THE BRAILLE MONITOR
Vol. 47, No. 3 March, 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
Web site address: http://www.nfb.org
NFB-NEWSLINE® number: 1-888-882-1629
Letters to the president, address changes,
subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature
should be sent to the National Office.
Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also
be sent to the National Office or may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year. Members are invited, and nonmembers are requested, to cover the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Atlanta Marriott Marquis Ambassador Albert (Smitty) Smith]
Atlanta 2004 NFB Convention Site
The 2004 NFB convention will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, June 29 through July 5 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, 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 are 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 will be refunded if notice of cancellation is given 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 before June 1, assuming that rooms are still available. After that the hotels will not hold their room blocks. So make your reservation now.
Both hotels 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. 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 as follows:
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
Vol. 47, No. 3 March, 2004
2004 Washington Seminar
by Barbara Pierce
2004 NFB Legislative Agenda and Fact Sheets
by James McCarthy
Federationists Work Hard and Play Hard
by Anil Lewis
The Blind: A Case of Mistaken Identity
by Jacobus tenBroek
Science, Blindness, and Evolution:
The Common Theme Is Opportunity
by Geerat J. Vermeij
by Scott C. LaBarre
Blind People Are Just Looking for Social Equality
by Katrilla Martin
Riding in the Streets
by Ramona Walhof
The Art of Albinism
by Brooke Fox
by Jim Halliday
Copyright© 2004 National Federation of the Blind
Because of the grand opening of our new building on January 30 (watch for the April issue to read the full report), the NFB's largest Washington Seminar ever took place February 1 to 4 this year. All but two states were represented by the almost 500 Federationists on Capitol Hill.
[LEAD PHOTO DESCRIPTION: This double-page photograph is a panoramic shot of a huge crowd packed into a hotel meeting room.] [LEAD PHOTO CAPTION: The Columbia Room in the Holiday Inn Capitol at the start of the great gathering-in meeting on Sunday afternoon, February 1, 2004. If anything, the foyer of the meeting room was even more densely packed.]
2004 Washington Seminar
by Barbara Pierce
Even without a grand opening to celebrate, the Washington Seminar each winter is a memorable experience. Most of those attending the 2004 event in the nation's capital contrived to arrive a bit early in order to take part in the opening of the NFB Jernigan Institute on Friday evening. (Next month we will devote a good deal of space to the report on the grand opening. For now we will say only that the NFB Research and Training Institute has been replaced in our vocabulary by the title NFB Jernigan Institute.) Some people flew into Washington and came by bus to the National Center for the party. Others flew directly to Baltimore and then returned to the BWI Airport at the close of the Washington Seminar for their trip home. Late on the evening of January 30, it took seven buses to transport the crowd from the grand opening to the Holiday Inn, Capitol.
Saturday the National Association of Blind Students conducted a daylong seminar, which was particularly interesting this year. The students decided not to hold a banquet on Saturday because many of them had already spent every bit of their discretionary cash on their tickets for the Friday night party.
Saturday afternoon the National Association of Blind Lawyers also conducted a seminar, providing continuing legal education credits for those interested. The lawyers' event concluded with a lovely reception. Back in Baltimore, the Research and Development Committee conducted a meeting all day Saturday.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: All told, almost fifty Federationists took part in the workshop for affiliate Webmasters.]
Sunday affiliate and division Web masters gathered for a daylong workshop designed to improve the quality of Federation Web sites across the country. The National Organization of the Senior Blind sponsored a workshop from one to three discussing effective ways to reach out to seniors losing vision. The National Association of Blind Merchants also conducted a seminar Sunday afternoon, and Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs Jim McCarthy met with first-time attendees to discuss in depth this year's issues for Congress.
By 5:00 p.m. hundreds of people were packed into the Columbia Room and into the large open area outside its doors. Many state delegations had already turned in their appointment schedules and gathered the material for the packets they would deliver at meetings with members of Congress and their staffs. Precisely at five President Maurer called the great gathering in to order, and the 2004 Washington Seminar officially began.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Columbia Room foyer, where loudspeakers broadcast what was happening inside the room]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Brian Quintana and Stacy Cervenka sit on the floor at the front of the Columbia Room listening to Dr. Maurer.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: When the meeting broke up, some people headed for the restaurant while others looked for a TV set in order to watch the Super Bowl.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Craig Hedgecock, a Federationist from Troy, New York, plays "Scotland the Brave" on his bagpipes at the opening meeting of the 2004 Washington Seminar.]
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Two college students sit on the floor to take notes during the great gathering-in.]
[PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: A couple are seated, but not on chairs. The woman has an electronic notetaker in her lap.] [PHOTO/CAPTION: Junerose Killian from Connecticut and her husband J.W. perch on a table at the back of the room during the great gathering-in. It isn't only the young who use electronic notetakers to jot down important information at the great gathering-in.]
As he opened the meeting, Dr. Maurer reminded us that through the centuries some of the bravest fighters in the history of the world have gone into battle led by skirling bagpipes. It was fitting therefore for us to open this gathering of the voice of the nation's blind with a stirring selection from our own piper, Craig Hedgecock. Diane McGeorge announced that, no doubt because of the grand opening, this was the largest Washington Seminar ever. Colin Low, chairman of the Royal National Institute of the Blind of the United Kingdom and president of the European Blind Union, briefly addressed the group before leaving to fly back to London. Careen Bradbury, chair of the board of governors of the Rushton Hall School for the Blind, and Tony Blackwood of Auto-Read Pty Ltd from Sydney, Australia, also spoke briefly and brought greetings from around the world.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim McCarthy, Jim Gashel, and Diane McGeorge sit at the head table during the opening meeting.]
Diane McGeorge, who makes all arrangements with the Holiday Inn, made several announcements. She also thanked everyone who had conveyed congratulations to her and Ray on their fiftieth wedding anniversary the previous Tuesday. Jim Gashel, director of governmental affairs, and Jim McCarthy, his assistant, then went over the fact sheets and other legislative business so that we would be ready to hit the corridors of power at a dead run the next morning.
As usual Sandy Halverson and her efficient band of volunteers did an exemplary job of staffing the Mercury Room. They handed out materials, took down appointment schedules, and received reports from those returning from the Hill.
By Thursday almost everyone had packed up and left Washington. Like everyone else in town to visit senators during the week, we were a bit inconvenienced by the discovery of ricin in a Dirksen mail room, but we worked around the problems and kept moving. Increasingly we can see the impact that our return to the nation's capital every February has on our legislators and their staffs. The security people screening visitors coming in the doors simply switch to words rather than pointing when they see the canes and dogs, and we pass through their equipment without a hitch. Even the cab drivers quickly get the word that we are back and hustle for our business, taking both long canes and dogs in their stride.
Members of the general public, however, seem to be a bit slower to catch on. A group of Federationists from Oregon were amused to discover one evening that not everyone recognizes white canes for what they are. They were waiting outside a restaurant for their table to be ready when they overheard the group behind them in line demanding that the staff issue them "those white sticks" as well so that they could hear their page when the time came to be seated.
It is wise to remember that we mostly educate people about blindness one at a time. The first week of February we were doing it on Capitol Hill; we will now continue that job from home. Our neighbors, coworkers, and family members will find us stronger, clearer, and more focused on the message of the National Federation of the Blind.
2004 NFB Legislative Agenda and Fact Sheets
by James McCarthy
From the Editor: What follow are the documents that Federationists delivered to every congressional office and discussed with members and their staffs. The agenda briefly lays out the three issues primarily on our minds this year. Three fact sheets follow the agenda, each discussing one of the concepts or bills. Here are all four documents:
Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans:
Priorities for the 108th Congress, Second Session
Most people know a blind person, and seventy-five thousand Americans become blind or visually impaired every year. The blind population in the United States is estimated to exceed 1.3 million with several million more considered to be visually impaired. In addition, the social and economic consequences of blindness directly touch the lives of each blind person's family members, coworkers, and friends. Public policies and laws affecting blind people have a profound impact throughout our entire society.
Decisions that result from misconceptions or lack of information about blindness are frequently more limiting than the loss of eyesight itself. This is why we have formed the National Federation of the Blind. The Federation's leaders and the vast majority of its members are blind, but anyone is welcome to join in our effort to win understanding and equality in society.
Our priorities for the Second Session of the 108th Congress reflect an urgent need for action in three areas of vital importance to blind Americans. (For an explanation of these issues, please see the attached fact sheets.)
1. Congress should enact legislation amending the Fair Labor Standards Act so blindness cannot be a factor to permit paying less than the minimum wage. This proposal recognizes that blindness does not reduce a person's productive capacity, and it makes the law consistent with actual practice.
2. Congress should amend the Higher Education Act to improve opportunities for blind students by promoting self-reliance, giving them responsibility to control blindness-related services and assuring equal opportunity to participate in programs and courses. This proposal would result in blind students taking charge of blindness-related services as part of their academic experience in order to prepare for success in school and in life.
3. Congress should eliminate the Social Security earnings penalty placed on blind people who work. This proposal includes mandated adjustments in the blind persons' earnings limit to reach $30,000 over the next five years, reducing the disincentive to work.
Blind people are asking for your help to address these priorities in the present session of Congress. By acting in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind, each Member of Congress can help build better lives for the blind, both today and in the years ahead. The legislative actions recommended in our priorities will help blind persons while creating a brighter future for all Americans.
Real Wages for Real Work:
Blind Employees at Industries for the Blind
The National Federation of the Blind and National Industries for the Blind urge Congress to enact legislation amending the Fair Labor Standards Act so blindness cannot be a factor to permit paying less than the minimum wage.
Although most blind people are unemployed, those who have jobs are generally paid the going rate for the work they do. This was not the case in the 1930's when the minimum wage in America first became law. It was also at that time, in 1938, when the Wagner-O'Day Act--now the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Act--was passed to encourage the federal government to purchase products from nonprofit workshops employing the blind in broom-making, light manufacturing, and assembly work. This was the first federally backed jobs program for the blind, which, even in 2004, is still supported in part by the principle that the employers eligible to receive government contracts can be exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act from paying their blind workers the federal minimum wage.
Today National Industries for the Blind (NIB) is the "central nonprofit agency" officially designated to coordinate opportunities for its more than eighty member industries to supply certain approved goods and services to the federal government. Commercial sales are also promoted. Yet for the blind workers, approximately five thousand of them working in production, the federal law still fails to guarantee the minimum wage.
The loophole is in Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires the Secretary of Labor to grant exemptions from the minimum wage in the case of workers whose "earning or productive capacity is impaired by age, physical or mental deficiency, or injury." Subminimum wages are permitted "to the extent necessary to prevent curtailment of opportunities for employment." According to the law pay rates below the minimum wage are supposed to be based on individual productivity as compared to standard productivity of unimpaired people for essentially the same type, quality, and quantity of work performed.
Need for Legislation:
In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) established the current legal standard that individuals with disabilities are entitled to equal treatment in all areas of life. Although more general than the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title I of the ADA is intended to assure equal employment opportunity for persons with disabilities, including blindness.
This is a more enlightened public policy than the 1938 subminimum wage law still on the books. In the case of blind employees empirical evidence shows that permission for a subminimum wage is no longer justified. In fact, according to NIB, exemptions from the minimum wage currently apply to an estimated 317 of the 5,000 workers at its associated agencies nationwide. Only a few of these agencies actually request exemptions as a matter of policy and best practice.
Therefore Congress should acknowledge the industry practice and preferred public policy by prohibiting use of blindness as a factor for exemption from the minimum wage. This would be a ringing declaration by Congress that lack of eyesight cannot be an excuse for substandard pay. Also the employers' burden of justifying particular subminimum wage payments would be eliminated altogether in the few instances in which the exemption is currently used.
Congress should amend Section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit use of impaired vision or blindness as a factor for paying less than the minimum wage. This would require employers to apply the same pay standards to all workers regardless of visual acuity. In the work settings where subminimum wages are ordinarily paid, blindness does not reduce productivity. Adopting this proposal would not block use of the minimum wage exemption in the case of impairments that do affect productivity.
Support blind Americans by prohibiting the subminimum wage, and update the law to reflect the acknowledged best practices of the industry.
Promoting Responsibility for Blind Students in Higher Education
To improve opportunities in higher education for blind students by promoting self-reliance, giving them responsibility to control blindness-related services, and assuring equal opportunity to participate in programs and courses.
The Education Amendments of 1972 established the right of blind students to be admitted to higher education institutions and receive instruction on equal terms with others. This law, combined with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, assures the blind the opportunity to enroll, but participation in academic and extracurricular programs may be conditioned on acceptance of "special services," provided on the institution's prescribed terms rather than the student's expressed needs. Participation in specific programs or courses of instruction may also be limited based on low expectations by academic personnel.
For those who can see, academic instruction presumes the ability to acquire information by reading print. This means that blind students begin with the challenge of obtaining the same information presented to others even though they cannot read the printed texts, handouts, or other documents. Effective planning and marshalling of resources to meet this challenge are essential qualities for blind students' success.
Available resources include a federally funded service called RFB&D which receives an annual appropriation of approximately $11,400,000 to convert printed texts into audio and digital recordings for blind and dyslexic students in postsecondary programs. Established more recently, an online service, Bookshare.org, provides students with computer access to a steadily growing electronic library, currently consisting of more than fifteen thousand books. Specially designed software used on a student's personal computer can also convert printed text into synthetic speech or Braille. Finally, other students or persons in the community can be recruited for part-time work as readers, providing vital assistance to blind students in using the library, taking tests, and meeting other academic needs. Learning to secure and manage these resources efficiently is important for blind students in order to achieve success in school and in life.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (as amended) prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities, including blindness. With enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), this law was extended to all higher education institutions. These laws require reasonable accommodation to permit participation by persons with disabilities.
As a result higher education institutions have established campuswide Disabled Student Services (DSS) Offices to plan, organize, and control accessibility accommodations. Rather than fostering student responsibility, these offices have become internal bureaucracies assuming growing control over when and how the institution will accommodate blind and disabled students. As currently written, Section 504 and the ADA do not prohibit this practice.
Need for Legislation:
Institutions of higher education should foster responsibility, creativity, and initiative in all students to prepare them for future success. By imposing preconceived one-size-fits-all service plans on blind students, the DSS offices fail to promote these essential qualities. DSS offices should meet the needs of blind students, and who knows their needs better than blind students themselves? Serving as resource centers, these offices should facilitate, but not control, management of blindness-related services.
Existing laws clearly prohibit denying admission based on blindness, but once admitted, blind students may often be subject to restrictions placed on their participation in programs or specific courses. This occurs most often when academic personnel fail to consult blind students and conclude that lack of sight equates to lack of ability. Rather than planning with students to determine if modifications are needed, they resort to calling in the DSS offices to represent the students. This leaves students out of the process and vulnerable to decisions made in the name of helping them. Successful program participation is best achieved when blind students and personnel collaborate to address concerns about participation, but the laws against discrimination do not clearly require this.
Congress should amend the Higher Education Act to improve opportunities for blind students by promoting self-reliance, giving them responsibility to control blindness-related services, and assuring equal opportunity to participate in programs and courses. The amendment should ensure that:
* Higher education institutions have procedures to encourage responsibility and self-reliance among blind students in arranging the accessibility accommodations they need;
* Students, not institutions, must have ultimate control over arrangements for accessibility accommodations; and
* Decisions concerning modifications to programs or courses of instruction shall not be made unless requested by students and shall be planned jointly by blind students and academic personnel in order to assure equal opportunities to participate.
Removing the Penalty for Working:
Commonsense Work Incentives for Blind
Social Security Beneficiaries
H.R. 173, "Blind Empowerment Act of 2003," by Congressman Thomas Reynolds. S. 750, "Blind Empowerment Act of 2003," by Senator John McCain.
To amend Title II of the Social Security Act to increase the level of earnings allowed for blind individuals without a penalty for working.
By increasing the Social Security earnings limit in 1996, Congress provided a powerful incentive for seniors age sixty-five and older to work. Advocates made the case that seniors would continue to work, earn, and pay taxes since they could do so without fearing loss of income from Social Security. Now the need for a higher earnings limit for the blind is even more compelling because of an all-or-nothing penalty for working above it. However, Congress has disregarded this in the case of the blind while encouraging seniors to work by removing the earnings limit altogether.
For blind persons gross earnings exceeding $1,350 monthly ($16,200 annually) cause a total loss of benefits until age sixty-five. At that point there is no limit on the amount that same individual can earn. This is the inequity that now exists.
Like "retirement age," "blindness" is specifically defined in the Social Security Act and can be readily determined. By contrast, evaluating "disability" is more subjective, requiring a finding of "inability to engage in substantial gainful activity." Reaching this finding is complex and not clear cut.
Although blindness is precisely defined, monthly benefits are not paid to all blind people but only to those whose earnings (from work) are below an annually adjusted statutory earnings limit. No penalty for personal wealth is derived from any source other than work. In the case of the blind, work alone is penalized. Recognition of the earnings limit's impact on seniors prompted Congress to change the law. The present situation for the blind is the same as it was for seniors prior to 1996.
Need for Legislation:
For blind people who find work, earnings will usually not replace lost benefits after taxes and work expenses are paid. Therefore few beneficiaries can actually afford to attempt significant work. Those who do often sacrifice income and the security of a monthly check. The following examples illustrate the penalty for working.
A single person with no dependents, having annual cash benefits of $10,300 or roughly $859 per month (an average benefit) with no other income, receives this amount tax-free. Gross pay to replace benefits would have to be approximately $17,850, taking into account taxes and work expenses (such as commuting and buying appropriate clothing for work). This is $1,650 above the amount allowed. Earnings below $17,850 would mean a loss. While some individuals will still choose to work, for most the rational choice is not to work because they can't afford to lose income.
If the beneficiary has dependents, the situation is more troublesome. With two dependents, the family's total benefit is likely to average approximately $16,200 annually. Therefore earnings of $16,500 (just above the limit) will not replace benefits. Using conservative assumptions, such as taxes figured at 25 percent of gross pay and childcare for two children at $500 per month, replacing $16,200 in benefits would require about $28,300 in gross pay. When dependents are involved, the choice to work or not to work is more constrained, and the amount needed to replace everyone's benefit far exceeds the blind person's earnings limit.
Increasing the earnings limit to $30,000 over five years will allow blind people to work without being penalized financially for doing so, providing more than 100,000 blind beneficiaries with a powerful work incentive. At present a blind individual's earnings must not exceed a strict monthly limit of $1,350. When earnings exceed this threshold, the entire sum paid to a primary beneficiary and dependents is abruptly withdrawn after a trial work period. The economic risk resulting for a blind head of household is far greater than any economic benefit derived.
An increase in the earnings limit would be cost-beneficial. With a 74 percent unemployment rate, the significant majority of working-age blind people are already beneficiaries. Providing them with a meaningful work incentive would allow them to become taxpayers as well. Congress raised the earnings exemption for seniors, and only Congress can do the same for the blind. The chance to work, earn, and pay taxes is a constructive and valid goal for senior citizens and blind Americans alike.
Congress should remove the penalty for blind SSDI beneficiaries who work. Please support blind Americans by cosponsoring legislation requiring mandated increases in the earnings limit for the blind and request action on this legislation during the Second Session of the 108th Congress.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Anil Lewis]
Federationists Work Hard and Play Hard
by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: It's time again to think about convention tours. The Georgia affiliate has been hard at work planning to fill your free time at convention. This is what President Anil Lewis has to say about your choices this year:
The annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind requires a lot of planning by our national office staff, the host affiliate, and every Federationist committed to achieving the goals of the NFB. The national convention is our time to mark milestones, celebrate accomplishments, plan for our future, train Federationists, educate society, and reenergize ourselves. As I say, it requires a lot of hard work by everyone who attends. And we all know the old adage about all work and no play. For this reason many Federationists build in a little time to vacation during convention.
Because our convention hotels, the Marriott Marquis and the Hilton, are conveniently located near Atlanta's public transportation system, MARTA, many conventioneers will probably choose to explore our lovely city on their own. Underground Atlanta, Centennial Park, and the World of Coca-Cola are a simple train or bus ride away. But for those who would appreciate a more structured exposure to some of Atlanta's attractions and would like to venture a little farther from the convention site, the Georgia affiliate has developed several tours for your enjoyment. Tour day this year is Saturday, July 3. All tours will depart from the hotel in the afternoon or evening of Saturday, the third.
Gone with the Wind
($25 adults, $15 children)
The Margaret Mitchell House was built in 1899 by Cornelius J. Sheehan. The two-story, single-family home on fashionable Peachtree Street was converted in 1919 into a ten-unit apartment building. It was here, from 1925 until 1932, that Margaret Mitchell lived in apartment no. 1 and wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gone with the Wind.
This is a docent-led tour lasting one to one-and-a-half-hours with exclusive photographs and archival exhibits that begin to tell the story of Margaret Mitchell beyond Gone with the Wind. The tour starts in the Visitors' Center with "A Woman in a Man's World: Margaret Mitchell, Reporter," an exhibit of Jazz Age journalism that explores the popular weekly columns Mitchell wrote for the Atlanta Journal Sunday Magazine. The tour continues into the house, through the apartment where she wrote Gone with the Wind, and finally to the new Gone with the Wind Movie Museum. This museum, which opened on December 15, 1999--the sixtieth anniversary of the movie premiere in Atlanta--illuminates the making of the movie, the premiere, and legacy with memorabilia from the Herb Bridges collection and the doorway of Tara from the movie set. Your experience at this historic site ends with an opportunity to enjoy the Museum Shop, complete with unique gifts, souvenirs, and Gone with the Wind collectibles and memorabilia.
For specific information about this tour, call (404) 249-7015 or visit <http://www.gwtw.org/>.
($25 adults, $15 children under thirteen)
The Gone with the Wind tour can be complemented with a tour of Atlanta by Peter Bonner with an emphasis on the Civil War. Peter Bonner's Historical and Hysterical Tours began as a dream back in 1996. The tour company combines Peter's two great loves--history and entertainment. His programs have delighted people of all ages, from the school children who marvel at the heaviness of the black powder gun to the senior citizens who remember similar stories told to them by their grandparents. Peter's emphasis is always on the human side of the story, which is often as hysterical as it is historical.
This well-orated bus tour of Atlanta's historic sites will be both educational and entertaining. The tour will last approximately three hours. For specific information about this tour, call 770-477-8864 or visit <http://www.peterbonner.com/>.
($25 adults, $15 children under thirteen)
Atlanta is home to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. No civil rights tour can compare to a visit to the birth home of Dr. King, a gospel concert at the celebrated Ebenezer Baptist Church, a tour of the Martin Luther King historic site and visitors center, and a stroll down historic Auburn Avenue.
Just past noon on January 15, 1929, a son was born to the Reverend and Mrs. Martin Luther King in an upstairs bedroom of 501 Auburn Avenue, in Atlanta, Georgia. The couple named their first son after the Rev. King, but he was simply called M.L. by the family. During the next twelve years this fine, two-story Victorian home is where M.L. would live with his parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and their boarders. The home is located in the residential section of Sweet Auburn, the center of black Atlanta. Two blocks west of the home is Ebenezer Baptist Church, the pastorate of Martin's grandfather and father. It was in these surroundings of home, church, and neighborhood that M.L. experienced his childhood. Here M.L. learned about family and Christian love, segregation in the days of Jim Crow laws, diligence, and tolerance. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. returned to Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1960. As co-pastor with his father, Daddy King, Dr. King Jr. would preach about love, equality, and nonviolence.
For specific information about this tour, call 404-526-8900 or visit <http://www.nps.gov/malu/>.
Touch the Future
($25 adults, $15 children under thirteen)
The NFB of Georgia is working with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children to develop a tour beyond this world. The NFB, with the cooperation of the Fernbank Science Center, will enhance the visual experience of the Fernbank Planetarium with tactile and audible information that will allow blind children and adults to experience outer space more fully. The planetarium is a celestial theater in the round, using the complex Zeiss Mark V planetarium projector and a variety of special-effects projectors to guide the audience through the wonders of the universe. At seventy feet in diameter, the planetarium is one of the largest in the United States, and is dedicated to teaching and public enrichment. For specific information about this tour, call (678) 874-7102 or visit <http://fsc.fernbank.edu/>.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: The high-relief carvings on the side of Stone Mountain]
Stone Mountain National Park
($25 adults, $15 children under thirteen)
On 3,200 gorgeous acres just sixteen miles east of downtown Atlanta, the stories of the South come to life at Stone Mountain Park. The mountain itself is the world's largest mass of exposed granite. The centerpiece of the park--and one of the true marvels of western engineering--is found on the mountain's north side, where you'll see the world's largest high-relief carving, depicting three heroes of the American Confederacy.
We plan to have one bus leave in the afternoon so that you can enjoy the park's breathtaking scenery, pristine lakes, forestland, beautiful gardens, and miles of nature trails. The park also features an enormous variety of recreational and entertainment facilities, including family-oriented attractions, tennis, golf, fishing, hiking, and camping. Another bus will leave in the evening, just in time for those interested only in enjoying the spectacular laser show at the mountain. For more information about this marvelous park, visit <http://www.stonemountainpark.com/>.
Agatha's Dinner Theater
($45 adults, no children)
Agatha's is a comedy murder mystery dinner theater with audience participation. All shows are original comedy murder mystery plays that take place in the dining room between the courses of the meal. The show currently scheduled for July is Law and Odor: O.P.U. There is no stage; the actors move throughout the audience, so you can see and hear from all seats. Two professional actors carry the show, and the rest is up to the audience. Participation is encouraged but not required.
Agatha's serves a five-course meal of appetizers, soup, salad, choice of entree, and dessert. Once audience members are seated, the waiters review the entrees, and you make your choices at that time. Wine is served with dinner, beginning with the soup course.
For specific information about this tour, call (404) 875-4321, or visit <http://www.agathas.com>./
($25 adults, $15 children under thirteen)
Of course we will have tickets to the Atlanta Braves game on July 3. It's a night game against Boston, with fireworks on the field and in the air. For specific information about this tour, call (404) 522-7630, or visit <http://www.atlantabraves.com.>
If you are interested in any of the tours described here, please sign up early. Checks or money orders made out to the NFB of Georgia should be mailed to the Georgia affiliate at NFB of Georgia, P.O. Box 6859, Atlanta, Georgia 30343. Payment should include a note listing the tour and number of adult and children's tickets being ordered.
An adult must accompany all children. Be sure to note that the deadline for preregistration and cancellations is June 18, 2004. Any remaining tickets will be available for sale during convention at the Georgia information table. Also keep in mind that the prices quoted are dependent on guaranteed minimum attendance. The prices for tours include buses, experienced guides, and sales tax and admissions where applicable. Tours leave from the Courtland Street entrance of the Marriott Marquis, which is just across the street from the Hilton.
These are simply the preliminary tours that the Georgia affiliate is coordinating; watch for additional tours in future issues of the Monitor. We continue to work toward more tours, like Six Flags Over Georgia and Cyclorama/Zoo Atlanta. If you have any questions, suggestions, or special requests for places you would like to visit while you are here, please call the affiliate line (866) 316-3242, and let us know.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jacobus tenBroek]
The Blind: A Case of Mistaken Identity
by Jacobus tenBroek
From the Editor: Several months ago a man in California contacted the national office offering us several tape recordings, including one speech by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. He said that the speech had been made on May 22, 1960, at a hotel in the Berkeley area, but he had no idea upon what occasion. From internal evidence it seems clear that the presentation was made to a Federation audience and was part of a larger conference, but that is all we know about it. Still it is vintage tenBroek: clear, rigorously reasoned, and insightful. The ideas are familiar to us, even though some are a bit dated, but any time we uncover a body of tenBroek thought, we have reason to rejoice. Here then is the best transcription we could contrive to produce of a rather poor recording of Dr. tenBroek's speech:
From time immemorial blind people have been the victims of mistaken identity. Not that their lack of sight has gone unnoticed or unrecognized--far from it. But at one time or another they have been falsely identified also as a class of pariahs, as divinely accursed, as mentally defective, physically incompetent, or socially unstable. It is only in very recent years that society has begun to give recognition to the novel doctrine that blindness means only the loss of sight, neither more nor less, and that any further loss to the blind person is the consequence, not of his blindness, but of the social and psychological conditions in which it occurs. In short, the disability of blindness is physical, but the handicap of blindness has always been predominantly social.
This is still today a revolutionary doctrine, not only among the public, but among the professionally informed and expert as well. In the social diagnosis of blindness, mistaken identification is still the rule rather than the exception. There are in particular two forms of mistaken identity by which the blind are victimized in modern society. The first is the mistake of over-identification, which assumes that if blind people are alike in one respect, they must be alike in all and in all respects different from the rest of society.
The second is the mistake of under-identification, which presumes that those who are blind have no characteristics at all in common and cannot for any purposes be grouped or classified together. We are all familiar with the fallacy of over-identification, which in its classic form identifies all who are blind as members of a class of abnormal, if not wholly incompetent, human beings. But we may not know how widespread this fallacy has become in professional and academic as well as public circles.
While many social scientists and workers for the blind recognize and resist this form of mistaken identity, there are others actively at work reinforcing and perpetuating it. The most dangerous form which this fallacy assumes is that of categorizing the blind as a deviant group in society. The concept of "deviant" is a recent and dubious device of social science to identify any person or group which departs in some significant way from the norm, that is, from the average and conventional. In other words "deviant" is a sophisticated synonym for the old-fashioned term "abnormal."
The social scientist may protest that this use of his concept of "deviant" has only a technical and statistical meaning. Those who are superior and unusually gifted are no less deviant than those who fall below the social norm. The fact is that deviation is seldom used to describe such differences as these. As one authority has noted, everyone is deviant in some respect. A man known to the author as abnormally short, abnormally good in singing ability, is undernourished, and is allergic to camel hair. In all of these respects he is markedly deviant, but he is a successful and in fact a prominent businessman with an enviable reputation. In short this man's deviations from the norm are no handicap because they pass unnoticed. He may be, as the author says, markedly deviant, but he is not marked as a deviant. On the other hand, everyone knows or supposes that he knows who and what a real deviant is. Sex fiends are deviants. Criminals are deviants; so are morons, fanatics, prostitutes, juvenile delinquents, and all who inhabit the skid rows and lunatic fringes of society.
In short the term "deviant" refers in its most common usage to immoral and antisocial behavior patterns and to the characteristics of abnormality which call for suppression or isolation. When the blind are so marked and classified, however innocent the intention of the classifier, they are effectually thrown back into the communal pit of outcasts and misfits, which was known to earlier centuries under the simple and accurate title of "bedlam."
Lest I seem to exaggerate, let me cite, for example, from the literature of social science. It is from a textbook significantly entitled Social Pathology, written by Professor Edwin M. Lemert of the University of California, Los Angeles, first published in 1951. "Pathology, as the dictionary tells us, is the scientific study of diseases and the diseased." What are the social diseases with which this author is concerned? They are the diseases listed in several chapters under the heading, Part 2, Deviation and Deviants, and they include the following: Blindness and the Blind; Radicalism and Radicals; Prostitution and the Prostitute; Crime and the Criminal; Drunkenness and Chronic Alcoholism; and, finally and inevitably, Mental Disorders.
These then are the deviations and the deviants, the forms of social disease and the diseased carriers, which are taken to be the proper subject matter of a study in social pathology. This is the company which the blind find themselves keeping in a modern textbook of social science. It is of course exactly the company which the blind formerly kept in the asylum and the almshouse. We need only to recall the American almshouse of half a century ago, whose inmates comprised, according to a classic description, "the criminal and the sick, the insane, the blind, deaf mutes, feeble minded and epileptics, people with all kinds of chronic diseases, short-term prisoners, thieves no longer physically capable of crime, worn out prostitutes, etc." In short, the almshouse was the place of last resort of all those marked indelibly by society as deviants. Over the years the blind have gradually made their escape from the bedlam and its psychological stigma, or so we had thought and hoped.
Are they now to be recommitted to the category of the asylums through a new device of mistaken identity, that of deviation and the deviant? This form of mistaken identification of the blind is not the superstition conjured up by ignorant folk unacquainted with the nature of social groups. It is not the shrewd device of tax-conscious citizens who fear the excessive cost of adequate social security. It is not the rationalization of lighthouse custodians with a vested interest in the preservation of the myth of incompetence and abnormality. It is not the excuse of sentimental and overprotective souls who enjoy ministering to the helpless so long as they remain perfectly helpless. It is the sophisticated theory of a professor of social science, an expert in social diseases, whose interest is the classification and treatment of pathological deviations from the norm of social health.
It is especially significant and in keeping with the proper moral attitude toward deviations that the author of this textbook on pathological behavior regards the blind, and particularly the organized blind, with undisguised suspicion. In fact, he finds them a crafty, if not a sinister, group. His chapter on blindness and the blind opens with these words, "Blindness is at once a dramatic and an engaging handicap that is found among all peoples of the world." At the very end, or near the end, he cites a newspaper story to illustrate the relative ease with which the public may be manipulated by the blind. He concludes his chapter with this evaluation, "As long as the societal reaction toward the blind remains as it is, there will continue to be a sizeable number of the blind who make a profession of dependency."
No less revealing is the pathologist's attitude toward voluntary organization by the blind. After a summary account of two so-called militant groups of the blind in Minnesota--militant apparently because they are all blind in membership and have had disagreements with social welfare workers--the author concludes, "All these facts create interesting speculation. While the actions of the two groups may be regarded as the group equivalent of tantrum behavior, they also raise a question as to what happens when the blind in a collective capacity desert their traditional roles of humility and agitate in an independent way like any other pressure group."
Finally the author's judgment of the general capabilities of the blind and, incidentally, which ones among them are especially gifted may be gleaned from this observation. Mind you this is in a textbook used in our universities. "While most of the blind are immobilized because of illnesses or because of extreme dependency, some blind mendicants are able to move fairly well through their environment."
This then is the modern form of mistaken identity, imposed upon the blind at the hands of some social scientists, the high sounding categorization of deviation and the deviant, which not only tars all who are blind with the same brush of abnormality, but shuffles them in with all those others branded by society as in some way undesirable, that is, radicals, prostitutes, criminals, drunks, and the mentally defective.
But it is wrong to think of this stereotype of the deviant as a new form of mistaken identity. It is rather, as we have seen, an ancient superstition in modern dress. It is the age-old conception of the blind as an abnormal, inferior, and suspect group, a group to be segregated and confined apart from normal society in institutions of charity and correction. Nor is the conception of the deviant the only form of over-identification indulged in by social scientists. There is also the equally frivolous abuse of the vocabulary of psychoanalysis by social workers and psychologists, an abuse exemplified by the loose currency given such terms as "compulsive," "aggression," "compensation," and the like, which has led in some circles to the appalling unscientific supposition that all blind persons are neurotic by definition, if not downright mentally ill.
Even so relatively sophisticated a volume as Alan Gowman's recent study of the war blind shows signs of succumbing to this easy imputation of ill-defined complexes and subconscious conflicts on the part of all who are blind, an attitude which leads inescapably to the inference that the primary responsibility for the condition of the sightless, for dependency and discrimination, for poor laws and prejudice, for exclusion, for over-protection lies, not with society and its institutions, but with the unsocial or unhealthy attitudes of the blind person himself. The consequences of such pseudoanalysis are as destructive as they are defeatist, destructive in their sweeping denial of normality and equality to all who are without sight, and defeatist in their suggestion that the only feasible solution to the social and economic problems that press upon the average blind individual lies in a change of heart or of metabolism on his part alone.
There is still another variant of that form of mistaken identity of the blind which we have labeled over-identification: the assumption that blindness means, not just the lack of sight, but the lack of normality; the lack of ability; and, very probably, the lack of sanity as well. This fallacy of over-identification occurs not only among those who are in opposition and different from the blind but even among many who are their friends and wish them well. Thus the state of Pennsylvania just last year passed a law permitting physically disabled persons such as the blind to teach in the public schools. Nothing could be more commendable or progressive, but the legislature could see no better way of accomplishing this than by an amendment to a section dealing with "mental disorders, communicable diseases, narcotics addictions, and immoral character." The law as duly amended now reads, "Section 1209, Disqualifications: No teacher certificate shall be granted to any person who has not submitted a certificate from a physician setting forth that said applicant is neither mentally nor physically disqualified by reason of tuberculosis or any other chronic or acute defect, communicable disease, or by reason of mental disorder, from successful performance of the duties of the teacher, nor to any person who has not good moral character or is in the habit of using opium or other narcotic drugs in any form or any intoxicating drink as a beverage or to any applicant who has a major physical disability or defect, unless such a person submits a certificate signed by an official of a college or university from which he was graduated or of an appropriate rehabilitation agency certifying that in the opinion of such official the applicant by his work and activities demonstrated that he is sufficiently adjusted, trained, and motivated to perform the duties of a teacher, notwithstanding his impediment."
Note with what unusual weight the burden of proof falls upon the blind or physically disabled applicant. All who apply to teach require medical clearance, but he alone requires a testimonial from his college or from his rehabilitation counselor to the effect that he is "sufficiently adjusted, trained, and motivated," that he has proved all this by his work and activities--whatever that may mean.
Not only is the burden of proof upon the handicapped, the bold spotlight of suspicion is on him, the underlying assumption that he is ill-adjusted and unmotivated, if not actually engaging in suspicious activities. The traditional associations of mistaken identity in the classic form of over-identification are thus vividly revealed even in this up-to-date and constructive legislation partially removing the absolute bar against blind teachers in the public schools in the state of Pennsylvania.
So much for the form of mistaken identity known as over-identification. There is an equal and an opposite form of mistaken identity which is no less vicious and destructive in its consequences--that of under-identification. It consists of the refusal to regard the blind as possessing many characteristics or any characteristics common to themselves which are also unique to themselves. It is the denial that blind persons can or should be classified together for any purposes whatsoever. This fallacy of under-identification is the device for example of those who reject the right of the blind to organize by themselves as an independent group on the ostensible theory that the blind people really have nothing in common which justifies their mutual association and indeed that it is somehow a denial of individuality for the blind person to seek common cause with others who are blind.
Thus the American Association of Workers for the Blind have argued, against the Right to Organize bill, that the great majority of blind persons prefer to be considered as normal members of society, that is to say, as individuals with no common characteristics which organizations might fight to free. At the same time the executive director of the nation's largest private agency for the blind opposed the bill on the grounds that it would tend to further the segregation of blind persons and to coerce them into an identification which he obviously considered artificial and unreal.
In short it is often argued that the blind have no right to organize because they have no need to organize, that there are no needs and purposes common to the blind which should draw them together in voluntary association. This form of mistaken identity, the refusal to identify or classify the blind on any grounds at all, is also the device of those who, like some agency reviewers of a certain book known as Hope Deferred, resist any and all generalizations about the blind as suggesting a unity and solidarity which they choose to disbelieve in.
Thus Philip S. Platt of the New York Lighthouse has said of the book, "It is regrettable that the authors throughout the book generalize about the blind, who have little if anything in common, except varying degrees of loss of vision." Thus also Vernon Carter, the national director of Recordings for the Blind, maintained in his book review that blind people differ widely among themselves in their personal characteristics and therefore cannot be classified together as a group at all. One wonders just how Mr. Carter's agency justifies its restrictive title, Recordings for the Blind, and even its existence, since there is no group of the blind. How is there a special and common need among them for recordings and talking books? The wonderment grows when one considers Dr. Platt's Lighthouse for the Blind. Here is a specialized agency providing a battery of services for a group which does not exist or which, at best, has little if anything in common except varying degrees of loss of vision.
This fallacy of under-identification is also exemplified by those who contend that the blind ought not to have separate sheltered workshops for purposes of training, therapy, or employment but should simply be thrown in with all others of the handicapped and unfortunate under a single blanket of "shelter." It is the fallacy further of those who would take away the preference of blind persons in the vending stand program and extend it to all who are in any way physically disabled. It is the fallacy still more significantly of all who resist the provision of specialized counseling, training, and placement facilities for the blind within programs of vocational rehabilitation on the grounds that blindness is after all just another disability, no more or less complex or severe in its nature or different in any way in consequences from any other handicap.
This form of mistaken identification is, most popularly of all, the fallacy of those who would dissolve the established categories of aid under the Social Security program of public assistance, namely the categories of the blind, the aged, the dependent children, and the permanently and totally disabled. The arguments which they advance are those of bureaucratic convenience and economy, but the assumption which lies behind it is that none of these categories or recipient groups are sufficiently distinct from the others to be treated independently in terms of their peculiar needs and specific problems. (Since we covered this territory this afternoon in our general panel, I will jump over a rather lengthy discussion of the value of the categories and the significance of terms of this overall classification.)
To argue for the preservation of the principle of separate aid categories under public assistance is not at all to defend the present boundary lines or requirements of eligibility for any one of these particular categories. It is entirely unreasonable and senseless, for example, to provide aid to needy children, as the law now provides it, only on the death, incapacity, or absence of a parent from the home. Children become needy on many other grounds, and they should be eligible for this program. Again, with reference to old age assistance, as I pointed out earlier, there is no sense at all in excluding those who are aliens who do not meet residence requirements. They are just as aged, just as much in need. Consequently the attacks upon categories should properly be directed to the misadministration of the categories, rather than to the idea of groupings based on special problems and special needs.
The under-identification of the blind is no less dangerous and destructive of their cause than the alternative fallacy of over-identification. Mistaken identity is no less evident where the blind are left wholly unidentified, where they are deemed to have no needs or attributes in common for any purposes whatsoever. Rarely of course are the advocates of under-identification entirely consistent. If it is legitimate, and some say that it is, for there to be an American Foundation for the Blind, on the assumption that a distinctive group exists for whom particular services are desirable and to be rendered by that agency, then it is no less legitimate for there to be a National Federation of the Blind on the assumption that the same distinctive group deserves the right to associate and to speak for itself.
Between the two forms of mistaken identity--those of over-identification and of under-identification--lies a broad field of true identification in which the blind may be properly classified together. The test in every case is plain and simple. It lies in the purpose for which the classification is made. If the purpose is that of public assistance, then, as we have seen, separate classification of the blind is proper. If the purpose is that of vocational rehabilitation, such independent treatment is again legitimate and desirable. It is legitimate because these purposes are clearly consistent, both with the peculiar needs and problems arising from blindness and with the social objectives of integration and self-support. In other words, where the purpose meets actual needs and forwards the ultimate goals of blind people, then separate classification is thereby justified, and there is no peril of mistaken identity.
On the other hand, if the purpose is that of segregating the blind from normal opportunity and participation on the ground that they are all alike in their incapacity, then separate classification is illegitimate and improper and becomes a virulent form of mistaken identity. If the purpose is that of maintaining blind persons in dependency and custodialism on the assumption of their universal helplessness, if it is that of regarding them as social deviants on a par with thieves and prostitutes, if it is that of dispatching them all to the psychiatrist on the assumption that they are neurotic by definition, if it is that of refusing them the ordinary rights of citizenship as those of dignity, privacy, and free expression, then the purpose is destructive, and any classification in its terms is illegitimate and improper.
Finally, if the purpose of classification is that of collective, voluntary organization of the blind, and if this organization is carried out not in order to raid the treasury of funds which properly should go to somebody else, to those more severely in need than the blind, if it is carried out not in order to make personal, political gains or power or economic wealth or popular prestige for given individuals, if instead it is carried out in the cause of collective self-expression and self-improvement toward the objectives of equality and integration, of opportunity and independence, who will then declare this purpose to be improper and this classification uncalled for.
Those of us who are blind, need we say it yet once again, are citizens as well. We wish to be treated as other citizens are treated for all ordinary and general purposes. But when we step off the crosswalk into traffic, we hope also to be recognized as blind. For most of all we wish to participate fully and to compete normally for our places in the economic community. But we hope that in the preparation for this competition our chances may be equalized through special services necessary to counteract our handicap. We who are blind hope that our interests will be recognized as only normal and reasonable by those who govern our affairs. But we also believe that we are the ones best qualified to interpret and express those interests to those who govern us. We seek neither to be over-identified nor under-identified but only to be accurately recognized as we really are in a way which will erase forever the ancient and double curse of our mistaken identity.
Historical note from the Editor: For more information about the issues discussed and the historical context of this speech, see Walking Alone and Marching Together, page sixty-one (inkprint) and other pages on the Kennedy bill.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Geerat J. Vermeij]
Science, Blindness, and Evolution:
The Common Theme Is Opportunity
by Geerat J. Vermeij
From the Editor: Geerat Vermeij is the renowned blind marine biologist who teaches at the University of California at Davis. His fascinating autobiography, Privileged Hands, is available from the National Library Service. Recently Dr. Vermeij called to offer the Braille Monitor an article that was first published in the Journal of Science Education for Students with Disabilities, 10 (1): 1-3. The article was based on a talk delivered on March 29, 2002, at the National Science Teachers Association convention in San Diego, California. Considering the NFB's new initiative on teaching science to blind students, I accepted the article with delighted thanks. Here it is:
It was late in the afternoon on a day in the early 1970's when I sat down with a blind woman to talk about her interest in studying biology. Her state agency for the blind was balking at paying for her studies in this field, in the fear--quite probably justified in her case--that she would be unable to find suitable employment. At that time I had become fascinated with leaf shape, and so our conversation turned briefly to the prickly leaves of hollies. The prickles, it turns out, are not distributed evenly around the leaf margin. In cultivated varieties the left edge typically has a different number of prickles from the right. Moreover, the numbers and positions of prickles vary in peculiar ways among leaves even on the same tree. I wondered aloud why this should be so, and why holly leaves are spiny at all. These are the kinds of questions that start me thinking about the larger puzzles of science. They are tiny unknowns, things that make no sense, things that might or might not be key to larger questions.
The woman interrupted my ramblings with a simple question. "What do holly leaves look like?" she asked.
Was I taken aback? Yes and no. Momentarily I thought to myself how astonishing it was that this woman didn't know what a holly leaf looked like. But then I realized that her ignorance, however trivial, is symptomatic of a vast problem that affects everyone, but most especially those who lack one or another of the major sensations: there is a pervasive lack of observational experience. Perhaps some well-meaning soul thought it best to spare a blind woman the experience of handling a holly leaf; after all, she could hurt herself. More likely the well-meaning soul--parent, sibling, teacher, or fellow student--would not have stopped to think that a blind person does not encounter things unless the latter can be heard, felt, tasted, or smelled. The blind person cannot see the everyday things if they must be seen at a distance or as pictures. Like everyone else a blind person needs a stream of data, the raw material for making sense of the world, for asking questions and seeking answers about how the world works, how it develops, how it evolves.
Here, then, is one of the great impediments to the forging of a scientific frame of mind. In school people learn that doing science comprises observation, hypothesis, experiment, and theory; but we tend to emphasize the latter three steps at the expense of observation. Yet observation is critical to all the rest. Observation--taking in the world through our senses with our minds turned on--leads to asking questions, which in turn leads us to propose explanations that we can then evaluate with additional evidence gathered by experiment or by comparisons, all eventually organized into coherent explanatory theory.
The skill of observing--and it is a skill, to be honed and perfected--must be taught and encouraged. It is something that every science student must possess, but perhaps this aspect of science education is particularly important when the student is blind or otherwise deprived of one of the sensations. A conscious effort must be made, all the time and everywhere and by everyone, to acquaint a blind person with those aspects of the environment that cannot be heard, smelled, or easily grasped by hands and fingers. And even those things that can be observed must be pointed out. Most people can hear birds sing, but for most blind people I know, birdsong and all the interesting questions it raises are part of the background noise until attention is drawn to them.
I want to make two more points about the holly leaf. First, the leaf is--or should be--something familiar. It may in fact be so familiar that it is taken for granted. We don't wonder about it because it does not appear to require an explanation. Yet there is much about such an everyday thing as a leaf that we don't understand. How and why did the network pattern of venation in the leaf evolve? After all, geologically ancient plants have an open system of venation, not the interconnected system that is so characteristic of hollies and many other flowering plants. Who among insects, mammals, and other potential consumers eats these leaves, and how and when are the leaves attacked?
I could go on and on. My point is that, by beginning with the objects and phenomena of everyday experience, we can lead people down an inviting path into more unfamiliar territory, all the while remembering that we are trying to stimulate a state of curiosity as well as to instill a style of thought that allows us to understand the world around us. Most people--indeed, many teachers--perceive science as complex, abstract, foreign, unapproachable, and difficult. Science demands systematic, rigorous, usually quantitative thinking, objectivity, and a willingness to analyze. Students are quick to pick up on these fears and to assimilate them in their own perceptions.
And that brings me to the second point. Implicitly or otherwise, the educational system has diminished expectations of the blind. If science is hard for me, a sighted adult might reason, it must be doubly hard for a blind person; therefore let's go easy on that person so as not to hurt self-confidence or to enhance a sense of inferiority. But with that relaxed attitude we are withholding the most powerful method yet devised to comprehend the world, to explain and make sense of our surroundings. Not least we are depriving the student of a profound source of intense pleasure and accomplishment.
Science and the scientific way of thinking are activities that mirror precisely the process and mechanisms of evolution. In evolution forms of life are adapted to, and in important ways create, their surroundings. They are hypotheses about their environment, hypotheses that are daily tested. The best hypotheses--those that, given the limitations of technology and information of the living things in question, are met with success in survival and reproduction--persist in a competitive environment replete with opportunities, challenges, and uncertainties.
The evolutionary search for better hypotheses requires an organizational infrastructure that efficiently sifts the wheat from the chaff, a system that does not have to evaluate every single possibility, and that can quickly identify potentially useful adaptive improvements. But none of this will yield improvement unless the environment nurtures opportunity and experimentation and tolerates initial imperfection. New traits start out as very imperfect approximations to the well-adapted state. Only when novelties are tested in a richly competitive environment in the presence of opportunity will real improvement occur. Orchid flowers did not begin their evolution as perfect mimics of female bees that are attractive to male pollinators; they began by being just good enough to attract at least some insects long enough to be pollinated.
The key to evolution, to teaching science, and to teaching the blind about science or anything else is opportunity. In the case of education, opportunity means lots of hands-on experience and can-do attitude on everyone's part, a flexibility of mind that looks for alternative methods when standard procedures and protocols don't work.
Blind students benefit from physical models and from specimens. They may be unable to carry out the physical tasks of laboratory experiments or to observe behaviors and reactions directly, but they can perfectly well be shown the equipment and be required to do the necessary calculations, to make inferences, and to write reports. Yes, there is much visual material in science, but low-tech methods exist to make many of them easily accessible. Take a standard sheet of paper, place it on a soft, yielding surface, and then with a sharp pen trace an illustration by pressing firmly while drawing. On the back side of the sheet a mirror image of what you have drawn will emerge in a raised format.
What does a blind person need to succeed in science or simply to gain acceptable familiarity with the most powerful mechanism of learning known to humanity? Opportunity, curiosity, intelligence, and a willingness to work hard come to mind as the four requirements. These requirements are, of course, precisely the same as they are for anyone. It is in the implementation of these requirements that the recommendations become specific. And here, as I pointed out, active show-and-tell together with a flexible attitude complement the more generic elements of education. We teach science by putting the theory and methods of science into practice and by letting opportunity, observation, hypothesis, adaptation, and the power and beauty of scientific explanation do their work.
[Photo/Caption: Scott LaBarre]
by Scott C. LaBarre
From the Editor: Scott LaBarre is a longtime member and leader of the National Federation of the Blind. He currently serves as second vice president of the NFB of Colorado. He, his wife Anahit, and their young son Alexander live in a home in a Denver suburb. The following article appeared in the twenty-fourth Kernel Book, The Car, the Sled, and the Butch Wax. It begins with President Maurer's introduction:
Scott LaBarre is president of the National Federation of the Blind's special interest division for blind lawyers. There are elements of humor and irony in his story, which illustrates the profound disconnect that, all too often, still exists between the reality of blindness and the perception of it. Here is what Scott has to say about Cab 452:
I am a blind lawyer who owns and runs his own firm. Recently I got married, and my wife and I are proudly expecting our first child. We also look with joy towards living in a home that we have just purchased. In other words, I normally think of myself as the typical young professional starting a family and pursuing a career.
From time to time, however, something occurs that reminds me that my blindness makes me vastly different from the average young American professional. Even though I have accomplished much in my life, sometimes people are not able to look past the fact that a blind man is before them, and when they concentrate so heavily on my blindness, their natural tendency is to prescribe to me the characteristics they believe a blind person possesses rather than consider the life I have actually lived.
About a year ago I elected to take a cab home from the office for the specific purpose of swinging by the dry cleaner to collect a bunch of clothes I had dropped off the previous day. I needed to collect the clothes because the next day I was flying off on a business trip in connection with one of my cases.
After waiting outside of my office building for a short while, Metro Taxi's Cab 452 came speeding up. Soon after getting into the cab, I realized that the driver was in a hurry, because he rapidly flew out of the parking lot. When I told him that I had to make a stop at the dry cleaner, the driver groaned. Upon later reflection I am certain that I unconsciously adopted this guy's impatience. So as we rocketed up to the dry cleaner, my desire was to make the retrieval of my clothes as expeditious as possible.
When he said, "We're here," I quickly opened the door and heard a sickening "thunk." The driver had parked his size-twelve cab in a size-ten parking space. You guessed it. I had opened my door onto someone else's vehicle.
As I wriggled myself out of the cab, I heard somebody running up and screaming, "You (expletive deleted), you scratched my new SUV!" As soon as this new SUV owner realized that I was blind, he immediately turned his wrath upon the cab driver. Then began an hour-long ordeal.
My cab driver's first tongue was not English, and the SUV owner's use of the language was grotesque, to put it kindly. SUV Man screamed at the driver, "How the (expletive deleted) can you park so close to my car and let the blind man out there?" Mr. Cab Driver yelled back, claiming that there was no scratch and that it was not a big deal. He also said, "Give this poor blind guy a break. He couldn't see your stupid car."
SUV Man kept yelling at Mr. Cab Driver that he better damn well pay for the repairs. Mr. Cab Driver said, "There is no damage. We're leaving!" SUV Man replied, "There is no (expletive deleted) way you're leaving. I'm calling the police!"
From there the conversation between these gentlemen degenerated quickly while they hurled vicious insults back and forth. They both went into the dry cleaner to accost potential eyewitnesses about what had happened. I followed the quarrelling twosome into the store and attempted to gain their attention. No one was paying me any mind amidst the raging storm of verbal putdowns.
We in the National Federation of the Blind often say that we seek to achieve first-class citizenship for the nation's blind. We also say that with such first-class citizenship comes first-class responsibility. At the time this event occurred, I remember feeling at fault for what had happened. I told myself, "You should have been more cautious and opened the door more slowly."
I also asked myself what would have happened if I had been a sighted man getting out of the cab? I suspect that the sighted man would bear the responsibility for what had transpired as a result of his lack of caution.
On that day I attempted to get the attention of the two men so that I could discuss with them my role in the whole mess. At first they ignored me altogether. Finally I stepped in front of SUV Man and handed him my business card.
As I started to say something to him about the fact that he could call me about any potential damages, he said, "You don't have to give me your lawyer's card. You're blind. It's not your fault." Handing the card back to me, he once again said, "I don't need to talk with your lawyer. This stupid cab driver will need a lawyer."
Then the cab driver chimed in, "It isn't this blind man's fault. Give the poor guy a break. And I am not the stupid one."
I then tried to tell both gentlemen that I was, in fact, a lawyer and that my purpose was to help resolve the dispute. Once again they ignored me and took their battle outside of the store.
Later the police did, in fact, arrive. The officer examined SUV Man's vehicle and said that he could see no scratch. The officer spoke with both gentlemen, and they both described me as "this poor blind guy." The officer agreed that whatever had happened was "not the blind guy's fault." The officer never once spoke with me to ask about what had happened.
Finally the ordeal came to an end with both combatants yelling at each other and getting in a few last insults. On the way home I attempted to tell the driver of Cab 452 that I felt bad about what had happened. After all, I opened the door onto SUV Man's prized possession. The cab driver stated over and over that "Life must be hard, man. It isn't your fault." I tried repeatedly to explain that my life was fine.
When we got to my home, I left the cab, telling him that his supervisor could call me at my law office if there were any lingering questions. Apparently no official action resulted from the incident because I never heard from anyone regarding the matter.
Several weeks after the event, Cab 452 once again answered my call for a taxi and again picked me up from my office. The guy immediately said that he was the driver who had taken me to the dry cleaner, and he launched into an account of how stupid and ugly SUV Man had been. Then he asked me, "Is that building your doctor's or counselor's office?" I said, "No," and explained that I was a lawyer and that the building was home to my office.
The driver of Cab 452 was shocked. He asked me, "You work? Work as a lawyer?" I again told him what I did for a living, and he repeatedly commented that he was impressed and couldn't believe it. The incident at the dry cleaner and the subsequent ride in Cab 452 are not earth-shattering events but are the kinds of events that remind me that I am not the average young professional chasing the American dream. Such events force me to reflect upon the status of blind people in our society.
At the dry cleaner, initially, SUV Man started yelling at me about the alleged damage done to his car. Once he saw my white cane and realized that I was blind, all blame instantaneously shifted to the cab driver. Both at that time and afterwards, the driver made comments that said, in effect, "Give the poor blind guy a break."
Does my blindness absolve me of all responsibility in this kind of affair? Arguably, the cab driver probably should not have parked so close to another vehicle. However, maybe I shouldn't have been in such a hurry. Maybe I should have opened the door more slowly and carefully. Certainly SUV Man should not have overreacted and screamed so viciously and made a federal case out of such a small matter.
Regardless of how much blame should be assigned to the different individuals, there is no question in my mind that at least part of this accident was directly attributable to me and my actions. Neither the cab driver nor SUV Man nor the police officer ever wanted to hold me responsible in any way. They all agreed that I was faultless because of my blindness.
What struck me even more forcefully is the way these gentlemen reacted to the fact that I am a lawyer. Their response was disbelief. When I handed SUV Man my card, he assumed that the card was somebody else's. He did not consider for a moment that I was the lawyer named on the card. The cab driver did not understand until much later that I was a lawyer with my own practice, even though I had explained it several times. When he finally understood that I practiced law, he was shocked, to say the least.
Blind people have served as lawyers in our country for decades. In fact, the first president of the National Federation of the Blind, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, practiced law and taught at a major university starting in the 1930's. Even though there have been many blind lawyers, the gentlemen involved in this incident either could not or would not believe that I, a blind man, was a lawyer.
This phenomenon occurs with quite some frequency as I travel through life. Not a month goes by without someone expressing absolute surprise that I am employed as an attorney.
When I became blind as a ten-year-old boy, I literally thought that my life was over. In my wildest dreams I never imagined that I could pursue a challenging career, marry a beautiful woman, raise a family, and own a home; but I am doing all those things. The National Federation of the Blind has taught me to believe in myself as a blind person. The Federation has also made me realize that we have an obligation to spread a positive philosophy about blindness and to educate society about the true abilities of the blind.
Incidentally, I saw Cab 452's driver recently. His name is Mustafa, and he now has a much broader understanding of how blind people get along in the world. After seeing and listening to me enough times, he has learned that blind persons function in all walks of life and do so well. He is no longer shocked that I am a lawyer, and my blindness does not seem to be something unusual to him or something that should be pitied.
Our road to first-class citizenship has been long and hard, but we are getting there. Person by person, action by action, we change what it means to be blind. Cab 452 has reaffirmed my conviction that we will realize a day when the blind are full, first-class citizens in our society. With the work of the National Federation of the Blind and a society willing to listen, that day may not be all that far away.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Katrilla Martin]
Blind People Are Just Looking for Social Equality
by Katrilla Martin
From the Editor: Any time a blind person ventures outside the home or into a new place, he or she is likely to be noticed and may be compelled to do some impromptu public education. Often such experiences are pleasant, interesting, and successful; but sometimes, despite our best efforts, they do not go well. Even then it may be possible to turn the experience into something positive. The following article is reprinted from the Fall 2003 issue of the Vigilant, the publication of the NFB of Virginia. It originally appeared in the November 9, 2003, Fredericksburg Free Lance Star.
Katrilla Martin is a Federationist who is ready to articulate her positive philosophy of blindness anytime it is appropriate. Her refreshing attitude does not, unfortunately, shield her from unpleasantness. Being Katrilla, however, she finds ways of using such experiences to do some good despite inappropriate comments by unbalanced people. May we all be as sensible and constructive when such things happen to us:
Recently I was verbally attacked in downtown Fredericksburg, not because of the color of my skin, not because of my religious beliefs, but because of the cane I was carrying and the jacket I was wearing. Confused? So was I.
You see, I am blind, and I use a white cane for independent travel. I have had some cane travel training, and I have never injured anyone with my cane. As for the jacket, I was simply cold, and it kept me warm. The issue on that day had nothing to do with my cane-travel skills or the cool temperatures. A gentleman--and I consider him a gentleman--tapped me on the shoulder to express his hatred of the organization of which I am a member. He said that my organization, The National Federation of the Blind, was made up of "angry, blind, cane-pushing [expletives] who think that blind people are better than the rest of us!" I tried to reason with him and even invited him to one of our meetings so that he could find out what the NFB is about for himself. An innocent bystander asked if the police needed to be called.
I concluded that this man was misinformed and chalked it up to ignorance. Besides, the gentleman was elderly, and I, being twenty-eight years old, decided that the attack had done me minimal damage. I was wrong. I have been deeply affected by the incident and would like to take this opportunity to clear something up.
The National Federation of the Blind is the largest organization of blind people. We organize to secure equality for the blind. We are the blind speaking for the blind, but that does not mean that we will not work in partnership with anyone interested in educating others to counteract the misconceptions about blindness. We believe that, given proper training and equal opportunity, blind people can live worthwhile lives and successfully maintain careers.
The gentleman was wrong. We do not think of ourselves as better than the rest of you. We do know that we are capable. We do not push canes, but we do use canes (as well as guide dogs) to travel independently. We are not angry--persistent, maybe--because we simply will not give up until the misconceptions about blindness are dispelled and equality is reached. If you would like to find out more about our organization, please feel free to join us at our monthly chapter meetings.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ramona Walhof with son Christopher and daughter Laura]
Riding in the Streets
by Ramona Walhof
From the Editor: One of the most prolific contributors to the Kernel Book series of publications the NFB publishes to educate the public about what it is really like to be blind is Ramona Walhof. Her stories often focus on her experience raising two children on her own. This story appeared in To Reach for the Stars, the twenty-fifth in the series. It begins with President Maurer's introduction:
Ramona Walhof lives in Idaho. She is a longtime leader in the National Federation of the Blind, having served both as a state president and a national officer. Her stories have appeared in many previous Kernel Books. Here she writes about raising her children as a young widowed single mother.
I was a widowed single mother with a son in kindergarten and a daughter in second grade. I was proud of my kids, but I didn't get to do as many things with them in school as I would have liked because I had to work. I was working for a rehabilitation agency for the blind, and the job was pretty demanding. Sometimes I brought blind students home with me for dinner and the evening. Sometimes I had activities at work that meant I could not come home at the regular time. Other times there were trips out of town. On the other hand, sometimes I could take my children with me for activities with the adult students.
It was important for these students (many of whom were newly blind and needed to understand that they could return to a full and normal life) to associate with blind people who were involved in their communities and doing the things families do. I know that some of the students thoroughly enjoyed talking and playing with my children. So my life was busy, and I was satisfied with it.
One day I received a call from my employer. He asked me to go to a city about 100 miles away to testify in a custody hearing for Tony, another blind parent. I had met this man, but I didn't know him well. He was divorced with four children. He and his former wife had a co-custody arrangement; each had the children every other weekend and part of the school week.
The ex-wife was asking for full custody, saying that Tony's blindness made him less able to care for the children than she was. I wondered how I could help, since I knew these people only a little. My employer explained that the court needed to hear how a single blind parent could cope. I didn't think my methods as a blind mother were that different from what sighted people do, but I certainly could try.
I traveled to the location where the hearing was to be held the night before. A breakfast meeting was scheduled with Tony, his attorney, and two other probable witnesses. We were told that there would be three attorneys: one for Tony, one for his ex-wife, and one for the children. We would not be permitted into the courtroom until we were called to testify. I was not expecting this. I was hoping to hear some of the questions to people before me. Each of us was questioned by Tony's attorney, but he told us he could not predict everything the other attorneys would ask. He just advised us to answer the questions as correctly as we could. I hoped I could help because I certainly did not want any court to decide that blindness by itself was cause for a parent not to have custody of his or her children.
As it turned out, I didn't have long to wait. I was the first to be called. I was asked the standard questions about who I was and my family situation. I was asked if I experienced any special problems because of blindness. I answered that I did not drive but used other means of transportation. I said I did not expect my children to do most of my reading. It was up to me to help them learn to read.
I explained that the year before I had purchased some used first-grade reading books to help my daughter gain confidence in reading. She would spell the words she did not know so I could help her with them. But first-grade readers repeat the same word many times, and that helped her realize that she really was learning to read.
By the time of this court hearing, Laura had become quite a good second-grade reader. Her teacher had never thought she was having problems, but Laura did. I don't now remember all the things we discussed in that hearing, but they were not complicated.
Then the attorney for the children began to ask me questions. He asked how I handled discipline. I explained that I tried to be consistent. If I told my children that I would do something--something they liked or something they would not like--I did my best to follow through. He pursued this. I told him I knew that I had to be realistic. Once I told my son I would not let him play outside if he did not clean up his room by the time I came home from work. He said, "You'll forget." I thought about that for a minute, wondering how often I did forget such things. Then I answered: "I could forget, but then I might not. Do you want to take the chance?" He did not take the chance and went immediately and did his assigned chores. It had nothing to do with blindness, I thought.
Then I was asked how I supervised my children outside. I explained that much depended on the relationship you have with your children. I said that of course I could not watch them every minute, but nobody does that. My daughter wanted to ride her bike all over the neighborhood, and I refused to let her ride in the streets, thinking that she did not yet understand traffic patterns well enough and just wasn't ready.
She informed me that her friend Sarah rode her bike in the streets. That didn't change my mind. Laura asked, "Why can Sarah ride her bike in the street, but I can't?" All I could answer was, "because Sarah's parents make Sarah's rules, and your mom makes your rules." Then the attorney asked: Could I trust my daughter to follow the rules she was given?
I explained to the court that there were many ways I might find out if she did not. Her brother might let it slip. A friend might mention it. Laura herself might say something that would tip me off. Other parents in the neighborhood might say something. Laura tended not to want to take chances like that. While I didn't believe it was impossible that she would test, I thought it unlikely, and I was quite sure that (sooner or later) I would be told.
My children had learned to take what I said seriously. I told them about the time my son climbed on a ladder to the top of the garage and pulled off some of the shingles. I don't believe he intended to damage the roof of the garage, but when it began to leak, I first wondered whether water was running in under the door. The kids told me it was probably rain coming through the hole in the roof. They weren't being secretive about it. We all got to fix the shingles on the garage roof.
I told the court that, when my children were very small, they found it a privilege to choose which can of vegetables or fruit we would have for dinner. If my children had not wanted to do that, I would have labeled canned goods in Braille. Since they regarded choosing as a privilege, I didn't take the time to label. I gave some other examples, but I think what I said about riding the bike was the turning point. The attorney for the mother had no questions for me. No other witnesses were called. I was concerned about that, but Tony's attorney thought Tony had won what he wanted, continued co-custody of his children. He turned out to be right.
I thought about that testimony and raising children. I hadn't taken the time to read lots of books about child rearing. I hadn't had a lot of time, and not as many were available in Braille and on tape as there are now. I hadn't had the time to socialize with other mothers as much as I might have, because my husband died when my son was four months old, and I had been working ever since. I just did what seemed reasonable. I would do some things differently now, but I tried to keep my cool and talk with my children about what they were thinking as much as I could.
I often thought I missed much of the information about what happened at school because I came home every afternoon at least two hours after school was dismissed. By that time the news from school was old for little children. I went to some school programs, but not all of them. I did the best I could. Perhaps I did not have the time to enjoy my children as I might have. But we had some very good times. That is one of the reasons I am so glad now to have grandchildren. My big job with them is to enjoy them, and I do.
When Laura was eleven or twelve, she was permitted to ride her bike on streets that were not too busy. She was as tall as I was. We bought a tandem bike and used it for recreation and to run errands. By riding behind my daughter, I became very aware of exactly how good her judgment was about traffic and street patterns.
I arranged a special order to have brakes both in front and back of the tandem. I also had the dealer put the gears on the back handlebar instead of in front. The time came when that was not an asset, but at first I thought it would be better for me to have good control. I was quite a bit heavier than my daughter was, so I taught her to put her feet on the pedals while I pushed off to start the bike. This is not the recommended way, but it seemed wise for us. Usually the heavier person rides the front of a tandem bike.
I wondered if Laura was too young, but we both enjoyed it, and we skinned our knees only once--not too bad a record for as much as we rode that bike. I was so cautious that my son preferred to ride on his single bike while Laura and I rode the tandem. I didn't argue about it.
One summer we joined a swimming pool so that both children could swim as often as they liked while I was at work. They rode their bikes to get there and home again. Only one of the streets between the house where they stayed and the pool was heavily traveled, and they were instructed to ride on the sidewalk along it. By this time Chris and Laura were in the fourth and sixth grades. They stayed with a neighbor during the day while I was at work, but they were old enough to have a little independence.
My judgment was that they were responsible enough to ride in the streets and that their desire to swim was strong enough that they would not jeopardize it. The neighbor they stayed with had several children of her own, and they were most happy to report on anything that occurred in the neighborhood. One always has to consider the accuracy of such reports, but they can be useful if considered together with other information. All this came about little by little and felt right. Much depends on the individual children, but more depends on the relationship between them and adults, especially their parents.
Did I make mistakes? Of course I did. Still I am proud of my children. Both are college graduates, have wonderful spouses, own their own homes, are working in responsible employment, and are paying their own bills. I now have more flexible time than they do, even though I lead a busy life.
When to permit children to ride their bikes in the streets is a judgment call for every family. That is probably something I wouldn't change if I had it to do all over again. I think I understand better now why my testimony in that custody case seemed to have made the difference. My message was that blindness isn't nearly as important in child rearing as communication, relationships, and honesty. I must have succeeded in getting that across to the court, and I haven't changed my mind.
My experience in the National Federation of the Blind has made it possible for me and my children to regard blindness as a characteristic, not to be forgotten or disregarded, but not to be a roadblock or a distraction from other things either. Blindness is only one of my characteristics, and I hope not the only interesting one. Once the tandem was equipped the way we needed it, we never thought about it. We just thought about where we were going and why.
Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchase--a house, college tuition, or a car. The most common forms of planned giving are wills and life insurance policies. There are also several planned giving options through which you can simultaneously give a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, obtain a tax deduction, and receive lifetime income now or in the future. For more information write or call the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Brooke Fox]
The Art of Albinism
by Brooke Fox
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the Winter 2003 issue of NOAH News, the leading publication for the albinism community. Several years ago Brooke Fox won an NFB of California scholarship, and she performed at the affiliate convention last fall. She reports that she has become increasingly involved in the legally blind community, and she has expressed interest in joining the NFB of New York, where she is now living. Her story should encourage all those interested in careers in the arts. This is what she says:
As a singer/songwriter I have always felt the need to make a connection with others through my life and the lives around me. My experiences with legal blindness and albinism have undoubtedly shaped the way I make music, and in turn making music has shaped the way I live with albinism. I wanted to share some of my life in this article and open the door to more artists of all kinds from the blind community to come forward and tell their own story as a creative being when one's disability and art collide. Here's my take.
I love my paleness! It's decidedly different. It turns heads. As an up
coming singer/songwriter currently living in New York City, I need to be noticed.
Music became a life support for me early on. I started performing young (age five) around my Northern California hometown with the help of my grandmother, a professional musician and songwriter. I won a few talent show trophies and gained confidence in singing as something I could do well. As a child with albinism, I found that music helped to keep me going when the kids at school got me down.
In the student band I played clarinet through middle school and somehow learned to memorize my sheet music. It was easier than squinting at the notes. I'd just listen to the people next to me and copy them. My teacher at the time copied the music and enlarged it for me, but I think the difficulty with reading actually helped develop my musical ear.
Somewhere around age ten I began to work out my own songs on the piano. Songwriting gave me a way to further develop my own voice and deal with life through journaling. My earliest songs were fictional tales about animals, people, and eventually love. However, one of those first songs, called "Hold Your Head High," became a favorite among those who heard it for its positive lyrics. My theory now is that it was my attempt at giving back the encouraging words people had given to me:
Your life can be decided by only you
Listen close here's what you must do
Hold your head high
Reach for the sky.
After high school I went on to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Berklee is the only place to get an actual degree in the craft of songwriting. I thrived there, sharpening my vocal and acoustic guitar skills, finding my own sound, and strengthening my lyric writing. I graduated with honors and was awarded a songwriting achievement award.
Upon graduation I relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, to be a part of the songwriting movement there. Arriving in Nashville, where they drive to pick up the mail, was the first real test of my resolve. I walked everywhere. A stranger at the grocery store once stopped and proclaimed, "I know you! You're that girl that walks everywhere!" When I tried to hail a cab downtown, the driver picked me up and snickered, "Where are you from? New York? No one hails a cab in Nashville."
Meanwhile my music career began to take shape. I recorded my first CD, got a band together, had some solid mentions in the press, and played lots of shows. I worked as an assistant in a recording studio for a year, where I met all kinds of great people. I was making strides professionally, but I was struggling to get around in Nashville. Once I had to catch a ride home from one of my shows with a complete stranger when my ride fell through. I had a meltdown one morning when the cab that usually took me to the studio was a no-show. It felt as if life was out of my control, and I was having trouble staying up about it. I asked myself, "Why Nashville?"
Then a friend called. He had a room for rent in his Brooklyn apartment. I was determined not to make a life decision based on my albinism, but it came down to my pride versus my quality of life. So I made the move to New York. It was nothing but freedom for me. Finally I could get myself to shows and meetings without hassle.
Now, after a few years here, I am enjoying some professional success. I tour regionally with my band, I've secured a booking agent, and I am currently working on my second record, which will include "Change Me," a song inspired by the life of Christina Olsen (subject of painter Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World"). She lived an amazing life as a disabled woman in Maine around the turn of the century. Through her I was finally able to communicate my feelings about albinism in song:
Hey, if you want to hold my hand,
You've got to take me as I am
Because you can't change me.
Albinism continues to shape my world and surprise me every day. When I get stopped on the street these days, my years as an entertainer kick in and help make it possible for me to be a positive force for albinism. I love dissolving the albinism myth for people out there on the street or on stage, one person at a time.
To learn more about Brooke and to hear samples of her music, please visit <www.BrookeFox.com>.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim Halliday]
by Jim Halliday
From the Editor: Jim Halliday has been a fixture for a long time in the access-technology field. For many years he was president of HumanWare, an access-technology provider. His title is now President Emeritus of HumanWare, and he is dedicated to doing what he can to improve technology for blind users. Here is an article that lays out his thoughts about what constitutes effective technology for blind people:
I was sitting in Dr. Maurer's office at NFB headquarters in Baltimore one morning when the idea for this article was born. He told me that he was ready to start downloading Braille books from Bookshare.org onto his BrailleNote. His enthusiasm about having instant access to thousands of Braille books was the manifestation of a dream I've had since 1979. Ever since I saw the first electronic Braille book stored on a cassette tape being read on a VersaBraille, I've imagined a time when Braille would be every bit as available to blind people as print is to sighted people, a time when Braille users would own large libraries of books. Now a Braille user can store hundreds of Braille books on standard, compact flash memory cards that easily pop in and out of a BrailleNote. Because of technology our world has changed in a flash.
Technology is an amazing thing. When I was born, telephones were all black and had rotary dials and umbilical cords that were hardwired into wall boxes. Music came in the form of one tune on each side of an amazing new vinyl invention called 45s. Elevators had people rather than buttons operating them. There were rumors of televisions and vinyl records called LPs that could hold six songs per side and reel-to-reel tapes onto which you could record your voice or even your own music. In the world of blindness there was an exciting new Braille writer called a Perkins. Sighted people had a similar mechanical device called a typewriter. More than ever before in history, we are confronted today with rapid change. Some of it we embrace, some of it we reject, and some of it is forced upon us regardless of our desires (for example, Microsoft's switch from MS-DOS to Windows).
I visited my ninety-year-old Aunt Gertrude last week and noticed that, although she has a portable phone in the kitchen, in her bedroom she still uses the same old rotary phone that my grandmother was using in the late 1940's. Aside from some restored automobiles, my Aunt Gertrude's rotary phone, and the Perkins Brailler, it is difficult to find any technology from circa 1950 in daily use.
When I ask myself why people continue to use old technology, I come up with six key reasons: 1) No new technology has been developed to replace it; 2) The old technology still works; 3) People don't know about the new technology; 4) People don't perceive any value in the new technology as it applies to their own lives; 5) People can't afford the new technology; and 6) The new technology is intimidating and too complicated, and people don't have the time or energy to learn how to use it.
Let's talk about these six points.
1. No New Technology?
In the cases of my aunt's phone and the Perkins Brailler, we can't say that new phones or new Braillewriters don't exist. Every decade telephones have changed and added more power and more features. In fact today's phones are not just telephones, they are wireless communicators that also send and retrieve messages, tell the time and date, browse the Internet, check email, do calculations, and even send photos. Some phones are also PDAs (personal data assistants).
Modern Braillewriters, like the Mountbatten, not only write Braille, but do it with minimal physical effort, enabling preschoolers to explore Braille years earlier than old technology allowed. The new Braille writers are quieter when adjusted for different grades of paper. They talk so that Braille learners can auditorily verify the accuracy of each key press, promoting practice and self-learning. They also work with standard keyboards and have built-in Braille translators that enable both Braille and non-Braille users to generate hardcopy Braille. They work with printers to generate print from a Braille file, and they can even work as a Braille embosser when connected to a computer. No, we can't say that there is no new technology.
2. Why Keep Old Technology?
If the user has no need for all of the many advantages new technology offers and wants to perform only the basic functions for which it was originally designed, then the old technology remains valid. I can totally accept the fact that a user of old technology should have the choice to continue using that technology as long as he or she wants. However, we have now entered the twenty-first century, and I do not accept the notion that blind children should be expected to wait until they have enough finger strength to use fifty-year-old technology when sighted children are introduced to current technology at the preschool level. The world that our children will face in the next decade requires access to current technology if they are to be competitive. Old technology, even when it's free, won't make our children competitive in this rapidly changing world.
3. Unaware of What's New?
Companies in mainstream markets are known to spend millions of dollars on one thirty-second TV spot just to reinforce what customers already know. The combined annual marketing expenditure of all the companies in our industry would be a tiny fraction of the cost of that one thirty-second spot. Companies in our industry don't have much money for marketing, so they rely on customers to tell their friends, agencies to make demonstration equipment available, teachers to make the latest equipment available to their students, and trainers to educate themselves on the latest technologies so that they can make recommendations to prospective buyers.
The NFB's International Braille and Technology Center is the only place in the world that I know of where every piece of blindness technology is available for potential users to explore and test. Although more people should come to Baltimore to experience this fabulous center, the truth is that most technology buyers make buying decisions based on input from experts. Many of these experts are indeed very knowledgeable about certain technology, but few have in-depth experience with the breadth of technology available at the NFB's National Center.
How do these experts determine what technology is best for the people they serve? Some experts depend on their own experience. What works for them should be okay for everyone else. If they don't use a particular product, the people they serve won't hear about it or they'll get a biased perspective. Some experts depend on product vendors or distributors, but if these folks don't sell a particular product or are poorly trained on demonstrating a new product, the expert who is trying to learn may be left with a false impression that is then conveyed to his or her clients.
Some experts talk to other experts. These discussions are excellent for expanding the in-depth knowledge of a given product, but unless one of the participants is intimately familiar with the latest technology, such discussions can entrench the participants still deeper in their existing comfort zones. Experts vary from those enamored with any new technology to those entrenched in the old. So how do end users decide whether new technology is appropriate for them?
4. How Does This New Technology Help Me?
One of the great challenges of choosing the right technology is understanding what it can actually do for us. I once bought a tool box on sale with a hundred different tools. What a deal, I thought. In retrospect, 80 percent of the tools have never been touched because I didn't need them. What's more, the tools that I did use were of such poor quality that I ended up replacing them with a few quality tools. What a rip-off. With technology we often think that more is better when more may actually mean only more complexity. Complexity is not necessarily bad, but the more complex the challenge, the greater the need for training. In the end, as with my tool box, we usually limit our use of the technology to a few critical applications.
How do we decide which applications are important to us if we have never used them? We live in a visually-oriented world, so it is important to determine how we can successfully compete in that world. The natural tendency is to say, "If sighted people use a particular technology, then we need to use that technology too." Windows is a good example. But is using Windows really our goal? Isn't our real goal to be able to work in an environment that is as friendly to blind users as Windows is to sighted users so that we all can be equally productive without sacrificing the quality or compatibility of our output? Equal productivity without jumping through extra hoops is our real goal. Does new technology do that for us?
We must assess new technology's ability to give us equal productivity. We must ask ourselves, "What are successful sighted people able to do with technology, and does blindness technology allow blind people to do those things just as efficiently and effectively?"
What are the critical elements of technology designed for personal productivity?
a) Is it truly portable? Laptops are quasi-portable due to their size and limited battery life.
b) Is the environment intuitive and friendly to a blind user? Windows was designed with a graphical user interface to make it easy for sighted users. A sighted person uses this friendly interface to access information. A blind user uses a screen reader to access the sighted person's user interface in order to access information. To be sure, many blind people are quite capable and effective PC users, despite the contortions they undergo when competing in a predominately sighted workplace. It is comforting to know that this is the case when such access is required.
c) Are the applications appropriate, and are they consistent with that friendly environment? Like my tool box, thirty difficult-to-use applications may not be nearly as useful as seven or eight key applications that are easy to use.
d) Is the output from the technology compatible with mainstream technology? For example, if a sighted person sends you an email with an MS Word attachment, can you read it? Or can you write a report in contracted Braille and automatically back-translate the file into an MS Word file?
e) What are the most critical applications that make you productive and competitive? Individual needs vary, but most technology users require a consistently friendly environment that gives them an efficient way to:
* Write, edit, and spellcheck;
* Send and receive emails with attachments;
* Browse the Internet;
* Download, store, and read Braille books, research materials, newspapers, etc.;
* Organize and schedule their time and activities;
* Store and retrieve names and contact information;
* Easily exchange data with sighted technology users either through direct connection, email, or transfer media; and
* Plan, follow, and monitor travel routes to and from walking or transportation destinations, including access to updates while traveling regarding street crossings and other points of interest (shops, schools, restaurants, etc.) along the way.
Our own unique technology requirements may or may not include applications beyond those mentioned above. In most cases additional applications require the power of a full-blown computer, which means the added need for screen access. Since portable personal productivity technology is not powerful enough to run full-blown computer applications, but instead uses stripped down versions, going to a real computer makes sense. If you are going to add the complexity of a screen reader, you may as well use standard computer applications.
5. Does New Technology Cost too Much?
We often get hung up on cost versus value. What is it worth to be more productive, effective, and successful all day, every day? What is it worth to own a library filled with electronic Braille books that you can always carry with you to read on a bus or a train or while sitting under a tree? Think about how much money we spend on little things every day. For example, a Starbuck's venti mocha costs $3.65. Let's say you drink one every day for three years. That would cost you $3,996.75. A BrailleNote 18 with the NFB member discount costs $3,890.25. Aside from the possibility of increasing your hyperactivity, the mocha is not likely to increase your productivity and effectiveness in the competitive world. The BrailleNote, on the other hand, happens to fill all of the critical requirements noted in the previous section of this article.
You may say, "I can buy a laptop computer that is far more powerful than a BrailleNote for $1,000." That may be true, but does the laptop computer meet any of the criteria noted above? The reason that millions of PDAs are sold every year is because they serve a different purpose from a laptop computer. A PDA's ability to store and retrieve bits of information instantly is critical to one's productivity when on the go. Booting up a laptop simply is not an option for such applications. Besides, if you add a screen reader for $795, Office XP for $395, and the cheapest Braille display on the market for around $1,995, you would be paying $4,185 for a heavy, complicated, nonintegrated collection of hardware with about 10 percent the battery life of an appropriate PDA with Braille display.
6. Is New Technology Too Complicated and Difficult to Use?
Indeed new technology can be complicated until one learns to use it. Complicated technology generally costs about the same amount as the training required to learn to use it effectively. In other words, when we decide on a particular piece of technology, we need to take into account the hidden costs associated with training or the additional time it will take to train ourselves (assuming this is possible), or the possibility that we will learn only the basic functions and leave it at that. If we haven't budgeted for training or can't find a trainer we can afford, then we must ask ourselves whether purchasing complicated technology is the right decision for us. Here again, powerful technology does not necessarily mean the same as complicated technology. In fact technology with an intuitive environment may be even more powerful because the user can put all of it to good use.
When evaluating technology, it is important to look at the power as it relates to your needs, but it is also critical to examine the environment, the applications, context-sensitive help, and the user's manual. Is the environment intuitive? Do the applications all feel the same, and can you exchange information among the various applications? Can you be anywhere within any application and get help? Is the manual instantly available on your device? Is competent technical support available to you from your supplier if all else fails? If the technology you are considering has "yes" answers to all of these questions, then your need for training goes down in direct proportion to each "yes," as do the related costs. Complexity and hidden costs are part of the same package, just as intuitive environment and personal productivity are related. Of course there are times when complexity cannot be avoided, but then and only then should one have to live in such an environment.
Equal Environment in the Twenty-First Century
As people begin to understand the true purpose of a PDA, they start to realize that the traditional idea of access is not valid when personal productivity is being measured. Equal access generally means that a person who is blind has to adapt through the use of access technology to a sighted environment. Thank goodness such products exist when such access is absolutely necessary. However, the fact remains that sighted computer users live in a visually intuitive environment, an environment designed to help make sighted people productive. Access technology users, however, live in a complex environment that provides access to a visual computer environment, an environment that is fundamentally unfriendly to a blind user. To create a truly equal situation, both blind and sighted people must live in equally friendly, intuitive, and productive environments. In other words, equal environment is the path to personal productivity in a competitive world.
Historically the problem with creating an environment specifically for a blind person meant that that person was restricted to varying degrees when interacting with the sighted world. Understandably that was unacceptable, and thankfully access technology was developed to accommodate the problem. However, in the twenty-first century, we have entered the E-age. Email, e-commerce, eBooks, and other uses of the Internet mean that people are increasingly exchanging data electronically, so a deaf-blind BrailleNote user can communicate with a sighted computer user, and neither person knows or needs to know whether one party or the other has a disability. Furthermore, when a device like the BrailleNote is capable of automatically converting Microsoft Word files into contracted Braille files and vice versa, the traditional concerns of exchanging data with a blind person disappear. Synchronizing with Outlook is just frosting on the cake.
We are often asked, "Why do blind people so enthusiastically embrace products like BrailleNotes and VoiceNotes?" There are three simple reasons:
1)An intuitive, easy-to-use environment to work in means that a user can be immediately productive.
2)A set of meaningful and appropriate applications designed to work in that friendly environment means that a user has all of the primary tools needed to compete effectively in a sighted world.
3)The ability simply to exchange data with a computer or to save files in standard Microsoft Windows formats means that a user can work in contracted Braille yet produce documents that are readily usable by a sighted person and vice versa.
If a portable device does not meet these three fundamental criteria, it could actually impair personal productivity. Although the BrailleNote and VoiceNote do not eliminate the need for access technology in mainstream computer environments, they do address all of the primary requirements of a personal productivity tool. Whether we are sighted or blind, we are all measured on our personal productivity. Having powerful yet intuitive tools that unleash our innate ability to compete successfully is a critical step toward personal productivity. BrailleNote and VoiceNote have been enthusiastically embraced by thousands of blind people because the traditional obstacles of access do not exist in an intuitive environment, where users are free to compete equally with sighted people without compromising the compatibility of their output.
Effective technology must ultimately empower the individual user of that technology. For some, full-blown computers are essential. For others, a Perkins Brailler or a rotary telephone will suffice. For most of us a personal productivity tool that makes us productive wherever we go while remaining compatible with mainstream communication needs is critical if we expect to compete effectively in this world and also for our quality of life. Sometimes relaxing with a good book is just as important as doing emails or writing reports.
This month's recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Betty Capps]
Carolina or She-Crab Soup
by Betty Capps
Betty Capps is the wife of Don Capps, president emeritus of the NFB of South Carolina and the senior member of the NFB board of directors. She is a longtime leader of the Federation in her own right and a wonderful cook, as the following recipes will demonstrate.
1 pint milk
4 blades whole mace
2 pieces lemon peel
1 pound white crab meat
1 pint cream
1/4 cup cracker crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Place milk in top of double boiler with mace and lemon peel and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Then add crab, butter, and cream and cook for fifteen minutes. Thicken with cracker crumbs, season with salt and pepper, and allow to stand on back of stove for a few minutes to bring out the flavor. Makes six servings.
Homemade Cinnamon Sauce
by Betty Capps
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup water
2 tablespoons red hots
Method: Stir all ingredients together in a sauce pan until cornstarch lumps have dissolved and then cook, continuing to stir, over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook for a minute or two more, stirring frequently. Serve warm over warm apple dumplings. Makes about two-thirds of a cup or enough for six dumplings. You may also serve over sliced pound cake.
Easy Egg Custard Pie
by Betty Capps
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup self
2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 stick butter, melted
Method: Beat eggs. Blend in sugar and flour. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into greased pie pan, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for forty minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Note: This easy pie forms its own crust.
by Betty Capps
1 package lime Jell-O
1 package lemon Jell-O
2 cups very hot water
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple
1 5-ounce can evaporated milk
1 cup pecans, chopped
2 cups cottage cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
Method: Combine packages of Jell-O in hot water. Mix until dissolved. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Pour into a casserole dish. Refrigerate until set.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Darlene Houck]
Chocolate Pound Cake
by Darlene Houck
Darlene Houck is the wife of NFB of South Carolina leader and Federation Center Executive Director David Houck.
1/2 pound butter or margarine at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups sugar
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla or peppermint extract
3 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 heaping tablespoons cocoa (vary to taste)
Method: Combine butter or margarine, shortening, and sugar. Mix well and beat five minutes at low speed. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each. Add vanilla or peppermint extract. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa. Alternately beat in milk and dry ingredients until all have been worked in. Pour batter into a greased bundt or tube pan that has been dusted with cocoa. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour and twenty minutes. Remove cake from oven when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake slightly before removing from pan to cool completely on rack.
6 tablespoons butter or margarine (softened)
3/4 cups cocoa
1 box confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla or peppermint extract
Method: Cream butter or margarine. Add cocoa and confectionery sugar alternately with milk. Beat with electric mixer. Add peppermint or vanilla extract. Additional milk or sugar may be added to achieve spreading consistency.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Kim and Jordan Diggs]
by Kim Diggs
Kim Diggs is the wife of Parnell Diggs, president of the NFB of South Carolina.
1 32-ounce package frozen hash brown potatoes
2 cans cream of potato soup
16 ounces sour cream
2 cups grated sharp cheese
1 1/4 cups Parmesan cheese
Method: Thaw potatoes and mix with remaining ingredients. Place mixture in greased 9-by-13
inch baking dish. Bake for forty minutes at 350 degrees.
News from the Federation Family
Win a Dell Computer:
The National Federation of the Blind of Georgia
South Fulton Chapter is starting the new year off with a blast! Get your Tech Tickets for only $1 each, five tickets for $4, or ten tickets for $7. Your Tech Ticket entitles you to a chance to win a Dell Pentium 4 Computer, fully loaded with your choice of JAWS or ZoomText, twenty-one-inch monitor or flat screen (your choice) and free installation at your home. Deadline for entry is April 15, 2004.
The drawing will take place Saturday, April 17, 2004, at the monthly meeting of the National Federation of the Blind
South Fulton Chapter in the Fulton County Library at 3034 Lakewood Avenue, Atlanta, 12:00 noon. You do not have to be present to win. Proceeds will help students attend the 2004 NFB national convention.
For more information or to purchase tickets, email <NFSOUTH1@AOL.COM>, call Debbie Hill at (404) 241-0526, or 1-800-449-6324. Mail your check or money order to National Federation of the Blind-South Fulton Chapter, P.O. Box 16634, Atlanta, Georgia 30321.
The St. Louis Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri held a recent election to select new officers. They are Bryan Schultz, president; Mary Towers, vice president; Rhonda Howard, recording secretary; Robin House, treasurer; Kerry Smith, corresponding secretary; and Brent Ford, member at large.
The National Federation of the Blind of Buncombe County, North Carolina, was organized in Asheville on August 2, 2003. The chapter officers are Barbara Wienke, president; Rita Weyler, vice president; Greg Wienke, secretary; Lillian Tempsey, treasurer; and Pamela Yanney, board member.
The National Federation of the Blind of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, held its annual election in November with the following results: Muriel Brown, president; Mabel Condor, vice president; Hazel Staley, secretary; Janis Lynn Stallings, treasurer; and Shirley McDuffie, Pat Robbins, and Sharon Newton, board members.
Attention Jerky Seminarians:
The 2004 convention of the National Federation of the Blind is quickly approaching. The Jerky Seminarians will hold a reunion breakfast from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. at the American Grill restaurant in the Marriott Marquis Hotel Thursday, July 1. RSVP by April 15 to ensure that you receive your commemorative Jerky Seminarian/Whozit mug. Send your RSVP by email to <STEPHANIELSCOTT@AOL.COM>.
Election Results from Washington State:
Mike Freeman, president of the NFB of Washington, reports the following chapter election results:
The Clark County Chapter of the NFB of Washington elected officers on Saturday, December 20, 2003. Elected were Bob Sellers, president; Kaye Kipp, vice president; Mike Freeman, secretary; and Don Mitchell, treasurer.
The Greater Seattle Chapter conducted elections on January 17, 2004. Elected were Kris Lawrence, president; Jacob Struiksma, first vice president; Rita Szantay, second vice president; Kay Burrows, secretary; Doug Johnson, treasurer; and Jessiaca Evans, and Bob Guyette, board members.
The election of officers of the Sno-King Chapter was also held on January 17, 2004. The officers are Gary Mackenstadt, president; Duane Smith, vice president; Denise Mackenstadt, secretary; Bennett Prows, treasurer; and Chris Miscelli, board member.
The Austin Chapter of the NFB of Texas elected officers at its January meeting. Elected were Margaret Craig, president; Jim Shaffer, first vice president; Angela Wolf, second vice president; Norma Gonzales Baker, secretary; Mike Marshall, treasurer; and George Gordon and Brandy Wojcik, board members.
Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.
Braille Teaching Tools Available:
Are you looking for innovative new ways to introduce your students or kids to the basics of Braille? If so, get your hands on BrailleBooks.com's newest product, the BrailleBox. This all-wood board comes with twelve wooden pegs to insert in the holes, making two complete Braille cells. Since the board tucks neatly into a storage drawer (also made of smooth, intricately carved teak) you can take this portable set with you and practice your Braille anywhere you go. It's truly an invaluable learning tool. And at the price ($9.95) it's more than five times cheaper than similar tools. Braillebooks.com also has a host of other nifty Braille learning materials available, such as decks of print/Braille flash cards and a handy booklet called "The Grade II Braille Quick-Reference Dictionary." To learn more, visit <www.braillebooks.com> or call (800) 987-1231.
Paid Counselors Needed:
The Sacramento Society for the Blind is seeking several energetic, highly motivated counselors age nineteen and over for its summer youth retreat. Applicants must be skilled in areas of blindness as well as physically able to hike, swim, and direct youth of various ages.
Counselors must be punctual, self-directed, and independent workers. The time commitment will be approximately two weeks at the end of July. Staff training will take place prior to the camp. This ten-day youth retreat will include traditional camp activities as well as teach skills of blindness. In addition we work to build a positive attitude about coping with vision loss. Stipends will be paid, and transportation costs incurred will be reimbursed. For more information about applying, email Michelle Bruns at <email@example.com>, or contact her at (916) 452-8271, extension 328.
The Sacramento Society for the Blind is seeking a full-time cook/instructor for its annual youth retreat. This person must be highly organized and proficient in time-management skills. In addition he or she must be qualified to cook for large groups. The cook will be responsible for cooking some meals independently as well as supervising instruction in alternative techniques of cooking and daily living to youth of varying ages. Experience in cooking and planning extensive menus is a must. A stipend will be paid as well as transportation costs incurred. This position is a two-week commitment at the end of July. For more information contact Michelle Bruns at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or at (916) 452-8271, extension 328.
[PHOTO/CAPTION: Jim Sanders]
We received the following good news in January from Penny Hartin, Canadian National Institute for the Blind executive director for international programs. Jim Sanders, CNIB president and CEO and president of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union, has been named a member of the Order of Canada, one of the highest honors that can be awarded to Canadian citizens. Jim was nominated for his contributions and leadership in the development of social services in Canada. His award will be presented by the Governor General, the Queen's representative in Canada, at a ceremony later this year. Congratulations to Jim Sanders.
The National Church Conference of the Blind (NCCB) will hold its annual conference July 25 to 29, 2004, in Kansas City, Missouri, at the Ramada Inn Airport, 7301 N.W. Tiffany Springs Road, Kansas City, Missouri 64153. Please make your own reservations with the hotel, specifying that you are with the NCCB. Call (816) 741-9500. Room rate for the conference is $59 a night, one to four occupancy.
Come join us for inspirational Bible teaching, seminars, tours, and talent time. We conclude with a wonderful banquet held on Thursday evening. For more information please contact Rheba Dunn, membership secretary, P.O. Box 196, Grover, Colorado 80729; (970) 895-2352; email <email@example.com>; or visit our Web site at <www.thenccb.org>.
Religion Series Now Available in Braille:
If you have blind children attending either Catholic elementary or parish schools of religion, you will be interested to learn that portions of the Faith First series are now available in Braille. Contact the Midwestern Braille Volunteers, 325 North Kirkwood Road, Suite G5, St. Louis, Missouri 63122; phone (314) 966-5828.
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.
NoteTeller Bank Note Reader for Blind and Visually Impaired by Brytech. Works excellently, except that it does not read the new U.S. twenty-dollar bills and cannot be updated to do so. Includes battery, carrying case, Canadian import documents, shipping invoice, and original box. Asking $75. Contact Larry at (281) 444
0907 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
My name is Danielle Jones. I have a Braille Blazer, carrier case included, in excellent condition. I'm asking $1,400 or best offer. Contact me at (480) 545-1616, write me at 2551 East Emelita Avenue, Mesa, Arizona 85204, or email me at <email@example.com>.
ALVA 380, 80-character Braille display. Can be used with either serial or parallel connections; can hook up three computers at once; has cursor-routing buttons. In excellent working condition; asking $3,500, negotiable, shipping not included.
Juliet Braille embosser, classic, 56-character line. Can write single sided or interpoint; uses parallel connections. In excellent working condition; asking $2,100, including shipping.
Will accept bank money order or postal money order; no personal checks, please. Email <Iobie@panix.com>, (617) 247-0026, 755 Tremont Street, Apt. 205, Boston, Massachusetts 02118.
Freedom Scientific PowerBraille 40 Braille display with forty cells and cursor-routing buttons, etc. It is almost new and comes with a guarantee. It has never had a problem. You can plug it into your USB or serial port with its included adapter. This is the most popular Braille display and works with any screen reader and computer. It also has batteries, so I am sure it will be very helpful to someone. A business that just purchased it folded and has to sell. They will sell for $950. Contact CJ Sampson at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
I have a ten-year-old DECtalk Express external speech synthesizer. It includes carrying case and software. Asking $300 or best offer. Call (541) 752-3800 before 8:00 p.m., Pacific Time. You can also write to 2901 N.W. Satinwood Street, Corvallis, Oregon 97330.
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.
______ New Subscription
______ Correction to Current Subscription
CITY _____________________________ STATE ___________ ZIP ________
TELEPHONE: HOME _____________________ WORK ____________________
FAX ____________________ EMAIL __________________________________
FORMAT: LARGE PRINT____ BRAILLE ____ CASSETTE ____
Former name/address (if above is a correction): ___________________________________________
Please send information to:
Braille Monitor Subscription
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND REQUEST
FOR PRE-AUTHORIZED CHECK PLAN
Bank Routing Symbol __________
(Check one) ____ New ___ Increase by $_____per month ___ Other Change
For my benefit and convenience, I hereby request and authorize the National Federation of the Blind to draw a check in the amount of $____on the _______ day of each month payable to its own order. This authorization will remain in effect until revoked by me in writing and until they actually receive such notice. (The PAC card must be signed at the two X’s below). Please include a voided check with your PAC card.
(Name of Payor for whom checks are to be drawn; both signatures if two are necessary.)
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998
AUTHORIZATION TO HONOR CHECKS DRAWN BY
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
Name of Depositor as shown on Bank records: ____________________
Acct. No. __________________________________________________
Name of Bank and Branch Name, if any, and address of Bank or Branch where account is maintained: ____________________________
For my benefit and convenience, I hereby request and authorize you to pay and charge to my account checks drawn on my account by the National Federation of the Blind to its own order. This authorization will remain in effect until revoked by me in writing and until you actually receive such notice I agree that you shall be fully protected in honoring any such check.
In consideration of your compliance with such request and authorization, I agree that your treatment of each check, and your rights in respect to it shall be the same as if it were signed personally by me and that if any such check be dishonored, whether with or without cause, you shall be under no liability whatsoever.
The National Federation of the Blind is instructed to forward this authorization to you. Signature of depositor(s) as shown on Bank records for account to which this authorization is applicable:
We understand that your bank has agreed to cooperate in our Pre-Authorized Check Plan on behalf of your depositor. Attached is your client's signed authorization to honor such checks drawn by us.
Customer's account and your bank transit numbers will be MICR printed on checks, per usual specifications, before they are deposited.
Our Indemnification Agreement is on the reverse side of the signed authorization.
TO: Bank named on the reverse side
In consideration of your compliance with the request and authorization of the depositor named on the reverse side.
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
1. It will refund to you any amount erroneously paid by you to the National Federation of the Blind on any such check if claim for the amount of such erroneous payment is made by you within twelve months from the date of the check on which such erroneous payment was made.
Authorized in a resolution adopted by the Board Members of the National Federation of the Blind on 11-28-74.
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND