THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 46, No. 11December, 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 21230-4998
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
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Vol. 46, No. 11 December, 2003
Convention Bulletin 2004
Pennsylvania Rejects Good Services for Blind People
by Barbara Pierce
Cooperation and Collaboration
or Contention and Criticism?
by Marc Maurer
Report on the Plight of the Blind of Iraq
by Dustin Langan
I Once Was Lost
by Darrel Kirby
A Glimpse of Freedom
by Rachel Black
Airport Indignities One More Time
by Joyce Scanlan
A Few Notes on Buying a Computer
by Curtis Chong and Steven Booth
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 2004
by Sharon Maneki
The 2004 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by Stephen O. Benson
Second Annual Meet-the-Blind-Month Campaign
by Jerry Lazarus
Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2004
by James McCarthy
Copyright © 2003 National Federation of the Blind
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: On October 12, 2003, the fifth anniversary of Kenneth Jernigan's death, friends and colleagues gathered for a memorial mass at St. Joseph's church in Baltimore. Following the service they walked together to the grave site to share a time of remembrance and to eat cornbread, one of Dr. Jernigan's favorite foods.]
[LEAD PHOTO/CAPTION: Mary Ellen Jernigan and Marc Maurer sit talking on Dr. Jernigan's monument following the memorial mass.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel]
Convention Bulletin 2004
It is time to plan for the 2004 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. This year we are returning to Atlanta and the beautiful Marriott Marquis Hotel, site of the 1999 and 2000 conventions.
Once again our hotel rates are the envy of all. For the 2004 convention they are singles, doubles, and twins, $59; and triples and quads, $65. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 14 percent. No charge will be made for children fifteen and under in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested.
For 2004 convention room reservations you should write directly to the Marriott Marquis, 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303, or call (404) 521-0000. The hotel will want a deposit of $60 or a credit card number. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $60 check. If a reservation is cancelled prior to June 1, 2004, $30 of the $60 deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.
The Marquis is a beautiful, fifty-story atrium hotel with a panoramic view of this bustling city in the heart of the New South. It is twelve miles north of the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport. Those driving to the convention will find the hotel conveniently located off Interstate 85, by taking Exit 96, International Boulevard, turning left onto International Boulevard, going to Peachtree Center Avenue, and turning right. The hotel is on the right in the second block. The Marriott has three excellent restaurants: Allie's American Grille, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; Atrium Express, open for breakfast and lunch; and Marquis Steakhouse, open for dinner only. Champions Sports Bar is open until 2:00 a.m. and serves lunch and dinner. The hotel features indoor and outdoor pools, a solarium, health club, whirlpool, and sauna. Guest-room amenities include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair drier, and dataport.
Federationists attending the convention will have access to a wealth of restaurants, shops, and other attractions like Martin Luther King Center (1.5 miles), Underground Atlanta (0.8 mile), and World of Coca-Cola (0.8 mile). See later issues of the Monitor for information about tours and other attractions in the Greater Atlanta area.
The 2004 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a truly exciting and memorable event, with an unparalleled program and rededication to the goals and work of our movement. Make plans now to be a part of it. The schedule this year is a bit unusual. Preconvention seminars for parents of blind children and other groups and set-up of the exhibit hall will take place on Tuesday, June 29, and adjournment will be Monday, July 5, at 5:00 p.m. Convention registration will begin on Wednesday, June 30, and both Wednesday and Thursday will be filled with meetings of divisions and committees, including the Thursday morning annual meeting, open to all, of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
General convention sessions begin on Friday, July 2, and continue through the afternoon of Monday, July 5. The annual banquet will take place on Sunday evening, July 4. To assure yourself a room in the headquarters hotel at convention rates, you must make reservations early. The hotel will be ready to take your call or deal with your written request by January 1.
Remember that as usual we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Once again prizes should be small in size but large in value. Cash, of course, is always appropriate and welcome. As a general rule we ask that prizes of all kinds have a value of at least $25. Drawings will occur steadily throughout the convention sessions, and you can anticipate a grand prize of truly impressive proportions to be drawn at the banquet. You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time (identifying the item and donor and listing the value in print and Braille) to Thelma Godwin, 1705 Paradise Drive, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30307.
The best collection of exhibits, featuring new technology; meetings of our special interest groups, committees, and divisions; memorable tours arranged by the Georgia affiliate; the most stimulating and provocative program items of any meeting of the blind in the world; the chance to renew friendships in our Federation family; and the unparalleled opportunity to be where the real action is and where decisions are being made--all of these mean you will not want to miss being a part of the 2004 national convention. We'll see you in Atlanta in 2004!
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Christine Boone]
Pennsylvania Rejects Good Services for Blind People
by Barbara Pierce
Suppose that, after years of mediocre to poor service from the state agency serving blind consumers in your state, everything suddenly began improving? Suddenly blind vendors found their incomes up nearly 30 percent. Consumers began working constructively with the agency that served them. Agency morale began rising, and staff members who had been talking about retirement were now scrapping those plans because they were at long last able to really help consumers. Then, after three years of this kind of progress and hope for the future, suppose that the secretary of the umbrella agency controlling the blindness agency summarily fired the director who had been the catalyst making all this happen. How would you feel?
That in a nutshell is what has just happened in Pennsylvania. Christine Boone was the director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (BVS) who was fired with no notice on August 14, 2003. Stephen Schmerin is the Pennsylvania secretary of the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I), the umbrella agency housing the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) and, under OVR, the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services.
The head of OVR and Boone's immediate supervisor is Stephen Nasuti. State officials thwarted all efforts by consumers to persuade them to rethink this regrettable decision or even to discuss it, so on August 24 the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania ran an advertisement in the Philadelphia Inquirer arguing the case for reinstating Chris Boone. Here is the text of that piece:
Successful Blind Administrator Fired Because of Blindness
Says the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania
On August 14, 2003, Stephen Nasuti, the director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, fired Christine Boone, the blind director of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. The firing was supposedly based on charges that Christine Boone was insubordinate, but the real reason is a mixture of skulduggery and bigotry.
Programs for the blind in Pennsylvania, directed by Christine Boone, have shown dramatic increases in effectiveness with a 400 percent expansion in service delivered to elderly blind Pennsylvanians and a 28 percent increase in income to blind vendors in the state. Mr. Nasuti, who directs the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, the agency housing the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, was jealous of the success of Mrs. Boone, who is blind.
Furthermore, Mr. Nasuti's management of rehabilitation programs unnecessarily cost the state many thousands of dollars, and he was seeking someone to blame. He picked Christine Boone, charging her with errors he had committed himself.
Stephen Nasuti disparages employment programs for the blind and fails to promote the teaching of Braille to blind people. He decided that Pennsylvania should adopt a policy to withdraw support from blind college students who had received merit scholarships in an amount equal to the scholarships. Christine Boone informed him that such a policy is in violation of federal requirements.
Shortly before he persuaded the secretary of labor and industry to dismiss Christine Boone, Mr. Nasuti informed her that, because she is blind, she is incapable of management.
The blind of Pennsylvania are outraged at the actions of Stephen Nasuti in dismissing the blind director of services for the blind. Discrimination on the basis of blindness is a violation of the law, and the state rehabilitation program should serve as a model in preventing it. Instead, the director of vocational rehabilitation has engaged in discriminatory behavior on the basis of blindness in the very program established to serve the blind.
Last spring a so‑called fact‑finding investigation occurred in which Christine Boone was charged with negligent management that caused the state the loss of several thousand dollars. A statewide staff‑training meeting had been planned. Two business days before the meeting, Stephen Nasuti cancelled it. This cancellation cost the state several thousand dollars. He blamed Christine Boone for the unnecessary expenditure. However, she was not given notice of the charge with an opportunity to collect evidence. She was not given the opportunity to be represented by a lawyer. She was not given the opportunity to prepare evidence for her own defense. Such rights are basic to due process.
Mr. Nasuti has repeatedly said that blind people do not need training. Creating trumped‑up charges against the blind director of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services is Mr. Nasuti's crude way of attempting to destroy programs for the blind in Pennsylvania.
The blind of Pennsylvania need rehabilitation services to live independent lives. The blind demand that the administrators of such programs have faith in their blind customers and have the willingness to fight discriminatory practices. Stephen Nasuti has demonstrated that he has no faith, and he himself has engaged in discrimination.
Judith Jobes, First Vice President
National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania
Not surprisingly, Secretary of Labor and Industry Stephen Schmerin would not return phone calls from the Braille Monitor and referred this matter to his press secretary, Barry Ciccocioppo. Mr. Ciccocioppo refused to comment on the issues involved in the Boone firing because it is a personnel matter. Since Boone has decided to bring suit against the department, she too has been circumspect in discussing the events that have unfolded. Understandably she does not wish to say much about her evidence of unfair and improper treatment, and the department is not willing to justify its actions in any but the broadest terms to the press. Moreover, recent actions of the Department of Labor and Industry officials demonstrate that employees and others close to the situation will suffer consequences if they speak for attribution to the press.
That said, it is still possible to establish the facts of the situation and trace a number of bureaucratic actions and decisions in order to understand what is now going on. In July of 1999 the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, familiarly referred to by blind Pennsylvanians as "the Bureau," was transferred from the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to the Department of Labor and Industry (L&I).
DPW had not been a great home for the Bureau, but by the time Boone took the helm of the BVS in June of 2000, nothing had improved for the staff (and certainly not for the consumers) because of the shift to L&I. According to customers and staff alike, BVS was a beleaguered agency, worn down by years of neglect, isolated from the broader rehabilitation community, and permeated and hamstrung by the curse of micromanagement. In fiscal year '99 only 300 BVS cases had been successfully closed, and 55 percent of them were as homemakers, not gainfully employed at all. Consumers had pronounced the agency to be unresponsive. Staff positions were not being filled, so of course the rehabilitation needs of blind customers could not possibly be met effectively. The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) was putting pressure on BVS because the agency's statistics for serving the older blind population by providing independent living services were very poor. Moreover, the agency had failed to file necessary reports with RSA, always a danger signal for a state agency.
That was the situation when BVS was subsumed under the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Pennsylvania's general rehabilitation agency. The first problem for BVS was that blindness agencies are always much smaller but much more complex than general agencies. A general rehabilitation agency operates only one program, the Federal-State Vocational Rehabilitation Program. It employs VR counselors, support staff, and fiscal personnel. All training, education, and rehabilitative services are purchased from providers. Occasionally a general agency also houses the Disability Determination Unit.
A state agency serving the blind, on the other hand, includes the federal-state vocational rehabilitation program; the federal-state Independent Living Older Blind Program; the Business Enterprise Program (which in Pennsylvania includes federal, state, and highway programs); rehabilitation teaching; Orientation and Mobility (O&M); and children's services. The agency for the blind employs VR counselors, support staff, fiscal personnel, rehab teachers, O&M instructors, social workers, and Business Enterprise agents. All of these programs must be operated effectively, using different funding streams, filing reports appropriately, generating positive outcomes, and providing seamless services to blind and visually impaired customers.
After the firing of Christine Boone, those speaking for OVR repeatedly explained that Boone had not been responsible for the improvements in services provided by BVS during the past several years. They spoke of the synergies that they said had been created by moving BVS to the Department of Labor and Industry under the OVR. Yet much of what BVS needed to do to improve services for blind customers was totally foreign to the OVR staff. Although that agency had an entire bureau of sixty-five called Central Operations, whose job it was to support the field by reviewing grants and contracts, managing staff training and recruitment, handling Social Security reimbursement payments, and implementing statewide initiatives to enhance job placements, BVS officials were repeatedly told that these specialists knew nothing about BVS programs, so that agency would have to manage such activities independently.
BVS had a central office staff of eight. The general VR bureau, titled the Bureau of Program Operations, had six in its central office and of course sixty-five in Central Operations to provide support to it and its field staff. Moreover, before BVS joined the Department of Labor and Industry, no agency in the entire department had any programs serving either seniors or children. When BVS brought both programs under the Labor and Industry umbrella, they were the first. No expertise existed in L&I for serving either group. In short, it is difficult to understand how anyone could argue that recent improvements in services to the blind in Pennsylvania are the result of moving BVS into Secretary Schmerin's department.
Now we come to the matter of computer support and access technology. One of the advantages BVS did have in the Department of Public Welfare was an efficient computer-based case-management system. Somehow during the transfer to L&I that system and all of the information in it were lost. As a result the field staff in the Bureau had only paper files from which to work. In fact, many of the BVS staff did not even have computers, and almost none of the blind staff had any access technology.
The staff at the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, on the other hand, had a computer-based case-management system, nearly every field staff member had a laptop or desktop computer, and many had portable printers. BVS had received repeated assurances from OVR that it was not a poor step-child, that it would be treated just like the rest of OVR, that times would be better now that the Bureau was out of DPW. Those were the words the BVS staff had been hearing during its first year under OVR, but the reality was much different. By the time Chris Boone took over, the agency was no closer to getting a case-management system or even enough computers. In fact the acting director of BVS actually told staff members that they could not have access technology because it was too expensive.
It took more than a year of concentrated effort, but by 2001 every Bureau staff member had a laptop or desktop computer, all staff members with disabilities had access technology, and everyone had received training tailored to meet their own needs and purchased by the Bureau. Things weren't perfect, but the agency had made a good start. Staff also got access to the OVR case management system, and OVR began adding to the system so that rehabilitation teachers, O&M instructors, and social workers could actually use it.
The Independent Living Older Blind (ILOB) Program provides an interesting illustration of BVS efforts before and after Boone took the helm. The Bureau had received federal funds in federal fiscal year 2000, which started nine months before Boone began her job. A review of BVS statistics as reported to the Rehabilitation Services Administration indicates that the agency was not spending this allocation and was applying a financial needs test to all ILOB applicants, which was illegal. The funds spent bought gadgets like liquid level indicators and bright orange tape for decorating customers' homes. Fewer than 800 customers received services during FY 2000, and many of them received a boxful of gadgets that they had not requested and did not intend to use.
In addition, customers faced the spouse in the house rule. According to this policy, if you lived with a spouse or anyone else who could see, you were not eligible to receive reader services or access technology from the BVS. Everyone presumed, apparently, that this was the role of the sighted resident in the home. That was the ILOB program when Boone arrived. The social workers were not particularly mean-spirited, and they were not lazy. It was not even because they did not believe in the abilities of blind people. They had never been told about the goals, requirements, and possibilities of the ILOB program.
The first thing Boone did was to remove the financial needs test because the ILOB is an entitlement program and all applicants who are eligible must be accepted and given services at no cost to themselves. Then she released the remaining funds to the field and asked the staff to spend them. They were told to purchase canes, Braille and talking watches, and magnifiers. Pennsylvania began receiving more federal funding, and, thanks to a gifted accountant, the BVS acquired matching funds from the state. By 2003 the Pennsylvania ILOB budget was approximately 1.5 million dollars, all of which was spent serving over 3,500 older blind people. More important, the social workers began visiting customers in their homes, explaining to them their options and possibilities now that they were blind. Rehabilitation teachers taught customers how to accomplish things without depending on gadgets and taught them self-confidence. Not surprisingly the spouse in the house rule was permanently retired.
When Boone arrived at the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services in June of 2000, over half the people reported as having attained successful employment were actually closed as independent homemakers. The expansion of the ILOB program went a long way toward solving this problem, since many of these homemakers were over age fifty-five and could now be served through the Independent Living Older Blind program. The threshold for becoming an independent homemaker in Pennsylvania, however, remained very low. All one had to do was to live independently. Boone saw that the definition for this closure was rewritten. Now, in order to choose the goal of independent homemaker on an Individual Plan for Employment (IPE), a person must have primary responsibility for caring for minor children, older individuals, or people with other disabilities in the home. Blind people who live alone must work in order to be considered a rehabilitation success in Pennsylvania. Those who stay home to fulfill the vital role of caregiver can receive the independent homemaker closure. In federal FY 2002, federal statistics indicate that less than 38 percent of BVS's successful closures were as homemakers, and this number is likely to be lower still in the fiscal year just ended.
As the Boone administration took hold, management began looking at the kinds of jobs blind customers were getting. In some districts the sky was becoming the limit, while in others the sky was still not visible. In northeast Pennsylvania a totally blind man said he wanted to be an auto mechanic, and the Bureau assisted him to achieve that goal. A number of other folks who wanted to be auto mechanics across the state, however, were told flatly that this goal was impossible for a blind person. When this inequity was discovered, Boone began bringing VR supervisors together to address and remedy such situations. The staff were beginning to expand their beliefs about the employment potential of blind people, and prospects were growing more exciting for BVS customers.
Before June of 2000 only two BVS district offices provided significant services to children, and one other office provided extremely limited services. By August of 2003, when Boone was fired, all six district offices had become responsible for providing core services to children, including facilitating opportunities to attend summer programs for children and young adults. Rehabilitation teaching, orientation and mobility services, support at Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings, and family counseling were all available in every district. Boone and her staff scraped together the funding to expand the children's program because of her frequently articulated commitment to providing such services, since they would not otherwise be offered to the blind children of the state.
The Business Enterprise Program too began to thrive under the Boone administration. Like many other BE programs across the country, the Pennsylvania program had been shrinking since the mid-1980's. Recognizing that the Business Enterprise Program is one of the most lucrative employment opportunities for blind adults today, Boone began by establishing a training program for vending operators in Pennsylvania, instead of sending them to Ohio for training as had been done. One additional benefit of this effort was that the teaching staff could be trained to work toward raising the bar for BEP facility operators. The training program began in September of 2001 at the Hiram G. Andrews Center, the comprehensive adult training center and community college that operates as part of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.
In Pennsylvania the highway vending machine program had been operated entirely by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. All the machines were operated by contractors, none of whom were blind. In 2002 BVS assumed operation and oversight of the entire highway vending machine program. As contracts came up for renewal, the BVS made ten sites available to blind operators, creating six new vending locations--the first to open in Pennsylvania in over ten years.
Through the three years of transition during the Boone administration, agency expectations of BEP operators have increased. They are now expected to be competent, professional business people. Operator income has risen by more than 28 percent during the past three years and now significantly exceeds the national average. The Business Enterprise report for federal fiscal year 2003 (RSA 15), which has just been filed by the Bureau, indicates that the average annual income for blind vendors in Pennsylvania currently exceeds $40,000. These same operators earned an average of less than $28,000 in FFY 2000.
The Pennsylvania blindness agency continues to employ both rehabilitation teachers and orientation and mobility instructors, rather than exclusively contracting for these services as many agencies do today. These professionals had been left alone for many years, apparently because no one in agency administration had the slightest notion of what they really did and how it should be done.
Chris Boone has worked as both rehabilitation teacher and O&M instructor, in addition to having been both a vocational rehabilitation and transition counselor. She recognized the importance of their work to the future success of customers, and she could appreciate the challenges they faced serving large territories in a predominantly rural state.
Boone met with the O&M instructors last summer, and according to observers they left the building with long, rigid canes in their hands and optimism in their steps. She was to have met with the rehabilitation teachers this fall, so this meeting never took place. However, a new handbook, jointly written by staff and management, has recently been completed for the two disciplines. It raises the bar for what the agency expects of its customers, incorporates rehabilitation teaching and O&M services much more closely into the vocational and older blind programs, and strengthens the vitally important holistic approach to success in programs for the blind.
There you have an overview of the programmatic history of the past three years at the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services and the changes made by Chris Boone or at her insistence. We must also devote a little attention to the political environment that exists in Pennsylvania's blindness community and the pressures now being exerted. Since 1974 BVS has paid over $2,000,000 annually to the Pennsylvania Association for the Blind (PAB) and another $340,000 annually to Associated Services for the Blind (ASB) to provide so-called Specialized Services. The term "Specialized Services" could be and has been defined in many ways. The PAB distributed its funding among its thirty-two member agencies across the state, and ASB provided services itself. These thirty-three contract providers held at least thirty-three different definitions of Specialized Services.
In addition, the funding was not distributed using a uniform standard. After Boone arrived, the BVS calculated the amount each contractor or sub-contractor received per hour of service provided. They discovered that one sub-contractor received just $5 per hour, and at the other end of the spectrum another received over $50 per hour. Boone and her staff spent 2001 and 2002 standardizing the funding under the contract, ensuring that every provider would receive the same amount of agency money per hour for the service it provided. The agency also defined appropriate services under these contracts. Bingo games, dart-throwing competitions, Halloween parties, and trust walks were now out. Funds were used for transportation for medical and other important appointments in the 90 percent of the state without public transportation, home-based reader or escort services for seniors, and classes at local PABs in everything from Social Security to gardening.
Everyone we talked with agreed that one of the most noticeable accomplishments in BVS during the Boone administration was the improvement in staff morale. For years BVS staffers complained at the way red tape and pointless regulations had hamstrung everyone from district managers to support staff. The district managers had to ask permission to take even minor initiatives, and only they were permitted to telephone anyone in the central office. Luckily they were permitted to make those calls because they could not spend their office budgets or even decide to send staff home during a blizzard without central office permission.
All that changed as soon as Boone took command. The result was energized, optimistic, and creative staff members across the state who were immediately invested in what was happening and excited about the future. Customers say that they noticed the change at once. Now that Boone is gone, the rule about district managers being the only people who can contact the central office has been reinstated. Sadly, no one will be surprised when the other reforms also revert to business as usual.
In the months before her firing, Chris Boone had been working to hire an assistant director. She had three candidates with appropriate credentials and one whose résumé stood out because of its lack of vocational rehabilitation experience. He had no administrative or supervisory experience, having been employed as an intake worker and a technology instructor at a PAB. Consumers are agreed that he was not an effective teacher, and he has freely admitted that, although he is blind, he has never attended a consumer convention. In his application he claimed to have been an employee of BVS in the past, a claim that proved to be untrue. He may have instructed a BVS customer or two in the mid-1990's, but that is the closest he seems to have come to working for the agency. He was, however, a veteran, and Pennsylvania requires that veterans automatically rise to the top of the list of candidates for any job for which they are qualified.
Chris Boone wrote to the Civil Service Commission to explain why he was not a qualified candidate, and they agreed, telling her that she could remove his name from her list. He then wrote to Secretary Schmerin, who, like this applicant, was a native of Pittsburgh, and the secretary returned him to the top of the list. The handwriting was clear: experience, honesty, commitment to excellence--none of these qualities were important to those in Pennsylvania who oversee services for the blind. And, as if all that were not enough, now the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Department of Labor and Industry have decreed that receipt of merit scholarships by disabled students provides a fine excuse for the state to reduce agency assistance to the student.
Over a decade ago Dr. Nell Carney, then commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration, wrote a letter to all state agencies ruling that merit scholarships could not be considered similar benefits. This meant that state agencies could not reduce the amount of their allocations to students by the amount of such scholarships. Joanne Wilson, the current RSA commissioner, has reiterated this policy. Rehabilitation agencies across the nation know this, and everyone upholds the intent of the law--everyone but the folks in the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
Chris Boone was working to reverse the Pennsylvania policy and had instructed counselors not to penalize students with merit scholarships. But on September 1, seventeen days after Boone's firing, BVS counselors were instructed to treat merit scholarships as similar benefits and reduce stipends accordingly.
Meanwhile things were happening with the agency's advisory committee. The Governor's Advisory Committee for the Blind is the nine-member advisory body associated with BVS. As its name suggests, the governor actually appoints the members, but the group's bylaws specify that the members should represent vendors, students, parents, service providers, consumer organizations, and the agency director. Though Chris Boone had always urged the governor to preserve all these representations and previous governors had always honored her requests, no one was surprised when after Boone's firing the governor removed the NFB representative on the GACB. After all, the NFB had protested the Boone firing and the tactics used to accomplish it.
Dr. Ed Staudt, who runs a small access-technology company that has done business with the state, is an independent businessman who has served on the advisory committee. He also protested both the Boone firing and the methods used to accomplish it. He has now been targeted for removal from the committee because, apparently, he has a conflict of interest since BVS counselors purchase equipment from his company. Of course the executive director of the PAB, which you will recall does $2,000,000 contract work with BVS, continues to serve on the GACB. No one has suggested that he has a conflict of interest. But then the PABs made no objection to Boone's removal, even though they had been vociferous in praising her for the quality of her administration.
As Judy Jobes, first vice president of the NFB of Pennsylvania, says, "First to last this whole business has been a tragedy." For two and a half years it looked as if a new day was dawning in Pennsylvania. Now not only do mediocrity and hopelessness walk the halls of government once more, but retribution seems to be abroad. Pennsylvanians, particularly those who work for the BVS, feel unable to speak on the record. One employee who wrote a letter of protest about Boone's dismissal, using her home address, received a written response at her work address. The message was clear: don't rock the boat, and don't stand up for blind people or excellence in service delivery. Surely the blind citizens of Pennsylvania deserve better than this. We close this disgraceful report with the text of the statement written by Dr. Fredric Schroeder, past RSA commissioner, which he prepared as an op-ed piece for Pennsylvania newspapers. Here it is:
The Organized Blind of Pennsylvania Call
for a Commission for the Blind
by Fredric Schroeder
On Thursday, September 4, the organized blind of Pennsylvania gathered to protest the unjustified and unceremonious firing of the director of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. Consumers of Bureau services believe that her firing had nothing to do with her ability as a manager, are stunned at the dismissal of such an effective leader, and now wonder why.
For seven years, beginning in 1994, I served as the U.S. Commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. President Clinton appointed me to oversee the nation's job training programs for people with all types of disabilities, including blindness. I administered a $2.5 billion budget, funding state and territorial programs, providing the training needed to enable blind people and others with disabilities to prepare for and obtain high-quality employment to live normal, productive lives.
Today blind people face an unemployment rate of over 70 percent nationally. Blind people in Pennsylvania have long suffered under a sluggish, bureaucratic rehabilitation program, making a bleak national situation even worse for blind people in the Commonwealth. Blind people cheered when Christine Boone was named director of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. Consumers knew she brought to the job an impressive résumé of professional accomplishments and authority as a blind person who has herself met the challenges facing the Bureau's clients.
While she was director of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, Christine Boone built credibility and strong relationships with the blind of the state. In three years she dramatically increased the number of blind people who secured employment annually, established strong ties with the blind community, and created an environment of trust. She developed innovative staff training techniques for Bureau employees, raised staff morale, and fostered commitment to helping blind people find good jobs. Her record speaks for itself. It is one of accomplishment, integrity, and commitment to the blind of Pennsylvania.
As the facts unfolded, the firing emerged as petty jealousy, exhibited by ineffective, insecure bureaucrats. Steve Nasuti, executive director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, was threatened by Boone's effectiveness; threatened by the unprecedented support she enjoyed from staff, blind consumers, and the community at large; and threatened by having a blind member of his executive team know more, do more, and have more respect than he did. He suggested that Boone was too close to her constituents to be objective. Why? Because she was blind! This is discrimination. It is like the suggestion that a previously battered woman would be unsuited to direct a battered women's shelter.
So what do the blind of Pennsylvania believe is needed? Boone must be immediately exonerated and reinstated. But that will solve only one problem within an ineffective structure. To solve the overall problem of removing employment barriers for blind Pennsylvanians, a permanent reform of blind services in the Commonwealth is required. Such a reform is available.
According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education, states with separate commissions for the blind outperform states that bury such programs in large umbrella agencies. The effectiveness of separate commissions as job preparedness agencies is not hard to understand. Separate commissions for the blind have a single focus. They have experience and expertise and know the most effective ways of preparing blind people for high-quality employment. They are responsive to the clients they serve, and, most important, they cannot sidestep accountability by hiding within the larger bureaucracy.
The blind of Pennsylvania call on the governor and the legislature to reorganize blindness services to ensure that such an unwarranted attack never happens again. They want blindness services moved out from under the Department of Labor and Industry; out from under the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation; out from under the paternalistic, unimaginative, heavy-handed control of bureaucrats who think "good enough" is good enough for the blind. The blind of the state want services moved into a separate commission for the blind run by a board appointed by the governor with the consent of the Senate, made up of blind people and others who understand how best to prepare blind people for good jobs in their communities.
Separate programs for the blind save money in spite of what state bureaucrats say because they develop expertise and knowledge about how best to invest available funds. Other programs waste tax money by poorly preparing blind people for jobs. The end result is rapid and repeated loss of employment, causing the blind person to return to dependence on tax-supported disability insurance and to undertake frequent, ineffectual retraining.
An example of just such a false economy is Nasuti's proposal to cut tuition support for blind college students. This policy change will reduce college tuition support by more than half. Yet the completion of a postsecondary degree is well documented to be the most effective way to prepare blind people for high-quality, permanent employment. Nasuti would have you believe that the cuts are needed and harmless even though they will severely limit badly needed job opportunities for blind people.
One of the issues leading to Christine Boone's dismissal was a complaint by Nasuti that the Bureau was taking too long to prepare blind people for employment. He believes that a newly blind person can be placed in a job with only three or four weeks of instruction in use of the white cane. This demonstrates his total lack of understanding of the needs of blind people and his callousness toward the challenges blind people face in seeking reentry into the workforce.
In 1994 the Pennsylvania legislature sent the governor a bill to create a separate program for the blind in the Commonwealth. Unfortunately the bill was never signed. This year the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania will ask the legislature again to pass a bill establishing a commission for the blind. The blind need effective, specialized services that will move them out of poverty, out of dependence on public benefits, out of hopelessness, and into good jobs, which will enable them to live normal lives, support their families, and contribute to their communities.
Please support the blind of the Commonwealth in their efforts to establish a separate commission for the blind, not as an act of charity, but as a recognition that, given the right kinds of services and support, blind people can work--and deserve the chance to do so.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Carl Augusto]
Cooperation and Collaboration
or Contention and Criticism?
by Marc Maurer
During much of the last two decades many articles have been written and many speeches have been given about the need for cooperation in the field of work with the blind. Has this cooperation not always existed, one might ask? Indeed, it has not. There are two schools of thought among entities dealing with blindness. Because there have been two, the need for cooperation is paramount. If organizations and agencies in the blindness field do not cooperate, programs for the blind suffer. But this is not simple or easy because entities in the blindness field often mistrust each other, and the philosophical approaches are frequently very different. Even when all parties involved have substantial goodwill for each other, cooperation demands work. When this goodwill is absent, the harmony and collegiality which have often been advocated are almost impossible.
Cooperation cannot occur unless those in the field of work with the blind are willing to meet with each other and share ideas. It requires give and take and a substantial measure of goodwill, and cooperation implies a willingness to support one another--it cannot be one-sided. Sometimes the perception of the organized blind is that the insistence on cooperation from the agencies doesn't actually imply real give and take or mutual support. Sometimes this request for cooperation appears to mean "We want you to cooperate with us. We will cooperate with you whenever we need you. If we think we don't need you, we will attack you whenever we feel like it."
This kind of cooperation is exemplified by a meeting which occurred at the National Center for the Blind in the mid-1990's. Representatives of the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), and the National Federation of the Blind were discussing potential legislation. Officials from the Foundation and AER urged that there be cooperation in approaching members of Congress. We agreed, and we set a time to exchange ideas.
When the meeting came to pass, we of the National Federation of the Blind began it by presenting our plans for the next legislative season. When we had concluded our presentation, the other representatives at the meeting got up to leave. We objected, saying we had thought there would be an exchange of ideas. They said that they were not prepared to tell us what they were planning to do; they had come to learn what we were planning to do. Inasmuch as they had gained knowledge of our plans, they saw no further point in continuing the meeting. I suppose it need not be pointed out that no further exchanges of this kind have occurred.
During the 1980's a relationship of mutual respect and growing cooperation began to develop between the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind. Mr. William Gallagher, the then president of the AFB, and Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, serving then as president of the National Federation of the Blind, worked together. Differences of opinion continued to exist, but these differences were often discussed in depth, and real understanding frequently resulted.
The effort to foster cooperation has continued, and some notable progress has been made. However, the substantial cooperation that has been developing now appears to be in jeopardy.
Carl Augusto, the current president of the AFB, accepted an invitation to appear at the 2003 convention of the National Federation of the Blind to report on the work of the Foundation. During the portion of the program in which he appeared, James Gashel, NFB director of governmental affairs, asked Carl Augusto whether the Foundation had joined with others in the blindness field to adopt a position paper with respect to certain practices dealing with rehabilitation of the blind. The Foundation's name is appended to the paper, which strongly indicates that the AFB adopted the text of the document. This paper may be interpreted as a criticism of the work and the positions of the National Federation of the Blind. It may be regarded as an attack upon the Federation.
Even if it is not interpreted this way, the statement was drafted and apparently adopted without consultation with the National Federation of the Blind. Cooperation and harmony demand interaction and communication. The statement was adopted with no interaction, no communication, and no notice. From the point of view of the organized blind, this statement was concocted in secret and distributed to undermine the programs of the Federation. Such behavior is inconceivable from an ally and is reprehensible in one who would seek to make common cause. James Gashel asked Carl Augusto if the Foundation had adopted this paper without consultation. Carl Augusto appeared not to know.
I asked Carl Augusto if he would seek the information and report back to us. He said that he would.
Shortly after the close of the convention, Carl Augusto called me to say that he had felt attacked at the convention. I asked him if he had discovered whether the Foundation was a party to the statement circulated earlier bearing the Foundation's name. Mr. Augusto responded by saying that he felt the exchange at the convention would detrimentally affect the relationship between our organizations. I indicated to him that, if what had been said about the Foundation were true, I thought he was right. I waited for several weeks for the answer to my question, but I did not hear from Carl Augusto. I decided to reiterate the question in a letter. Here it is:
August 13, 2003
Mr. Carl Augusto
American Foundation for the Blind
New York, New York
You accepted an invitation to speak at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky, on the 2nd of July, 2003. This invitation was extended to you because I felt that it would be worthwhile to promote a cordial relationship between the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind. I indicated to the audience that I thought harmonious relations were possible and that there had been significant effort to develop them.
Following your presentation, questions were raised with you about the participation of the American Foundation for the Blind in a joint statement which appeared to be an indirect attack upon the National Federation of the Blind. You seemed unfamiliar with the document being discussed, but you told us that you would look into the matter.
A few days after the convention you called me to say that you felt as if you had been attacked at the convention. You further told me that you believed that attacks of the kind you had undergone would jeopardize the working relationship between the organizations we represent. I indicated to you that I would obtain the text of the joint statement which had been the subject of questioning at the NFB convention.
The joint statement appears to be a document which declares that the only valid certifying body for rehabilitation in the United States is the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals. The joint statement appears to declare that any program of rehabilitation which is unable or unwilling to accept students who are learning to travel with guide dogs is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The joint statement appears to declare that teaching blind students using blindfolds as the primary or exclusive method of training is not in accordance with the best practices. I enclose a copy of the joint statement for your review.
If this document has actually been adopted by the organizations named within it, the statement must have been prepared, discussed, and accepted without the participation of the National Federation of the Blind. Such a procedure would violate the spirit of collegiality, which I had thought was part of the growing harmonious relationship between our organizations. Furthermore, the joint statement bears the name of the National Accreditation Council. This organization is perhaps the least credible and most controversial in the field of work with the blind. If the American Foundation for the Blind has linked its name with that of the National Accreditation Council, this would be most unfortunate. The National Accreditation Council long ago declared war upon the blind, and the organized blind have responded by assuring those who want to know that the blind will not accept the dictatorial, highhanded behavior of NAC.
I have kept my promise to you in our telephone conversation. I have sought the document which purports to bear the name of the American Foundation for the Blind. I ask you to respond to the question we raised with you at the convention. Does this joint statement reflect the considered opinion of the American Foundation for the Blind? In your telephone conversation with me that occurred shortly after our convention, you said that the future harmony and cooperation that might exist between the National Federation of the Blind and the American Foundation for the Blind would be affected by our behavior toward each other. I believe that you are absolutely correct. Please let me know if the joint statement was adopted by the Foundation and others without the courtesy of inviting the National Federation of the Blind to express a view.
Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
The attachment to this letter is as follows:
Joint Statement on Critical Issues Facing Specialized Rehabilitation Services for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
We the undersigned organizations endorse the following principles:
Use of Visual Occlusion in Orientation and Mobility Instruction
We believe that programs providing instruction in independent travel to individuals with functional/usable vision are most effective when they recognize the importance of using both visual and nonvisual techniques to travel safely and efficiently. For some individuals, blindfolding may be an effective method for teaching reliance on the use of other senses; however, we believe the best practice is to incorporate instruction in the use of remaining vision so that individuals will learn to use both visual and nonvisual information simultaneously.
While we believe that the use of visual occlusion is an appropriate instructional technique for some individuals, it must not be mandated as a condition for the receipt of any services. Additionally, when occlusion is to be used, it should be provided with the prior expressed consent of the individual receiving instruction. The professional orientation and mobility specialist, in consultation with the consumer and when appropriate the consumer's family, should determine whether and how to make use of visual occlusion.
We support certification of professionals meeting the unique and individual needs of consumers with visual impairments. To be meaningful, such certification must require satisfaction of relevant postsecondary education, practice-based skills acquisition, and adherence to a Code of Professional Ethics. These criteria are designed to ensure that certified professionals possess a relevant and measurable knowledge base, competencies, and skills to provide individually tailored services. A certification program's adherence to this combination of criteria assures a level of professional quality which cannot be guaranteed by minimal practice-based criteria alone.
The certification program of service providers in the blindness and low vision field administered by the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals (ACVREP) meets these criteria. In addition, ACVREP maintains full recognition with the National Certification Commission (NCC), a nonprofit external reviewer of certification programs. To ensure adherence to meaningful standards, we believe that any organization that purports to certify professional service providers should be similarly recognized by the NCC and/or other comparable independent reviewing or accrediting bodies.
Use of Dog Guides
The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and laws in all fifty states guarantee access to public accommodations and to the programs and services of state/local government by people who are blind or visually impaired who may use dog guides. This guarantee extends to participation in any and all education and vocational rehabilitation programs and services. The use of a dog guide therefore is the individual choice of a consumer, which must be honored.
Statement Endorsed by:
American Council of the Blind
American Foundation for the Blind
Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired
Blinded Veteran's Association
Council of U.S. Dog Guide Schools
National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving People With Blindness or Visual Impairment
National Council of Private Agencies for the Blind and Visually Impaired
National Vision Rehabilitation Cooperative
The letter to Carl Augusto was written on August 13, 2003, more than a month after the close of the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. I wrote to Carl Augusto because I had not heard from him. Although he had promised to tell us whether the Foundation had been involved in the secret negotiations to adopt a statement upbraiding the National Federation of the Blind, he had not provided us with the information.
The hot days of summer faded into the fall. The breezes of September stirred the leaves on the trees, and many of them fell, but no letter arrived from Carl Augusto. The gentle warmth of September turned to the briskness of October. The frost appeared on the mailbox, but the mailbox remained empty. October became November, and the pumpkins were displayed on the front porches. Thoughts of turkeys stirred in the minds of the people, but no communication came from Carl Augusto. Has he lost our address or forgotten how to write? It may be that this silence is the most informative kind of communication.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pictured here is the doorway into the office of the Iraqi organization assisting blind citizens. An inspector from the Coalition Provisional Authority is standing beside a swamp cooler.]
Report on the Plight of the Blind of Iraq
by Dustin Langan
Dustin Langan is a young American working with the Office of Human Rights and Transitional Justice of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. He is responsible for dealing with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the country, like the organization assisting the blind. His title is deputy NGO coordinator. Though Mr. Langan readily admits that he knows little about blindness, those who have worked or talked with him say that his heart is in the right place, and his instincts are sound. He plans to do what he can to work with international blindness organizations to help the blind of Iraq. The following is a brief report that Mr. Langan prepared and that was read for him at a conference on the situation of the blind in the Middle East sponsored by the Kuwaiti government. Here is the text of the report:
National Association for Blind Care
The National Association for Blind Care was first brought to our attention by Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Rice, a U.S. Army officer working with the Baghdad city council. Although our focus is on providing support for NGOs that specialize in human rights, we were sufficiently impressed with this organization and the special needs of its beneficiaries to begin looking for ways to coordinate assistance.
Dr. Sadiq al-Maliki, the current chair of the association, professed that the only support they received from the previous government was an annual allocation of 90,000 ID [Iraqi Dinar] (approximately $50 U.S.). The Asian Union for the Blind donated a computer and white canes, but the cane supply was exhausted and the computer was stolen during the widespread looting in Baghdad after April 9, 2003. When asked about their current contacts and relationships in the international blind community, Dr. Sadiq mentioned only that he had not heard from the Asian Union of the Blind since before the war.
Our first visit to their operational headquarters took us to a residential neighborhood in Baghdad. The building was not inaccessible, but it could have been better placed on a major road. Our hosts informed us that they actually have two buildings, but that one of them had been overrun by squatters and some of the rooms in the remaining building were occupied as well. All that was left was three small rooms, none of which measured more than four by three meters. The walls were worn and slightly damaged, and electric wires sprouted from old sockets in clumps, as is typical of the complete looting that occurred in Baghdad. Our hosts expressed the worry that the walls were unstable and might collapse, but we were unable to make this assessment. It was very hot in the small rooms. All that remained of their original equipment and furnishings was a table, a few chairs, and an old and broken switchboard-operating machine, which had been used in their telephone-receptionist training program.
We returned a week later to interview some of the beneficiaries of the association's programs. We spoke to a violinist who once taught music classes at the association, a man who used to teach Braille literacy, and a few telephone receptionists who are currently employed at different hospitals. We also spoke to a man who completed a university degree with the help of the association's recorded audio cassette program.
Also present were a blind husband and wife. The woman was a teacher and spoke enough English to invite us to her home one day. Several persons present expressed their desire for an equal life and talked about the prejudices they experience in Iraq because of their blindness. Everyone was clearly hopeful that the association could resume its old programs and develop new ones to help blind people find work and enjoy a fuller life. One new idea that surfaced during discussion was training blind people to use an electric floor buffer for cleaning the marble and tile floors of many buildings in Baghdad.
Our most recent meeting was a trip to the General Hospital in Sadr, Baghdad, to see how one of the telephone receptionists performs at his job. The hospital was quite busy, probably in no small part because it was the only hospital to escape looting after the war. We found our interviewee in the receptionist's room, sitting next to two Lucent telephones, which he used to direct calls within the hospital. The general director of the hospital introduced himself to us and presented another blind employee, who worked as a receptionist.
We then went into the director's office to talk with him about his blind employees' performance. He stated that he valued these two individuals very much and that the person we had come to see had only begun working a month prior. Like all people, he said, some blind people are more capable than others, and he would not hesitate to hire another blind receptionist as long as that person proved to be effective at the job. We asked about other potential employment opportunities for blind people at a hospital or in general, and he recommended we consult with the international blind community.
After several interviews and visits, we find that the National Association for Blind Care is an important component of a society that offers precious little to its physically handicapped population. Despite minimal support from the state, the association has provided its beneficiaries with vocational skills, educational aids, cultural activities, and a sense of community. We recommend them for support and hope to help them build stronger relationships with the international blind community in the future.
Deputy NGO Coordinator
Office of Human Rights and Transitional Justice
Coalition Provisional Authority
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Darrel Kirby]
I Once Was Lost
by Darrel Kirby
From the Editor: Darrel Kirby attended his first national convention last summer. It was a profoundly moving experience for him, as you will see in the following article, which he wrote soon after he returned home. This is what he says:
"Can I help you?" a friendly-sounding man asked as I wandered through the halls of the Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky, looking for the elevator.
Quite embarrassed, I sheepishly replied, "Please! I am lost."
The stranger calmly remarked, "I am sure you have some idea of where you are. What are you looking for?"
"The elevator," I said.
He then asked, "Where do you think you are?"
This stranger had raised an excellent question. So where was I? It was my first NFB convention, and I was overwhelmed when I became disoriented by the labyrinth of hallways in the Galt House. Everything my cane hit felt new and strange. But the truth was that I had been feeling lost throughout the year since losing my sight. In a matter of months I went from having 20/20 vision to no sight at all.
The stranger responded to my plea for help by asking if I knew where I was going. Honestly, for a long time I had no idea where I was headed. His questions returned me to a time of little direction and shattered dreams. I had finished two years of college at the University of Iowa when diabetic retinopathy took my sight, causing me to withdraw from school. I did not know what it meant to be blind, nor what I would do to accomplish my life goals as a blind person. I had much trouble adjusting to life without sight. I was afraid to learn Braille and use a cane. If the stranger in the hall had asked months earlier where I was going, I would have had no idea at all.
When I first lost my sight, my life often seemed out of control, so panic was inevitable. Blindness was something I could not hide from or escape. Without skills I could not read a book, travel anywhere, or think of myself as a capable person. I questioned my faith in and understanding of the world around me. Even if I could accept myself as a blind man, everything was suddenly a blindness issue, and I did not know how to be blind. Thus I spent months in denial of my blindness.
With no blindness skills and little hope, I moved home with my parents, who witnessed the metamorphosis of a vibrant and motivated young college student into a hopeless loner. Frustrated, I spent much of my time in my bedroom, hiding from the sighted world. I remember getting out of bed one night and heading toward the hall. Because of the angle of the partially open door and my unreliable sight, I walked right into the edge of the door. The sharp edge hurt my forehead, but not as much as it hurt my spirit. I was tired of being blind.
When I walked out into the hallway, the tears streaming down my cheeks, I met my dad. He asked what was wrong, and I summed up what I thought was wrong in three words, "I can't see." When the reality of those three words hit my dad, he fell into my arms and wept. He held on to me so tightly that I winced and moaned a bit in pain. He let go and began to fall. I grabbed for him and held him up. I had never seen my dad cry, and I was not sure how to react. At that moment I understood the reality of my situation. I was not only losing my sight, I was losing the confidence of those who had been most proud of me.
When I decided to move home, I imagined my parents would provide the support I needed, yet here I was comforting my father. After a few moments of silence, I reassured him that everything would be okay. I doubt that my dad believed I had really accepted my fate as a blind man. How could I blame him for reacting the way he had when I too saw no future for myself? When my dad recovered and left me, I hid in the shower, letting the noise of the water drown out the sound of my tears. I had never felt so scared and alone in all of my life. I remained in the shower, panic-stricken by the thought of being alone and blind in a sighted world.
Even though I left my parents and returned to school, I continued to feel lost and alone. Then one day, unexpectedly, I was rescued by two strangers on a bus. They turned out to be two dedicated NFB members. Seeing the confidence and energy in these two blind Federationists was my first dose of medicine. I had finally met blind people who were in control of their lives. They told me about the National Federation of the Blind, a civil rights organization that worked to help improve the lives of blind people. Curiosity got the better of me, and I attended my first NFB chapter meeting.
The members of the Old Capitol Chapter in Iowa City made me realize that blind people live productive lives. I was surrounded by a group of role models who adopted me in my time of need. I lacked blindness skills like cane travel and Braille. More important, I had no confidence. However, the members of my chapter directed me to the Iowa Department for the Blind Orientation Center.
The orientation center emphasizes the importance of Braille, cane travel, and attitude changes. It also provides classes in home economics and industrial arts. The philosophy of the NFB and spirit of Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, who first established the program, remain in the walls of the orientation center. I was working hard at the Center when I learned that I was going to be able to attend the NFB national convention in Louisville with the help of the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship Fund. As convention grew closer, I heard more and more great things about this annual event.
When I informed my friends and family that I would be attending the convention, my dad asked if I would be flying with someone who had sight. I told him that I would not. Still perceiving me as the scared man who angrily cried in the hall about being blind, he could not fathom the idea of a blind person flying without a sighted person and pleaded with me not to go. I was attending a center that taught me every day about all that the blind could accomplish, yet I felt a struggle between what I believed I might be able to do and what my father thought I could do. My father represented all those who doubted my capabilities. I decided that, if I could withstand the skepticism of my own father, I could ignore the skepticism of anyone who stood in the way of what I wanted to accomplish. In spite of my father's uncertainty and my own fears, I knew I must fly to Louisville. I had to prove to myself that I could do this.
I traveled to the national convention with Allen and Joy Harris. Mr. Harris, the director at the Orientation Center in Des Moines, decided to test my travel skills by moving through the airport as fast as he could. I passed the test, and suddenly my flight home alone with the layover in Detroit did not seem so scary. Still I arrived in Louisville completely overwhelmed. Like most first-timers at the NFB national convention, I was anxious and a little hesitant. I did not know what to expect. I had heard many great things about the NFB and its members, and I did not want to be disappointed.
I will never forget the feeling of walking into a roomful of almost 2,500 blind people. The energy in the room surpassed any I had felt before. As I sat in general session, I heard speeches on improving Braille literacy, the newest technology, and the development of the national training center in Baltimore. I listened to what we, as an organization, have done in the past year and what we will work toward in coming years. I discovered how much debate and drafting goes into adopting NFB resolutions.
I was pleased to see structured disagreement among the Federationists. We were tackling issues that are both important and controversial. Change can be made only when difficult issues are addressed. I felt a bit of what I offer the NFB when I witnessed the vote of states on the resolution concerning informed choice. For the first time I felt involved in a cause to improve the lives of blind people. At the banquet I tried to sing NFB songs, and I listened to Dr. Maurer's banquet speech describing a hypothetical, absurd world in which people discriminate according to height; then he related the absurdity to the way people think of blindness.
I was excited to discover NFB divisions and interest groups for most professions. I eagerly attended the mock trial sponsored by the blind lawyers division. It was based on a 1973 policy in a Colorado school district stipulating that blind people could not teach. I learned much at the Human Services and the National Association of Blind Students meetings. I identified with the struggles of other blind college students and signed on to the NABS listserv upon my return to Des Moines.
As much as I enjoyed and learned from the organized events, they did not compare to some of the informal late-night gatherings in hotel rooms. I am proud to admit that I did not sleep more than three hours a night during my time at the convention. I met interesting Federationists who shared my beliefs and concerns. We discussed and debated the merits of proposed resolutions. I heard people talk about the highs and lows of the previous year and witnessed the support and motivation NFB members gave each other. I developed a bond with other Federationists who had just lost their sight as we shared advice on adjusting to our lives as blind people. I also learned from the wisdom of longtime NFB members and talked with individuals who have attained their career goals.
As serious as many of the conversations were, a majority of them were funny and entertaining. Many nights were filled with funny stories about blindness. When I heard about a blind couple who walked around their house minus their clothes, unaware that the curtain covering a large picture window had fallen down, I laughed with the group. For the first time I realized that I could laugh at myself, at the little things that had embarrassed me in the past, including the time I was leaving a classroom at the University of Iowa and felt what I believed was a swarm of bugs attacking my head. When I reached up to swat the bugs with my hands, I realized that I was swatting the hangers that hung from the coat rack along the wall of the room. With my short stature, the bottoms of the hangers barely brushed the top of my head. When I told this story, I laughed, and my fellow Federationists laughed with me.
Unlike the frightened blind man who sat and cried in the shower, I no longer felt alone. I realized then that the common thread knitting us together was no thread, but a bridge cable that would never be broken. A support network was developing right before my eyes. My NFB family was growing, and I would not be alone again. The late-night chats and chance encounters made me more eager to read my Braille, use my cane, and hold my head high.
I left those hotel rooms more confident than I had entered them. I was sure I would find my way back to my room with ease, but here I was at four in the morning, trying to find the West Tower elevator. I made it across the bridge between the towers, but I took a wrong turn somewhere in the West Tower. Thus began my search for the elevator and then my two-hour conversation with a total stranger.
My rescuer was a longtime member of the NFB happy to speak with a first-time conventioneer. We discussed the challenges of blindness, the power of confidence, and the philosophy of the NFB. My newfound friend explained that we all have times when we feel lost with no one around to help. At such times we should remember that we are truly lost only when we lose hope. We must also understand that wrong turns are easy to make both on travel routes and in life. Some of us feel lost selecting a college, choosing a career, or pursuing a lifelong goal. Others feel lost trying to find an elevator. At such times we all need direction and guidance.
It suddenly dawned on me that the NFB and all its members were willing to provide that guidance for me. I could rely on the strength of the NFB and other Federationists in my times of need. When I need a reminder of my own potential, I will turn to my Federation friends and let their accomplishments inspire me. Never again will I feel lost and alone.
My rescuer and I concluded our talk as the sun began to rise. We exchanged email addresses, and I thanked him for his guidance. With caring ease he gave me a pat on the back and said, "Take two steps to the right and walk forward." He then added, "I don't think you were lost at all."
With an energy I had not felt before, I stepped onto the elevator and said with confidence, "Yeah, people don't feel as lost once they've been found."
Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchase--a house, college tuition, or car. The most common forms of planned giving are wills and life insurance policies. There are also several planned giving options through which you can simultaneously give a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, obtain a tax deduction, and receive lifetime income now or in the future. For more information write or call the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
A Glimpse of Freedom
by Rachel Black
From the Editor: Rachel Black is an NFB member now living and going to school in Arizona. Her experience is familiar to many. She decided what she wanted to do for a living and then found her self-confidence being undermined by others. She took decisive action and is now living her life exactly the way she wanted to. Here is her story:
"So, Rachel, what are your plans after you graduate?" I had been asked that question so many times before I graduated from high school that I was tired of it. I already had goals for myself and knew what I wanted to do. My goal was (and still is) to be a teacher of blind children, and I am determined that nothing will stop me. I will persevere until I have achieved my goal. Yet, because I am blind, many people did not (and still don't) believe that I can do what I want to do. They do not believe in the capabilities of blind people. One vision teacher actually said to me one day, "Rachel, I don't know how you're going to do it; I am afraid you'll be a failure." Needless to say, because of the comments made to me, I had very low self-esteem. I started to believe that I could not do what I wanted to do.
Then I had the good fortune to be introduced to members of the National Federation of the Blind. When I first came into contact with the organization, I was not impressed. I did not like people telling me what to do, or at least that was my perception at the time of what I was hearing. I already knew what I was going to do: I was going to attend the summer youth program at the Colorado Center for the Blind and then go on to a community college in the fall.
The advice members gave me was great advice, but being the stubborn teenager that I was, I did not listen. One member recommended that I do a full-time program at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. But I did not want to do that. Looking back, I realize that this person was right. I needed training in the skills of blindness. The trouble is that it isn't enough for someone to say that a blind person needs more training. The blind person needs to discover that fact for himself or herself. I'm so glad I did.
It was almost three weeks before the summer program was to end when I started thinking about my future. I realized how much I didn't know how to do. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had no business going into the blindness field if I did not have the skills and confidence to teach other blind people. I no longer wanted to limit myself. I wanted to gain the independence I needed to travel freely. I had had a glimpse of freedom, and I wanted it badly.
I sat down with the director of the Colorado Center for the Blind and discussed the possibility of attending the center as a full-time student in the Independence Training Program. She was excited that I wanted to attend. That very day we had a staffing meeting to discuss this with my vocational rehabilitation counselor. Nine weeks later I was back.
I have now graduated from the Independence Training Program at the center. Things were not easy for me, but by the time I had completed my program I had gained the skills (but, most important, the confidence) to succeed.
The most challenging thing for me while I was at the center was travel. The breakthrough came when I did my drop, where a staff member drops the student off from a car in an unfamiliar place. I remember thinking, "I don't think I can do this." I walked for about a block before coming across a bus stop. From then on I knew I was going to do just fine. I got on the bus and got off at the light rail station and took the light rail to the Littleton downtown station. When I got to the center, I had an extraordinary feeling of exhilaration. I had done it! I didn't think I could travel, yet I had found my way back to the center from an unfamiliar place. I felt on top of the world.
Now, as I pursue my postsecondary career in the area of elementary education at Arizona State University, I know that I have the skills (but, most important, the belief in myself) to succeed in my college endeavors.
I strongly believe in what the Louisiana Center for the Blind, the Colorado Center for the Blind, BLIND, Incorporated, and all Federationists around the country are doing. Let us all work together (whether on the job, at home, in our classrooms, or out in our communities) truly to change what it means to be blind. And, when we do so, the hopes and dreams that so many thought we could not achieve will become the reality of tomorrow.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Joyce Scanlan]
Airport Indignities One More Time
by Joyce Scanlan
From the Editor: Joyce Scanlan is president of the NFB of Minnesota and first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind. The following article appeared in the Summer 2003 issue of the Minnesota Bulletin, the publication of the Minnesota affiliate. It will bring back memories for those who lived through the cane wars of the 1980's and may stimulate newer Federationists to delve a bit into our history. Here it is:
The airline bogeyman is still out there, but Federation unity again triumphs. Remember the days when air travel for blind people was a constant hassle? Our flight experience in those days conditioned us to anticipate numerous problems as we dealt with airlines. Would we be forced to preboard? Would flight attendants confiscate our white canes? Would our preassigned seats be challenged because we had been placed in an exit row? Would we be forced to listen to a preflight briefing, when everything said to us was also repeated to all passengers over the public address system?
Since implementation of the Air Carrier Access Act in 1990, air travel for blind people has calmed down, becoming almost tolerable as we began to be treated with respect and common decency. These routine problems, many of us had begun to think, were now something from the forgotten past. And yet it all came back for many of us recently as we returned from our 2003 national convention in Louisville, Kentucky.
Twenty to thirty blind people were spread out over gates 10 and 12 in the Louisville Airport waiting for our Northwest Airlines flight to Minneapolis to be called. Everyone was happily chatting, recounting the events of another successful national convention.
At last the long-awaited announcement of our flight came, offering preboarding to first-class passengers and those needing a little more time, etc. Because we were all seasoned travelers, we remained seated until our specific rows were called. Then came a second announcement to the effect that "all those requiring a preflight briefing must preboard." Since this also did not apply to this group of blind people, we still remained seated.
Then an authoritarian male voice came on saying, "We have about thirty handicapped passengers who must preboard the airplane." This was immediately followed by "We apologize to our other passengers if this flight is delayed by the refusal of these special needs passengers to preboard." This tasteless and humiliating statement caused all of us, without a single dissenting vote, to sit tight. The announcer then went on to board the plane in the usual manner from the rear to the front, and all of the blind people boarded when our rows were called.
All passengers boarded the plane, and the flight departed for Minneapolis on time. No delay occurred, except for that caused by the panic-stricken ground crew, who called the flight back to the gate because an electrical panel had been left open and needed to be closed.
I have flown on Northwest Airlines approximately once each month for many years and have come to regard that airline with admiration because of the way ground and flight crews throughout the country treated me. Of course, if one lives in Minneapolis, Northwest is the most likely airline to go most places in the United States. I knew on July 5 as we were leaving Louisville that many blind people would be returning to their homes on our flight. It never occurred to me that we would be treated as we were by the Louisville ground crew. I found the announcements appalling.
The reaction of the Federation crowd also caught me a little off guard. In the past, as the anger and fear of airline personnel escalated, our reactions too might have escalated. The reaction of Federationists present was to take everything in stride. In a unified but spontaneous response, everyone sat quietly as these rude and insulting announcements came over the loudspeaker. No one jumped up to confront this attack on blind people. Instead everyone behaved responsibly and maturely in order not to delay the flight or cause undue disruption.
We have, however, written letters to Northwest Airlines officials drawing attention to the incident as calling for education of ground and air personnel on the courteous and appropriate treatment of blind passengers. Here is the letter I sent on behalf of blind passengers of that flight:
July 16, 2003
Mr. Richard H. Anderson, Chief Executive Officer
Northwest Airlines, Inc.
Dear Mr. Anderson:
Many years have passed since I felt compelled to write to Northwest Airlines to call attention to a problem involving poor treatment of blind passengers by airline personnel. Because I have personally experienced such positive and even-handed treatment by both ground and flight personnel as I travel, mostly on Northwest Airlines, all over the country, I was both appalled and disappointed at an incident which took place as I was returning from Louisville, Kentucky, to Minneapolis recently.
On July 5, 2003, a number of blind passengers had gathered at gates 10 and 12 in the Louisville Airport to await Northwest flight 873 to Minneapolis. We had all attended the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind held at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville during the previous week. Everyone was cheerfully conversing and recounting the events of a very exciting convention. The first announcement of our flight was the routine statement by a female member of the ground crew about preboarding. Something about "first-class passengers and those needing a little extra time" being allowed to board at this time was said. Every blind person present quietly remained seated, because, as competent and experienced travelers, we saw no reason to respond to that call. Very soon another announcement came saying, "All those requiring a preflight briefing are asked to board at this time." Again, as people who regularly travel by air, everyone remained seated.
The third announcement was given by a very stern and angry-sounding, authoritarian male voice. This announcement was greatly escalated in tone and said something to the effect that "we have about twenty-two handicapped people who need a special preflight briefing. We want these special needs people to preboard at this time." Then came the most cutting and rude comment of all. The announcer went on to say, "If these special needs people do not preboard at this time, we apologize to all other passengers for the delay this will cause in our flight today." Although I am sure every blind person in the group was insulted by this remark, no one rose to board the plane.
Flight officials then began to board the plane in the usual way, beginning at the back, and blind people boarded as their rows were called. Everyone was boarded and settled on time for the flight to take off at its scheduled time. I repeat, the flight took off at its scheduled time. It should be added, however, that the flight was called back to the gate because an electrical panel had been left open and had to be closed before takeoff.
This entire event might be written off as an isolated incident involving panic-stricken ground staff on that day. Blind people were never confrontational; they conducted themselves as responsible citizens and remained calm in the face of uncalled-for, rude treatment.
I urge you to provide appropriate education for your ground staff at the Louisville airport, and I offer the expertise and assistance of the National Federation of the Blind in providing that education. Regardless of how many blind people may have been boarding that airplane--I heard anywhere from twenty-two to fifty--the behavior of the ground personnel was absolutely inappropriate, insulting to your blind customers, and totally uncalled-for. Such an assault on the dignity of blind customers is not consistent with Northwest Airlines' service standards. Thank you for your speedy response to this very serious matter.
Joyce Scanlan, President
National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota
That was the letter sent to Northwest Airlines regarding this unfortunate incident. On August 1 Northwest notified me that they were investigating the incident and would respond within thirty days.
While I am certain every blind person aboard that flight on July 5 was outraged by the treatment we received at the Louisville Airport, every single person deserves commendation for perseverance and tasteful behavior under difficult circumstances. I think of how it might have been fifteen or twenty years ago. There might have been some argument or heated debate about what we should or should not do. None of that occurred on July 5. We were, without discussion or disagreement, a unified, cohesive group. We can hold our heads high and feel pride in ourselves and in our unifying organization, the National Federation of the Blind.
There you have the article that appeared in the Minnesota Bulletin. A number of people wrote letters to Northwest Airlines. At least one of them received a response--and a response that would have astonished us fifteen years ago. Today, while gratifying, it is more an indication of just how much progress we have made in educating airline officials, even if problems do still occur from time to time. Here is the text of the letter that Judy Sanders received to her letter of complaint to Richard Anderson:
August 26, 2003
Ms. Judy Sanders
Dear Ms. Sanders:
Richard Anderson has reviewed your letter and asked that I extend a sincere apology, on behalf of everyone at Northwest Airlines, for the inappropriate behavior of our Louisville gate representative on July 5.
As explained in your correspondence, the gate representative for Flight 873 made multiple and insistent announcements that persons with disabilities preboard our flight and indicated that failure to heed his request could result in a delayed departure. Your point that you had no personal reason to preboard is well made, and the conduct by our representative that you described is entirely contrary to the level of service that we want you to receive. Our airport public contact personnel receive both extensive initial training and frequent recurrent training. They are informed that our passengers are able bodied and need assistance only to the extent that they personally request. Additionally, it is stressed that no passenger is required to take advantage of a preboarding announcement.
The actions of our gate representative have been discussed with him, and, while we cannot reveal specifics of any internal or disciplinary action, please be assured that we are committed to preventing a repetition of your experience.
We need to hear from our customers and are very glad that you brought this matter to our attention. You also have the right to contact the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Consumer Affairs if you wish to pursue this matter further.
Thank you, again, for writing. Your support of Northwest is appreciated, and we hope to have the continued privilege of serving your air travel needs.
Richard Edlund, Administrator
St. Paul, Minnesota
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steve Booth]
A Few Notes on Buying a Computer
by Curtis Chong and Steven Booth
From the Editor: Every year thousands of people ask the staff of the NFB Technology Department for advice in buying just the right computer. Before he left the Center staff, Curtis Chong, then NFB director of technology, compiled his advice into one short handout. Steve Booth has updated the information because we thought that everyone would be interested in reading it. Here it is:
The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC), which is operated by the National Federation of the Blind, receives thousands of calls each year from blind people who want to buy a computer. Most of our callers want a computer to write letters, keep records, send and receive email, and surf the Web. Some people want to use their computers as reading machines, which can scan and speak printed material.
While most people will want voice output from their computers, others would prefer screen magnification. People who need to read highly technical material or who are deaf‑blind might prefer reading their computer screens using refreshable‑Braille technology. As a totally blind computer user I find that voice output works well for me. Many of my friends with enough vision to read print prefer to have both voice output (to save on eyestrain and dramatically increase reading speed) and screen magnification (to provide visual verification when desired).
If you cannot read your computer screen because of your vision, in addition to the basic computer you will need to add software called screen‑access technology. You should start by purchasing a computer that runs the Windows operating system. The following specifications can be used as a guide to determine which built‑in features you should get for your new system: at least 128 megabytes of RAM (random access memory), preferably 256 or greater; at least 20 gigabytes of hard‑disk space (most hard disks have at least this amount or more storage capacity); an internal 56K modem with V.90 capability; an ethernet card if you plan to connect to the Internet using a cable or DSL Internet service; no less than a 500‑megahertz processor speed (nothing slower is sold these days); and a Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live or Turtlebeach Montego card. While almost any video card will work with screen‑access technology for the blind, the blind person using speech output should bear in mind that the more sophisticated, three‑dimensional card used for video games is not necessary.
Why do you need the Sound Blaster Live or Turtlebeach Montego sound cards? You will need a multichannel sound card that will allow screen‑access technology and other Windows applications to generate sounds at the same time. Without a multichannel sound card, sounds generated by Windows or other programs often conflict with your screen‑access program's ability to talk to you through your computer's speakers, and one or the other will generate an error message. In our experience the Sound Blaster Live or the Turtlebeach Montego work well as multichannel sound cards. However, you can acquire another multichannel sound card if you wish.
As for software, computers (as of this writing) are sold with the Windows XP operating system. Two versions are available, XP Home or XP Professional. If you plan to use your computer at home and do not plan to connect to many other devices, XP Home is sufficient. Otherwise consider buying XP Professional since it offers better networking capability. Email and Web‑browsing software (Outlook Express and Internet Explorer, respectively) come free with the Windows operating system, but you get only a fairly simplified free word processor (WordPad for Windows). While you can use WordPad to write letters and other simple documents, you may want to consider buying Microsoft Office if you are interested in spell‑checking your material.
A word processor that works fairly well with screen‑access technology is Microsoft Word. Some computer dealers will try to bundle a package called Microsoft Works with your system. While we cannot say for certain that Microsoft Works is not compatible with screen‑access technology for the blind, we can say that our experience with it is limited and that we are more confident in the ability of Microsoft Office to work with access technology than we are with Microsoft Works.
The next software item that must be given serious consideration is a screen‑access program. Most blind people would prefer to acquire one which converts the information on the screen into speech. Others will want screen‑magnification software, and many will want a combination of speech output and screen magnification. See the last page of this article for information about how to contact the appropriate screen‑access technology vendor.
If you want your computer to be able to read and speak printed material, you will need to buy a piece of hardware called a scanner (for about $200) and a software product which actually speaks the text on the page. You should be prepared to spend at least a thousand dollars to acquire the blind‑friendly systems‑‑especially if you do not consider yourself a relatively sophisticated user of Windows. There are two noteworthy products to consider: Open Book from Freedom Scientific and Kurzweil 1000 from Kurzweil Educational Systems. Both of these programs come with their own speech and can thus operate without screen‑access technology.
In addition to the staff of the International Braille and Technology Center, the National Federation of the Blind has thousands of members willing and able to answer your questions. I urge you to call the president of the NFB affiliate in your state and introduce yourself to him or her. If you do not know how to reach your NFB state affiliate president, call the NFB's general information staff in Baltimore at (410) 659‑9314 (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time).
Now for those who want large print. We are not experts on low‑vision software but have heard good things about ZoomText from a company called Ai Squared. This software is particularly helpful if you want to use screen magnification as your primary means of reading information displayed on the computer screen. ZoomText comes with speech which can increase your speed when reading text.
For those who want speech output most of the time but need some visual verification every once in a while, the combination of JAWS for Windows and the MAGic magnification software (available from Freedom Scientific) seems to work well. There are many other possibilities, so you would be wise to start networking with other blind people. Again, call our NFB state presidents to meet people already using computer systems you'd like to have yourself.
Sometimes people new to using computers hire someone to build them a computer. This can include lessons which teach the buyer how to get started once the computer is assembled and ready for use. Such experts often know how to buy good basic equipment during sales or at a reduced rate on Internet Web sites. If you know some blind computer experts, I would suggest you ask what fee they would charge for assembling a system in addition to the cost of the computer parts. Remember that sighted experts may help to build a computer but are unlikely to know how to instruct you to use keyboard commands instead of the mouse. Again, I highly recommend locating local blind computer users to help you through the frustrating early days of learning to use your new system.
At present the average cost for a full system can be broken down like this:
$1,200, Intel‑based computer with Windows operating system
$1,000, Reading software (optical character recognition software) will let you use your commercial scanner. First it scans any typeset print you've placed on the scanner; then it will recognize the document and read it aloud to you.
$900, Screen‑access technology, such as JAWS for Windows or Window‑Eyes, will see your computer screen and articulate what is there.
$200, A typical commercial scanner
$200, A typical commercial color printer
$300, Estimated: state tax, an electrical power surge protector, computer supplies (printer paper, CDs or disks, and computer application programs), computer user manuals in Braille or on cassette, Internet service provider fees, ($100 to $200 per year), and other such incidentals
$3,900, Total best estimate (October, 2003)
References and Contact Information
While JAWS for Windows from Freedom Scientific appears to be the best-known screen-access program for the blind, we should call to your attention another program, Window‑Eyes. Each program has a unique set of features. The decision about which screen‑access program to buy should be based partly on the features important to you and partly on the amount of money you have to spend. You should consult with the screen‑access vendor to obtain the most current information about features and prices.
JAWS for Windows by Freedom Scientific, 11800 31st Court North, St. Petersburg, Florida 33716‑1805. Telephone: (800) 444‑4443, (727) 803‑8000; fax: (727) 803‑8001; email: <[email protected]>; Web site: <http://www.freedomscientific.com>. JAWS for Windows ($895) provides speech and Braille access to Windows 98, Windows Millennium, and Windows XP Home Edition. Another version of JAWS for Windows ($1,195) provides access to Windows XP Professional Edition and Windows 2000. JAWS for Windows is shipped with the Eloquence software speech synthesizer, meaning that it can generate speech through your computer's sound card.
Window‑Eyes by GW Micro, 725 Airport North Office Park, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46825. Telephone: (260) 489‑3671; fax: (260) 489‑2608; email: <[email protected]>; Web site: <www.gwmicro.com>. GW Micro offers Window-Eyes Home Edition for use with Windows 98, Millennium, and XP; and Window-Eyes Professional for use with Windows 2000 and XP Professional for $795. Both versions come with the Eloquence Synthesizer.
ZoomText, available from Ai Squared, P.O. Box 669, Manchester Center, Vermont 05255. Telephone: (800) 859-0270; fax: (802) 362-1670; email: <[email protected]>; Web site: <www.aisquared.com>. This screen-magnification program sells for $395 without speech and $595 with speech.
Kurzweil Educational Systems, 14 Crosby Drive, Bedford, Massachusetts 01730, Telephone: (800) 894-5374; fax: (781) 276-0650; email: <[email protected]>; Web site: <www.kurzweiledu.com>. Kurzweil 1000 is available at $995.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Maneki]
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 2004
by Sharon Maneki
From the Editor: Sharon Maneki is president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2004.
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 2004 convention next July. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $1,000, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children early in the convention.
Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind students or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the national convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.
The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording him or her the opportunity to take part in seminars and workshops on educational issues, to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators.
Please complete the application and attach the following:
· A letter of nomination from someone (parent, co-worker, supervisor, etc.) who knows your work;
· A letter of recommendation from someone who knows you professionally and knows your philosophy of teaching; and
· A letter from you discussing your beliefs and approach to teaching blind students. In your letter you may wish to discuss topics such as the following:
o What are your views about when and how students should use Braille, large print, tape recordings, readers, magnification devices, computers, electronic notetakers, and other technology?
o How do you decide whether a child should use print, Braille, or both?
o When do you recommend that your students begin instruction in the use of a slate and stylus, of a Braille writer?
o How do you determine which students should learn cane travel (and when) and which should not?
o When should keyboarding be introduced?
o When should a child be expected to hand in print assignments independently?
National Federation of the Blind
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
Deadline: May 15, 2004
City, State, Zip:_________________________________________________
Use a separate sheet of paper and answer the following:
* List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study.
* How long and in what programs have you worked with blind children?
* In what setting do you currently work?
* Briefly describe your current job and teaching responsibilities.
* Describe your current caseload, e.g., number of students, ages, multiple disabilities, number of Braille-reading students, etc.
Attach the three required letters to this application and send all material by May 15, 2004, to Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman, Teacher Award Committee, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, Maryland 21045-5148, (410) 715-9596.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Stephen Benson]
The 2004 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor: Steve Benson is a member of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind. He also chairs the committee charged with identifying each year's Blind Educator of the Year.
A number of years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators (the teachers division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. This change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.
This award is given in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information but also provides guidance and advocacy. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $1,000.
Nominations should be sent to Steve Benson, 7020 North Tahoma, Chicago, Illinois 60646-1134. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current résumé and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 1, 2004, to be considered for this year's award.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Greater Baltimore Chapter members Robert Lay, Aloma Bouma, Maurice Peret, and Robert Jaquiss arrange games and literature on the chapter's information table for the Fells Point Fun Festival.]
Second Annual Meet-the-Blind-Month Campaign
by Jerry Lazarus
From the Editor: Jerry Lazarus is the member of the national staff who has worked with Federationists across the country as they planned and executed Meet-the-Blind-Month activities. Here is his report:
NFB member participation in the second annual NFB Meet-the-Blind campaign was an outstanding success. State affiliates and chapters, both large and small, across the country held Meet-the-Blind-Month events this past October.
The campaign, which began last year and is held in October, is a coordinated nationwide project planned and designed to provide opportunities for affiliate and chapter members to reach out to their communities, schools, local civic groups, and others to let them know about the NFB.
Last year's Meet-the-Blind-Month activities and events were very good. But we knew that in this second year NFB affiliate and chapter activity would multiply, and the number and types of events would increase, ensuring that even more people would learn about the organized blind and the NFB.
In August affiliate presidents received a memo reminding them of the upcoming Meet-the-Blind campaign. That was followed by an announcement in the September 2003 presidential release, in which President Maurer offered Braille alphabet cards free of charge to all affiliates and chapters participating in Meet-the-Blind-Month activities.
National center staff, under the direction of Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, provided support to the affiliates and chapters in preparing for their events. Once the type of event, the date and contact person, and the approximate number of attendees was determined, Center staff shipped out the required Braille alphabet cards and other NFB literature.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Affiliate members across the country set up NFB Meet-the-Blind-Month information tables at local Wal-Mart stores. Pictured here, NFB of Maryland members prepare to meet and greet the public.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: A mother and her children support the NFB with their purchase of a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts at a local Wal-Mart store information table.]
Prior to the 2003 national convention, Dr. Zaborowski searched for a national Meet-the-Blind-Month partner as well as a fundraising option. We contacted Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the country, along with Krispy Kreme, one of the most popular makers of doughnuts. We invited representatives from Wal-Mart and Krispy Kreme to the National Federation of the Blind headquarters in Baltimore to learn about the NFB and its mission. Wal-Mart and the NFB agreed that Maryland would be the initial area to test the premise that the National Federation of the Blind could effectively use Wal-Mart as a venue for Meet-the-Blind Month. We also agreed that Krispy Kreme doughnuts could be sold by the NFB of Maryland as a fundraising component.
The NFB of Maryland arranged for information tables at a number of Wal-Marts at different times during the month. The events proved to be great opportunities for meeting and greeting the public. NFB and Wal-Mart are happy to report that these test venues were very successful.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pictured here are members of the NFB of Maryland student division, Muttasin Fadl (handing out Braille alphabet cards to shoppers), Lydia Richardson, and President Mika Bowers at a Wal-Mart information table.]
Thirty-four state affiliates and at least fifty chapters participated in the 2003 Meet-the-Blind-Month campaign. More than one hundred and fifty activities were listed on the NFB Web site for this year's Meet-the-Blind-Month schedule.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The prize for the most original meet-and-greet activity went to the NFB of California. Here Robert Stigile; Tiffany Manosh; Nancy Burns, president of the NFB of California; and Don Burns enjoy the breeze, the sun, and the excitement of whale watching.]
Active chapter organizers included the "diabetes lady" Lois Williams of the Huntsville, Alabama, chapter; Fred Chambers, Beach Cities Chapter in California; Yasmin Reyazuddin, Maryland's Sligo Creek Chapter; Ruby Polk and Rita Lynch, Kansas City and Jefferson City Chapters in Missouri; and Linda DeBerardinis, Garden State Chapter in New Jersey.
Other active areas included Ohio, where the Southeast, Miami Valley, Greater Summit County, Lake County, and Lorain County chapters got the message out at multiple venues.
The variety of activities was also exciting this year. Here are some examples of the more imaginative ways members found to distribute NFB literature.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Steven Booth, Greater Baltimore chapter member, uses plastic golf balls in a six-egg carton to quiz two young sisters on the Braille alphabet at a local street fair.]
Minnie Walker from the Mobile Chapter in Alabama conducted a "Keys Please" program, in which the mayor, city council, and city fathers were asked to ride public transportation for a day to experience travel as blind people do regularly. The Mobile Register even carried a short piece on the event. The Diabetes Action Network of Alabama set up information tables at local colleges and at Senior Housing Centers, providing information on diabetes and the ways the NFB can help.
Sandie Addy, from the Tristate Chapter in Arizona, was even able to persuade administrators to insert NFB literature (with an associate form, of course) in the payroll envelopes of municipal workers for Prescott Valley, Prescott, and Chino Valley.
NFB members organized walk-a-thons, participated in street fairs, and staffed information tables at libraries, department stores, and senior fairs. Affiliate and chapter members also spoke to elementary and middle school classes. Chapter members in California, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania contacted their local Wal-Mart managers and set up meet-and-greet tables.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: At a ceremony held October 22, 2003, in the Warner Chamber of the Nebraska state capitol, Governor Mike Johanns proclaims October as National Federation of the Blind Month. Amy Buresh, Carlos Serván, and other NFB of Nebraska members accept the proclamation.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The proclamation signed by Governor Johanns in its entirety.]
Affiliates and chapters sent out press releases and calendar notices to their local papers, and several received local press coverage. In addition requests were made and granted for Meet-the-Blind-Month proclamations from many governors' and mayors' offices. The record for this activity is held by Maine, where the affiliate collected fifteen Meet-the-Blind-Month proclamations, including one from the governor, and twenty-four White Cane Safety Day proclamations.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The NFB of Georgia held its second annual Black Tie, White Cane gala. Pictured are NFB of Georgia President Anil Lewis, Second Vice President Thelma Godwin, and Congressman John Lewis. Congressman Lewis, who represents the Fifth Congressional District, including most of Atlanta, was the keynote speaker.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Pat Wingo, state assistant vice president for government affairs for AT&T, accepts a corporate partnership award for AT&T's support of NFB-NEWSLINE® in Georgia.]
There you have a brief overview of Meet-the-Blind Month 2003. It is not too soon to begin thinking about and planning for the 2004 NFB Meet-the-Blind-Month campaign.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim McCarthy]
Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2004
by James McCarthy
From the Editor: Jim McCarthy is assistant director of governmental affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. Here is his annual Social Security summary:
With another new year come annual adjustments in Social Security programs. The changes include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, Social Security and SSI cost‑of‑living increases, and changes in deductible and coinsurance requirements under Medicare. Here are the new facts for 2004:
FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers remains at 7.65%. This rate includes payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund of 6.2% and an additional 1.45% payment to the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, from which payments under Medicare are made. Self‑employed people continue to pay a Social Security tax of 15.3%, which includes 12.4% paid to the OASDI Trust Fund and 2.9% paid to the HI Trust Fund.
Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 2003 the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI Trust Fund was $87,000. This ceiling rises to $87,900 for 2004. All earnings are taxed for the HI Trust Fund.
Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits is based in large part on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage during a single year. During 2003 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $890 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $3,560 for the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage. In 2004 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $900 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $3,600.
Trial Work Period limit: Beginning in 2001, the SSA established a rule that changes the amount of earnings required to use a trial work month. This change is announced with the cost-of-living adjustments each year. In 2003 the amount was $570, and in 2004 it rises to $580. In cases of self-employment, a trial work month can also be used if a person works more than eighty hours, and this limit remains the same each year.
Exempt Earnings: The monthly earnings exemption for blind people who receive disability insurance benefits was $1,330 of gross earned income during 2003. In 2004 earnings of $1,350 or more per month, before taxes, for a blind SSDI beneficiary will show substantial gainful activity after subtracting any unearned (or subsidy) income and applying any deductions for impairment‑related work expenses.
Social Security Benefit Amounts: All Social Security benefits are increased by 2.1% beginning with the checks received in January 2004. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.
Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January 2004, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $564 per month; couples, $846 per month. These amounts are increased from individuals, $552 per month, and couples, $829 per month.
Student Earned Income Exclusion: the Student Earned Income Exclusion is adjusted each year. Last year the monthly amount was $1,340, and the maximum yearly amount was $5,410. In 2004 these amounts increase to $1,370 per month and $5,520 per year.
Medicare Deductibles and Coinsurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The coinsurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's coinsurance amount.
The Part A coinsurance amount charged for hospital services within a benefit period of not longer than sixty days was $840 during 2003 and is increased to $876 during 2004. From the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day there is a daily coinsurance amount of $219 per day, up from $210 in 2003. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty lifetime reserve days, which may be used after a ninety day benefit period has ended. Once used, after any benefit period, these reserve days are no longer available. The co‑insurance amount to be paid during each reserve day used in 2004 is $438, up from $420 in 2003.
Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days within a benefit period. From the twenty-first day through the one-hundredth day in a benefit period the Part A coinsurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility is $109.50 per day, up from $105 per day in 2003.
For most beneficiaries there is no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for ninety-three months after the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 2004 is $343 per month. This is reduced to $189 for individuals who have earned at least thirty quarters of coverage under Social Security covered employment.
The Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible remains at $100 in 2004. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B basic monthly premium rate charged to each beneficiary for the year 2004 is $66.60. (The 2003 premium rate was $58.) This premium payment is deducted from Social Security benefit checks. Individuals who remain eligible for Medicare, but are not receiving Social Security benefits because of working, pay this premium directly.
Programs Which Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for help with payments. Assistance is available through two programs--QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program) and SLMB (Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program).
Under the QMB program states are required to pay the Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium ($66.60 in 2004). Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.
Both programs are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in conjunction with the states. In order to qualify, the income of an individual or couple must be less than the poverty guidelines currently in effect. The guidelines are revised annually and were last announced in February of 2003. New guidelines will be issued in February or March of 2004. The rules vary from state to state, but in general the following can be said:
A person may qualify for the QMB program if his or her income is less than $769 per month for an individual and $1,030 per month for a couple. These amounts apply for residents of forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income threshold used to define poverty is less than $955 per month for an individual and $1,282 per month for couples. In Hawaii income must be less than $881 per month for an individual and $1,182 per month for couples.
For the SLMB program the income of an individual cannot exceed $918 per month or $1,232 for a couple in forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income amount is $1,141 for an individual and $1,534 for couples. An individual in Hawaii qualifies if his or her income is less than $1,053 per month; for couples the amount is $1,414.
Resources--such as bank accounts or stocks--may not exceed $4,000 for one person or $6,000 for a family of two. (Resources generally are things you own. However, not everything is counted. The house you live in, for example, doesn't count, and in some circumstances your car may not count either.)
If you qualify for assistance under the QMB program, you will not have to pay:
· Medicare's hospital deductible amount, which is $876 per benefit period in 2004;
· The daily coinsurance charges for extended hospital and skilled nursing facility stays;
· The Medicare Medical Insurance (Part B) premium, which is $66.60 per month in 2004;
· The $100 annual Part B deductible;
· The 20 percent coinsurance for services covered by Medicare Part B, depending on which doctor you go to.
If you qualify for assistance under the SLMB program, you will not have to pay the $66.60 monthly Part B premium.
If you think you qualify but you have not filed for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from your local Social Security office or Social Security's toll‑free number, (800) 772‑1213.
Remember, only your state can decide if you are eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB program. So, if you are elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local welfare or social service agency to apply. For more information about either program, call CMS’s toll‑free telephone number, (800) 633-4227.
This month's recipes have been contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania.
Raisin Cherry Drops
by Chuck Morgenstern
Chuck Morgenstern has been an active member of the NFB of Pennsylvania for forty years. He has served as the president of the Lehigh Valley Chapter and is currently the treasurer of the Pennsylvania Association of Parents of Blind Children, the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter, and the state affiliate.
1 1/2 cup raisins
1 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup maraschino cherries
Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring raisins in water to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil for five minutes. Drain liquid, reserving 1/3 cup. Mix together sugar, shortening, eggs, and reserved liquid. Stir in raisins and remaining ingredients. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until lightly browned, eight to ten minutes. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and cool completely on a rack. Makes about 7-1/2 dozen cookies.
You can use self-rising flour, but, if so, omit salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
by Chuck Morgenstern
1 box cake mix, any flavor
1 can pie filling, any flavor
Method: Place cake mix, eggs, and pie filling in bowl and stir by hand until well mixed. Note: if pie filling has large chunks of fruit, cut into smaller pieces before placing in bowl. After mixing ingredients well, place batter in a well-greased thirteen-by-nine-inch baking pan and bake according to package directions. Do not add any other ingredients. Any combination of mixes and fillings works: spice cake mix and pumpkin pie filling, for example. If desired, you can frost the cake, but it is not necessary.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Judy Jobes]
by Judy Jobes
Judy Jobes has been a member of the NFB of Pennsylvania for fourteen years. She has served as president of the Erie Chapter and is currently serving her sixth year as first vice president of the state affiliate.
1 yellow cake mix
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup dark rum
3 cups pecan pieces or halves
Method: Mix first five ingredients together in a large bowl. In a large greased bundt pan arrange pecans and pour batter over them. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Ingredients for cake glaze:
1 stick butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark rum
Method: Combine first three ingredients, bring to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Add rum to glaze. Poke holes in hot cake and pour glaze over before removing from bundt pan. Let cake cool completely before removing from pan.
by Mark Senk
Mark Senk has been a member of the Pennsylvania affiliate for about eight years. He has served as second vice president, first vice president, and now president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chapter. He also serves on the affiliate board of directors.
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound butter
6 cups flour
2/3 cup almonds, slivered
Method: Combine sugars, baking soda, vinegar, and vanilla. Stir in eggs. Cut butter into small pieces and work into mixture. Add flour a cup at a time and mix well. Knead in slivered almonds. Gather dough into ball and divide into five equal pieces. Shape each piece into a cylinder. If you wish, roll cylinders in colored sugar. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut each log into 1/4-inch slices. Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheets for eight minutes.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Cary Supalo]
Christmas Sweet Potato Casserole
by Cary Supalo
Cary Supalo has been a member of the NFB of Pennsylvania for four years. Previously he was a member of the Indiana and Illinois affiliates. Cary serves as president of the Happy Valley Chapter and the Pennsylvania Association of Blind Students. He is also a member of the state board of directors and a tenBroek Fellow.
1 can sweet potatoes, undrained
1 cup white sugar
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup flour
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a two-quart baking dish. Place the sweet potatoes and their liquid in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cook for fifteen minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat, drain, and mash. In a medium bowl mix the mashed potatoes, white sugar, eggs, 1/3 cup butter, milk, and vanilla extract. Spread evenly in the prepared baking dish. In a separate bowl mix brown sugar, chopped pecans, flour, and 1/3 cup melted butter and sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture. Bake for thirty-five minutes in a preheated oven or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Connie Johnson]
by Connie Johnson
Connie Johnson has been a member of the NFB of Pennsylvania for ten years. She is president of the Erie County Chapter and secretary of the state affiliate.
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup water
2 cups canned or cooked pumpkin
1 cup chopped nuts or seeds
Method: In mixing bowl mix sugar and oil and beat in eggs, one at a time. Sift together flour, salt, spices, soda, and baking powder. Gradually beat in flour, alternating with water. Fold in pumpkin and nuts or seeds. Pour batter into two greased nine-by-five-inch loaf pans. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven about fifty minutes or until bread tests done with toothpick. Remove loaves from pans and cool completely on racks.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lynn Heitz]
Favorite New Year's Drink
by Lynn Heitz
Lynn Heitz has been a member of the Pennsylvania affiliate for about six years. She serves as president of the Keystone chapter and is a member of the state board of directors. Lynn was also a national scholarship winner in 2002. How about bringing in the New Year with good friends, this drink, and a recipe of Bob Brock's gougères from last month's issue?
Fluted champagne glasses
1 bottle of your favorite champagne
Several ounces Royale Deluxe Chambord liqueur
Method: Lightly chill glasses. Pour 1/2 ounce Chambord into each glass. Fill remainder of glass with champagne. Swirl slightly. Served best in front of a gently burning fire.
News from the Federation Family
In the article "Suggestions from the IBTC Holiday Elves" in the October issue, the Web site address for Book Share should have been <www.bookshare.org>.
Also, the list of officers we provided for the Writers Division in the August/September issue should have indicated that Jerry Whittle is second vice president. We regret the errors.
The NFB of Wisconsin conducted elections at its convention in October. The board of directors for the 2003-04 year is as follows: Dan Wenzel, president; William Meeker, first vice president; Tony Olivero, second vice president; Linda Mentink, secretary; Larry Sebranek, treasurer; and Nevzat Adil, Elizabeth Buhrke, Michael Huckaby, and Kathleen Sebranek, board members.
Candy Wreaths for Sale:
The NFB of South Dakota has Christmas candy wreaths for sale. They are made of two pounds of mixed Brach's candy tied to a five-inch ring with curly ribbon. Volunteers from the South Dakota affiliate made 250. They make a nice gift to be used as a wreath or candle ring. Cost is $10 each plus shipping. To order, call (605) 348‑8418 or (605) 388‑0429 or email to <[email protected]>.
Mike Freeman reports that following the Washington affiliate's convention in late October, the officers are now Mike Freeman, president; Ben Prows, first vice president; Rita Szantay, second vice president; Kaye Kipp, secretary; and Gary Mackenstadt, treasurer. The other members of the board of directors are now Doug Johnson, Maria Bradford, Kyle Parrish, and Kris Lawrence.
Scott White writes to report that on October 27, 2003, the Richmond Area Federation of the Blind, NFB of Virginia elected the following officers and board members for a one-year term. President, Scott White; first vice president, Marshall Jordan; second vice president, Bert Shankle; treasurer, Anna Arrington; secretary, Susan Pollard; and board members Charlene Rogers, Doris Key, and Roger Newman.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Tom Davis]
As we were going to press, we learned that Kathy Davis, first vice president of the NFB of Florida, lost her dear husband Tom to Lou Gehrig's Disease on Sunday, November 9, 2003. Tom had fought gallantly against ALS, and Kathy was beside him every step of the way. She has our deepest sympathy in her loss.
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.
Electronic Books Available:
John J. Dragona writes to say the following:
Original novels are now available on PC-formatted diskettes at prices much lower than you would pay in book stores. With eBooks already riding the wave of the future, there is no longer any reason for bulky paper books or cassette tapes that must be returned to the library. Moreover, they can be easily read with a voice synthesizer. For descriptions of the books in our current and growing list, email <[email protected]>.
Announcement from NFB and Pulse Data HumanWare:
The NFB and Pulse Data HumanWare announce a 5 percent discount on selected Pulse Data blindness-related products, including the BrailleNote, for members of the NFB. In addition, Pulse Data also announces that the BrailleNote, one of the market's most advanced notetakers for the blind, has updated its global positioning satellite (GPS) technology to include maps.
The BrailleNote added GPS support last year. With the addition of maps the power of GPS systems has now been fully adapted to meet the needs of the blind. Blind people can now receive comprehensive location and points-of-interest information in real time, for example, knowing the next street crossing while riding on a bus, finding walking directions to a restaurant, or giving driving directions to a taxi driver.
The virtual tour function allows blind users to explore and familiarize themselves with any area or neighborhood from the comfort of home. Like sighted people, blind people can now plan trips before leaving home using a BrailleNote.
About the size of a print textbook, the BrailleNote family of products uses the Windows CE operating system to support specialized hardware and software technology. The device includes either a Braille or conventional Qwerty keyboard and speech output or speech output with a Braille display.
Pen Friends Wanted:
Levon Baboyan lives in Russia near Moscow. He is forty-five and graduated from the Kerevan School for the Blind and the Moscow State University, where he studied law. He now works as a law consultant in a small plant run by the all-Russian Society for the Blind. He speaks Armenian, Russian, and English and takes a keen interest in the life of Armenian communities in the United States and Europe. He is very eager to correspond with Armenians or those who are in touch with Armenians. He can correspond in English, Armenian, or Russian. His interests include reading, listening to music (particularly classical), and playing chess. His address is 52-15 Sverdlov Street, Podolsk City, Moscow Region, Russia 142118.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: John Taylor]
John Taylor Dies:
From the President: On October 8, 2003, John Taylor died of heart failure at the age of eighty. Although in recent years his influence in the field of work with the blind had diminished, at one time John Taylor served as chief of the Washington office of the National Federation of the Blind and director of field operations for the Iowa Commission for the Blind. When he was working as a member of the Federation team, Mr. Taylor's contributions were substantial.
Online Literacy Survey:
Highly literate blind or visually impaired adults are invited to complete an online survey of their literacy learning and technology use. The online survey is one component of a research study on emergent literacy in young children with visual impairments, called Project Emerge, based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The purpose of the survey is to learn more about the factors that contributed to literacy learning success in individuals who, prior to the age of six years, experienced severe visual impairment that affected the ability to read.
For this survey participants should be twenty-one years of age or older and have completed a four-year college degree. The results of this survey will increase our knowledge and understanding of early learning experiences, environments, and technologies that are most likely to support literacy learning for young children with visual impairments or blindness. Families and teachers of young children with visual impairments or blindness will then be able to use the information to promote early literacy.
The online survey will take about forty-five minutes to complete and can be found at <http://www.fpg.unc.edu/~emerge/litsurvey/literacysurvey.cfm>. For more information contact Allen Stutts at <[email protected]> or call the project's toll-free number (888) 718-7303. Dr. Deborah Hatton and Dr. Karen Erickson are the principal investigators of the project.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Charlie Crawford]
Charlie Crawford Is Out:
From the President: Charlie Crawford, who has been the executive director of the American Council of the Blind, resigned on October 17, 2003. Rumors of the resignation had been circulating for several weeks. Charlie said in an email announcement that he had irreconcilable differences with Chris Gray, president of the American Council of the Blind. Apparently Charlie couldn't get along with the president. This is not astonishing since Charlie has had trouble getting along with a lot of people. Maybe with Charlie out of the picture the cooperation that is frequently espoused will have a greater chance of survival. Maybe the ACB will stop its practice of fighting for the sake of saying it has done so.
Outline Maps of the World:
Outline Maps of the World is a single volume of seventy-nine pages. It contains thirty-three maps showing political boundaries, capital cities, and surrounding bodies of water. The maps are divided into five sections: North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australia, Africa, and the Polar Regions.
An index at the end of the volume lists countries and islands and indicates the page number of the map on which they appear. Maps are generally labeled with key letters that are identified in the Brailled key pages preceding the map.
Some of these maps have appeared in our earlier publications. However, the maps of Arctic regions, Antarctica, Africa, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand, and Russia are new, and the other maps have been reworked.
Outline Maps of the World is bound with cardboard covers and a multiring binder. The cost is $19. Shipping is free-matter unless other arrangements are made. Please send check or purchase order to the Princeton Braillists, 76 Leabrook Lane, Princeton, New Jersey 08540; phone, (609) 924-5207 or (215) 357-7715.
Favorite Recipes Available:
A collection of over 200 mouth-watering recipes compiled by the members of the East Bay Center for the Blind, a nonprofit organization in Berkeley, California, is available in Braille (two volumes with easy wipe-off covers) or large print for a donation of $25 plus $3 shipping and handling. This is an excellent Christmas gift. To order a copy, send check or money order in the amount of $28 made payable to East Bay Center for the Blind, Inc., 2928 Adeline St., Berkeley, California 94703. For additional information call (510) 843-6935.
Inquiry about the Game Showdown:
John Jarboe, elementary principal at the Arkansas School for the Blind, wishes to know if the game Showdown is played anywhere in the United States. It's sometimes called table tennis for the visually impaired and is popular in Europe. Anyone with information for Mr. Jarboe can contact him at <[email protected]>.
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.
The cost to repair a manual Perkins Brailler is $50 for labor (flat rate), plus parts. Due to technical complexity the cost to repair an electric Perkins Brailler is $60 for labor (flat rate), plus parts. The Brailler will be shipped back to you by U.S. mail, free matter for the blind and insured for $600. The cost of this insurance ($7.20) will be added to your invoice. This listed insurance charge may fluctuate due to rate changes by the postal service.
To mail Braillers using the U.S. Postal Service, send your Brailler(s) to the Selective Doctor, P.O. Box 28432, Baltimore, Maryland 21234-8432. If you care to use UPS or Federal Express, please send Braillers to the Selective Doctor, 3014 Linwood Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21234-5821. With your Brailler(s) please include your name and organization (if applicable), shipping and billing addresses, telephone number, and a brief description of your Brailler's needs. Should you require additional information, please call (410) 668-1143, or email <[email protected]>.
Career Track Courses Offered:
The Assistive Technology Center of Sacramento is offering courses in medical billing and accounting. These are the first of the group's Career Track series of classes. The courses can be taken online through its accessible distance-learning program, or at its facility. The Center is an educational facility accredited by the California Department of Education, and all instructors are certified. Currently the courses are offered for JAWS users only. They hope to have Window-Eyes on board soon.
This endeavor is the first of its kind, and they believe that it will help usher in a new age of career training for blind and visually impaired people. Future courses will include general office and reception, medical transcription, nonemergency dispatch, and Microsoft Office certification.
For more information contact Robert Leblond at (916) 364‑8488, or by email at <[email protected]>.
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.
Items for Sale:
1. Alva 4400 Delphi Multimedia with 40‑cell display and status cells, touch cursor strip, and serial and parallel interfaces. Asking price is $3,500 or best offer.
2. I have Champion Juicer, the world's finest, 1/3 horse power, 1,725 RPM. It is ideal for preparing freshly made fruit and vegetable juices, nut butters, and more. Asking $125 or best offer.
3. Shrink wrap machine packaging industrial (Babypack 3246, by APS). This is a one‑step shrink wrap machine. Easy operation: one operator can complete sealing and shrinking in a continuous operation. Visually observable shrinking to obtain and insure optimal results. Favorable package height capability. Preferable for food packaging applications. Low cost and quick payback of the Babypack makes it affordable and cost-effective for even small businesses. Who can benefit: bakeries, printshops, pharmaceutical and manufacturing, institutional food production, supermarkets. Never used. Original price was $3,500. Asking $2,500 or best offer.
For any of these contact Gilbert at <[email protected]>.
Alva Satellite 40-Cell Braille Display for Sale:
This display is in very good condition. I am including a power cable, USB cable, and serial cable as well as a carrying case. This unit can run on either AC power or rechargeable batteries. I am asking $2,995, which includes shipping. If interested, please email <[email protected]>, or call Mike at (415) 474-7006.
Korg Triton 7 Classic Keyboard for Sale:
This instrument features seventy-six keys, a sequencer, and a sampler and has a touch-sensitive screen. With the new Sonar it is compatible with JAWS. Asking $2,000 or best offer. Please contact Ricky Corey at (203) 729-1508, cell phone (203) 525-5887, or email <[email protected]>.
Braille Printer for Sale:
Enabling Technologies Romeo 25 Braille embosser with case, in good condition. Asking $1,800 or best offer. Call Carlos (785) 608‑5302.
Braille 'n Speak 2000, almost never used, in perfect working condition. Comes with leather carrying case, earpiece, twelve-volt charger, Braille and print instructions, and floppy disk. Asking $750, including shipping and insurance. Please contact Betsy at (847) 432-5202 or email <[email protected]>.
Tanzanian Baskets for Sale:
Juma Bakari writes to say: I have hand-woven baskets for sale. They are good for domestic use. I am asking $50, including shipping. I can be reached at the following address: Juma Bakari, P.O. Box 90387, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, email <[email protected]>, phone 255-748-604325.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.
The National Association of Blind Students (NABS)
NABS is a division of the National Federation of the Blind. Established in 1967, NABS is an organization of blind high school, college, and graduate students dedicated to securing equality and opportunity for all blind students. Through advocacy and collective action we work to maintain high standards and expectations of education for blind students across the country as we address relevant issues that face us. Such issues include Disabled Students Services offices, relationships between consumers and state rehabilitation agencies, and validation of standardized gateway tests such as the GRE and LSAT.
NABS has a listserv to which we encourage students and parents of blind children to subscribe. Just send a message to <[email protected]>. Leave the subject line blank, and write, “subscribe nabs-l” in the body of the message. NABS also offers a semi-annual
publication, The Student Slate, which contains articles written by blind students about their experiences because of blindness. We invite students to submit articles.
In addition we meet twice a year—at national convention and Washington Seminar. At both the annual meeting and seminar we discuss current issues of concern to blind students and hear from fellow Federationists about their success in academia, which often comes with hard work and a sound Federation philosophy. We invite everyone to join us at these meetings. They are not only insightful but full of energy.
The NABS board consists of nine positions. The offices and the
people currently serving are as follows: Angela Wolf, president; Jason Ewell, first vice president; Kimberly Aguillard, second vice president; Allison Hilliker, secretary; Ryan Strunk, treasurer; and Tony Olivero, Ronit Ovadia, Mary Jo Thorpe, and Tai Tomasi, board members.
VOICE OF THE DIABETIC
The Voice of the Diabetic, entering its seventeenth year of publication, has a current circulation of over 300,000.
Because Diabetes is the largest cause of new blindness among working-age Americans, members of the National Federation of the Blind founded the Diabetes Action Network in July of 1985 to help spread the word about diabetes and blindness. The Network works closely with all NFB affiliates and reaches out to thousands who might not otherwise encounter the Federation and the work we do. To meet our communications goal, the Network began producing the Voice of the Diabetic in January of 1986. From its initial print run of 600, the Voice's circulation has exploded so that it now reaches every state and U.S. territory and many foreign countries.
The Voice, produced 4 times a year in standard print and 4-track audiocassette for the blind or visually impaired and on the Web at <www.nfb.org/voice.htm>, is offered free as a public service to diabetics, health professionals, family, friends, and anyone else with an interest in the condition. Many individuals and businesses also set out multiple copies in public places such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, and libraries.
Our focus is on living with the condition. Our articles discuss research, coping tools and strategies, success stories, and individuals whose attitude and achievements can serve as positive inspiration. We show diabetics that, regardless of complications, they are not alone and do have options. We stress both accurate information and positive attitude.
Along with articles sent to us by both diabetics and health professionals, every Voice features a selection of diabetes recipes, columns of tidbit articles culled from news releases, diabetes education and exercise advice, and medical questions answered by an insulin-dependent physician. We try to list the latest studies and trials, especially when they are recruiting diabetic participants.
For more information contact Board members: Paul Price, president, NFB Diabetes Action Network, 13946 Woods Valley Road, Valley Center, CA 92082-7337; (760) 749-2044; <[email protected]>. Ed Bryant, editor, Voice of the Diabetic, Suite C, 1412 I-70 Drive SW, Columbia, MO 65203-2079; (573) 875-8911; <[email protected]>; Eric Woods, first vice president, Englewood, Colorado; (303) 789-7689; <[email protected]>; Sandie Addy, second vice president, Prescott Valley, Arizona; (520) 775-5912; Lois Williams, secretary, Huntsville, Alabama; (256) 852-4143; <[email protected]>; Bruce Peters, treasurer, Akron, Ohio; (330) 865-8477; <brucepeters@ juno.com>; Josie Armantrout, Bemidji, MN 56601-2444; (218) 444-6031; <[email protected]>.
Voice Subscription/Donation Form
To begin receiving the Voice, please check one:
[ ]I would like to become a member of the NFB Diabetes Action Network and receive the Voice of the Diabetic. (Members are entitled to special
[ ]I would like to receive the Voice of the Diabetic as a nonmember. (Nonmembers are encouraged to pay the institutional rate of $20/one year; $35/two years; $50/three years.)
Send the Voice in (check one):
[ ]Cassette tape for the blind and physically handicapped (The cassette tape is recorded at slower-than-standard speed of 15/16 IPS.)
Check this box (optional):
[ ]I would like to make (or add) a tax-deductible contribution of $__________ to the Diabetes Action Network of the National Federation of the Blind.
Please print clearly
City _____________________ State _______________________ Zip
Telephone ( _____) __________________________
Send this form or facsimile to:
Voice of the Diabetic, Suite C, 1412 I-70 Drive SW, Columbia, MO 65203-2079 Telephone: (573) 875-8911; Fax: (573) 875-8902
Please make all checks payable to: National Federation of the Blind