THE BRAILLE MONITOR

Vol. 47, No. 11December, 2004

Barbara Pierce, Editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT

National Office

1800 Johnson Street

Baltimore, Maryland  21230-4998

telephone: (410) 659-9314

email address: nfb@nfb.org

Web site address: http://www.nfb.org

NFBnet.org: http://www.nfbnet.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 bpierce@nfb.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 21230-4998

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION

SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

ISSN 0006-8829


Vol. 47, No. 11 December, 2004

Contents

Convention Bulletin 2005

The Journey from Plumb Confused to Peachy Keen

by Mary Tadum Chappell

My Convention Treasures

by Caroline Rounds

Talking Turkey about Household Appliances

and Consumer Electronics

by Brad Hodges

Accessibility to Microsoft Products

by Curtis Chong

The Blind Pilot Flying the Channel

by Miles Hilton-Barber

Reflection on the Holidays and the Federation

by Tai Tomasi

Santa's Little Helper

by Darrel Kirby

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award for 2005

by Sharon Maneki

The 2005 Blind Educator of the Year Award

by Stephen Benson

Third Annual Meet-the-Blind-Month Campaign

by Jerry Lazarus

Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2005

by James McCarthy

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

Copyright© 2004 National Federation of the Blind


[PHOTO/DESCRIPTION: The large model of Whozit that comes to conventions is crowned with tinsel and sports a large bow on his cane arm.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Whozit is ready for the holidays at the National Center for the Blind. May this season of light bring greater peace and understanding to blind people everywhere and to every nation in the world.]


[PHOTO/CAPTION: The Galt House at night]

Convention Bulletin 2005

It is time to plan for the 2005 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. This year we will return to Louisville, Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby and site of the memorable 2002 and 2003 NFB conventions.

We will again experience the hospitality of the Galt House Hotel and the Galt House East Tower. Once again our hotel rates are the envy of all. For the 2005 convention they are singles, doubles, and twins $59, and triples and quads $64. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 13.95 percent. No charge will be made for children fifteen and under in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested.

For 2005 convention room reservations you should write directly to the Galt House Hotel, 140 N. Fourth Street, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, or call (502) 589-5200. You can make reservations for either the Galt House Hotel (known familiarly as the Galt House West) or the Galt House East Tower (called the Galt House East) by calling this number. The restaurants and outdoor pool are located on the west side of the facility and will all be in operation during our convention. The East Tower contains a number of suites consisting of a bedroom, bath, and living room with a refrigerator and wet bar. The hotel will want a deposit of $60 or a credit card number. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $60 check. If a reservation is cancelled prior to June 1, 2005, $30 of the $60 deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.

The West Tower has twenty-five floors, and the East Tower has eighteen. Guest-room amenities include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair drier, and dataport.

The Galt House has two restaurants--the River Grill, which is moderately priced, and the Flagship, a revolving restaurant on the roof, which provides one of Louisville's finest dining experiences, with prices to match. See later issues of the Monitor for information about tours and other attractions in the Greater Louisville area.

The 2005 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a truly exciting and memorable event, with an unparalleled program and rededication to the goals and work of our movement. Make plans now to be a part of it. The schedule this year is back to our usual one. Preconvention seminars for parents of blind children and other groups and set-up of the exhibit hall will take place on Saturday, July 2, and adjournment will be Friday, July 8, at 5:00 p.m. Convention registration will begin on Sunday, July 3, and both Sunday and Monday will be filled with meetings of divisions and committees, including the Monday morning annual meeting of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind, which is open to all.

General convention sessions begin on Tuesday, July 5, and continue through the afternoon of Friday, July 8. The annual banquet will take place on Thursday evening, July 7. To assure yourself a room in the headquarters hotel at convention rates, you must make reservations early. Remember that an ambitious renovation program will remove 150 rooms in the West Tower from our block this year, so, if you want to be in the headquarters hotel, make your reservation early. The hotel will be ready to take your call or deal with your written request by January 1.

Remember that as usual we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Once again prizes should be small in size but large in value. Cash, of course, is always appropriate and welcome. As a general rule we ask that prizes of all kinds have a value of at least $25 and not be alcoholic. Drawings will occur steadily throughout the convention sessions, and you can anticipate a grand prize of truly impressive proportions to be drawn at the banquet. You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time (identifying the item and donor and listing the value in print and Braille) to Kevin Pearl, 2716 Hillside Terrace, Louisville, Kentucky 40206‑2513.

The best collection of exhibits, featuring new technology; meetings of our special interest groups, committees, and divisions; memorable tours arranged by the host Kentucky affiliate; the most stimulating and provocative program items of any meeting of the blind in the world; the chance to renew friendships in our Federation family; and the unparalleled opportunity to be where the real action is and where decisions are being made--all of these mean you will not want to miss being a part of the 2005 national convention. We'll see you in Louisville in 2005!

The Journey from Plumb Confused to Peachy Keen

by Mary Tadum Chappell

From the Editor: Mary Tadum Chappell is a 2004 McDonald Fellowship Winner, chosen by the NFB of Virginia. Because of this fellowship she attended her first NFB national convention in July of 2004. Those who did not attend the convention last summer or read the report of that event in the August/September issue of the Braille Monitor should know that host affiliate President Anil Lewis inquired of the audience early and often how we were doing. The response was always an enthusiastic "Peachy keen!" The following is a slightly edited version of Mary's report to the NFB of Virginia membership as it appeared in the summer/fall issue of the NFB Vigilant, the affiliate's newsletter. It gives a fine description of the impact the national convention often has on first-time attendees. This is what she says:

It is profoundly debilitating to find oneself in a quandary and not even realize that one is stalled by the quagmire. This was my state of mind when I first encountered the National Federation of the Blind. My first meeting was with the Fairfax Chapter in Northern Virginia. On that day in May 2003 I believed that I was in need of some guidance as a young woman who had found herself newly blind; however, I did not realize how far off the right path I actually was.

I was ignorant about how plumb confused I was. In this year that has followed my first experience of the NFB of Virginia, I have been fortunate to have the benefit of strong role models, and I have broadened my understanding expansively. Even so, I had no concept of what experiencing a national convention would afford me.

Since I was one of two recipients of the McDonald Fellowship, a financial award given by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia to first-time convention attendees, the organization met a portion of my expenses. I packed up my three-year-old and nine-year-old and boarded an Amtrak train headed for Atlanta.

As I reflected on my arrival at the convention, my best analogy is the experience one has when someone recommends a great restaurant, wonderful book, or must-see movie. Quite frequently the buildup is so great that when one actually gets around to checking it out, he or she is in for a big letdown. Why? Because most things can never match their hype. The national convention, however, far surpassed all of my expectations. Being in the presence of literally thousands of people who were much like me was inspiring, not because I see myself as a blind woman who can therefore only identify with blind people, but because I was encouraged by the caliber of not one, not ten, not even a hundred, but thousands of people who have a different ability, like mine, and who have mastered what needs to be done. Because these many role models were carrying out their activities before my very eyes, I had no excuse to lower the bar for patterning my life.

I arrived Tuesday morning and was actually disappointed, not because of what I experienced, but because of what I failed to experience. When I checked into the beautiful Marriott Marquis, I asked the bellman about registration and activities for the day. I was told that nothing would take place until Wednesday morning. Not until late Tuesday afternoon did I learn about the vast array of preconvention events and sessions that I had missed. Many events were of interest, and I had ignorantly accepted misinformation that caused me to miss valuable opportunities to learn and grow.

That evening I attended the Rookie Roundup and learned of the many items actually on the convention agenda. The second and final disappointment came after the Roundup. The organizers offered to arrange mentors with the understanding that mentors would contact potential mentees in their rooms to guide and facilitate the first-time convention experience. Unfortunately I never received a call. Luckily many Federationists from Virginia took me under their wing and guided and encouraged me to make the most of my convention experience. Thank you to my Virginia Federation family.

I began my Wednesday with registration. With so many bodies waiting to register, one would expect long lines and a lot of hurry up and wait--not the case at this convention. The lines all moved like express lines, not the ones in the grocery stores in which you age markedly before you ever reach the cashier. Everything went without a hitch. Next it was off to the Exhibit Hall with my chapter president, John Bailey. There were so many vendors and so much to see that I was able to see only a small portion of the exhibits. One would have needed at least a week to see it all. It was a lot of fun. A certain synergy emanated from the buzzing crowd and energized vendors and presenters.

During each session and all of the moments in between, I found a cornucopia of lessons to learn. I attended the Human Services Division meeting and broadened my understanding of the professional field in which I hope to work. It was rewarding to meet a professional in private practice working in the specific specialization on which I want to base my graduate thesis and dissertation. I am hoping that she will agree to mentor me through my education and entry into professional life. I attended a session on Public Relations and gained insights and ideas that will aid in the promotion and marketing of our chapter.

The wide range of experiences to be had at the convention seemed endless. My favorite practical lesson came at dinner in a restaurant. I had been unable to cut my food as a result of weakness in my right hand following a brain injury. An unassuming former BISM instructor gave me gentle suggestions on how I might successfully slice my food and thereby foster greater independence. I am thrilled to tell you that I tried it, and it worked. I was moving away from "plumb" and nearer to "peach."

My first session was the Resolution Committee meeting. I was fascinated by the resolution process and wondered if everything typically went so smoothly. I had many questions, and our state president, Charlie Brown, clarified each issue and insured that I understood the process from start to finish. Now I have at least a cursory understanding of how the policies and platform are erected.

My appreciation for the Federation and the role that it serves in the formation of my rights and liberties was heightened a hundredfold by that experience. Far too often the younger generation overlooks the trials and tribulations that have come before and the efforts that have afforded even the beginnings of equity. I too was one of those who turned a deaf ear to the movement and what it meant to my very existence. The resolutions experience changed all that--a little less plumb and a little more peach.

The mock trial conducted by the lawyers division was a real eye opener. The lawyers recreated (with dramatic license) a case from recent history in which several blind citizens were denied their right to serve on juries because of their blindness. Unless you are exposed to such in-your-face discrimination, you may fail to recognize its very existence. The reenactment of the two cases sharpened my awareness and furthered my commitment to the movement.

I have heard affiliation with the NFB equated with belonging to a cult. What I witnessed in the simple retelling of two Federationists' stories confirmed my conviction that the practices and teachings make sense and are essential if we are to win freedom and equality. I am gravely concerned about the alternative if I choose not to participate in this movement. I fear a great likelihood of prolonged inequity; camouflaged discrimination; and continued inequities in economic, social, and civic practices that affect every aspect of a blind citizen's existence. Fear is a motivating factor in my commitment to Federationism. I love what my association with this organization is doing for me, my community, and society as a whole. As my confusion diminishes, I get keener and keener.

With the opening ceremony came incredible awe. So many people like me were gathered in that one place. They were from far and near--convention attendees hailed from every state within our borders and lands across the globe. When Dr. Maurer gave his presidential report, I felt pride at his acknowledgment of Virginia Chapter President Larry Povinelli's legal coup and its meaning to the movement. I felt good just knowing him and recognizing the difference his legal efforts will make to my tomorrows. Many aspects of the report offered confirmation to my reasons for being there, being a part of the Federation.

My experience was punctuated by opportunities to talk with our state chapter's first lady, Jackie Brown. It was very helpful to have her full attention on several occasions during the convention. As a sighted spouse she offered the perspective that I vitally needed to enlighten my husband. I had plans to attend the Colorado Center for the Blind this fall, but my husband had squelched that plan. I was feeling ill-equipped to formulate the argument for my attendance at a rigorous NFB program. Because I have performed well academically, handle my children and household adequately, and appear to travel relatively independently, my husband saw no need for more intensive training. He said, "You don't need that; you're doing great." Unfortunately, from his light-dependent perspective, capacity to function adequately was enough.

I, however, want to function with efficiency and confidence. I believe, and the first lady seconded my belief, that time at a center will make all the difference in my tomorrows. The confidence and competence I witnessed at the convention further supported my hypothesis. The first lady offered another solution: Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM). I had already explored that option but was now armed with a sighted-spouse counterargument. When I got home, I won a victory in the battle to be better.

Each foot of my journey to, through, and from national convention was a positive, life-altering experience in one way or another. The grandest experience took place at the banquet on July 4, 2004. Dr. Marc Maurer entertained us as he admonished misguided researchers for their idiotic innovations, such as vibrating shoes, by suggesting pulsating pants that would aid blind wearers in locating such hard-to-find items as the nearest toilet. He decried the editors who have written disparaging words about the blind. He challenged us to assimilate crisis.

At the point his message became clear, I had an epiphany. My blindness was a misunderstood gift from God rather than a curse from some negative force. This state of blindness has allowed me vision that offers a true perspective. During his message I reached a clearer understanding of my purpose: to assimilate all of the knowledge I am amassing and share it with those who are seeking clarity. I am being called to give something back and affect my world through this offering. The revelation made me shudder, yet it revitalized me and brought true meaning to my existence. I will make a difference through my actions, example, and all that I share.

The profundity of my clearer, more defined purpose and state of being makes me all the more peachy keen. For those who desire a more precise understanding of the spirit and meaning of the Federation and all that we have attained through our efforts, I highly recommend the journey from plumb confusion to the pinnacle of feeling peachy keen. I have more learning to do and an immense journey ahead in order to arrive at the true point of being peachy keen. I cannot wait to see what that excursion will bring. Whatever may come, I expect it will be fruitful.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Caroline Rounds]

My Convention Treasures

by Caroline Rounds

From the Editor: The preceding article captures the excitement of attending the NFB annual convention for the first time. The following reflection expresses the pleasures more experienced Federationists find at a convention. Caroline Rounds is the second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of California. The following recollection appeared in the Spring/Summer 2004 edition of the NFBC Journal, the publication of the NFB of California. This is what she says:

 

Those of us who have attended national conventions before feel a growing excitement and anticipation as the time gets closer. If it is to be in a new location, I worry a little about getting out of the airport or how the city is laid out or what the weather will be like. If it is in a repeat location, I pull out memories of the hotel and my favorite restaurants and make plans for taking the tour I missed the last time. There are automatic assumptions‑-good speeches, renewing friendships, staying up way too late, and reconfirming my commitment to the movement.

All this accompanied my trip to Atlanta as I made my way to the 2004 convention. But this year's convention held some new surprises and memories, like over 2,500 folks to get to know. The people were particularly delightful and inspiring for me this year. As I explored the new and revisited the familiar, I found myself focusing on the people I met throughout convention. I enjoyed sharing discoveries with several of them.

I had never met my roommate before. She was half my age, and this was her first convention. I delighted as I watched her discover the freedom that comes in trying out skills she had never practiced before. She bravely wandered downstairs the first night to locate the restaurant. I saw her discover her limitations in Braille reading when she tried to make sense of the agenda. She commented that she just had to get better at it.

While presenting at the National Organization of Blind Educators, I listened to group discussions as potential teachers discovered the mentoring power of this organization. While in an elevator, I listened as people discovered that, even though they were from different states, they had things in common worth talking about over dinner. As I interacted with people I met in various convention spots, I appreciated the wealth of life experience and talent offered by the members of this organization. After enjoying half an hour of original music and good conversation with the composer and musician, I bought his CD. While waiting in the registration line, I met a man who had designed a unique step‑by‑step curriculum for teaching Braille to the newly blind. I realized his method was clever and sensible. When I shared my delight, he promised to provide me with a copy.

Two specific encounters stand out to me because they represent the humanness of the NFB. First, I met a scholarship winner who had been blinded seven years ago during a fraternity hazing ceremony. He had courageously dealt with his anger, bitterness, and helplessness. Now he was pursuing a new future. As we sat together during Dr. Maurer's presidential address, I watched as his passion for changing what it means to be blind was born. He asked, "Where have you guys been all my life?"

Over dinner one evening I continued a conversation with a man I had met earlier at the National Organization of Blind Educators meeting. He was losing his sight gradually. Just recently his employer had informed him that his teaching contract would not be renewed. He seemed depressed and resigned to the possibility of changing his career. I was able to help him identify his rights as a tenured teacher. Together we talked through a game plan for securing his position and acquiring the skills of blindness he must master. I realized that I had been able to offer my life experience to someone else.

The 2004 Atlanta convention was typically characterized with brilliant speeches, fascinating exhibits, late evenings, and renewed purpose. But it's the people-‑all of them together as a roaring group or in pairs engaged in quiet conversation‑-that are truly the riches to be brought home from convention. This year my suitcase was particularly full.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Brad Hodges with an accessible stove.]

Talking Turkey about Household

Appliances and Consumer Electronics:

Crisis for the Blind at the Big Box Store

by Brad Hodges

From the Editor: In the October issue Terry Uttermohlen and Jim McCarthy shared their frustrations about trying to purchase a stove that they could operate without calling in the National Guard. Brad Hodges, technology accessibility manager at the NFB's International Braille and Technology Center (IBTC), has undertaken to prepare a series of articles over the next few months discussing the perils and pitfalls facing blind people attempting to buy consumer appliances and electronic products. The first of these is stoves, cook tops, and ovens. If you are thinking about replacing your old stove, you won't want to miss the information that follows. This is what Brad has to say:

It sometimes appears that everyone is remodeling at least one room in the house. If it is not a new kitchen, it is a home theater or media room. At least two cable channels devote themselves entirely to the topic, and ABC's Extreme Makeovers has transformed remodeling into a prime-time spectator sport. Given the unprecedented attention to these subjects, what are the implications for blind people? How do the trends that all but erase the once clearly understood boundaries between electronics and--let us say--your refrigerator affect us? Is there a chance that you won't be able to do your laundry independently?

In this series of articles the NFB technology team hopes to accomplish two important goals. First we will report our current understanding of the features, behaviors, and usability of specific household appliances. Second we want to invite Monitor readers to participate in an online discussion and exchange of ideas by visiting <www.voiceofthenationsblind.org>.

We begin with some thoughts on buying a stove by Brad Hodges, NFB's technology accessibility manager. In future Monitors we will address other kitchen appliances, laundry room challenges, and consumer electronics.

Some Thoughts on Purchasing a Stove

Like many other Americans I was saddened by the death of Julia Childs earlier this year. For millions of TV viewers of my generation her unique blend of style, charm, and skill gave us the courage to venture boldly into our own kitchens and try new and often foreign recipes and methods of cooking. As Federationists we too encourage one another to learn the skills of blindness, which allow us the freedom to cook for our families and ourselves.

As Julia often pointed out, the first step in cooking something in a new way is to have the proper tools at hand. In the case of cooking as a blind person, the tools aren't any different from those used by our sighted neighbors and spouses. We do, however, require that they be nonvisually accessible. For example, choosing a new set of gourmet cookware doesn't require any special consideration because of blindness. Picking out knives or bakeware is not a big deal if you are blind since, at least so far, all cookware, utensils, and cutlery are nonvisually accessible.

Perhaps you are thinking, "This is the guy who is usually writing about technology, and he's talking about cooking utensils--what's the story?" Fear not, readers, because, yes, technology is involved. In the digital era even the lowly thirty-inch gas or electric range has been transformed.

If you have not visited the appliance department at one of the home improvement stores or Sears lately, do I have news for you. While you were away, content with your good old reliable Tappan or O'Keefe and Merritt range, designers from the four big appliance manufacturers have been hard at work. And more often than not their idea of design success is our recipe for disaster.

The first ingredient in the new stove design recipe is the flat cooking surface. Gone are the easy-to-find, familiar metallic spiral coil burners of yesterday's electric stove. In their place is today's high-tech ceramic cooking surface, which according to one enthusiastic salesperson at my Home Depot, is based on space shuttle technology. After examining a number of ceramic cook tops, I was hard pressed to decide if they were really space-shuttle technology, or just inaccessible technology of the more earthly variety. Regrettably, you can't try using stoves or ovens before you buy one.

How They Work

The entire top of the stove is a single, flat, totally smooth glass surface. Think of a glass window surrounded by a metal frame. Four or five round or oblong regions of the surface are designated as "burners." The sighted cook can easily identify these regions visually by their contrasting color or pattern. The ceramic material is cast around electric elements that glow red hot, as did their earlier nonceramic counterparts. For the most part you control the cooking by conventional knobs, which are easily identifiable.

I have asked a number of Federationists whether they have experience with ceramic cook surfaces. A few have, and here is what they say. Bonnie, a Federation member in suburban Baltimore, loves her three-year-old GE Profile electric range with a flat cook surface. She reports that once you turn on the burner, the surface begins to warm. It is easy and safe to locate the burner area by touch. Placing the pot or pan correctly is a simple matter. When you remove a pot from a burner at full temperature and want to return it to the burner, she says you can feel the heat rising from the glass surface and position the pot where you want it to be. A number of visitors to the IBTC also enjoy the new cooking technology. They report that overcoming misgivings is not always easy, but once you develop alternative techniques, the flat cook tops aren't bad. Like Bonnie they all report that once you feel the heat rising from the burner area, you're home free. Others have found that with experience you can orient yourself easily and place the pot or pan on the proper region, even when it is hot. But not all the reviews have been as favorable. Several people unexpectedly found themselves confronted by smooth cook tops when they moved into apartments, where they could not choose their own appliances. For these people cooking has become more difficult.

Gas cook surfaces have not yet been transformed. All the gas stoves of which we are aware use conventional grates, which continue to remain nonvisually accessible.

If you must have a stove with conventional coil burners, get ready to settle for a bottom-of-the-line, plain-vanilla model from a company whose name you've never heard of. An alternative is to purchase a separate cook top with conventional burners and a wall oven. High-quality conventional cook tops are available from the leading manufacturers in the four primary appliance colors: bisque, black, stainless steel, and white.

To the flat cook surface, add one set of electronic controls. Yes, electronic controls have invaded the kitchen. Fear not, however. Like learning to make that perfect souffle, choosing a stove you can use requires skill and patience, but as Julia taught us, you can do it.

Generally the electronic controls operate the oven, broiler, self-cleaning control, and clock/timer. Thankfully, in all but a select few ultra high-end models, the burners are still controlled by knobs. Gas ovens have the same electronics as their electric brethren.

Two technologies are used in these controls. Less expensive models typically use a sturdy, flexible plastic film stretched across a back panel, which contains recessed buttons. Examples of this control are found on GE and Kenmore stoves in the $300 to $599 price range. When you examine the plastic film, check for round or rectangular areas with a contrasting texture. Think of finding Scotch Tape on a smooth piece of plastic. Move your finger firmly across the surface. You may well be able to press against the panel and feel the buttons under the plastic film. Pushing the control will result in a clearly noticeable inward movement of the plastic membrane or a clicking sound from the button.

The second kind of control is the touch-sensitive solid-glass plate. The technology here is more advanced and as a rule is found on upper lines such as GE Profile, Whirlpool Gold, and Jenn Air. While several techniques can be used to detect the button press, the common characteristic is that no tactually discernible button movement occurs. In all examples of the glass touch surface I have examined, a beep or tone indicates that a control has been activated, as with a microwave oven.

This technology is a moving target. Models, controls, and the behavior of units change at a frighteningly fast pace. Here is what we can report as of late summer and early fall 2004. Brand and color make a difference. In many brands of stoves and wall ovens, GE especially, the color of the control background makes a difference with respect to the texture of the control surface. GE and Hot Point stoves with a black background (not including GE Profile models) often have easily discernible quarter-sized regions of texture on the otherwise smooth plastic panel. Behind each is a button, which when pressed makes a distinct sound and provides a positive feel. GE controls in bisque or white do not appear to have these identifiable regions.

Whirlpool and its Kenmore counterparts in black, bisque, and white appeared to have the most models with textured identifiable control regions. This is also true of KitchenAid wall ovens, several of which even have a microwave-style keypad for direct temperature entry. All Maytag, Jenn Air, and all but a few GE Profile and Frigidaire stoves have tactually unidentifiable regions on their control panels; virtually all models from these manufacturers use absolutely flat plastic or glass surfaces.

Style makes a difference. Freestanding ranges, the kind most people have, offer the most accessible electronic controls. Standard Whirlpool ranges and their Kenmore siblings are surprisingly accessible. Many units across the entire price spectrum offer textured pads on the control panel.

Drop-in and slide-in units, which have all controls on the front above the oven door and below the burners, seem to be the least accessible as a group. In examining dozens of models, I observed only three or four slide-in units whose touch controls could be tactually identified. Touch-sensitive glass controls predominate in the slide-in units.

Wall ovens, when combined with a cook top (see above), offer some flexibility not always available in a single unit, range, or slide-in. Kitchenaid offers several conventional and convection ovens with clearly identifiable controls arranged in a microwave- oven-like manner. Conversations with the Kitchenaid rep and examination of the manual convince me that these models are accessibility standouts.

Strategies

The first line of defense is a good offense. This is as true when shopping for appliances as in other areas of life. Finding a good salesperson is critically important. You may want to begin your search with a visit to a large retailer such as Sears, Lowe's, Home Depot, or Best Buy. In over a dozen visits to Sears stores in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, I found that the knowledge and understanding of the sales associates ran the gamut from ignorance and indifference to attentive and enlightened understanding.

When you arrive at the store, browse the various stoves independently for a time. You will soon begin to find those whose controls you can feel. When talking with the salesperson, point these out and ask that they also feel the controls to understand the particular characteristics you are looking for.

Most stores, such as Sears, Home Depot, Lowe's, and Best Buy, keep only a few models on the sales floor at a time. Most manufacturers have extensive catalogues available for special ordering. If you have a good salesperson, he or she may be able to observe the characteristics of an accessible model and identify and suggest others in the same design line.

Try before you buy. While electric stoves must be connected to 220V electric service for controls to be operational, their gas counterparts do not require special electrical service. All modern gas stoves connect to a common 110V outlet to operate the igniters, controls, and clock. Once you plug in the gas stove, the controls will be active. If you are purchasing an electric model, request that the store connect a gas model with the same controls for you to try. Even though you are purchasing electric, you will have a higher degree of confidence that the unit will behave properly. Be aware, though, that many sales reps with whom I spoke were unwilling to meet this request.

Try the controls. It is critical that the oven temperature controls move up and down predictably. Look for a control which moves the temperature up or down one segment for each button press, usually in five-degree increments. Be sure that you can feel a control button press or hear a confirmation tone for each change in the temperature. Find out whether the oven temperature always returns to a specific setting each time you turn on the oven. A few ovens, ones that purport to think for you, will reset the oven to the last temperature you used. Others will always reset the temperature, most often to 350 degrees.

Find out what the return policy is. If a store is unable or unwilling to guarantee your satisfaction that the stove you purchase will work for you, move on to the next store. This issue can be particularly contentious when special ordering is involved. Several Federationists reported this to be one of the most difficult and ultimately important aspects of what was generally a very unpleasant process.

Go online. Many manufacturers maintain Web sites that provide important information about models and options. Most owners manuals can be downloaded. Take the time to read the manual for a model you are considering if you have any question about how it will behave. As mentioned above, KitchenAid manuals are clear about the kind of audible feedback you will receive from their units. Frigidaire manuals are less clear and as a group are more difficult to manage than those from other brands.

Alternative techniques: blind people have been modifying appliances for years, so perhaps you're asking yourself, "What's all the fuss?" To some extent, the tried and true methods can sometimes still be used. Marking a glass control panel on a slide-in range or up-scale model is a practical method for many people. But others wonder why they should have to put sticky labels on a stove that costs $1,800.

Templates are a useful strategy which you may want to consider. Made of sturdy, clear plastic, the template is affixed to or held against the control surface. Openings in the plastic correspond to the controls of the touch surface. If you carefully orient yourself to the openings, accurate, consistent control is quite simple.

Templates are not generally manufactured for appliances; they are special-order purchases. When you purchase a template, some advanced preparation is required. You will need to take a photograph of the control panel for which the template is being made and submit exact tracings of the controls, including the boundary. In the case of a large area such as a stove with a significant distance between knobs, you will also need to consider the method you will use to position the template. It may also be useful to create a cardboard mockup of the template. Having a skilled reader or someone who is generally handy is important. You should expect to pay between $100 and $200 for each template. Templates must be specially ordered. Turning Point (877) 608-9812 provides custom templates for a variety of devices. While we do not have direct experience with Turning Point, they are well regarded by many consumers and professionals who have used their services. If you are contemplating using a template for an existing appliance or for a new purchase, your best results will be obtained by calling them first. In a recent conversation the representative was clear and helpful and answered all my questions in a knowledgeable, professional manner. Turning Point is also on the Web at <www.turningpointtechnology.com>.

There is no easy way to predict your success in finding the stove that meets all of your needs. I hope that these observations are helpful. The power of the NFB comes from the involvement of all of us. Go to <www.voiceofthenationsblind.org> and continue the conversation with other Federationists. Ask others at your next chapter meeting or state convention about their experiences and remember the technology answer line at the NFB Jernigan Institute, (410) 659-9314, choose option 5. In the words of the late Julia Childs, "Bon appétit."

Planned giving takes place when a contributor decides to leave a substantial gift to charity. It means planning as you would for any substantial purchase--a house, college tuition, or car. The most common forms of planned giving are wills and life insurance policies. There are also several planned giving options through which you can simultaneously give a substantial contribution to the National Federation of the Blind, obtain a tax deduction, and receive lifetime income now or in the future. For more information write or call the National Federation of the Blind, Special Gifts, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998, (410) 659-9314, fax (410) 685-5653.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Curtis Chong]

Accessibility to Microsoft Products

by Curtis Chong

From the President: In early September, I asked Curtis Chong and Ann Taylor to participate in a meeting with developers of technology at the Microsoft Corporation. As Federationists know, Mr. Chong serves as an assistant director of the Iowa Department for the Blind, and Ann Taylor is the manager of the International Braille and Technology Center of the National Federation of the Blind. When our representatives returned from the meeting, Mr. Chong sent me a summary of the events that occurred while he and Mrs. Taylor were in Redmond, Washington. Because we are reporting on the current state of technology for the blind, the report is particularly relevant. Here is what Mr. Chong wrote:

Des Moines, Iowa

September 13, 2004

Dr. Marc Maurer, President

National Federation of the Blind

Baltimore, Maryland

Dear Dr. Maurer:

On September 7 and 8, 2004, Ann Taylor and I met with representatives from the Microsoft Corporation at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to discuss nonvisual access to the Microsoft Windows operating system and other Microsoft applications such as Office, Money, Terminal Server, and Internet Explorer. Overall the two-day meeting turned out to be a fruitful exchange of views and information between the National Federation of the Blind and Microsoft. As we have done in the past, we communicated our determination as blind people to have access to the applications we need to pursue our personal and career objectives; and our belief that a great deal of Microsoft's accessibility effort depends upon negotiation, persuasion, and cooperative relationships between its many and varied product groups was reaffirmed.

The Accessibility Technology Group

The Accessibility Technology Group (dubbed ATG within Microsoft) lies at the heart of Microsoft's accessibility efforts. The head of this group is Madelyn Bryant-McIntire. Ms. Bryant-McIntire has a strong engineering background and tends to address issues in technical as opposed to political or emotional terms. Microsoft employees who are actual members of the ATG seem to have a solid grasp of the requirements for accessibility and a strong commitment to making things accessible whenever and wherever possible. However, the ATG does not have any veto power over the release of specific software at Microsoft. Rather its strength lies in its ability to evangelize the need for accessibility with various product groups and to ensure that within each group there exists an accessibility champion, who can continuously promote the cause of accessibility as work on a specific product moves forward.

During our two days of meetings, we met with accessibility champions from a number of different product groups, and it was very clear that the overall goal of full accessibility to all Microsoft products has been and continues to be difficult to achieve--with mixed results across the various groups. Accordingly it is difficult to comprehend how accessibility is being mandated at the highest levels of the corporation.

Windows Longhorn

Madelyn Bryant-McIntire provided a briefing concerning Longhorn, the next version of the Windows operating system. About ten years ago Microsoft began work on something called Microsoft Active Accessibility (MSAA), which was supposed to provide a robust mechanism for Windows applications to communicate with assistive technology--including screen-access technology for the blind. As it turns out, MSAA has been plagued with a few nontrivial problems. It is difficult for software developers to learn and implement, it does not provide all of the information that screen access programs need, and it has been used effectively in only a few significant applications such as Internet Explorer, Macromedia Flash, and the Adobe Reader.

According to Ms. Bryant-McIntire MSAA provides only about 20 percent of the information that screen access programs need to enable a blind computer user to use Windows applications effectively. Screen access programs grab the rest of the information they need with hooks which at best are unsupported and at worst unstable and unreliable. It is this latter mechanism that has been the cause for much of the instability that exists between Windows and screen access technology today.

Moreover, according to Ms. Bryant-McIntire, since the screen access technology vendors do not want to reveal proprietary trade secrets to Microsoft, Microsoft does not know how to protect the interfaces that are already working for specific screen access programs. The bottom line is that there is no compelling reason for developers to use MSAA, and screen access technology has used MSAA only for a small number of applications. What is needed is an approach which is easy to implement and irresistible to developers.

Microsoft is now promoting a new protocol variously called User Interface Automation or Test Automation. The idea here is to provide a programmatic way for software to be accessed so that such critical processes as software testing and validation can be accomplished without human intervention. As I understand it, this should allow one program to communicate with another program as if the second program were being controlled by a human--meaning full access to the keyboard, mouse, and video display. From a mainstream software development perspective, this is very desirable because it could enable lots of testing to occur automatically. Also as a natural consequence screen access technology should then be able to use this same interface to glean what information it needs. To sweeten the pot, Microsoft is proposing to use C Sharp as the implementation tool. Apparently C Sharp is easy to implement.

There has been a lot of uncertainty around this new concept. For one thing, screen access technology developers do not want to give up the proprietary (and very secret) approaches they have used to grab information from Windows. For another, no one knows for sure how this new concept will be implemented in Longhorn. Will Microsoft remove support for MSAA and the video hooks that screen access technology has come to rely on in favor of User Interface Automation? Or will it enable all of these components to work together?

At some point in the future it is clear that screen access software will need to be rewritten to take advantage of the new protocol, but in the meantime we were assured that when Longhorn is released, all three protocols will continue to be supported: the low-level hooks that screen access technology uses today, MSAA, and User Interface Automation. However, the writing is clearly on the wall. Microsoft intends to make a sweeping change, and at some point in the future the low-level hooks will go away.

Windows Narrator

Microsoft intends to enhance its Windows Narrator program to work with Longhorn. Narrator is a very basic speech program which is technically not a screen access program. Rather it is designed to receive information from various Windows components using either MSAA or UI Automation. Ms. Bryant-McIntire stated that Narrator is not intended to compete with existing screen access technology, which can distinguish itself by providing functions that increase user efficiency and access to important information.

When Narrator was first discussed way back in 1998, the screen access vendors were very nervous about it. However, over time Narrator has not proven to be a serious competitor in this market. As Microsoft has said, it provides very basic (and often not very desirable) speech access to some Windows functions. Under Longhorn, Narrator is intended to validate the concept behind User Interface Automation.

Internet Explorer

Aaron Solvet, who is with the Internet Explorer group, discussed accessibility efforts being conducted by his team. I think this was more of a learning session for him than for us. We explained that for the blind Internet Explorer was accessible only because its interface had been effectively rewritten by screen access software to resemble that of a word processor. We encouraged Mr. Solvet not to make any changes to Internet Explorer which would damage this interface, and we encouraged him to consider adding features to the browser which would enable the blind to have the kind of interface they needed without as much reliance on screen access software.

Microsoft Voice Command

We next heard from David Norris, who is the product unit manager for a product called Microsoft Voice Command. This software provides a "hands busy, eyes busy" spoken language interface to a number of pocket PC applications. It can be purchased from such mainstream outlets as Circuit City or CompUSA for around $35. You give it a few voice commands, and in some cases responses are spoken back to you. For example, you can say, "Tell me my next appointment," and the software will tell you that your next meeting is in twenty-seven minutes. You say, "Run calendar," and your calendar is displayed on the pocket PC's small video display (but not spoken).

Mrs. Taylor and I demonstrated to Mr. Norris that, for the blind, the software is still not fully accessible, and we urged him to continue adding more speech output functions. We also asked him if he would be willing to have Voice Command evaluated for nonvisual access by the staff of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. He indicated that he was definitely interested.

Microsoft Money

Access by the blind to Microsoft Money was the first topic of discussion on the second day of our meeting with Microsoft. We met with Beth Woodman, who promotes accessibility with the Money group. Ms. Woodman indicated that she was the first person in the Money group actively to work on accessibility issues pertaining to the Microsoft Money software--both the Windows client and the Web site presence. Accordingly, while earlier versions of Money may have worked somewhat for the blind, Ms. Woodman reported that according to a blind Microsoft employee who tested the latest version (Kelly Ford), accessibility had taken a step backward. Ms. Woodman indicated that accessibility seems to be an uphill battle in securing necessary time and resources. Nevertheless, she indicated that plans are well under way to incorporate User Interface Automation into future versions of the Money product. My guess is that Microsoft continues to give priority to accessibility issues related to software that it believes to be important for employment. In this context Microsoft Money comes in second.

We also discussed with Ms. Woodman the financial services available through Microsoft on the Web. We expressed our strong desire for the Web-based application to meet all accessibility requirements so that everyone--including blind people using screen access technology--could use it. She indicated a willingness to work with the National Federation of the Blind in this regard.

Microsoft Terminal Server

We next heard from Emelda Kirby, who works in the Terminal Server group. The Microsoft Terminal Server is the platform that runs software such as Citrix Metaframe. Citrix Metaframe provides a mechanism to access a Windows machine remotely without having to run all of the application software on your local computer. The local computer runs the Citrix client and through the client communicates with a remote computer which is actually the Terminal Server platform.

So far Citrix has been inaccessible to the blind despite the best efforts of all screen access technology vendors. It was heartening to hear from Ms. Kirby that accessibility is a major priority for the Terminal Server group. Of course it helps that some government agencies, such as the U.S. Post Office and the Social Security Administration, eager to comply with Section 508, are prepared to invest time and money to try to achieve accessibility to the Terminal Server platform and, by extension, to Citrix Metaframe.

All of the major screen access vendors (Dolphin, GW Micro, and Freedom Scientific) have plans to take advantage of the accessibility work being done by the Terminal Server group. Unfortunately this work will probably not bear fruit until the middle of 2005, and then only if everything goes according to plan. According to Ms. Kirby the Terminal Server group is committed to using User Interface Automation to accomplish its goal of accessibility.

Mrs. Taylor urged the Terminal Server group to avail itself of the expertise in nonvisual access available at the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. Ms. Kirby seemed positively disposed to doing this.

Microsoft Office

A discussion of accessibility to Microsoft Office (both current and future versions) was the final topic of discussion, and since Office is used by just about every blind computer user today, we spent more time on this topic than on any other. We met with four representatives from the Office group. Mrs. Taylor and I began by pointing out that even under the best of circumstances accessibility problems still exist today with various Office products. In fact, we pointed out that with respect to Office 2003, the currently available version, full support was not yet available from all of the screen access programs. We expressed frustration with the continuing cycle of software releases by Microsoft which force screen access vendors to jump through hoops to keep up.

We were told that the Office group is aware of this problem. We also learned that by the time a particular build of Office is ready to be tested for accessibility, many things are already cast in stone, making it next to impossible to fix problems encountered during the testing process. We asked if it would not be possible for the National Federation of the Blind to become involved earlier in the testing process. We were told that lawyers needed to be consulted about this question.

We had some very useful discussions about what does and does not work for a typical blind user of Microsoft Word and Outlook. We told the Office group representatives that Microsoft Access (a database program) is still a fairly significant problem for blind users. We observed that Office 2003 represented a step forward in better access to some functions through the keyboard and informed the group that Office 2003 was not yet fully certified by the screen access vendors. We urged the Office group to speed up its efforts to implement User Interface Automation and to try to come up with creative ways to involve screen access vendors and blind consumers earlier in the testing process.

General Impressions

Overall I think the meeting with Microsoft went as well as could be expected under the circumstances. Representatives of some of the product groups heard from real live blind consumers and may have received insights that they never had before. We, on the other hand, learned something about how accessibility is handled at Microsoft--that is, it is still not truly a corporate mandate but rather something which various groups must be persuaded to incorporate into their product development cycles.

During our various meetings we continually urged Madelyn Bryant-McIntire to visit the Jernigan Institute and to have another meeting with the president of the National Federation of the Blind. Now that the Institute is a going concern, we said that opportunities for cooperative research involving the Federation and Microsoft were highly desirable. Ms. Bryant-McIntire expressed her willingness to come to Baltimore in the near future to see the Institute and to meet with the president.

As for the future, I am afraid that things will get worse before they get better. The User Interface Automation idea is a good one, and even though it will require some major software changes on everyone's part, once we get through the painful transition process, things should be more stable and functional in the long run. Of course we should remember that, when MSAA was first conceived, we were assured that it would solve many of our accessibility problems. Since it obviously did not, why should we feel any differently about the new protocol which Microsoft is now actively promoting? Perhaps I am being overly optimistic here. Only time will tell.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Chong, President
National Federation of the Blind in Computer Science

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Miles Hilton-Barber]

The Blind Pilot Flying the Channel

by Miles Hilton-Barber

From the Editor: Sunday, July 4, convention delegates were delighted by a presentation from a blind adventurer who lives in Devonshire, England. His brother Geoff Hilton-Barber had described to the 1998 convention his own solo voyage as a blind sailor from South Africa to Australia. This year it was Miles Hilton-Barber's turn to push back the limits of our expectations about what a blind person can do when equipped with skill and determination. This is what Miles Hilton-Barber said:

Life is too short to drink bad wine. Isn't that right? Yeah! I flew in Friday afternoon to the Atlanta Airport, and the air hostess said, "Hey Mr. Blind Man, what are you doing here?"

I said, "I have come to teach two and a half thousand blind Americans how to fly airplanes." This air hostess was a bit alarmed, and she said, "If you are using speech output, what happens if your speech fails with all these blind Americans flying around?"

I said, "Don't worry, they've all got long, telescopic white sticks, and they'll use those if it doesn't work."

She said, "Oh Lordy, love, I thought the danger in the air was from these terrorists."

I said, "The National Federation of the Blind are far more dangerous for good than anything else. They are an amazing organization. Look out! They're coming."

Let me explain a little bit about microlites. They are small, open-cockpit aircrafts like a hang glider, if you know what that is like. The wings are anything from twenty-five to thirty-five feet in wingspan. Got no tail to it. Two people fly it, and I sit in the back seat. I've got my copilot literally sitting between my legs. There is very little space; his shoulders are where my knees are. We are both strapped into little plastic seats.

We have three tricycle wheels, heavy-duty wheels, and I steer on the ground by foot pedals, which tell me which way I am going. The idea is--I'll demonstrate the technology in a moment--when I am going to take off down a particular runway, I know the bearing, I've got that on my computer. So if it's 290 degrees south, I get on that bearing. I've got Storm [his copilot] waving his arms around, getting people out of the way. We simply go down the runway, and my computer speech is saying every few seconds, "290 south, 290 south." If it goes 293 or 294, I know to go to the left or vice versa. And, of course, I've got something else giving me my air speed. (I will go through all of that in a moment.) It's great fun.

Once I am in the air, I have this computer giving me my track, which is simply the bearing, a line on a map going from A to B, and it will show me if I am drifting left or right. You will hear the speech just now. It's just great fun.

Coming in to land, you of course know the bearing. I also have an altimeter, which uses microwave technology, which I am still negotiating with the Ministry of Defense for permission to use because it's the same instrument that is used to guide guided missiles to their destinations. It's still a little dodgy. They are worried about its getting into the hands of a terrorist, but other people say I am the terrorist, and I shouldn't have my hands on it.

This altimeter is accurate to within four inches. So as I am coming in to land, it gives me my exact height. I don't need a normal one that an aircraft uses. I also have an airspeed indicator.

Going to what I have done recently--last August I flew the English Channel. We were celebrating the first hundred years of powered flight in the world. Great! Who would have thought a hundred years ago that anyone could fly? And who would have thought a hundred years on that a blind man would fly as well? Technology is amazing, isn't it? The important thing I want to say to you is that I am a very ordinary person; I'm just like one beggar telling another beggar where to find a square meal. Do you understand what I am saying? I am just telling you guys where it's at. It's for you to go and grab it.

When we flew the English Channel, there were a hundred sixty other microlites flying, celebrating this hundred years of powered flight. The funny thing is that we had Skye Television and Reuters all recording this crazy blind man. I went to them with my white stick, couldn't find where the aircraft was, so someone had to point me. After I checked it with my stick, I folded the stick and put it in the aircraft and started putting on my flying suit and my helmet. All these people were filming this, and Storm, my copilot, said that once we were all strapped in and I started the engine, they all scattered. They picked up their cameras and ran. They didn't want to be too close.[laughter] That was great fun.

Off we went and flew across the channel. When we came in to land into France, we had quite a strong crosswind. They're kind of dodgy if you know anything about flying. You've got to correct so you're pointing down the runway and you don't drift too much. When we landed, it was a bit dodgy, a bit of a bumpy landing. Afterwards one of the French pilots noticed that I had a white stick. He said, "Monsieur, are you blind?"

I said, "Yes."

He said, "How do you do it?"

I said "with speech output."

He said, "But Monsieur, when you are about to land and there is a strong crosswind, you know, it is very dangerous, and you have to make the big correction very quickly. How do you do it?" I said, "Well, if it looks as though we are going to crash, I just hit control, alt, delete, and we do it all over again." [laughter]

This man, being a very polite pilot, said, "But monsieur, pardon?"

I said, "Don't you have this on your computer?"

He said, "Oui."

I said, "Don't you like playing games?"

He said, "Oui."

I said, "Well, this is all the game of life. You better get this fitted on your aircraft, otherwise you might crash sometime." We just walked away. I never explained that in an emergency, Storm is there as a backup, but it was great fun.

Last month we also set a new British high altitude record when we climbed to 20,300 feet in this microlite. As Dr. Maurer was saying, it was a little bit nippy. It was about four times as cold as your deep freeze with howling winds. We had a sealed little black flight box with us to prove what altitude we went to. Civil Aviation can then plug it into a computer, unseal it, and see the line graph on the computer screen showing how high we got and prove that we set a record. We had a transponder that sent out signals to other aircraft in the area. The funny thing is that once you are about 20,000 feet, you're starting to bump into strange neighbors like jumbo jets flying in from Europe and America, and we had this funny time talking with a pilot of a jumbo jet. You know, "Zero X-ray, this is Tango Yankee Bravo," whatever.

We found ourselves saying to him, "Look, you might think you've got a little bit of an insect stuck on your windscreen, but, no, we are people out here. Give us some space. Move away!" The pilot would say, "Who are you. Identify yourself."

We said, "We are a microlite."

He said, "No way, buddy. Microlites flying at 20,000 feet?" I said, "We're here. Give us space." If they fly within six miles of you, they'll tear the wings off you, those big things. So we had a great time chatting with this pilot.

When we finally got up to 20,300 feet, we couldn't go any higher. The air was so thin that we were breathing oxygen, and the aircraft was almost stalling. I had it on full power, and we were down to about sixty miles per hour instead of about eighty or ninety, and we were just wallowing around. I said to Storm, "That's it; we won't go any higher. Let's get down." I said, "By the way, Storm, I am desperate for the toilet, so, if you don't mind, we are going to go down rather quickly." I mean it was really cold. Do you know what it's like when you are cold, and you are desperate? I had on all my Antarctic gear and balaclava. It was so cold that my eyelashes were sticking together, icing together. So it was a little bit nippy. I forgot that I had this flight indicator on board recording everything I was doing.

I put it into a dive, almost vertically, an eighty-degree dive, and we went from 20,000 feet down to 3,000 at the same speed as a person free-falling as they skydive, which was fantastic. It was very exciting. But because we were going from so high and so cold down so fast, all of the flight instruments froze over so that Storm, my copilot, couldn't read anything. He said, "There is ice everywhere." Everything was covered in ice because of the warm air hitting the cold instruments. I pulled out at 3,000. It was very exciting.

When the air traffic control people and the Civil Aviation looked at the graph, they said, "Is this a record of a mid-air collision?"

Someone said, "No, what do you mean?"

They said, "Because the curve goes up nice and gradual. All of a sudden it drops just like a shock. It's almost vertical."

Someone said, "Oh no, that was a blind pilot."

"What? A blind pilot!" He said, "But why is he coming down so vertical?"

They said, "Well, to be honest sir, he needed the toilet." [laughter] I got in a bit of trouble over that. I was told not to do that again. There is no inside entertainment; there are no toilets up there, so that's a bit dodgy.

I am very excited about the products that VisuAide are bringing out, and I am looking at maybe linking up with them. At the moment I'm using software called Software Express, and if you want to pick up a pamphlet that will give you my Web address and a card, whatever, you can go to the VisuAide table and they will give you information so that you can look up my Web site. There are links there to this software and technology. The lovely thing is that, if I am using VisuAide stuff, I can in time listen to my Talking Books when I am flying to Australia or wherever.[applause] It's fantastic, aye! Whoever thought that digital books were only for grannies sitting on their sofas in the lounge.

The next thing I am planning to do is to fly my microlite from London all the way to Sydney, Australia. That is about 12,500 miles. It's more than halfway around the world. It is going to take me thirty-five days at least. We'll be going from Britain across the English Channel down to the Mediterranean, jump across the islands in the Mediterranean, Egypt, across to the Middle East, the Far East, and then across Pakistan, then across India, down to Singapore, Singapore to East Timor, East Timor to Darwin, and then all the way down the east coast to Sydney. The difficulty is that the microlite has a range of only 300 miles. But from East Timor to Darwin is 460 miles, which is a bit of a problem. So we'll be taking extra fuel, and we are even sending our toothbrushes on ahead so we won't have any extra weight.

If we land in the water, there are sharks. What are we going to do about the sharks? Well, the best advice we've had so far is to carry water-resistant briefcases, brand new technology. If a shark sees the briefcase you are holding in the water, he won't attack you out of professional courtesy to other lawyers and solicitors.[laughter] That's going to be great fun, and I am looking forward to doing that very much. My call sign when I fly to Australia is going to be "Batman," because I am blind as a bat. It should be great fun, so we are looking forward to that. [Mr. Hilton-Barber then demonstrated what his software sounded like.]

The most important thing I want to say in conclusion is this. I was eighteen, growing up in Rhodesia, what is now called Zimbabwe. I joined the Air Force. I could still see then. I didn't know I was going to go blind, and neither did they. But they said, "Sir, you will never become a pilot because your eyesight isn't good enough." Just the other day I was sitting in my bath back in England, and I suddenly remembered that occasion. I said, "Blow me down. Thirty-five years later, even though I can't see a thing, I now have the privilege of flying more than halfway around the world." Don't tell me you can't live your dreams! [applause and cheers]

Let me tell you this: you can live your dreams. Dream big dreams, whatever you want to do. The only limits in your life are those that you accept yourself. Get rid of them. We blind people can set our sights as high as we want. We can go to the moon. If we can go under water, we can fly aeroplanes. The only limits are those you accept yourself. I want to say that on this card I have a little thing written, and there is a picture of me at the bottom of the Red Sea actually using my white stick to push my paralyzed friend in a wheelchair along the bottom of the sea. That was just one form of our transport. Great fun. But be creative. You know, life is too short to drink bad wine, as I said. Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. Isn't that right?

Friends, I am hugely, hugely honored to be here today. I didn't say at the beginning, but I worked for a number of years for the Royal National Institute of the Blind in Britain, and I bring you greetings from all of their management and staff. There are about two million blind people in Britain, and I wish they could come here because you guys have razzmatazz.

It is the Fourth of July! You are going to drink wine tonight, not now. I will close with two quotes that have meant a lot in my life. One is a Danish proverb that says that "Life does not consist in holding a good hand of cards, but in playing a poor hand well." I wasted years of my life when I heard that I was going to become blind; I thought I couldn't live my dreams, I couldn't have any big goals in life. Now I realize that, if we just play the hand of cards we have been given, it is enough for us to do anything we want with our lives. Play your hand of cards as well as you can!

Just before I close, I will say a huge thank-you to Dr. Marc and all the fantastic management and staff. I am thrilled to be here with you guys, and I hope to keep in touch, and, who knows, I might even be able to come back and let you know if those briefcases worked in the shark water.

I want to close now with a quote from Lawrence of Arabia, one of my great heroes. In his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom he says this: "All men dream dreams, but not all men dream equally, for there are those who dream at night in the empty recesses of their minds, and they awake in the morning to find that, behold, it was just a dream. But there are other men and women who are dangerous dreamers." (I love that--dangerous dreamers) "For these are men and women who dream in the daytime with their eyes open, that they might fulfill their dreams." So, good ladies and gentlemen, don't be a daydreamer, be a dangerous dreamer.[Applause]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Tai Tomasi]

Reflection on the Holidays and the Federation

by Tai Tomasi

From the Editor: Here is a Christmas story with a difference. Tai Tomasi is a graduate student in public administration who lives in Salt Lake City. Next year she plans to enter law school. She currently works full-time in childcare and goes to school full-time in the evenings. In addition to all this, she serves as secretary of the Salt Lake chapter and president of the affiliate's student division, is active in her church, and is planning her wedding in late 2005. Tai loves skiing, hiking, and Rollerblading. She is clearly a living example of all she believes. Here is her story:

As a child I was made painfully aware every holiday season that I was different. Something about me somehow made me different from my twenty-two, yes twenty-two, siblings. In the early years I was eager to help string Christmas lights and do all kinds of decorating throughout my large house and yard, but I was always told to stop getting in the way. Moreover, I was never allowed to cook or do anything else in the kitchen. As a youngster I was inclined, like most other children, to dart hither and yon, generally making a nuisance of myself underfoot.

When I began to realize my difference--the fact that I was blind--I assumed that this was the reason for my family's not wanting my help. Gradually I ceased to have the confidence to decorate anything, let alone string the lights. I did manage to help decorate the tree, but that wasn't as exciting or fun as all of the decorating my brother Toby had done. He was our star decorator, coming up with all kinds of elaborate lighting schemes for the exterior of the house and our large patio.

I eventually concluded that these holiday activities were best left to the sighted and that I would probably never participate in the journey into the woods or the trip to the Christmas tree farm to find and cut down the perfect tree. Of course these attitudes changed when I found the National Federation of the Blind.

I freely admit that my first encounter with the Federation involved money--I won a state scholarship from the NFB of Vermont and attended the state convention. There I met Allen Harris, who became a great friend and mentor to me. Although my initial attraction to the NFB was money, something more captured my interest: the promise of something better, a new lease on life, and a new attitude about blindness.

I became involved with my state affiliate and attended my first Washington seminar in 1999. The experience was empowering, and I longed to go to a national convention. I got my wish in 2000 when I won a national scholarship and flew to Atlanta. That week was indescribable. There Joanne Wilson, current commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration and longtime Federationist, attempted to convince me that I should receive training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. I was not immediately convinced; in fact it took me two years to realize the importance of what she had been trying to impress upon me.

Feeling that I had not reached my full potential in school and in other pursuits, I decided to attend the center. This experience brought me full circle as my graduation from the center approached in early December 2002. Not only did I lend a hand with decorating the tree and the center, but I did it all under sleepshades, proving to myself once and for all that blindness was no longer and never would again be a hindrance to me. Arriving at the Christmas tree farm, I even cut down one of the trees we took back to the center. I felt like the world's best chef when I cooked all manner of things--including a turkey--for our holiday dinner.

This transformation in my outlook symbolizes what the Federation means to me. Perhaps as a child I was just paranoid. Perhaps my family's reactions were not based on blindness but on the fact that I was an inquisitive, overzealous, pesky kid. I suppose I will never know whether their reasons were based on my visual acuity, but I am convinced that I would have been allowed to string lights had I been sighted.

My experiences with the National Federation of the Blind and the training and philosophy we promote have been the only influence in my life that has allowed me to prove to myself that I can accomplish anything as a blind person. You can be sure that I will be decorating, cooking, and stringing lights for years to come thanks to the NFB. This is the type of empowerment the NFB provides.

Federationists have proven over the past sixty-four years that anything can be accomplished with steadfast and unwavering dedication. As Federationists we take pride in changing lives one by one. Through a life-changing, exhilarating event a blind person comes to experience firsthand the incredibly empowering message of the Federation: that it is respectable to be blind; that with proper training and attitude, blindness can be reduced to the level of a nuisance.

Through example and by getting our blind friends and neighbors to attempt things they never thought possible, things that they never dared to try because of blindness, we make a difference. This is what the Federation means to its members and what it can mean to the blind of the nation. So get out there and cut down your Christmas tree, string plenty of lights, and cook those wonderful dishes that bring delight to your friends and family.

As you go about your holiday preparations, do not forget about the NFB. Stay involved in your local chapters (in my opinion one of the most important elements of the Federation). Chapters are the best at recruiting and getting blind people out of their houses when they are struggling and discouraged. Let us teach these folks how to cook, string lights, and cut down trees. Let us help them hold their heads high, walking confidently without fear or shame throughout our communities.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Darrel Kirby]

Santa's Little Helper

by Darrel Kirby

From the Editor: For obvious reasons I have been saving this delightful little story for several months. Darrel Kirby was the 2004 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship winner. He is a graduate student at the University of Iowa and president of the Old Capitol Chapter of the NFB of Iowa. Here is his Christmas story:

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. The holiday season was always a joyous time for my family. Each year I waited anxiously for Thanksgiving, knowing that the following weekend would include walking through the snow to find a real Christmas tree in the woods near our farmhouse. A tree with no gaps and a triangular shape was a lucky find. We did our best to make the tree look beautiful by decorating it with colorful lights, icicles, and an assortment of ornaments. My mother attempted to make the tree more attractive with a set of blown glass ornaments with gold accents, but each year the tree was crowded with school-made decorations created by my three brothers and me. Like diamonds in a dime-store display, the glass ornaments, beautiful and fragile, stood out from the sturdy, homemade ornaments made of popsicle sticks, colorful yarn, and Elmer's glue.

My three brothers and I differed in personality and interests, sharing only the Kirby nose and hand-me-downs. We all had our personality quirks, and I was notorious for being hyperactive and excited by many things, especially Christmas. My three brothers and parents would rather have received a full night's rest on Christmas Eve, but I could not wait for the festivities to begin, so I pulled them out of bed every Christmas morning to gather in the living room. One advantage of being an over-active child growing up in a house full of shy boys was that the extrovert got most of the attention on Christmas day. I was happy to be the boy who enjoyed the spotlight on those brisk Iowa mornings.

Over the years I evolved for myself the role of Santa's little helper. The presents with their colorful ribbons and bows sat under the three-week-old evergreen, waiting for me to distribute them to their anxious recipients. I discovered that if I grabbed the Santa Claus hat that sat under the tree and handed out the gifts to my brothers and parents, they would begin opening their presents first, and I could watch my gifts pile up in a designated area of the living room. After my parents and brothers opened their gifts, all eyes were on me, which met my need for attention. Naturally enough I grew to love handing out gifts on Christmas morning.

Although the scene I am describing from my childhood sounds like something I would eventually outgrow, my job as Santa's little helper continued into adulthood. It was this way each year of my life, even after I went off to college. I never lost my enthusiasm for Christmas and handing out gifts. However, things were drastically different on Christmas morning four years ago. When I was twenty, I began losing my sight from diabetic retinopathy. Three weeks after being officially pronounced "legally blind" by the eye doctors, I returned home for Christmas. After becoming blind, I believed my life was over. Christmas no longer seemed so wonderful.

That Christmas morning my family sat in silence around me as I stared at the blurry lights of the Christmas tree. The silence in the room seemed louder than all the laughter of other years combined. My younger brother cleared his throat and somberly asked, "So who is going to hand out the presents?" I felt a tear well up in my eye. I did not want to ruin Christmas for my family, but my sadness inevitably placed a damper on the day for everyone. It was clear that Santa's little helper was not able to see the names on the gift tags.

Not wanting my family to see my tears, I turned away from the lighted tree and looked out the window. Something on the tree caught a ray of sunlight and focused my attention. It was one of the glass ornaments with the gold accents that my mother loved. Through the years some of them had broken in the rough-and-tumble play of the four boys. Mom had always warned us to be careful around the glass ornaments. This year the warning was to be careful around me, for I was so fragile that I too might break.

I lost my sight in the middle of my college career and was forced to withdraw from classes. Having been able to see for twenty years and not knowing how to be blind, I discovered that my life had significantly changed in a span of two months. My family recognized that I was unhappy after losing my sight, and with no exposure to blind people, they did not know how to help me. They made sure not to talk about my eyes or blindness, thinking that it would pain me to talk about the thing that made me sad. I believed that blindness would take away my strength and that I would no longer be a confident young man, full of energy and plans for the future. It would be a while before I realized that my life was not fundamentally different just because I was blind.

The next year brought more changes and adjustments. As Christmas drew near, I had lost the remainder of my sight. I had accepted that I was blind but believed I was limited by my blindness. I tried to enjoy my second Christmas as a blind person, but I was still saddened not to wear the Santa Claus hat and hand out presents. I had my mother place me in a chair near her and describe the gifts I received. I was not accustomed to accept my gifts passively from someone else. Somberness loomed in the living room, and I continued to feel as breakable as my mother's glass ornaments.

Although I had begun to accept my blindness, I had not found the National Federation of the Blind and thus did not understand that my life need not be limited by blindness. During the following year I would attend the Iowa Department for the Blind's Orientation Center, return to college as a full-time student, and discover the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. I attended my first national convention and became active in my local NFB chapter. I met thousands of people who were not letting blindness stop them from accomplishing their goals. The success of the blind people I met inspired me to challenge myself.

I was proud to graduate from the University of Iowa in December after completing a semester full of difficult classes. My performance in those classes was far better than any other semester's performance-–even those in which I could see. My success in college was just one part of my success in life. In that year I grew as a person and gained back all the strength and confidence I had lost. For the first time in two years I was hopeful about the future, and I understood that most problems are only problems until one finds the solution. With this new philosophy I knew that if blind people were finding ways to be doctors, engineers, and lawyers, there was bound to be a way for me to be Santa's little helper.

The next Christmas Eve I pulled out my slate and stylus, hurried my mom to the kitchen, and revealed my plan to her. I would Braille labels for all of the gifts under the tree. Excitement radiated from my mother as she slipped into the living room to retrieve some of the presents. We worked for about an hour, labeling all of the gifts in Braille. My mother recognized the significance of Braille as she saw how easy it was to label the things I had once read with my eyes. Braille would save the day.

Christmas morning came, and I waited in anticipation just as I had when I was five years old. In the past year my brother and his wife had had a son, and I wanted my nephew's first Christmas to be like the ones I grew up with. I searched for the Santa Claus hat and put it on. I reached for a present and felt the familiar dots of my name. A smile crossed my face as I thought of the gifts that would pile up in my designated area. Although some of the attention was on my new nephew, I could feel the pride in the room as my family recognized what I had accomplished in the last year.

It was not long before I heard my mother express her worry that my nephew would grab one of her glass ornaments. She would hate for any more of them to break and for him to get hurt. My mother's concern reminded me that I had felt like one of those glass ornaments just a year earlier. The National Federation of the Blind has shown me that blindness does not weaken a person; it had only made me stronger. I was no longer a delicate glass ornament, but a stronger version of the boy who had demanded that he be Santa's little helper.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Sharon Maneki]

Distinguished Educator of Blind

Children Award for 2005

by Sharon Maneki

From the Editor: Sharon Maneki is president of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland. She also chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2005.

The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 2005 convention next July. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $1,000, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children early in the convention.

Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind students or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the national convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.

The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording him or her the opportunity to take part in seminars and workshops on educational issues, to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators.

Please complete the application and attach the following:

*  A letter of nomination from someone (parent, coworker, supervisor, etc.) who knows your work;

*  A letter of recommendation from someone who knows you professionally and knows your philosophy of teaching; and

*  A letter from you discussing your beliefs and approach to teaching blind students. In your letter you may wish to discuss topics such as the following:

*  What are your views about when and how students should use Braille, large print, tape recordings, readers, magnification devices, computers, electronic notetakers, and other technology?

*  How do you decide whether a child should use print, Braille, or both?

*  When do you recommend that your students begin instruction in the use of a slate and stylus, of a Braille writer?

*  How do you determine which students should learn cane travel (and when) and which should not?

*  When should keyboarding be introduced?

*  When should a child be expected to hand in print assignments independently?

National Federation of the Blind

Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award

2005 Application

Deadline: May 15, 2005

Name:_______________________________________________________

Home address:_________________________________________________

City:________________________________________________________

State, Zip:____________________________________________________

Phone: (H)____________________(W)____________________________

Email:______________________________________________________

School:______________________________________________________

Address:_____________________________________________________

City, State, Zip:_________________________________________________

Use a separate sheet of paper and answer the following:

*  List your degrees, the institutions from which they were received, and your major area or areas of study;

*  How long and in what programs have you worked with blind children?

*  In what setting do you currently work?

*  Briefly describe your current job and teaching responsibilities;

*  Describe your current caseload (e.g., number of students, ages, multiple disabilities, number of Braille-reading students)

Attach the three required letters to this application and send all material by May 15, 2005, to Sharon Maneki, Chairwoman, Teacher Award Committee, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, Maryland 21045, (410) 715-9596.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Stephen Benson]

The 2005 Blind Educator of the Year Award

by Stephen O. Benson

From the Editor: Steve Benson is a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind. He also chairs the committee charged with identifying each year's Blind Educator of the Year. This is what he says:

A number of years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators (the teachers division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. This change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.

This award is given in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information but also provides guidance and advocacy. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.

The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $1,000.

Nominations should be sent to Steve Benson, 7020 North Tahoma, Chicago, Illinois 60646. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current résumé and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 1, 2005, to be considered for this year's award. For further information contact Steve Benson at (773) 775-9765.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Greater Baltimore Chapter members meet and greet community residents at the Federal Hill Street Beat Festival in Baltimore, Maryland. Here Ameenah Ghoston inflates balloons; Donna Ring types names in Braille on the Perkins Brailler; Chris Danielsen greets festival goers and hands out Braille alphabet cards; and Steven Brand gives away free balloons.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Outdoor street festivals, often held in the fall, are great opportunities for holding a Meet-the-Blind event and letting the public know about the National Federation of the Blind. Pictured here a large NFB banner behind an information table lets passersby know who we are as they stroll the festival area.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Betsy Zaborowski, Jernigan Institute executive director, stands with Mindy Basara, a TV anchor for Baltimore's NBC TV station, and Jim Gashel, NFB's director of strategic initiatives. Mindy served as honorary chairperson of the NFB-Riverside Fall Festival and White Cane Walkathon.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION: David Stayer, president of New York's Greater Long Island Chapter, distributes NFB literature and sells candy at the Bellmore Street Fair.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: A young family stops to talk with volunteers at an NFB information table. The children check out NFB Braille alphabet cards.]

[PHOTO/CAPTION:  At this year’s Third Annual Black Tie-White Cane Appreciation Banquet, Anil Lewis, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, and second vice president Thelma Godwin, the event chairperson, stand with Rev. Magdalene Womack, WSB-TV Channel 2 Action News Anchor Monica Kaufman, the keynote speaker, and Ambassador Andrew Young, honorary chairman of the event.  Ambassador Young serves as Chairman of GoodWorks International Foundation while Rev. Womack is its Vice-President of Public Affairs.]

Third Annual Meet-the-Blind-Month Campaign

by Jerry Lazarus

From the Editor: Here is Jerry Lazarus's report on Meet-the-Blind Month 2004:

Question: What did NFB members do fifty-two times in 2002, more than a hundred fifty times in 2003, and exceeding two hundred times in 2004? Is that your final answer? If you said participate in October Meet-the-Blind-Month events, you are absolutely correct. This year's Meet-the-Blind-Month events were planned by no fewer than forty-three of our fifty-one affiliates. (For a complete list of events go to <www.nfb.org/meet/schedule.htm>.)

The campaign, which was first launched in 2002 and conducted during the month of October, is a coordinated, nationwide project planned and designed to provide opportunities for affiliate and chapter members to reach out to their communities, schools, local civic groups, and others to let them know about blindness and the NFB. Early planning by affiliate and chapter presidents not only increased the number of events but enhanced the creativity, versatility, and energy for this, our best year yet, ensuring that the public would learn even more about our movement.

President Marc Maurer again provided affiliates and chapters with free Braille alphabet cards. Along with the cards NFB Materials Center staff shipped out books and other NFB literature with such speed and in such quantities that they ran out of some literature. Our Materials Center did a heroic job in quickly replenishing its supplies and shipping out orders so that all chapters had the appropriate materials before their events. In addition chapters helped each other by sharing materials to ensure that the literature supply was sufficient.

Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts continued to offer an outstanding opportunity for NFB members to get in front of hundreds of shoppers during the month and in many cases helped create a profitable fundraising component. Nineteen states held thirty-eight Wal-Mart meet-and-greet events. In those events alone we were able to hand out more than twenty-two thousand Braille alphabet cards in addition to all the other literature that members distributed.

For a limited time National Organization of Parents of Blind Children president Barbara Cheadle offered the Braille Is Beautiful video kit program to interested affiliates and chapters at no charge. The program, a disability awareness curriculum for elementary and middle school students, includes two copies of the video Jake and the Secret Code, along with a teacher's guide in both Braille and print. Many of our affiliate and chapter members visit public and private schools during Meet-the-Blind-Month, and Braille Is Beautiful is an easy and interesting method for demonstrating and promoting Braille. NFB Braille alphabet cards are given to the students, and after viewing the video presentation, they have a better understanding of the Braille code and the way a blind child uses Braille. No doubt, by using a professionally produced video with a follow-up discussion with blind adults, the visits achieved the goal of sharing with the students the importance of Braille and the way blind people read and write.

One of the more creative events this year was reported by NFB of Alabama President Michael Jones. The chapter provided prize money for an invention competition for local fourth graders. The students were challenged to come up with innovative ideas that could be inventions to help provide independence for the blind.

Another interesting event was a train ride from Los Angeles to Ventura, organized by Robert Stigile, president of the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the NFB of California. During the ride members quizzed the passengers about blindness, then provided the answers while handing out literature. The Santa Barbara, High Desert, and San Fernando Valley Chapters held a tri-chapter event at Ventura College. This was a collaborative effort to show support for each other and to encourage people in the Ventura area to form a chapter.

Juliet Cody, president of the Beach Cities Chapter in California, and other members of her chapter presented surfing demonstrations in Carlsbad.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Walkers in the NFB‑Riverside Fall Festival and White Cane walkathon begin their walk. The NFB Jernigan Institute can be seen in the background.]

A number of chapters were involved in run and walk events, including the fourth annual Team with a Vision event in Brighton, Massachusetts, headed by Cambridge Chapter resident David Ticchi. Some of the White Cane walks, like the one conducted by the Greater Summit County Chapter in Ohio, added a little something extra. Chapter President Mary Weldon organized interviews with chapter members at the Rubber City radio station at the conclusion of their walk.

Connie Johnson, president of the Erie County Chapter of Pennsylvania, organized a number of events, including Explore the Stars, which was held at the accessible planetarium at Edinboro University. Cary Supalo of the Happy Valley Chapter in Pennsylvania scheduled four showings of Erik Weihenmayer's documentary film, Farther than the Eye Can See, at Penn State University.

For a second year Chapter President Sandy Addy succeeded in convincing municipalities in her Tri City Chapter area to put NFB literature into the paychecks of Arizona workers in Prescott, Prescott Valley, and Chino Valley. Way to go, Sandy! With the opening of the new movie, Ray, based on the life of the late Ray Charles, New Mexico Affiliate President Art Schreiber took advantage of this opportunity to arrange for a table in the lobby of the Cottonwood Cinema in Albuquerque to distribute literature and provide public education about the abilities of blind people.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: Ruby Polk uses the Braille Is Beautiful program, a disability awareness curriculum designed for elementary and middle school children, to show a Kansas City elementary class how Braille works.]

Active organizers this year included Ruth Swensen from Arizona and Debbie Briddell from Delaware. Marion Gwizdala, Judy August, Kitty King, Lydia Markley, and Lois Kilgore from Florida managed to hold fifteen events despite the worst hurricane season in decades. Daniel Facchini, from New Jersey, scheduled three activities. Annette Grove from Illinois arranged four events, while Maryland Federationist Yasmin Reyazudden continues to conduct Meet-the-Blind events year-round. Robert Skillon from Mississippi and Betty Walker from Missouri each arranged for three events. Let's not forget student leader and Chapter President Yolanda Garcia from Texas, who arranged five events. Finally we mention Ruby Polk, from Missouri, who sponsored six activities.

These names, of course, only skim the surface of the individuals who participated in planning and conducting the many 2004 Meet-the-Blind Month-events. We congratulate all who were involved and remind you that it is never too early to start thinking about our 2005 Meet-the-Blind-Month campaign.

[PHOTO/CAPTION: James McCarthy]

Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2005

by James McCarthy

From the Editor: Jim McCarthy is director of governmental affairs for the National Federation of the Blind. Here is his annual Social Security summary:

One more year is nearly behind us, with another poised to take its place. This inevitable passage of time brings annual adjustments to the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicare programs. The changes include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, SSDI and SSI cost-of-living increases, and alterations to deductible and coinsurance requirements under Medicare. What follows are the new facts for 2005:

Tax Rates

FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers remains at 7.65 percent. This rate includes payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund of 6.2 percent and an additional 1.45 percent payment to the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund from which payments under Medicare are made. Self-employed persons continue to pay a Social Security tax of 15.3 percent, which includes 12.4 percent paid to the OASDI Trust Fund and 2.9 percent paid to the HI Trust Fund.

Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 2004 the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI Trust Fund was $87,900. This ceiling rises to $90,000 for 2005. All earnings are taxed for the HI Trust Fund.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for retirement, survivors, and disability insurance benefits is based in large part on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage during a single year. During 2004 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $900 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $3,600 for the year (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) was given four quarters of coverage. In 2005 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $920 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters can be earned with annual earnings of $3,680.

Trial Work Period Limit: Beginning in 2001, the SSA established a rule that changes the amount of earnings required to use a trial work month. This change is announced with the cost-of-living adjustments each year. In 2004 the amount was $580, and in 2005 it rises to $590. In cases of self-employment, a trial work month can also be used if a person works more than eighty hours, and this limit remains the same each year.

Exempt Earnings: The monthly earnings exemption for blind people who receive disability insurance benefits was $1,350 of gross earned income during 2004. In 2005 earnings of $1,380 or more per month, before taxes, for a blind SSDI beneficiary will show substantial gainful activity after subtracting any unearned (or subsidy) income and applying any deductions for impairment‑related work expenses.

Social Security Benefit Amounts: All Social Security benefits are increased by 2.7 percent beginning with the checks received in January 2005. The exact dollar increase for any individual will depend upon the amount being paid.

Supplemental Security Income

Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January 2005, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $579 per month; couples, $869 per month. These amounts are increased from the 2004 level of $564 per month for individuals and $846 per month for couples.

Student Earned Income Exclusion: the Student Earned Income Exclusion is adjusted each year. In 2004 the monthly amount was $1,370, and the maximum yearly amount was $5,520. For 2005 these amounts increase to $1,410 per month and $5,670 per year. The SSI program applies strict asset (resource) limits of $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for couples that cannot be adjusted except through legislation.

Medicare

Medicare Deductibles and Coinsurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The coinsurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's coinsurance amount.

The Part A coinsurance amount charged for hospital services within a benefit period of not longer than sixty days was $876 during 2004 and is increased to $912 during 2005. From the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day there is a daily coinsurance amount of $228 per day, up from $219 in 2004. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty lifetime reserve days, which may be used after a ninety day benefit period has ended. Once used, after any benefit period these reserve days are no longer available. The coinsurance amount to be paid during each reserve day used in 2005 is $456, up from $438 in 2004.

Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days within a benefit period. From the twenty-first day through the one-hundredth day in a benefit period the Part A coinsurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility is $114 per day, up from $109.50 per day in 2004.

For most beneficiaries there is no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for Social Security Disability Insurance cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for ninety-three months after the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 2005 is $375 per month. This is reduced to $206 for individuals who have earned at least thirty quarters of coverage under Social Security-covered employment.

In 2005 the Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible will rise for the first time in many years. The 2005 deductible will be $110, up from $100 in 2004. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B monthly premium rate charged to each beneficiary for the year 2005 has increased significantly to $78.20. (The 2004 premium rate was $66.60.) This premium payment is deducted from Social Security benefit checks, so while 2005 Social Security benefits will increase, much of the increase may be eroded by the rise in Medicare Part B premiums. However, the Medicare premiums are not permitted to decrease a person's monthly Social Security Benefit amount. Individuals who remain eligible for Medicare, but because of working are not receiving Social Security benefits pay this premium directly.

Programs Which Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for help with payments. Assistance is available through two programs--QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program) and SLMB (Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program).

Under the QMB program states are required to pay the Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program, states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium ($78.20 in 2005). Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.

Both programs are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in conjunction with the states. In order to qualify, the income of an individual or couple must be less than the poverty guidelines currently in effect. The guidelines are revised annually and were last announced in February, 2004. New guidelines will be issued in February or March of 2005. The rules vary from state to state, but in general the following can be said.

A person may qualify for the QMB program if his or her income is less than $796 per month for an individual and $1,061 per month for a couple. These amounts apply for residents of forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income threshold used to define poverty is less than $990 per month for an individual and $1,321 per month for couples. In Hawaii income must be less than $912 per month for an individual and less than $1,217 per month for couples.

For the SLMB program the income of an individual cannot exceed $951 per month or $1,269 for a couple in forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. In Alaska the income amount is $1,183 for an individual and $1,581 for couples. An individual in Hawaii qualifies if his or her income is less than $1,090 per month; for couples the amount is $1,456.

Resources--such as bank accounts or stocks--may not exceed $4,000 for one person or $6,000 for a family of two. (Resources generally are things you own. However, not everything is counted. The house you live in, for example, doesn't count, and in some circumstances your car may not count either.)

If you qualify for assistance under the QMB program, you will not have to pay:

* Medicare's hospital deductible amount, which is $912 per benefit period in 2005;

* The daily coinsurance charges for extended hospital and skilled nursing facility stays;

* The Medicare Medical Insurance (Part B) premium, which is $78.20 per month in 2005;

* The $110 annual Part B deductible;

* The 20 percent coinsurance for services covered by Medicare Part B, depending on which doctor you go to.

If you qualify for assistance under the SLMB program, you will be responsible for the payment of all of the items listed above except for the $78.20 monthly Part B premium.

If you think you qualify but you have not filed for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from your local Social Security office or at Social Security's toll‑free number, (800) 772‑1213.

Remember, only your state can decide if you are eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB programs. So, if you are elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local Medicaid office (referred to in some states as the Public Aid Office or the Public Assistance Office) to apply. For more information about either program, call CMS's toll‑free telephone number, (800) 633-4227.

Recipes

Recipes for this issue were submitted by members of the NFB of Wisconsin.

Pumpkin Dessert

by Nancy Hyde

Nancy Hyde is a member of the Rock County Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Wisconsin. She is an excellent cook and is especially known for making delicious brunches, which bring high bids at our convention auctions. This is a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie. It can be served hot or cold.

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups (1 29-ounce can) pumpkin

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup sugar

1 yellow cake mix

2 sticks margarine, melted

1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except cake mix, margarine, and pecans  in a large bowl. Pour into an ungreased 9-by-13-inch baking dish or pan. Sprinkle yellow cake mix over mixture in pan. Drizzle with melted butter and then chopped nuts if desired. Bake for one hour.

Beef Burgundy

by Nancy Hyde

Ingredients:

3 pounds beef, cubed (I prefer sirloin, but works equally well with chuck or round)

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup chopped mushrooms

2 cups burgundy or other red wine

2 cans beef broth

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

1/2 teaspoon pepper (or to taste)

2 tablespoons oil

3 tablespoons flour

Method: Heat two tablespoons oil in a large pot. Brown beef a little at a time, removing beef as it browns. After all of the beef has been browned and removed from pot, add onions, mushrooms, and garlic. Sauté until onions are tender. Return beef to pot and sprinkle with flour, combining well. Add thyme, salt, pepper, wine, and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for approximately one hour or until beef is tender. Serve over noodles or rice. Leftovers make a great pot pie. Just add potatoes and carrots and simmer until carrots and potatoes are tender. Place in baking dish and top with biscuit dough. You can use canned biscuits if you prefer not to make your own. Place in a 375-degree oven and bake until biscuits are brown, approximately twenty minutes.

Cheese Artichoke Dip

by Cheryl Orgas

Cheryl Orgas is the treasurer of the Milwaukee chapter. She also chairs our state scholarship committee.

Ingredients:

2 cans artichokes, chopped

20 olives, chopped

16 ounces cream cheese, softened

10 ounces fresh Parmesan cheese

8 ounces mayonnaise

2 teaspoons garlic powder

8 ounces sour cream

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

Method: Except for mozzarella cheese, mix all ingredients together. Place mixture in an oven-safe glass serving dish (approximately two-quart size). Top with the mozzarella cheese. Place in preheated 350-degree oven for thirty to forty minutes. Serve with Carr's poppy/sesame crackers.

Oriental Cabbage Salad

by Cheryl Orgas

Ingredients:

2 packages coleslaw mix

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup sunflower seeds

2 cans sliced water chestnuts

2 packages oriental ramen noodles broken up into small bits

1 bunch green onions, chopped

Ingredients for dressing:

2 packages seasoning for ramen noodles

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup sesame oil

1/3 cup sugar (or less)

Combine all ingredients. To make dressing, combine seasoning packages from ramen noodles, apple cider vinegar, sesame oil, and sugar. Stir ingredients together to make a smooth dressing. Pour over salad and serve after salad sits for an hour.

<[PHOTO/CAPTION: Dan and Jennifer Wenzel]

Fondue Italiano

by Jennifer Wenzel

Jennifer Wenzel is the president of the Rock County Chapter and wife of NFB of Wisconsin President Dan Wenzel. This dish is a hit at holiday gatherings.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef, or 1 pound hot or mild Italian sausage

1 envelope spaghetti sauce mix, any flavor

2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce

1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 cup dry red wine

Method: Brown beef or sausage and pour off fat. Place in crockpot and add spaghetti sauce mix, tomato sauce, and the shredded cheddar and mozzarella cheeses. Cover and cook on low for two hours. Dissolve cornstarch in wine in a small bowl. Add mixture to crockpot and stir mixture into meat until thoroughly combined. Turn pot to high. Heat for fifteen minutes. Turn back to low, and simmer throughout party. Serve with French or Italian bread pieces for dipping. Leftovers are great with pasta. This recipe can be doubled. Once doubled it fills a 6-quart crockpot.

Chocolate Caramel Candy Bars

by Jennifer Wenzel

These are a bit fussy to make but well worth the effort. They taste even better than Snickers bars.

Ingredients for Crust:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup butterscotch chips

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Method: Place all ingredients in microwave-safe bowl. Melt and pour into greased 13-by-9-inch pan. Place in refrigerator until set, about twenty minutes.

Ingredients for Filling:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 1/2 cup marshmallow cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups salted peanuts

Method: Melt butter. Add sugar and milk. Bring mixture to a boil and cook, stirring, for five minutes. Remove from heat and add peanut butter, marshmallow cream, vanilla, and peanuts. Spread evenly over crust. Return to refrigerator until set, about twenty minutes.

Ingredients for Layer 3:

1 14-ounce package caramels

1/4 cup heavy cream

Method: Combine caramels and cream and melt in microwave or over low heat. Pour over filling and return to refrigerator for another twenty minutes.

Ingredients for Topping:

1 cup chocolate chips

1/4 cup butterscotch chips

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Method: Melt these ingredients in microwave oven. Spread over bars. Return to the refrigerator for one hour. Cut into squares. For best results store bars tightly covered in refrigerator.

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

<[PHOTO/CAPTION: Chris Danielsen]

National Federation of the Blind Launches New Online Publication:

Chris Danielsen, editor of this new Web publication has prepared the following announcement:

The National Federation of the Blind has launched a brand new Web-based publication called Voice of the Nation's Blind. The inaugural issue of the publication can be found at <www.voiceofthenationsblind.org>.

The purpose of Voice of the Nation's Blind is to use the full power of the Internet to bring content about the Federation and its activities, as well as other matters of interest to the blind community, to the widest possible audience and to present this content in new and exciting ways. The VNB Web site will feature an abundance of audio and video material, as well as written articles. The publication will also provide readers with opportunities to interact with its editor and staff at the National Center for the Blind using the Internet to submit articles, make comments and suggestions on existing and future content, and pose questions to the editor.

The goals of Voice of the Nation's Blind are:

* To provide exclusive online content about the National Federation of the Blind, the National Center for the Blind and NFB Jernigan Institute, and our activities;

* To publish in-depth coverage of issues that are important to the blind community;

* To profile leaders in the Federation and other interesting blind individuals;

* To discuss new technologies that may assist the blind, as well as the access issues we face with existing commercial technologies and the Internet;

* To discuss the interaction of blindness and blind people with the media and the arts and to provide a forum for artistic expression in the blind community;

* To discuss legal matters involving the Federation and Federationists, as well as other legal issues that affect the blind;

* To allow NFB members to pose questions and comments directly to the magazine's editorial staff and the staff at the National Center for the Blind; and

* To talk about the many ways in which our fifty-two state and regional affiliates and hundreds of local chapters are helping the blind and advancing the cause of the Federation in their own communities, and to serve as a sounding board for ideas on how affiliates can continue to support the program of serving the blind at the local level.

The inaugural issue of Voice of the Nation's Blind includes:

* An extensive feature package on electronic voting machines, including an article about the recent controversy surrounding these devices and the way the blind community can respond effectively, as well as an audiovisual demonstration of three accessible voting machines;

* A new perspective on the life of NFB founder Dr. Jacobus tenBroek from one of his distinguished colleagues in the California legal community;

* Extensive audio and video coverage of the third annual Possibilities Fair for Seniors held at the NFB Jernigan Institute in May of this year, including the featured speakers and an interview with a participant; and

* The story of an innovative computer training program run by the NFB of South Carolina and the way it's being expanded to help blinded veterans learn about adaptive computer technology.

There's more in the inaugural issue and more to come, so please visit us on the Web today, and don't hesitate to comment on this new publication, submit articles, and make suggestions about what you think we should include in future issues. Happy browsing!

Potomac Chapter Wins Arlington County's James B. Hunter Human Rights Award:

We recently learned that the Potomac Chapter of the NFB of Virginia has just received one of five awards presented in memory of James B. Hunter. The Arlington County Web site describes Mr. Hunter as a member and chairman of the county board for eight years. He was a "compassionate and dedicated public servant who worked tirelessly on behalf of individuals with little access to their government."

The awards program recognizes sustained commitment and outstanding accomplishments in human rights made in Arlington County by an individual, a community group, a nonprofit organization, or a business establishment. This year's award recipients were honored at a reception Thursday, November 4.

Santa's Elves at Work in Pennsylvania:

Early this year Lynn Heitz sent us the following little report. We decided to save it for the 2004 Christmas season. Here it is:

On December 16, 2003, members of the Keystone and Greater Philadelphia Chapters of the NFB of Pennsylvania donned their elf hats and wrapped toys for Operation Santa Claus. This program, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, collects thousands of toys each year and distributes them to needy families in the Philadelphia area. Over one thousand children can celebrate Christmas because of this program.

Members of the two chapters decided to participate in the program as a way of giving back to the community. We left the wrapping center that day with warm feelings, knowing that we had helped make Christmas possible for some children.

AARP The Magazine Available on NFB-NEWSLINE®:

President Maurer circulated the following self-explanatory notice by email on October 20, 2004:

Dear Colleagues:

Great news! Now available on the NFB-NEWSLINE® system is the broadest circulation magazine in the states, AARP The Magazine. We are providing this service to the AARP and to the blind in recognition of the large number of blind people who are seniors. This cooperative relationship makes the broadest circulation magazine in America available to the blind by touch-tone telephone. Please let senior citizens and those operating retirement communities know about the availability of the magazine.

Cordially,

Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind

Elected:

On October 17 at the 2004 convention of the NFB of Illinois in Springfield, the following officers were elected: president, Lois Montgomery; first vice president, Patti Gregory‑Chang; second vice president, Cathy Randall; secretary, Debbie Kent Stein; treasurer, Kelly Doty; and board members Carmen Dennis and Joe Monti.

<[PHOTO/CAPTION: John Earl Cheadle dressed in alb and stole. His fiance made the stole from pieces of material significant to John Earl throughout his life.]

Ordained:

We are pleased to announce that John Earl Roberts Cheadle, son of Federation leaders and staff members Barbara and John Cheadle, was ordained to the ministry in the Christian Church on Sunday, October 10, 2004, at 2:00 p.m. The service took place at the Christian Temple in Catonsville, Maryland, with a reception  following. Congratulations to John Earl and his proud family.

Elected:

The following officers were elected at the 2004 meeting of the Deaf-Blind Division: president, Robert Eschbach (Arizona); first vice president, Burnell Brown (Washington, D.C.); second vice president, Bob Deaton (Nebraska); secretary, Patricia Tuck (Florida); and treasurer, Bruce Woodward (Connecticut).

Elected:

The Arizona Association of Blind Students held its annual elections during the NFB of Arizona's convention in Tucson September 10 through 12, 2004. The following officers were elected: president, Arielle Silverman; first vice president, Debbie Royce; second vice president, Ryan Thomas; secretary, Ben Bloomgrin; acting secretary, Tony Sohl; treasurer, Danielle Jones; and board member at large, Wayne Royce.

Elected:

Mike Freeman, president of the NFB of Washington State, recently notified us of the affiliate's election results: Mike Freeman, president; Bennett Prows, first vice president; Kris Lawrence, second vice president; Kaye Kipp, secretary; and Gary Mackenstadt, treasurer. Elected to the NFBW board of directors were Kyle Parrish of Sequim and Don Mitchell of Vancouver.

In Brief

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.

Attention Braillewriter Owners:

Braillewriter Cleaning and Repair Service, located at 2714 Ruberg Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45211, has satisfactorily cleaned, adjusted, and repaired over 175 manual Perkins Braillers. Bernadette Dressell has been trained and certified by Howe Press, where Perkins Braillewriters are manufactured. Please call (513) 481‑7662 for price quotes.

Free Audiozine:

Penny Haynes writes to offer her free audiozine to every visually impaired person that would like to receive it, at no cost and with no strings attached. She is an audio book publisher and will be offering all her organization's books through the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. They have subscriber versions of all of their topical audiozines, but prices for blind subscribers have been reduced to cover publication cost only (50 percent off‑-$7.95--for adult publications; 63 percent off‑-$5.95--for the children's audiozine). They also want to encourage visually impaired people to participate in the audiozines, especially children, since everything is done by audio and can be recorded using the group's 800 recording line.

Your Voice is the first free weekly downloadable audio magazine that brings you stress‑free comedy breaks, practical hands‑on business solutions, and inspirational stories. Listeners are encouraged to participate by submitting audio articles on the 800 line, as well as by authoring audio books. Delivered to your inbox, the audiozine can be downloaded in MP3 format. See the organization's Website at <www.EncouragingAudiobooks.com>. Get two free audio books when you subscribe.

New Sightseeing Opportunity in Washington, D.C.:

Doris Willoughby of Colorado provides the following information:

Many NFB members who participate in the annual Washington Seminar also enjoy visiting the Smithsonian museums.This year a brand-new one will be available: the National Museum of the American Indian. A grand opening was held in September, featuring a native nations procession on the National Mall.

In great contrast to the way museum exhibits have often portrayed Native American cultures, this new museum is respect and authenticity. The director and many employees are Native Americans. Extensive consultation with native groups from various regions of the Americas (not just the USA) has taken place.

The new museum, at Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW, is just east of the Air and Space Museum. The Air and Space Museum, familiar to many Federationists, is located only about two blocks north of the Capitol Holiday Inn.

Descriptions in the general publicity clearly imply that many aspects of museum exhibits should be accessible to blind visitors. We are gathering details about accessibility.

Whether or not a visitor has Native American heritage, this new museum will be an exciting experience, and we will be among the first visitors to enjoy it.

New Listserv for Counselors:

Blind‑counselors is a list for those who are blind and have a career in professional counseling, social work, psychology, family therapy, or other social service professions. List members exchange information, network, find mentors, and discuss the challenges and rewards of being both blind and a mental health professional. To subscribe, please send a message to <blind‑counselors‑subscribe@topica.com>.

Address any questions to the list owner at <cdbroome@worldnet.att.net>.

Holiday Gift Ideas from NBP:

Here are some inexpensive last-minute gift solutions from National Braille Press:

For your favorite knitter: Knitting Patterns, Plain and Fancy, $10

For your favorite baker: Baking Illustrated: Quickbreads, Muffins, Biscuits and Scones, $10

For your favorite carb-counter or calorie-counter: Dr. Atkins Carbohydrate Gram Counter, $5

For your favorite queen: The Gadget Queen: 100 Ways to Simplify Your Life, $10

For any favorite person: Braille alphabet bracelets, $28.95 plus $3 shipping. Choose silver or gold.

For your favorite punster: The Puzzlemaster Presents, $10, and The Puzzlemaster Presents, Volume 2, $13.95 (Buy the set for $20.)

For your favorite cook: Pillsbury Fast and Healthy Cookbook, $12.95

For your favorite grillmaster: The George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-reducing Grilling Machine Cookbook, $19.95

For your favorite meditator: The Heart of Meditation, $12.95

For your favorite bookworm:  Any of our Super CDs

1. American and Children's Literature, $39 (over 714 books)

2. British and World Literature, $39 (over 1046 books)

3. Mystery and Crime, $19 (over 148 books) and

4. Religion, $19 (over 203 books)

For your favorite writer or student: The Elements of Style, $7.95

For your favorite collector: Clear Your Clutter, $10.95

For your favorite New Yorker: Here Is New York, $6.95

Order by sending payment to NBP, 88 St. Stephen Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02115‑4302, Or call and charge it toll‑free (800) 548‑7323 or (617) 266‑6160, ext. 20. You can also order any NBP books online at <http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html>.

Monitor Mart

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.

For Sale:

Braille Lite 40 with 2002 updates. Machine is in good working order. Includes serial cables, battery charger, and Braille manual. Asking $1,250 or best offer. For more information call Rodney Neely at (703) 319‑0881 or email him at <blindlion@verizon.net>.

NFB PLEDGE

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.