss strategy, write press releases, and contact the media. We walked down to the Hilton to scope out the area and plan the logistics. Monday evening people began arriving for our dinner and strategy session.
Nicolas Crisosto, California: I'd been told to expect a dinner meeting the evening we arrived and an opportunity to get some more information about the activities for the day of the hearing. Since I'd never been to an NFB-sponsored protest, I had no idea what to expect. To my surprise the meeting was a full-blown rally with many more people than I'd imagined. Clearly the NFB intended to make its presence known. The evening was informative, but, more important, it was an opportunity to motivate the attendees and remind us all why the issues were especially relevant. The blind needed to speak for the blind, and that's what we were going to do.
"As the logistics were discussed, people kept volunteering, and the energy was palpable. It was fantastic to have NFB members from all over, not just Oregon, getting involved. I was thrilled to find other national scholarship winners representing their affiliates as well. It all reminded me why we need the NFB--to stay connected and organized."
Gloria Mills Hicks, Florida: "The first thing we noticed was how busy and bustling the downtown area was."
The energy in the room where we gathered for dinner was phenomenal. Approximately seventy-five people were present, representing fourteen different states. Gloria and Dan Hicks from Tampa, Florida, won the award for having traveled the farthest. It was a great pleasure and honor to introduce James McCarthy to the assembled crowd. He became a member of the NFB of Oregon in the mid nineties. Now he was back in Oregon as a representative of the National Center to articulate the Federation's position on detectable warnings. As I listened to his professional and eloquent presentation, I felt grateful for his leadership and proud to be part of our dynamic organization. The next several hours were some of the most energizing and memorable in my fourteen years with the NFB. We planned our strategy while members put together picket signs, making up chants and slogans in the process.
Mike Freeman, Washington: "Everyone left the session with a sense of excitement, anticipation, and dedication to the cause."
We met for a continental breakfast in the morning, after which Mr. McCarthy led a small group to the Hilton to sign up to give public testimony. The plan was for the rest of us to follow, en masse, brandishing canes and signs. After closing up breakfast in the suite, I headed downstairs to meet my colleagues in the lobby, only to find it inadequate to contain our numbers, which had spilled out into the parking lot. Carolyn Brock of Portland went around distributing Whozit stickers while other members handed out sandwich boards that read "Jeepers Creepers, Lose Those Beepers," and "Chirping Walk Signs Are For the Birds." Eventually, we were all ready to begin our five-block march through the streets of Portland to the Hilton hotel. I stood at the driveway of the Days Inn parking lot, herding members onto Sixth Avenue. The line of Federationists seemed to go on forever.
Mike Freeman: "We didn't need audible pedestrian signals, nor did we need detectable warnings to walk the streets with safety and grace."
Caught up in the energy and excitement of that moment, hovering in the world between planning and execution, I believed in my heart that it was really going to work--we were going to make a difference. As the last Federationist passed me, I knew that the beginning of that long line was at least two blocks down the street, approaching the Hilton. Unfortunately, if I wasn't at the Hilton when they arrived to tell them to stop and form the picket line in a circle, they might have kept on going all the way to the light-rail station. Getting a grip on reality, I asked Denise Mackenstadt to bring up the rear and herd the stragglers. I proceeded at a dead run past my colleagues, toward the front of the procession. Just as I caught up with the front of the line heading north, we were met by Mr. McCarthy and the members who had gone ahead to sign in to give testimony. After some brief high fives and backslapping in the middle of the street, we learned that several of our members were now scheduled to testify both in the morning and in the afternoon. The sidewalk in front of the Hilton was a good twenty feet wide. Our members were able to march in an imaginary ellipse on the sidewalk, leaving room for passersby to walk without trouble and without hindering pedestrian traffic. This impressed many observers.
In the beginning some carried picket signs and chanted while others simply walked back and forth across the street, proving to onlookers that blind people don't require detectable warnings to cross safely.
Don Burns, California: "While we waited for a green light, a city bus locked its brakes and came to a screeching halt. From across the street a pedestrian ran through the red light in an apparent attempt to tell us not to cross and nearly got himself run over. `The light is red!' he yelled.
"I replied, `I know,' and when the flow of traffic started again, we crossed the street."
Mike Freeman: "Some Federationists crossed Sixth Avenue so that chanting with antiphonal responses could be set up. Such chants as: `Got our canes; got our minds. We don't need those beeping signs!'; `Chirp, chirp, beep, beep! We know how to cross the street!'; and `Light's green; cars go! We can read the traffic flow!' echoed around the area."
It was a typical chilly October day in Portland, and many people were not dressed for the cold. Never in that long day, however, did I hear anyone complain or ask to go inside, aside from the occasional "Can I go to Starbucks for hot chocolate? I'll be right back, I promise!" We couldn't have asked for a more dedicated and devoted crowd of Federationists. Everyone present represented this organization with style and dignity.
Occasional reports from inside the hearing room were brought to those of us on the street as Federation leaders testified in opposition to the proposed regulations.
Arlene Hill, Louisiana: "In the meetings many blind people spoke both for and against the subject. I happened to be seated by a woman who works on cycling paths for Portland transportation. She was surprised that blind people had disagreements on the subject of detectable warnings. When Ramona Walhof was speaking, she asked if I was in agreement with her. When I said yes, she said, `Good, so am I.'"
After a while, for a change of pace, we decided to send members out in all directions to distribute leaflets and discuss our position with the citizens of Portland. Teams went to the light-rail station, McDonald's, Starbucks, and various other locations. We discovered that, when we were circling in a picket line, people were unable to talk with us. When we went out, it was easier for members of the general public to stop us, ask questions, and understand what we were doing.
Carolyn Brock, Oregon: "One young man in particular asked for an explanation of our position on audible traffic signals. When I started to explain, he interrupted me and asked, `But how do you know when it's safe to cross the street?'
"`Come on,' I said, `let's cross this one.'
"We stood at the corner with cars passing directly in front of us, and a bus roared by. I turned to my new friend and asked, `Do you think this is the time we should walk out into the street?'
"He laughed and said, `Okay, I got it.'
"Then the light changed, the cars in front of us stopped, and the parallel traffic started moving on our left. `Come on, let's go', I said, and grabbed his arm and pulled him across the street. Safely on the other side, I asked him, `Is that enough, or should we go across a few more streets?'
"He laughed again and said, `No, I got it the first time.'
"Then he thought for a minute and said, `So what I understand is that you people are protesting against the culture of dependency.' Then he was gone. I just regret that I didn't have time to give him a hug."
Just before noon, we regrouped in front of the Hilton to greet the Access Board with a boisterous round of chants as they left to go to lunch. Those of us who stayed the whole day went back to the hotel afterward for a group luncheon. While most of us enjoyed our lunch, some of our Arizona contingent continued their march in front of the Hilton. I am reliably informed that a member of the Washington Council of the Blind spoke to the manager of the hotel, attempting to persuade him to prohibit the Federation from demonstrating outside. The manager refused. After a lengthy exchange, the Council member left without accomplishing anything except to alienate the manager. The Hilton manager then shook hands with several Federationists, saying that we were absolutely right and to stick to our guns.
The only time that I spent in the hearing room as an observer was the thirty minutes before my own testimony. Near as I could tell, there were about a dozen council members present in the hearing room and none visible out on the streets. One of the most distressing comments that I heard from an individual testifying that afternoon was to the effect that, if the world was full of audible traffic signals, detectable warnings, and high-contrast signage, those who are a little more shy about their vision impairment could be secretly disabled. I am deeply proud to be a member of an organization that believes in my capacity and potential as a human being. How sad to feel the need to ignore, hide, or dismiss a simple characteristic that in no way affects one's ultimate success and destiny.
It was a long day. As I got on the city bus to head for the train station at the end of the day, the bus driver looked at me and said, "You were in that protest, weren't you?"
I said, "Yes sir, I helped to organize that protest. Would you like to know what it was about?" At that point the bus driver gave a lengthy and articulate response about our position regarding audible traffic signals and detectable warnings. He had been approached by Federationists on the street and had read our leaflets and literature. He said, "It is counterintuitive to say that blind people don't need audible traffic signals, but after hearing your arguments, it makes perfect sense."
Kay Burrows, Washington: "I left Portland, tired and sore, but I was very proud to have been able to participate in our demonstration. We were a great example of our motto: `Changing what it means to be blind.' The ten months I have been a member of the NFB have been an exciting experience. This is an incredibly diverse group of people. I am no longer embarrassed to use a white cane. I carry it like a badge of honor. It is proof that blindness is only an inconvenience, not the end of independence."
More important, perhaps, than a successful demonstration were the excellent media contacts we established in the process of speaking our minds. NFB members were interviewed by and aired on two TV news programs, KTLK AM news, and two newspapers--Willamette Week and the Oregonian. All of them encouraged us to maintain contact and to notify them of future developments. For the first time in my experience, all of these media outlets were willing to cover a story about blind people's efforts to be responsible citizens, fighting to save tax dollars. Too often we are portrayed, not as participants in life, but as those who depend on the support, goodwill, care, and protection of others.
We made an impact on a lot of people's lives that day, blind and sighted. The man who risked his life needlessly to stop a blind man from crossing the street, the bus driver who no longer thinks audible traffic signals are logical, the young man who recognizes our fight against the culture of dependency, and the hotel manager who supported our demonstration are only a few of those whose lives we touched. One thing is certain--the citizens of Portland will not soon forget the National Federation of the Blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mike Freeman]
Comments to the Access Board on Detectable Warnings
by Michael Freeman
From the Editor: Mike Freeman is one of the leaders of the NFB of Washington. He is an experienced cane user with definite views about detectable warnings of all kinds. Here is the comment he submitted to the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB), known more familiarly as the Access Board. It is representative of the thinking of many of the Federationists who filed comments. This is what Mike said:
September 24, 2002
Office of Technical and Information Services
Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board
I am writing to comment on the draft guidelines for accessible public rights of way recently published by the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (ATBCB) as Docket Number 02-1, RIN 3014-AA26 to be codified at 36 CFR Parts 1190 and 1191 as published in the Federal Register of June 17, 2002. I am blind.
In general I am opposed to the guidelines for Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APSs). They are largely unnecessary, they will have unacceptable adverse consequences, and they will require far more modification of the environment than is needed. I am also opposed to the guidelines on detectable warnings. In most situations these are not needed, and, where they are appropriate, the guidelines specify what is, in my opinion, the wrong type of detectable warning.
I shall expand upon these comments below. Before I do so, however, some preliminary remarks are in order: (1) I believe that, in formulating the guidelines respecting accessible pedestrian signals and detectable warnings, ATBCB should adopt the philosophy that only those modifications to the environment deemed absolutely necessary for the average blind person with some travel skills to function should be imposed and that guidelines should be formulated under the assumption that blind people possess decent travel skills rather than under the assumption that they have minimal travel skills and require a great deal of assistance in crossing streets and other thoroughfares. I, like most blind people, travel in most situations with perfect ease and safety without special environmental adaptations.
(2) I believe that most of the problems proponents of accessible pedestrian signals allege are not so much the result of lack of access to pedestrian signals as a result of a shift in the paradigm of design criteria for public rights of way. Several traffic engineers have told me that public rights of way are increasingly designed to facilitate the flow of vehicular traffic rather than to facilitate pedestrian access. In my view the supposed need for accessible pedestrian signaling devices would largely be obviated and the environment would be made safer for all pedestrians (blind and sighted alike) were the guidelines to force a shift in the design paradigm back to a pedestrian-oriented model.
Advocacy of audible pedestrian signals is predicated upon the analogy that aural cues are to the blind what visual cues are to the sighted. There is a measure of truth in this analogy. However, when closely examined in the context of APSs, the analogy breaks down. Slavishly adhering to it could have severe, if not fatal, consequences.
The sighted can physically pay attention to or ignore visual pedestrian signals when assessing vehicular traffic to determine when it is safe to cross streets, roads, roundabouts, and the like. This is in sharp contrast to the predicament of the blind when encountering APSs, which use audible cues.
Sound, being a pressure wave, is all-pervasive; sounds are superimposed upon each other. The brain separates and classifies sounds by analysis rather than by physical action (eye movement in the case of vision). Thus persistent sounds such as the periodic tones for APSs specified in Section 118.104.22.168 often mask other sounds such as traffic flow which are of vital importance when assessing crossing safety. Add to this the multiplicity of locator tones as specified in Section 122.214.171.124, and the resulting cacophony will be extremely distracting to blind pedestrians and could spell disaster for them if they miss the sound of an approaching vehicle while attempting to sort out the plethora of tones generated by the APS.
In my view mandating any APSs with audible indicators is, therefore, unacceptable and inadvisable. In my view Accessible Pedestrian Signals should be mandated only for complex street geometry, complex traffic flow, or complex signalization. In these situations, however, under no circumstances should audible indicators be mandated or used. They are too distracting (hence, dangerous). Instead, vibrotactile APS systems should be employed.
Especially in urban environments sound reflects from a multitude of objects in the vicinity of street crossings, creating manifold echoes, making accurate assessment of audible APS location confusing at best and impossible at worst. Since the location of actuators for APSs is specified at Section 1106.2.1, I can see no reason whatsoever for provision of locator tones. If the guidelines are followed, the APS actuators will be in relatively standard positions with respect to crosswalks.
Moreover (the guidelines are unclear on this point), conventional intersections could have between four and eight emitters of locator tones. As I said above, such a plethora of tones would be extremely distracting for a blind person who, as I often do, listens to several traffic cycles to assess traffic flow, the signal pattern, and how well vehicular traffic is obeying the signals. This noise is unhelpful at best and could be tragic at worst. Mandating locator tones should be eliminated from the guidelines.
Under most circumstances I see no need for detectable warnings (Section 1108). A blind person using either a long cane or a guide dog can usually determine where the boundary between a sidewalk and street lies. Normally curbs and curb cuts with ramps are easily detected. It is becoming increasingly common, however, for sidewalk/street boundaries to be designed to blend smoothly into each other and to be so flat as to be virtually undetectable by nonvisual means. It therefore makes sense under these restricted circumstances to have some sort of tactile detectable warning. The background material for these guidelines stated that one organization of the blind suggested that detectable warnings should be used whenever the slope leading from a sidewalk to a street had a gradient less than one to fifteen. This proposal makes eminent sense to me.
I therefore advocate that the guidelines specify that detectable warnings be used under these conditions and under no others. I do not, however, favor that detectable warnings be in the form of truncated domes as specified in Section 1108.1. It seems to me that a better solution would be to specify a general roughened surface in the zone, which would constitute the detectable warning, or a warning zone consisting of alternating strips of contrasting surface textures. Such a warning system would not interfere with operation of wheeled vehicles and would not constitute a tripping hazard. It might even help with traction.
In summary, APSs should be used only under conditions of complex traffic flow or signalization and should employ vibrotactile rather than audible indicators. Likewise detectable warnings should be used only when the transition of sidewalks to streets is undetectable using a cane or guide dog. As I stated in my introductory remarks, the operating principle should be to change the environment as little as possible consistent with pedestrian safety.
I appreciate the opportunity to contribute my views and thoughts on the access guidelines for public rights-of-way and thank you for your attention.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Debbie Kent Stein]
Esperanza's Story: An Oral History
by Debbie Kent Stein
From the Editor: Debbie Stein serves as secretary of the NFB of Illinois. She is a professional writer who has spent some time in Mexico. Longtime Monitor readers will agree that she has a gift for writing profiles. The following personal history provides a glimpse into the life of a woman whose life was profoundly difficult and yet who never lost her determination or her capacity for hope. Here it is:
I met Esperanza Almanza in 1978, while I was living and teaching in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I had helped to start a school in San Miguel for children with disabilities--the Centro de Crecimiento, the Center for Growing. Through my involvement with the Centro I came to meet several blind adults who lived in and around San Miguel. Esperanza had lost her sight due to measles when she was a year old. She was fifty when we met, newly widowed, and without any family. She moved into a spare room at the Centro and became an integral part of the school community. She had never had any formal training before, but she quickly mastered Braille and mobility. She was a wonderful role model for the children--cooking, sewing, telling stories, and bandaging skinned knees.
Esperanza died of cancer in 1991 at the age of sixty‑one. Three years before her death she graciously allowed me to interview her, capturing her life story on tape. Despite her poverty and her lack of education, Esperanza had lived a rich and active life. She was loved, valued, and respected by all who knew her. It is an honor to share her story, a small tribute to her generous spirit. Debbie Kent Stein
I don't remember ever having sight. When I lost my sight, I was not even two years old, and I can't remember back that far. The earliest memories I have are of playing alone. My mother was afraid to let me go outside to play with the other children because I didn't know how to walk around by myself. She worried that, if the others got mad at me, they might run off and leave me, and I wouldn't be able to find my way home. So she kept me in the house. My mother said, "If the other girls want to play with you, let them come and play with you here. You don't go out." And sometimes they did come because the rancho [farming village] where we lived, Los Cerritos, was very small, with only eight or ten houses. There weren't many children for the others to play with, so now and then they came to me. But most of the time I played by myself.
Everybody brought me toys. I had little ceramic dishes, bowls, cups, jars, and tin buckets. I always wanted to be in the kitchen with my mother. After a while my father took leftover bricks and roof tiles and built me a little play kitchen next to the real one. It was big enough that I could sit inside it with my toys.
I had three dolls. I loved to sew clothes for them. If someone threaded the needle for me, I could make clothes out of any scraps and rags I got my hands on. At first nobody taught me. I just figured out how to sew on my own. I had a few store‑bought doll's dresses, and I studied them to understand how they were made. Then I tried making doll's dresses myself. They didn't turn out too well, but once my mother saw that I could do it, she started teaching me the proper way. She was very patient. She taught me to make a hem, measuring with my hand or with a fold of cloth so it would come out even.
She taught me to make the stitches just right, not too big, nice and straight. I made a lot of my own clothes. We didn't have many store‑bought clothes in those days, and I sewed a lot of my own clothing. My mother cut out the pieces for me, and I did the sewing. I heard the other girls talking about the clothes they wore, and I wanted the same things, so I got my mother to show me how to make them.
My mother taught me to do everything in the house. I washed the dishes-‑it wasn't hard for me to learn that, but I had to do it enough to really get used to it. She let me get used to all the chores we had out there on the rancho. She taught me to grind corn on the metate [flat stone on which corn is ground by hand] and to shape the tortillas, but she wouldn't let me cook them over the fire because she was afraid I would burn myself. Back then there were no tortilla presses like you have today. We made our tortillas by hand. Now you never hear that slap‑slap sound anymore, people patting tortillas into shape between their hands. You don't even hear it on the ranchos. Everyone gets their tortillas from the presses in town. In those days even the people in town made their tortillas by hand. And they tasted a lot better than the factory‑made ones, I can tell you.
My mother taught me to wash clothes too. We washed with cold water, scrubbing the clothes on a stone slab with ridges. She'd show me if there was a spot, and then I'd scrub that part extra hard. Well, that's still how I do laundry today. If you show me where the spots are, I can get them out. Sometimes I mark the spot with a safety pin to remember where it is. Then after I've washed the clothes, I get someone to check and make sure all the spots are gone.
So I grew up learning to sew, wash, sweep, and grind corn. I did everything except cook on the fire and travel by myself. I didn't learn to travel alone until years later, after I was a married woman.
My parents had eight children, but five died when they were very little. So growing up there were only three of us-‑my brother, my sister, and me. God let the three of us live. I was the youngest. My brother and sister were much older. She was eight years older than I was, and he was the oldest.
My brother died when he was seventeen and I was seven. He was playing in a pond on the rancho. The bottom was slippery, and I guess he lost his balance. He didn't know how to swim, so he drowned. The friends he was with, none of them could swim either, so there was no one to help him.
My parents were in despair when my brother died. He was their only son, my father's only companion when he worked in the fields. My mother was sad, but it hit my father the hardest. So then it was just the two of us, my sister Flaviana and me. My sister got married three years after my brother died, and I was alone with our mother. But after a while Flaviana came back to live with us. She was pregnant, and her husband was so poor he couldn't provide for her. She wasn't getting enough to eat, and she got very sick. We had no money either, but what food we had we shared with her. When we had a little money, we bought vitamins to help her get her strength back.
The biggest change in my sister was that she became terribly lazy. It couldn't have been her fault; she must have been ill. But she would do absolutely nothing in the house. My mother would get up early and make the atole [hot drink made from cornstarch and milk]. I got up after her and ground the corn. By the time my sister got up, my mother would be making tortillas for the noon meal.
In those days it was the custom for the women to make lunch for the men and carry it out to them in the fields. All the women from all the houses would walk out to the fields at noon with their baskets. Well, my mother had to take my father's lunch, and she told Flaviana that she should go too with the lunch for her husband. Flaviana heaved a big sigh, as if she'd been working all morning, but really she hadn't lifted a hand. So my mother ended up carrying the lunch for my father and my sister's husband too. My sister helped pack the basket, but that was all.
In those days we started grinding corn at 6:30 in the morning. We ground six kilos of corn every day to make enough tortillas for everybody in the household--the family and two men my father hired to help with the farm work. We ate tortillas with every meal, so we needed a lot of them. We never used spoons and forks back then; we scooped up our beans with a tortilla and folded it over and ate the food like that.
On the rancho we grew almost everything we needed. We hardly had to buy anything, because we raised our own corn, beans, peas, wheat--everything. Now people from the ranchos even buy their corn in town, but it was different back then. Even the poorest people who had no land, they had corn to eat. After the harvest they went through the fields and gathered up the ears that were left behind, little ears that no one else wanted. Now it doesn't rain enough; the plants dry out, and even the people with land have to buy corn.
Well, I was getting very tired of grinding corn, grinding and grinding, and my sister not helping me. I was twelve or thirteen at the time. I said to myself, "How is it that I don't have a husband, but I'm grinding and grinding early in the morning, and my sister, who has a husband, is sleeping so contented and never helps me?" So the trouble started between us, because she wouldn't do her part.
When I was sixteen, that's when sadness came into my life. My childhood ended when my mother got sick, and I saw her suffering day after day. She had a stroke. Suddenly she couldn't speak, and she couldn't move the arm and leg on one side. My father brought her to a doctor in town, who gave them medicine. But after a few days she wouldn't take it anymore. Then there was a struggle, everyone shouting and crying, trying to make her take the medicine. She couldn't speak; she could only make signs to show that she didn't want to take it anymore.
Many people came to visit us, and they were always suggesting we should take her to one doctor or another. My father took her to this one and that one and bought this medicine and that medicine, whatever they said. He had to sell off most of our animals to pay the doctors. We went on the bus to doctors in San Luis Potosí, Querétaro, and finally Mexico City. How we suffered in Mexico City! Three months we were there, and for nothing. My father would go back and forth to the rancho to get cheeses and eggs; he sold them door to door in Mexico City to pay our expenses while we stayed there. Finally we saw that she would never get better. If she was going to die, better that she die at home, so we went back to the rancho.
When we got home, my sister wanted me to go and help her with her children. But I wanted to stay home and take care of my mother. I couldn't do both things. So my sister got angry with me again. I said, "Can't we get along? It would make our mother happy; it would give her pleasure in her last days!" But no, that wasn't to be.
Two months after we came home from Mexico City, my father died. He was on horseback. A chicken flew in front of his horse and frightened it, so it bolted and threw him. His head hit a stone wall, and the blow killed him. He died the next morning. The night he was injured we took him to a doctor in town. There was no bus running, and no one had a car. So the men of the rancho put him on a big plank. They carried him that way on their shoulders all the way to San Miguel [about seven miles]. But he died at ten in the morning-‑and how I cried! I cried so hard!
With the shock and grief, my mother only lived another month after that. And there I was, left alone, and so sad. I had no one left but my sister. She said to me, "Stay here a little while, stay with my mother‑in‑law. I'm going to Mexico City, and when I get settled, I'll come back and get you." So off she went.
I waited and waited, but she didn't come back. After a few months her mother‑in‑law decided to move into town. She said, "You can't stay here by yourself; you go stay with my daughter." That was my sister's sister‑in‑law, her husband's sister. So I went to live with that woman, and how I suffered under her roof! All she gave me to eat were a few tortillas and a little bean broth.
Well, many things happened; it would take too long to tell them all. But a neighbor woman saw how I was there, and she told my aunt how it was. So finally my aunt came to get me, and I stayed with her for three years. While I lived with her, I ground corn. People brought their corn to us and I ground it on the metate. That's how I lived there. Some people paid me with money. Some paid with baskets of corn, beans, or a bit of meat. They would give me some leftover corn to feed my chickens. I was very happy there until my aunt got sick and died.
I didn't know what I would do when my aunt died. I had nowhere to go. But at her funeral I met a woman who my parents had known years before. She asked me to stay with her at Alcocer, another rancho. It was hard to leave Los Cerritos. I had lived there all my life. I had to leave everything behind, even my chickens. But I went to Alcocer and was very happy with that family. I helped in the house, washing clothes and grinding corn. There were two unmarried daughters, and we got along very well. They treated me like a sister. I went everywhere with them; they were never ashamed to be seen with me. We went shopping together, went to weddings and fiestas. If they had boyfriends, they never told me. They must have seen them in secret. It was just the three of us, all single women.
But then the trouble started. Their brother's wife started spreading rumors about me-‑that I had said this or that against them. I don't know if they believed her, but our friendship was never the same again. So I left and went to live with another aunt in town, in San Miguel. I thought, "She's my aunt, I'll have a better life with her. She's my mother's sister."
But no, it was worse for me there. She was angry at me all the time. One day she said, "What use are you? You can't even cook tortillas!" So when she left me alone, I went to the fire and put the tortillas on the grill, and I learned to cook them. That was the only good thing that happened when I lived there-‑I finally learned to cook on the fire.
But my aunt still wasn't happy with me. She said she had no obligation to feed and clothe me; I should go to my uncle, my father's brother. So I went to live with him and his wife on another rancho, and it was a hard, lonely time for me there. Then a woman called Doña Choli asked me to go to work in her house. I went to work for her, but my aunt in town wouldn't allow it. She said, "What will people say? You're an orphan, and your family should be taking care of you!" So she came and got me and took me back to my uncle.
But I was very unhappy there. He hadn't asked me to come. He and his family didn't want me there. My aunt just brought me and left me with them, and they had to take me in. I was awake all night crying. Then I started to think, what could I do? I wanted to go back to that woman I had been working for, but I didn't know how to get to her house. I knew the address, but I didn't know how to travel alone. I was on the rancho with my uncle, and she was in town, in San Miguel. So one day I asked my uncle, "May I go to San Miguel for Holy Week?"
He said, "How will you get there? Who will you stay with?"
I said, "I'll ask the bus driver to let me off at Pedro Vargas Street. There's a little store there, and the storekeeper will help me find my friends." My uncle said it was all right. He took me to the road where the bus would pass. I had a few clothes in a box, as if I was going for a couple of days. But I meant never to go back there.
It worked just as I planned. My friends met me at the little store, and I told them I wanted to go work for Doña again. They said, "Don't go to her yet. She'll put you to work right away, and you won't be able to enjoy Holy Week."
So I stayed with them, and on Thursday we went to church. There we were in the San Francisco Church, and a woman came up to me and whispered, "Esperanza? Is it really you?" I didn't recognize her voice because she was whispering since we were in church. But she said, "It's María Luisa Cruz." She used to live at Los Cerritos; I remembered her.
Well, on Saturday she sent her little girl looking for me: "My mama wants you to come and work for her." She was a seamstress, and she needed someone to take care of her children while she worked. Oh, I was so happy! I didn't have to look for work, and I didn't have to go back to my uncle on the rancho. They didn't pay me money, but they gave me food and clothes. So that was all I needed; it was all right with me.
I worked with that family for four years. They would take me out when there was a fiesta, and I went shopping with the older girls. But after a while I got tired of it. The boy was getting older; he didn't need me. But the worst part was the stove. It was a kerosene stove that was very hard to light. I had to have breakfast ready for everyone at eight o'clock sharp, or even before eight sometimes, and the stove kept going out, and it was always a struggle. I just couldn't stand it any more, fighting with that stove. So I took a job with another woman who just wanted me to wash and iron clothes. I went to live with her family.
I stayed there two years, but I wasn't happy. No one took me out anywhere. My life was the washtub and my little room. I was the only servant; there was no one to talk to. And because I couldn't travel, I couldn't go out to visit my friends.
One day I was sitting on the doorstep, and one of my friends walked by. It turned out she worked at a house just two doors down. She said, "You walk down the sidewalk, count one door, then the next one is mine."
Oh, how happy I was, to have a friend to visit! And I could go see her by myself. So when our work was done at six, I'd go to that door, and we would sit and talk. She didn't live at that house. She just worked there. She lived in a house with her sisters, and one day she asked me to come and live with them. She would take me to my work in the mornings, and on Sundays they would take me to Mass with them, and at night we would cook and talk and have a good time. I said, "I'll come if I can do the washing and ironing for all of you." I didn't want to be any trouble to them. So I went to live there, and we all shared the work in that house, but I always did the washing and ironing.
Sometimes I got bored in the house all day. One day we heard of a woman who needed someone to do laundry and cleaning. My friends suggested that she hire me. They said, "Señora, there is a girl at our house who is very good at washing. She can't see, but she's a good laundress." So that woman would send a child to take me to her house in the morning and bring me home again at night. I would stay there all day, washing and ironing and mopping. Now and then some dress or blouse was very delicate, and I was afraid to iron it. So one of the other servants would do that bit of ironing while I did her work in the kitchen. Also the laundress was supposed to go to the market and bring fresh milk every day. Since I couldn't walk to the market alone, I traded that task with someone else who straightened the bedrooms. There were four girls working in that rich house, so we could make many different arrangements, and I did everything I could. I was very happy, getting to know so many people and having so much to do.
But after a while things changed. One of the girls I lived with got married. The rest of us moved to another part of town called San Antonio. The woman I worked for moved to Mexico City. Her husband was an engineer, and he got a new job, so they had to move away. They left, and I had no more work. I continued to do laundry for a number of families. Always some child would take me back and forth to my work.
One day I was washing in a house where they were doing some construction. I met a man who was a carpenter working there. His name was Alvín. He was a widower with two grown sons. He would talk to me very politely. One day he asked me if I would like to get married. I said yes, but the person I married would have to have a lot of patience with me. I could do all the housework, but I couldn't walk in the streets by myself to run errands. Besides, what would happen to me if the person I married mistreated me or left me for another woman? But he assured me that he would be patient and that he wanted to marry me.
We talked about it for more than a month. Finally I went to live with him. We lived together for two months before I was sure I wanted to marry him. I had to be sure he would bring me food and other things I needed, that he wouldn't scold me or beat me, and that he would take me to the market and Mass and the plaza. I had to know he wouldn't keep me shut up in the house all the time. But we were very happy those two months. He took me walking in the street, he bought me clothes and enough food to eat, and he never got drunk. He didn't even drink beer or pulque [a drink made from fermented cactus].
I was thirty‑six years old when we got married. My husband's sons were living on their own. One was in Mexico City, and the other worked on a rancho. We never had any children together. God never sent us a child; I don't know why. I wasn't too old, but no child ever came.
For twelve years we lived together very happily. But then my Alvín got sick. After a year he was too weak to get out of bed. From September to May he couldn't get up at all. I was so sad to see him suffering, and I didn't know how to help him. Then finally he died, and I was all alone. That was such a sad time, a time of crying every day.
One day, while Alvín was still alive, I heard a program on the radio about a school called the Centro de Crecimiento, where they were teaching children who were blind or deaf or couldn't walk. On that program a woman said blind people could learn to walk in the street alone using a cane. I told my husband I wanted to learn to walk by myself, but he said, "What do you need that for? You've never walked by yourself; you don't need to start now."
But after he died, the teachers from the Centro came to me and told me I could live there. There was a little room where I could sleep, and I could help in the kitchen, cooking breakfast and lunch for the children. They gave me a cane and taught me to walk by myself. Now I can go by myself to Mass and to the shops. I can walk to the plaza and I can visit my friends. I never imagined that some day I would be able to do those things.
At the Centro I play with the children, and sometimes we talk about the future. I tell them to learn everything they can, so they can have a better life. I am so happy to know these children and to think about the opportunities they have.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sheila Amato]
Getting the Words Down in Braille
by Bill Kaufman
From the Editor: The following story is only the latest of several that have appeared informing the world about an exciting, and thus far unique, course being taught at East Islip High School in New York. It is a two-year Braille transcription course conducted by Dr. Sheila Amato, a truly dedicated professional in the blindness field and a real Braille enthusiast. In an era painfully short of good Braille transcribers, Dr. Amato set out to provide high school students the opportunity to acquire highly prized job skills in Braille transcription and at the same time to educate young people about the wonders of this elegant code.
This story appeared on November 17, 2002, on <newsday.com>, a Web publication associated with the Newsday publications. Here it is:
With the goal of providing the blind access to a wider scope of learning materials, students at East Islip High School are enrolled in a course in literary Braille transcription, believed to be the only such high school program in the nation. Literary transcription refers to transcription of books versus other materials such as brochures or signs. The course, which is being taught by its originator, Sheila Amato, focuses not only on the long‑used mechanical Braille‑writing machine but on emerging technology using computers and special printers to transcribe material into the traditional system of touch‑sensed symbols. Amato explained that there's a shortage of Braille transcribers to produce textbooks, and "many schools are not able to obtain the increasingly wide variety of new textbooks they need."
"In addition to learning the Braille code, students in this course are being exposed to the college and vocational opportunities that are available to them upon high school graduation," said Amato, who was brought in for the course and holds a doctorate in blindness and visual impairment education from Columbia University.
The elective full‑credit high school course runs for a school year, with a follow‑up year in advanced Braille transcription available. Currently fifteen students at the high school, all sighted except one, are enrolled in the course. Amato said she designed it not only to offer transcription training "but also the opportunity to learn about people who are blind and to develop a level of comfort with them and respect for their capabilities."
Students who complete the advanced course can go on to receive certification from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, which will boost their chances of finding a job in the field.
Mary Ann Siller, co‑chairwoman of national education programs of the nonprofit American Foundation for the Blind in Dallas, said the East Islip course is "as far as I know, the only one being taught in a high school for credit."
Siller added that her organization has teamed up with Verizon in a three‑year campaign "that promotes the new career, Braille textbook transcriber, at the federal and state levels and raises general awareness of the needs of blind and low‑vision schoolchildren for timely access of textbooks and learning materials."
The course has attracted national attention. Recently Barbara MacNeil, program manager for students with vision impairments of San Diego's public schools, visited East Islip to observe the training. She said that her school system plans to implement a similar program next year.
A transcribing student, Michael Conlon, nineteen, who is blind and hearing impaired, said in a typed note that he learned Braille when he was four years old, "just like the other children in my class who were learning print." A junior, he said he enjoys reading books in Braille, "especially adventure stories or stories about animals," adding, "I try to read a chapter in my book every night before I go to sleep." Conlon does all his homework in Braille, "and I hardly make a mistake," he noted. He's attending the course to keep abreast of developments for the blind.
Another student, Erica Zampardi, sixteen, a junior, said via a typed message, "I took this class because I'm deaf and am friends with a boy who is blind. I want to learn about their culture."
Some of the students take the class for sheer pleasure. "I love Braille," said Shannon Brew, sixteen, a junior. "My favorite part of the day is Braille and sign language classes. I go home and show my family, and they are so proud. It's amazing, and I'm so happy I'm learning it."
Schools Superintendent Michael Capozzi hailed the two‑year curriculum developed by Amato. He said she has "created a wonderful environment for children to learn Braille transcription. This is a tremendous opportunity for our students to learn a world‑class skill."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Part of the Louisville skyline at night]
NFB National Convention
by Cathy Jackson
From the Editor: January is here, so it's time to make your plans for attending the national convention. Consult the information at the front of this issue for registration details. NFB of Kentucky President Cathy Jackson and the Kentucky affiliate are already hard at work making plans for our entertainment. Here is Cathy's report on what's going on in Louisville:
Welcome to Louisville, Kentucky, the largest city in the commonwealth and the sixteenth largest city in the United States. On January 6, 2003, we officially merged our city and county into one metropolitan government. We have come a long way since the county was formed in 1780. Jefferson County was one of the first three counties to split from Kentucky County, Virginia. Our county was proudly named after Thomas Jefferson, who was governor of Virginia at the time.
As the rest of the nation settles back after a joyous holiday season, the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky are gearing up for the 2003 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. The doors of the Galt House Hotel will open wide to allow over three thousand Federationists to take up residence beginning the week of June 28. In case you haven't heard, Louisville, Kentucky, is once again the site for this one-of-a-kind event. For all of you who attended last year, I certainly hope you are making plans to return to Louisville. For those of you who were not among the numbers in 2002, you absolutely do not want to make the same mistake twice. We have the challenging task of making this year's convention bigger and better than last; however, I believe we are up to the test. We had our first planning meeting in mid November. Assignments have been made, and everyone is anxious to welcome you back.
The remodeling continues at the Galt House Hotel. You will probably not notice any significant changes. The renovation is taking longer than expected. Some of the executive suites on the fifteenth floor of the East Tower have been refurbished. A fresh coat of paint, new carpet, new wall covering, color-coordinated window and bed treatments, and new furnishings make for pleasant surroundings. Some of these executive suites have Jacuzzis for your relaxation and enjoyment. Remodeling also continues on the two-bedroom apartments.
The remodeling efforts will not interfere with your good time at this year's convention. During your leisure you might take time to browse through the in-house mall. Here you will find specialty shops, a gift boutique, hair salon, and portrait studio. You will still be able to enjoy a good meal in the River Grill at a reasonable price. Check out the Fountain Room for lunch. You will delight in a superb luncheon buffet. Before dinner enjoy a cocktail in the cozy atmosphere of the English Tavern. Put on your best bib and tucker and relish continental cuisine in the famous revolving Flagship Restaurant overlooking the city and the Ohio River. If you are still not ready to call it an evening, D'Marie's Lounge offers nightly entertainment.
Once the Galt House fulfills all of its contractual obligations, it will be able to move full speed ahead with its restoration plans for this historic Louisville landmark. I am hopeful that, when you return in 2005, the work will be completed.
When you arrive next summer in late June, the Fourth Street Galleria will also be undergoing a major overhaul. Many of the retail stores and fast-food restaurants will be conspicuously absent. We do know that some of these businesses will remain or relocate. However, at this point we do not have specific details. Do not push the panic button. Just as one business closes, another opens. Already we have new eating establishments since your visit last summer. Cunningham's, one of Louisville's oldest and most popular restaurants, has reestablished itself near Fourth and Broadway, just a short trolley ride from the hotel. Cunningham's is open for both lunch and dinner. There is more than baseball at Louisville Slugger Field. Wellinghurst's Steakhouse is fast gaining popularity with the locals. Browning's Brewery serves bluegrass-influenced ballpark specialties. The menu features all sorts of pub grub. The thirty-five-foot-high glass-enclosed brewing tower has added a unique ambience to the bar.
The most dramatic change you will notice is that Fourth Avenue will be open to through traffic, where the Galleria Atrium now stands. By the time the 2005 convention rolls around, this area will be a major entertainment venue called Fourth Street Live, with restaurants, nightclubs, and retail stores. Hard Rock Café and Border's Books and Music have already signed leases with the property management and should be open by the spring of 2004. Everyone involved in paint-up, fix-up Louisville is hoping that we will be able to lure ESPN Zone and Ruth's Chris to the tenants list.
Churchill Downs is also getting a face-lift. The first phase of a $130 million revitalization is well underway. On Monday, May 6, 2002, less than forty-eight hours after the running of the 128th Kentucky Derby, construction began. The historic track has never before undergone such sensational and exciting changes. A large meeting space, luxurious suites (which will provide a view of the downtown skyline), renovation of the first- and second-floor Jockey Club, renovation of the first-floor grandstand, and new elevators should all be just about complete by the time the convention comes to town. The majestic twin spires have already been repaired and continue to beckon you back for a fun-filled afternoon. Those who enjoy browsing the Internet can visit the Downs by going to <www.churchilldowns.com>. Once you are on the home page arrow down to "Building on a Tradition," located on the left side of the page near the bottom. You can follow the work in progress.
The Playscape play area, located on the riverfront, is five times larger than it was last summer. Even the 120-foot-tall baseball bat outside Slugger Field has been spruced up. It took sixty-five gallons of paint and a very patient painter using a two-inch brush to give the bat a wood-grain look.
Louisville is rich with history and tradition, and we want to share it with you. The restoration and rebuilding of this southern town is long overdue. The changes are a new design being woven into the tapestry we call Louisville. But one thing is for certain: Good ol' southern hospitality still beats in the hearts of southern folk.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sheila Koenig]
by Sheila Koenig
From the Editor: The following story first appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of the Minnesota Bulletin, a publication of the NFB of Minnesota. Sheila Koenig was a tenBroek Fellow at the 2002 convention. She is an inspiring and dedicated middle-school English teacher. This is what she says about an important lesson that she learned:
Every summer during my childhood my family ventured out on at least one camping trip. My brother David and I conjured up fantastic adventures wherever we went. Building enchanted hideouts or mystical sand sculptures, we embarked as pioneers to chart new territory. Though blind since birth, I have not always traveled with a long white cane; during the expeditions with my brother I squinted at the ground in front of me and let him lead, even though he was younger. I anticipated our adventures with enthusiastic curiosity, eager to unleash my imagination in each magnificent place we discovered. But straining and squinting became tiresome, and my incompetence at times created in me genuine apprehension to explore rocky or unfamiliar terrain.
The summer we camped at Devil's Lake in Baraboo, Wisconsin, I realized the magnitude of my ineffective travel technique. Hiking along the bluffs, which rose nearly 500 feet, I clenched my father's hand. He tried his best to guide me along the trails, but I clung to him, paralyzed with the fear of falling. I understood that trusting my residual vision compromised my abilities, but I knew no alternative techniques. As I gathered the courage to finish the hike, I promised myself that someday I would not allow my blindness to thwart my ambitions.
Years later I stood atop a different bluff, one that I had climbed while wearing sleep shades as a student at Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), one of our Federation training centers. Upon graduating from high school, I had won a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind, and part of the scholarship included attending the national convention. At national conventions I observed blind people traveling confidently with the long white cane. I realized that, if I had learned Braille, I would not be holding large-print books close to my face in an awkward attempt to read them.
Since those childhood days of expeditions with my brother, I had aspired to be a teacher. But questions always lurked beneath the surface of my dream: How would I read the class attendance roll? How would I grade papers and complete lesson plans? How would I approach the topic of blindness with my students? With the help of the National Federation of the Blind, I observed that alternative techniques existed, and I recognized that, before I could become a successful teacher, I must first acquire the skills to become a successful blind person.
I developed these skills at BLIND. Daily lessons in travel, Braille, and computers built my competence, but one activity more than any other launched my confidence. My initial reaction to rock climbing was one of anxiety and fear. I speculated that falling would probably not be any less frightening if I were attached to climbing gear. But as I listened to other blind people clamoring with excitement, I became more eager to climb. When I touched the anchor at the top after my first climb, I smiled with proud exhilaration, confidence rushing through my veins.
On the first day of school I challenged my ninth grade English students to stretch their imaginations, to explore the possibilities of language and images in the world around them, and to confront the fears that paralyze them. Showing students the way, however, does a better job of inspiring than simply telling them. I began my presentation this year with a video recorded two weeks prior to the start of school; I had ridden the Skycoaster at the Minnesota State Fair. Tightly secured in our harnesses, Jennifer Dunnam and I ascended a 150-foot tower. Upon reaching our perch at the top, she pulled the cord, sending us plummeting towards the ground. I screamed through the initial fall, but as we began to glide back and forth, pendulum style, I marveled at the exhilaration of flying.
My students also marveled at seeing their English teacher falling through the air and flying triumphantly. They too began to understand how to stretch the possibilities of their imaginations and dive into new experiences. I thrive on challenges and high expectations, but without the influence of the National Federation of the Blind, I would never have evolved beyond that fearful young girl clinging to others for guidance and direction.
Computer Aids for the Blind
by Stacey Hirsh
From the Editor: The following article appeared in the October 24, 2002, edition of the Baltimore Sun. It provides a clear summary of where technology for the blind is and how far we still have to go. Here it is:
Jim Dickson is a smart man. He graduated from Brown University, has a job as a vice president for a national organization, and considers himself a quick study. But when a report arrived recently that his computer could not translate into voice, Dickson, who is blind, had to rely on others to do his work for him. He phoned eight of his colleagues before finally finding one who had time to read the lengthy report to him over the phone.
"That's annoying; it's humiliating; it's inefficient," said Dickson, a vice president at the American Association of People with Disabilities in Washington.
While technology has helped the blind read e‑mail and computer documents, it is still riddled with problems. Many technologies are difficult or impossible for the blind to access, and the result is a giant gap between those who are blind and those who are not.
The problem affects hundreds of thousands of blind people. The consequences can make it difficult for the blind to peruse Web sites, and they can be as devastating as costing blind workers their jobs. Several experts say anecdotal evidence indicates that the problem is widespread.
"If the technologies that we use fit in with the technologies that everybody else uses, we can accomplish great things," said Curtis Chong, director of technology for the Baltimore‑based National Federation of the Blind. "But if the technologies don't mix, we either find other ways to do it that cost a lot of money, or we don't work."
Today two products will be introduced that could help narrow the gap between the blind and the sighted. Microsoft Corporation and St. Petersburg, Florida-based Freedom Scientific, Inc., will launch the PAC Mate, a hand-held personal computer for the blind. Also the Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology will unveil technology that it is developing to enable the blind to feel graphics through a device that connects to their computer.
Still the problems that the blind face with technology are growing, Chong said. Even if a blind person is looking for a job that has nothing to do with technology, that person must make sure the company runs software on its computers that is compatible with technology for the blind, he said.
About 30 percent of the 669,000 people between the ages of twenty-one and sixty-four with severe difficulty seeing were employed in 1997, according to the most recent survey by the U.S. Census Bureau.
For those who are employed, technology can create overwhelming roadblocks.
Gary Wunder, forty-seven, is blind and has been a computer programmer at University Hospital in Columbia, Missouri, for more than two decades. Several years ago he was promoted to the job of project manager, but Wunder said that in 1995 he was demoted back to senior programmer because the computer programs he used had so many graphics.
"So we take a couple of steps forward and get some things to work, and then we take a couple of steps back," Wunder said.
Dickson has given up on using the Internet. On the job he has one of his employees do Internet research and then e‑mail it to him-‑a task that Dickson estimates costs his organization a day's work for one staff member each week.
"The way we accommodate access to the Web is I drive my staff crazy," Dickson said.
Some say moves to diminish the digital divide for the blind are underway. Glen Gordon, chief technical officer for Freedom Scientific, which makes technologies for people with visual and learning disabilities, said that, when Windows 3.1 was released in 1993, it was years before a device that turned printed text into the spoken word was available. When Windows XP came out in 2001, he said, devices were ready in hours.
With the technology being introduced today by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, blind students will be able to feel maps or pictures of animals that appear on their computers.
With the PAC Mate, the blind will be able to send e‑mail from the road and load messages from the device onto their desktop computers, the way sighted people have long been able to with their pocket PCs. Still the PAC Mate costs $2,595, compared with the iPAQ pocket PC, which can cost as little as $500, according to Hewlett‑Packard Company's Web site.
Madelyn Bryant McIntire, director of the accessible technology group at Microsoft, said the Redmond, Washington‑based software giant began putting features for the blind into the operating system in 1988. She believes that what technology can do for people with disabilities will be well known by the end of the decade and that the technology will be much further along by then as well.
"We really think that this is going to be a decade of incredible change, and change for the better," she said.
A survey of the blind by the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University found that more than half of the 166 respondents felt not being able to read printed materials was the greatest barrier to employment. Technology, however, has helped the blind read e‑mail and computer documents.
"Technology has been wonderful. Technology has come a long way," said J. Elton Moore, director of the center. "But by the same token there are still significant problems."
To solve those problems, advocates said, companies must consider the blind as they design new technologies--not after the fact.
Susie Stanzel, a technology specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Kansas City, Kansas, said technology is developing fast, and the tools to make it accessible for the blind simply can't keep pace.
For Stanzel, who is blind, the problem will come when her office upgrades to a computer system that is more graphical. The new system, she said, will not be as accessible.
"I will be at some disadvantages," she said. "It is a fact that I'm just not able to do all the things that everybody else does because of technology."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ryan Osentowski]
Equal Access to a Black and White World
by Ryan Osentowski
From the Editor: Ryan Osentowski is an energetic young leader in the NFB of Nebraska. Here he explains why he works hard to strengthen NFB-NEWSLINE in his state. This is what he says:
"Dad, what does `arson' mean?" I asked as I sat next to him on the couch, interrupting him midway through an article he was reading aloud to me from the Kearney Daily Hub.
"It's when people set fires on purpose," he answered.
"Like in a fireplace?" I asked.
"No, like in a building," he patiently answered. "Sometimes people burn buildings because--" but I had already lost interest in what my dad was saying. Mention of the fireplace had caused me to reach up and feel the newspaper he was holding in front of his face. Until then I had assumed that newspaper was just something you stuffed into a fireplace to help the fire burn brighter. But here was my father reading to me from one.
"Dad, why are you reading that?" I asked.
"I like to know what's going on around town," he answered, putting down the paper. Evidently he had decided that he would never make it to the sports page with a curious four-year-old pestering him with questions. I immediately grabbed another page, putting it to my nose and smelling the ink. I ran my hands over the smooth surface of the paper, listening to the rustle as it gave way between my fingers. Then, after a few seconds of this exploration, I crushed it into a ball, fired the papery projectile across the room, and laughed. My dad sighed and commented that he hadn't really wanted to read the sports page anyway.
Ten years later I began to realize how much more important a newspaper was than mere fire fuel. In my eighth-grade social studies class, our teacher, Mr. Henderson, began a weekly ritual of Friday morning current events trivia contests. He told our class that we were to read the Thursday evening paper, and he was going to test us on Friday morning to see how much we had absorbed. The person who answered the most questions correctly would win a free soft drink and candy bar from the teachers' lounge. Soft drinks and candy bars might as well have been contraband at the time, since no vending machines were available to students at our school.
This prize was enough to jar the students out of the world of comic books and television for one night in order to acquaint themselves with the real world reflected in the Kearney Daily Hub. I realized that I would have to enlist my parents' aid to help me win, so I began urging them to read the paper to me on Thursday nights. Unfortunately, raising three boys and working full time didn't always afford them the necessary time to read the complete Kearney paper aloud. I soon discovered that I could bribe my friends to read the paper to me. This worked for about two weeks until my mother found out what I was doing and informed me in no uncertain terms that lunch money was to be used for lunch and nothing else. Somehow I couldn't convince my mother that a soft drink and candy bar were as nourishing for lunch as the daily mystery meat and potatoes that faced us in the cafeteria.
I cursed motherly intuition and began searching for another option. Then I learned about our state radio reading service, but was disappointed to learn that they did not read the Kearney paper regularly. When they did read the Hub, they excerpted it. Eventually I resigned myself to the fact that I would never win a free soft drink and candy bar.
Six years after that Dr. Kenneth Jernigan and the National Federation of the Blind brought one of my fondest dreams to reality with the creation of NEWSLINE for the Blind. During high school and early college I began paying more attention to current events. I watched the evening news and listened to AM talk radio and political commentary. Many times I heard a journalist on TV or radio quote from an article in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times. I found myself frustrated that they would never read the entire article. My curiosity was aroused, but I could never find out more about the subject being discussed. Mixed with my frustration, however, was a growing fascination that the media pundits on radio and television always quoted from the newspaper. This told me that, despite the thriving world of electronic media, the printed word in newspapers still had its place.
I always felt frustrated, convinced that I was shut out from a part of the world of current events into which my sighted classmates could freely dip. I had a computer but hadn't yet logged onto the Internet. When I heard that the NFB had invented a service by which blind people could read the entire text of a newspaper by telephone, I became excited. My excitement was short-lived when I learned that it wasn't available in Nebraska, where I was attending college. I experienced that same old feeling of disappointment--no soft drink and candy bar for me. But this time it was worse. Instead of sugary treats, I was being denied equal access to a big part of the ever-changing face of our world. Newspaper articles were often discussed in political science, journalism, and philosophy classes that I took. I had better luck convincing classmates to read an occasional article to me if it grabbed my interest, but I still could not browse an entire newspaper at will.
Three years later I had the opportunity to see NEWSLINE in action. I was attending the Federation's annual Washington Seminar, and Dr. Maurer demonstrated NEWSLINE by speaker phone during the great gathering in. I was impressed and excited when Dr. Maurer informed us that we could all use NEWSLINE while we visited Washington, thanks to a test number set up by the national office in Baltimore. I stayed up much too late those few nights, browsing the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun, soaking up the latest headlines. I couldn't get enough, much to the annoyance of my roommates, who were more interested in getting sleep than the news. We all left Washington full of determination. I was determined to help fight to get NEWSLINE in Nebraska, while my two roommates were determined to find a different roommate the following year.
In June of 1999 my hopes were finally realized as the NFB of Nebraska officially launched NEWSLINE in Lincoln with a grand ribbon-cutting ceremony. I was like a kid in a candy store, getting my Coke and Snickers bar ten years late. I was always on the phone checking out national headlines as well as the Omaha World-Herald. By that time I enjoyed Internet access, but the idea of walking around my apartment with my cordless phone in hand, browsing the Washington Post, was very liberating.
It was a big step up from the days of readers and radio reading services, but I still felt limited. I had only four papers to choose from. Yet I loved the service and felt I had come full circle when I became the Nebraska NEWSLINE outreach coordinator in the fall of 2000. The work itself is easy and rewarding, demonstrating NEWSLINE for blind persons who are interested and helping them to sign up for the service. I take a great deal of pride in sharing the joy of equal access with others who can benefit from NEWSLINE.
Since I have been a part of NEWSLINE, I have seen it grow and touch the lives of more people. With the new national service that came to us courtesy of Congress in March of 2002, the limits have become even less constricting. Whereas before I was able to read only four newspapers, I am now able to choose among some fifty-five state and national papers. The benefits of this became starkly clear last semester when my criminal justice professor took up an issue of USA Today one morning and began reading an article about the Enron scandal. I realized that I had read that very article just a few hours before. I could finally recognize an article that my professor was quoting. I made it a point to approach him after class and discuss the article in depth. Later that semester I had the opportunity to debate my philosophy professor in his office regarding an article from the New York Times on cloning. He was impressed that I was so well read and asked, "Who reads your newspapers for you? Do you have to pay someone?"
"Not at all," I said and pointed to the telephone on his desk. "I get everything from this." Needless to say, my professor was impressed.
While the events I have described have all been beneficial to my education, I never fully realized how vital NEWSLINE could be as a part of my life until just last week. Nebraska is right in the middle of tornado season, and my hometown of Kearney was pummeled by a band of intense thunderstorms on June 12, 2002. No actual tornados were sighted in the city, but much of the area was pelted by hail the size of softballs. Lincoln is located about two hours east of Kearney, which meant that my hometown was outside the news coverage of local television and radio stations. Beyond a quick mentioning of "bad hail and thunderstorms near Kearney," the people on the ten o'clock news said relatively little about the impact the storms had had on the city.
I had received a quick phone call from my parents, telling me of the damage done to our home, but I knew nothing about the destruction that the rest of the city had endured. It was disconcerting to be unaware of the damage that many of my friends who still live there had suffered in the wake of the storm. It was heartbreaking, yet comforting, to call NEWSLINE the following day and read more extensive coverage of the storm in the Omaha World-Herald. It also made me realize just how far we still have to go in our effort to make more newspapers accessible to the blind. The Kearney Daily Hub is not yet a part of NEWSLINE, and we have many other newspapers in the western portion of the state that haven't signed on with our service. The incident with the storm has only strengthened my resolve to continue working to promote the benefits of NEWSLINE, not only to the blind, but to potential newspaper participants as well.
NFB-NEWSLINE has made a strong impact on my life, and the results are nothing but positive. Along with my daily news headlines, I can read movie and book reviews, editorials, and human interest. I can keep up with the Nebraska Cornhuskers on the sports page or find out if it's raining in Baltimore. The world of black and white denied me for so long is now at my fingertips, and it serves me well.
In reflecting upon the benefits that NFB-NEWSLINE has offered to me, I find it difficult to understand how anyone could oppose NEWSLINE. We, the blind of this country, have taken a great leap forward in gaining access to a world that was largely denied to us for many years. NEWSLINE truly embodies Dr. Jernigan's vision of independence, and any blind person can be a part of it. I hope those who have not yet signed up for this revolutionary service will do so and enjoy the world of black and white that I have come to love.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Federationist Don Morris is pictured here with Raging Smart, a colt in which he owns part interest. This colt and the filly in the following story were both sired by Malibu Moon.]
At Sound of the Bell, Mom Comes Running
by Tom Keyser
From the Editor: The following article appeared in the October 31, 2002, edition of the Baltimore Sun. Federationists know all about inventing alternative techniques for dealing with blindness. Peggy Elliott has told us about the adventures of her blind cat Sheriff. Now meet a former race horse who is adapting quite nicely to the combination of blindness and motherhood. Here is the story:
The blind mare, Raging Smart, keeps her foal in range by the bell hanging on her halter. This is the way it's been since forty-five minutes after Raging Smart gave birth April 25, and Joyce and Ray Jones slipped the halter and bell onto the filly's neck.
Motherhood completed the regeneration of Raging Smart, a former one-eyed racehorse who lost her second eye in her forty-third and final race and then ran upon hard times in neglected retirement.
The Joneses brought her in August 2000 to their Cambria Farm in Carroll County [Maryland] and nursed her back to health, discovering along the way that Raging Smart, whom they nicknamed Smarty, had been valiant in the face of hardship. "She's adapted to every challenge life has thrown her way, and I think there's been quite a few," Joyce Jones said. "She's met each one with grace and equanimity."
The nine-year-old Raging Smart lives by sound and smell. When she figures out where you are, she reaches out her nose until she feels you. She seldom takes a misstep, even when jogging in her large field, and she only occasionally clunks her head against a barn wall.
When she gave birth for the first time, she acted as if this were old hat. She's a nurturing mother, not overprotective; but the one time her baby lost her bell, she squealed and carried on because she'd lost her.
"She's so normal, sometimes I forget she's blind," Joyce said. "She just needs to know what's expected of her and where she is. She's got a wonderful temperament."
When the Joneses agreed to take Raging Smart, they knew only that she was a daughter of Smarten, a top stallion now pensioned at Northview Stallion Station in Cecil County, and needed loving care. She was malnourished after indifferent treatment at a farm the Joneses declined to identify.
They found out later she had been successful at the track, finishing first, second, or third twenty of forty-three times, mostly at Pimlico and Laurel Park. She set a track record at Colonial Downs, covering one and three-quarters miles on turf in 2 minutes, 45.22 seconds.
They discovered she had a stellar pedigree worthy of perpetuation, so, after Raging Smart regained her strength, they bred her to Malibu Moon, a young stallion at Country Life Farm near Bel Air. The Joneses hope the developing colt joins their modest racing band, which currently numbers four.
They usually populate their thirty-two acres west of Westminster with about fifteen horses, of which six are mares. They do all their farmwork themselves, despite full-time jobs.
Joyce works as accounts payable manager at Symphony Health Services in Sparks. Ray is a professor of pathology at the University of Maryland Medical School.
Raging Smart, for her portfolio, won four times racing with one eye but could have won more. Mark Johnston rode her frequently when Baird Brittingham's Lakeville Stables owned her and King T. Leatherbury trained her.
"She was kind of tough to ride because she was scared to go inside a horse," Johnston said. "She didn't like horses outside of her, I guess, because she could see them with her right eye.
"You always had to circle the field with her. She was just real happy racing in the middle of the track. That's where she did all her running. It was a shame, because it was such a handicap to lose as much ground as she did. She got beat a lot of times because you just couldn't get a good trip."
Johnston's words bear out. Raging Smart, a winner of only four, finished second nine times and third seven times. Here are typical comment lines: "Angled eight-wide, rallied," "Came very wide, closed," and "Best too late, widest."
Elizabeth Schultz, a Frederick County veterinarian, bred Raging Smart and raced her seven times until Leatherbury claimed her.
Schultz said the filly suffered a scratched cornea in her first race, on March 26, 1996, at Pimlico. Infection set in. Despite treatment at the New Bolton Center in Pennsylvania, Raging Smart lost all vision in her right eye.
She lost vision in her left eye in her last race, July 10, 1999, at Penn National. Ronny Brown, then her trainer, said she got hit in the eye with a pebble or jockey's whip or something. Within a day or two she'd lost all sight.
Still, in that last race Raging Smart finished fifth, earning $330. She earned a check in all but six of her forty-three races, bankrolling $88,083.
Three years later Raging Smart lifts her head out of the damp grass when she hears the gate rattle. Ray Jones pushes the gate open, and he and Joyce step into the paddock lush from fall rains.
Of the four horses in the field--two mares with their foals--Raging Smart, surprisingly, leads the way. "She thinks they're going to feed her," Ray said, laughing.
"She's a good girl," Joyce said, stroking Smarty's neck while pushing aside the probing, jealous nose of her foal. The two will remain together for another month, and then the filly will be weaned from her mother.
Joyce and Ray have thought it all out. One morning they'll remove the bell from the foal's halter and lead her to a new field. Raging Smart will be led to her familiar paddock with the other mare.
The Joneses expect Smarty to carry on for a while, as all mothers do, but they also expect her to adjust quickly, as routinely happens. They plan on keeping the bell handy because they figure on breeding Raging Smart next year.
Until she gives birth again, though, one thing's for certain. It's going to be awfully quiet around Cambria Farm without that bell.
Did you know that you can make a gift to the National Federation of the Blind and save taxes three ways? Well, you can! With a gift of appreciated stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. For more information, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Judy Jones]
Dividend for a Blind Mom
by Judy Jones
From the Editor: Judy Jones is president of the Pierce County Chapter of the NFB of Washington. She and her husband Chris are blind; their two daughters are sighted. Does this make their family life different from those of their neighbors? Not particularly. The strains and rewards are recognizable to everyone who has raised children. This is what Judy says:
Recently my daughters and I were traveling home by air. Aboard our flight was a blind man who seemed to have difficulty orienting himself to the cabin. My elder daughter, sitting next to me, observed this gentleman being taken to the rest room and returned to his seat. Once he had cleared our portion of the aisle, my sixteen‑year‑old leaned toward me and said, "Hey, Mom, thanks for being independent!"
I immediately got one of those warm mother‑glows. They are as rare as a quiet moment in the life of a busy mom, but one of the priceless fruits harvested from the practice of daily independence. I thanked her and said, "That really means a lot to me."
Being teens and occasionally a little self‑conscious, our girls have mentioned that they don't like me being so obvious. Obvious? At that age and stage, having a parent within a mile of where they are hanging out is obvious. Then add blindness to that, and mortification is hardly too strong a term for the reaction of most teens.
One time I offered to take our eldest to a teen event, but she said she'd rather have my husband go. "Mom, if you take me, you won't just chill; you'll start talking to other people. When I turn around, you'll be at some table helping out with something." I chuckled privately at that, because I like being active, talking to people, and helping out at school activities, and I'm glad she sees me in that role even if it is momentarily embarrassing. I realized that the important thing was to continue being Mom, stay involved but not intrusive.
When we go to shopping malls, sometimes we separate, do our shopping, and meet at a designated place. But there are also times when the girls want to accompany me. Then they want me to walk with them, not ahead or behind. At those times I agree to have one of them act as a sighted guide.
Sometimes I ask, "Do you want to shop separately or go with me?" Or I might ask, "Shall we get customer assistance, or do you want to handle this?" Or, if I'm shopping for something specific and want to take my time, I simply tell them I'm getting customer assistance, and they can either come with me or shop separately. Any way you slice it, even though they're free to decide which of the choices they want to take, I'm in charge of the shopping trip. The whole idea is this: they have choices and aren't forced into the role of being my guides.
My husband and I sometimes ask for our daughters' advice, opinion, or minor assistance because we need it. Families should be interdependent, and children should learn the virtues of helpfulness and kindness.
One of my sighted friends told me she always has her daughters select her clothes for her when they go shopping because she wants to be sure she is in style. My girls are also very quick to tell me what looks good.
Occasionally, when our girls have called attention to a spot on the carpet I didn't know about or helped touch up and finish painting a room we had started, my husband and I have expressed how much their help means to us. But it can be a tricky balancing act between asking for assistance in order to teach children the virtue of kindness and healthy interdependence on the one hand and unhealthy dependence and forced servitude on the other.
I don't know if the incident on the plane will stay with our daughter, but for me it was a milestone. I'm deeply thankful both daughters know that with proper training and opportunity blind people can lead productive lives. I can report that a few seconds of that mother-glow dividend can make the years of investing energy in talking our talk and, even more important, walking our walk worth all the effort.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: William Harmon]
This month's recipes are provided by William Harmon, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada.
by William Harmon
1 pound ground beef
10-ounce package lasagna noodles
1 can Hunt's herb tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
2 1/2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
16 ounces cottage cheese
Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brown meat and drain well. Cook pasta according to package directions until tender. Add tomato sauce to browned meat and simmer. Add egg to cottage cheese and mix with the salt and pepper. Drain pasta and layer in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish. Over the pasta pour half the meat sauce; spread with half the Mozzarella cheese and half the cottage cheese mixture; and sprinkle with half the Parmesan cheese. Repeat these layers once more in this order. Bake thirty minutes.
by William Harmon
1 tablespoon chopped onion
1 tablespoon shortening
1/3 pound ground beef
1/3 can tomato soup
3 tablespoons shredded sharp cheese
pinch of oregano
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted
Method: Brown onion in shortening. Add beef. Cook until browned. Stir often to separate meat. Add soup, cheese, oregano, and pepper. Simmer for ten minutes. Spread meat mixture on buns. Place strips of Mozzarella cheese on top. Run under the broiler until cheese melts. Makes eight pizzas or eight servings.
by William Harmon
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup ham, cubed
4 mushrooms cut in small pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons diced onion
Method: Brown ham, mushrooms, and onion in butter in a 10-inch skillet. Mix eggs, milk, salt, and pepper together in mixing bowl. Add egg mixture to ham and mushrooms. As edges of omelet begin to thicken, with a spoon or fork draw cooked portions toward center to allow uncooked mixture to flow to bottom of skillet. Shake and tilt skillet as necessary to aid flow of uncooked eggs. When eggs no longer flow but surface is still moist, the heat should be increased to brown the bottom of the omelet quickly. Sprinkle cheese on top of omelet. Loosen edges carefully and fold omelet in half. Slide it onto a warm serving platter. Makes two servings.
Chicken and Rice Casserole
by William Harmon
1 chicken, cut up
2 cups water
1 stick butter
1 package Lipton onion soup mix
1 cup rice
Method: Spread uncooked rice evenly in a shallow 11-by-9-inch baking pan. Arrange chicken pieces on top of rice. Bring two cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Melt butter in the water and add soup mix. Cover and simmer for five minutes at low heat. Pour sauce over chicken and rice. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for one hour.
by William Harmon
1/4 pound hamburger meat
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of garlic salt
1 tube refrigerated biscuits
3/4 cup grated cheese
Method: Brown meat. Add tomato sauce and seasonings. Roll biscuits to circles five inches in diameter. Place on cookie sheet. Spread with hamburger mixture. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Garnish with additional oregano. Bake at 450 degrees for ten minutes. Yields ten servings.
Peanut Butter Cookies
by William Harmon
1/2 cup old-fashioned peanut butter
1/4 cup pure maple syrup or raw honey
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup safflower oil
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
Method: Cream the peanut butter and the syrup together. Add flour and remaining ingredients. Stir well. Drop the batter by teaspoonfuls onto an oiled cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork, dipping the fork in cold water between cookies, and bake at 350 degrees for twelve to fifteen minutes. Makes two to three dozen cookies.
News from the Federation Family
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Bob Hartt]
Bob Hartt is treasurer of the Northern Potomac Chapter of the NFB of Virginia. The following is an entry in the Congressional Record:
Tribute to Brookings Fellow Robert M. Hartt
November 22, 2002, page E2122
by Hon. Danny K. Davis of Illinois in the House of Representatives
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute and gratitude to Mr. Robert M. Hartt. Recently Mr. Hartt has ended a six‑month fellowship with the Brookings Institution and will be returning to his position at the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled. While working in my office, Mr. Hartt brought an aspect to disabilities issues that shed a new light on legislation and office policies. Mr. Hartt passionately used his personal experiences as a man with a vision impairment to ensure improvements be set forth in computer software, educational textbooks, and healthcare for all individuals with disabilities. His advocacy and strength instilled a renewed hope that one day our nation will have equality for all people. Again, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Mr. Hartt for his exceptional hard work for the residents of Illinois's Seventh Congressional District and America's disability community.
On Saturday, November 16, 2002, the East Hillsborough Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida held its annual appreciation banquet and awards ceremony. After the banquet the chapter held its annual elections. We are pleased to announce the following results: Marion Gwizdala, president; Richard Brown, vice president; Patricia Crumbley, secretary; Merry Schoch, treasurer; and Dory Bartell, Janice Butler, and Sophia Brenner, board members.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Noel Nightingale and Jim Peterson with new son Cosmo]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The newest member of the Palmer family, Lauren]
November 21, 2002, was a big day in the Federation family. In Seattle, Washington, Cosmo James Peterson, son of NFB of Washington President Noel Nightingale and her husband, Jim Peterson, was born weighing seven pounds, three ounces and measuring twenty-and-a-half inches.
In Utah on the same day, National Organization of Parents of Blind Children Board Member Marla Palmer and her husband Mike became the parents of Lauren, who weighed in at seven pounds, six ounces and twenty-and-a-half inches. Congratulations to both families.
The NFB of Oregon's Rose City Chapter conducted elections on November 16, 2002. The new officers are president, Carolyn Brock; vice president, Laine Gardinier; secretary, Jerry Hathaway; and treasurer, Joyce Green.
The NFB of Wisconsin conducted an election at its fall convention. The results were as follows: Mark Riccobono, president; Dan Wenzel, first vice president; William Meeker, second vice president; Linda Mentink, secretary; Larry Sebranek, treasurer; and Nezvat Adil, Elizabeth Buhrke, Tony Olivero, and Kathleen Sebranek, board members.
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.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: NFB banner with full-color Whozit]
NFB Banners for Sale:
The Greater Summit County chapter of the NFB of Ohio is still selling eight-foot heavy vinyl banners. Chapters and affiliates who bought the original version of this banner will be glad to know that we have made a full-color Whozit decal which can be firmly affixed to cover the old NFB logo and convert your banner into a stunning new advertisement for the National Federation of the Blind. The cost of this 22-by-20-inch vinyl decal is $20. It comes with exact instructions for applying it to your banner.
If you have put off buying a banner but now wish to have one for your chapter or affiliate, the cost of the Whozit banner is $45. Add $7 for shipping and handling if you are ordering the full banner. The handling cost for the decal alone is $5. Make checks payable to NFB of Ohio, and send orders to NFB of Ohio, 237 Oak Street, Oberlin, Ohio 44074-1517. Be sure to tell us where you wish to have your banner or decal sent.
Hermansky‑Pudlak Syndrome (HPS) Network Recruiting for New Research Protocol:
Hermansky‑Pudlak syndrome (HPS) is a serious genetic disorder affecting people from many nationalities. It is very prevalent in families from northwestern Puerto Rico and their descendants. HPS involves albinism, a tendency to bleed and bruise, and in some cases a life‑threatening lung disease.
Doctors at the National Institutes of Health are writing a protocol for a treatment for the pulmonary fibrosis of HPS. Patients will be treated by some of the nation's leading experts at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There is no cost for the medicine, hospitalization, or doctors' fees.
Eligible candidates will have a forced vital capacity on pulmonary function tests of below 85 percent. If you or someone you know has breathing problems related to Hermansky‑Pudlak syndrome or if you suspect you may have this form of albinism, please contact the HPS Network. Patients are always albino but are often unaware that they have the syndrome. If you are albino and have a bleeding tendency or have been diagnosed with Crohn's disease or asthma, please contact the HPS Network for more information about Hermansky‑Pudlak syndrome and how you can be tested. Call (800) 789-9477 or (516) 922-4022 for more information.
No Professional-Level Blind Employees Left at JBI:
With great sadness and regret we report the forced resignation of Cantor Mindy Fleigelman from the staff of the Jewish Braille Institute of America (JBI), effective November 26, 2002. Cantor Fleigelman's resignation was tendered on October 26, 2002, prior to the publication of the article about JBI which appeared in the November issue of the Braille Monitor. Cantor Fleigelman was the director of the recording studio at JBI and was responsible for the production and duplication of its Talking Books on Tape. She appeared most recently before the 2002 NFB convention in Louisville, Kentucky, at the meeting of the board of directors to give a progress report on JBI.
Upcoming O&M Conference Reminder:
Jim Omvig reminds Braille Monitor readers that the National Blindness Professional Certification Board will conduct a national orientation and mobility conference in connection with the Washington Seminar. The conference will be held on Sunday afternoon, February 2, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Information about the conference will be available when you arrive at the Capitol Holiday Inn.
Braille Transcription Service Available:
We offer customized Braille transcription service that meets the individual needs of the customer. Print can be transcribed into Braille at modest prices for all kinds of documents. This may include bulletins, agendas, menus, theater programs, employment materials, legal documents, letters, lists, invitations, labels, and much more.
Documents can be received on disc in MS Word format and by e-mail attachments. For more information about this service give Kerry Smith a call at (314) 644-7733, or e-mail <email@example.com>.
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.
CCTV, Aladdin Ultra Pro 75 by Telesensory for sale. Less than one year old. Asking $995. If interested, contact Hyman Easton, 320 E. Shore Road, Great Neck, New York 11023, (516) 487-7882.
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.