THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 46, No. 5 May 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
National NEWSLINE® number: 1-888-882-1629
Letters to the president, address changes,
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should be sent to the National Office.
Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year. Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
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. 5 May 2003
What Happened in Tampa? Observations
on Informational Picketing
by C. Edwin Vaughan, Ph.D.
Open Letter to a Blind Person:
Choosing Rehabilitation Programs and Instructors
by Mike Bullis
A Federationist Speaks Out
by Chris Kuell
Disability Is No Hindrance for Blind Teacher:
Blindness Enhances Her Mission to Make Children Independent
by Eric Bradley
Introducing the Galt House and Hyatt
by Max Robinson
Tactile Images and You:
A Comparison of Thermal Expansion Machines
by Robert S. Jaquiss
Surmounting the Braille Reading Speed Plateau
by John Bailey
America Online: Is It Accessible Now?
by Curtis Chong
How I Turned My Life Around
by Robert Dorfman
by Angela Howard
A Woman to Remember
by Cory Golden
Please Pass the Manners
by Barbara Pierce
Birthday Bash at St. Lucy's School
by Lynn Heitz
Focusing on the Picture
by Susan Povinelli
A Wrenching Decision
by Ed Lewinson
Copyright © 2003 National Federation of the Blind
Thursday, April 10, the National Federation of the Blind hosted our second low-vision resources event for seniors and their families. It was titled Possibilities Fair, and more than 125 people took advantage of the opportunity to learn about living fulfilled lives with little or no sight. Volunteers from the NFB and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) staffed booths. Former governor and current comptroller of Maryland William Donald Schaefer served as honorary fair marshall.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Fair attendees are seated at the south end of the third-floor space at the National Center for the Blind to hear remarks from President Maurer and others. Honorary fair marshall William Donald Schaefer (center) listens intently.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Seniors enjoy gourmet boxed lunches at noon, all part of their $15 registration fee.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: BISM volunteer Annette Gordon teaches Atrium Village residents Lillian Levine and Violet Zlotowitz how to make decorative bows at the gift-wrapping booth.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: BISM volunteer Johnna Harrison shows several seniors alternative techniques for knitting.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ed Vaughan]
What Happened in Tampa? Observations on Informational Picketing
by C. Edwin Vaughan, Ph.D.
From the Editor: Ed Vaughan is Professor Emeritus of the University of Missouri, and Dean of the Russel Center for International Management and Professor of Sociology at Menlo College in Atherton, California. He attended the informational picket outside the meeting of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired in December of 2002. A large part of the February 2003 issue of the Braille Monitor was devoted to reports of both the meeting and the informational picket. Dr. Vaughan brings a sociologist's perspective to what took place. This is what he says:
For the past thirty-five years I have worked as a sociologist--two years at the University of Minnesota, thirty-one years at the University of Missouri, and most recently two years at Menlo College in Atherton, California. About twenty years ago I became interested in the National Federation of the Blind as a social movement. After attending an annual convention, I became a member and have been as active as my time has permitted.
As a sociologist I have been interested in the social and cultural arrangements created for blind people in the United States and several other countries (see Social and Cultural Perspectives on Blindness, Charles C. Thomas, 1998). Several of my research projects and the resulting publications have focused on the organizational sources of the social conflict which has developed between the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and some agencies and special organizations which have provided educational and rehabilitation services to blind people.
I attended the informational picketing sponsored by the NFB at the December 13 and 14, 2002, summit meeting sponsored by the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired (NAC) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Tampa, Florida. About thirty-five people actually attended this nationwide meeting.
It was not the first time I had participated in such a gathering. In the 1980's and '90's I was present as a participant-observer on three occasions when the NFB arranged informational picketing to correspond with NAC board meetings. I do not claim to be objective. I do not think anyone is in matters involving intense differences over values and social arrangements affecting the lives of individuals. However, I can assert that I bring a consistent sociological perspective to the issues I have observed. I have also observed other kinds of picketing, including picketing for human rights issues, civil rights legislation, and antiwar demonstrations.
I have no basis upon which to comment on Mr. Steven Obremski's personal experiences or psychological condition when he traveled in the elevators of the Crowne Plaza Hotel. He describes his frightening experience in his letter to Marc Maurer, published in the February 2003 edition of the Braille Monitor. I would like to address and comment with considerable conviction on the profound differences between my observations and his characterization of some aspects of the informational picketing.
In his letter Mr. Obremski, past president of NAC, refers to the "criminal behavior" which he observed in Tampa on the part of NFB members. He wrote, "This behavior is criminal in nature and has no place in the interactions between NAC and NFB. I cannot help but hold you responsible for this because you have created an atmosphere of mindless hatred that encourages people to act in an antisocial way" (Braille Monitor, February, 2003, p.94).
I have never observed "mindless" or "antisocial" behavior at any of the organizational pickets I have attended, including the recent one in Tampa. In fact, my observations are just the opposite. These NFB pickets have been very well organized by leaders who possess both exceptional ability and impeccable integrity. These leaders include James Gashel, Peggy Elliott, Diane McGeorge, Carla McQuillan, and others. These leaders have studied NAC throughout its organizational history and probably know much more about NAC than does Mr. Obremski or the new officers or board members. Over the course of the past twenty-five years or so NFB leaders have updated developments concerning NAC with more than thirty articles published in the Braille Monitor. My own most comprehensive article about the history of NAC is "Why Accreditation Failed Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Impaired," published in the January/March 1997 issue of the Journal of Rehabilitation.
Members of the blindness community in general, professionals in the field, and the volunteer informational picketers have been continually updated about the unfolding history of NAC through publications and public presentations. New Federation members are educated about the importance of the issues involved in the Federation's opposition to NAC. My personal observations have led me to conclude that the informational picketing reflects a consistent, well-articulated critique of NAC. Based on my own experience, clarity of purpose has always been present in the informational picketing.
Good humor and conviviality, not hatred or antisocial behavior, are what I have observed. Evidence of the good humor was reflected in the comments of the Santa Claus who appeared in the midst of the first informational briefing held in Tampa on the evening of December 13. The songs and characterizations of NAC were quite funny--at least to Federationists who know a great deal about NAC. I certainly acknowledge that some NAC leaders feel threatened by the humor and solidarity of the NFB participants, particularly when they expressed the level of anxiety demonstrated by Mr. Obremski in his own description of his elevator incident in the Crowne Plaza.
Mr. Obremski also observed that he learned from others attending the so-called summit that some NFB members said they attended only because they had been "told to" or because the NFB had paid their expenses. First, I would like to address the allegation that NFB members had their expenses paid by the NFB. As my bank statements and credit cards attest, I paid my own way from California to Tampa. None of my expenses--hotels, food, taxis, airfare, etc.--were picked up by my employer or the NFB. It was money out of my own pocket. Gary Wunder, president of the NFB of Missouri, told me that the Missouri affiliate contributed $400 to each of four volunteers who attended the Tampa informational picket. Such funds were raised through the many projects of the local chapters of state affiliates. As for the attendees, they were selected from a larger pool of applicants who would have liked to participate. I can also assure Mr. Obremski that the $400 covered only a portion of the actual expenses of these relatively young NFB members, none of whom is earning comfortable salaries (such as those paid to NAC or other agencies at the so-called summit). I wonder if Mr. Obremski would care to tell Monitor readers how many of the agency personnel and other professionals who attended the summit paid their own expenses? I would wager that all of them, despite their relatively comfortable salaries, had their complete expenses paid by their agencies or by NAC.
Now let's look at another of Mr. Obremski's mischaracterizations: that Federationists attended the meetings because they were "told to do so." In all of my years associated with the NFB, I have never encountered mindless people who, like sheep, do simply as they are told. I have encountered a great many concerned people who share a common purpose--enthusiastic support for the social movement of which they are a part. To characterize them as did Mr. Obremski--himself reflecting mindless hatred and mindless obedience--is uninformed and ludicrous.
Many sociologists have observed that social movements always have a well-defined enemy. The regressive tendencies and regressive agencies in the field of blindness, which are frequently accredited by NAC, could not have provided the NFB with a more attractive enemy over the past thirty years. It is a measure of the organizational strength of the NFB that it has the ability consistently to organize these informational pickets. NAC is not the only organization that has been exposed to NFB picketing. Individual sheltered workshops and even some state-funded agencies have been picketed over a variety of specific issues. I also know from conversations with Mr. James Gashel and others that the NFB very much regretted the expense, time, and effort required to conduct this latest informational picket. The leadership had hoped that NAC would continue to be dormant and then expire.
I must also comment on the December 16 letter of Mr. Don Wells to Marc Maurer, published in the February 2003 Braille Monitor. He referred to the picketers as "inane" and characterized the event as a "circus" (Braille Monitor, February 2003, p.97). Mr. Wells is the consultant who was employed by NAC to facilitate its summit meeting in Tampa. Based on the comments in his letter and the taped transcripts, I can only describe Mr. Wells as a very small act in a backwoods carnival. Mr. Wells said that he read some of the history of NAC before he came to the summit yet called himself an outsider. He based his comments about the NFB on observing the picketers and talking to a few Federationists. If I were to characterize Mr. Wells in the way he did Federationists, I would have to say that he appears to be an archetypal hired hand--a person who uses his position or credentials to obtain extra money. Such hired hands say and do what their employers expect. If the word "inane" means empty, void, and silly, perhaps we should apply it to him.
Finally, concerning the question of who knows what about NAC, based on the transcript of the summit meeting, many NAC supporters know little about its history. In 1984 NAC reached its high point in the number of agencies accredited--106. Since then this number has steadily declined. On February 21, 1991, National Industries for the Blind officially announced that its funding of NAC would cease in June of 1991, and the American Foundation for the Blind made the same decision shortly thereafter. On April 7, 1991, the NAC board met to consider its financial crisis. The board then voted, twelve to one, to disband NAC. The board then realized that a vote of the entire NAC membership was required before the organization could be dissolved. Subsequently, on May 5, 1991, with ten members present and ninety-one proxy votes, NAC voted, fifty-three to forty-eight, to continue its accreditation efforts. These events are described in Kathleen Megivern's 1991 report to the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation for the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). In 1991 she was the executive director of AER.
Following these events, the president and vice president of NAC resigned, and NAC has continued to decline steadily ever since. It currently accredits forty-five agencies (Peggy Elliott, "NAC in Isolation," Braille Monitor, February 2003, p.65). [In fact, during the membership meeting on December 14, this number was revised downward to forty-two.] NAC has only two staff members.
If the development of a broadly supported and effective accreditation program for agencies serving the blind depends on NAC, the prospects appear bleak. Why do a small, beleaguered group of agency professionals continue to struggle to support this organization when it is clearly not providing leadership? In his 1994 Annual Report to NAC, then president Richard Welsh mentioned that "there is less blood flowing through the arteries and veins" of NAC (The Standard Bearer," No. 56, 1994). He then observed that NAC belongs to its "volunteers." He wrote: "As long as enough volunteers and agencies see a value in the process, it will continue to exist and to be of service to schools, agencies, and programs that serve the people with visual impairments." By every measurable standard--budget, number of employees, and number of accredited agencies--NAC has continued to decline. Why does it not step aside and permit an accrediting process to emerge that might be of use to all concerned? Why does it persist?
Some few beleaguered administrators and professionals involved with NAC apparently continue to believe that its particular name and organization are indispensable. In addition, two individuals receive fairly good salaries. Accrediting teams get to visit other places and to list these visits as professional contributions. Board members get to make occasional trips to warm places such as Tampa. They can trumpet their exalted positions to their relatively uninformed boards of directors or supervisors.
We can hope that leaders like Carl Augusto will continue to speak out about the appropriate place of NAC in the blindness field. Many people will applaud the leadership when it finally disbands and permits its remaining resources to be used as seed money for a fresh new approach to providing legitimacy to agencies and schools serving blind people.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Mike Bullis]
Open Letter to a Blind Person:
Choosing Rehabilitation Programs and Instructors
by Mike Bullis
From the Editor: Mike Bullis has been teaching blind people how to travel, read Braille, and find employment since 1974. Not content simply to teach, Mike likes to practice what he preaches. He has owned eleven businesses, including restaurants, a motorcycle shop, and a mediation business. In the November 2002 issue of the Braille Monitor, we published his first "Open Letter to a Blind Person." The topic was determining whether and when to take the time to get truly effective rehabilitation training. In the following letter he addresses the question of finding a program that meets your needs. This is what he says:
We now turn to the difficult subject of choosing which programs and instructors will best meet your needs as a blind person. For many of you reading this letter, the training you receive will be paid for through the federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act. This act places much emphasis on your ability and right to make an informed choice. Under purpose, the act states in part:
The goals of the nation properly include the goal of providing individuals with disabilities with the tools necessary to make informed choices and decisions; and achieve equality of opportunity, full inclusion and integration in society, employment, independent living, and economic and social self-sufficiency.
This emphasis in the law on making informed choices, along with other trends, means that as a blind person you will have ever more options to choose from in the type of training you receive. Gone forever are the days when you went to the local rehabilitation agency and the staff provided what they had available. Today your state agency may provide training, other private agencies or contractors in the community may do similar work, or private programs across the country may offer training.
When it comes to blindness training, it makes sense to go wherever you need to to acquire the necessary skills once and for all and then move on with your life. If it means going to another state or even another country temporarily, in my view it is still worth the sacrifice. Every program has a teaching philosophy and style that may or may not fit your needs and produce a positive outcome. In theory the competition among them will help all programs become better so that all consumers will benefit.
However, just as choosing your long-distance provider can be confusing, so too deciding on what training you should receive and from whom can be mystifying. What's more, you are making decisions that will affect the rest of your life, so it's important to get them right if you can.
In discussing blindness training, I will assume that you're looking for a comprehensive program as opposed to acquiring one skill like Braille or computer use. You certainly can and should use the information provided here to help you make decisions about single courses, but in general this discussion will focus on programs providing a broad array of courses, including travel, Braille, computer skills, cooking, and grocery shopping.
The first difficulty blind people face is making an informed choice about the services being offered. A newly blind person is likely to perceive very few possibilities. Life appears limited and frustrating, and it seems as if very little can be done to mitigate the tragedy of blindness. The average person has a mental image of blind people as helpless, living in a world not just physically dark, but barren of life's fullness. Whether we admit it or not, the image of the blind beggar of old still haunts the recesses of our minds in the twenty-first century.
Then too, having done most things visually, those struggling with recent blindness find it nearly impossible to imagine doing them without sight. Hobbled by this limiting concept of blindness, how can one make an informed choice about appropriate training or future possibilities?
The fact is that, depending upon the motivation of the person and the quality of the training program, blindness need not be a tragedy. Life can once again become normal--filled with job, spouse, and the range of challenges and joys that one's neighbors enjoy. Thousands of blind people work, raise families, and live the American dream with vigor and competence. However, doing so often depends upon the quality of the trainers and rehabilitation programs chosen.
One of the keys to making a positive choice is having high expectations. If you expect little from a training program and think that blind people can't accomplish much, your decisions about trainers and programs will be colored by those assumptions. If your image of a blind person is a fumbling, bumbling, slow person who simply is not competent when assessed by normal sighted standards, you will not expect much from the trainers and programs that serve you. Furthermore, if you think that the average blind person is inherently slower and less competitive than the average sighted person, you will probably conclude that much of what I am about to say is unrealistic, perhaps delusional.
I can only tell you that I have been fortunate enough throughout my life to associate with thousands of blind people. I have observed that people's skills and ability to compete successfully in life depend first and foremost upon their beliefs about what is possible. That is, if they believe deep down that they can be excellent travelers or Braille readers or computer users, they probably will be. By "believe," I don't mean that they just give lip service to platitudes about the capacities of blind people. Unfortunately blind people face a lot of pressure to say we believe things we do not. At some point in your instruction you need to find somebody with whom you can share your actual fears and anxieties about blindness, not just repeat platitudes about how competent blind people are.
In general today's society demands that we refer to people with all kinds of disabilities in politically correct language such as "differently abled" and "special." This effort may perhaps have some benefit, but it ignores or glosses over our deepest feelings that disability means inferiority. A major part of your training must focus on this central concern. What is required is a combination of counseling and activities geared to help you develop a positive attitude about blindness.
Second, success depends upon the quality of the instruction students receive. If their instructors believe in the normality of blind people and expect students to accomplish ordinary tasks in the ordinary amount of time, they most likely will. If, on the other hand, their instructors expect them to be slower and less competitive, they will be. This outcome is even more pronounced when the instructors are blind. Whether these instructors recognize it or not, they become models for their students. That is, students make their instructors the standard for what they expect a blind person to accomplish. If the instructor is competent, the student will believe that becoming competent is possible.
The only caveat here is that a program should employ more than one competent instructor. Most students resist the idea that blind people can be competent. Because of their ingrained belief in the fumbling, stumbling blind person, they find it all too easy to write off one successful blind instructor as a fluke or aberration. They will regard him or her as exceptional or special and will assume that they themselves cannot be expected to do the same thing. So ideally a program will have two or more really competent blind instructors to help root out this myth.
I should add that ideally students nearing the end of their training or already having finished it will be available to serve as examples. These students will provide the indispensable example for newer students. At some point a new student should be able to say, "If that student can do it, so can I." But the only way this will happen is if students are exposed to people whom they perceive as equals in intellect and general ability.
The program you choose should also expose you to many blind people in the community as they go about their normal lives. The phrase "seeing is believing" is just as true for blind people as it is for the sighted. You must come to believe deeply that you can compete equally in society. You probably don't really believe that now. Your mind--and possibly your deepest instincts--are likely to be sending you the message that you simply can't expect to compete and that blindness means inferiority.
In order to change this programming you must observe lots of capable blind people every day. They will help you retool your attitudes and expectations. I don't mean that the training program should bring in conspicuously successful community leaders to speak. Speakers are useful, but they don't usually help transform your beliefs. Why? Because they're just talking, and talk is cheap. When week after week you see blind people nonchalantly cooking, traveling, raising their children, and going to work, the truth of what I have been saying will begin to sink in. Until then, for all you know, the imported blind speakers are simply deluding themselves into believing that their blindness isn't a big deal.
One blind person put it very clearly: "This blind guy comes in and gives a speech about how capable he is and then leaves in a cab. Who did he think he was kidding?" One might argue that the blind speaker had every right to take a cab and might have had a very good reason for doing so, but in a training program example is everything, and the example set was a poor one. If, on the other hand, the trainee had been exposed to this speaker regularly, he might have observed that the person was an excellent cane user, competent Braille reader, and so forth. But the snapshot given the trainee was of a person who couldn't travel without using cabs. A good training program should provide more than snapshots; it should provide intimate looks at the lives ordinary blind people live. That usually means blind staff who are willing to welcome students into their homes and let them observe what their home life is really like. This critical element is often left out of training programs.
Look for a program with lots of activities--cooking lunches or dinners, traveling independently to new places, and engaging in physical recreation. Blind staff should fully participate in these activities as examples to students. Again more advanced blind students can also act as catalysts to help new students adopt a view of blindness as synonymous with independence, not limitation and frustration.
One of the reasons it is difficult to choose appropriate trainers is that virtually everyone in the blindness field uses the same words to describe what they do. Everyone claims that they will help you become independent, get the best training, and recognize the negative attitudes and stereotypes about blindness. In this day of politically correct statements, almost no one is going to say, "You really ought to accept the limitations of blindness. You can't expect to walk as fast as others; you'll always walk slowly. You will be less efficient in the kitchen than the average sighted cook. You just have to understand these things and live with them. You'll always read Braille more slowly than a sighted person reads print. We are teaching you to read print instead of Braille because Braille is so slow."
No, people won't say these things to you because such statements are no longer politically correct. Besides, most teachers have convinced themselves that they are doing the very best they can and are practicing state-of-the-art instruction. Though some programs or teachers consistently turn out better travelers or Braille readers or typists than others, no comparison chart exists for review. Another thing to remember is that, even in very good programs, some instructors are better than others.
Your task is to devise a method of observation that will tell you whether people indeed practice what they teach. One of my tenets of good rehabilitation teaching is that the instructor should help the student learn to problem solve. No teacher of travel or cooking or Braille can expose you to every known situation or problem you will face. Therefore the goal of effective instruction should be to help you devise methods that will help you efficiently solve the problems of blindness. Again virtually every teacher will tell you that this is what he or she does.
So how do you tell if the method used will produce that result? One technique is the counting method. Watch an instructor teach a lesson and count how many times he or she provides information or answers and how many times he or she lets the student discover the solutions for himself or herself. Teachers who are giving answers more than 70 percent of the time are not teaching much problem solving. Teachers who make, let, or help students find their own answers more than 70 percent of the time are truly teaching problem solving.
Because people often seem confused about what is meant by problem solving and discovery learning, as it is called, let me illustrate by showing what it is not. The teacher says, "Which direction are you walking--north, south, east, or west?"
The student says, "west."
The teacher says, "No, that's not right."
The student then guesses, "south," and the teacher agrees.
I hope you can see that no problem solving is being taught here unless it is the increasing ability of the student to make educated guesses and wheedle answers out of teachers.
The instructor intent upon teaching mobility and problem solving might start out the same way: "Which way are you traveling?" When the student says "south," the teacher says, "Why do you think that?" The answer to this response helps the instructor understand the extent to which the student is truly developing useful skills in any situation as opposed to right or wrong answers. Whether the student gives a correct or incorrect answer, the teacher probes, "Which environmental cues favor your answer, and which ones do not?" This is a very active process that really stimulates thinking and mental growth. It pushes students to use sound, wind, sun, traffic--everything that might help form an intelligent decision.
Here is an example from the kitchen. One instructor might say, "Here is a little device that will help you tell when a cup is full by beeping." The student is then presented with the device and shown its use.
Another instructor says, "How many ways can you think of to tell when a cup is full?" The teacher and student might then experiment with several ways of determining the answer--weight, temperature, touch, sound, or special devices. When the second student is through with the lesson, he or she understands that blindness presents opportunities to find solutions to problems. The first student concludes that blindness presents problems that require teachers to provide special devices and expert information to solve. The first method teaches that blind people have to consult experts and learn tricks. The second method teaches that there are many ways to solve problems and that they are easily soluble. Both instructors undoubtedly believe that they are teaching the same level of independence.
When evaluating programs, potential students tend to sit down and talk with instructors. My advice is to watch or listen to instructors as they teach lessons. Meeting with program directors or instructors will tell you little about their skills. The best instructors often cannot readily describe what they do, or they are self-effacing in their description. The capacity to teach is an art as well as a science, and those who do it well often don't recognize it and can't explain what they do. You simply have to watch them work and draw your own conclusions.
Then too it often happens that the style of one instructor may simply suit you better, not because he or she is a better teacher, but because the style just fits your personality better. That's another reason why this evaluation period is necessary.
I favor rehabilitation programs that rely on the old- fashioned values of discipline and hard work. As you learn the skills of blindness, you are trying to remake your mind; that is, teaching your brain a new set of skills which will develop into habits. This is best done through discipline and immersion in those new skills. Professor Peter Drucker somewhat sarcastically said it well, "Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work."
Look for programs that challenge both your physical stamina and mental capacity to learn. If your goal is a job once you are trained, it follows that you want a program that keeps you actively learning for eight to ten hours a day--just as a job does. As a blind person you probably find that family members and friends expect little of you.
Furthermore, you may find that the depression that often descends at the onset of blindness causes you to slow down. You don't get up early, don't get regular physical exercise, and don't consistently challenge yourself. You want a program that will help you regain your physical and mental discipline. Family and friends, well-intentioned though they may be, have perhaps unwittingly helped you withdraw from the daily activities of life. The program you choose should push you to re-engage yourself with the community and reinvigorate you to face the challenges life has to offer.
You may have other disabilities that limit your ability to work hard or engage in a full day's work. Since blindness is often a result of age, this too may limit your endurance and capacity to learn. The program you choose should accommodate your capacities, but it should not automatically be geared to the least common denominator. That is, each student should be pushed to his or her fullest capacity, not allowed to work at the pace of those with physical or mental limitations. Because many blind people have other limitations, some programs reduce expectations for everyone.
You should also look for programs that help you develop confidence by teaching you to do things which you may or may not do every day after leaving training. Some quick examples should illustrate the point. Students should have to prepare a meal for a group of twenty-five or more people. They should have to travel in completely new and unusual situations with little or no guidance from instructors. Water or snow skiing, rock climbing, mountain climbing, and other physically challenging activities are also good.
Why? Because these more extreme activities will give you the confidence to perform the daily humdrum ones easily and quickly. Your attitude will become, "If I can serve a meal to twenty-five people, I can cook dinner for my family every day with no trouble." You will say, "If I can walk down to the riverfront and find pier 23, I can easily make that new, unfamiliar street crossing without difficulty." This is an attitude you're attempting to develop.
These activities aren't necessarily realistic in the sense that, as I said, you may not perform them every day. But, if you're going to demonstrate to overly helpful family members or friends that you can function efficiently as a blind person, you'll want to have the confidence that comes from doing big or unusual tasks. Men and women in the Armed Forces are pushed to their limits in boot camp, not because they are likely to work that hard again while in the service, but to give them the confidence that they can do whatever it takes in a difficult situation. You too want to gain that same confidence.
When you get home with your family, some of your confidence will inevitably seep away. The old habits of low self-esteem and limitation will come back as family members treat you as they always did. You want to leave the program with enough extra confidence that, when a little erodes away, you're still substantially ahead of the game. You're not trying to be super blind person; you're just doing what it takes to build confidence that can withstand outside pressure. If you come home having learned only to do the average tasks in the ordinary way, when slippage occurs, you will necessarily subside to below normal.
Ninety percent of those reading this letter and considering rehab training have some vision. When you evaluate programs, you should observe the way they teach people with some vision. First consider the extent to which the program emphasizes competitiveness. The skills you will be learning should be measured against the standard of what will be competitive on the job, in other words, compared with what a sighted person can do.
This issue often arises when considering how those with residual vision should read or travel. If you are to be competitive and efficient in today's world, you will want to use a combination of techniques that maximizes speed and efficiency. The average sighted person reads at about 200 words a minute. You will want to aim at that target. Avoid the temptation to choose print because you think it makes you look sighted, even when it's much slower or less efficient than Braille. The program you choose should help you find that combination of techniques which maximizes your skills, not your capacity to look sighted. You yourself should be helped by the program to face your blindness squarely--not trying to fake sight in order to look normal.
The level of illiteracy among those who are legally blind with some vision is staggering. Studies show that these people are employed less often and have less professional success than people who are totally blind and use Braille. Teachers are often tempted to cater to the student's desire to avoid appearing blind, so they encourage the use of print at all costs. Ultimately you will pay the price for accepting techniques that are slow and cumbersome. With work you can learn to read
Braille at the same speed that the average sighted person reads print. If you choose another technique, it should be at least as efficient. If it is not, you won't be competitive in school or the job market.
For blind people with some vision, I don't know of any workable teaching technique that doesn't involve using sleepshades or a blindfold. You simply must learn to develop alternative techniques that don't involve vision. That means spending several hours a day doing things without sight. The advantages are incredible because, after your alternative skills are developed, you can then go on to use your vision in the activities for which it is most efficient. You must confront this issue head-on, not avoid doing whatever it takes to be competitive. Settling for less will leave you less competitive in the work world, less functional in the social world, and more frustrated in your personal life.
Another issue to consider is the way a training program handles the differences between students with some vision and those with none and their interactions with each other. When people come for training, they often have very low self-esteem. Whether totally blind or with some vision, students believe that they are no longer able to compete in the world. Both groups receive the message from sighted people that they lack ability and are painfully different.
When these two groups of students are together in a training program, a sad symbiosis can result. Those with some vision become the helpers of those with none. On field trips the students who can see a bit guide the totally blind ones. If something is lost, the person with some vision eagerly searches for it rather than encouraging the totally blind person to learn the necessary skill. The message to the totally blind person is clear although never stated: having some vision is much better than having none. The person with residual sight feels gratification at finally being able to use vision to help some one. At long last he or she has superior skills to somebody. The result is that the totally blind person never learns good skills, and the person with some vision gains an unrealistic sense of self-importance.
When a totally blind student rooms with someone with a bit of sight, unless the program helps him or her think through what is happening, the person with residual sight will end up doing most tasks around the apartment because it's "easier for me." Never mind that the totally blind person can and should learn to vacuum the rugs, do the dishes, and mop the floors as well as a sighted person. He or she won't learn these skills unless the program helps students recognize the tendency to place a premium on sight and view total blindness as necessarily inferior.
The most important thing to remember is that you need to look for and expect the best, and the best usually means hard work and acceptance of personal responsibility. It also means that your instructors should push you and be competent examples of what they teach--helping you learn the problem-solving skills you will need as a blind person. You will face much pressure to accept mediocrity. Unfortunately this pressure often comes from the agencies established to serve you. Fortunately, though, you have many choices and can become a self-confident blind person, provided that you are willing to reject that which doesn't meet with the highest standards of excellence.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Chris Kuell]
A Federationist Speaks Out
by Chris Kuell
From the Editor: The Friday, March 28, 2003, edition of the Danbury News‑Times carried an op-ed column by NFB of Connecticut second vice president Chris Kuell. The blind of Connecticut are once again struggling to improve state vocational services. This time the plan was to dismantle the entire program and shuffle the blind off to another agency. The sheltered shop run by the Board of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB) was to be summarily shut down.
At a hearing conducted by a committee of the legislature, Federationists Allen Harris, Fred Schroeder, Jason Ewell, and many others testified. Though blind people were doubtful about how seriously this testimony was taken, it apparently did some good. It is still too early to tell for certain, but apparently BESB will not be dismantled, and some managerial changes such as the method of appointing the agency director will be made. Here is Chris Kuell's article:
Rowland Plan Will Dismantle Agency for Blind
The State of Connecticut is in a dire fiscal mess. Everyone (theoretically) is going to have to tighten their belts a little to help bail us out. But what about the folks that don't even have a belt? Did I hear someone asking, "John, what did you do with the money?"
We ordinary people don't know what the governor did with all the surplus. He did send out checks to all the taxpayers in the state, distracting the voting public long enough to assure his re‑election. After that, he gave himself a raise and sharpened his axe.
How will our elected officials deal with the mess? The plan appears to be to sacrifice the neediest of our citizens: the poor, children from non‑English speaking families, the aged, unwed mothers, battered women, the deaf, and the blind (like me). We will lose because the programs we depend on will be dismantled or lose significant funding. The neediest among us are being treated like society's bottom dwellers, as persons of unnecessary expense.
On March 10 I sat waiting to testify at a public hearing regarding a proposed bill to consolidate the Board of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB). The hearing room and an overflow room were full, with more than seventy concerned citizens anxious to be heard. When my turn finally came, a sighted friend told me there were only three committee members present, and one of them was asleep. The pleas of the mother with her two‑year‑old blind daughter, the industries worker who lost his job along with 132 other blind and multihandicapped workers, the man who spoke on behalf of all the blind vending operators‑-all went essentially unheard by those that are sworn to care.
The director of BESB, Donna Balaski, a Rowland appointee, wasn't there to defend the agency or the clients whom she is paid to represent. Why was she absent? I think it serves her career interests not to appear contrary to the wishes of Governor Rowland. Her absence from this most important hearing sickens me.
The blind in our state face a greater than 70 percent unemployment rate. By dismantling BESB and throwing it to the Department of Social Services (DSS), the governor and legislature guarantee that figure will approach 100 percent. Sure, they sleep at night by telling themselves DSS will take care of things just fine.
But, they are not kidding anyone. How can an overworked, understaffed, largely bureaucratic and administrative agency, facing deep cuts itself, absorb 13,355 new clients? New clients that need instruction in Braille, low‑vision aids, mobility and orientation, independent living, specialized technology, and a host of other services DSS is unprepared to provide? Obviously, DSS can't, and our elected officials don't seem to care. After all, we can't even vote independently yet. Perhaps they will pass the legislation to allow for accessible voting machines this session, but I'm not holding my breath.
The politicians will also defend their actions by claiming that BESB is a scandalous agency that does little to help its consumers. Unfortunately this assessment is largely correct. Yet Rowland created the mess at BESB by the abuse of his executive appointment abilities. Rather than appointing executive directors that are capable and competent to revitalize the agency, Rowland has used his power for political payback.
Take a look at the last three executive directors. Balaski, the current director, didn't lift a finger to stop the closing of the Blind Industries program, even though National Industries for the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind presented her with multiple alternatives.
Her predecessor, Larry Alizobek, is on his way to jail for accepting bribes and awarding contracts to the governor's friends. Before Alizobek's brief term was Ken Tripp, who was recommended for prosecution by the attorney general for multiple counts of on-the-job sexual harassment and various other abuses. All three of these so-called leaders of the blind were Rowland appointees. While they collected their fat paychecks, the have‑nots got shoved aside.
I don't have a summer home or gold doubloons to bribe the necessary people. All I have is a surplus of bile and anger in my gut resulting from the way the governor has treated his non‑wealthy constituents. Unemployment rates rise, literacy rates fall, and hope for the bottom dwellers is exchanged for a one‑way ticket out of a mess created by Rowland himself.
Mahatma Gandhi said, "A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." How will the governor and the 2003 General Assembly be judged?
A deferred charitable gift annuity is a way for donors to save taxes and make significant donations to the National Federation of the Blind. (The amounts here are illustrative, not precise.) It works like this:
James Johnson, age fifty, has decided to set up a deferred charitable gift annuity. He transfers $10,000 to the NFB. In return, when he reaches sixty-five, the NFB will pay James a lifetime annuity of $1,710 per year, of which $179 is tax free. In addition, James can claim a charitable tax deduction of $6,387 of the $10,000 gift in the year the donation is made.
For more information about deferred gift annuities, contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
Disability Is No Hindrance for Blind Teacher:
Blindness Enhances Her Mission to Make Children Independent
by Eric Bradley
From the Editor: The following article appeared in the November 6, 2002, edition of the Oshkosh Northwestern. Ginger Lee is one of the leaders of the NFB of Wisconsin. She is also the kind of teacher who makes a lasting impression on her students. Here is the article:
For students to be successful in Ginger Lee's family and consumer education class, they need to learn how to stitch on a button, cook a healthy meal, and pay all their bills at the end of the month. For herself, the Perry Tipler Middle School instructor measures success a little differently. "I know I'm successful when people don't know I'm blind," Lee said. "But I hope they (students) realize they should be accepting of people with disabilities. They are people, too, that can have families and lives and careers. They just do things in a different way."
These days Lee is a champion for educating the populace on what it means to be blind in American society. She is a board member of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin and regularly speaks at conventions. This week she will talk to parents of children who are blind. She will urge them to maintain high expectations for their children, regardless of their kids' ability. Just like in her classroom. "Kids don't fool around any more (in) here than in other classes," said Ted Procknow, twelve, one of Lee's sixth-graders. "Yeah," agreed Jacob Thornton, twelve. "She can hear a whisper across the room."
Each of her eleven years in the classroom has gotten easier for Lee, she said. She only has two special requests of students: that they keep their chairs pushed in and refrain from petting her guide dog--a golden retriever guide named Windy--when she is working. Lee opens her classroom to questions at the start of every year. But even though the children are different, the number of questions about being blind has dwindled. "I don't know if the kids are talking or maybe because I've had their siblings," Lee said. "It seems the kids are showing more understanding."
That understanding has been a long time coming, even for Lee. The stigma of being blind was so great that, when she was a college student, Lee refused to join disability support groups or otherwise affiliate with "those" people. When she got her job at Tipler, she took extra steps to become a member of the team and not an exception. Her role as a teacher, however, makes her exceptional. She said statistics on blind educators show that only 25 percent of blind people with a degree in education are employed. "It's perfectly fine to be blind," she said. "People focus on the viewing so much, but there are five senses. In a way I get a whole sensory image of what's going on around me." The climate at Tipler is better for it, said DuWayne Unbehaun, Tipler's dean of students. "Her personality comes through in the way she deals with the kids," Unbehaun said. "Students see her strength, confidence, and kindness, and I think it inspires them. "She sets a very good example, and the kids see that and pick up on that." That's Lee's ultimate goal: to be a good role model and shape her students' lives through high expectations and practical lessons.
She sets those same expectations for herself. "That's why I'm the person I am," she said. "Without that, I wouldn't have made it as far as I have."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The lobby of the Galt House Hotel.]
Introducing the Galt House and Hyatt
by Max Robinson
From the Editor: Max Robinson is second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Kentucky. Last year he provided readers with a walking tour of our convention hotels. It seemed a good idea to reprint his description again this year. Here it is:
General Information about the Galt House Hotels
The addresses for the two Galt House towers are the West Tower, 140 N. Fourth Avenue, and the East Tower, 141 N. Fourth Avenue. The phone number for both towers is (502) 589‑5200.
The Galt House is bordered on the north by River Road and on the south by Main Street. Fourth Street runs north and south between the two towers. These are referred to as the Galt House West Tower and the Galt House East Tower. The East includes suites equipped with a living room area, refrigerator, and wet bar. The two facilities are connected by both an outdoor pedestrian walkway between the two front doors, and above it a fully enclosed bridge on the third floor.
The East Tower has eighteen floors, sixteen of which contain sleeping rooms, and the West Tower has twenty‑five floors. The lower room numbers are in the West Tower. They range from 1 to 35, preceded by the floor number. On the east they range from 46 to 98, preceded by the floor number. For example, room 1201 is found on the West. On the east side the twelfth floor numbers begin with 1246.
The Galt House West
When you enter the Galt House West Hotel, you are facing west. Walk straight west, and the front desk will be to your left, along the south wall. If you stand at the registration desk in the West Tower, the bank of four elevators will be directly behind you on the north wall.
The staircase leading to the second floor of the West Tower is to the left (south) when you enter the front door, before you reach the check‑in desk.
The Galt House East Tower
The front door of the Galt House East Tower faces west. As you enter, you are facing east. If you turn left (north) just inside the door, you pass through a small lounge area with chairs and low tables. This is the entrance to the Lobby Bar, which is located between the back of the elevator bank and the west wall of the building. To find the desk once inside the door, walk straight ahead for a few feet, then turn left, and walk several yards. You are facing north, and the hotel registration desk is to your right, along the east wall. The elevators are to your left, along the west wall. The stairs leading to the second floor are directly in front of you, on the north wall.
Restaurants, Hallways, Obstacles, and Other Objects of Interest
In the West Tower the layouts of the second and third floors are quite similar. As you exit the elevators, you enter a large open area and are facing south. The main hallway is to your left. Also to your left is a large support pillar, just waiting to embarrass you. There is about a ten‑foot space between the elevator wall and the pillar. Turn left and follow the wall until you hear the hallway opening to either side. If the area in front of the elevators is congested, you should swing wide to pass the pillar on the south rather than the north.
The River Grill, located on the second floor of the West Tower, is at the northwest end of the building. Exit the elevator and turn left to reach the hallway, then turn left again and follow the hall north. The River Grill is at the end of the hall on the left and has moderate prices. The Flagship is a first‑class revolving restaurant with prices to match. It is on the twenty‑fifth floor of the West Tower.
The outdoor pool is located on the third floor, west side. The Galt House gift shop and barber and beauty shops are on the second floor west. Exit the elevator, turn left, then right (south) along the main north‑south hallway.
D'Marie Lounge is on the twenty‑fifth floor of the West Tower. It features 120 brands of Kentucky bourbon. The Lobby Bar is in the lobby of the East Tower. All rooms have coffee makers, blow-dryers, and irons.
If you drive, you should remember that the Galt House charges a $5‑a‑day parking fee.
To reach the third-floor enclosed bridge from the West Tower, turn left out of the elevator to get to the main hallway. Turn right and walk south down the hall. Turn left at the first opening (east), and turn left again (north). After a while you will hear some noisy air-conditioning equipment. Walk a bit farther until you can turn right (east). You are now on the enclosed bridge‑‑windows on your left, wall to the right, echoes.
After you leave the bridge, jog a bit to the left to avoid running into a banister like those found on stairs. You will find a wall to the left and open space to the right. Keep walking south. You will soon find a wall on the right. Then the hallway will open up to the south again. Turn right (south). The elevators of the East Tower will be to the right.
To reach the West Tower from the East Tower, exit the elevator on the third floor and turn left. Turn left again almost immediately; you are now facing west. Keep walking west and jog to the left to enter the bridge‑‑windows to the right, wall to the left, echoes. Continue west until you hear the air conditioner and the ambience changes. Turn left (south) and then right (west) and then right (north) again. You are now in the main north-south hallway of the West Tower. The openness to your left is the area where the elevators are. Pass the pillar, turn left, and the elevators are immediately on your right.
Here is the Hyatt's general information: phone number, (502) 587‑3434; the address is 320 West Jefferson. If you arrive by taxi at the Hyatt, you will turn into the hotel driveway from West Jefferson, which runs east-west. The entrance faces east, and you will enter a short hallway going west. At the end of the hall you will enter what can best be described as a circular lobby. Make a right, continuing your path counter‑clockwise around the circle. You will find a bank of telephones on your right and the elevators on your left. They and the escalators stand in the central area of the lobby, which includes a central atrium that the upper floors look into. In the lobby the front desk is just past the phones on your right, across from the elevator doors.
If you enter the hotel by the Fourth Avenue door, you are walking east and will step immediately into the circular lobby. If you walk straight ahead from this door, you will step onto the escalator to the second floor. Just a few feet inside the door and to your left is the Trellis Cafe, a full‑service restaurant featuring American cuisine and open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Pepper's Bar is located at the Fourth Avenue end of the
building on the second floor, directly above the Trellis. At the top of the escalator turn left. When you reach the bank of elevators, turn left again, and Pepper's is there.
On the first floor, continuing clockwise around the circular lobby past the Trellis, you will reach the front desk. When you face the front desk, the elevators will be directly behind you.
When standing at the front desk, you can turn right, continuing clockwise around the circle to find the hotel gift shop. It is just after the bank of phones and the hallway from the West Jefferson entrance.
There is nothing unusual about the numbering system in the Hyatt. The sleeping rooms are on floors three through eighteen, beginning with room 301, the lowest, and ending with 1828, the highest. The Hyatt rooms are equipped with blow-dryers, irons, and coffee makers. Parking is $7 a day at the Hyatt.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Robert Jaquiss]
Tactile Images and You:
A Comparison of Thermal Expansion Machines
by Robert S. Jaquiss
From the Editor: Robert Jaquiss is one of the technology experts working in the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. In the following article he provides important comparisons among the four pieces of equipment the IBTC has for creating tactile graphics. This is what he says:
The use of tactile graphics materials is a growing component in the education of blind children. Parents, teachers, transcribers, and students need to be aware of the available technologies. This article is an introduction to one of the technologies for producing tactile graphics.
When I was a student in the early '60's, the only practical way to produce tactile graphics was to have them handmade. For simple diagrams my mother would trace the drawing on the back side of a piece of Braille paper, remove the thread from her sewing machine, set it on a straight stitch, and run the piece of Braille paper through the machine. The result was a nice dotted-line drawing.
She could also use a tracing wheel and the point of a drawing compass. Other tactile materials could be made by making a collage of sandpaper, cloth, string, and whatever other tactile materials were at hand, gluing them all to a piece of paper. Making diagrams with these methods could take hours, and the results were often fragile. Over forty years later some tactile materials are still made the same way.
A New Technology
In recent years schoolbooks have presented more and more information graphically, and teachers are using visual approaches in classrooms. Increasingly blind students are called upon to learn how to use tactile graphics, and teachers and other producers of educational materials must learn how to produce such graphics.
One way to produce tactile graphics is by using a thermal paper expansion machine. The International Braille and Technology Center (IBTC) has four of these: the SwellForm from American Thermoform; the Picture in a Flash (PIAF) from Pulse Data HumanWare; and the Tactile Image Enhancer (TIE) and TIE Junior from Repro-Tronics.
To produce an image using one of these machines, you need a special kind of paper to feed into the machine: thermal expansion paper. There are two types: Flexi-paper from Repro-Tronics and SwellTouch from American Thermoform. The Flexi-paper is fabric-based and has a matte surface. It is very flexible and can tolerate folding. The SwellTouch paper is paper-based and has a smooth paper surface on one side and a matte finish on the other side. Folding SwellTouch paper will cause creasing. Thermal expansion paper is expensive--ranging in price from $.85 for one 8.5-by-11-inch sheet to $1.70 for one 11-by-17-inch sheet. A slight reduction in price is available when large quantities are ordered.
The basic process for producing tactile images on a thermal paper expansion machine is simple:
1. Using any graphics program or clipart source, prepare a line drawing.
2. Print the drawing on the front of the thermal expansion paper. You can use a photocopier to transfer an image from plain paper to thermal expansion paper, or you can use an inkjet or laser printer to print directly from a computer to the expansion paper. However, caution must be exercised when using a photocopier or laser printer to make an image directly on thermal expansion paper. If the paper gets too hot, it will expand inside the photocopier or laser printer, possibly causing a jam or damaging the equipment. For this reason we recommend an inkjet printer.
3. Pass the thermal expansion paper face-up through a thermal paper expansion machine.
While the process for actually producing an existing image is easy, the issues involved in the design of a good tactile image can be complex. It takes practice to learn how to design useful tactile graphics. Here are some basic concepts to keep in mind:
1. Keep the image simple. Include only those features the user needs to see.
2. Be consistent with Braille labels and other symbols. When looking at a tactile graphic, imagine that you have never seen this image before. Ask yourself, do the labels make sense, and would I find this image useful in the context for which it is intended?
All the machines will process SwellTouch paper and whole sheets of Flexi-paper, but only the TIE or TIE Junior should be used to process smaller sheets of Flexi-paper. In my tests Flexi-paper was more flexible than SwellTouch paper, and smaller pieces tended to jam in the SwellForm and PIAF machines because they do not use solid surface rollers to move media.
While the controls on all of the machines are essentially the same (each has a power switch and a heat adjustment), one should consider the differences before purchasing or using these machines. For example, in order to open the cover of the TIE, you must first remove the power cord. By contrast, you do not need to disconnect the power cord of the SwellForm machine before opening it. It does have a safety switch, but it is still possible to activate the machine when it is open, creating a possible safety problem. You cannot open either the PIAF or the TIE Junior at all, which means that jammed materials must be pulled out of them, leading to possible operational problems.
There are also differences in the heat adjustment controls among the machines. The TIE and TIE Junior have very easy-to-use pointers. The PIAF has a groove in the top of the knob, and the knob has resistance when it is turned. Therefore, your heat setting will stay put if the machine is bumped. The SwellForm knob has no tactile pointer. All the machines except the PIAF have power switches in easily accessible places. The PIAF's switch is on the back of the machine.
When considering safety, ease of use, and flexibility of materials used, I rank the Repro-Tronics machines, the best designed, followed by SwellForm and PIAF. Following is a rating table summarizing the results of my experience with the machines and the discussion above. The scale is from one to three, with three as the top mark:
Characteristic PIAF SwellForm TIE TIE Junior
Safety 1 2 3 2
Ease of Use 2 2 3 2
Flexibility 1 1 2 1
Price $1,299 $985 $995 $395
All these machines should be used only by adults or with adult supervision. Work areas should be kept free of loose paper, scraps, and dust.
One other device is relevant to the thermal paper expansion method of producing tactile graphics. It is not a machine but the Thermal Imaging Pen from Repro-Tronics. This pen is a tool that allows a person to draw on thermal expansion paper by hand. The tip of the pen gets very hot, and when it is brought into contact with the paper, it produces a raised image by causing the paper to swell at the point of contact. This device should also be used with adult supervision.
With the right designs, these machines and devices can open up a world of tactile images for a blind user. Recently, when NASA was here at the center promoting our collaborative project, Touch the Universe, a book with tactile images of the galaxy, we demonstrated these machines to over forty children, using a variety of images related to astronomy. In a classroom with a creative and motivated teacher, even simple tactile graphics can increase a blind child's understanding of the lessons his or her classmates experience visually. Thermal expansion paper is not the ultimate solution for producing tactile graphics. It is one solution and, when properly used, should be very beneficial. Thermal expansion paper is best used for reproducing line art, graphs, outline maps, and other similar items. Thermal expansion paper is easy to use, so experiment and see what results you get preparing many touching experiences.
American Thermoform Corporation: <http://www.atcbrleqp.com>
Pulse Data HumanWare: <http://www.humanware.com>
The sites listed below are additional resources:
Adapted Graphics: <http://www.topica.com/lists/adaptedgraphics>
Purpose: The Adapted Graphics list's purpose is to discuss graphics designed for the blind and visually impaired. This includes the development of tactile graphics and other types of information designed for the blind and visually impaired. The list is for anyone interested. See the Web page for subscription instructions.
TAEVIS Online: Tactile Access to Education for Visually Impaired Students. TAEVIS is operated by Purdue University, and its materials are produced for Purdue students. TAEVIS does, however, sell copies of its diagrams, and the site also provides much in-depth information on tactile graphics.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: John Bailey]
Surmounting the Braille Reading Speed Plateau
by John Bailey
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Spring 2003 issue of the NFB Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia. John Bailey is first vice president of the Virginia Association to Promote the Use of Braille. John learned Braille in his later years after his vision began to fail. He has made Braille an important part of his daily routine. He writes about several successful techniques that can get people beyond the Braille reading speed plateau.
Most Braille readers would love to increase our reading speed. We know of those who have mastered the techniques well enough to achieve Braille reading speeds of several hundred words a minute.
Although it would be nice, it is not necessary for everyone to read Braille at lightning speed in order to use it productively. If your only use for Braille is to mark objects for easier identification or to take quick notes, lightning-fast Braille reading speed may not be important to you; however, for those who need to digest a lot of information quickly, any increase in reading speed can be very beneficial.
Unfortunately, many of us have reached a plateau in increasing our Braille reading speed. Many of us have struggled to overcome a speed limit of about sixty words a minute. The truth is that surpassing the sixty-wpm barrier takes work and the honing of specific skills. By using the proven techniques outlined below in combination with daily practice, the sixty-wpm barrier can be broken.
Several speed-increasing techniques and related exercises follow. They have proved effective for those who already know Braille and want to increase their reading speed and comprehension.
Use two hands. You can identify a Braille-reading pro by the way he or she uses two hands to move across the page. By using the index fingers of both the left and right hands simultaneously, a Braille reader can reduce the time it takes to read a passage of Braille text.
The trick here is to have at least one of the fingers of each hand moving across the dots at all times. While one finger finishes a line, the other index finger begins reading the next line; this means no pause between lines.
For example, at the top of a new page, both hands start at the top left side of the page. Together they move across the letters until they reach the middle. While the right hand continues across, the left hand moves down a line and orients itself at the beginning of that line. When the right hand is finished with the top line, the left hand immediately begins to read the second line. The right hand joins the left until they reach the middle of the second line of text. The left hand breaks off and orients itself to the beginning of the third line. This process continues to the bottom of the page. The whole process begins again on the next page.
The problem with the one-handed method of reading is that a pause takes place between lines because the reader has to slide the hand back across the page to the start of the next line. The two-handed method of reading eliminates this delay.
Make the hand movement across the page automatic. If you don't need to focus on the way your hands are moving, you can concentrate better on the text. To make the movement of your hands across the page as fluid as possible, try this exercise:
Starting at the top of a page, move your hands from left to right as quickly as you can while retaining good two-handed Braille reading form. Remember to touch every character and line. It's not necessary to understand the symbols you touch. The goal is to execute your movements as unconsciously as possible.
Do this exercise for a few minutes several times each day. After a while your hands will know where to go without your having to think about it.
Push your reading speed envelope. All readers tend to read at the speed at which they are most comfortable. Simply reading on cruise control isn't enough to improve your speed markedly. You need to move beyond your comfort zone.
Using technique two will assist in mastering this concept; however, instead of moving as fast as you can, go just fast enough to recognize an occasional letter or short word. Don't stop to decode the words you missed. Again, as in technique two, you should do this a few times a day for a few minutes at a time. In just a few days, you will notice that you can move faster while understanding more.
Make Braille a part of everyday activities. The axiom "Use it or lose it" applies to any new skill you acquire. It is particularly true for learning Braille. Make the commitment to include Braille in your daily activities. Make opportunities for reading Braille. Use Brailled labels. Take Braille notes. Take a Braille magazine along with you so you have something to read when you are waiting at a doctor's office. When you go out for a meal, ask for a Braille menu. In addition, bring NFB Braille alphabet cards along with you to hand out when strangers ask you what you are doing.
Increasing your Braille reading speed is a challenging goal for many people. There are many ways to get beyond the plateau that almost everyone encounters in their journey towards Braille reading proficiency. The most important ingredient to any successful Braille reading activity is continuing to practice while using the correct techniques.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]
America Online: Is It Accessible Now?
by Curtis Chong
From the Editor: For some years Curtis Chong directed the NFB's technology department. Since last fall he has been the director of field operations and access technology at the Iowa Department for the Blind. He still serves as president of the NFB in Computer Science, a division of the National Federation of the Blind. He continues to represent the NFB in our relationship with America Online. Here is his report on recent developments with AOL:
Many people will remember the lawsuit filed by the National Federation of the Blind against America Online (AOL) on November 4, 1999. On that day and in the months and years to follow, the National Federation of the Blind achieved prominence as an advocate for the blind promoting equal access to electronic and information technology. In information technology circles the lawsuit against AOL achieved tremendous visibility for the Federation, and overnight the Federation became an organization with which the media consulted whenever issues relating to access to technology by the blind were to be reported.
It has been well over three years since we filed our suit against America Online, and it is reasonable to ask where matters stand today. Has AOL as a company really gotten the message that, to the blind, access to its software is an important issue? Does AOL engage in meaningful discussions with the blind community--in particular with representatives of the blind? Is accessibility a significant consideration during AOL's product development cycle? Finally, is AOL 8.0 (the version that is being touted today) accessible to blind people running screen-access software?
First I should say that we are no longer suing AOL. Once we were persuaded that AOL had gotten the message (this was during the spring of 2000), we agreed to withdraw the suit to give the company enough time to get its accessibility act together. While we reserved the right to file suit against the company after a year if the National Federation of the Blind determined that AOL was dragging its feet, we felt that we had more to gain through cooperation and meaningful discussion than litigation.
Since 1999 AOL has adopted a corporate policy on accessibility, formed an Accessibility Advisory Committee (which meets regularly and on which the National Federation of the Blind is represented), hired a blind person to direct its accessibility efforts, formalized its relationship with leading vendors of screen-access software for the blind, and released three versions of the AOL client software that have demonstrated steady improvement in compatibility with screen-access technology. The company has also recognized that its audio-based service, AOLByPhone, might have some special appeal to the blind and has begun offering this service at a discount to its blind members.
AOL's Accessibility Policy
America Online has published a policy on accessibility, which is posted on its Web site at <www.corp.aol.com/access_policy.html>. The National Federation of the Blind insisted on creation of this policy before we would even begin discussing withdrawing our suit. While the more cynical among us might characterize the policy as so much window dressing, the fact is that it does exist and in a formal way places AOL on record as a company that has committed itself to make the products it sells accessible to everyone. The first paragraph of the policy summarizes the company's position as follows:
America Online is continuing to lead efforts around the globe to make the Internet a medium that improves people's lives. At AOL we value our members and strive to provide them with the highest quality, easiest, and most convenient services and products. We also believe that the Internet and AOL should be friendly and easy to use for all consumers, including those with disabilities. In that spirit we have developed the America Online Accessibility Policy, which expresses our commitment to the development of products and services that are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities.
Any blind person who has used the AOL client software would hardly characterize it as "easy to use." Generally a blind person using the AOL client has to find work-arounds in order to get at basic information and services, but at least the work-arounds do exist, and the company is putting itself on record, through its accessibility policy, as wanting to make its software easy to use for everyone, "including those with disabilities." No one would disagree that more work is needed to make the AOL experience as easy to use for the blind as it appears to be for the sighted. The accessibility policy formalizes the company's commitment to this effort and is therefore a good beginning.
AOL's Accessibility Advisory Committee
AOL created its Accessibility Advisory Committee in the spring of 2001. The committee's membership is designed to reflect a cross-disability perspective. Some of the organizations represented on the committee include the National Federation of the Blind, the National Association of the Deaf, the American Association of People with Disabilities, and the American Association of Retired Persons.
The deliberations of the committee tend to center on three groups: the blind, the deaf, and people with cognitive disabilities. Not surprisingly, issues pertaining to nonvisual access seem to occupy a good portion of the committee's attention.
According to AOL, the mission of its Accessibility Advisory Committee is to advise the company on the accessibility (to people with disabilities) of its products to ensure that they are convenient and easy to use for everyone. The meetings I have attended have been fairly candid, and the committee has provided AOL with some valuable advice as well as spurring the company on to even greater efforts to achieve full access to its software. All committee members have signed nondisclosure agreements, and this makes it possible for AOL to share information about future plans that it has not yet decided to make public.
I sit on the committee as a representative of the National Federation of the Blind. I leave each meeting with mixed feelings. While I am encouraged by the steady progress that AOL has made to make its Windows client more accessible to the blind, I am often frustrated that nonvisual access is not more pervasive within the company. For example, AOL TV (a way to provide access to AOL through a set top box connected to your television set) is of no interest to me because as a blind person I can't use it. The AOL Mobile Communicator, which allows people to exchange "instant messages" wirelessly, is likewise not accessible to me; yet it is tremendously popular among deaf people. What AOL seems to have decided with respect to the blind is to focus on two principal product lines: its client software for Windows and AOLByPhone.
Overall the AOL Accessibility Advisory Committee seems to have resulted in a net gain for the blind. We learn about and have a chance to comment on AOL's future plans, and AOL gets to hear some pretty frank commentary from the blind community.
AOL's Director of Accessibility
AOL's Director of Accessibility is Tom Wlodkowski, who is blind. Wlodkowski joined AOL in the summer of 2002. Prior to that he worked at the National Center for Accessible Media of WGBH (of descriptive video fame). I believe Tom Wlodkowski to be both bright and competent. He is also knowledgeable about nonvisual access technology. In our many long and fruitful discussions, he has frequently talked about the importance of AOL and screen-access vendors meeting each other halfway--something which both of us agree must happen if full nonvisual access is to be achieved. We have not always agreed about everything, but we do talk with each other--often quite frankly.
Wlodkowski has some pretty good support within the AOL corporate hierarchy; the accessibility team is placed organizationally within the company's Integrity Assurance area, which is central to everything that goes on at AOL. Accessibility can be tied to integrity, and enforcement is easier to achieve as the need for accessibility competes for attention with other corporate priorities.
Formal Relationships with Screen Access Vendors
In order for nonvisual access to the AOL client to be achieved, there has to be some cooperation between the AOL client and screen-access technology. This requires AOL to exchange technical information with screen-access vendors such as Freedom Scientific and GW Micro. When AOL first began considering how to make its software more compatible with JAWS for Windows, it attacked the problem by modifying JAWS (through its scripting language) and then making those scripts available to AOL customers. Anyone who wanted to use AOL with JAWS was instructed to copy a set of scripts from an AOL folder on the hard drive to a JAWS folder. However, every time a new version of JAWS or AOL was released, the scripts stopped working. Something needed to be done.
AOL decided to enter into a formal relationship with key screen-access vendors. Agreements were made, information was exchanged, and release schedules better coordinated. Matters have progressed to the point where today the current version of JAWS has scripts for the AOL client built in. Moreover, if you go to the Freedom Scientific Web site, you will find a number of AOL tutorials in the Training Area. These include "How Easy It Is to Use AOL E-mail," "Using AOL Instant Messaging and the Buddy List," "Using AOL Online Services and Browsing the Web," and "How to Get an Access Phone Number and Dial into your AOL from Anywhere."
So What About AOLByPhone?
AOLByPhone is a way to take advantage of AOL services without a computer. With AOLByPhone AOL members can read e-mail; respond to e-mail with a voice message; check weather, movies, sports, or news; and use other services. It is not a replacement for the AOL client but a supplement to it. AOL members pay an additional fee to use the service.
With voice commands you tell AOLByPhone what you want to do, and e-mail is available through a high-quality synthetic speech engine. Headline news, weather, and other information are delivered using human voices. You cannot send a text e-mail message with this system.
For a limited time AOL is offering the blind a special package that provides a discount to the AOL service plus access to AOLByPhone. People who are interested in this service should call (866) 854-1025.
Finally, is the AOL client more accessible? When we filed our suit against AOL, the current version of the AOL client was 5.0. That version was pretty much inaccessible to the blind. Since that time AOL has released AOL 6.0, AOL 7.0, and AOL 8.0. Each version has worked slightly better than its predecessor in compatibility with access technology for the blind. E-mail has become easier and easier to use, and more buttons had labels which were spoken properly. One happy AOL 8.0 user proclaimed, "I just spent nearly ninety minutes doing something that I didn't think, five years ago, I would ever be doing...navigating around the AOL interface, checking e-mail, listening to AOL radio, and even downloading music!"
Over the past few years access to the AOL client has steadily improved. AOL 8.0 represents the pinnacle of that improvement. With the AOL client e-mail and Instant Messaging are both possible, and while one can always find something that doesn't work in the AOL client, the important services do work, and people within AOL are devoted to improving the situation even more.
Is this access good enough to cause thousands of blind people to abandon their current Internet service providers? No one can really say. However, over the past few years nonvisual access to the AOL client has definitely improved, and, perhaps even more important, AOL as a company has decided to make accessibility an important and highly visible corporate priority. The blind have already begun reaping the benefits.
Response from America Online
To further the spirit of cooperation between America Online and the National Federation of the Blind, I offered to provide Tom Wlodkowski, AOL's director of accessibility, an opportunity to review this article. After reading the article, Wlodkowski prepared this response:
I want to thank Curtis Chong and the Braille Monitor for providing this comprehensive status report on AOL's efforts to improve usability of the AOL software by the blind. Accessibility is a significant company priority at America Online, and we are excited about the progress we have made in recent years. The National Federation of the Blind has played an integral role in our accessibility achievements to date, and we look forward to further collaboration.
One of the foundations of the AOL experience is our commitment to making the Internet friendly, easy to use, and convenient for everyone. One of the ways we've aimed to deliver this ease of use and convenience to our blind members is by ensuring that the same screen reader features and commands that make browsing the Web most efficient with Internet Explorer also work when you browse the Web with the AOL software. Screen reader users can now choose either to browse the Web by launching Internet Explorer from their desktop or to stay completely within the confines of AOL's all-in-one application.
Another exciting accessibility development is that AOL's industry-leading Parental Controls are now compatible with JAWS and Window-Eyes, making it easy for parents to take responsibility for their kids' online safety with a few simple keyboard commands. AOL's Parental Controls allow parents to control what types of Web sites their children visit, whom they can communicate with, and even how much total time they are allowed to spend online.
While significant progress has been made since 1999, we recognize that accessibility work is a continual journey, not a destination. And while our collaboration with leaders in the blind community is invaluable and the emphasis our employees place on developing accessibility solutions is essential, we can't overstate the importance of consumer feedback. We need to hear more from consumers in the blind community who have put AOL to the test. As Curtis alluded to earlier, one of the ways we are encouraging this participation is by extending a special welcome offer to new members who are blind or visually impaired. This package bundles the AOL service, including our flagship features such as AOL e-mail and instant messages together with AOLByPhone for $19.95 a month, which is close to a $10 savings every month. The first two months are on us. With AOLByPhone, reading and replying to your e-mail is as simple as picking up the nearest telephone. AOLByPhone also provides free access to 411 directory assistance and access to timely information including CNN Headline News, sports and weather. To sign up or to learn more, please call (866) 854-1025.
If you have additional questions or comments about accessibility efforts at America Online, please send an e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. I look forward to hearing from you.
Director of Accessibility
How I Turned My Life Around
by Robert Dorfman
From the Editor: We often think of our NFB training centers as an ideal place for young blind people to master the techniques they need to live efficiently as blind people and the attitudes essential to developing self-confidence and general competence. But the centers can do just as much for seniors who have the nerve and determination to give the program a try. Robert Dorfman is one such senior. I had never heard of Mr. Dorfman until he sent me the following little article. It is self-explanatory. Here it is:
Inspired by reading the November 2002 Braille Monitor article about the NFB's training centers, I am writing this article to relate my experiences as a retired senior citizen. After retiring, I joined the Chicago chapter of the NFB, where I first heard about the NFB training centers. I attended the 1999 national convention in Atlanta, where I went to the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) reception. There I met Julie Deden and the CCB staff. I immediately knew it was the place for me.
Seven weeks later I found myself in Denver as a student at the CCB. My training consisted of home management, cane travel, Braille, computers, and physical challenges such as rock climbing and skiing. I was more than twenty years older than the next oldest student, and I am proud to say that I was able to keep up with the pace most of the time.
My day started at 5:30 a.m.; at 7:00 a.m. my travel instructor was at the door to help me with my cane technique on the way to the bus stop. We arrived at the center at 8:00, when classes began, and left at 4:30 in the afternoon. It was a full day for me, and it was always good to get back to my apartment.
In May of 2000 I graduated from the center and decided to live in Denver. I am now living in a senior retirement center, where I get a lot of respect for my abilities to live independently as a blind person. I attribute this to the challenges that I met at CCB.
With the confidence I have gained I am now able to live a much happier and more fulfilling life than I had prior to attending the CCB.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Angela Howard]
by Angela Howard
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Winter 2003 edition of the Minnesota Bulletin, the publication of the NFB of Minnesota. It was the winning entry in the 2002 Metro Chapter essay contest. Angela Howard, who was a 1995 NFB scholarship winner, has been working in Minneapolis, but she is about to return to Texas, where she will soon enter a graduate program in public policy at the University of Texas at Austin. Here is her story:
As a blind person I have often been showered with compliments that, I have to admit, are not always deserved. My teachers, co‑workers, and even family and friends do not always know much about the little tricks and techniques that blind people use to complete the tasks of everyday life; consequently I have too often been deemed amazing and wonderful for completing the simplest task. I do not take offense or respond negatively to these gestures, for I know that people mean well. However, I do have to take these exaggerated compliments with a grain of salt.
But I was given a compliment a few years ago that I felt extremely proud to accept. I had taken yoga classes throughout college, and it became my favorite form of exercise. In fact I took the same yoga class with the same teacher for three years in college. I was comfortable with her teaching style, and she never seemed uneasy about having a blind person in her class.
So, when I spent a semester completing an internship in another city, I decided I would join a yoga class to help keep me in practice. I learned that a yoga studio was actually connected to my apartment building, and I immediately went down to the office to sign up for a thirteen‑week course.
However, my first class proved to be quite a shock. I was not met with the same warmth that I had experienced in my college class. My new teacher Carol made it painfully clear that she would have preferred that I not be in her class. "I'm just really not sure how I can best teach you." I assured her that I had taken yoga throughout college and that having me in the class would really not be a problem for her. I gave her some tips for instructing me. For example, I told her that it would help if she used me as the example when she demonstrated a complicated pose to the class. This way I could learn the pose along with everyone else. I also encouraged her to give verbal descriptions as she taught so that I could get some of the information others were getting visually.
For the first few weeks it was apparent that Carol was still uncomfortable having me in the class. When we tried exercises in which we had to stand on one foot, she would insist that she stand next to me to make sure I didn't fall. She clearly made a great distinction between the other students and me. But over the thirteen weeks of the class I noticed a gradual change in Carol's attitude and behavior towards me. She commented with surprise one day that my balance was no worse than anyone else's in the class, and she no longer hovered over me as I completed poses that require balance. Slowly I felt that I was becoming just another member of the class. Toward the end of the course she paid so little attention to me that I sometimes had trouble flagging her down for assistance.
I still had one problem with which I usually needed assistance. Alignment is very important in yoga, and the other members of the class were taught to line themselves up using the squares outlined on the floor. However, there was no way for me to use this method. When doing poses, I would align myself as best I could, and Carol would nudge me in one direction or another if I were a little out of line.
One day, when I arrived at class, Carol met me with great excitement. "I have figured out a way for you to align yourself on the mat. I have put a strip of electrical tape along the middle of your mat that you can feel with your feet." I thought this was a great idea, and I wished that I had been the one to suggest it at the start. Then she said, "Eventually I want you to be able to align yourself using only your own sense of space." This seemed to be a rather high expectation, and I knew then that her attitude towards me had completely changed.
Carol stopped me as I was leaving on the last day of class. She said, "I have to admit that I was really reluctant to have you in my class. I just didn't know what you would be able to do. I'm really sorry I felt that way because I think you could even be a yoga teacher one day, if you wanted to." I responded that, because she had never known a blind person before, her feelings were understandable. Then she gave me one of the greatest compliments I have ever been given. She told me that she had researched blindness‑related organizations on the Internet and asked me if I were a member of one. I told her that I am a member of the National Federation of the Blind. She said, "Yes, that was the one that stood out to me, and I thought it would be the one you would be a part of."
My friends in the National Federation of the Blind continue to encourage me when I face misunderstanding about blindness. They hold higher expectations of me than anyone else in my life, and I try to live up to these expectations as best I can. I felt honored that someone could see the spirit of the National Federation of the Blind in me, and I hope that I will always live my life true to Carol's compliment.
A Woman to Remember
by Cory Golden
From the Editor: The following article first appeared as a column by Cory Golden in the Sunday, July 7, 2002, edition of the Lincoln Journal Star. Mr. Golden writes a column once a month, and several times he has devoted it to blindness. He has managed to capture the spirit of a remarkable blind woman. Here is his portrait:
She was their aunt, and for that they loved her unconditionally. So independent, so capable was Leona Jennings, however, that sometimes her young nieces became impatient with her, this most patient of women, forgetting her blindness.
But what if she was more than just their aunt? What if she was a pioneer? A heroine? Now ages eighty and seventy-three, sisters Cleo Craigie and Ramona Hill remember her story with proud smiles.
Well, my stars, Aunt Leona used to say. Ramona presses the play button. The tape starts. A woman librarian from the Nebraska Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped speaks in even tones, reading a short autobiographical essay by Leona Jennings.
Born in 1891, she was a Lincoln second‑grader when she lost her sight. She'd suffered scarlet fever and a fall from a porch, hitting her head. Her family never knew which to blame. She had been out of school for three years when her parents--who insisted on treating her normally, even as others left her out of Easter and Christmas pageants--discovered the Nebraska School for the Blind in Nebraska City.
At fourteen she suffered a mild case of polio that would cause back pain all her life. At sixteen she lost her father to pneumonia. She prospered anyway. At the University of Nebraska she studied piano and flute, earning a scholarship. Upon her graduation, a school for the blind in the Bronx, New York, hired her to teach music.
After a time she took a job across town at the Jewish Center for the Blind and was awarded a scholarship to study music at the David Mannes School.
In 1931 she sailed the Atlantic on a converted troop ship. She made the stormy, eight‑day journey by herself only to have a taxi driver warn her a blind person shouldn't travel alone in Paris. She learned there how the French, who created one of the first schools for the blind, taught music to the sightless, and she was given a white cane.
After a brief stay in London, she returned to Lincoln after eight years away. That white cane, her nieces believed, was the first of its kind in America.
Dr. Ron Ferguson of the Louisiana Center for the Blind is writing a book that will include a history of cane travel. He said last week Jennings's cane could not have been the longer, metal cane seen on the streets now: it was developed in the 1940's for blinded servicemen, as was formal instruction in its use.
Though the cane story may not have been passed down just so, Jennings was in many other ways ahead of a time when the blind were often pushed aside. She began teaching piano lessons to sighted children upon her return home. The music she ordered for them had to be read to her, note by note, so she could transcribe it with a Braille slate, first for one hand, then the other. Ramona watched her aunt brush her fingertips over the notes, then play, then stop again, read, then play. Just once through and the music, be it Dvorak or Chopin, was hers.
In 1942 Jennings became the state's lone home teacher for the blind. Funded largely by local charities, she traveled from town to town helping those without sight gain independence, giving instruction in everything from how to use a cane and read Braille to cooking, knitting, and typing.
Sometimes she took a bus. Or she caught rides on rural mail trucks, spending the night in drafty farmhouses and returning home sniffing back a cold. A train conductor once forgot to let her off at a stop in western Nebraska, so she spent the night at the closest accommodations to the Cheyenne, Wyoming, depot--the city jail. That was among her favorite stories.
That was the woman her nieces grew up listening to play piano, tell jokes, tune in Eddie Cantor on the radio--a woman who would simply wait for the next bus if she missed the first one.
She took the bus downtown, using her cane to travel on errands, folding a $1 bill differently than a $10. She knitted and cooked, marking the wrapping on yarn and labels on cans with a system of her own. Jennings founded the Lincoln Music Forum; was a member of the Braille club; attended Second Baptist Church; and spent free time winning radio contests, playing a mean game of checkers, helping her nieces with homework. Well, my stars, she would say, in amazement.
If she believed her yard needed weeding, she did it herself, her fingers combing the grass for weeds. "She didn't have `can't' in her vocabulary," Ramona says. "She always said much worse things could have happened to her than to be blind." Jennings retired in 1963. In 1967, two years before her death from cancer at seventy-seven, she was awarded the Good Neighbor Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for her work.
"No one has enjoyed life more." It's the librarian, reading Jennings's essay. "A blind person must not be afraid of challenges--if the mountain won't come to you, you go to the mountain." The tape ends.
Snowbirds now, Ramona and Cleo spend part of their year living in Arizona. There, as in Lincoln, they see blind people walking confidently with canes and think of Leona Jennings. She was their aunt, yes, but the sisters understand now just how remarkable she was, how she set an example, how she refused to accept the darkness of low expectations. "Well, my stars," she always said.
Well, my stars.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Barbara Pierce demonstrates that cutting a piece of meat isn't complex, it just takes practice.]
Please Pass the Manners
by Barbara Pierce
From the Editor: The following article was written for Future Reflections, the quarterly magazine of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and appeared in Vol. 20, No. 3, Fall 2001. Since then a number of people have requested that we reprint it in the Braille Monitor. In writing the article, I was addressing parents of blind children because through the years they have been the ones who have asked me such questions, but the information may also be of interest to blind adults who never had the benefit of parental guidance at the dinner table. It is almost impossible to overstate the importance of good manners and dining skills when sharing a meal with other people. I hope that Monitor readers will find the information useful. Here is the article:
My earliest recollections of conversation at the dinner table include a periodic but continual commentary by my mother: "Hold your fork properly." "Keep your other hand in your lap." "Take the first piece you touch." "Sit up straight and bring the fork to your mouth." "Chew with your mouth closed."
I suspect that most adults have similar memories. But I am not at all certain that most people who were blind as children have the same set of memories. Blind people certainly miss the chance to observe other people's behavior at the table in order to model our own on what we see.
The result is unfortunate. With real distress a sighted friend told me of having lunch with a young blind professional whose table manners were so disgusting that my friend entirely lost her appetite. I might have disregarded such a story as the reaction of a finicky observer if I had not remembered Eva. When I was in high school, one of my best friends moved away. She and I had eaten lunch together for years, so she called me in some distress shortly after the new school year had begun. She found a blind student in her class, so her instinct was to see if they might become friends. She noticed immediately that Eva sat alone at lunch. She soon discovered why. The girl's table manners were so appalling that no one wanted to sit across the table from her while she was eating. High school students are not known for the delicacy of their manners, so the mind boggles at trying to conceive of the behavior that would revolt kids that completely.
One wonders how such situations come to pass. I suspect that the answer is that a combination of influences shaped these two people and thousands more like them. Obviously, good parents don't want their blind children to be socially unacceptable, but they think they don't have any good way to teach the child how to do things correctly when "Do it like this" is an insufficient instruction.
Anyone who has ever spoon‑fed a baby knows what a messy business that can be. But we rapidly get used to the process and the mess. As most children get older, the extent of the disaster area gradually shrinks, and eventually civilization dawns. But the parents of a blind child may never quite notice that other kids of the same age are making substantially less of a mess. These parents are so happy to have the child begin to use a spoon that they forget to insist on graduating to a fork. They assume that fingers are the only way for the child to recognize the contents of the plate or bowl or get difficult items to stay on the utensil. If the child huddles over the plate, much less food falls onto the table or floor. And there you are.
Then there is the matter of time. It is easier and faster to cut the child's meat than to insist upon and struggle through an unwanted lesson on how to do the job for himself.
I don't know that I have any particular light to shed on the subject of table manners specifically or social skills for blind people in general. I do know that this subject keeps coming up and people ask me to talk about the subject. So I have decided to see what happens if I try to organize the things parents and I have talked about in the hope that it may be of some encouragement to other parents and their children.
I have no lock on the right way to do things. I have found some tricks and techniques, but others probably work just as well or better. Look around and observe the blind people you spend time with at NFB functions. Choose someone who handles himself or herself well in social situations or at meals and ask that person questions about how to assist your child. Federationists are usually happy to help.
Before you can effectively help your child to become a poised, confident adult in all sorts of social situations, you must learn to distinguish between arbitrary social conventions, which should not be imposed on people for whom they are meaningless, and behavior that avoids offending or distracting other people. Consider the general rule that one looks at the person speaking or to whom one is speaking. Even totally blind people find it valuable to adhere to this convention because sighted people find it difficult to pay attention to what a person is saying when he or she is looking in some other direction or has lowered his or her head.
On the other hand, the convention of slicing a loaf of bread beginning at the end nearer the slicer's dominant hand seems to me completely arbitrary. I am right‑handed, but I cut from the left end of the loaf so that I can guide the path of the knife with my left hand. When I cut bread at a restaurant table, people sometimes comment that I am doing it backwards, but I see no reason to develop another technique since nothing about my method is offensive or distracting. Perhaps I do some things that are distasteful to sighted people watching, but no one has mentioned anything like that to me since I was about twelve. And that is the kind of honest feedback blind people count on good friends to give them in private. It is certainly a service you can always provide your blind child, assuming that you balance tact and honesty to fit the circumstances--dinners in public are no time to call reminders down the table to an older blind child.
Mapping the Place Setting
I am a great believer in teaching a blind child to set the table. If he or she can arrange the flatware, napkin, glasses, butter plate, and cup and saucer correctly, the child is already well on the way to managing a complicated place setting in an elegant restaurant, at Great Aunt Sue's Christmas dinner, or at your boss's wedding reception buffet.
When I sit down at a restaurant table, I begin with discreet exploration of my place setting. Finding the napkin can be an adventure. I check to see whether the silverware is rolled up in the napkin, laid out in a group on one side, or actually lying with forks to the left and knives and spoons to the right. If I have not found the napkin to the left or wrapped around the silver, I begin an inconspicuous search for it while reorganizing the utensils. While adjusting these, I make sure that the sharp edge of the knife faces the plate. I check the service plate, if there is one, or the cloth in front of me for the missing napkin. If it isn't there, it might be on the butter plate or fanned out on the table above the service plate. When all else fails, I check the water glass.
All this reconnoitering should be done as inconspicuously as possible. I keep my hands low and adjust the plates, glasses, and implements just a bit even if they do not require repositioning. This is the time to check the size and number of glasses. A child can move wine glasses back so as to avoid picking up an empty glass when hoping to find water or milk. Teach your child always to notice the weight and temperature of any glass to confirm that it holds what the blind person expects to sip.
Surveying the Plate
I gather from what people report to me that far too many parents through the years have allowed their blind children to establish the location of food on a plate by touching it. This is a hard habit to break, so you would do better never to allow your child to begin. The fork makes a fine divining rod. I admit to having little patience with finicky eaters who refuse to eat anything they don't care for. Blind people are far better off if they are not indulged in preferences not to have two foods touch each other or to insist on eating all of one food before beginning the next. I recognize that insisting on mature behavior in this respect may open you to some battles, but teaching a young child to behave graciously will pay off in the long run.
By and large a blind person can figure out what is on the plate without receiving a clock‑face description. I firmly refuse this rigmarole from well-meaning wait staff. After all, I ordered the meal, so I know what should be on the plate. Experience will guide an adult in identifying lemon wedges, orange slices, or other partially inedible garnishes. But I do think it is appropriate and sporting to mention to a blind child that a lemon wedge is at eleven o'clock or parsley is at six. One can then either use the lemon, eat it when it arrives at the lips, or set it aside on the butter plate.
As for identifying which food is where, a quick circuit with the fork will usually identify large things like baked potatoes, small vegetables like peas, and firm things like chops or slices of meat. Mashed potatoes and vegetable purees have a slushy feel that cannot be confused with firmer objects. I survey and begin tasting the things that are clearly easy to pick up on the fork. One taste confirms the accuracy of my conclusions about what I have found. I then note that location: one thing identified. I make my way around the plate, tasting and probing with the fork. At a restaurant, or anywhere I may expect garnishes or other efforts to present food beautifully, I keep in mind that something unexpected may appear on my fork. I am not above asking a sighted companion what I have captured before I raise it to my lips, if the weight and balance of the fork suggest that a nasty shock may be in store for me.
Learning to cut meat is not difficult, but it does take practice, so trying to master the skill should not be undertaken in public. To begin with, a blind person must learn what a bite of appropriate size feels like on a fork or spoon. (I encourage you to insist on your child's using a spoon only for soups, sauces, ice cream, and the like; too many blind people arrive at adulthood without having mastered the fork. With practice the fork is actually easier to use than a spoon for most things.) Eventually your child will learn how a forkful of the correct size feels. Your job is giving impartial feedback: that bite was too big.
All blind people occasionally bring an empty fork to the lips, especially when the weight of the fork is unfamiliar or the food is hard to spear. In my view such mistakes should be ignored. The blind person knows perfectly well what has happened and certainly has no motivation to repeat the error. So the less notice you take of the occurrence the better, unless you can make a constructive suggestion. Such advice should be given in a low voice in public or at home.
The secret to cutting meat is to find an edge or an end and insert the tines of the fork at a bite-size distance from the edge in order to cut the bite. The knife can then be laid along the back of the tines so that the fork provides a directional guide for cutting. When the cut is complete, the knife is laid across the back of the plate and the fork switched to the dominant hand. This is the moment to lift the fork slightly to determine the weight and balance of the piece cut. If it is too large, pick up the knife again, reposition the fork by holding down the piece of meat with the point of the knife to release and reposition the fork if necessary and make a second cut. All this sounds simple, and it becomes second nature, but it takes practice. Tough meat is always a struggle, and chops, steaks with bones, and small poultry are particularly tricky. I don't know any blind adult who hears with delight the news that Cornish game hen is on the menu.
Here are some suggestions that you may find helpful in assisting your child to master this important skill. Begin with meat that she likes and that is fairly easy to cut: ham, turkey, fish filets, pot roast. All these have no bones and should not be tough. Be sure that your child is hungry when you begin. If he is having trouble cutting the meat, leave the potatoes and vegetables off the plate till he can cope with the meat alone. You can try cutting your meat with sleepshades on and provide a running commentary on how well you are doing. Let your other children try to cut their meat without peeking. The object is not to demonstrate that mastering this skill is impossible. It should give family members an appreciation of the challenge and may help you suggest useful techniques.
Bread, Butter, and Backstops
The rule for everyone is that bread should be broken and buttered bit by bit as it is eaten. At home this usually means taking a roll or slice of bread and putting it on the edge of the dinner plate, unless you are using butter plates. If the blind child has set the table, he or she will know whether butter plates are present and whether each person has a butter knife. Usually the family passes a stick of butter or container of spread. The common butter knife is passed with it, or each person is expected to use a personal butter or dinner knife. Help your child anticipate what is being done at the meal. As an adult she will have to learn to draw her own conclusions, but you can help to guide this learning process by asking leading questions or providing information directly.
A tub of spread is easiest to use, but do not do so always, or your child will gain no experience with a stick of cold butter. Restaurants make this process particularly challenging because one never knows whether wrapped pats of butter, unwrapped pats, a large shaped block, or a bowl of soft spread is coming. Here is where I break my own rule of never touching. I take the container in my nondominant hand, just touching the butter with the edge of my thumb so as to determine what I am dealing with. Then I use my butter knife with my dominant hand, making sure to include the part I have touched in the portion I take. Obviously, if I contact paper wrapper with my thumb, I just take one pat and pass the rest immediately.
I use the same sort of maneuver to butter the bread. I hold the piece of roll I have broken off and am preparing to eat in my left hand and move it so that the edge of my thumb is just touching the butter on the plate. I can tell pretty precisely how much butter I am putting on my knife without obviously measuring it with my finger. Once the butter is on the knife, it is fairly easy to transfer it to the bread. Spreading it to the edges is a matter of practice and the temperature of the butter. I suggest that you begin with soft spread and progress to pats and sticks of butter. The suggestions for having the family help your child to learn to cut meat work as well for bread- and roll-buttering.
One of the hardest things for your child to learn to do efficiently will be to clean his plate. The temptation to use that nondominant hand as a backstop is nearly irresistible. A piece of bread solves this problem very neatly. Even if he does not then eat the bread, it has provided an acceptable wall to gather food with the fork and push against.
Salads, Desserts, and Sauces
I have never conducted a survey, but I would guess that most blind adults with good table manners would report that salads have provided a large number of their most embarrassing moments. Being a lady, I will refrain from saying what I think of people who use very large salad-green leaves, oversize cherry tomatoes or tomato wedges, and large onion rings to compose their salads. But your child will have to learn to cope with such hazards. If I can do so conveniently, I remove onion rings. I don't particularly like them, so avoiding them is no disappointment to me. If I liked them or when I cannot remove them to a butter plate before beginning the salad, I handle them as I do large lettuce leaves: I cut across the salad several times before beginning to eat. (This is my solution to eating long pasta as well.)
If I manage to spear a cherry tomato, I can usually decide by its weight if it is going to be too big to fit into my mouth. Having it on my fork already makes it easy to cut. Olives, croutons, radishes, and other rolly or skittery salad items are easier to deal with in a bowl than on a flat plate. You might start salad-eating lessons with the easy things and build up your child's skills to cope with the more difficult.
Salad dressing is like syrup, sauces, or cream. When possible I prefer to serve it with a spoon or use a small packet of the liquid. I think it is fair to say that without a ladle or other way of measuring the liquid, there is no reliable way for a person with no usable sight to serve a liquid like this without touching the stream. That is what I would do if I were faced with the necessity. I drink my coffee black, and I often eat a salad undressed if I cannot control the dressing or have it served in a cup on the side. A weight-watcher trick works well for blind people who don't want to use all the dressing provided by most restaurants. Ask for the dressing on the side. Dipping the tines of the fork into the dressing before spearing a bite of salad provides a little dressing, but not too much.
What I have already said applies as well to desserts. Using the fork, one can usually locate the point of the pie slice or the shallow end of a piece of layer cake. Perhaps the biggest challenge with an unknown dessert is to decide whether to pick up a fork or spoon before beginning. One must learn to check for dessert fork or spoon across the top of the place setting or on the plate.
I will admit frankly that angel food cake and sponges are very hard to cut; they mash flat and lose all their volume before I can get a piece to my mouth. I don't serve them. Maybe someone else has mastered these cakes, but I avoid them. Your son or daughter will learn to make such judgments if you help him or her understand the importance of managing food gracefully and competently. People who can eat most foods neatly usually prefer to dodge the ones they cannot, and that is how it should be.
I have not bothered to talk about using low vision in eating. I was a low‑vision child, and it got me nothing but trouble until I learned to ignore what I thought I was seeing. As with so much else in mastering the skills of blindness, children are better off learning how to manage dining without vision so that, if the lighting is not good or the color contrast is not great enough to allow for accurate use of vision, the child is not rendered helpless or foolish. Leaning over to inspect the plate looks strange to other people and can result in gravy in the hair or on a tie or necklace. The child who depends on seeing the plate will find it hard to sit up straight or keep his or her head up for conversation between bites.
Dining is essentially a small part of all social interaction. The blind person who puts off other people with poor manners or bizarre contortions in order to see what is on the plate or serving dish will eat alone or only with those too gauche to object. In short, it is never too early to begin teaching your child the techniques of gracious dining, and it is never too late to begin breaking bad habits.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Harriett Go reads a story about Louis Braille to the students of St. Lucy's School. Both she and the students are using Braille.]
Birthday Bash at St. Lucy's School
by Lynn Heitz
From the Editor: Lynn Heitz is president of the Keystone Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania. Most readers know that January 4 is Louis Braille's birthday. In the following article Lynn Heitz reports on a fine birthday party that took place this year in Philadelphia. This is what she says:
It is fitting that Louis Braille's birthday is the first one of the year celebrated by the blind community. Members of the Keystone Chapter of the NFB of Pennsylvania in conjunction with the Pennsylvania State Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BVS) did just that early this year. Seven of us spent the afternoon of January 10 at St. Lucy's Day School for Blind Children celebrating the birthday of the person who has had the greatest impact on the lives of blind people throughout the world. Included in the group were Donald Krentzman, district manager of the Philadelphia office of BVS; James Antonacci, president of the NFB of Pennsylvania; Lynn Heitz, president of the Keystone Chapter; Patricia Grebloski, graduate of St. Lucy's; Harriet Go, the first recipient of an NFB of Pennsylvania Scholarship at the 2002 state convention and graduate of St. Lucy's; and Barbara Esposito and Wiley Smith, Keystone Chapter members.
The birthday celebration included the usual storytelling, singing, presents, and of course eating cake. Harriet read a Braille story about the life of Louis Braille while the students followed along in their own Braille copies. It was breathtaking to hear the loud swoosh when Harriet and all of the students turned their pages in unison as they read the story together. Following this, Jim Antonacci led us in singing "Happy Birthday." Then came the presents. Lynn Heitz distributed Beanie Buddies to each of the students and special guests. There were zebras, lions, monkeys, and puppies. The animals were incredibly soft and cuddly. Three special Beanie Buddies were presented. The first was to Sister Meg, principal of St. Lucy's school. The second went to Donald Krentzman. The final Beanie Buddy was given to the oldest alumna visiting St. Lucy's day school, Patricia Grebloski. Patricia said that she graduated from St. Lucy's in 1956, which actually preceded the construction of the current school building.
The most exciting part of the program was yet to come. Lynn Heitz and Barbara Esposito had baked cupcakes that read "Happy Birthday Louis Braille" in both Braille (using M&Ms) and tactile letters (one letter to a cupcake). The children were so excited about this that they each had to make sure the cupcakes were in the proper order before eating them.
It is always exciting to visit St. Lucy's because the children are bright, full of energy, and eager to learn. The only thing that distinguishes them from other students is that they are blind. This means that, in addition to the standard, age-appropriate educational curriculum, they learn Braille early on and how to use the white cane. The school participates enthusiastically in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. Last year the Keystone Chapter awarded a fifty-dollar savings bond to St. Lucy's student Rosemary Martin.
It was exciting to have Donald Krentzman of BVS, the staff of St. Lucy's, and the members of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania come together in partnership on this special day. We salute the staff of St. Lucy's day school for their dedication in teaching these students to become fully participating members of our society. Through this partnership the students at St. Lucy's will be able to achieve their future goals and truly embody the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind--that it is indeed respectable to be blind.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sue Povinelli]
Focusing on the Picture
by Susan Povinelli
From the Editor: The following article appeared in the twenty-second Kernel Book, Not Much of a Muchness. In the Spring 2003 issue of the NFB Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia, a follow-up to the article appeared. It demonstrates the value our Kernel Books have and, more important, the effect that Federationists have on our neighbors as we set about living our lives as contributing members of the community. So here together are the Susan Povinelli article and the letter to her from a friend. The piece begins with President Maurer's introduction.
Susan Povinelli lives in Falls Church, Virginia, and is a leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. She puts her Federation philosophy to work every day and is not afraid to tackle unlikely tasks. In "Focusing on the Picture" she tells the engaging story of her experiences as a photography teacher. Here is what she has to say:
As blind individuals we don't pay much attention to the role photographs have in our lives. Most of us who can't see the pictures can't really appreciate them. Our images of loved ones and special places are formed by our other senses. A smell of angel food cake baking may bring up a vision of our grandmother baking in her kitchen. A seagull crying takes us back to pleasant walks along the beach, and the cool wet sensation of cold fluffy snowflakes lightly falling on your face reminds you of the thrill of sledding down a long steep hill during a snowstorm. Because the sighted world treasures memories through visual images, it is extremely important for us to share and document our experiences through photographs.
So, when my children's 4-H Club needed a leader for its photography project, I volunteered. I can still remember telling my sister that I was going to teach photography this year. She started laughing. The image of a blind person evaluating and describing the merits of a beautiful photograph seemed comical to her. She said, "You'll be so helpful in selecting a good picture."
I knew she was giving me a hard time, but I also knew she had a point. How could a blind person determine if a photograph had good composition or what would be an interesting subject to photograph? Would the parents of these children have enough confidence to send their kids to my class, or would the old stereotype of blindness keep them away? These were the challenges I had to overcome to make the class a success.
But I am creative and have integrated two great philosophies, which have governed my life. The first is the National Federation of the Blind's positive philosophy about blindness. This philosophy says that blind people can lead successful and productive lives by obtaining a positive attitude about blindness and learning proper alternative techniques.
The second is the 4-H philosophy to "Make the Best Better." This philosophy encourages youth to improve their lives through learning life skills (such as leadership, public speaking, and home economics) by hands-on experience. I diligently proceeded. I reminded myself that my main function was to be an advisor to the children. They were responsible to accomplish 80 percent of the work themselves.
All I had to do was prepare the lesson plans, collect all the materials needed (tripods, paper goods, and items to be photographed), and present the exercise. The children would do the rest. So I designed my class with this in mind.
I use a computer system sometimes called a reading machine. Using a scanner I can convert print pages into electronic text and store the text in my computer. Once the text is in the computer, I can use special programs that convert what a sighted person sees on the screen to spoken words. Using this system, I can create either print or Braille documents. Using these tools made developing the project fairly simple and straightforward. The extension office had already developed the curriculum. I scanned and read several lesson booklets. Then I selected the material I wanted to use and prepared print handouts for the children and Braille copies for me to use for giving instructions during the class.
When the room needed to be set up to determine flash range, I handed the children the masking tape and my talking tape measure, and they marked the distance on the floor. I could easily have done it myself, but the children needed to learn to measure and get the feel of distance. I then showed a few children how to set up tripods. Then from there on they were responsible for setting up their own tripods. We were ready for the exercise.
As in most project meetings, plenty of parents were willing to help. So when kids had trouble loading film in their cameras, another parent would help.
When it came time to describe good composition to the children, I stood up in front of the group and explained the four principles of good composition: include interesting details, place the subject off-center in the photograph, have only a few subjects in the photo and reduce background clutter, and choose interesting subjects.
Before we started photographing, I had the children brainstorm on interesting subjects they might like to photograph. I handed all the children three Post-it notes and asked them to write one subject on each Post-it note. Then the child would get up and place it on a large piece of paper mounted on the wall. I asked for a volunteer to read the list. The children took turns reading the assignment or the handouts. Thus, while drawing each child into the process, I was able to obtain the needed information to conduct the class.
One of the major objectives of this course was for the children to learn how to evaluate photographs for good composition. The children evaluated each others' photographs, and then they would identify one aspect that needed to be improved. As a group we would provide suggestions on how to take a better picture. If they wanted my opinion regarding their photograph, they would describe the photo and its problem. Then I could recommend some technique to try.
Then the owner of the photo would try taking the picture again using some of the suggestions and determine if the picture was improved, thus gaining technical knowledge by comparing the two pictures and determining which technique provided the desired effect.
I have to admit an onlooker might have thought I had lost total control of the class and things were in utter chaos. Here is the scene: children spread around the parking lot shooting pictures everywhere. One group is taking pictures of the building while others are photographing trees. It is noisy since each group is photographing its subject. At another time when they are learning to take group photos, kids are yelling suggestions at the photographer on how people should be posed in a group photo. Meanwhile, I am standing talking to another parent. A child comes up and asks for clarification on the exercise. I check my Braille notes and tell her. It is purposeful, organized chaos and great fun.
I can say it has been a lovely learning experience for us all. I have gained a deeper appreciation for the difficulty of taking great pictures. The children and their parents have learned that blind people are capable of accomplishing a task that is considered too visual for a blind person to do. These kids can now look through their viewfinders at blind people and focus their attention on our successful and ordinary lives and not the negative aspects of blindness.
There you have the original article. Now here is the note that Sue Povinelli's friend wrote to her after reading it in a Kernel Book:
I read your article as soon as I got into bed last night. I enjoyed it so much that I continued to read each of the other articles in the book.
It was especially fun reading yours, since I know you and the photography project you wrote about. You also have such a nice, easy style of writing--it's like listening to you tell the story. I hadn't realized that you were using all of those tricks when leading the project. I am definitely paying even more attention during future workshops, to try to catch any of those tricks myself.
I've often peeked over to look at something you were doing during one of the times we've been together. Seeing some of the special tools that help you accomplish everyday things has been very interesting. Secretly I've wondered how difficult it was to learn to read using Braille (I've passed my fingertips very slowly across the raised dots and can't feel any difference between the letters), or to use a walking stick [long white cane]. Or how you can tell from my elbow when I am turning or walking up or down a stair. A lump has come into my throat when I look at your beautiful daughters, and I wonder how well you can see their faces. I am saddened when I think about the additional difficulties you live with each day, and I wish that you didn't have to.
On the other hand, most of the times we are together I totally forget that you don't see as well as I do. I get busy chatting or doing something and then suddenly remember that I might have either walked you right into an obstacle or left you behind. It seems that your sight is just a tiny part of you, and most of the time I am busy with all your other parts instead.
You do have a take-charge, can-do attitude. You have accomplished not only marriage, keeping a home, and children, which many of us manage (albeit poorly at times!), but also to go on to college, get a degree in a difficult field, and have a career, which many of us do not manage to do. I have admired you for that. You work full-time, including a commute that relies on a bus, and have this home and family, yet are always the first to volunteer to lead a project (and, after knowing you for a while, not just at 4-H but also at church and school), or even bring a snack (which immediately becomes everyone's must-have recipe). Many stay-at-home moms, with a car, do not do this. Obviously it's your attitude that is the difference. You set a goal and figure out how to accomplish it. You believe you can do it, and you do.
Reading the stories in the book, I learned some things about people using alternative techniques to accomplish tasks and goals and to record memories of people and events. I hope it will help me to become more sensitive to some things that might make achieving goals and dreams easier for some, if not all. What one of the authors said--we have the same wants and wishes--is true. And I think we can all use people around us who encourage and support us.
Thanks for giving me a copy of the book. It's the only book I have that was written by someone I know (autographed, too!).
Have a good weekend,
A Wrenching Decision
by Ed Lewinson
From the Editor: Monitor readers will recall that in the November 2002 issue we carried an article by Buffa Hanse about recent events and decisions at the Jewish Braille Institute, now known as JBI International. One of the very few blind members of JBI International's board of trustees was Dr. Ed Lewinson. Dr. Lewinson has been a life member of the board since the 1970's. He is a professor emeritus of history at Seton Hall University and president of the Northern New Jersey chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. Not surprisingly in recent years he has felt more and more isolated on the board, and in the months since the publication of the article in the Braille Monitor, his position has become nearly impossible. He wrote the following letter to the president of the board of trustees in March. We can all share his sorrow and pain at the necessity of ending his relationship with an institution to which he has given his loyalty and for whose welfare he has worked for decades. Here is his letter:
March 17, 2003
Barbara Friedman, President
New York, New York
After much soul-searching I have concluded that to retain my self-respect I must resign from the board of trustees of JBI International. Before I briefly explain my reasons for this decision, let me compliment Dena Barbara on her editorship of the Jewish Braille Review and the JBI Voice. The material she presents is always interesting, informative, and well written. In a recent Braille update Pearl Lamb has shown a sympathetic understanding of the changing technological and sociological factors governing the production and use of Braille.
My association with the Jewish Braille Institute goes back to 1937 when Leopold Dubov began a correspondence in Braille with a seven-year-old. In my years of association with JBI, Dr. Ellen Isler has been the only staff member with whom I have felt uncomfortable. The first time I heard her expound her plans for JBI, I felt and said that she sounded as though blind people would be lost in the shuffle. Without previous work experience in the blindness field and with little or no previous contact with blind people, she jumped into her new job like the proverbial bull in a china shop.
The things which bother me most are her failure to consult blind people before making sweeping changes, her general insensitivity, and her disparaging the use of Braille. We all know that many blind people--particularly those who become blind later in life--may find it difficult or impossible to learn Braille for both physical and psychological reasons. While 70 percent of the blind people of working age are unemployed, the majority of those who are employed use Braille. I don't know if I could have earned a Ph.D. and taught in a university without using Braille. I do know that it would have been much more difficult. I've always found it easier to absorb materials in Braille than from tapes or readers.
Buffa Hanse's article in the November 2002 issue of the Braille Monitor expresses the feelings of many of us who are blind, non-Jewish as well as Jewish. Yet when I spoke with Dr. Isler on the telephone on December 24, 2002, she characterized the article as a "pack of lies." Under her leadership JBI has gone from being a consumer-friendly organization to one that reflects the stereotypes and condescension with which we as blind people must contend all our lives.
Therefore I feel compelled to resign from the board of trustees.
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of New York.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Charlie Richardson]
My Family's Favorite Shells and Cheese
by Charlie Richardson
Charlie Richardson is a Randolph‑Sheppard vendor and the chairman of the State Committee of Blind Vendors in New York. He is also the Capital District Chapter president and serves as the NFB representative on the State Rehabilitation Council. He is the owner of <CharliesGiftStore.com> and the Webmaster of <NFBNY.org>.
1 pound large shells
1/2 cup Shedd Spread or use margarine or butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 quart half-and-half or milk
12 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces Swiss cheese
2 ounces fresh shredded parmesan cheese
Method: Cook shells as directed on box. Drain and lightly spray with vegetable spray to prevent sticking while cooling. In a heavy three-quart aluminum saucepan melt Shedd Spread. Add flour, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until smooth and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir milk into contents of the saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue stirring constantly while boiling for 1 minute. Reduce heat and add cheeses. Stir sauce until all cheese is melted. Add shells to the cheese sauce and pour into a 13-by-9-by-2 baking pan. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly.
Oven Fried Chicken
by Charlie Richardson
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 cup bread crumbs
4 drumsticks and 4 thighs, skin removed
Method: Adjust rack to upper‑middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix eggs, mustard, oregano, paprika, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish. Set a large wire rack over an 18-by-12‑inch foil‑lined cookie sheet. Using one hand for dry ingredients and the other for wet, lay chicken pieces, four at a time, in egg mixture and roll to coat. Then lay one piece at a time in bread crumbs. Press a mix of crumbs into top of chicken. Turn piece over and repeat, pressing crumbs into other side. Gently shake off excess. Set chicken on rack. Spray top portion of chicken pieces evenly with vegetable oil. Bake until chicken is nutty brown and juices run clear, 30 minutes for drumsticks and 35 minutes for thighs. Serve immediately.
Buttermilk Corn Bread
by Charlie Richardson
Charlie says that this goes well with the oven fried chicken because they bake at the same temperature and taste great together.
1 cup flour
1 cup cornmeal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon sugar
Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients with a wooden spoon. Do not over mix. Pour mixture into a greased 9-by-9-inch pan and bake for twenty-five to thirty minutes or until wooden pick inserted comes out clean.
Homemade Banana Pudding
by Charlie Richardson
1-1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
3 cups milk
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon banana extract
3 ripe bananas
Method: In a medium saucepan combine the brown sugar and flour. Add milk and whisk. Bring to a boil over medium‑high heat and reduce to a simmer over medium‑low. Heat, stirring constantly until thickened, about three minutes. In a medium bowl whisk the eggs. Gradually add about 3/4 cup of the hot milk mixture to the eggs. Slowly return egg mixture to the saucepan, stirring briskly to keep eggs from cooking. Bring custard to a boil while continuing to stir. Reduce mixture to a simmer and stir constantly for about two minutes. Remove from heat. Add butter and vanilla and banana extracts. Stir until butter is melted. Pour into a clean bowl and let cool to room temperature. Spoon half the pudding into a 9-by-9-inch pan and top with sliced bananas. Spoon remaining pudding over bananas. Cover tightly and refrigerate at least three hours before serving.
Easy Corn Pudding
by Linda Johnsen
Linda Johnsen is the NFB of New York office manager and also the NFB-NEWSLINE coordinator for New York. Linda reports that this delicious recipe is so simple that even a noncook can have it turn out perfectly.
1 15-ounce can creamed corn
1 cup milk
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup Ritz crackers, crushed
1/4 cup butter, melted
Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix all ingredients together and bake in a greased, two-quart casserole dish for ten to fifteen minutes. Stir contents of dish and then bake another forty-five minutes, until top browns. Serves four.
by Lucy Cox
Lucy Cox is president of the Syracuse Chapter of the NFB of New York and an active member of the Randolph-Sheppard Program. This recipe has been in Lucy's family for several generations. It was created by her great-grandmother.
1-1/2 cups shortening (I prefer Crisco)
3 cups sugar
1 cup milk
3-1/2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Method: Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, two at a time. Beat well after each addition (secret of a good cake). Then add flavorings. Add flour (sifted together with salt) alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Pour cake mixture into ten-inch tube pan that has been greased and floured. Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for an hour and twenty-five minutes. Remove from oven. Invert cake on rack and remove from pan to cool quickly. Remove crumbs from pan. Return cake to pan and let stand until cake is cool. Serves about twenty-five.
by Maryann Gilliard
Maryann Gilliard is from Brooklyn, New York. She is second vice president of her local chapter and president of the NFB of New York's Merchants Division. These two recipes are always popular at her parties. The pudding is fast and easy.
4 packages instant vanilla pudding mix
8 cups whole milk
1 box Keebler vanilla wafers
6 to 8 bananas, depending on size
whipped cream, optional
Method: Mix boxes of pudding and milk together in a large bowl according to package directions. Let mixture stand for five minutes to thicken. Crumble vanilla wafers and stir into pudding. Slice bananas thin and fold into pudding mixture. Cover and chill for several hours. If desired, top with whipped cream when serving.
by Maryann Gilliard
1 5-pound bag frozen chicken wings
1 stick real butter
1 envelope Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix
4 ounces hot sauce (use your favorite kind)
Method: Deep-fry chicken wings in oil until brown. Drain well. Place chicken wings in shallow pan. In a small saucepan melt butter, slowly blending in Italian dressing mix and hot sauce. Let simmer 5 minutes, stirring several times. Add extra hot sauce, mustard, or other spices if desired. Pour sauce over chicken wings, coating each one thoroughly. Serve with blue cheese and celery, or just let them stand on their own.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: David and Lori Stayer]
Meatloaf without Tomato Sauce
by Lori and David Stayer
Lori and David Stayer are longtime leaders of the National Federation of the Blind. David is a past New York affiliate president and president of the Long Island chapter. Lori is editor of Slate and Style, the publication of the NFB Writers Division.
1 pound ground meat
2 apples (peeled, cored, and grated)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup matzo meal
Salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
Method: Mix all ingredients together well with hands and form into loaf. Bake one and a half hours at 350 degrees.
News from the Federation Family
In the lead photographs of the March issue we incorrectly identified Congressman Bob Beauprez as Congressman Scott McGinnis. We regret the error.
Attention Members of the Planned Giving Committee:
Committee chairman Richard Crawford has arranged for the committee to meet at 8:00 a.m. on July 1 in the Galt House, room to be announced. Please plan to attend.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Meredith McClain]
We are delighted to report that at 12:29 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, 2003, Meredith Paige McClain was born to Crystal and Mark McClain. Crystal is president of the Parents of Blind Children division of the NFB of Ohio, and Mark is a member of the National Organization of Blind Children board of directors. Meredith weighed seven pounds, four ounces and measured nineteen and a half inches. Everyone at the McClain house is doing well. Congratulations to the entire family.
Children's Braille Books and Volunteers Needed for Flea Market:
Do you have children's Braille books you no longer want, but you can't bear the thought of throwing away? Donate them to the Braille Readers Are Leaders first annual Children's Braille Book Flea Market. The flea market will be part of the twentieth Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest Anniversary Celebration from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Monday, June 30, 2003, at the NFB convention in Louisville. Donations generated by this project will allow us to expand our 2003-2004 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest program.
Please help by sending your formerly cherished but no longer read Braille books to the address below. Be sure to write "Braille books enclosed" on each address label. The address is NFB of Kentucky, c/o UPS, 1400 North Hurstbourne Parkway, Louisville, Kentucky 42203.
Books must be sent no later than Friday, June 13, 2003, to give our UPS volunteers time to organize their transport to the Galt House Hotel in Louisville. For more information contact Sandy Halverson, Chairman, Braille Readers Are Leaders Twentieth Anniversary Celebration, 3 South Montague Street, Arlington, Virginia 22204, phone (703) 379-1141, e-mail <email@example.com>.
Also the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille (NAPUB) and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) are seeking positive, Braille-reading blind role models who plan to attend the 2003 NFB national convention. If you will be in Louisville on Monday, June 30, and are willing to work informally with blind students, their families, and teachers to identify sources of Braille reading matter, discuss your favorite books, and otherwise promote Braille and the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest, contact Sandy Halverson as indicated above.
In November of 2002 the NFB of Mississippi organized a new chapter in Natchez, Mississippi. According to the affiliate president, Sam Gleese, the following officers were elected: Lucille Fair, president; Willie Moore, vice president; Sharon Moore, secretary; Laura Harris, treasurer; and Robert Fair, board member. Congratulations and welcome to this new chapter.
Job Exchange Committee Gatherings at Convention:
Fatos Floyd announces that on Monday, June 30, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., and on Wednesday, July 2, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., the newly formed Job Exchange Committee will be meeting with interested convention attendees. The committee will coordinate connections between available job seekers and employers with job openings, as well as between those currently employed and those needing insight into the world of work. The committee encourages all to attend and share their résumés and job postings. We especially hope people will provide information about current employment and volunteer to serve as contacts for others interested in careers in their fields.
At its January meeting the NFB of Lake County, Ohio, elected the following officers: Virginia Mann, president; Trish Wright, vice president and secretary; and Debbie Mann, treasurer.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Alice Lockwood and Jeannie Romeo]
Attention Country Music Fans:
Federationist Alice Lockwood writes to say that Romeo and Lockwood, a country music duo will be performing live at the dance Tuesday evening, July 1, at the national convention in Louisville. They have just released a CD of country originals recorded in Nashville with top musicians who play with Lori Morgan, Loretta Lynn, and Reba McEntire. The CD, entitled Heartfelt, has been receiving airplay throughout the country. One of the songs was nominated for an award at the Tennessee Country Music Alliance Award Show held April 18 to 20 in Nashville.
Come enjoy their music at the convention. They will make a short presentation at the board meeting on Monday morning, June 30. The July 1 performance will include familiar material as well as originals. CD's will be for sale for $15, of which $1 is a contribution to the NFB. For more information call (631) 273-3577, or visit the Web site <romeoandlockwood.com>. Alice's e-mail address is <firstname.lastname@example.org>. See you in Louisville!
The Cumberland County Chapter of the NFB of North Carolina recently elected new officers. They are Amelia Skipper, president; Frank Dallas, vice president; Judy Bordeaux, secretary; Boyce Locklear, treasurer; and George Moxley and Edna Dawson, 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: Pathamon has just turned seven and is looking for a home.]
Asian Children Looking for Families:
Pathamon is an affectionate girl who is very close to her caregivers. She has shown remarkable progress, considering that she is blind, with slight perception of light, and hearing impaired. Pathamon communicates her needs by signing and requires a bit of assistance with her self-care skills. Because of her special needs, she receives extra attention from her caregivers, but she desperately needs a family of her own so she can reach her full potential.
WACAP Family Finders Program would also like to share information about a six-year-old boy from Asia who is vision impaired and available for adoption. We cannot provide a photo to print, but please call or e-mail us for more information at (206) 575-4550 or <email@example.com>.
This little boy is optimistic and extroverted and befriends other children easily. His favorite activity is playing the drums. He wishes to go to music school so he can really learn to play the drums and bring happiness to everyone in the world. Can your family help this sweet boy realize his dream?
Helpful Convention Information:
Cathy Jackson has some helpful information to pass along for those who may need wheelchairs or other medical equipment and supplies while in Louisville. Listed here are the names, addresses, and phone numbers of agencies and pharmacies that either lend or rent such equipment. You must make your own arrangements with the provider for when, where, and how the equipment will be delivered and returned, as well as method of payment.
Any chairs the Kentucky affiliate acquires are intended for emergencies only and are not to be claimed by an individual for personal use. Likewise the hotel has a few chairs that can be requested for transporting someone to his or her room or in an emergency. However, if you are a chair user and do not wish to haul it across the country or if you believe a chair will make life more comfortable for you during your stay, you should make the necessary arrangements now.
· Center for Accessible Living: 981 S. 3rd Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40203, (502) 589-6620. The Center has wheelchairs to loan on a first-come, first-served basis.
· Harrison Medical, Inc.: 721 S. Preston, Louisville, Kentucky 40203, (502) 589-9325
· Holdaway Medical Services: 11305 Bluegrass Parkway, Louisville, Kentucky 40299, (502) 266-0092
· Rehab Design: 11700 Commonwealth Dr., Louisville, Kentucky 40299, (502) 266-9061
· Hume Pharmacy: 10216 Taylorsville Rd., Louisville, Kentucky 40299, (502) 267-7453
· Stephens Drugs, Inc.: 4200 Shelbyville Road, Louisville, Kentucky 40207, (502) 895-5446
Perkins Brailler Repairs Available:
The Selective Doctor, Inc., is a repair service for all IBM typewriters and Perkins BrailleWriters. Located in Baltimore, the service has done work for the Maryland School for the Blind and a number of other organizations in Maryland. They accept Perkins Braillers sent to them from around the country. They advertise top-quality service at yesterday's prices.
They also request a phone call before shipment of Braillers and ask that equipment be insured in the mails. Please note that the cost for insurance has increased to $7.20 for $600. For more information contact the Selective Doctor, Inc., P. O. Box 28432, Baltimore, Maryland 21234, or call (410) 668-1143. Visit the Web site at <www.selectivedoctor.net> or e-mail to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Voice Internet Service by InternetSpeech's NetECHO:
Talk and listen to the Internet using any phone; no computer necessary. Use InternetSpeech's netECHO®, the only voice Internet service to give you access to the entire Web. Surf and browse any Web site, read and respond to your e-mail, search any subject--pretty much anything you can do with a computer and visual browser can now be done in your own voice using any phone.
The rates are also affordable:
· Program A: $9.95 a month, unlimited use. Call a toll number in the 408 area code.
· Program B: $19.95 a month, includes 3 hours of use. Call a toll-free number. After 3 hours, 2.50 for every thirty additional minutes.
Both programs have a one-time set-up fee of $20. Just call (877) 312-4638 or (408) 360-7730 to take advantage of our introductory specials or go to <www.internetspeech.com>.
Intro to Window-Eyes Training Seminar at Convention:
We recently received the following announcement from GW Micro:
GW Micro, the creator of Window-Eyes, will conduct two Intro to Window-Eyes training sessions on Saturday morning, June 28, at convention. The first session will be held at 8:30 and the second at 10:30. Check the agenda listings for the location.
Here are some of the things that you will learn:
· New, easy-to-use (and user-definable) navigation keys for the Internet
· New Window-Eyes hotkey layout--access hotkeys quickly and easily
· Reading the screen with the mouse for those non-screen-reader-friendly applications
If you bring your laptop and headphones, you can turn this presentation into a hands-on session.
If you are interested in attending one of these sessions, please e-mail <email@example.com>, or call her at (260) 489-3671 to reserve a chair. Space is limited, so please call today.
Jazz Camp for Teens:
We recently received the following notice:
Applications are now being accepted for the August 8 to 17, 2003, TRAC Creative Music and Jazz Camp, a summer residential program for blind and visually impaired teen musicians. The camp, sponsored by University of New Orleans Training, Resource, and Assistive-technology Center (TRAC), will give fledgling musicians the opportunity to study, perform, write, compose, and edit music using a variety of special computer technologies, plus a unique environment to learn about jazz. The camp will also focus on leadership skills, independent living skills, and an introduction to careers in music.
The camp is open to blind and visually impaired musicians ages twelve to nineteen. Requirements include at least two years of musical training, basic computer literacy, a submitted performance tape, and a recommendation from a music instructor. Scholarships are available to all participants and include classes, food, recreational activities, and sleeping accommodations in staff-supervised residential rooms at the TRAC facility. Students must supply their own transportation to and from New Orleans. Positions are limited and students will be chosen based on skills and experience. Applications are due by May 30.
Composer and pianist Henry Butler, who has been blind since birth, will serve as camp creative director. Butler, who performs all over the world, has a successful recording career and has also taught workshops throughout the country.
The camp faculty will include well-known sighted and visually impaired musicians, a physical movement specialist, music business professionals, and music technology experts. Classes and recreational activities will also be led by members of the TRAC staff.
For information on the camp and registration forms contact Rose Angelocci, (504) 280-5705, e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org> or Denise Jett, (504) 280-5708, e-mail <email@example.com>.
For additional information contact Harriett Davis Cortez, TRAC Community Outreach and Development Specialist, (504) 280-5715, e-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org>, or consult the Web site, <www.unotrac.org>.
Reminder about North American Van Lines:
Now that it is spring, people may be making plans to move. Remember that the NFB has a special arrangement with North American Van Lines. To arrange a move from state to state under the NFB discount, call North American Van Lines at (800) 873‑2673 and talk with Cindy Ruppel at extension 155, or e-mail her at <email@example.com>. You will receive a 61 percent discount on moving costs for state-to-state moves and, if storage is required, a discount of 45 percent on storage costs. An accrual of 2 percent will go to the NFB.
Cassette Edition of Air & Space (Smithsonian) Magazine Available:
For the basic membership fee, members of the Smithsonian who cannot read standard print because of disability can now receive a print copy of the magazine plus the audio version. Contact the Smithsonian Accessibility Program at (888) 783‑0001, and receive your next issue of Air & Space on tape.
New from National Braille Press:
Here are two new releases from National Braille Press that may interest you:
Pillsbury Fast and Healthy Cookbook: Easy Recipes for Everyday by the Pillsbury Company, $12.95
Tired of healthy food that's bland? Are you hoping to eat better not just for your hips but for your tongue as well? Well, look no further. Here are seventy-one low‑fat or reduced‑fat recipes selected from Pillsbury's Fast and Healthy Cookbook, along with many tips and techniques, information on choosing the best ingredients, and detailed nutrition analyses. Prep times are also given, and most recipes take under thirty minutes. The recipes are organized into these categories: Soups; Poultry; Beef, Pork, and Lamb; Fish and Seafood; Meatless Entrees; and Side Dishes. Even if other healthy books have left you stranded, give this one a try.
Read more about this book‑-and the recipe list-‑on the NBP Web site at <www.nbp.org/pillsbury.html>.
Also available is a tipping guide. Ever wonder how much to tip the cabbie, your hairdresser, or the bell staff? Here, in a small booklet size, is a brief and elegant guide to tipping procedures in the United States and Canada. This guide is free with orders of $25 or more; otherwise, $5.
To order, send payment to NBP, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115‑4302, or call and charge it toll‑free at (800) 548‑7323 or at (617) 266‑6160 ext. 20. You can also e‑mail your order to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Useful Web Site:
The GovBenefits.gov Web site provides government benefit information to citizens to help them determine their potential eligibility. GovBenefits.gov is part of President Bush's eGovernment initiative to make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with the government. The site consolidates information about hundreds of federal assistance programs and federally funded programs managed by state and local governments currently spread across nearly 31 million federal government Web pages.
For more information contact Denis Gusty, program manager, (202) 693-4205, 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.
Compaq Presario Model 5170 in good working condition with 350HTZ processor, 256K of RAM, 10 Gig hard drive, 1.4 Meg floppy drive, CD drive, and 100 Meg zip drive. Comes with Windows 98 SE, Corel Version 8, MS 2000 Office Pro Office, Norton 2002, Quicken 2001, JFW 3.7U, Open Book Ruby, and Curio Firewall. Also has seventeen-inch CRT color monitor and surge protector. Asking $500 or best offer. Price does not include shipping. Call (541) 752‑3890 between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Pacific time.
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