THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 47, No. 1 January, 2004
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
Web site address: http://www.nfb.org
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should be sent to the National Office.
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Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year. Members are invited, and non-members are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Atlanta Site of 2004 NFB Convention
The 2004 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, June 29 through July 5. We will conduct the convention at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, a first-class convention hotel located at 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. The overflow hotel is the Hilton Atlanta and Towers, just across Courtland from the Marriott Marquis. Room rates for this year's convention are excellent: singles, doubles, and twins $59 and triples and quads $65 a night, plus tax of 14 percent at present. The hotels are accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2004. The other 50 percent is not refundable. For reservations call the Marriott Marquis at (404) 521-0000 and the Hilton Atlanta and Towers at (404) 659-2000.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made to secure these rooms before June 1, 2004, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotels will not hold their blocks of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
The Marquis is a beautiful fifty-story atrium hotel with a panoramic view of Atlanta, and the Hilton has beautifully appointed guest rooms and five superb restaurants. They are twelve miles north of the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport and are conveniently located off Interstate 85. Take Exit 96, International Boulevard, turn left onto International Boulevard, go to Peachtree Center Avenue, and turn right. The Marriott Marquis is on the right in the second block. To get to the Hilton, turn left onto International Boulevard, go to Piedmont Avenue, and turn right. The Hilton is on the left. The Marriott has three excellent restaurants and features indoor and outdoor pools, solarium, health club, whirlpool, and sauna. Guest-room amenities in both hotels include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and dataport.
The schedule for the 2004 convention is a bit unusual:
Tuesday, June 29Seminar Day
Wednesday, June 30 Registration Day
Thursday, July 1 Board Meeting and Division Day
Friday, July 2Opening Session
Saturday, July 3 Tour Day
Sunday, July 4 Banquet Day
Monday, July 5Business Session
Plan to be in Atlanta;
The action of the convention will be there!
Vol. 47, No. 1 January, 2004
NFB Research and Training Institute Director Named
by Barbara Pierce
Consumer Organizations as Partners
in the Rehabilitation Process
by Rosemary Lerdahl
Another Perspective on Guide Dogs and Training Centers
by Angie Matney
State Braille Standards for Teachers of Students
Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: A National Survey
by Barry B. Frieman
Barriers Fall for Disabled Medical Students
by Linda Villarosa
Open Letter to a Blind Person:
How to Get a Job
by Mike Bullis
Learning Braille: Notes from the Trenches
by Heidi Lasher
Appropriate Use of the Electronic Notetaker in School
by Curtis Chong
Georgia on My Mind
by Anil Lewis
The Cane and I
by Judy Sanders
Run TV Show Illustrates Capabilities of the Nonsighted
by Stacey Palevsky
A Labor of Love
by Lee Frazier
For the Thrill of It
by Lohr McKinstry
Don't Shoot the Piano Tuner:
Should We Avoid the Blind Trades?
by John Bailey
by John Jay Frank
Convention Scholarships Available
by Allen Harris
Copyright © 2003 National Federation of the Blind
[Text for lead graphic: You are cordially invited to the grand opening celebration, National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute, January 30, 2004, 5:30 p.m. To make your reservation, go to the NFB Web site (www.nfb.org) or call (410) 659-9314, ext. 369.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Betsy Zaborowski]
NFB Research and Training Institute Director Named
by Barbara Pierce
Within days of the publication of this issue of the Braille Monitor, the Federation family will gather with members and leaders of Maryland and the city of Baltimore to celebrate the grand opening of the National Federation of the Blind Research and Training Institute. We broke ground for the Institute in October of 2001, and the facility will begin its life of service to the blindness community on January 30, 2004. When it opens, the Institute will be the nation's only center for innovations in education, employment, and adaptive technology services to be operated by an organization of blind people.
The challenge of raising the necessary $19.5 million and then supervising the construction of the actual building on our property at 1800 Johnson Street has placed extraordinary demands on the skills and capacity of the organization in the past three years. But even so we have increasingly recognized that what we have thus far accomplished has necessarily been only the first step in achieving our dream to make an entirely new and unique contribution to changing what it means to be blind. President Maurer and those assisting him must now staff the Institute and then devise the programs and projects that we will undertake.
Naming the right executive director became the first and most pressing step in this process. Ideally the director should be a blind person who has already embraced and personally practices the empowering philosophy of blindness espoused by members of the National Federation of the Blind. But, beyond that, the director must also be familiar with the resources available in our organization, the blindness community in general, the Greater Baltimore area, and the political world. He or she must be able to dream, to plan, to raise funds and to command respect within the NFB and among the powerful in Maryland and the nation.
For many months now President Maurer has been engaged in a careful search for the right person to supervise the staffing, equipping, and roll-out of programs in the new Institute as its executive director. During the annual meeting of the NFB board of directors at Thanksgiving he announced his appointment: Dr. Betsy Zaborowski.
As soon as the announcement was made, those in the room could appreciate the obvious fit between the job description and Dr. Z. Most recently she has been director of special programs for the NFB. She was responsible for program development and community outreach nationally, concentrating on technology, seniors, and educational initiatives. Along with developing key partnerships with businesses and universities, she established the NFB's annual celebration and fundraiser, the national Meet-the-Blind public awareness campaign; the Braille Is Beautiful curriculum for sighted children; and the NFB's annual Seniors' Low-Vision Resource Fair in Baltimore. But her highest priority during the past four years has been to assist with fundraising and preliminary planning for the Research and Training Institute. Working with the NFB membership throughout the country, she led the effort to secure a funding commitment of six million dollars from the state of Maryland in support of the Institute.
Dr. Zaborowski brings to this new job expertise and experience in education, psychology, program development, promotion, and resource management. For eight years previous to joining the NFB staff, Dr. Zaborowski was a clinical psychologist in Baltimore. Along with maintaining a successful private practice, Dr. Zaborowski taught in the Graduate School of Education at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and lectured at the JHU Medical School and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Previous to her move from Colorado to Baltimore in 1987, she practiced in the field of health psychology for Kaiser Permanente, served as a mental health and university-based counselor, and worked for six years as a grade-six-to-twelve school guidance counselor.
Dr. Zaborowski received her doctorate in psychology from the University of Denver and her bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Menomonie. As a psychologist she served on and chaired the American Psychological Association's Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology, and for the Maryland Psychological Association (MPA) she served as chair of the Women's Committee and as delegate-at-large on the MPA executive council.
Dr. Zaborowski was chosen as one of Maryland's top 100 women by the Daily Record in 1998 and 2000. In 2003 she was recognized again with this award and was inducted, along with a select group of previous top 100 honorees, into the Circle of Excellence of Maryland's Top 100 Women.
In 1997 the governor of Maryland appointed Dr. Zaborowski to the Maryland Information Technology Board. She was the first chair of the Mayor's Commission on Disabilities and was appointed to two terms on the Baltimore City Women's Commission. She also served for several years on the Governor's Advisory Board on People with Disabilities and has consulted for a number of organizations and companies in time management, stress management, sexual harassment, leadership skills, and disability issues. She recently completed a year in the Baltimore Leadership Program and serves on the board of the YMCA at Stadium Place.
Betsy Zaborowski has a long and active history as an NFB volunteer. She joined the organization in 1979 and has served as treasurer of the Colorado affiliate and president of the NFB Human Services Division. In 2001 we presented Dr. Zaborowski and her husband James Gashel the Jacobus tenBroek Award, our highest national recognition of exemplary service.
We can all be exceedingly proud of this appointment of our own Betsy Zaborowski as executive director of the NFB Research and Training Institute. She is taking on a tremendously challenging job. It will require all of her many talents and skills. She will also need every bit of commitment and dedication that the entire Federation family can provide to support this new endeavor.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Rosemary Lerdahl]
Consumer Organizations as Partners in the Rehabilitation Process
by Rosemary Lerdahl
From the Editor: Rosemary Lerdahl is director of rehabilitation for Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). The following remarks were prepared for delivery at the Rehabilitation Services Administration institute for residential rehabilitation programs serving blind consumers that took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico in November of 2003. Here it is:
Consumer organizations of the blind and rehabilitation programs for the blind have sometimes historically found themselves in adversarial roles, even though both of them supposedly work for the benefit of the blind consumer. We would like to share with you how Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) has worked effectively with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) in many different ways for the mutual benefit of both organizations and particularly for the benefit of the blind children and adults that we serve.
We are extremely fortunate to be located in the same city (Baltimore, Maryland) as the national headquarters of the NFB and therefore are able to make use of the wonderful resources and programs the NFB has to offer. We are also able to work closely together on many projects and activities. We work with the NFB at the local, state, and national level and find benefit and support for our consumers and staff at all levels.
We have an informal system of reciprocal referrals. Members of the NFB are always willing to provide support and advocacy for our students struggling with the bureaucracy of the Social Security or rehab system. Our students participate in state and national legislative activities such as the day in Annapolis and the Washington Seminar, where we meet with state delegates and national senators and representatives to discuss issues that affect blind people. Some of our students do community service work at NFB-sponsored events. We attend the national convention, where our students have the opportunity to meet some of the most accomplished blind people in the world.
We are also able to take advantage of the many wonderful resources of the NFB such as the International Braille and Technology Center. Recently we started working together on some new senior blind initiatives. This partnership allows us to provide a network of national resources about blindness to our staff and students. The state affiliate has also provided funding for some of our teen transition students attending our WINGS program who were unable to obtain funding through the rehab agency.
In addition to these varied ways of working together, we have also built a partnership to provide programming for blind children. After receiving many, many requests from parents whose blind kids did not fit into traditional summer camps, we met with members of the Parents of Blind Children division of the NFB of Maryland to find a solution. In response to this critical need, KIDS Camp was born in the summer of 1996. We have jointly planned, organized, and run annual KIDS Camps and Teen Retreat Programs for blind children and youth since then.
Our director for both of these programs is a special education teacher who is the mother of a blind child and a member of the parents division. She writes grants to assist with the costs of these programs. The BISM staff and students (most of whom are blind) serve as the adult role models and teachers. Each child is paired with a different blind buddy every day so that he or she can spend time with different blind adults.
KIDS Camp is a fun, educational, week-long residential summer camp for blind children ages six to twelve. The goal of our KIDS Camp is to help blind children develop appropriate blindness skills, social behaviors, peer relationships, and a sense of identity and increased self-esteem through interacting with and learning from blind adult role models. The critical element that makes our camp different from many other camps for blind children is the fact that our instruction is done almost exclusively by blind adults, who serve as mentors, role models, and teachers.
Each KIDS Camp has a special theme and activities to go with that theme. They all, however, incorporate teaching blindness skills with having fun. We always focus on cane travel skills, Braille skills, and daily living skills. The kids are all shown how to serve themselves at meals, carry their own trays, and clean up after themselves. Then they are expected to do so. They always keep a Braille or large-print journal of activities. They also do all of the fun things that other kids do at camp, such as swimming, playing ball, hiking, making crafts, and playing games; but they do these together with blind adults who show them how to participate in all of these activities.
Many of the children who attend our KIDS Camp are the only blind child in their school, so we have discussions every day in which the kids can talk about how they interact with their peers and family members, etc. KIDS Camp gives the children a chance to have lots of fun, learn skills, and truly come to believe that it is okay to be blind.
Teen Retreat is the ultimate weekend camping experience for blind and visually impaired teenagers. It offers skills training in a fun, outdoor setting. Adjustment to blindness, confidence-building exercises, and career exploration are emphasized. Teens go hiking, grill out, and enjoy lots of other outdoor physical activities while they also learn and practice their social and team-building skills. Each Teen Retreat focuses on a specific skill area. Previous Teen Retreats have focused on cane travel, sports, leadership training, socialization skills, Braille, etc. Teen Retreats are now held in the spring and the fall and offer blind teenagers a fun, educational camping experience that also helps them focus on how to become a competent, contributing adult.
The methods used and the goals and objectives are very similar for KIDS Camp and Teen Retreat; they are just modified to reflect the age difference of the children.
* Orientation and Mobility
* Daily living skills
* Individual and small-group instruction
* Blind adult instructors and role models
* 1:1 mentoring
* Skills integrated activities
Goals and Objectives:
* Develop age-appropriate skills
* Improve problem solving and communication skills
* Improve socialization
* Increase self-esteem
* Increase sense of identity
* Improve organizational skills
* Improve teamwork
* Have fun
* Independence and self-sufficiency
* Using cane appropriately
* Making and staying in touch with friends
* Improved peer relationships at school
All of our programs work effectively because they are a successful combination of instructors with years of experience in the field of blindness; confident, competent blind adult role models; and an unwavering belief in the abilities of blind people. It only makes sense to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge, the expertise, and the accumulated experience of the many blind people we have access to through the National Federation of the Blind.
Thus this partnership between the BISM Rehabilitation Center for the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind has greatly benefited and enhanced the training experiences and outcomes for the participants and the staff of the program. It has also greatly increased our ability to serve consumers of all ages.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Angie Matney and her guide dog Glaze]
Another Perspective on Guide Dogs and Training Centers
by Angie Matney
From the Editor: From time to time we publish articles about mobility and the tools blind people use to achieve it, whether they be canes, dogs, or high-tech solutions. In the October issue we printed an article by James Omvig that discussed the role of canes and cane travel in the work of NFB orientation-and-adjustment centers. Angie Matney is a past NFB scholarship winner. She holds an MS in mathematics and is currently working on an MS in rehabilitation counseling at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is treasurer of the Virginia student division. This is what she has to say:
In his article "On White Canes and Training Centers" in the October, 2003, issue of the Monitor, Mr. James Omvig outlines his reasons for recommending that orientation-and-adjustment (O&A) centers refuse to allow students to use guide dogs during training. As a guide dog user I was intrigued by some of the points he made. In particular Mr. Omvig presents an excellent illustration of the role informed choice should play in the process of adjustment to blindness. Informed choice should not allow someone to force a program to substantially alter its curriculum. However, I disagree that guide dogs are inherently incompatible with O&A training. Furthermore, I believe it is imperative that the staff of our O&A training centers find a way to enable guide dog users to attend training while using their preferred mobility aid. I hope that Federationists will consider what I have to say.
Mr. Omvig begins his article by explaining that, as someone who is "intimately involved in the rehabilitation system," he is able to offer a unique perspective on this issue. Indeed Mr. Omvig has done much to further the cause of empowerment for blind people over the years. However, I feel that the perspective of someone who has actually traveled extensively with a guide dog is at least as important to the consideration of this issue. While I am not a leading expert on guide dog mobility, my experience as a guide dog user has provided me with insights that might well be unapparent to even the most dedicated professionals in the field of rehabilitation for the blind.
Mr. Omvig points out that carrying and using a nonfolding, long cane makes it impossible for students to try to hide their blindness. The same is true of using a guide dog. One could argue that working with a guide dog forces students to deal even more directly with public attitudes about blindness since people are more likely to approach and ask questions of a guide dog user than a cane user. This has certainly been my experience: I have answered more questions about blindness (and introduced more people to positive Federation philosophy) in my nearly three years as a guide dog user than I did in my sixteen years using a cane. This is not meant to suggest that the public's preference for dogs over canes is an advantage of guide dog mobility. It simply illustrates that the guide dog is at least as effective, if not more so, as a straight cane at increasing the visibility of a person's blindness.
Mr. Omvig also says:
When the student completes a long and complicated travel route independently using only the cane, that success in and of itself evokes feelings of pride and self-confidence--I did it!...If exactly the same long and complicated training assignments--or the shorter trips--are completed using a guide dog rather than a cane, the trainee does not experience the same boost of self-confidence. "Did I do it, or did the dog do it? I wonder if I could have done it without the dog?"
The above statements are nothing more than conjecture on Mr. Omvig's part, even though they are presented as facts. They represent Mr. Omvig's own opinion of guide dog mobility, but a significant number of people who have used guide dogs would disagree.
For example, I've recently moved to a new city, and while this isn't the same as receiving initial O&A training, it does involve the use of certain orientation skills that might not be fully used in an area where everything is familiar. I recently decided to find a coffee and bagel shop that has a good reputation at my university. Anyone who knows me knows how exhilarated I would be to find a coffee shop. I found the place with the assistance of my dog, and both of us were pleased. I recognized the part that she played in the mechanics of getting me there, but I am also well aware that she did not make the decision to go there. She did not look for the address or get directions to the location. She didn't decide when to cross a street; she didn't choose whether to turn right or left when we reached an intersection. I know that I did all of these things, and I know that I could do the same things without a guide dog. And my exhilaration in finding the coffee shop on my own was in no way diminished by my dog's being there to share the experience with me.
Mr. Omvig adds: "Actually it has always been my understanding that the guide dog schools themselves have had the policy that consumers must be adjusted to their blindness and also be good cane travelers in order to qualify for admission into their programs."
It's true that most guide dog schools expect a certain level of proficiency in cane use from their students. In fact, if everyone agreed on what constitutes a good cane traveler, the discussion of whether dogs should be used in O&A centers would be irrelevant, since all guide dog users would, by necessity, be good cane travelers. Unfortunately, however, no such agreement exists. We know this because so many graduates of other O&A programs go on to attend NFB centers: they recognize that, while they may have some knowledge of cane technique, their orientation skills and general confidence are not what they could be. And just as cane users do not always receive satisfactory O&A training on the first try, guide dog handlers sometimes don't either.
It's important to keep in mind that the words "orientation" and "mobility" actually refer to two separate skill sets. The first involves an understanding of spatial and directional relationships, while the second refers to the ability to move safely through one's environment. For the most part guide dog schools focus on mobility instruction and don't even claim to teach orientation--or any other aspect of adjustment to blindness. They try to select applicants whose travel skills permit them to learn a new mobility tool without orientation instruction from school staff. But the measures with which these skills are assessed vary from school to school, and most involve evaluating the applicant only in familiar areas. The resulting reality is that many students with mediocre orientation skills are accepted into guide dog training programs. Upon completion of training some students may feel confident in the mechanics of using their favored mobility aid, yet they realize that their orientation problems persist.
Guide dog handlers who also received insufficient adjustment training prior to obtaining their dogs may need additional instruction in Braille, computers, managing mail, and daily living skills. They may want to take advantage of some of the extracurricular activities that make the NFB program unique. They may even wish to brush up on cane skills and have the opportunity to refine their sense of direction and knowledge of streets and addresses, but without the worry and distraction of eroding their dog's training (and, in turn, their team's entire working relationship). Can we in good conscience deny a significant segment of our community these and other confidence-building benefits of our centers? Is it truly impossible to include those with limited travel needs while maintaining the excellence of the services we offer? The Federation has taken on more difficult challenges and succeeded.
It seems clear that O&A center staff need to consider how integration of guide dogs into the current program might be accomplished. It has been shown that the NFB approach to O&A training works--no one can dispute that. But I'm troubled by the notion that the curriculum in its present form must therefore be the only one that works. Integrating guide dog use into an existing travel program may not be an easy task, but developing a curriculum that effectively serves a diverse group of students rarely is. A good educator recognizes the importance of continually reevaluating instructional methods in accordance with student needs. I hope the staff of our excellent O&A centers have not lost sight of this fundamental principle.
State Braille Standards for Teachers of Students
Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: A National Survey
by Barry B. Frieman
From the Editor: Barry Frieman is a professor at Towson University in Maryland. He has performed a valuable service by gathering into one place the information about how each of the states establishes its standards for hiring the teachers charged with preparing its blind and visually impaired students. The article is a bit more academic than most of the pieces published in these pages, but we consider that making the information available for study, comparison, and action by every affiliate is critically important. Here it is:
Principals and administrators are faced with the challenge of finding competent teachers who have the expertise in Braille to teach children who are blind and visually impaired. These teachers need many skills other than Braille in order to be successful, including the ability to teach compensatory skills; prepare special learning materials; assess student learning; collaborate and consult with other professionals; understand the physiology of the eye and the medical implications of visual impairments; teach orientation and mobility; and other teaching skills. This research project was limited to Braille.
Administrators in local school districts depend upon state education agencies to set the certification standards for teachers. All states have specific certification standards for those who teach children who are visually impaired; however, these standards vary across the country. This research study will report the variance in Braille certification standards across the country for teachers of children who are visually impaired.
Teachers and Braille
The American Foundation for the Blind (1996) estimated that fewer than 10 percent of people who are legally blind in the United States and fewer than 40 percent of the estimated number who are functionally blind are Braille readers. Although a great deal of technology is available to aid in the literacy of children who have some usable vision-–computer voice programs, magnifying devices, audio devices, etc.--these children also need a knowledge of Braille in order for them to reach their maximum level of literacy and self-sufficiency.
Technology does not guarantee literacy. Spungin (1996) believes that one of the major reasons for the increasing illiteracy of people who are blind and visually impaired is the historical emphasis on teaching children with residual vision to read print. Wittenstein and Pardee (1996) found that 89.4 percent of the teachers surveyed in a national sample agreed that technological devices should be used to enhance Braille and not to replace it.
As Maneki (1989) points out, problems arise when the person with a visual impairment who has not been properly trained in Braille is forced to rely on clearly inadequate partial vision rather than the more efficient Braille system. Although some children with visual impairments can make use of enlarged print generated by computers and video technology, Maneki notes that the limits of depending on large print only-–eyestrain, slowness, and the relative lack of portability of the equipment-–makes a convincing argument that Braille must be taught as well.
Allman (1998) notes that, if vision teachers are expected to teach Braille and related skills, they must learn these skills in their preservice training. Knowlton and Berger (1999) point out that teachers not only need to know Braille but also need to use the new computer technologies that enhance a teacher's ability to produce Braille materials. Amato (2002) notes specifically that teachers of Braille need to be able to demonstrate proficiency in all five of the Braille codes: literary, Nemeth (math and science), music, foreign language, and computer. She goes on to suggest that the National Literary Braille Competency Test be used by teacher preparation programs as an assessment of their preservice teachers' Braille skills.
The Research Method
Written queries were sent to departments of education in all fifty states. State department of education personnel were asked to send a copy of their certification standards for teachers of children who are blind or visually impaired. Some states sent paper copies of their standards, others responded via email, while still others sent instructions on how to find the queried data on the state's Web site. Follow-up phone calls or emails were made to state personnel if clarification was required. Data from the four states that didn't respond to the researcher's request were collected from the state's Web site. Data were collected from all fifty states.
Avenues to Certification
States certify (i.e., license) candidates who want to teach children who are visually impaired in three main ways: requiring the candidate to graduate from an approved bachelor's or master's program from an approved college or university; have a generic degree (bachelor's or master's) in special education; or have an endorsement to an existing certificate in either early childhood, elementary, secondary, or special education, spelling out courses needed to gain that endorsement.
Nineteen states require candidates to graduate from an approved program. The National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (2003) requires that colleges or universities applying for approval document that their preparation program follows the guidelines of a recognized learned society. The Council for Exceptional Children (2003), a recognized learned society in special education, has developed performance-based standards for programs to train teachers of students who have a visual impairment. The standards cover the following areas:
* Foundations-–a general understanding of the basic terminology related to the visual system, a historical view of education of the blind, and an understanding of federal programs;
* Development and characteristics of learners-–effects of blindness on development, and physiological and psychosocial issues related to blindness;
* Individual learning differences-–effects of blindness on learning;
* Instructional strategies-–including strategies to teach Braille reading and writing, specialized daily living skills, and techniques to modify instructional materials and methods to best meet the needs of blind children;
* Learning environments/social interactions--modifying the environment for visually impaired students;
* Language--strategies for teaching alternatives to nonverbal communication for visually impaired students;
* Instructional planning--implementing and evaluating learning objectives for visually impaired students;
* Assessment--specialized techniques for visually impaired students;
* Professional and ethical practice;
* Collaboration--with families and other professionals.
If a candidate graduates from an approved program that follows the Council for Exceptional Children's standards, an administrator can predict that the teaching candidate will have the necessary background to teach Braille.
Generic Special Education Degree
Seven states required candidates to have a generic degree in special education with no mention of a course or competency in Braille. Candidates with a special education degree will have experience and skills in dealing with children with special needs but will not necessarily know how to teach Braille.
Twenty-four states require candidates to have courses in order to earn an endorsement. Candidates with endorsements will have taken an array of courses related to blindness. Some states require the students to have a single course in Braille. Completing a course brings no guarantees that the candidate is competent in Braille. Other states require candidates to show a competency in Braille. A complete state-by-state report of the findings is noted at the conclusion of this article.
Action for Administrators
Strong and convincing evidence exists that early literacy in Braille for students who are visually impaired will facilitate positive outcomes in many areas (Johnson, 1996; Ryles, 1996). To act in the best interests of children who are visually impaired, administrators must make a commitment that every child who is blind or visually impaired shall have the right to be taught Braille and that the Braille be taught by somebody who is competent in its use.
Today principals have no guarantee that a candidate with formal credentials from a state will be fluent in Braille. Administrators need to insure that every candidate hired to work with children who are visually impaired has the skills to teach Braille.
To best serve the children who are visually impaired in their care, administrators need to hire teachers qualified to teach Braille. With solid Braille literacy skills taught by competent teachers, children who are visually impaired will be able to reach their full potential and take their place in American society.
Allman, C.B. (1998). Braille communication skills: What teachers teach and visually impaired adults use. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 92(5), 331-338.
Amato, S. (2002). Standards for competence in Braille literacy skills in teacher preparation programs. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 96(3), 143-154.
American Foundation for the Blind (1996). Estimated number of adult Braille readers in the United States. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 90(3), 287.
Council for Exceptional Children (2003). Professional standards. Retrieved March 24, 2003, from http:www.cec.sped.org/ps/.
Johnson, L. (1996). The Braille literacy crisis for children. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 90(3), 276-279.
Knowlton, M., & Berger, K. (1999). Competencies required of Braille teachers. Re:View, 30(4), 151-160.
Maneki, A.P. (1989). Blindness and the Use of Partial Vision. Braille Monitor, August, 444-446.
National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (2003). Professional standards. Retrieved March 24, 2003, from http://www.ncate.org/standards/m_stds.html.
Ryles, R. (1996). Impact of Braille reading skills in employment, income, education, and reading habits. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 90(3), 219-227.
Spungin, S.J. (1996). Braille and beyond: Braille literacy in a larger context. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 90(3), 271-275.
Wittenstein, S.H., & Pardee, M.L. (1996). Teachers' voices: Comments on Braille and literacy from the field. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 90(3), 201-210.
Generic special education degree:
Alabama, Hawaii, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming
Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin
Graduate of an approved special education degree program:
Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia
Barriers Fall for Disabled Medical Students
by Linda Villarosa
From the Editor: The following article appeared in the November 25, 2003, edition of the New York Times. It provides a useful summary of the situation facing disabled people today who want to enter medicine. This is what it says:
As a fourth
year medical student, Jeffrey Lawler listens
as his patients run through their lists of physical complaints. When he touches a scar or feels for bumps, lumps, or growths, he directs all of his focus into his hands, moving his fingertips slowly over skin, tissue, and bone, occasionally pressing and prodding gently. A talking blood pressure cuff recites readings in an automated voice, and a nurse or fellow medical student lets Mr. Lawler know that a patient's temperature is hovering around 100.
Mr. Lawler's hearing and sense of touch are extra
finely tuned, because he cannot look into a patient's eyes or see if a wound has healed. He cannot read the numbers on a thermometer, blood pressure monitor, or his pager.
His eyesight began fading twenty years ago, as a result of the disease retinitis pigmentosa. By 1993 Mr. Lawler, now forty-three, was legally blind. Still he took the medical college application test with the help of a reader and a scribe and was accepted to Western University Medical School in Pomona, California. He will graduate in June near the top of his class and hopes to practice physical medicine and rehabilitation.
"The human body fascinates me, but my greatest strength as a doctor is patient contact," said Mr. Lawler, who is rarely without his guide dog Burke. "Yes, my knowledge is good, but I also bring empathy to the bedside. I've been treated by doctors who didn't really listen to me or said things like, `You're not planning on having children, are you?' So I take my time with patients and try to really listen and thoroughly explain things."
In the past, students with physical disabilities were rarely accepted to medical school, and they rarely completed it. But now Mr. Lawler joins a growing number of students with disabilities who are thriving in medical school. Though no statistics document how many of these students are attending medical school or how many disabled doctors are practicing, experts in the field note that laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 allowed disabled students access to every level of education and helped propel the current increase in medical students.
"Over the past several decades, the doors have opened for kids with disabilities to go to school, get diplomas, and graduate, so we've seen huge increases in the numbers of disabled students in undergrad," said Martha Smith, project coordinator of the Center on Self
Determination of Oregon Health and Science University. A survey of the American Council on Education notes that the number of full
time freshmen with disabilities has increased to 11 percent from 7 percent from 1988 to 1999.
"As a result," Ms. Smith said, "these college students with disabilities are part of the next wave of students who say, `I can go on to professional schools.' Over the past several years, faculty members and administrators in health sciences programs have noted that they are experiencing an increase in the number of students with disabilities who are both applying and getting in medical and dental schools and nursing programs."
Ms. Smith and colleagues at the Center on Self
Determination have trained faculty and staff members at about twenty-five medical schools in the last three years, focusing on ways to accommodate the students without sacrificing medical standards and patient safety.
Brenda Premo, director of the four
old Center for Disability Issues and the Health Professions at Western University, said: "When I first came here, the idea of a deaf or blind person being in medical school was so foreign that no one knew what I was talking about. Now I'm getting several calls a month from students with disabilities saying they want to go into health professions and many who want to become doctors."
Dr. Lisa I. Iezzoni says times have changed, perhaps drastically, from the early 80's when she attended Harvard Medical School. In her new book, When Walking Fails: Mobility Problems of Adults With Chronic Conditions, she writes poignantly of her battle with multiple sclerosis, which struck her just as she began medical school.
After graduating in 1984, Dr. Iezzoni, now a professor of medicine at Harvard, decided against practicing and chose research, partly because of an internship adviser who suggested that he could pass a "hat around to the chiefs of medicine at the various Harvard hospitals to see what they would donate toward a salary for my internship."
"A top leader at a Harvard teaching hospital also told me that there were too many doctors in the country right now for us to worry about training a handicapped doctor," said Dr. Iezzoni, forty-nine, who uses a motorized scooter. "I do regret not becoming a physician, but at some point I realized that I would be fighting all the way, at the same time I was fighting my body."
Despite increased acceptance of people with disabilities and changes in laws, attitudes may still be hard to sway, particularly in medicine.
"Doctors are the least comfortable and often the least knowledgeable about disability issues," said Dr. Julie Madorsky, fifty-eight, who practiced from 1969 to 1995. She had childhood polio and was the prototype for the character Dr. Kerry Weaver, the attending physician who walks with the aid of a crutch on the television series "ER"
Dr. Madorsky said: "There's a concept that it's `them' and `us.' The idea that someone can enter medicine with a physical disability is counterintuitive. It goes against the notion that doctors are healthy and perfect and able
bodied and patients are not."
Some people in the field worry that the physically disabled cannot fulfill the clinical requirements of medical school and that they need special treatment to graduate. There is no national criterion for technical standards for admission and graduation, and each of the nation's 126 medical schools is responsible for creating and publishing its own graduation requirements.
"It's very tricky," said Dr. Robert Sabalis, associate vice president of student affairs and programs at the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington. The organization soon plans to produce an updated overview of legal requirements for disabled medical students.
"Some medical schools, for example, say that one cannot rely on the physical skills of a third party for assistance, but other schools don't have that," Dr. Sabalis said.
Advocates for disabled students argue that some medical school standards that create hurdles for the disabled are outmoded.
"Too many schools are using the standard that a doctor has to see perfectly, walk perfectly, and hear perfectly, but if they really followed that standard, no one would graduate," said Ms. Premo of the Center for Disability Issues.
"I support dropping students who don't achieve, and I don't believe in lowering standards," she added, "but you have to allow for difference."
The disabilities legislation may have had other influences as well. No studies have looked at malpractice and whether disabled doctors and medical students are at higher risk. But, according to the Physician Insurers Association of America, a trade association of medical malpractice insurance companies, there is no difference in underwriting medical liability policies for doctors who are disabled and those who are not.
"Our application and underwriting process is blind to disabilities," said Frank O'Neil, a senior vice president at the ProAssurance Corporation, one of the nation's largest medical liability insurance companies. "As long as a doctor is trained and able to perform the procedures for which they are applying for coverage--with or without an accommodation, like a physician extender
-we don't care."
Mr. Lawler, the student, said he had a hard time getting a surgery rotation, a medical school requirement, because of his blindness.
"Me being in the operating room became a big issue," he said. "In the third year you don't do anything except hold retractors during surgery, but it was very challenging finding a site where I'd be accepted. Finally I was able to scrub in on a procedure, and I was extremely focused. All I did was hold the retractor like old medical students do to keep the cavity open, but I really concentrated because I knew I was under a microscope and didn't want to screw up."
Mr. Lawler said he trained with a physician who was also blind, Dr. Stanley Yarnell, who practiced rehabilitation medicine in the San Francisco area for twenty-seven years before retiring in June. Dr. Yarnell, fifty-five, who began losing his vision in 1969 because of recurrent optic neuritis, said he considered medicine to be a cognitive process.
"When I couldn't see something, I was able to get what I needed in terms of a description from a resident, nurse, or even a patient," Dr. Yarnell said. "But there are other low
tech ways to practice without vision. I can get a fair idea of what a patient's limp is like by walking with someone with my hands on their back, shoulders, and hips. That doesn't require vision."
As for insurance coverage, Dr. Yarnell said, "The company knew I was blind, but as long as I could perform a procedure safely with or without accommodation, then the malpractice carrier had to insure me at the same rate as other physicians performing the same procedures."
Dr. Margaret Stineman, an associate professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, was born with a deformity of her skeletal system, a reduced lung capacity, and missing muscles to move her eyes. She consults on rehabilitation of patients with neurological injuries.
"I look for settings where my mind and creativity are valued because these are the two particular gifts I have," Dr. Stineman said.
She said that early in her career some mentors were concerned that she might have difficulty getting through medical school. To her knowledge, however, "there has never been a patient who has been uncomfortable with my disabilities," she said. "I work in a trauma service, and as a person who has lived with disabilities, I can help my patients figure out how to develop ways to overcome their physical problems and grow. The life experiences that I've had are part of what I bring to patients, and they appreciate that."
Open Letter to a Blind Person:
How to Get a Job
by Mike Bullis
From the Editor: Mike Bullis has been writing a series of open letters to blind people. The topics vary, but they are all filled with practical experience and wisdom. Here is the latest.
Like most of you I started out thirty years ago looking for employment in all the traditional ways. I printed up résumés, had people read me the want ads, and went to job interviews. Job hunting was a lottery with very long odds. I printed up résumés fifty at a time and was out knocking on doors from early morning to late afternoon. Mostly looking for a job was a series of disappointments culminating in the lucky result that with a great deal of persistence I finally found employment. I never felt particularly good about the process but didn't know any other way to accomplish my goal. I assumed that everybody did it that way.
Over time I discovered that, although I always seemed to get jobs, they seldom came through the job lottery of résumés and interviews with people I didn't know. Thanks to teachers like Richard Bolles, who wrote What Color Is Your Parachute, and friends who steered me in the right directions, I've turned job hunting into--if not a truly pleasurable experience--at least one that regularly yields positive results. You can do the same.
First, forget everything you've been taught and start over. Below is my guaranteed success formula for finding employment. The only reason it won't work is if you don't work it. Well, okay, there are a few caveats. The system will work faster and more fluidly if you are able to do a few things to help yourself. First, you must know how to gather information through research and good listening skills. Second, you need to be a good conversationalist--listening more than you talk. Third, you should make a presentable appearance in your dress and social mannerisms--no rocking or putting your fingers in your eyes. Finally, and this is a big one, you need to know how to be socially pleasant--not abrasive or socially obnoxious.
1. Since one out of fifteen hundred résumés sent to an unknown employer results in a job, stop sending them out to people you haven't spoken to unless there simply isn't any other way to reach a specific employer.
2. Since going to job interviews with personnel departments at companies where you don't know anyone seldom results in employment, stop that as well. If you know of job openings at a particular company, find out who the supervisor or manager is and go speak with that person. Personnel departments can seldom hire; they can only say, "No"--not what you want to hear. Yes, most companies still allow supervisors to hire their own staff, so those are the people you want to see.
3. Since want ads are sixth or seventh on the list of ways employers use to hire, stop reading them unless you use them to help you locate companies with vacancies, but don't bother answering the ads. There are much better ways to get hired.
The nice thing about stopping all these behaviors that seldom result in jobs is that they are typically the most dreary, frustrating, and painful parts of the job search. The reason they are dreary and painful is that they require you to prepare for a long series of nos. Regular and frustrating rejection is the name of the game when you use traditional methods of job search. It's hard on your self-image and, frankly, very inefficient. So now that we've removed the most unpleasant aspects of getting a job, what's left? Below are the ABC's of locating your ideal job.
A. Do your homework. Read every article you can find about the companies you're interested in and the field generally. If articles have been written about key people, read them as well. In other words, become conversant with the business. Even if you want to become a hamburger flipper, you should know about the business. What are its biggest challenges? What are its rewards? What are its management issues? Tell every friend and acquaintance what you're interested in doing. You'll be surprised how often they know somebody in the company or field of interest and can set you up with an informational interview. More about this technique later, but suffice it to say you should do your research--learn the jargon and other topical issues in the field. You'd be surprised at how many applicants are so interested in their own needs that they fail to do this basic research and demonstrate a true interest in what the employer is looking for. Here are some things you should know:
* What is the broad history of the field?
* Who are its movers and shakers? What is their philosophy?
* What parts are stagnant or well defined and what parts are in flux or growth?
* Which are the local, state, national, and international organizations of influence in the field? This can include companies, professional organizations, citizens groups, universities, etc.
* What are the primary challenges currently facing the field?
* What is the working terminology of the occupation? Each field of endeavor develops its own acronyms, shorthand, and professional terminology. You need to know the language.
B. The number-one way employers hire is from people they know or that someone they know knows. Your main focus should be on getting to know the people who can hire you. Another thing to remember: employers would rather hire someone who is trainable and easy to get along with than someone with all the skills necessary but who creates problems on the job. If you are armed with these facts, your goal is easy. Begin telephoning people in key positions at companies you may wish to work for. If the company has thirty or fewer employees, talk to the owner or president. If more than thirty, pick an upper-level manager.
Whatever you do, don't go to personnel. Tell the person you want to speak to them that you are conducting informational interviews and would like to meet with them to talk about their company, the field generally, its plusses and minuses, and how they themselves got into it. You'd be surprised at how easy it is. All of us love to talk about ourselves and our companies. They will conclude that you're bright, inquisitive, thoughtful, and likeable if you prepare a good set of questions and listen carefully to the answers they give. The following question formula is a good starting point:
* What are your duties and responsibilities? How do you spend your day? How did you get started at this company (or in your profession)?
* What do you like most about your job? What do you like least? What kind of person is right for this kind of work?
* How can I learn more about this field? Are there specific trade journals I should be reading or associations I can join?
* How can I meet others in this field?
* What is the best way to get started (in this field or at this company)?
* I'm trying to get in to see people at some other organizations. Do you know anyone at these companies? May I use your name?
* Can you direct me to others in your department/organization/division/company with whom you think it would be appropriate for me to talk or meet?
During your discussion the person you are interviewing may speculate about how a blind person could do the necessary work. Try to avoid this because the person probably has little or no knowledge about blindness. You should assume responsibility and take control of the conversation by saying, "If you were to hire a blind person, he or she should take responsibility for knowing how to get the job done." Then move on to the next question. Don't get involved in guessing games about how this or that circumstance could be handled. You're here to learn about the field, not to discuss blindness. Usually potential employers will be impressed if you simply state that figuring out these details would be the responsibility of the blind employee.
If there are loose ends--pieces of information, possible contacts, etc.--that aren't immediately available, never leave it to a potential employer to get back to you. You should say, "I'm really hard to reach, so why don't I call you? When would be a good time?" Try never to get yourself in the position of waiting for calls. When you have asked your last question, get up and leave. More interviews have been ruined by staying too long than for almost any other reason. This employer is busy, and so are you, so get out as soon as you reasonably can.
Some people have suggested that this process is a bit dishonest. That is, if you disguise the fact that you're looking for a job, isn't that deceptive? Yes, it certainly would be deceptive, so that's not what I am recommending. If you really don't think you can learn anything by talking to middle managers and CEO's, you shouldn't conduct the interviews. I am proposing that the more information you gain the better able you will be to contribute to the field professionally and that these informational interviews are an honest process through which to educate yourself. I am also quite certain that, if you are going to get very far in any field, you need to know the people who are doing the hiring.
C. Follow your interview with a thank-you note (either by email or snail mail) and a résumé (always by snail mail). Your résumés should be crafted to address the particular job and employer. Focus on the work you have done that relates to this particular field, the problems you solved, the methods you used to solve them, and the results achieved. What jobs you have done are often of less interest in your résumé than the skills and traits you brought to the tasks. In our hamburger-flipper example, rather than talking about working full-time at McDonald's, you might say: 2000-2002 Hamburger Flipper at McDonald's. Reorganized grill area, which resulted in 11 percent efficiency increase. Reduced food waste by 3 percent. Was willing to work any and all shifts necessary. Received Company Award for Kitchen Cleanliness and implemented cleanliness plans throughout store, resulting in a 6 percent increase in customers.
You get the point. It's all about not just showing what you did but the value it contributed to the organization. Employers are smart enough to know that, if you are a problem solver in one organization, you will do the same for them as well. Never mention pay rates in a résumé or if particular work was as a volunteer. It doesn't matter and will only raise irrelevant issues.
Don't take your résumé to the information-gathering interview. After your discussion you might find a different way to word a particular skill. Besides, sending your résumé later gives you another chance to put your name in front of the employer. If he or she liked you, that résumé will not only be on file but on his or her mind. And he or she will probably like you if you asked good questions, were interested in the answers, had done your homework about the company and field, and got the heck out of there when you were finished.
What will happen, and I can guarantee it, is that, as you interview people, you will learn lots of things about the field others may not know and increase your value to employers in the process. Your blindness won't be a major factor because you are not asking for a job; you are just collecting information. Employers hate job interviews as much as you do. You have taken the pressure off them to make a decision. In a far shorter time than by using old methods, you will have a job offer.
Is it really this simple? I and many others have found it so. I would say, though, that you need to invest time at it. Statistics show that two-thirds of job hunters spend five hours or less a week in the job search. Sorry, folks, that just won't get the job done. You should be putting in at least twenty hours a week. You will have a four-to-one advantage over two-thirds of the people out there, and it will keep the process exciting and fun.
Yes, there may be an unemployment rate of 70 percent among blind people, but my observation over the years has been that some people always seem to be working while others struggle and often give up along the way. The people who are always working use some form of the process I've outlined here. For them the unemployment rate is 0 percent because they have eliminated the less productive parts of the job search and concentrated their energies on those activities most likely to yield results.
Did you know that you can make a gift to the National Federation of the Blind and save taxes three ways? Well, you can! With a gift of appreciated stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. For more information contact the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, phone (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
Learning Braille: Notes from the Trenches
by Heidi Lasher
From the Editor: For twenty years Heidi Lasher
Oakes was a sculptor. Because of progressive vision loss she decided to return to college to earn a degree in biology. Heidi called the NFB of Maryland early in 2002 to seek assistance in obtaining rehabilitation services from the state agency serving the blind. As a result Heidi attended the Colorado Center for the Blind and Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) for adjustment-to-blindness training. Since completing her training, Heidi has continued to make good progress with Braille.
She says that she has placed Braille labels on about sixty spice jars and on appliances in her kitchen as well as on her music and computer CD cases. As a new Braille reader Heidi's insights and experiences, as recounted in the following article, will be a source of encouragement to anyone interested in Braille. This story first appeared in the spring 2003 issue of the Braille Spectator, the publication of the NFB of Maryland. This is what she says:
My interest in Braille dates back to my sighted childhood. I have always loved patterns and tactile surfaces. I was originally trained in sculpture, and I taught art at the college level for six years. Now I'm a second
career graduate student at Johns Hopkins University studying biology and math. Even when I was fully sighted, saying "let me see that" meant that I wanted to hold or touch the object in question to determine its weight or texture. The base
six structure of the Braille alphabet appeals to my left brain, while its attractive tactile quality appeals to my right brain-
so both sides of my brain are happy when I am reading Braille.
Twelve years ago I began to lose my vision to what is now thought to be a rare form of X
linked retinitis pigmentosa. In July 2002 I began to receive training in skills for the blind at the Colorado Center for the Blind. Even before the start of my training, I was very excited to learn Braille. I knew acquiring skills in reading Braille would help me to resolve the greatest fear caused by my vision loss-
that I would become unable to read print before I had learned a viable alternative.
I have listened to and enjoyed books on tape for many years while working in my studio, but I have never considered them a replacement for paper books, and I do not equate listening with reading. There are two reasons that I feel this way. First, I relate to paper books as physical objects. My experience of reading a paper book is very different from reading the same words with a magnifier or listening to them on tape. While in both cases the words are abstract constructs, the book has its own individual weight, smell, and texture. Different books are made with different kinds of paper and different bindings. They can age, be damaged and repaired, and be written in or dog
eared by others. Notes can be left sandwiched between their pages. These marks of use help to reinforce their identity as unique physical objects.
Second, when I am reading a paper book, I hear the voice of the narrator in my head. The narrator is often the main character, but even if no narrator is identified, I find that I imagine a different narrator for each book I read, often for different sections of the same book. This is a phenomenon I haven't read or heard much about but which has been confirmed by friends who are avid readers. This ability to create my own voice for the narrator of each book is for me a valuable part of reading. It is almost like the auditory counterpart of illustrations-
the color and texture of the narrator's voice influences my perception of the words just as much.
For all of these reasons I eagerly anticipated learning Braille. However, my initial experience with Braille, which I have nicknamed the "Numb
Fingers" stage, was unexpectedly frustrating. I could feel just enough to know that dots were on the page, but not enough to know which dots they were. I attributed this lack of fine tactile sensation to my twenty years of experience as a sculptor, which had left me with some peripheral nerve damage in my fingers. I tried to have a sense of humor about it, but within a few days I was feeling frustrated, depressed, and fearful that my tactile ability would never improve.
One night, after about three weeks, I remembered two techniques I used to teach my drawing students to observe more carefully-
using their nondominant hand and drawing with their eyes closed. I decided to see if the same techniques might be helpful to me in learning Braille. To my surprise the experiment was an immediate and dramatic success. I had already been working under sleep shades, but somehow using my nondominant hand made a lightbulb go on inside my brain. Suddenly, without a doubt, I could recognize the first nine letters of the alphabet.
My experience of learning Braille was never as frustrating again. As I learned the rest of the alphabet and then moved on to learn the Grade II [contracted Braille] contractions, I was able to make some observations about my learning process. I was particularly interested to notice that, as I learned the letters, the tactile knowledge transferred from my nondominant to my dominant hand. Over the next few days my dominant hand gradually took over again so that now I rely on it as my primary Braille
reading hand, with my nondominant hand filling in as backup.
Also it was essential for me to learn Braille initially under sleep shades although, once I mastered the alphabet, I found it useful also to practice using visual and tactile methods together. Finally, I have been amused to observe that my mild dyslexia-
a tendency to invert or reverse print tail letters when I write, turning print b's into d's or p's and so on-
transferred itself to Braille as I got more comfortable with the characters, just as it did to the keyboard when I learned how to touch
type. In the case of Braille I have to be careful with m and ing, y and and, e and i, and most of all with that nefarious quartet, d, f, h, and j.
Learning Braille as part of a group of students was an invaluable element in my education. The group provided a sense of community, and it was helpful to be able to learn by observation and by conversations with others. For example, I was reassured to find that most of the people losing their vision as adults had at least initial difficulty feeling the dots. I have since learned that such loss of sensation is common for many people who work with their hands a lot and also for many diabetics.
The daily classes and dedicated instruction were also essential. As every accomplished Braille reader I have spoken to has told me, even two hours a day is not nearly enough, but it is definitely better than meeting with an instructor once a week. I worked regularly on my own and continue to do so now that I am back in Maryland.
After three months of Braille study I am now smoking along at the snail
like rate of between twelve and sixteen words a minute. However, I feel optimistic. Even though it is a slow process right now, it is very exciting to be able once again to read on my own, without the assistance of a computer, tape player, or other assistive device. I am counting on this excitement, along with my love of Braille, to keep me motivated in what I know will be a long process of improving my reading speed.
In closing, I offer special thanks to Tom Anderson, my Braille instructor at the Colorado Center for the Blind, for his unfailing patience, generosity, and sense of humor.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]
Appropriate Use of the Electronic Notetaker in School
by Curtis Chong
From the Editor: Curtis Chong is president of the NFB in Computer Science, our computer science division. He was recently asked to give his views on the exclusive use of electronic notetakers by students to produce their schoolwork in print. His answer was clear and concise and will be of use to many students and teachers. Here it is:
You asked me to comment upon the value of exclusively using an electronic notetaker such as a Braille Lite or BrailleNote for blind children to produce printed work in school. As you know, I have some rather definite opinions on the subject.
First I would like to say that any note
taking technology that uses a Braille keyboard to enter information and a Braille display to review it can be of tremendous value to any blind person who knows how to write and read Braille. The Braille display makes it possible for a person silently and efficiently to read what is stored in the machine, and the Braille keyboard represents an excellent way to enter information quickly with a small number of keys
allowing for a compact design. If a person is going to use an electronic notetaker such as a BrailleNote or Braille Lite, mastery of its operation is essential.
Once mastered, the device can prove to be invaluable. Many proficient Braille users find it more natural to enter information using a Braille keyboard, and for many Braille users it is preferable to read information in Braille as opposed to listening to it. As for me, I find that I write better using a typewriter
style keyboard even though I read Braille very quickly, and I prefer to finish my written work on the computer even though I may have composed a rough draft on my electronic notetaker.
A blind student who knows how to produce printed material with an electronic Braille notetaker only is at a severe disadvantage however, when compared to a blind student who knows how to prepare printed information with a Braille notetaker and a computer or a typewriter. For one thing, Braille formatting is distinctly different from print; e.g., Braille lines are shorter, and the Braille layout is more compact: a student entering information in Braille is not as likely to take this difference into account as a student who is using a computer and a commercial off
shelf word processing program. For another thing, it is highly likely that information entered correctly into a notetaker using correct contracted Braille will produce erroneous results when the material is transformed into print. For example, a double hyphen (
) when entered in Braille could produce "com
" in print; "Dear Al" written in Braille would transform into "Dear Also" in print; or that "CD" I was writing about in Braille would be printed as "COULD" in print. To correct this conversion problem, the Braille user must necessarily learn some bad Brailling habits.
As blind people who live in a world designed for those with sight, we must necessarily create documents in print so that our friends, family members, and coworkers can read them. In fact I would go so far as to say that a majority of the documents that a typical blind person generates throughout the course of his or her life are for the benefit of people who can see. This is not surprising given that the blind represent a very small fraction of the total population.
Therefore it is necessary for any blind person who expects to lead a normal life to understand how printed material should be formatted. For example, how is a paragraph indicated in print? I can think of three ways: placing a blank line between paragraphs, indenting the first line of the paragraph, and leaving a blank line before the indented first line of the paragraph. When should a particular heading be centered? When should a heading be aligned with the left margin? What about page numbers? Are they printed at the top right of the page, the bottom right of the page, or are they printed at all? What is the difference between a proportionally spaced font and a mono
spaced font? These are questions that print readers can answer without thinking too hard. I am sorry to say that this is not as true for the blind.
Recently, as director of field operations for the Iowa Department for the Blind, I had an opportunity to chat with a graduating high school senior who was headed for college. I asked her how she prepared her school papers in print. She indicated that she used a Braille 'n Speak. I asked her if she knew how to create a footnote. She said, "No." I asked her if she knew how to operate Microsoft Word. She said, "No." I asked her about the formatting of her printed reports. She said that all of her material was aligned with the left margin
no centering, no page numbering, and no highlighting of text. The tragedy of this situation was that the student could not understand why I was concerned about this situation.
What I am trying to say, in a rather roundabout fashion, is that it is critical for blind students (and blind adults, for that matter) to have the knowledge and the ability to produce printed material with a variety of tools. Electronic Braille notetakers are one way to generate print; but just as it is important to master these devices, it is equally important for a blind person to be able to create printed material using a word processing program running on a regular computer.
If a person hopes to work in a professional job or attend an institution of higher learning, this latter skill is not only desirable but essential. College professors and potential employers will not regard with favor anyone who says that he or she can generate printed reports only with a Braille Lite or a BrailleNote. Moreover, the quality of a blind person's work will suffer if these technologies represent the only way in which a person can produce printed material. I find it highly disturbing that any professional in the field of work with the blind would limit the achievement of a single person by recommending the exclusive use of a Braille notetaker for creating printed work.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Anil Lewis]
Georgia on My Mind
by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: Anil Lewis is president of the NFB of Georgia and a newly elected member of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind. This is what he says about the 2004 NFB convention:
Atlanta, Georgia, is my home. I have always taken for granted the ability to travel from ocean, past countryside, through city, to mountain within a six-hour drive. I have been privileged to rub elbows with one of the most diverse populations in the country. Atlanta is a melting pot within the American melting pot. We have citizens from across the country and around the globe. Atlanta has something to offer regardless of where you are from. Those from little towns marvel at the tall buildings, shops, restaurants, and nightlife. Those from the big cities enjoy the laid-back, friendly comfort of a southern city experienced in offering hospitality.
I personally like to say that Atlanta is a little country town disguised as a big city. Indeed Atlanta is a lovely city with wonderful people, presenting tremendous possibilities. As the National Federation of the Blind prepares to hold our annual convention in the Possibility City of Atlanta, in the Peach State of Georgia, I am delighted to welcome you to my home.
This is the first of several opportunities I will take to encourage you to attend the 2004 NFB convention, which is destined to be one of our best yet. The following paragraphs are meant to whet your palate, as the members of the NFB of Georgia put the final touches on our plans as your hosts.
Of course the experienced staff of our national office will coordinate the lion's share of the convention. Because of their efforts we are fortunate once again to be in the world-class facility of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, with convention room rates that continue to be the envy of all. The program being developed will assure that we will hear speakers and presentations to educate and enlighten us. The exhibit hall will provide blind people from around the world the opportunity to check out the latest developments in technology and other products and services that allow the blind to be more independent and more productive. By this time Dr. Maurer is well into his preparation of an entertaining and insightful convention banquet speech that clearly defines our purpose and motivates us to reach our goals.
We are tapping the experienced members of the Georgia affiliate who helped to host the superb conventions of 1999 and 2000 to plan complementary events that will round out everyone's convention experience. We are currently working on tours that should make the convention feel more like a vacation than a conference. Georgia is rich in Civil War history. One tour is specially designed for the Civil War buff. This will include a trip to Stone Mountain and perhaps the opportunity to attend an impressive laser show. Further, Atlanta is a city rich in civil rights history and the home of Martin Luther King, Jr. The conventioneer interested in civil rights history will not want to miss an opportunity to visit the King Center and other historic civil rights landmarks.
We are also working collaboratively with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and Atlanta's Fernbank Science Center to develop a Touch the Universe tour that takes the Touch the Universe experience of the 2003 convention to the next level. We will also have tours that are just plain fun. We are putting together trips to Zoo Atlanta, World of Coca-Cola, and maybe even a baseball game or a trip to the Six Flags over Georgia amusement park. In addition there will be other options like trips to special locations, visits to local entertainment spots, a dinner dance, and dinner theater.
The two parties being planned by the Georgia affiliate will give everyone time to relax and have fun. It will indeed be a challenge to surpass the musical entertainment of our 1999 and 2000 conventions of blues, swing, and rock and roll. We have gotten such wonderful feedback about all the previous performances that it will be difficult deciding what form the entertainment should take this year. We welcome this challenge, however, and remain certain that everyone will have a good time.
While you are here, be sure to stop by the Georgia affiliate suite for a little southern hospitality. There you will experience Georgia with your taste buds. Georgia peaches, peanuts, and sweet potato pie will be available to sample. If you desire more than a sample, these delicacies, along with other Georgia trinkets and memorabilia, will be on sale at the Georgia table in the exhibit hall.
We recognize it is our job as the host affiliate to make sure that all of you enjoy yourselves. We are busy putting the friendly touches on a national convention that we hope will be second to none. I hope all of you will be able to attend. Georgia is on my mind; I hope it is on yours as well.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Judy Sanders]
The Cane and I
by Judy Sanders
From the Editor: Judy Sanders is a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind. She now lives in Minneapolis. The following article appeared in the summer 2003 issue of the Minnesota Bulletin, the publication of the NFB of Minnesota. Her story is similar to those of many of us who grew up before parents knew to get canes into the hands of their young blind children. Luckily, mastering the long cane is not like Braille literacy, much more easily done when started early. True, children who begin using the cane as toddlers may well learn its value easily and naturally, but with determination and the inspiration of good role models, anyone can learn to use the long white cane at any point in his or her pedestrian life. Here is Judy's story:
It all began when I was ten. It should have started a lot earlier, but that's easy to say now. When my parents discovered that their baby twins were blind, they were devastated. What kind of future could they envision for their children? To find out, they began looking for blind adults from whom they could learn. They found two sources: a sheltered workshop that gave blind adults very limited employment opportunities, and a blind bowling league. They volunteered to drive people to the bowling alley. Unfortunately, they did not learn much from these contacts about what the future could hold.
My parents were practical people; they realized the importance of allowing us to explore our environment. The first thing to go was the playpen. We were encouraged to move around the floor and see what we could find. I am told that I never crawled; I scooted everywhere.
Later they began investigating our choices for a good education. In the 1950's most blind children were educated at schools for the blind. We were given a good foundation in reading and writing Braille and in other academics; however, no attention was given to teaching us how to travel from place to place safely and independently--that is, until I was ten.
We learned about inside safety. Trailing the walls and holding our hands in front of our faces for protection from overhead objects was the first lesson. We all felt ridiculous hiding our faces, so we never used this technique except during lessons, when we had no choice. To this day I have never met a blind person who travels this way.
My first cane was a short, crook-handled aluminum cane. It was heavy, and I never relaxed while using it. For one thing, I used it only during lessons; no one made me use it at other times, and I was not motivated to do it on my own. In fact, I felt very self-conscious when traveling with this cane. I knew people were staring at me. I knew that some blind people made a living by begging on the streets, and I had heard that they carried tin cups with a picture of a white cane on them. I did not want to be one of those people.
Though adults assured me that it was not necessary for me to use my cane when traveling with sighted people, I was also told I was amazing for what I could accomplish with the cane. My instructor was invited to speak to various civic groups, and I remember being asked to demonstrate the cane. I walked from my chair to the edge of the stage and the audience gasped because I stopped just in time to keep from falling into their laps.
Throughout high school and college I used a folding cane and carried a purse big enough to hide it. My college friends would meet me and take me from place to place. I now know that my social life would have been much more satisfying if I had asserted my independence. I would then have been equal to my peers.
Upon graduating from college, I was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind. People were talking about going to a national convention in Houston, Texas, and I considered joining them. I weighed the pros and cons of this journey.
Pro: I wanted a teaching career, and I knew I would have the chance to meet other blind educators. Con: I would not know where to go upon arrival. Pro: I knew several people who were going, and I could stick with them--at least I would not be alone when getting lost.
The pro list won the day, and I had the time of my life. I cannot say that I magically transformed myself into an avid cane user, but I began thinking. I noticed how little effort it took for blind people to get around the huge hotel. They even left the hotel to explore the city. Why wasn't I doing these things?
In the next few years I came to know all that the Federation had to offer. My Federation friends have given me far more than I can ever give back. With respect to the cane, I have come to value my freedom to come and go as I please. I can take pride in saying to my sighted friends and colleagues that I will meet them somewhere. I now travel thousands of miles each year alone and don't think twice about it.
Times have changed. Not only do we have an organization for parents of blind children, but because of the National Federation of the Blind we now have adjustment-to-blindness training centers operated by blind people to teach the use of the cane and make the students proud. Blind people are equal partners in today's society, and the cane is one reason why.
I now travel with a lightweight, fiberglass cane and it stands straight and tall. I no longer need a purse in which to hide my cane, and I can smile at the people who stare at me.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Teresa and Loren Wakefield]
Run TV Show Illustrates Capabilities of the Nonsighted
by Stacey Palevsky
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Tuesday, October 21, 2003, edition of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Not by accident, the paper went up on NFB-NEWSLINE® on the opening day of the Iowa affiliate's convention, which was held in Waterloo. An editor from the paper made a presentation on the convention agenda, and this Courier staff writer also wrote a story about NFB-NEWSLINE, which was published the day before the convention opened. The community television program which is the subject of this story was described in detail at convention by the chapter members who produce it. It is clear from what the reporter writes that these Federationists have done an excellent job of conveying their message of hope and possibility to the community. Here is the story:
Her hands glide along the camera's smooth black surface. Sally Ripplinger memorizes the slope of the handle, the location of the zoom wheel. Through her headphones she hears the show's director give the one minute warning. Her back straightens. She instinctively looks straight ahead but cannot see what her camera tapes. Ripplinger is blind.
On this Thursday afternoon the Black Hawk chapter of the Iowa Federation of the Blind records its third public television show, "I'm Blind, So What?" The show's core purpose is to educate the sighted viewers and others who are blind.
The interview based show also is meant to illustrate the capabilities of the blind. It airs at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays on channel 17.
The show was the brainchild of Fransesca Soans, director at Waterloo Public Access, who happened to meet Loren and Teresa Wakefield. The blind married couple operate a vending machine business and tend machines in City Hall, where Soans's studio is located.
While in Washington, D.C., Soans saw an art exhibit by a blind photographer, inspiring her to try to recreate the concept in Waterloo. She then approached the Wakefields about doing their own television show.
"I know it's unusual, because TV is a visual medium and they cannot see," Soans said. "But for a healthy democracy we need truly diverse perspectives. And these people's stories are not available through mainstream outlets."
The Wakefields saw this as a collaborative opportunity for Federation members. The couple recruited Peg Brandt Zea, Laurie Marsch, and Ripplinger for their team. All were born blind or lost their sight during childhood except Brandt Zea. She cannot drive because she is legally blind, but she can see enough to get around without a cane.
"We're like brothers and sisters," Marsch said of the group, who have known each other since high school. This camaraderie is particularly evident during the show's hour setup.
Marsch and Ripplinger take a break to chat briefly. Loren Wakefield, who is the show's interviewer, talks with Brandt Zea about potential questions for his guest, Barb Weigel, a project specialist for the Iowa Department for the Blind.
Meanwhile, Teresa Wakefield gingerly climbs a stepladder. With the vocal guidance of Soans's assistant, Dave Hammer, she locates each peg to hang the set's tapestry. When the sighted Hammer notices an additional nail is needed, he switches places with Teresa.
Loren jokingly asks why his wife is making such a ruckus. The petite Teresa, clad in a sweatshirt that says "Braille Readers Are Leaders," laughs and swears it's not her making the noise. "Most people don't think the show is done by us," Teresa said.
"But it actually is. We're all involved," Brandt Zea added. "Everything you see and hear was done by blind people."
The introductory music is played by a blind pianist. The oil canvas landscape that hangs on the set was painted by a blind artist. And except for a little guidance from Soans and Hammer to focus and angle the cameras, the show is led by these five people.
"The biggest change was the way the controls were taught. We couldn't just point to a button," Soans said. "But they're so used to dealing with limitations of a sighted world, I knew they would have suggestions."
The group adapted well. They learned the equipment by touching the cameras and soundboard. Instead of pointing to signal the beginning and end of a program, they use a small plastic clapper to signal the host.
"Technology doesn't have to be limiting. This show is a testimony to the abilities of the blind," Soans said. Blind technology has improved over the years and has made life better for many. All five have a voice
activated computer program in their homes and are looking to get the costly program donated for the studio's computers. Their goal is to need even less sighted help.
The team is proud of the precedent it is setting. When Teresa presented "I'm Blind, So What?" at the Federation of the Blind's state convention, many people asked how they could start a show in their town.
"Blindness is only a characteristic," Loren said. "I know a lot of sighted people who lack self confidence--they're afraid to try, afraid they might fail. But you've got to go out there and make yourself do it."
The team embodies this philosophy. Teresa spearheads a national program called "Braille Is Beautiful" in the Hudson schools. Loren plays the drums in his church band. Marsch bowls in a blind league; their team's name is the Gutter Sweepers.
"This show reinforces to us that if you want to do something badly enough, you'll find a way," Marsch said. "The public will see we're just like anyone else. We laugh, we cry, we have families."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lee Frazier]
A Labor of Love
by Lee Frazier
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the May 15, 2003, issue of the Pathfinder, the publication of the NFB of Louisiana. Lee Frazier is the president of the Lake Area Chapter of the NFB of Louisiana. He and his members are busy helping blind people throughout their community and, in doing so, changing attitudes about the capacities of blind people around the Lake Charles area. Recently his chapter members were asked to serve as advisors and active participants in building a public park in Lake Charles. Here is Lee's story:
While attending a community meeting, four Lake Area Chapter members were introduced to the concept of a new public park. We volunteered to go to a nearby city to visit a park that had been built in the past few years. While following the tour through the playground, we were invited to climb a set of steps about twenty feet high, without knowing where we were headed. Six children were behind us, wanting us to hurry. We arrived at the top to find no way out except to slide down a twisty tunnel slide. So with cane in one hand and notebook in the other, down we went, only to come face to face with a television camera and lots of laughter.
While returning home, the four of us discussed the notion of placing Braille signs in our playground. But before we could raise the idea of Braille to anyone, we first had to get involved in the planning and designing of the playground. One chapter member sat on the accessibility committee and made sure all children would be able to play. Then another chapter member joined the special needs committee and helped design a history wall that could be examined by touch. As members of these committees and now friends with everyone, including the directors and engineers, we asked about installing Braille.
We weren't surprised to hear that no one had any knowledge of Braille and wanted to see a sample. So with a crash course in Braille and a lot of patience, we built a sample Braille sign saying "playground" and shipped it to New York for approval. In twenty years of designing and building these parks, they had never been approached with the idea of Braille for blind children. Our committee gave unanimous approval when we were asked, "Would you be willing to help build signs for other parks if people wanted them?" The answer was yes, yes, and yes.
When park construction began, city officials didn't know that we had already started on the Braille signs three weeks earlier--all seventy-six of them. The problem with building the park was that they didn't have enough crew captains, so in we stepped again. The captains had to work a mere three four-hour shifts a day which added up to twelve hours a day, with two lunch breaks. The hours were long, and trying to keep up with four or five crews a shift was really challenging. Nearly the entire chapter turned out to soap all the wood screws, carry water and cold drinks, hold wood as it was being cut and shaped, and even operate the chop saw when the captain said, "chop!"
Our chapter members helped to build this two-and-one-half-acre park and a three-story tree house in ten days. The news media had a blast with blind people helping put a playground together. The final touch was installing the Braille signs. Upon the completion of the project our work received local, state, and national recognition. In September 2000 we completed one of the largest public parks ever built, and we are proud to say this park contained the latest in accessibility for everybody.
For the Thrill of It
by Lohr McKinstry
From the Editor: The following news story first appeared in the February 8, 2003, edition of the Press
Republican, in Plattsburgh, New York. Some of the details about Braille classroom equipment are garbled, but the spirit of this active, normal boy shines through in the reporter's words. In the spirit of winter fun, here is the story:
Blaise Bryant doesn't see the bobsled run when he hurtles down it on his small sled. Some people might close their eyes out of fear as they plunge along at forty miles an hour on a steel sled down a narrow, ice covered track, but Blaise doesn't have that luxury.
Blind since birth, the eleven-year-old Moriah Elementary School student steers the bobsled by instinct. He counts turns, each of which has a name, and knows just when to turn, when to lean, and how high to go on the icy sides to find that perfect racing line. "I have the track mapped in my head," he said. "I can tell where the turns are. We start at 'Shady,' which is a wicked big turn. I can just feel it in my body."
He must be doing something right. Blaise and his sister Joy won the gold medal in bobsledding for the eight twelve years age class at the 2000 Empire State Games in Lake Placid. In the Pee Wee Bobsled Championships last year, they won the bronze medal for best time and the award for most consistent sledding. This year they took a silver medal for best time.
Joy is twelve years old. She and Blaise switch off on driver and brakeman duties on the pee wee sled, which is about one quarter the size of a regular bobsled.
"She's usually my teammate," Blaise said. "I do fight with her, though."
Piloting a little sled down a long track runs in the Bryant family. Blaise's father, Daniel, was a skeleton racer for fifteen years and was part of the World Cup team. His mother is Marla Rodriguez of Port Henry.
"My father talked about it; that's how I got interested," Blaise said.
"His dad was a skeleton team captain right up to when it became an Olympic sport," said Moriah Elementary Principal William Larrow. "Blaise takes after him."
Blaise started bobsledding three years ago. "It was awesome," he said. "My classmates thought it was awesome too."
It's not his only interest. His favorite subjects in school are spelling and geography. In fact he just won the school championship in the National Geographic Magazine Geography Bee at Moriah.
"The [final] question was: the currencies of Mexico and Argentina? I said peso. When they told me I'd won, I couldn't talk for thirty seconds."
For his win he received a medal, a cash award, and a certificate.
Blaise is in fifth grade at Moriah, and he's usually well prepared for his schoolwork, said his teacher, Gail Baker.
"He's lots of fun," she said. "He listens so carefully that he finds humor in things other kids miss."
Blaise has an aide, Lynn Anderson, who works with him. "He has a Brailler in class, and he types his answers," Baker said. The Perkins Brailler is a typewriter like device that can translate the raised dot system of Braille into written English. Blaise also has a set of Braille textbooks, and Anderson translates into Braille for him.
"He's a great little guy," Larrow said. "He's very pleasant. We enjoy having him at Moriah."
One of Blaise's other pursuits is pee wee football; he has played center for three years.
"The coaches and the other players tell me where to go. I just kind of feel my way through."
The coaches line him up in the right direction, Larrow said. "He knows where to go. He does it." Blaise has excellent orientation and mobility, Larrow said. "He can travel the community on his own. He functions very well in the school. He gets around."
When Blaise gets out of school, he's not sure what career he wants to follow. It might be teaching, but it's hard to tell if he's serious when he smiles and says, "I think about doing a bunch of stuff. But maybe I'll be a teacher. A wacky teacher. The teachers here are nice and wacky."
[PHOTO/CAPTION: John Bailey]
Don't Shoot the Piano Tuner:
Should We Avoid the Blind Trades?
by John Bailey
From the Editor: John Bailey edits the Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia. The following article appeared in the summer 2003 issue. Here it is:
In some of the blindness-related journals I have been reading recently, I have noticed comments that bothered me. The authors argued that the traditional blind trades were inferior to regular jobs and should be avoided as career choices. This wasn't said in so many words; however, the message was obvious.
In the past agencies serving the blind offered only a few training choices to their clients wanting to work. If the client wanted to be trained for a career outside of a narrow list of approved careers, the agency refused to help and told clients they were on their own. So many blind people over the years were trained for careers that were not their first choice in order to receive the financial assistance they needed. As a result many people spent their lives in jobs they didn't want and were unsuited for. They were forced by bad luck and bad advice into one of the so-called blind trades.
Some of those occupations were piano tuning, massage therapy, vending stand operator, and chair caning. Approved trades boiled down to those that used the allegedly enhanced hearing and tactile senses of the blind, according to the agency experts.
Today blind men and women have far more choices. Largely because of the work of the National Federation of the Blind and its efforts to reform the agencies, blind people no longer have to settle for the very limited career choices their predecessors had. It is understandable that people still feel some disinclination to choose a career in a blind trade. But in an effort to exert our new ability to choose, some people are unfairly denigrating the blind trades and those who work in them.
A little over a year ago I adopted a piano from a Federation friend who no longer wanted it. It was in pretty good condition considering that it was built when my parents were in high school. One thing it did need, however, was a tuning. As soon as the piano arrived, I got a call from another Federation friend who is a piano tuner. He wanted to set up an appointment for tuning my instrument.
When the time for the appointment came, so did the tuner. He was right on time. Being a curious person, I asked if I could watch while he fixed my piano. He agreed and began to work. We talked about pianos and about his career as a tuner. He had freely chosen and now loved his career. He described traveling from one appointment to another and explained that he had to look for new clients constantly while taking care of his current ones. A bit over an hour later he was done tuning the piano and giving me an education. He had a new client, and I had a new respect for a self-employed entrepreneur who happened to be blind.
My day job is as a computer programmer. I write software and carry out other duties as assigned. One of those duties is interviewing perspective employees. After interviewing for several years, I have learned which employee traits are valuable to my organization. Some of the traits sought by organizations include working independently with a minimum of direction, managing time and meeting deadlines, solving expected and unexpected problems as they occur, communicating effectively, cultivating new business opportunities.
My self-employed piano-tuner friend had all these traits and more. He was the only one working to expand his business, keeping track of his expenses, and collecting fees. He was solely responsible for arranging his transportation and making sure that he acquired the latest training. If he got sick and couldn't work, he did not get paid. If he wanted to take a vacation, he again lost income for that time. The success or failure of the business was completely his responsibility. Few people have the drive to pursue this kind of career.
So remember, there is no shame in working at an honest job that gives personal satisfaction and pays well enough to cover one's material needs. The only shame is in excluding a potentially satisfying career choice because of an unfounded prejudice.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: John Jay Frank, Ph.D., CRC, LPC]
by John Jay Frank
From the Editor: Three years ago Dr. John Frank requested reader assistance with the research for his doctoral dissertation. A number of you stepped in to help, and now he has provided us with a summary of that research. He is a research scientist at the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is something of a two-edged sword. Some disabled people have begun using it as an excuse for expecting others to do for them what they find it irksome to do for themselves, even when that would be appropriate. But the ADA is the law of the land, and the access it is supposed to provide often does not materialize. The following analysis of a tiny piece of the ADA picture provides an interesting illustration:
The Braille Monitor published a request for research volunteers in February of 2000. My dissertation centered on problems encountered with employment-related requests for print-access accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). An earlier research study I conducted focused on requests for large print. This time most of the informants used Braille or audio formats to access print information.
I conducted interviews in the fall of 2002. The twenty informants ranged in age from thirty-seven to sixty-four. Sixteen were college-educated professionals; four were unemployed. All the stories were of requests for access to print information made after 1994; they were reasonable and were made to entities covered by the law. The issue I was concerned with was people's reasons for avoiding requesting accommodation. I revealed that focus in my second set of interviews when I called the informants back to check the accuracy of the initial interviews.
My research did not look for barriers to employment. We already know lack of access to print information is a barrier. Rather this research sought (1) barriers within the ADA request process and (2) the way these affected the people who encountered them. A qualitative interview study can describe a phenomenon, but it cannot determine if it is widespread. Readers will have to consider whether these barriers to requests and the responses to those barriers fall within their own experience, thereby suggesting the prevalence of the findings.
A request for access to print for an employment interview or on a job are not the only areas covered by the ADA that aid employment. Access to print information in many areas is needed. Below is a brief summary of my findings. I found a minimum of three examples for each of the areas described and for each of the six major themes that emerged from those findings. Barriers were revealed in the following twelve areas where requests for accommodation were made:
1. School and Training. Even programs in rehabilitation failed to provide access.
2. Tests, Licenses and Certification. Some state governments and private national agencies refused to provide alternate formats.
3. The Search for Employment. Newspapers and reader services refused access. Professional organizations refused to provide their journals and newsletters in alternate formats. These all contain employment information.
4. Contact with Prospective Employers. Various telephone services and the United States Post Office refused to provide access to their services.
5. Travel to the Employment Site. This included bus and para-transit services, airports, and information for pedestrians. Requests for alternate formats for information concerning those services were denied or delayed.
6. Access to Stores, Hotels, and Restaurants. People who must use those services as part of their employment or as part of a job search were denied access or told they had access when they did not and at times were humiliated in the request process.
After a person had a job, we found the following barriers in requests for access to print.
7. Printed Material Given to All Employees. Printed materials such as information about employee benefits and rules; and insurance, tax, and payroll information were requested in alternate formats but not provided.
8.and 9. Access to a Bank and Access for Bill Paying were both denied. This is how a paycheck is used and is a reason for working. It allows an employee to continue working.
10. Continuing Education, which many jobs provide or require, was not made accessible.
11. Using Computers. Training on new programs or equipment and information on new products were requested, but not provided. Finally, in the face of all these barriers,
12. The Complaint Process turned out to be ineffectual. Filing complaints after being denied access was a full-time, frustrating, futile, and even dangerous job.
I further analyzed the multiple stories that fell into these twelve areas and found the following six themes:
First, Broken Trust and Betrayal. The most offensive barriers to accommodation requests came from organizations that were expected to know and care about the needs of people with severe disabilities. These included independent living centers, state vocational rehabilitation agencies, university disability counselors, a consumer blindness advocacy organization, and the agencies charged with the enforcement of laws designed to protect the rights of people with severe disabilities at the city, county, state, and national levels.
Entities that are required to accommodate but do not are ignorant or unlawful or both. Their illegal behavior is simply the normal, everyday variety of discrimination. When the entities that know better or are specifically responsible for providing accommodation or for protecting the rights of people with disabilities refuse, resist, or obstruct requests for accommodation, their actions constitute broken trust and betrayal. Such an offense becomes a major reason to avoid requesting even essential ADA accommodations.
The second major theme is the Multiplicity of Barriers. Describing each obstacle to an accommodation request invites attempts to repair the ADA request process one problem at a time or on a case-by-case basis. That process itself is a barrier. The sheer number of barriers that can be dissected for a simple ADA request makes avoidance of making requests the preferable choice. For example, multiple printed materials must be made accessible, multiple steps be taken for each one, and multiple people contacted at various sources, expecting to be trained by the requester. A blind person has multiple types of accommodation to choose from.
Multiple problems may emerge for each of the above steps, requiring that the requester come up with multiple solutions. Any one of a multitude of changes requested may cascade into a multitude of additional changes of things that might be better left undisturbed. Further, requests invite multiple opinions from the people to whom the request is made. They comment about the need, the accommodation, blindness, the requester, and the ADA. Such comments may be irrelevant to the initial purpose of the request, which then gets lost amid this multiplicity of barriers.
The purpose of a request for print access is not to get print access or to pay attention to the process or to collect opinions about the process. The purpose or goal is to use the information in some way, just as everybody else uses print information. The multiplicity of barriers obscures or interferes with that goal. It may be preferable to avoid requesting ADA accommodation in order to accomplish the original task in a less cumbersome way.
The next major theme was Fear of Retaliation. The most severe example was of the requester's house being shot into after the person brought state government witnesses in to observe an entity's refusal to provide alternate formats. Other examples included fear that materials such as state applications or U.S. mail would be deliberately lost, fear of being sued, or fear of inviting the boss's or coworkers' anger. The informants understood that the redress processes designed to protect them (both that of government agencies and courts) were ineffective and often a waste of time, although one informant was successful with complaints because of his very aggressive approach. Again, all the themes refer to problems in the ADA request process, not just to barriers that have always existed.
The fourth major theme--Problems with Technology--is in itself nothing new, but for this study the barrier occurred in the failure to provide requested alternate formats for training, repairs, and upgrades.
The fifth theme was unanticipated by the researcher, who has a lifelong severe visual impairment but still uses large print. This study found that the Concept of Print is different for some people who have never seen print. Some informants thought Braille was a print issue but did not see computers as a print issue, and they did not think that audible traffic control devices and calling out bus stops (which are accessed by mechanical or human readers) were an access-to-print issue. This highlights the fact that ADA requests are likely to be made only for things that are known or recognized as both helpful and covered by the law.
The final major theme was that, given these obstacles, some people resorted to habit to fulfill their needs. They avoided using the ADA request process and instead relied on the processes they have learned that do work, such as their own volunteers' providing access to information. Another habit is to do without the access the ADA has promised but does not yet deliver.
Informants avoided the ADA request process because of the barriers they encountered invoking it. They were taught by those barriers not to make requests. The most successful avoidance was to avoid the official ADA process and go to the top, to a better source. Some of the successful means were to go to the director of a firm or the dean of a school, to create negative newspaper publicity, to contact politicians, to use personal friends who are technology experts, or to use mass political action. However, such means are not desired by or available to everyone. A cost/benefit analysis of the ADA-accommodation-request process must include its cost to people with disabilities who make and pursue requests.
Some professionals in the rehabilitation field have suggested that problems with the ADA request process indicate a need to teach people with disabilities how to request ADA accommodation. That implies that disability discrimination is due to our lack of knowledge. This was clearly not the case for these informants. The covered entities, including state and local governments, refused and obstructed equality of access.
Today the courts are denying the need for the ADA, and advocacy efforts often progress piecemeal. It is important to record the disability discrimination experienced within the process of the law in order to discover where attention needs to be directed. This study of twenty blind people cannot speak for the millions of people with disabilities in our country who may face similar obstacles, but it points the way to needed research.
I believe we no longer need to collect and discuss opinions about the ADA and its effects. What is needed is to collect information on actual ADA behaviors and why they occurred. The questions that survey researchers should ask are the following: What was requested and what was the response? What was received? If an accommodation was provided, was it effective? Such research should involve people with disabilities who are obviously covered by the law making requests to obviously covered entities of things that are obviously reasonable. This will begin the process of monitoring the implementation of the ADA. A crucial area to record is the effect the law is having on people who are covered by the ADA who attempt to use it. The ADA is teaching some people that they are not wanted, not because they are blind, which was the pre-ADA reason for devaluing us, but because their civil right as an American to equality of access is not sufficiently valued.
I finished the dissertation project and earned the doctor of philosophy degree from Syracuse University. Many thanks to the NFB, the Braille Monitor, and the volunteers who made this research possible.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Allen Harris]
Convention Scholarships Available
by Allen Harris
From the Editor: Allen Harris chairs the Jernigan Fund Committee. He has an important announcement for those who would like to attend this year's national convention but find themselves short of funds. This is what he says:
The Jernigan Fund Committee has established criteria for the Dr. Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarships for 2004. These factors will be considered when awarding Jernigan Convention Scholarships:
* Attendance at previous national conventions
* Activity at the local, state, or national level
* Recommendation from the state president. (A formal letter is required. The president must provide a letter to the committee on an applicant's behalf. If you do not know who your state president is, contact Allen Harris at (515) 274
* Amount of assistance requested.
When applying for a convention scholarship, please write a brief paragraph on why you wish to attend the convention. Submit your application letter and statement to Allen Harris, 524 4th Street, Apartment 502
B, Des Moines, Iowa 50309, phone (515) 274
Applications are due by April 1, 2004. Every effort will be made to notify scholarship finalists by May 15, 2004. The National Federation of the Blind annual convention is in Atlanta, Georgia, beginning on June 29, 2004, and adjourning on July 5 at 5:00 p.m. If you have questions or need additional information, contact Allen Harris.
This month's recipes have been contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Puerto Rico.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Alpidio Rolón]
by Alpidio Rolón
Alpidio Rolón is president of the NFB of Puerto Rico.
4 medium potatoes
6 large eggs
1 medium onion
Oil for cooking
Method: Peel and cut potatoes into 1-by-1/8-inch slices. Slice onion and mix with potatoes. Deep fry in oil for eight minutes or until potatoes are tender. Once done, lift vegetables from oil and allow to drain. Beat eggs thoroughly, throw potatoes and onion into eggs, and mix well. Pour mixture into large nonstick frying pan, and cover. If using a large range, set heat to medium-low. Turn heat to low after fifteen minutes, and let egg mixture cook for another five minutes. Flip omelet into a dish so that the bottom becomes the top. Omelet can be divided into three ample portions. It can be served with a salad of lettuce, fresh onion rings, cucumber, and large olives and dressed with either Italian dressing or olive oil, apple cider vinegar, and lemon juice.
by Odette Quiñones
Odette Quiñones is a founder and active member of the NFB of Puerto Rico.
6 tablespoons rice flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons sugar
2 cups milk
1 piece lemon rind
Method: Mix rice flour, salt, and sugar together. Add milk and lemon rind. Cook at low heat, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. When mixture thickens, pour into dishes. Let cool and sprinkle with cinnamon. This makes six servings.
Arroz con Dulce
by Odette Quiñones
6 cups water
1 piece chopped ginger
1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
1-1/4 cup rice
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons lard
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground anise seeds
2 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3 ounces raisins
Method: Soak rice for two hours, then drain. Bring water and ginger, anise seeds, and cinnamon sticks to a boil and strain. Cook the rice covered in the ginger water over low heat. When rice is tender, add sugar, lard, and salt, and continue cooking. Before removing from heat, add the ground anise seeds, raisins, and ground cloves. Pour into a serving dish and sprinkle with ground cinnamon. This dish is usually eaten as a dessert during the Christmas season. Makes twelve servings.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Lydia Usero]
Barrigas de Vieja
(Old Lady's Bellies)
by Lydia Usero
Lydia Usero is first vice president of the NFB of Puerto Rico.
2 cups cooked, mashed pumpkin
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 beaten eggs
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar
Fat for frying
Method: Sift together flour, salt, cloves, cinnamon, and sugar. Add flour mixture and beaten eggs to pumpkin and stir to blend well. Drop by spoonfuls into hot oil and pan-fry. Drain. Barrigas de viejas are usually served as an appetizer, and they also taste delicious with milk. Makes sixteen fritters.
Fricasé de Pollo
by Lydia Usero
1 3-pound ready-to-cook chicken, cut in pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon marjoram (oregano)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 pound chopped ham
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 pound potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 ounces onions, sliced
1/2 cup olives
1 tablespoon capers
2 pimentos, sliced
Method: Mix salt, marjoram, garlic, pepper, and vinegar, and rub mixture well all over chicken before cooking. Place in kettle with rest of ingredients except olives, capers, and potatoes. Stir ingredients well to mix, cover, and cook over low heat. Stir two or three times while cooking. When the chicken is almost tender, add olives, capers, and potatoes. Remove from heat when potatoes are tender. Serve over white rice. Serves six to eight.
Puerto Rican Eggnog
by Gerardo Martínez
Gerardo Martínez is a member of the board of directors of the NFB of Puerto Rico and the father of Gerardo Martínez Agosto, a sixteen-year-old blind affiliate member who attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind STEP Program during the summer of 2003.
1 13.5-ounce can of coconut milk (Goya or Coco López)
1 15-ounce can of cream of coconut (Goya or Coco López)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (Carnation or Aguila)
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk (Carnation)
10 ounces milk
8 ounces white rum (Bacardí or Don Q)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Method: Mix all ingredients and pour into empty wine or liquor bottles. Insert one cinnamon stick into each bottle before filling it with the Coquito. Refrigerate for one hour and mix vigorously before serving. You can reduce the amount of rum and then add it to taste. Coquito is usually drunk during the Christmas season. It is served in two-ounce glasses and is sipped slowly. Makes a little over half a gallon, almost three liters.
News from the Federation Family
In the December 2003 print edition we accidentally omitted the final reference listed in the article, "A Few Notes on Buying a Computer," by Curtis Chong and Steven Booth. Here it is:
Kurzweil Educational Systems, 14 Crosby Drive, Bedford, Massachusetts 01730, Telephone: (800) 894-5374; fax: (781) 276-0650; email: <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Web site: <www.kurzweiledu.com>. Kurzweil 1000 is available at $995.
We regret the omission.
Ideas for Chapters:
Paul Price, president of the North San Diego Chapter of the NFB of California, writes to pass along the following excellent ideas:
When holding a chapter meeting and playing the presidential release, my chapter uses an inexpensive set of computer speakers to enhance the volume and quality of tape playback.
Here is a fundraising idea: when holding candy sales in front of grocery stores, we enlist the local Boy or Girl Scout troop to help us sell. We put a sign up behind our table stating "The National Federation of the Blind is helping the Boy or Girl Scouts to earn their community service badges." As a bonus, most of these kids do not know how to take no for an answer. They will follow people all the way across a parking lot to make a sale.
If you have a good idea to pass along to other chapters, send it to the editor at <email@example.com>, and we will publish it in an upcoming issue.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Arie Gamliel]
Those who go back many years in the Federation family will remember Arie and Nurit Gamliel, who were active members before they moved to Israel, where Arie continued to work for the welfare of blind people and to espouse the philosophy of the NFB. When Arie died suddenly, we asked David Stayer to write a brief tribute to Arie. Here it is:
On November 30, 2003, Arie Gamliel died in Israel. Arie lived a full life. He was a true Federationist, having been active in our New York affiliate. He was a past president of our New York City chapter, a New York state officer, and a founder of the NFB Human Services Division. Arie had many interests which he pursued with enthusiasm. The Gamliels attended many NFB conventions, the most recent being Philadelphia in 2001. Arie was the kind of person you immediately liked. Arie and Nurit first met our family in 1976. The Gamliels and the Stayers have been extremely close ever since. Whenever the Gamliels visited the United States, they always visited our home before returning to Israel. We prayed, sang, ate, shopped, walked the streets of several cities, and worked to better the lives of the blind together.
Arie was intellectually gifted as well as fluent in Hebrew and English. Part of his legacy to the international blind community is his Brailling and proofreading of prayer books in Hebrew. He leaves behind his wife Nurit and twin sons to carry on his legacy. Truly we have all lost a brother.
The National Federation of the Blind of Greater Long Island has elected officers for the coming two years. They are president, David Stayer; first vice president, Christine Faltz; second vice president, George Dominguez; treasurer, JoAnn Madsgard; recording secretary, Loraine Stayer; corresponding secretary, Sara S. Berger; and board members Brad Greenspan and Melissa Resnick.
Whozit Ties Available from the NFB of New Jersey:
Look sharp, be sharp: purchase your silk Whozit tie for the Grand Opening, Washington Seminar, NFB meetings, and other dress occasions. These are embroidered Whozit ties in full Whozit colors. Tie colors are black, burgundy, gray, blue, and beige. Prices are $30 per tie or two ties for $50. Add $3 for shipping.
All proceeds will go toward the New Jersey state scholarship fund. To order, contact Joe Ruffalo, (973) 759-3622, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Note: Many additional items can be embroidered with the Whozit logo. You name it, and we can embroider it. Just ask.
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.
National Exhibits by Blind Artists
Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibit:
Call for legally blind artists for a juried exhibition, fall 2004, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Slides are due by February 27, 2004. Send slides to NEBA, 919 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107. Call for prospectus, (800) 222-1754, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, or anytime (215) 925-3213 (voice mail).
Advice about Tactile Maps Requested:
Sylvie Kashdan is gathering information to help in a project for getting tactile maps made for the Seattle metropolitan area. She is especially interested in learning about the impressions that blind and visually impaired people have of tactile maps of other metropolitan areas. She would appreciate hearing from blind people who have used or examined the new tactile New York City transit maps. She would like to know their impressions of these maps, including how easy they find the maps to understand, how useful they find them, and whatever else people think important to note about the maps. She would also appreciate knowing about other tactile maps that people have found useful. Please write to her in Braille or print at 810
A Hiawatha Place South, Seattle, Washington 98144, or email her at <email@example.com>.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Robert Pasternack]
Assistant Secretary Robert Pasternack Departs:
Those who attended the 2003 NFB convention will remember the appearance made by Assistant Secretary of Education Robert Pasternack. It could certainly be said that we have often succeeded in establishing better rapport with other federal officials. In mid-November we received the following rather cryptic announcement from the Department of Education. It is perhaps more interesting for what it does not say than for what it does, and the tone is certainly cool. Here it is:
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Public Affairs, News Branch
November 18, 2003
STATEMENT BY U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION ROD PAIGE On the resignation of Robert H. Pasternack, effective January 2, 2004, as assistant secretary for special education and rehabilitative services
a post he has held since August 2001.
"I want to thank Bob for his service to the department and commend him for his work to improve the lives of America's 6.5 million children and youth with disabilities. `No child left behind' means every child
and that certainly includes students with disabilities. Bob has been an effective advocate on their behalf, and we wish him well."
In a letter to the president Pasternack said he feels he "can continue to serve children with disabilities and their families in the private sector while at the same time trying my best to achieve the educational goals that you have set for our country."
Washington Center Scholarships for Students with Disabilities:
The Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars (TWC) will provide fifty competitive scholarship awards to students with disabilities to study and intern in Washington, D.C., during the 2004 fall academic semester through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP).
The initiative builds on the Department of Labor's ten-year track record of providing summer internships for students with disabilities through the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). The new Washington Center initiative will provide young people the break they need to launch successful careers in public service. In addition the programs provide federal agencies access to a pool of highly qualified, diverse candidates to help with their workforce development needs of the future. The new TWC/ODEP partnership of offering internship opportunities in the spring and fall semesters makes student participation in academic internships accessible year-round.
The Washington Center brings together students from all backgrounds to learn about the rich intellectual and cultural diversity of the nation's capital. Applicants should be highly motivated students and recent graduates who are eager to prove their abilities in the workforce.
Students will gain professional work experience in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the federal government in Washington, D.C. The Washington Center will complement students' work experience with solid academic training for credit from highly qualified instructors. In addition students will be exposed to community, national, and international leaders through workshops, seminars, lectures, embassy visits, and networking events held throughout the semester.
The Washington Center is currently accepting applications from students with disabilities interested in participating in the fall 2004 program. Application materials and additional information about the program and scholarship award are available by visiting <www.twc.edu>. The online application can be downloaded from <http://www.aapd.com/Internships/washintern.html>.
For those interested in applying for the fall semester 2004 program, the dates are September 1 to December 18, 2004. The highly competitive deadline for applications is May 3, and the regular deadline is June 14. For more information contact the Washington Center at (202) 336-7600.
Braille Fortune Cookies Available:
Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company is a student-operated business specializing in special-order Braille and large-print fortune cookies. The company can customize your order to fit your event, whether it's a birthday, anniversary, convention, holiday, wedding, etc. Place your order by phone. If items are in stock, allow two weeks from the receipt of payment. Customized orders require a week longer. To order, contact Lucky Touch advisor Judith Lesner, (510) 794-3800, extension 300; fax: (510) 794-3813; 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, California 94536.
Improved NBP Web Site:
The National Braille Press (NBP) has opened a brand new online store, where you can purchase our many Braille products. The site is accessible, and the address is easy: <www.nbp.org>. A help page is available for those who want navigation assistance. Each department at NBP has its own section with links appearing on the home page. To buy Braille books, including children's print/Braille books, go to Our Bookstore. You can also subscribe to the Children's Braille Book Club, read about how the press got started in 1927 (Who We Are), donate to the cause (Ways to Give), take an online tour of the plant (Braille Production Services), check out our new Braille literacy program (ReadBooks!), or discover how NBP is contributing on the education front (Textbooks and Tests). Right now we are featuring a raffle for those who visit the site; the drawing is April 1, 2004. Visit us today.
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.
Braille 'n Speak 2000. Asking $1,000. Includes AC adaptor, Braille and print instructions, and carrying case. Rarely used, has a date book and phone book program. Contact Robert Holt at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or (916) 723-0710.
year-old Perkins Brailler with original dust cover is in excellent condition--no broken or loose keys. Priced at $475 payable by Western Union. Price includes shipping within the U.S. If interested, please email Linda at <email@example.com>.
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.