The Braille Monitor
Vol. 48, No. 9 October 2005
Barbara Pierce, Editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
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MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
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Vol. 48, No. 9 October 2005
Strengthens Federation Family
by Norma Crosby
the Organized Blind: New Approaches, Profound Results
Blind Kids Do Science Too
Rocket On!: Excitement,
Challenge, and Growth
by Matt Maurer
Blind Students Excel at
by Stacy Cervenka
NFB of California Hosts
by Nancy Burns
Federation Leaders in the Spotlight
A Crowd, a Mob! There Is
by Al Evans
Training and Organizing
People to Serve; New Program Is the TOPS
by Rosie Carranza
Learning to Lead from the
by Heather Field
Introducing the National
Center for Mentoring Excellence
by Amy Phelps
Montana Governor Signs Braille Bill
Whozit Calling You
by Kevan Worley
Allen Harris Honored
Copyright 2005 National Federation of the Blind
Katrina Aftermath Strengthens Federation Family
by Norma Crosby
From the Editor: Many of us will look back on hurricane Katrina as we now do September 11, 2001--recollecting where we were and what we went through first- or second-hand, in this case when the wind and water struck. My son, who taught at Tulane in New Orleans at the time, called me Saturday morning, August 27, to say that he was evacuating the city but that he was not sure where he was going. Without thinking twice about it, I said, “You can go to Ruston for a few days; I am sure that Pam Allen would let you camp on a floor somewhere at the center,” the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB).
Then I began trying to reach Pam to make sure that she was not already overrun with unexpected guests. She called me back almost immediately, and I will never forget the warmth and calm of her voice as she said, “We would love to host your son and his colleague in our apartments. Tell them to get in touch with me so that I can give them directions.” Steven and another professor from Tulane stayed from Saturday evening until Wednesday, when busloads of new evacuees were expected in. By that time the Tulane contingent was ready to drive to Dallas, where the planes were still flying.
I know, based on my family’s experience, how grateful many on the Gulf Coast are that the Louisiana Center for the Blind is well inland and that it is staffed by such loving, generous, and energetic Federationists. Despite everything else that the staff has taken on, I asked Pam Allen if someone could quickly write us a preliminary report on what has been happening and what they still need.
Pam asked Norma Crosby,
who in ordinary times coordinates the Bridges Program, which you will read about
later in this issue in Amy Phelps’s article, to prepare the report. Since Katrina’s
invasion of the Gulf Coast, Norma and her husband Glenn have been everywhere
at the center, checking up on people, helping, organizing, and generally making
themselves indispensable. Here is Norma’s report on the aftermath of Katrina
at LCB and across the stricken area:
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, millions of lives were changed forever. Some of those who left New Orleans and the surrounding area have found their way to Ruston, and at present the Louisiana Center for the Blind is home to about forty-five of them. Staff and students have been working hard to make them feel welcome, and Federationists from around the country have called with expressions of concern and offers of much-needed, more tangible help to assist the center in its efforts on behalf of blind evacuees and their families.
As just about everyone now knows, the storm hit just east of New Orleans on Monday, August 29. Most of those currently housed at the LCB had already evacuated by the time Katrina came ashore. Requests for help began to come in early, and Pam Allen and the other staff at LCB were glad to offer those who needed it a place to stay. The first evacuees arrived on Sunday, August 28, and a steady stream followed.
Jessie Hartle is employed at the National Center for the Blind. He is originally from Louisiana, and much of his family lives in the areas that Katrina hit the hardest. A number of them are currently here at LCB. They are not blind, but they are a part of our extended Federation family. They needed help, and they have gotten it from the blind of Louisiana. Mrs. Laverne Hartle, Jessie’s mom, lives in Tangipahoa Parish. She believes her home is demolished. She hasn’t been able to get back into the parish to see exactly what has happened, but the area was hit hard.
“I appreciate what the center has done for me so much,” Mrs. Hartle said. “I got here first, and, by the time everyone else living in my apartment arrived, everything was ready for them. Pam and Roland have been a Godsend for all of us.”
LCB apartment 4 is currently home to the Hauck and St. Pierre families. They are also related to Mrs. Hartle, and if it is possible, they were even harder hit. All of them live on a large piece of property in St. Bernard Parish. If you have been watching the news, you know that St. Bernard is just east of New Orleans, and it is likely that all 26,000 homes in that parish will simply be bulldozed. These families were not covered by flood insurance, and they have simply lost everything.
McLeon St. Pierre told me, “When we left, we went to a hotel in West Monroe. We stayed there as long as we could afford to, but we had nine rooms, and they were charging us about $90 a day for each one. We stayed there until the Wednesday after the storm, and then we came here.”
“We just couldn’t afford to stay there much longer,” said Joanne Hauck. “If it hadn’t been for the center, I don’t know where we would have gone or what we would have done.”
“The center and the NFB are definitely at the top of our list when it comes to giving from now on,” Kathleen St. Pierre said. The Red Cross is second, but the blind are first.”
Lydia Miller and her husband of thirty-five years came to the center after spending several days at the Days Inn here in Ruston. Mrs. Miller is a member of our New Orleans chapter, and she works at the New Orleans Lighthouse. Her husband is a retired budget analyst for the U. S. Navy. They live in Orleans Parish near the lake, and they believe that they also have lost everything to the storm. Mrs. Miller was also living in the New Orleans area when Hurricane Betsy destroyed much of her family home in 1965.
“I am so glad to be here at the center. Everyone has been so nice,” Mrs. Miller said. “Having this apartment makes our loss much easier to deal with, but it is tough having to buy all the things we had accumulated over thirty-five years. It is frustrating.”
“We’re lucky,” Julie Russell of Jefferson Parish told me. “My parents and I live in an area that seems to have survived the hurricane pretty well. The problem is that they won’t let us back into our neighborhood yet.”
Julie is one of four former LCB students who are back in LCB apartments. She told me during a recent conversation that she is glad that her family home is still intact, but she thinks it is likely that her office was destroyed. “I don’t know what I’ll be going back to at work, but I think we are very lucky. Some people lost everything,” she said.
Many Federationists know Roland Allen. He is a cane-travel instructor at LCB, and he is married to Pam Allen. His family is also from the New Orleans area. They arrived in Ruston on September 4. The good news for their family is that their houses are likely salvageable. The bad news is that some of them are unemployed as a result of the hurricane. Mrs. Allen worked in a gift shop at the New Orleans Amtrak station. That station is not operational at present, so she is without a job. Other family members are also looking for work. One of Roland’s nephews has been able to find work at a local Domino’s Pizza because he was employed by Domino’s in the New Orleans area. Everyone else in their apartment is suffering from boredom. They are active people, and having to wait to get back into their homes is frustrating for them. The best news they have had in some time is that they will probably get to go back into their neighborhood soon. No one is sure whether they will get to stay, but they are hopeful since their neighborhood is apparently dry.
In an effort to liven things up a little for our guests, LCB staff, students, and NFB chapter members decided to prepare a potluck dinner for those living at the apartments last weekend. Everyone brought so much food that many of us are still groaning from our overindulgence, and everyone seemed to have a good time. We have lots of adults here, but there are children too. Until a few days ago, we had a guest who was only seven weeks old. She and her parents have left, but we still have young people ranging in age from six to seventeen. Some of them have begun to attend school here in Ruston, while others are waiting to start school in their home parishes.
Everyone seems to be getting signed up for FEMA assistance, and the Red Cross has been able to offer additional help. Money will continue to be an issue for some families because so many people are looking for work in the area that there is no way for our local economy to absorb them all. But as long as they need help, the LCB will be here for them.
Three of our current students have also been adversely affected by the storm. Sandra Darling and Nile Vincent are from the New Orleans area, and they both believe they have lost their homes. Mac David is from Waveland, Mississippi, and his family’s home has been damaged as well. For a time Nile was not able to locate his young son, but he has now been located and is apparently doing well. Sandra told me during the potluck dinner that she knows she has lost everything, but she is happy just to be safe. Mac is still working hard at his training and seems to be coping well.
Before any of us knew about the possibility of Hurricane Katrina, Nile was working on his major project for shop class. He decided to make a grand door for his home. I saw it a few weeks ago, and it is beautiful. It is a substantial door, made of solid wood, and in the middle of the outside is the word “Welcome” in Braille. The door represents a lot of hard work and hope for the future. Nile is justifiably proud of what he has accomplished. Now he has no home to go with this wonderful door, so he has decided that it should stay at the center. Someday soon it will become a door for one of the buildings at the LCB.
Many Federationists not now housed at LCB were also affected by Katrina. Don and Jewel Banning live in Jefferson Parish. The parish as a whole was less damaged than Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, but the Bannings will not soon forget their ordeal even if they have a house to go back to. They are both safe, but they and all the other evacuees are grateful for the prayers of everyone who is a part of the Federation family.
Since the hurricane tore through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, the LCB has been involved in extensive relief work. Housing evacuees is just one part of what the staff has been working on. Zena Pearcy, who serves as the center’s receptionist, and Pam Allen have been working tirelessly to assist blind people, their families, other rehabilitation professionals, and other relief agencies. The LCB has become an information clearinghouse for former students who are checking on other former students, shelters needing help serving blind evacuees, members of the public looking for blind family members or friends, rehabilitation professionals concerned about clients, and guide dog schools, checking on both people and animals.
Pam, Zena, and other staff have also worked hard at offering concrete solutions to problems as they have arisen. When LCB had no more space, Pam helped to find housing for a former student who is currently in Houston. A blind woman was stranded in New Orleans for many days, and she was frantic for help. No one from LCB could get to her, but Pam was able to talk with her by phone and offer comfort until she could be evacuated. Both Pam and Zena also called every agency they could think of to make sure someone knew the woman needed to be evacuated. She has now been evacuated safely, and she is well.
The Louisiana Center for the Blind has a lot of work to do during the next few months. Service of all kinds has been disrupted for a significant population. Pam and her staff will need help from all of us. Contact the LCB if you can offer one or more of the following:
Contact the Louisiana Center for the Blind at (318) 251-2891 or (800) 234-4166. Donations should be sent to National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, 101 S. Trenton Street, Ruston, Louisiana 71270. Please write “Hurricane Relief” on the memo line of your check. Funds collected will be used to help people from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. Pam Allen, Sam Gleese, and Michael Jones have been in close contact since the hurricane came ashore, and they are working hard to insure that blind people throughout the affected areas are served.
I have mentioned the hard work Pam Allen and Zena Pearcy have been doing, but other center staff should be recognized for their contributions to this effort as well. Brawyn Evans is the apartment manager for the center, and everyone who spoke to me for this article mentioned how wonderful she has been. She has kept them comfortable and has been welcoming to all LCB’s guests. Merilynn and Jerry Whittle have taken people shopping and provided clothing. Patti McGahan, Angela Grafton, Bethel Baragona, Susan Clark, and Kelly Womack have delivered supplies to those housed here and offered help whenever and wherever it was needed. Jewel Lightfoot and Arlene Hill worked hard to make sure the potluck dinner was a success, and they have both helped in other ways as well. Brian Dulude, Jeff Pearcy, Jerry Darnell, James Mayes, Josh Boudreaux, and Neita Ghrigsby have pitched in wherever they were needed.
Local chapter members have also been busy helping with relief efforts. Maria and Eddie Bell have helped at the center and at local evacuation facilities, and as usual Ruby Ryles has been a big help. LCB students are also pitching in at local shelters. The Federation can truly be proud of the effort here; and Sam Gleese, Michael Jones, and their affiliates are doing no less.
The center has fielded calls from at least seventeen states since the hurricane struck. Both the center staff and members of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana wish to thank our Federation family for its support, concern, and offers of help. We also want to thank the evacuees for their willingness to jump in and help with things like yard work. They have all been gracious in accepting help and offering to give something back. The circumstances that have brought us all together are deplorable, but the experience of knowing and working with this group of people has been and continues to be wonderful.
and the Organized Blind:
New Approaches, Profound Results
From the Editor: One of the most lively and interesting agenda items of the 2005 convention took place on Thursday morning, July 7. Five Federationists came to the podium to describe their experiences with effective rehabilitation. Each was a graduate of an adult training center that had been shaped by the Federation’s philosophy of blindness. President Maurer introduced each speaker, but before they began, he set the context. This is what he said:
Even before the National Federation of the Blind came into being in 1940, blind people were deeply concerned about rehabilitation. In fact part of the reason blind people decided to organize nationally was the failure of some rehabilitation efforts in California. We could not imagine in 1940 all that the organized blind movement would become. We possessed hope but precious little else to go with that hope.
In the early fifties California established a rehabilitation program with Federation leaders heading it. With Dr. tenBroek’s urging that program hired Kenneth Jernigan. And in 1958 Dr. Jernigan left California, taking a substantial salary cut in the process, to become the director of a rehabilitation program in Iowa--the one that James Omvig described a few minutes ago and in his book, The Blindness Revolution: Jernigan in his Own Words. That program expanded the ideas under-girding the California program.
In 1985 some of the graduates of the Iowa program established a program in Louisiana. [cheers] Joanne Wilson had been a student in Iowa in the 1960’s, and she was the driving force behind the establishment of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. [applause] Before the decade of the eighties ended, we had also established programs in Minnesota and Colorado. [more cheers] The Federation philosophy became part of all of those programs.
Dr. tenBroek delivered an address in Canada in 1955 to the American Association of Workers for the Blind, which through corporate changes has now become the Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER). The address was not well received. In fact it was very controversial. It was called “The Pros and Cons of Preferential Treatment.” He argued that blind people should receive a certain kind of rehabilitation, training that encouraged the mastery of the skills of everyday life, the development of independent thought, and a true understanding of blindness. He said that, if rehabilitation accomplished these things, blind people would become independent and take their place as full participants in their communities. If it did not do these things, it would have failed blind people.
Almost no rehabilitation programs at the time embraced these principles--convictions that had emerged from the thinking, the history, the experience, and the knowledge of the National Federation of the Blind. The program in California had been developed in accordance with those principles although not all of them had yet been developed by 1955.
Dr. Jernigan took the concepts to Iowa, structured an entire state program on them, and changed rehabilitation forever. He started by talking a different language from that used by rehabilitation professionals in the past. It incorporated the language of independence in the teaching that took place in the Iowa program. The teachings that had begun in California were perfected in Iowa and exported and given expanded life in Louisiana, Minnesota, and Colorado.
In the following panel we have representatives from each of the rehabilitation programs where this change occurred. It has not just occurred in these programs. The language and the writings that were part of the change have become part of the entire rehabilitation system, so much so that today some of the people in the field have adopted much of the language and even some of the practices. A number of these professionals have, however, attempted to use the concepts while leaving the Federation out. I once actually heard the director of services for the blind in Missouri say, “I like your literature, and we will use it, provided that you take the National Federation of the Blind out of it,” which of course is complete foolishness. It would be like saying, “I think your religion has much to recommend it; just take God out.” We can’t take the organization, the principles of the organization, and the people of the organization out of the language, and we can’t take them out of the practice. Part of the reason rehabilitation works well when there is a partnership between the program and the blind is that the Federation is a magnificent, massive support system for those who go through the program. It helps to give students new ideas, to stimulate them, and to support them after they graduate.
The next portion of the agenda is a panel with a representative
of each of these five programs. I will begin by letting you hear from a graduate
of the California Orientation Center. Here is Tom Bickford:
In the spring of 1955 I was a blind student at Occidental College in Los Angeles. My rehabilitation counselor recommended that I attend the Orientation Center for the Blind, which was then in Oakland, California.
His reasons were far from clear to me in the beginning.
"Why should I go there?" I wondered.
My counselor said I needed to learn independent travel. He pointed out that every time I came to his office, which was only five miles from my home, someone brought me. He was right. (Later I learned to do it on two busses.) So I arranged to go to the center during the summer between my last two years of college.
On my first day at the orientation center, I had an interview with Kenneth Jernigan. He was not the administrative director, but he was the philosophical and inspirational leader of the program. During that interview the subject of independent travel came up. I finally said, "Do you mean that you would take your cane and fly to Japan?"
He said, "Yes."
I didn't believe him. I didn't say so, but my silence said it for me.
Two years later I traveled from Oakland to New Orleans, Louisiana, for the convention of the National Federation of the Blind, three-and-a-half days each way by Trailways bus. Eleven years later I traveled from Paris to Moscow and back to the United States by train and plane--alone. I don't say this to boast. Probably half the people in this room have done as much and more. But remember I was the guy who couldn't travel five miles across town on two busses.
After that first summer I did go back and graduate from college, but I quickly realized I had much more to learn.
During my college vacations it had been my custom to stay with my two maiden aunts. I remember hearing them talk once about a three-day trip they wanted to take. “Who's going to cook for Tom? How is he going to eat? He can't cook for himself."
I went back to the orientation center and learned to cook. Later, when I lived alone, I cooked for myself. When I shared housing with other men, sighted and blind, we shared the cooking. When I got married, I did some of the cooking for my family. Again I don't say this to boast; probably most of the people in this room have done as much and more. But remember I was the guy who couldn't live for three days without someone cooking for me.
At the orientation center Kenneth Jernigan taught many
different classes, but the most important class was called “Business Methods
and Procedures.” We very deliberately talked about blindness in its many aspects.
We talked about how we thought about ourselves as blind people, what we thought
about other blind people, what we thought about the sighted public, and what
they thought about us.
Kenneth Jernigan would engage a particular student in dialog. Some of you have heard of Jack Polson, the electrician who was blind. "Now, Jack,” Dr. Jernigan said on one memorable occasion, “let’s say that you are a home owner. We'll forget for the moment that you used to be an electrician and that you know anything about wiring. One day you have some electrical problems in your house, so you call a contractor and ask him to send over someone to work on the wiring. All right, in a couple of days the guy shows up. He has his tool box in one hand and a white cane in the other. What do you say to him, Jack?"
"Oh, I might ask him how he was going to do his work," Jack replied.
"Now, Jack, where do you get off askin' this guy how he's going to do his work? Don't you think that the contractor knew he was sending you a competent workman?"
That was just the beginning of Jack's workout that day. Later Jack went back and earned his living as an electrician. I knew him well. Don't ask me how he did his work. I can still hear Dr. Jernigan’s voice, “Oh no, you wouldn't discriminate against him. You would just ask him how he was going to do his work, eh?”
At the orientation center we went through three very distinct phases in our development in our attitudes about blindness. They were: F-I, R-I, and N-I. F-I is fear and insecurity. You don't think you can do much, and you don't do much. I already told you about how I couldn't travel and how I couldn't cook. R-I is rebellious independence. You begin to learn that you can to a few things. You do more and more. Sometimes it gets out of hand.
There was a cold milk dispenser in the dining room at the center. One time we students decided it would be nice to have a cookies and milk party late at night. Someone else got the cookies. My job was to get the milk. So after supper I left the window unlocked between the dining hall and the screened-in sun porch, which was always open to students. Late that night I went down with a jug. While I was getting the milk, the guard came through on his rounds. I knew I was caught. I knew he saw me, but he didn't say anything. Well we had our cookies and milk. Later we learned that the guard had gone to the director and said, "Those students are stealing milk out of the dining room. What are you going to do about it?" The director was wise enough to recognize the stage we were going through. His response was, "Don't make it so hard for them."
I will just say one more thing about R-I--firecrackers in the men's bathroom, with tile walls, good echoes.
N-I is normal independence. That comes later when you discover that you can do some things; other people can do other things. You share the responsibilities of life. You don't worry too much about who does what. Life goes along better that way.
One thing has always been hard for me to explain to people who haven't either been through the process themselves or seen the before and after results of someone who has been through it. It is this: the basic stock in trade of orientation centers, the most important thing they have to offer is not cane travel, Braille, computers, cooking, or wood shop. Don't get me wrong; those are essential. You need to know them. But the most important thing that an orientation center has to offer is a new set of ideas and attitudes about blindness--and I mean the National Federation of the Blind’s ideas and attitudes about blindness. By the time you were ready to leave, if you hadn't learned those ideas and made them a thorough part of everything you did, said, and thought, you didn't graduate; you "quitulated." That was a word I learned from my fellow students. We students knew who graduated and who just quitulated.
With Kenneth Jernigan there, you had better believe that place was a hotbed of Federationism. That was when I first joined the local chapter, and I'm still here today. We wrote letters to our legislators. We went to the state capital for hearings. We made friendly visits to nearby local chapters. We did lots of things together: went to dinner together, went to the movies together, and went on three-day camping trips in the state parks together. I will never forget the camping trip when Emil Borde, the former logger, took along his climbing rig and went up a redwood tree.
Was giving me all this training an expensive process for the taxpayers? I guess it was, but I have paid back a lot of taxes in the years since.
What have I done? I have traveled. I have worked. For the last thirty-eight years I have worked for the Library of Congress. Among other contributions there, I was able to demonstrate that a Braille book title can be made to fit on a cassette label. I have gotten married. My wife and I have two charming daughters and one very charming granddaughter. It is a good life; it is the kind of life I wanted to live.
So what did I learn at the orientation center? I will
sum it up in three short phrases: I learned that I could, I learned that I should,
and I learned how to! The best part is that I have.
Marc Maurer: The next person for a presentation graduated from the Iowa Commission for the Blind in the 1960’s. She became a teacher. She established a family. She created the Louisiana Center for the Blind. [applause] She became the commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration. And, when the Department of Education began to attack rehabilitation, she decided it would be better to be on the outside carrying on the good fight than to be on the inside trying to apologize for the behavior of those who didn't understand. Here is Joanne Wilson:
“He takes a man who doesn't want to live and makes him fall in love with life.” This is the description of the Master in the book, The Master of the Inn, by Robert Herrick.
In 1966, when I was a student at the Iowa Commission for the Blind, Dr. Jernigan used to gather us around in the recreation room and read us this story. It's the story of an old doctor who brought men who had given up on life into his large home and gave them back the zest for living. He did this through hard work and experience, by sitting with them and looking deep into their souls for the reason behind the reason. He taught them the secret of giving.
Another of Dr. Jernigan’s favorite books, one which he often quoted to his students, was The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. "In the do of little things, all hope, all dreams, all desires are borne. In the do of little things, great things result." It was the little things in my rehabilitation experience that made the critical difference.
When I was nineteen years old, I was gradually but very steadily losing my eyesight. I was also losing my dreams and my hopes and my zest for living. I was in denial. I was confused. I was depressed. But I was searching--searching for something. It all started for me one day when I was walking home from junior college. I saw a car labeled Iowa Commission for the Blind parked at my doorstep. I thought, "Oh, I don't want anything to do with these folks!" I just kept walking around the block until the car left.
Well, the counselor was persistent. He knew what I was going through. He returned again, and this time he talked me into going to a student seminar at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. I did not want to go. I was dragged there. I didn't want to be around all those weirdo blind people. I wasn't like one of them. I just had this eye problem.
Within ten minutes of arriving at the Iowa Commission for the Blind, I was sitting in Dr. Jernigan's office. He asked me, "Joanne, are you blind?"
I said, "Well, no, sir. I just can't see very well." I thought he was the meanest, cruelest man around. But he was already beginning the process of showing me the reason within the reason.
That night I went off to a fancy restaurant with all the other students. It was very dark in there, and I couldn't see at night. It came time to pay. I was hanging over the candle in the middle of the table trying to see my bill. I almost caught my hair on fire! Suddenly there was a tap on my shoulder; it was my rehab counselor. He said, "Here, let me tell you what's what.” Then he went a step further and showed me how to fold my money. I was already beginning to realize that I needed to learn skills.
Then it came time to walk back to the main building several blocks away. By then it was really dark. I said to myself, "Oh well, I'll just hang on to one of these sighted people. One of them will lead me back." No way; they hooked me up with Ramona Walhof, a totally blind woman using a long white cane. She led me back to the building. I thought, "Now wait a minute. There is something wrong with this picture. There is something here that I need."
A month or so later I was sent at the expense of the Iowa Commission for the Blind to my first national convention. It was 1966 in Louisville, Kentucky. I experienced what you are experiencing at this convention. I looked around and saw blind people doing all sorts of things. But I also saw all the Iowa Commission for the Blind staff there--my rehab counselor, the sighted staff, the blind staff. They were there for the same reason I was--to learn about blindness.
I became a student in the orientation center in Iowa. I was given hard work and lots of experiences. I began looking deep into my soul for the reason behind the reason. I was taught how to deal with the public. I was taught the secret of life, which is giving. I watched blind mentors there cooking and serving dinner. I saw them knitting. I saw them dancing. I saw them walking through deep piles of Iowa snow. I saw them shopping.
I was pushed to cook and serve dinner but also to bake thousands and thousands of cookies at a state fair exhibit. I was taught to knit but also to sew and start making some of my own clothes. I was taught to dance but also was invited to the governor's ball. That’s not just any dance. I plowed through the Iowa snow. I also learned waterskiing, tried woodcutting, and went on huge graduation routes. I was taught to shop. One day I was asked to go buy some equipment for the kitchen. I was handed some money and expected to do the job by myself. What trust!
I sat through many business classes, seminars, and philosophy
classes and learned a defined philosophy about blindness. I clearly remember
the day in the Braille class when the teacher and I talked about why she never
had children. When she was growing up, the people who ran the rehabilitation
system said blind people should never be parents. If she wanted services, she
needed to be sterilized.
I remember the day when I was on a hike, looking at the beautiful scenery. I said to a sighted staff person, "I'm really going to miss all this when I lose the rest of my vision." What a discussion ensued! I remember the day when I was hanging over a bowl of spaghetti with my sleep shades lifted up. The deputy director (whom all the girls had a crush on) came by. Without saying a word, he pushed my sleep shades down. I remember the day when the maintenance man, after finding my cane hidden at the bus station, came to me and said, "You really need to use this when you go home, Joanne."
I was taught to give. We were out selling candy bars in
the snow. We had people staying with us in our room so that we could be there
to mentor them. We did thousands and thousands of tours and speaking engagements
so that we could learn to give back.
I remember being asked what I wanted to do--what I wanted to become. I said, "Oh, I would like to be a teacher of sighted children." Now no one told me that Iowa hadn't ever had blind classroom teachers before. Instead they said, "Okay, we'll introduce you to blind teachers in California and other states. And they did that. I met those mentors.
The Iowa Commission for the Blind did more for me. It went the extra mile. It helped find summer jobs. It was there, on my side, when the Department of Education at Iowa State University was not going to let me student teach because I was blind.
The rehabilitation program gives us direct services, and it gives us money to buy the services we need. But true rehabilitation happens when we meet other blind people and learn the truth about blindness. We learn the philosophy. We learn the collective viewpoint and the high expectations of the organized blind. This was the kind of rehabilitation I had. This was the kind of rehabilitation that Dr. Jernigan understood and put in place.
Forgive me, but I just can’t help using professional rehabilitation jargon to describe my experience. In the 1960’s Dr. Jernigan was providing individualized services, developing comprehensive services, helping students reach their full potential, giving folks choice, dealing with high-quality employment, and mentoring. He was a visionary. He created the blueprint that rehabilitation law followed later, much later. It was not until 1973 that rehabilitation law scrapped the medical model and started looking at the individualized needs of people with disabilities. The choice provision of the law was not added until 1992. The rehabilitation establishment did not emphasize the full potential of people with disabilities until the 1990's. Fred Schroeder introduced the concept of helping people find high-quality employment later in the nineties. The reauthorization bill for the Rehab Act is just now including the words "mentoring” and “consumer organizations." Dr. Jernigan was truly a visionary. He knew what needed to be done because he listened to the collective experiences and viewpoints of the blind. He proved the National Federation of the Blind’s contention that the consumer-based model of rehabilitation worked.
Dr. Jernigan died on October 12, 1998. But he is survived
by those of us whom he served in the sixties. Even though he didn’t personally
teach them, he is also survived by the Angelas, by the Seans, by the Katrillas,
who represent the NFB training centers on this panel. There are thousands and
thousands of people his legacy will help who are not yet born. The monument
on Dr. Jernigan’s grave says, "He taught us it is respectable to be blind."
Dr. Jernigan taught us the reason within the reason so that we can all fall
in love with life. Thank you. [applause]
President Maurer: A graduate of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, the center established by Joanne Wilson and the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana, here is Angela Wolf:
In 1985 Gorbochev became the leader of the Soviet Union, Coca Cola decided to alter their ninety-nine year old formula with unpopular results, and British scientists announced a discovery of a large hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. That same year a precocious six-year-old girl entered the first grade at South Highland Elementary school in Shreveport, Louisiana. She was fully sighted and loved to play T-ball, create artistic masterpieces with Crayola crayons and construction paper, and ride her bicycle until sunset. She dreamed of what she would be when she grew up. For her the possibilities were endless. Sixty miles east of her hometown, a group of dedicated blind people led by Joanne Wilson were building a dream--a dream that seven years later would change that little girl's life--my life--forever.
The summer I turned twelve I developed a blood clot in my brain, which caused the pressure inside my head to rise. The pressure primarily affected my optic nerve. The doctors proposed that I have a shunt inserted to try and relieve some of the pressure. They told my parents and me that, if I had the surgery, I might be able to save some of my vision. Without the surgery I would go blind. After having endured so much during the two months I spent in the hospital, my parents and I wondered what benefit could come from undergoing such high-risk surgery, especially when it seemed that the reality was that I would probably go blind. My parents and I refused the surgery, and I did go blind.
I tried my best to establish a sense of normalcy in my life, but the fact is that I did not know how to live my life as a blind person. I was dependent on others for everything. I hated feeling so helpless. My parents hated seeing their daughter, once a very independent child, struggle without skills. They were in constant search for resources to help me regain my independence. So when a friend of the family who happened to be from Ruston, Louisiana, sent them information about a training center for the blind located there, my parents were ecstatic. They called the Louisiana Center for the Blind immediately. After speaking with Joanne Wilson and learning that the center even offered summer programs for blind children, my parents felt as though they had finally found the opportunity for their daughter for which they had been hoping.
As soon as school let out for the summer, we packed my bags. I was off to the Buddy Program. As my parents left me in the charge of Pam Allen, the director of the program at the time, I was very anxious about what the following month would be like. I called home every day that first week and begged my parents to come and pick me up. But they insisted the experience would be good for me. They assured me that I would begin enjoying myself; I just needed to give it a chance. It was not easy for my parents, but they knew that making me stay was the best thing for me. They were right. After getting through the first week, I rarely ever called home. I was so busy having fun that there was no time to worry anymore about going home.
It is difficult to put into words how pivotal that summer
was in my life. I was impressed with the accomplishments that I had made throughout
the program, but I was even more impressed by the competent blind people who
worked in the program. Because they believed in me, I could believe in myself.
Because of these mentors I also learned about the National Federation of the
Blind. This organization--consisting of an enormous network of successful blind
individuals--believed in the capabilities of all blind people, including me.
It had fought to insure equality for all blind people, including me. Now that
was something I wanted to be a part of!
After I graduated from the Buddy Program, my parents and I began to attend our local chapter meetings and other affiliate events. I must admit that, after emerging from the Buddy Program, I had a slight case of rebellious independence. But for the first time since I had become blind, I felt a true sense of freedom--a feeling I did not want to lose. Because of this I was eager to return to the center the next summer to attend the Step Program. The Step Program provides kids the opportunity to receive training and secure a part-time summer job. In addition, during the eight-week session we traveled to the NFB national convention. Consequently I attended my first convention in Dallas in 1993. Because of the power of the collective spirit of thousands of blind people, the spark of Federationism that had begun in me ignited into a flame of passion for the organized blind movement.
The next summer I returned to the Step Program. I continued to sharpen my skills and strengthen my philosophy, and I attended my second national convention. During the meeting of the National Association of Blind Students, I delivered my first speech. Dr. Maurer happened to follow my panel on the agenda. He proceeded to give me a mini lesson on speech writing. I was mortified and perhaps a little angry. But after I reflected on what had happened, I realized that, just as the instructors at the Louisiana Center for the Blind had passed on what someone had once given them, Dr. Maurer and the leaders of the Federation teach younger generations what they themselves have been taught. Passing along our wisdom is the best way of insuring that the blindness movement continues well into the future.
Dr. Maurer’s comments to me that night also motivated me to give better speeches and inspired me to do my best and work my hardest in everything that I do. As Federationists we know the importance of giving back to the movement. Because of the mentors I had and the training I received at the Louisiana Center for the Blind, I felt a sincere obligation to make a difference in the lives of blind children, just as someone had made a difference in mine.
After graduating from the adult program, I returned to
the center almost every summer for the next five years, serving in various capacities
in the children's program. Each time a group of students received their freedom
bells, I would fill with pride as they bragged about their accomplishments.
We were giving them skills. We were giving them confidence. We were giving them
The center's twentieth anniversary is this year. It has grown a great deal since 1985 and has served over 800 students since its doors were opened. Yes, that dream that was built twenty years ago has changed my life and the lives of many others, but it has also continued to change the field of rehabilitation for the blind. We are indebted to those who had the spark of imagination and dared to dream of a better future for all of the blind. [applause]
President Maurer: The next person is the director of Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions, Inc., our center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Here is Shawn Mayo:
After a long day at work a mother came home feeling she needed some time to relax before getting on with her evening tasks. Soon her daughter came to her saying, "Mommy, mommy, let's play."
"Wait a little, Honey, while I rest a bit, and then we can play."
But her daughter persisted, "No, I want to play now!"
The mother glanced around and picked up a magazine she saw on the floor. Thumbing quickly through it, she ripped out a picture of the world and tore it up into little pieces. She handed the pieces to her daughter, thinking this would buy her some time. "When you have put the puzzle together,” she said “then I'll play with you."
The mother settled back to relax. Not much later the little girl came running back and said,
"Mom, let's play. I have the puzzle together."
Astonished, the mother said, "How did you do that so quickly?"
The little girl said, "It was easy. When you turn
the pieces over, there is a picture of a little girl. When the pieces of the
little girl fit, the whole world hangs together." We all have many pieces
that we need to put together, and we are usually passionate about doing it.
During high school I started losing my sight, although I did not consider myself blind. I certainly had passion--passion about hiding my blindness. I put much passion into learning tricks. I would schedule myself to go out when other people were going. When I did go out with people, I would stare at their feet. When they stepped down, I would step down. That was the only way I could tell about steps. Meanwhile I was getting bumped on the shoulder at times by objects that I didn't see around me. I think we all know such tricks; we have developed a few of our own.
Then I went to college, and I became even more passionate. I started carrying a cane, but I really didn’t know how to use it properly. I needed to find a way to handle steps safely when I couldn’t see them, so I came up with the brilliant idea of asking the university to paint them yellow. With the ADA by my side, I met with the president of the university. After going around and around and being told that the buildings were historic and could not be altered, they finally relented and asked for a list of my classes for that semester. They painted those steps yellow. Well guess what? The next semester my classes changed. The pieces of my puzzle were not coming together.
My rehab counselor, who happened to be blind, thought that I needed training. She encouraged me to go for a couple of weeks so that I could learn to maximize my vision. Fortunately I was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind during that year. Federationists began telling me that I needed to attend a Federation center. By this time I had seen enough Federationists to know that they had the skills and confidence that I wanted.
I asked to attend BLIND, Incorporated, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. My request was quickly denied. We spent the next six months going through appeals and fighting for my right to attend BLIND, Inc. We were successful because now I had the passion of the NFB, and our collective activism carried the day.
The training I received began directing my passion. I learned that passion can often be misplaced. I immediately started learning more about the Federation. Three of the main puzzle pieces of my life started coming together. The pieces of skills, self-confidence, and a positive attitude toward blindness started connecting and forming a picture of a girl. I started to learn why attending a Federation center was so important. All of the staff around me were Federationists. Each staff member with whom I came into contact had a Federation attitude. The passion for independence was shared among the staff and the students. A staff member's day did not end at five o'clock when the normal workday ended. Time was given to the students after normal working hours. The staff at Federation centers are role models. We went out in the evenings to the movies or to plays. I remember one time getting involved in building a float for the May Day parade. Oftentimes, while we were out observing that blind people truly lived normal lives, our discussion turned to the Federation.
I am not saying that this training is easy. Changing one's attitudes is very difficult and takes a lot of work. Change must occur at the gut level in order for one to grow.
At Federation centers we have a belief in blind people and blind people's abilities that we share with one another. Throughout my training I was encouraged to attend chapter meetings of the National Federation of the Blind, and I had the support and the encouragement of the Federation while going through training. This was important for me when I finished training so that I could take the Federation philosophy with me wherever I go and whatever I do. After training I immediately went into graduate school. I remember the first day. I was walking with my cane in hand and proudly came up to the steps of the building where my class was; I smiled to myself, knowing that the steps did not need to be painted yellow.
Behind each piece of the puzzle of ourselves is the world. This world is the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind, and the pieces combine to make the collective activism that carries us forward. I was given the opportunity after graduate school to work at BLIND, Inc., and I am now proud as executive director to give the opportunity I had to other blind people. We as Federation centers bring our students here to convention, so I am happy to have many of our students here today, so that they too can learn what the Federation is about and that it is far-reaching across the nation. [applause]
Federation centers are places where passion and philosophy
synergize. I think Federation centers, like the Federation as a whole, combine
the desire to create change, innovate, and make life better for blind people
with the time-tested, practical philosophy of what blindness is and what blindness
is not. The secret is in the combination. So let's work together and share our
ideas and experiences, ensuring that every blind person, no matter where he
or she happens to live, has the same opportunity to receive the Federation training
that will make him or her more competent, more confident, and more employable.
Good training is comprehensive. We will put our Federation passion behind the principle of informed choice. We will make state agencies understand that there is no substitute for the type of training at a Federation center. It is life-altering, and it cannot be found anywhere else because the environment created when Federation philosophy synergizes with the Federation passion for changing what it means to be blind will not occur without the Federation. We have the pieces, and we know how to put them together. [applause]
Marc Maurer: Now we have a graduate of the Colorado Center for the Blind, established by Diane McGeorge and grounded in the theory of the National Federation of the blind. For her presentation here is Katrilla Martin:
Good morning. As the agenda reads, I am a graduate of the Colorado Center for the Blind. My name is Katrilla Martin, and I entered the independence training program on Tuesday, January 13, 2004, and graduated from that same program on Wednesday, August 25, 2004. Why are the dates important? Because my experience at the Colorado Center for the Blind opened a world of freedom--freedom that had been denied to me by others but, most important, freedom that I denied myself. I will come back to those freedoms, but I first want to tell you a little about myself. We'll talk more about those freedoms; then I will leave you with a message.
I live in beautiful and historic Fredericksburg, Virginia, where I attend the University of Mary Washington. I am a graduate student in the university's first educational leadership program. "What do you want to do with that?" you may ask. Although I have a gift for educating others, especially children, my desire has always been to be involved with educational policy and reform with an ultimate goal of one day becoming secretary of education. I have an eight-year-old son named Robert, who is usually at convention with me but is spending this summer with his grandparents. Before I received training at the Colorado Center for the Blind, my interests were meeting new people and learning new things. That has not changed. However, I have newfound interests, including cooking, specifically baking; skiing; and Tai Kwon Do--all interests acquired at the Colorado Center for the Blind.
I mentioned that my son is spending the summer with his grandparents because I am interning at the National Center in Baltimore. When I tell people this, I get varied reactions. Many people tell me it's a wonderful opportunity, and they wish me well, but some inquire and complain about the dress code, the long hours, and the stuffy atmosphere. My reply is this: we are no longer a gathering of dreamers from seven different states. We have built that dream and are now living that dream, and the dedicated professionals at the heart of our operation should not be criticized but complimented for their efforts in changing the lives of blind people across this country and the world. I think we need to move on and talk about those freedoms.
I am specifically speaking to the people who may be considering attending a training center or perhaps those who are not and to parents and teachers and friends of blind children who know that the child in their life needs training but don't know how to go about getting it. I know what you are thinking: "But I have school or a job." I took a semester off school and find that I am more effective because of it. Others of you are thinking: “I have children and other responsibilities.” I left behind the saddest pair of puppy dog eyes as I boarded a plane for Denver. A few of you are thinking: "My life is in crisis right now, so I will go when things get better." To the woman I met here in the elevator, I say that, before I received training, I walked away from an abusive and violent marriage, and I am better because of that.
I can guess what you parents are thinking: "My child really isn't blind; he or she is visually impaired, and the Colorado Center is not the place for a child to receive training because the program focuses on adults." Well, I tell you that I too am a partially sighted blind person, and I spoke with students enrolled in the summer program at the Colorado Center for the Blind last night, and they tell me how they have improved their blindness and social skills. Before receiving training, I believed there were things blind people should not do and places they should not go. I can tell you now that I slice, dice, and cut comfortably in the kitchen and create, send, and attach documents with the stroke of a key. I used to think that grassy areas, crowded spaces, and escalators were forbidden places to the blind, but I now travel about these places with great ease. Am I saying that if I were not blind, I couldn't be content? No, I am not. I am saying that, because I am a properly trained blind person, I can do anything that I desire.
Before I read to you from a book created by my son (he wrote a poem about his blind mother's newfound freedom), there are some people that I would like to thank for my experience. To Mrs. Cheadle, it's been a privilege working with you and the others at the National Center. To the Virginia affiliate, a thank you seems so small compared to all you've done. To the Colorado affiliate, thank you for welcoming me with open arms. To the wonderful staff and instructors at the Colorado Center for the Blind, you have changed what it means to be blind for me. You have encouraged and listened and challenged and pushed me. And in turn I will change what it means to be blind for someone in the generation to come. You see, your gift keeps on giving. To my son Robert, who is listening to this by telephone, you will always be my sweet boy, and I am so glad that you have come to realize that having a mother who is blind is nothing to be ashamed of. To my friend Mary Chappell, who is always there to listen, congratulations on your scholarship award. You deserve it. Last but not least, to Yolanda Dominguez, thank you for your friendship, your support, and showing me how love is supposed to be.
Here is what my son has to say about his mother's newfound
My mom is blind, but that's okay.
She can do all the same things your mom does every day.
My mom uses a cane to go here or there.
She labels things in Braille so that she knows what's where.
But did you know that Braille is a system of dots
That allows blind people to read using their fingertips?
My mom makes the best cookies, cakes, and treats;
But don't think she makes a mess; she keeps everything neat.
She irons my clothes and makes sure I do my homework each night.
She reads to me from her Braille book. She can do this without using a lamp or light.
My mom had to go away to the CCB (Colorado Center for the Blind).
At first it made me sad, but now she's the best blind person in the whole country.
At the CCB she learned to read and write Braille.
She learned how to use computers, how to travel with her cane, and how to manage her life well.
And when she graduated from CCB, they gave her a cool gold bell.
I'm going to skip to the last page. In closing, he says:
So maybe your mom is different from mine.
Maybe your mom doesn't use a Braille watch to tell time,
But my mom is special in so many ways,
I'm going to love my mom for the rest of my days.
So when you see me and my mom walking down the street,
Come up and say, "Hi,"
But don't grab her. She's not weird.
She's funny, and she takes great care of me.
I have in my hand that cool gold bell my son spoke of. This is the bell of freedom I received from the Colorado Center for the Blind upon my graduation. I'm going to ring it in memory of Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan, and I want you not to continue to put off your training, but to continue to fight with rehab--we can help you do that--not to continue to think that, because you are partially sighted, you don't need training. I am pleading with you--go seek your freedom and the training you deserve. I did it at the Colorado Center for the Blind. You can do it too. Thank you. [sound of the bell ringing and applause]
Blind Kids Do Science Too
From the Editor: Word is spreading. Fifteen months after the NFB Jernigan Institute established the Science Academy to encourage blind students to study science, opportunities for scientific investigation are expanding. This past summer two more groups of teenagers came to the Institute for the Rocket On! and Circle of Life science camps. In addition a group of teens in Missoula, Montana, attended a week-long science camp, Camp Eureka!, sponsored in part by the Missoula chapter of the NFB with an Imagination Fund grant. Also this spring at the Colorado Center for the Blind, blind adults and kids got to dissect dogfish.
Each time blind students are invited and expected to take an active part in science education, the barrier keeping them out crumbles a little further. Here are two newspaper articles that report on these small but significant breakthroughs. On June 22 the Missoulian published an article on Camp Eureka! on its front page.
Natural Symphony--Camp Takes Blind Kids
into the Wild
by Perry Backus
Strolling along the dirt path leading into the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge, Skyler Kroll stops and holds up his little blue tape recorder.
"What do you hear?" asks Sean Meister.
"Crickets," is the reply from the eight-year-old. "I'm recording them."
"Hear the bird? It's a warbler of some sort," Meister says.
"Yep. I'm recording that too," Kroll chirps. "I'm going to record everything."
Just up ahead seven other young campers also are stopping as they capture the sounds of nature on their own recorders. A few minutes later they'll gather in the cool shade of a nearby pine to learn from a University of Montana ornithologist which song belongs to which bird.
And that's just the beginning of their second day at Camp Eureka!--a four-day-long natural history camp for children with visual impairments. Over the next few days the eight-to-twelve-year-olds from all parts of western Montana will learn about raptors, sing some folk music, and even discover the joys of mule packing at the Lee Metcalf and Teller wildlife refuges.
Camp Eureka! is about rediscovery. And it's not just the youngsters who are learning. Beth Underwood is the driving force behind the natural history camp for the blind. She spent twenty-six years as an environmental education specialist working both at the National Bison Range and the Lee Metcalf refuge before a bout with glaucoma changed everything.
"I had to regroup as I was dealing with my own vision problems," she said. So she learned Braille, earned a teaching certificate, and began tutoring a blind preschooler. She didn't forget what she knew best, and it wasn't long before she began to ponder the possibility of developing a summertime nature camp for blind children. "I finally decided I can do this," she said. "I knew it would be so wonderful for the children."
While she couldn't find another similar program anywhere else in the country to serve as a model, Underwood didn't have a hard time finding enthusiastic sponsors and people willing to volunteer as instructors and mentors. "Our partners have been terrific," she said. Those sponsors included the National Federation of the Blind, which sent a representative from Baltimore to take a look at the new camp.
Mark Riccobono, director of education for the Federation's Jernigan Institute, liked what he saw Tuesday morning, especially the blind adults volunteering as mentors. "That's especially important in a state like Montana that's so spread out," he said. "Most of these youngsters probably don't even know another blind person. Having a blind role model is critical."
That was something Underwood considered early on when she started putting together the program. She also knew that the sighted instructors were going to need some help before they sat down and started to interact with the young campers. They received that training this spring.
"We had some instructors who were really good with the outdoors and others who were really good with blindness," she remembers. "Most had to rethink the way that people access information. Most of us are so visual when we learn, with 80 percent or more of our information coming in through our eyes. You really don't realize that until you take it away. If blind people want some information, they have to find new ways to get it."
That challenge didn't scare anyone away. "They were revitalized," Underwood said. "It gave everyone new energy to think about the new ways they could do things." In the long run Underwood said the experience will make everyone involved a better teacher.
That's something University of Montana Disabilities Services Department director Jim Marks has seen happen on the Missoula campus. "That's one of the advantages of working with the disabled," Marks said. "It makes you rethink your methods. In the long run it makes you a better teacher."
Marks was one of several blind adults who volunteered to spend time with the young campers. "It's so important for young blind children to have role models who are strong and able people," said Marks. "They need to know early on that blindness just is. It's neither good or bad--it's not diminished my life. It's just different, but not worse."
And that's a message Marks wants the youngsters to take home. Marks knows what it's like to live in both worlds. He wasn't born blind. "I had to learn new skills when I lost my vision," he said. "I had to rethink everything. Like most people, I grew up thinking with the judgment that being blind was a very bad thing."
That all changed when he and two other siblings lost their sight. His brother works as an engineer "making big money" back East, and his sister works for the Montana Blind Vendors and has two children. "I would say that blindness has not diminished our quality of life. Not at all," he said.
It's important that blind youngsters learn early that everything is possible. Programs like Camp Eureka! provide opportunities for them to discover just that. "Blind kids get a chance to take some risks and experience the great outdoors," Marks said. "It's a wonderful opportunity for them to learn that they're able to do anything they want to.
"When you're blind, a lot of people think you can't do this or that. It's really about attitude--they can do just about anything they want to. It's important for them to learn that early. My hope is that this camp will help reframe blindness for them while they're also getting to learn a lot of cool stuff," Marks said. "Being comfortable with the outdoors is really important if you want to be a Montanan."
Having different abilities can be helpful in the natural world. Ornithologist Erick Greene of the University of Montana spent a portion of Tuesday morning helping the campers identify and record different bird songs. He let them know he relies a lot more on his ears than on his eyes as a bird researcher.
"This morning I've probably heard more than forty species of birds. I've seen maybe three," Greene said. "My ears are just tuned in. It's nice for these kids to get out here and realize that they have a lot of strengths that a lot of sighted kids don't have," he said. "This whole experience is tremendous for them."
On May 5 the Littleton Independent reported on a day of dissection that had just taken place at the NFB’s Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB). Here is that story:
Blind Students Get Feel for Science
by Jennifer Smith
Even Julie Deden, executive director of the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton, admits the concept sounds a little strange. On April 29 about sixteen blind people got together at the center to dissect sharks.
"Too often blind students are told that they cannot participate in the areas of science, shop, and physical education," said Eric Woods, CCB's youth services coordinator. "We want blind students to stop putting limits on themselves and to learn that they can fully experience the world."
"I was excited to do this," said CCB student Kathryn Hanks, nineteen. She said she dissected a squid and a worm in high school, "but I wasn't really sure what was going on. … They wouldn't let me cut anything. Today I knew I would get to cut stuff up."
The event was part of CCB's employment training program, which is funded in part by a grant from the Qwest Foundation. Arapahoe Community College provided staff and supplies. Led by Terry Harrison, biology department chair at ACC, the students ranged in age from middle school to adult and in vision from a little to none. Each person got their own, very stinky, spiny dogfish, which is a small shark about twelve to eighteen inches long. Harrison explained he chose sharks instead of frogs or some other such creature because they have spines, so they're actually similar to humans in that respect.
"They have the four principal structures that we have, so it's a good example," he said. "And they're big."
"The smell's actually quite interesting," said Alex Randall, a freshman at Dakota Ridge High School, in perhaps the biggest understatement of the day. Randall was accompanied by his teacher, Samantha Hoffman. She said the class was great for Randall because the terminology was geared toward its audience--Harrison described how to feel for internal organs instead of how to look for them, for example.
Teacher Wendy Schlageter, who works [with] student[s] with visual impairments in Aurora Public Schools, brought several students to the event. She said this class was unique because kids in public school usually work in groups on dissection projects, and the blind kids "don't get to be a major part of the group." The slower pace was a bonus too, she said, giving them time to explore.
"We're going to take our time," Harrison told the group. "We're not going to jump into it too soon."
They all got their own tools, including safety goggles, ventilation mask, rubber gloves, tweezers, and scalpel. Then, after some jokes about getting a free lunch, they spent about four and a half hours exploring the inside of their fish, with Harrison explaining the biological functions as they went along.
Amazement was often evident. "That's the heart right there? Oh my gosh," exclaimed Jaime Tomasello, twenty-five, after Harrison guided her hand to the right spot.
Randall got the biggest surprise of the day. He said he knew something didn't feel right in his shark's stomach when he found an intact baby squid in it. Gateway High School student Alex Stocks, after demonstrating how the gutted shark could be used as a puppet, described the dissection experience as unique.
Frustration also made some appearances. "I don't think I've got the heart exposed," said CCB staffer Glenn Beers.
"No, you've got a bunch of mush," observed Harrison.
After everyone finally cleaned up the very substantial, slimy mess they had made, Harrison got out a large shark's jawbone for everyone to experience--which mostly resulted in the teenage boys putting their heads through it. Then Woods thanked Harrison, and the entire group gave him a standing ovation--which Harrison said doesn't happen every day in his usual classes at ACC.
Qwest representative Melissa Reffel spent part of the day with the group. "It felt really good," she said after the event. "It felt like I was experiencing it with them and seeing it for the first time."
CCB is a nonprofit organization that offers a variety of training programs for all ages. For more information or to find out how to help its mission, call Deden at (303) 778-1130, extension 210.
Rocket On!: Excitement, Challenge, and Growth
by Matt Maurer
From the Editor: Dr. Matt Maurer is the brother of NFB President Marc Maurer. He is on sabbatical from his teaching job at Butler University in Indiana. Here is his report on the Rocket On! Science Academy camp last summer:
In July I was privileged to be part of the facilitation team for the Rocket On! Session of the 2005 Science Academy, which was conducted by the NFB in partnership with NASA. The Academy was open to blind high school students from around the country who have an interest in science. It was the second year for this project, which coupled instruction from NASA scientists with facilitation and mentoring from NFB members. Additional instruction was delivered by other selected presenters.
The eleven students assembled in 2005 comprised an exceptionally talented group from around the country. In my work as a professor of education, I have had the opportunity to work with many varied groups of students. This group was as talented as any I have met. Yet each member of the group came with his or her individual challenges.
By the end of the program it was clear that the Academy had been wildly successful, not because the launch was successful, but because a tremendous amount of learning and growth had occurred. That growth was not simply about science; it included personal growth on the part of each individual student--growth in self-confidence, self-awareness, travel skills, attitude about blindness, teamwork, and myriad other areas.
In science they learned about electrical circuits, rocket motors, parachutes, stars, and materials science, to name a few of the topics they studied. Given that blind learners often have a relatively weak experience in science, that learning was important. That importance notwithstanding, the personal growth was even more important, because the odds are that few of these students will choose to become rocket scientists. For those who do not, the science learning that occurred becomes interesting and broadly useful background knowledge. I trust that each of these students will go on to do something important in the world, and their personal growth will serve all of the students intimately and powerfully.
Yet another area of growth was the development of their philosophy of blindness. These students each came from different circumstances, they had amassed vastly different experience sets, and they have had different kinds of mentoring in their lives. Only a few of the students had already had much in the way of blind role models. Some students had done little thinking about blindness, while others had done more but without much expert guidance. Some students had even developed significant misconceptions about the general capabilities of blind people. The thinking they did during the Academy coupled with the guidance they received while doing that thinking produced some noticeable results. I could see a cohesive, positive philosophy developing in most of the students, and in a few I could see an existing philosophy being reinforced or sometimes challenged.
In addition to the learning and personal growth, another important outcome was the development of personal relationships. Many connections were formed among the students, the facilitators, the presenters, and the NASA staff, some of which will last. In addition, the relationships that were formed could potentially become an entree for the students into an important community. The Academy certainly introduced the students to the NFB, and it gave each student several people as primary contacts within the NFB. It also gave the students a few NASA contacts that could allow access to that scientific community. In addition, the NFB established an email list for this year’s and last year’s students. The participants themselves are and could continue to be the core of an interesting and potentially useful community.
With all the emphasis I place on the personal development that occurred, one might wonder if the science element of the Academy was all that important. It was tremendously important because every student left the Academy with the idea that, “If I wish, I can become a scientist.” That idea alone is worthy of all the time, effort, and expense invested in this project.
Given the great success of this Academy, one might ask what made it so successful? The key elements of its success include:
· The small number of students
· The number of blind people involved
· The high credibility of instructors and presenters
· The close contact with NASA scientists
· The instructional design
· The personalities of instructors and facilitators
· The high expectations for the learners
· The student mentors
· The students
One of the most important choices in the design of the Academy was to keep it small. It was designed for about twelve students, and this year eleven attended. That small number allowed the facilitators and presenters to make intimate connections with each student. No student could hide, and no one got lost in the shuffle.
Another important issue was the high number of blind people involved in the project. All but one of the facilitators was blind (which meant I was a minority of one on the team). Some of the presenters were blind, and the students had an opportunity to meet with a group of blind NASA employees. The high ratio of blind to sighted adult participants coupled with the relatively small student group gave the students ample opportunity to connect intimately with a blind person and receive a wide range of modeling and mentoring. Many of the students had previously had little or no opportunity to have that sort of relationship with a blind adult. So many blind individuals were involved that several times the visual acuity of the adults was not explicitly defined, and the students sometimes got it wrong. That was gratifying because it illustrated to them that being blind versus being sighted is not the great distinction that is often assumed.
The fact that the presenters all had very high qualifications to teach their subjects helped with the student engagement at the time of instruction, and it helped add enthusiasm for the entire project. Working with a university physicist, for example, got the students’ attention, and it made them more excited about the entire program. Working with the NASA scientists was particularly powerful in this regard. When each student was partnered with a NASA scientist for the launch, not a sleepyhead appeared in the room, even though the students were in fact operating on very little sleep due to the 3:00 a.m. wake-up call.
The design of the instruction was an important element of the success of Rocket On! The goal of launching a rocket was probably the single most important element of the design, which kept the students focused individually and helped them pull together as a group. The flow of the instruction from morning until night and from day to day also contributed. The days were very intense, filled with a wide range of activities. This maintained the students’ attention. There was little time for minds to wander; and, although there were a few nodding heads from time to time, that problem was minimal. Even though the time we spent together was packed with activity, the facilitators took time for issues as they arose in the group. For example, more than once issues related to blindness arose. We made time in the schedule to discuss these issues and to come to some resolution.
The choice of instructors and facilitators was also important. The group of adults who worked with these students was uncommonly flexible. Changes were made on the fly, people jumped in when needed, and above all the adults were all sincerely interested in working with the students, talking with them, explaining, and clarifying. If a gap developed, somebody figured out a way to fill it. In addition, very little in the way of overblown egos surfaced among the adults. They were all highly credentialed, and in a group like this egos are often a problem. Each adult involved seemed truly committed to the growth of the students. Many intimate connections were made between students and adults. Along with the learning a lot of banter, teasing, and jibing permeated the session. This set a tone that was at the same time serious and playful. That combination is powerful for learning--too playful and little gets accomplished, too serious and students disengage from the learning. The personalities of the adults made the tone and flow of the Academy particularly effective for student learning.
All of the adults clearly had high expectations for the students. In many programs the words “high expectations” are prominent, yet during this Academy little was said on the subject. Instead we all lived those expectations. They were implicit in the way the Academy was structured, they were implicit in the way adults interacted with students, and they were implicit in the requirements of student behavior and performance. As is so often the case, the students rose to the expectations of the facilitators and instructors, and in some cases they exceeded those expectations.
Two students from the previous year were selected to act as student mentors. This was helpful in creating an ongoing culture of this Academy. Even though some of the activities were refined from last year, it was important to establish a mode of operation for the Academy. The students from 2004 helped create that thread of continuity. They also provided some important maturity and peer mentoring for the 2005 group. The student mentors were living examples of what is expected of a Rocket On! participant.
The most important element making this Academy successful was the students themselves. Each time I enter into a learning situation like this I am reminded of the old saw--“you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” All we could do was to provide the learning opportunities; the students had to choose to participate. These students drank--they drank deeply.
I would be remiss if I closed without some mention of the feelings that were created by this experience. The students were challenged, and not just academically, but also personally. These challenges produced a significant level of stress on many of the students. Yet within this challenging environment substantial joy was generated. I experienced a tremendous level of joy while working with these students, and I believe most of them felt the same. We worked hard, but while we were at it, we enjoyed each other’s company. As I remember these intense few days, I can’t help smiling. This was a bright, powerful, and fun group of young men and women, and we can look forward to hearing more from them as they mature.
Blind Students Excel at NASA
by Stacy Cervenka
From the Editor: Stacy Cervenka, a 2000 NFB scholarship winner, has herself been an intern this summer with the NFB Jernigan Institute. She has been working closely with the NFB NASA internship program. The following article summarizes what it accomplished during this first year:
"I believe that the first blind astronaut is alive today,"--Al Diaz, former director of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center at the grand opening of the NFB Jernigan Institute.
With these words he issued a challenge. A wave of excitement rippled through the crowd as Federationists speculated amongst themselves who this intrepid blind person could be. Was he or she in college right now? Was he or she here tonight?
Since its opening in January 2004, one of the NFB Jernigan Institute’s key initiatives has been to see that Mr. Diaz's prediction comes to pass. One of the major initiatives of the Institute is to encourage more blind people to study and pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The Institute took a large step in this direction in the summer of 2004 with the introduction of the NFB Science Academy. For one week in July twelve blind junior high students came to explore biology and earth science at the Circle of Life session. Then in August twelve blind high school students made history as they became the first group of blind students ever to launch a rocket and analyze the collected data during the Rocket On! session.
Although these programs filled an undeniable gap in the education of blind children, staff members at the Jernigan Institute still weren't satisfied. They realized that in today's competitive job market good academic skills and a high GPA aren't enough for any job seeker, blind or sighted. A diverse résumé filled with part-time jobs, work study, and internships is often what separates those who get jobs when they graduate from college from those who don't.
"All too often blind students still don't have employment opportunities at an early age, particularly before entering college," said Mark Riccobono, the Institute's director of education programs. "Therefore, they lack early employment experience, which hurts them later when they're out of college and trying to get a job. Furthermore, blind students often lack exposure to science jobs. They don't think they can go into scientific fields; therefore they don't pursue the coursework in college."
As a step toward improving this situation, the Jernigan Institute, in partnership with NASA and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), established the EXCEL (Excellence through Challenging Exploration and Leadership) internship program. Through EXCEL six blind graduating high school seniors and college freshmen had the opportunity to intern for five weeks at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, or the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. As prerequisite training for the internship the EXCEL students attended the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky. Throughout the internship program students had the opportunity to observe the work of NASA firsthand and also to get to know other blind students, blind adults, and people working in their chosen career fields, both blind and sighted.
According to Riccobono the goals of the EXCEL program were many-fold. "We hope the students have a quality work experience that they can put on their résumé. We also hope they gain employment skills that they didn't have before and that they can get a glimpse into what a professional setting is really like. Furthermore, we hope this experience will cause them to reflect on the level of their blindness skills and make a plan for improving those skills so that they're more employable in the future. Of course we also want them to learn more about what NASA is doing. We hope that the up-close-and-personal glimpse that they'll be getting this summer will inspire them to consider future job opportunities with NASA. Finally we wanted to expose the students to the work that the NFB Jernigan Institute is doing. We want them to know that we're a resource for them as they continue to pursue their academic studies in science, technology, engineering, and math."
Keys to Success
Although there are many work experience programs for blind teens and a growing number of public and private agencies are making concerted efforts to recruit qualified blind candidates for internships, several factors made the EXCEL program unique.
1. Quality Work Experience
Many state schools for the blind and vocational rehabilitation agencies have begun to offer summer work experience programs (SWEPs) for blind teens. However, the quality of these programs varies widely from state to state and from agency to agency. Although some SWEPs provide excellent, meaningful work experience, many programs suffer from low expectations for the students they serve. Thus the quality and variety of the job placements many SWEPs offer is shamefully inadequate. For example, many programs which purport to offer blind teens summer job experience offer them jobs at sheltered workshops or independent living centers only. These jobs do not provide students with an understanding of what it takes to succeed in a sighted or otherwise nondisabled workplace. Furthermore, they often reinforce blind students’ convictions that their career options are limited to jobs specifically tailored to people with disabilities.
Besides providing limited employment opportunities, most SWEPs place little if any emphasis on truly learning the skills necessary to compete effectively in a mainstream workforce. For example, at many programs students don't travel to and from their jobs independently; a van picks students up each morning and drops them off at home each night. This is a contrived, unrealistic arrangement, since few mainstream employers provide such a service to their employees. Besides being unrealistic, this arrangement allows some students to disregard their inadequate travel and problem-solving skills and assume that these skills aren't really needed by blind people in the workplace since they assume that some sort of special arrangements will always be made for them.
During the planning stages of the EXCEL program it was extremely important to both NFB and NASA that the students have a true intern experience: living independently in dorms, getting themselves to and from work each day, managing their own free time and finances, and advocating for themselves to their supervisors and colleagues. It also included doing actual work that would look good on a résumé, enhance the students' office, technology, and science skills, and benefit NASA. Throughout their five-week internships students worked on making NASA Web sites 508-compliant, wrote computer programs correlating a NASA archive to another agency's archives in order to study solar bursts, worked on data reduction, learned HTML code, learned to use the Linux operating system, and wrote proposals for both the Mars Exploration Rover and the Mars Imaging Project.
"The most beneficial part of the EXCEL program is the opportunity to get meaningful job experience," said Grace King of Madison, Wisconsin, who interned at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in California. "I like the fact that I’m not answering phones, putting together kits, or folding towels. Instead I get to do real work, such as giving feedback on how a Web site can be improved."
Thien Vu, of Sacramento, California, who also interned at JPL agreed. "In the beginning I had thought that they were going to place me in the corner somewhere and give me simple, unimportant things to do. Instead I was involved in as much as I wanted to be."
JPL intern David Wright of Addison, Illinois, was also pleasantly surprised by the high expectations of his supervisors and colleagues. "In my job situation I’m given a task which I’m expected to follow through on. I’m also expected to be self-motivated and self-reliant. I consider this experience to be an asset because it is helping me to prepare for my ultimate goal of being independent and obtaining a career."
When blind students intern in the mainstream workplace, employers and other colleagues also benefit. "I believe there are many benefits to NASA mentors and others who are involved with the EXCEL students and all interns with disabilities," said Michael Hartman, of the Goddard Space Flight Center's Equal Opportunity Programs Office. "Of course there is the obvious benefit of getting qualified workers to do tasks that are related to our mission. In addition our program managers get fresh young students with new ideas and lots of probing questions and are given the opportunity to review the work they are doing. That is beneficial to NASA because this experience teaches the mentors to have high expectations of individuals with disabilities. This happens because very often the mentoring experience will be the first opportunity for mentors to work directly with individuals with disabilities, thus creating a positive experience which will be remembered when in the future another individual with a disability applies for a position in that mentor's organization. This is also true for other interns who interact with the EXCEL students. Many of them will be in positions of responsibility and leadership during their careers, and their experiences with the EXCEL students while interns together will help shape their images and expectations of individuals with disabilities."
"I've been very impressed with how independent the summer interns are," said John Callas, the deputy project manager for the Mars Exploration Program. "One of my concerns was that they would need a lot of attention from myself or my staff here. But in many aspects they're more independent than some of my other interns. Every day they get to and from work independently and on time. They go to the coffee kiosk on our campus every day, and they maneuver around our lunchroom, which is big and cluttered, independently. They walk around the JPL campus going about their various tasks on their own. That was a delight and a surprise. I've also been surprised at how integrated they've become into our Mars Rover program."
"Getting blind interns at JPL and Goddard is a great thing because it gives blind students a great taste of the NASA centers, but it also gives the NASA centers a great experience with blind students," said Vu.
"This program is an asset in and of itself," agreed Wright. "It is allowing us as a pioneer group to set positive precedence for future generations of blind and visually impaired people."
Another aspect of the EXCEL program which distinguished it from the legions of other summer work experience programs targeted at blind youth was the mentoring component. Before their internships began, all six EXCEL interns attended the national convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Louisville, Kentucky. Besides attending the meetings of the National Association of Blind Students, the NFB Computer Science Division, and the Science and Engineering Division, students were paired with blind mentors who were working in the STEM fields.
"We wanted to connect them with blind role models and plug them into the network of individuals within the NFB who can provide them with mentoring and support and ongoing resources," said Riccobono. He commented that, although blind students are often told that they can "do anything they put their minds to," the phrase becomes somewhat of a cliché. Many professionals and the general public have learned to use positive language when speaking of the capabilities of blind people, but when these words aren't followed with actions, blind students become immune to them.
Andrew Mayles of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who interned at Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, commented, "I found that the interactions with mentors and other Federationists prepared me more fully than could a week of lectures about blindness in the workplace."
"The mentors set a precedent for us," said Goddard intern Jeremiah Griswold of Stamford, New York. "Seeing over 3,000 blind and visually impaired people has made me realize that there's actually a whole vibrant blind community out there."
Goddard intern Amy Herstein of Ellicott City, Maryland, agreed that the mentoring portion of the program made the internship the success it was. "I think the most beneficial thing was meeting so many people who were willing to give you advice, share in your interests and goals, and tell you about their backgrounds."
Besides the NFB national convention, EXCEL interns had additional opportunities to network within the blind community. Goddard interns attended the Maryland Association of Blind Students' Steps to Success Seminar, the NFB of Maryland's annual crab feast, and a Baltimore City Chapter meeting. The JPL interns enjoyed an exciting day out with members of the NFB of California to Hollywood. Staff members at the Jernigan Institute traveled to each work site at least once throughout the summer to meet with supervisors, advise the interns, and observe NASA in action. Institute staff members also checked in by phone periodically with the students to offer advice, encouragement, and suggestions for solving any problems they encountered.
3. Emphasis on improving skills
One of the key reasons for any student, blind or sighted, to do an internship while in high school or college is to observe the workplace and learn what concrete steps he or she needs to take in order to succeed in such an environment. This is especially true for blind students.
"We really wanted all the students to reflect on the level of their skills and make a plan for improving those skills so that they're more employable in the future," said Riccobono. "A lot of blind students are not prepared to live independently in the real world and take on some of the jobs we want them to take on as eighteen- and nineteen-year-old young adults."
For this reason students received several hours of orientation and mobility training at the NFB national convention from blind mobility instructors. Program coordinators also spoke with students individually about areas they needed to work on. Increased exposure to competent blind role models made many students realize that their skills were not as good as they had previously thought.
"This summer has made me think of other things I need to learn in order to be competitive in my field, such as how to operate other systems besides Windows," said King.
Griswold has decided that Braille would be a beneficial thing for him to learn as a blind person with some usable vision. Wright has discovered that he'd like to receive further training in the skills of blindness. "Being around other blind people has really made me see that I have a long way to go," he said. "Because of this summer I've decided that I definitely want to pursue training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. I think it will help me to get more out of life."
4. Experience at NASA
Finally, the EXCEL program was unique in that it afforded students who were interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics an up-close view of one of our country's most exciting scientific agencies.
"This whole experience has been really educational," said Griswold. "Working for NASA has changed my life in ways I don't even know about yet, in ways I won't even be able to see until I start applying for jobs. When I apply for a job and the employer sees NASA on my résumé, it's going to give me an upper hand over other candidates. And I'm so glad that I'm not only learning so much more about NASA, but also doing something productive for them."
At the Jet Propulsion Lab, where the students worked for the Mars Exploration Rovers program, interns learned all about the rovers; they were even allowed to touch and explore them.
"I think one of the neatest things is that we had the students shadow the rover drivers," said John Callas. “The rover drivers develop the very detailed activities for the motion of the rover, where the rover goes, how we use the robotic arm, and so on. It's probably the most visually demanding job on our team, but the rover planners were very descriptive in their tasks, and the students were able to get a lot out of it. I was very impressed with how completely the students became integrated into the program without the advantage of having all the visual information."
"One of the most exciting parts of my internship has been going to the planning meetings for the Mars Rovers. It has allowed me to observe how each day for the rovers is planned out and also how problems with the rovers are solved," said Grace King. "It gives us an inside look at the way NASA does things."
By the end of the program all the interns felt that they had gained invaluable skills, experience, and wisdom from their summer at NASA. "I think I have grown because I have more confidence, and I thrive on the independence we're given here," said Herstein. "It has further emphasized to me the importance of striving for any goal you wish to reach."
"Before the internship I thought I had what it takes to achieve," commented Mayles. "But now I can honestly say that I have proved to myself and others that I do."
"Something that had stuck with me from one of our EXCEL seminars at national convention is that it doesn’t just matter what grades one gets, but it also matters how much experience one has,” said Vu. "With that bit of advice, I will do both; I'll strive to get myself more involved in internships and also to do better in college at the same time. I now know what's out there, and I know where good grades and relevant experience might take me."
NASA was also pleased with the first year of the EXCEL program and hopes it will continue in future years. "We see the EXCEL program as a beneficial program to NASA in several ways," explained Michael Hartman of the Equal Opportunity Programs Office at Goddard. "It is an excellent provider of qualified interns to help us further the completion of NASA's mission while they are here. At the same time it gives the students the experience of working at NASA and hopefully provides the opportunity to seek other programs and activities that will allow them to work at NASA throughout their academic careers. Finally, we anticipate that it will encourage the students to seek employment at NASA when they graduate."
Riccobono believes that the first year of the new program has been a success. However, because the NFB never rests on its laurels and is always seeking to improve existing opportunities, he looks forward to expanding the program to include more students and more NASA centers. He's also considering lengthening the internships by a few weeks and including even more pre-internship training. "The needs of blind students coming out of high school are different from what's needed for other students. Only by combining the knowledge and resources and mentors of the NFB along with the science capacity of NASA can we achieve a program that truly empowers blind people to consider advanced careers in science and prepares them to pursue the coursework necessary for these careers," he said.
Wright says that this summer has been a big turning point in his life and hopes the program will continue to expand. "This program has shown me that I can succeed as a blind adult and that the only thing standing in my way is me. I really enjoy being a part of something which could really influence the future for many other people. This program is definitely a step in the right direction toward placing a blind astronaut in space."
NFB of California Hosts JPL Interns
by Nancy Burns
From the Editor: Nancy Burns
is president of the NFB of California. In the following brief article reprinted
from the summer 2005 issue of the NFBC Journal, the publication of
the California affiliate, she reports on some of the activities the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory interns enjoyed with affiliate members last summer. This is what
The EXCEL (Excellence through Challenging Exploration and Leadership) program, launched by the NFB Jernigan Institute in partnership with NASA, created an internship for blind or visually impaired students. The nationwide search resulted in the placement of six students--three at Goddard and three at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory--for a six-week internship. The first week was spent at the NFB convention in Louisville, serving as NASA ambassadors. The next five weeks were spent at their intern locations.
This internship combined work experience through NASA with mentoring and support from the NFB. The JPL interns monitored the Mars Rover Web page to determine if any accessibility issues existed.
While in California, the three bright young JPL student interns got to know NFBC members. David Wright, eighteen, was from Chicago, Illinois; Grace King, nineteen, was from Madison, Wisconsin; and Thien Vu, twenty-one, was from Sacramento, California. On one occasion the interns were invited to the NFBC office for breakfast and to mix and mingle with Federationists. After breakfast several of us took a short bus and subway ride to downtown Hollywood, because the students had expressed a desire to tour that area. The group checked out stars on Hollywood Boulevard, picked up souvenirs at gift shops, and enjoyed lunch at Johnny Rocket’s, a fifties diner.
During their last weekend in California an NFB member invited the students to her home for pizza, swimming in the condo pool, and a trip to Newport Beach. The three interns enjoyed some California sun and surf. Their hosts, Anne and John Hartzell, generously opened their home and provided some of the transportation for the interns.
Early one Tuesday morning the three interns--accompanied by Connie Gennaro, Mars public engagement outreach coordinator and intern supervisor--spoke to the Burbank Sunrise Rotary Club. Their presentation was well received, and many questions were asked. The students did a great job of discussing their intern experience and fielding enthusiastic questions from Rotary Club members.
Life Insurance--The Forgotten Gift?
Do you have a life insurance policy you no longer need? Perhaps your other assets have grown to provide the protection you require, and the insurance policy lies forgotten in a safe deposit box. Did you know that the policy would make a wonderful charitable gift to the National Federation of the Blind?
Instead of giving cash or stock, you could sign over your policy to the National Federation of the Blind and, generally speaking, receive a charitable income tax deduction for the replacement value of the policy. The National Federation of the Blind could put those dormant dollars to work right away.
Your gift of life insurance can be used to fund a special project or educational program or to honor or memorialize a loved one. The policy could also be used to assist the NFB Jernigan Institute’s Imagination Fund.
If you have insurance you would like to contribute or if you are currently paying premiums on a policy and would like to know how it might work as a gift, contact Izzy Menchero, director of outreach programs, at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2408. He will be pleased to meet with you or talk to you and describe the various ways insurance can be used to make a planned gift. You are also encouraged to meet with your insurance representative and discuss your charitable giving plan.
Federation Leaders in the Spotlight
From the Editor: Dan Wenzel is president of the NFB of Wisconsin. His wife Jennifer works at home and takes care of the couple’s three young sons as well as helping with affiliate projects. They live an all-American life, and because the Wenzels are blind, they attracted the attention of the Janesville, Wisconsin, Gazette. On May 27, 2005, staff writer Briana Brough wrote a story about the Wenzels that gave them a chance to demonstrate their healthy attitudes about building a family, keeping children happy and well-balanced, and living with blindness. Here it is:
Couple Don't Let Their Lack of Sight Slow Them or Their Children Down
Take a moment and think about all the things you do in a day: rushing to get the kids ready for school, going to work, buying groceries, chasing after toddlers. Now imagine doing those things without being able to see. That's what life is like for Jennifer and Dan Wenzel, a Janesville couple with three children.
Blindness and visual impairment affect as many as 200,000 people in Wisconsin, according to the State of Wisconsin Bureau for the Blind. Most lose their vision later in life because of disease or age, but some, such as the Wenzels, are born blind or impaired. People who are blind do most everything that sighted people do. They go to school, have productive jobs, and raise families. They simply have a different set of tools with which to build their lives. In many ways the Wenzels are a typical American family. Dan works as a transition specialist at the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Janesville. Jennifer is a stay-at-home mom who proofreads Braille textbooks in her down time. They have three boys, Roland, five, Stephen, three, Tanner, ten months, all of whom are sighted. Dan has some vision; with corrective lenses he can see 20/200. Jennifer has been totally blind since birth.
Dan and Jennifer met a decade ago at the Colorado Center for the Blind, where they worked at a summer program for blind high-schoolers. After long-distance courting while Jennifer finished college in Minnesota, the two married in 1997. "My mom was very upset because she wanted me to marry a sighted person who would take care of me and who would drive me to the grocery store," Jennifer says. "I didn't go out and pick a blind person versus a sighted person. I picked the person that I love for who he is."
The Wenzels' philosophy, which they developed at the Colorado Center for the Blind, is that blindness doesn't matter. It is simply a characteristic, like eye or hair color. The philosophy underlies how the Wenzels approach their marriage, their family, and their lives in general.
"I think the similarity between us and any family is the fact that we love our kids just like sighted parents are going to love their kids," Dan says. "We do things right just like sighted parents do, and sometimes we struggle and do things wrong and make mistakes just like sighted parents do. Parenting really isn't that much different just in the idea of love and discipline and sort of the family routine you go through."
There are differences, of course. Because they cannot drive, the Wenzels walk or take the bus. "Sometimes it's frustrating and annoying because it takes longer, but most of the time that's just life, and you just do it and keep on parenting and making the best of it all and having fun," Jennifer says.
At the park they have a rule that, when one of the kids goes to a new piece of equipment, the child must tell a parent. The Wenzels also teach their kids to answer when called. "They don't have to come by us, but they need to answer as soon as they hear us so that we know where they are," Jennifer adds. "That's just my way of monitoring them instead of looking around for them."
Jennifer has a stable of alternative techniques for day-to-day tasks. When cooking, for example, she uses the tip of her finger to feel when a liquid has reached the top of a container, and she keeps things such as oil and some medicines in the refrigerator so she can feel them.
For the most part she memorizes clothes by texture, but she sometimes puts a small safety pin in an article of clothing if she has two that feel the same. "I do like to know color," she says, "even though I've never seen color, because that's part of the real world."
Braille is also an important tool for Jennifer. She gets Braille books at the library to read to the boys, or she Brailles them herself with the help of a reader. She has Braille on her watch and microwave, and she uses a special machine to Braille playing-card and board games.
Traveling, especially with the boys, is a challenge for Jennifer. "I have a really bad sense of direction," she says. "I think I'd have trouble traveling even if I could see. I sometimes can get turned around a bit, so I have to stop and think and concentrate on it, but that doesn't mean that I can't do it. I still want to go out and do the things with my kids that I need to do and that I want to do."
Dan and Jennifer don't hesitate to set off, kids in tow, on adventures by bus, train, or plane. They think it is important to expose the boys to different places, cultures, and ideas. "We really want our kids to travel," Jennifer says. "We want them to see the U.S., and we hope to get them to Europe."
They've got a good start. The family travels around Wisconsin by bus or by hiring a friend to drive them. They have visited friends and family as far away as Oklahoma, and they even have plans for an eighteen-hour train ride to visit Jennifer's sister in Baltimore.
"We really, really enjoy train trips because you can move around," Jennifer explains, noting that the boys love to walk between cars and visit the cafe and observation cars.
As the boys get older, the fact that they can see things their parents can't creates a new quandary for the Wenzels. "You want to encourage that they're trying to be helpful and they're trying to learn," Dan explains. "And we want them to learn to see the 'walk' sign when they're crossing the street because that's something they're going to need to be able to do. We also want them to know how we cross the street and how we utilize the traffic and the flow of traffic to cross."
"I don't ever want them to think that I'm dependent on them," Jennifer adds, "and it's a fine line because I also don't want them to think that they can't ever help anybody."
"We're a team, and we all have our parts to play," Dan says, "and as parents, we have more of a part to play when it comes to travel and decision-making than our kids do. But at the same time, we're trying to teach our kids to be independent thinkers, and so we work on that."
To the Wenzel kids mom and dad's blindness is just a normal part of life. Jennifer looks at her sons' artwork by feeling its texture or by asking them to describe it to her. Jennifer says it was at Stephen's third birthday party when it clicked for him that she couldn't see.
"He got a View-Master. He asked me if I wanted to look at his View-Master picture, and I said, 'Well, I can't see it, but you can tell me what it is,' and he just went 'gasp!' But now it's funny because he'll still show me the View-Master, and he'll shove it up to my eye and say, 'Just pretend you're looking--it's Buzz Lightyear!' So it's very important to him that I pretend, so I pretend."
Jennifer won't pretend, however, that it doesn't bother her when well-meaning strangers assume she needs help or speaks to one of her children instead of to her. "That's really insulting," she says. "I'm still an adult. I'm still a person. I'm a person who happens to be blind. I have no problem with anyone asking me if I need help," she adds. "I'll respond politely. I have no problem answering blindness questions that anyone might ask of me. But then I hope that eventually if we're going to be friends or we're going to communicate a lot, that we move past that and just become friends because I have a lot of other interests too."
Family, however, is most important to Dan and Jennifer. "I think parenting is a tough job for anyone trying to raise their kids," Jennifer says. "Everyone wants the best for their kids and wants their kids to be happy and healthy and safe."
Dan has advice for anyone in a similar situation who's considering a family. "Really the most important things are that you're a family that works together, you're a family that loves each other, you're a family that cares about the education of your kids, you're a family that cares about a work ethic and raising kids that respect other people and other cultures."
With an attitude like that the Wenzels have all the vision they need.
A Crowd, a Mob! There Is a Difference
by Al Evans
From the Editor: the following
article is reprinted from the Winter 2005 issue of the Town Crier,
the publication of the NFB of Massachusetts. Al Evans is a longtime leader of
the Massachusetts affiliate and currently serves as editor of the Town Crier.
Here is his story:
After reading Seville Allen's fine article, “The Blind Witness History Too,” in the November 2004, Braille Monitor, I found myself remembering an incident that occurred many years ago. It also involved contact with literally thousands of people. Unlike Ms. Allen's experience, for the most part this was a mob, not a crowd.
At the time I was working with the Veterans Administration as a veterans benefits counselor (VBC), and my office was in the JFK Federal Building, Government Center, Boston. It was also during the Vietnam Era, and Boston was a hotbed of anti-war protest. In those days Government Center was the virtual seat of city and state government; City Hall, the state office building, and the State House were all within walking distance of each other.
The experience I recall occurred
on May 1, 1970, May Day. Anti-war protesters had targeted this May first as
a day for a massive demonstration designed to shut down the JFK Building and,
if possible, the entire city. Picketers, mostly college students, were stationed
at subway exits across the city, and the work-a-day folks trying to reach their
places of employment or attend to other business that day in Boston were subjected
to screaming sign carriers shouting in our faces, blocking our egress at almost
Of course the local TV and radio stations had blared the demonstrators’ intentions for four or five days beforehand, so my division chief, always a man of colorful language, had come to my desk the previous day to advise me not to come to work the following day. "... damn it, Al," he said, not so tenderly, "you are blind! How the ... are you going to get through that mob? For ... ... sake, you will get hurt!"
I had joined the NFB in January of 1969, and while I was still learning the ropes of our philosophy, I had known that I had a right to go anywhere, any time, especially to work. I knew the area. I knew the various entrances to the office, and I was convinced that no one was about to prevent me from independently, safely traversing the streets.
Filled with the can-do attitude that is an integral aspect of NFB belief, I started for work thirty minutes early. Even though my boss had said that I could "take the … damn day off without charge," I was not going to permit anyone to think that I had not showed up because of my blindness.
Accompanied by Tuffy, my ninety-pound Seeing Eye German shepherd, I climbed out of the Bowdoin Square station, forced a path through several loud kids milling about the exit, and began the short walk to my office. The JFK Federal Building is fronted by an expanse of seventy to ninety feet of flat, slightly sloping, grayish-white stone leading out to Cambridge Street. Cambridge Street is divided by a narrow island that separates traffic east-to-west. New Sudbury Street flanks one side of the building. Upon crossing it, I headed along the building toward the side entrance, but faced more demonstrators, who told me that the door was blocked, locked, and manned by the cops.
As Tuffy and I turned toward the front of the building, we were hemmed in and brought to a virtual halt by the mob. Someone yelled in my ear, "Where are you going?"
"In there," I bellowed, "I work there." Innumerable police lined each side of the front entrance in order to maintain the access, but the demonstrators surged toward the glass doors there.
Suddenly, someone screamed, "Look out," as the police charged the protesters to clear the way again. I heard the rush of feet, the shouts and swearing, and felt the fear of uncertainty, as I was swept backward. Tightly holding Tuffy's harness, I then found myself being shoved and pushed all the way across Cambridge Street, where I was knocked to the ground by the fleeing mob. I hauled myself to my feet, gathered Tuffy close, and stood dumbfounded. "What to do now?" I thought. Then a big man hollered in my ear, "Can I help you, sir? I'm a tactical patrol officer."
"I want to get into the building. I work there." He asked me for identification, and I showed my 4505 authority, which established who I was and what I did for a living.
"Okay, pal," he shouted,
"Hang on, and I will get you to the door." He did. He was a very tall,
burly man with an arm like a tree trunk.
After entering my office and enduring the profane outburst of my beloved division chief, I discovered I was one of just three people in the office; my division chief admitted sheepishly that he had stayed in the Parker House Hotel up the street overnight.
In her article Ms. Allen mentioned a "little voice" questioning whether or not she should be going alone to witness the Reagan funeral. I, too, heard a little voice asking myself, "Should I go alone to work?" After all, I had been granted the day off without penalty.
However, although our experiences were more than thirty-four years apart, Ms. Allen and I shared a common view: Each of us was convinced that it could be done. Neither of us would permit our blindness to be an excuse for avoiding something or for missing an opportunity. Ms. Allen got to witness the Reagan funeral cortege, and I got to work.
and Organizing People to Serve;
New Program Is the TOPS
by Rosie Carranza
From the Editor: Rosie Carranza
is now working with Joanne Wilson at the National Center for the Blind to assist
affiliates to become more effective in doing their work. Here is her report
on an exciting new program to help in this effort.
Seeking ideas on how to liven up a chapter meeting? Are candy bar sales losing popularity and causing weight gain among your chapter members? Would you benefit from learning strategies for attracting new people to our organization? Looking for ways to motivate members to action?
In response to these questions and many other inquiries, we have created an innovative leadership-development program to support Federationists as they strive to spread the positive message of the National Federation of the Blind. Training and Organizing People to Serve (TOPS) is a cutting-edge leadership-development program that offers practical advice on topics of prime concern to those who are interested in building our movement and in changing the lives of blind people. TOPS seminars combine engaging hands-on activities with lively discussions addressing issues such as membership development, public education, fundraising, and legislative action. Furthermore, TOPS seminars facilitate dialogue between members to exchange ideas and to share common experiences. Participants discuss how their personal talents and abilities can be employed to support the collective efforts of the organized blind movement. Most important, this training builds a sense of camaraderie between members and recommits participants to the mission and goals of the organization. Longtime members will feel rejuvenated, and rising leaders become inspired and ready to serve.
Through resources available from the Imagination Fund, we are pleased to offer affiliates the opportunity to have TOPS workshops conducted in conjunction with their state conventions. Workshops can be tailored to meet the needs of affiliates and to accommodate busy convention agendas. Workshops are being offered in the following areas: establishing a public relations plan, creating strategic initiatives, motivating members, building membership, planning fundraising activities, creating a legislative action plan, developing public speaking skills, conducting meetings, and developing effective advocacy skills. To obtain further information or to schedule a TOPS workshop for your state, contact Dr. Joanne Wilson at (410) 659-9314, extension 2335.
Learning to Lead from the Leaders
by Heather Field
From the Editor: The preceding article describes the new TOPS initiative available to state affiliates across the nation. The following story describes what it was like to be a part of the first-ever weekend-long TOPS training seminar. Speaking as one of the mentors invited to take part in the program, I can report that the enthusiasm, energy, and excitement that radiate from Heather Field’s description were shared by everyone who took part in the August 2005 TOPS seminar--participants and mentors alike.
Heather Field is president
of the Nashville Chapter of the NFB of Tennessee. She is originally from Australia,
so everyone at the seminar found it easy to recognize her comments by her marvelous
accent. Many Federationists know Heather as the Discovery Toys lady, who demonstrates
and sells accessible toys wherever she goes. In addition to the benefits she
describes in her story, a number of us were blessed by beginning our Christmas
toy shopping early with her help late Friday evening. Here is Heather Field’s
report on the August 2005 TOPS seminar:
“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” Good heavens, I thought. She's brave, crowing like that in public! Was that Dr. Joanne Wilson? I don't hear any other roosters replying. Was she merely contributing to the general mayhem, or was she trying to attract an entire group of apparently shy roosters? Fortunately I had drawn “horse” and didn’t need to concern myself with the roosters. “Meeeeoow,” squalled a very deep male voice. “Meow, meaaoow,” replied two very excited, giggling female cats from way over near the door. “Woof, moo, meow!” the creatures wailed. Dear me! The lunchroom where we were meeting the first night of the TOPS leadership seminar had turned into a barnyard, and the barnyard sounded like its population had gone mad.
How on earth could I ever be expected to hear poor souls trying to neigh or snort like horses in this howling din? Yet that was my assigned task. I had to find and join the horse group. I stood on the outside of the crowd listening intently for any kind of horse noise and trying to make some kind of a leadership decision. This was a leadership seminar, after all, and those who had invited me, no doubt, expected some kind of leadership behavior from me. But what was I supposed to do? Take some initiative, obviously, but what? Walk around the room? Well I could do that, but what if my walking took me farther away from the horses? That would be a complete waste of time. I could try neighing, I suppose, the obvious solution, but what was the point of neighing in here? No one would hear me in this cacophony of barking and bellowing. Well I have to do something. “Neigh,” I said, doing my best to imitate a horse. But, alas, it was barely audible in the racket, and I laughed out loud at my pathetic attempt. At this rate I'd be lucky if anyone even heard that a fellow horse was out here looking for the herd, let alone managed to come and join me.
“This activity was supposed to be an ice-breaker. Well, it looks like there’ll be plenty to break if I get left out in the cold without a group,” I thought petulantly. Then, suddenly, my thoughts were happily interrupted. I heard them, and I knew that the little card which fate had given me from the can the presenters had passed around had put me in the right group. “Neigh! Neigh,” came the loud chorus of two strong, young, female voices, sounding like two Shakespearean actors declaring their innocence. “Nay!” I shouted, all trace of horsiness gone from my cry, and I rushed across to the far corner of the room to join my fellow horses, who had once again demonstrated to me the power of collective action. “I'm a horse! I'm so glad I found you. That was a great idea to call out together,” I enthused.
“Thanks,” they replied laughing, one girl putting her arm around me and drawing me into line beside her. “Ok, let's all do it,” the other girl said. “One, two, three: Neigh!” the three of us shouted, the chorus of three louder than anything else in the room and at once bringing another woman and three men galloping up to us. “Horses! Horses! Here we are.” “Yes, you've found us.” “Yes, great job neighing.” “I was stuck over there near the cats.” “Good thing you girls can yell.” Happy voices all speaking at once, tumbling words into the little huddle of people like a mini avalanche, sending a shower of skittering pebbles into a mountain pool, and the group bonding in a flurry of laughter, congratulations, introductions, and handshaking.
Then, after a couple more perfunctory neighs, to which no one responded, we all sat down at the nearest table, as we'd been instructed to do before the activity began, and simply kept right on talking. I heard names being exchanged, and I recognized them from emails I'd read on the NFB listserv or from Braille Monitor articles. So, although I'd never met any of my group members before, I already knew that these people all thought as I did about things that matter to Federationists. That made me feel excited and terribly impatient to talk to every one of them. So many questions. So much to tell, to say, to share, and so thrilled to be in the same room with all these people who cared passionately about the things that I cared about. With so much excitement and so many thoughts crackling in my head, I almost couldn't talk, but only almost. I dived into a conversation with the man on my left about what a great idea I thought this leadership seminar was.
But he had scarcely begun to reply when the presenters, Angela Howard and Angela Wolf, called for quiet, and silence fell. Not a calm, quiet silence, like the kind that normally falls when a speaker steps to the podium at a conference. No. This was the kind of silence that falls when the lights dim before the curtain opens on a long-awaited play or just before the world-famous soprano begins to sing, the kind of silence that vibrates with anticipation because something wonderful is about to happen, and you are part of it.
“Okay, think of a person you consider to be a great leader,” Angela Howard began. “It can be anyone you want. Take a few minutes to write down the characteristics of that person on your own page and then share your material with your group and make a list of those characteristics that you, as a group, think are leadership qualities,” she said. “Anyone who needs a slate and stylus to make notes, call out, and we'll bring you one.”
“That's fantastic,” I thought to myself as I called, “Over here please.” What other conference would have Braille-writing slates on hand? NFB blind people know what the blind need, even a slate and stylus for people like me who didn't bring something to take notes with on the first night.
“Florence Nightingale!” someone in the group said. “My Auntie!” “Martin Luther King!” “My grandmother!” “Gandhi!” The names flew. “Hang on!” said someone whose name I couldn't yet remember. “We have to work on our own first.”
“Yes, that's right,” someone else agreed; and, as our group went to work in earnest, the combined sounds of Braille notetakers, slates and styli, and pens quietly demonstrated that it was not about vision, but about alternative techniques, independence, and maximized potential.
It was 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night, I was really working hard, and I couldn't think of any place that I'd rather be or any thing I'd rather be doing. That's pretty much how the rest of my weekend went. Me, working hard or talking enthusiastically with other Federationists, convinced that this was right where I wanted to be, with these people doing what we were doing together. Even when it was 2 o’clock Sunday morning and some of us were still talking, knowing we had a 6 o’clock wake-up call. Even when we were stripping our beds and cleaning our bathrooms on Sunday afternoon. Even when I was waiting for hours with a new NFB friend at the airport, I could not have been more excited or satisfied. There is something profoundly powerful about spending time working with people who have the same aspirations and goals that you do. Those who had organized this leadership seminar knew this, and they used it to make it a memorable and inspiring experience for us.
Not that leadership-training seminars
are new for the National Federation of the Blind--hundreds of Federationists
have attended them over the years. But this one was the first of its kind, a
new kind that focused on giving us specific knowledge and skills and developing
specific abilities. This was a seminar for people who already knew the NFB philosophy
and were already involved as leaders at the chapter, division, or affiliate
level. This seminar was designed to teach us new things, to give us experiences
which would foster new approaches, new ways of thinking, and new ways of dealing
with old situations. The two Angelas carefully planned information-packed presentations
by Federation leaders like President Marc Maurer, Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, and
Jim Omvig. They designed role-playing activities in which we practiced and honed
our leadership skills using our new knowledge and focusing our identified strengths.
Each group had to make several presentations of NFB policies and requests to pretend politicians ably played by Dr. Wilson, Mr. Omvig, and Dr. Schroeder. Then we had to interact individually with pretend members of the public who displayed attitudes that we had to try to change. I found myself trying to persuade an anti-Federationist, Dr. Schroeder, that the NFB did not reject guide-dog users; telling a high-achieving blind psychologist who had never heard of the NFB, Dr. Maurer, why he should get involved with this blindness organization; and even trying to convince a woman who still had some sight, Barbara Pierce, to stop denying her blindness long enough to hear how an organization called the National Federation of the “Blind” could possibly have any relevance to her beyond an opportunity to volunteer by helping the less fortunate.
Best of all, we received feedback on our performances, noting how we could have done things differently or better, when we did things that we should not have done, and even when we forgot to do some of the most basic things, like ask a person for a name or offer a card with a contact number. It was valuable having the chance to see how I responded under the pressure of an actual situation, trying out something I'd learned earlier that day, like telling someone in thirty seconds or less what the NFB is and does. It was useful to me personally to get a chance to try a new approach to a person or situation rather than defaulting to the same old methods. It was about learning to use my strengths instead of letting my weaknesses determine the outcomes of an interaction. We had the rare opportunity to get to know ourselves better as well as to get to know others, and we had the equally valuable opportunity to be honest about what we discovered about both in a safe and loving environment.
It was liberating to realize that everyone, no matter how competent a leader, has personal weaknesses as well as strengths and then to learn ways to minimize the effects of those weaknesses on the people with whom we work in our chapters and divisions. At last I could be free to admit that I am a big-picture person and that I really struggle to deal with all the details. When I remembered to bring my laptop and the power supply back to my room, only to realize that I'd forgotten the computer bag to pack it all in because I was so engrossed in a conversation about my suggested three-year plan and early intervention curriculum for a deaf-blind infant, I was able to laugh about it and say, “Oh well, unfortunately I'm just not a details person.” I didn't castigate myself for not being what I'll never be. Instead I reminded myself just how important it is for me to apply the complementarity principle we'd been discussing during the seminar. “Remember, it is the combination of all the members of the group working where they are strongest that makes the group as successful as it can be,” I told myself as I trudged all the way back to the empty conference room to get the computer bag while everyone else was having lunch.
This seminar was a successful experience for me because I was challenged and inspired by longtime Federation leaders who gave of their time to teach, encourage, and mentor us. They helped us to grasp the vision, to comprehend the significance of the achievements of our predecessors in the organization, and to realize the truth about leadership in the National Federation of the Blind. It wasn’t that they told us the truth directly; they showed us in their actions toward us and told us about it in the personal experiences and stories of others that they shared. They brought the truth to life for us during discussions designed to address issues like dealing with difficult members and patiently helping us to solve our own problems with NFB solutions.
From Friday night till Sunday afternoon we laughed with each other and at each other. We questioned each other and answered each other. We discussed and reported, shared and advised, listened and learned. We worked together, brainstormed and planned together, ate together, and roomed together; and by the end of the seminar we had learned in new ways what it meant to be a leader in the National Federation of the Blind. At whatever level you lead in this organization, to be a leader means that you must serve. You must be very patient, love and forgive, seek unity and common ground, encourage and teach. You must be self-sacrificing and committed to our vision with all your heart, and you must continually seek to grow as a person, always remembering that everyone has weaknesses as well as strengths and that we will all make mistakes no matter how well meant our actions. But, perhaps most important of all, we learned that we have each other to rely on for support and that, as we all share what we know, what we learn, and what we have, we will all go forward together.
William Jennings Bryan, the great politician, lawyer, and orator at the turn of the last century, said in his “America’s Mission” speech (1899), “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not something to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.” The TOPS leadership seminar has certainly helped those who attended to work harder and smarter in the NFB’s mission of achieving the kind of destiny--equality, opportunity, and security--that the National Federation of the Blind insists is the right of all blind people.
Introducing the National Center for Mentoring Excellence
by Amy Phelps
From the Editor: In October of 2004 the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute received a five-year model demonstration grant from the U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration to develop a mentoring excellence program. As a result the National Center for Mentoring Excellence was established to design, develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive national mentoring program to connect young blind people with successful blind adults. The mentors must demonstrate good skills of blindness, incorporate an exemplary philosophy of blindness in their daily lives, and be or have been successful in their careers.
Louisiana and Nebraska were chosen as the demonstration states to begin the program this fall. The National Center for Mentoring Excellence has partnered with the Louisiana Center for the Blind and the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired to establish best practices in mentoring.
Following the five-year project, the National Center for Mentoring Excellence will be able to work with state vocational rehabilitation agencies and NFB affiliates to develop effective mentoring programs throughout the country. A curriculum-based training package will be available to provide step-by-step instruction on how to screen and match mentors and mentees, monitor the mentoring relationship, and replicate a successful program to nurture blind young people.
Amy Phelps, MS, MA, CRC,
NOMC, has been appointed coordinator of mentoring and outreach projects at the
National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. On Saturday, July 2, 2005,
she described this exciting new mentoring initiative to those attending a daylong
rehabilitation conference titled “The Rehabilitation Revolution: Our History,
Current Challenges, and the Future.” What follows is the slightly modified text
of that address:
“A lot of people have gone farther than they thought they could because someone else believed in them.” This quote, often attributed to Zig Ziglar, is the substance of mentoring and is fundamental to the National Federation of the Blind.
Mentoring, one of our foundations, is an essential element in our mission statement, which reads, “The mission of the National Federation of the Blind is to achieve widespread acceptance and understanding that the real problem of blindness is not loss of eyesight but public misconception and lack of information. We do this by bringing blind people together to share their successes, to support each other in times of failure, and to create imaginative solutions.” This essential activity of the National Federation of the Blind is mentoring.
Long before the NFB was established in 1940, blind youth were being mentored. The young, blind Newel Perry, precursor of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and his teacher, was mentored by Warring Wilkinson, whom Dr. Jacobus tenBroek in “Newel Perry--Teacher of Youth and Leader of Men” described as a pathfinder--a mentor--for Perry. As a result of the mentoring relationship Newel Perry experienced, he continued the tradition by educating blind people to awareness of their capabilities as individuals and of their powers as a group. Inspired by Newel Perry, Dr. tenBroek established the National Federation of the Blind and established the legacy of mentoring in the Federation itself.
The mentoring tradition continues today. Last summer the NFB held its first Science Academy, igniting the interest of blind youth in science, introducing them to blind role models who are successful in their chosen careers, careers often considered unrealistic for blind people. The mother of a Science Academy participant sent us a letter in which she said, my son “… met successful blind people…. He found out that they had challenges and how they dealt with them…. He saw them as real [blind] people who were living normal lives…. All of this seems to have given him what he needed to really feel okay about himself … now with total confidence he faces problems, figures out how to solve them, and does so with gusto. He has an I-can-do-it attitude and is confident he can lead a good life.” This attitude is the direct result of mentoring.
Could the newfound attitude of this young man and his mother have occurred without the benefit of mentors? Most definitely. It happened before 1940, and it occurs every day. But without mentoring the percentage is small, the positive results few. Do we want to rely on happenstance for future generations of blind youth? Do we want future generations to spend the majority of their time reinventing the wheel? Do we want confidence and an I-can-do-it attitude to come only as the result of an accident?
During the 2005 national convention in Louisville, Kentucky, we witnessed mentoring occurring daily and even hourly. We saw our leaders and members who were mentored by Dr. tenBroek and Dr. Jernigan mentoring the youth of today. Mentoring, which is central to the National Federation of the Blind legacy, will remain strong and powerful, but in order for this to happen we must make certain that all blind youth and young adults come into contact and have mentoring relationships with positive adult blind role models.
In October 2004 the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute received a five-year grant from the Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration to establish the National Center for Mentoring Excellence. We will demonstrate what we in the NFB have always known--that if blind people are encouraged, empowered, and supported, they will realize their goals; they will soar beyond the expectations of society. While soaring, the most successful blind adults will in their turn inspire the blind youth of today, each generation doing for the next. So we will not need to reinvent the wheel of success--the wheel that rolls forward to freedom.
The difference between the mentoring of the past and the mentoring of the future will be the key to our success. No longer will future generations have to sit in their homes or schools pondering how to lead successful lives as blind people. Through mentoring relationships blind youth ages sixteen to twenty-six will be matched with successful blind adults based on the goals of the blind young adult, common interest, and geographic location. Each participant--the young adult and the adult mentor--will agree to a two-year commitment, maintaining weekly contact through telephone or email and monthly face-to-face meetings, forging a relationship that will be both rewarding and fun. Over the course of the next five years, the National Center for Mentoring Excellence will document the value of mentoring.
With this research-based documentation we will demonstrate to the state vocational rehabilitation agencies that mentoring will increase not only the coveted timely successful closures but also the incidence of postsecondary education and community integration--more blind people will go to college and get jobs. Most important, as a direct result of mentoring, blind people will no longer have to settle for mediocre, unimportant, dead-end jobs; they will seek innovative employment with substantial pay, jobs with more challenge, more fun, and more money.
The mentoring relationship may occur in many ways and through various activities. The mentor and mentee may decide they would like to spend time together hanging out in the mall or at a sporting event, or in some instances the mentee may want to learn the specifics of a particular career or activity. There are no hard and fast rules about how or when the mentoring relationship will take place, except that it must be fun and purposeful for both the mentee and the mentor. Most important is that blind youth begin to realize their potential and see the importance of knowing other successful blind people such as those in the National Federation of the Blind.
Periodically the mentors and mentees in each of the initial demonstration states of Louisiana and Nebraska will come together in small groups or as one large group to learn more about the business of blindness. The mentors will teach the youth the skills and attitudes that lead to success. Having been mentored by successful blind adult role models, the blind youth will realize that blindness can truly be reduced to a mere inconvenience and that a group of people believes in them and their potential.
In five years the National Center for Mentoring Excellence will document the success of over one hundred formal mentor/mentee relationships developed in four to six states and the necessary training curricula and materials needed to establish effective mentoring programs. These materials, along with the support of the National Center for Mentoring Excellence, will be available to entities such as state vocational rehabilitation agencies and local affiliates of the National Federation of the Blind who want to establish formal mentoring programs. The information available will be based on best practices in mentoring, coupled with the positive philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.
Consider your role in mentoring. Can you recall a time in your life when a person believed in you so much that the dreams you once thought impossible became a reality? If you are able to identify a person in your life who served as your mentor, the best way to pay him or her back is to consider the following quote by Sir Winston Churchill: “We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.” Make a life for yourself by mentoring someone. Create the future of the National Federation of the Blind and help future generations of blind youth and young adults fulfill their dreams. Become a mentor or encourage a blind youth to participate in a mentoring relationship.
Eleanor Roosevelt once posed the question: “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?” For the blind of generations past, this question was never a consideration. Blind people were not encouraged to dream beyond the expectations established by the medical profession, the education system, and the rehabilitation professionals. These expectations were minimal at best. Poor attitudes about blindness and low expectations were often accepted and internalized, leading generations of blind youth and young adults to accept unrealized dreams and hopes as their reality. Now, as a direct result of a formal mentoring relationship, this question will become commonplace for blind youth and young adults and will be answered simply and forthrightly, “Because I was mentored by someone who believed in me and encouraged me to live a life as though I could not fail. I know there isn’t anything I can’t do.”
In the movie The Emperor’s Club, William Hundret, played by Kevin Kline, is an idealistic prep school teacher attempting to redeem incorrigible students. In the movie the teacher stops a young man who is tromping across the grass instead of taking the obvious paved walkway. He asks the young man if he can define the word “path.” The young man puzzles over the question and indicates several probable definitions. Mr. Hundret asks if he believes that one possible definition is "a route along which someone or something moves." Stammering, the young man agrees that this definition is a possibility. Mr. Hundret gives the young man advice that defines mentoring and the National Federation of the Blind. He says, “Follow the path; walk where the great men before you have walked.”
If competent blind adults become part of a formal mentoring relationship, no longer will future generations have to reinvent the wheel or trample through the grass of life, uncertain of their future or destiny. As a mentor you can guide future generations to follow the path and to walk where the great men and women of the National Federation of the Blind have walked before and continue to walk--the path to freedom, empowerment, and an I-can-do-it attitude.
For more information about the National Center for Mentoring Excellence, contact Amy Phelps, Coordinator, Mentoring and Outreach, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230; <http://www.nfb.org/nfbrti/mentoringproject.htm>; phone (410) 659-9314, extension 2295; email <email@example.com>.
For information about the mentoring program in Louisiana contact Norma Crosby, Louisiana Center for the Blind, 101 South Trenton, Ruston, Louisiana, 71270; phone (318) 251-2891; toll-free (800) 234-4166; email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
For information about the mentoring program in Nebraska contact Carlos Serván, Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, 4600 Valley Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, Nebraska 68510; phone (402) 471-8104; toll-free (877) 809-2419; fax (402) 471-3009; email <email@example.com>.
Montana Governor Signs Braille Bill
From the Editor: On May 3,
2005, the Missoulian and other newspapers across Montana reported that
the state’s Braille bill was finally law. Here is the text of the Missoulian
Schweitzer Signs Law to
Give Braille Education a Boost
by Rob Chaney
Kayla Legare's fingers could read what Governor Brian Schweitzer's eyes couldn't see when he signed the Braille version of House Bill 438 into law Monday morning at Hellgate Elementary School. She read the Braille introduction to House Bill 438 during a signing ceremony Monday. The seventeen-year-old Helena student and business owner zipped through the legalese in the bill's introduction as quickly as any lawyer, feeling the bumps on the page just as a sighted person scans the ink on this page. The new law will make it easier for students coming after her to reach the same proficiency in Braille reading through the public school system.
That was good news for Hellgate Elementary fifth-grader Laura Beyer, who was working on Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins in Braille. "They cost a lot of money," Beyer said of Braille books. "You have to make a lot of phone calls or pull a lot of strings to get free books."
The legislation will pay for four new employees at the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind who will help other schools improve their programs for students with visual disabilities. In addition it provides funds for more electronic Braille transcription equipment and access to computerized textbooks and literature that can be reproduced in Braille script. That will be a direct benefit for Beyer and three other students with visual impairments at Hellgate Elementary.
"We've been pursuing a Braille bill for the past three sessions," said Jim Marks, government affairs director for the Montana Association of the Blind. "The third time's the charm."
This year Missoula Representative Rosalie Buzzas and Helena Senator Dave Lewis got the bill through the legislature. Through an oversight the words "blind" and "Braille" never appeared in the federal legislation dictating how people with disabilities should be served in schools until 1997, Marks said.
Until the mid-1970’s most blind children were taught in residential schools. When the trend shifted to mainstreaming, much of the expertise and library resources were lost, he said. "Schools would put a tape recorder in front of a kid and say, `That's good enough,’” Marks said. “Now we're starting to see a major turnaround.”
And tape recorders won't hack it
according to Matt Castner, a blind Great Falls resident who created his own
Internet business. Learning by listening is fine for subjects like history and
literature, but there are limitations. "I'm a visual learner--no pun intended,"
Castner said. "Some things you need to have in front of you so you can
learn to spell it. I'm terrible at remembering numbers in math, but when you
have it on paper, you can feel where you're going. You can't do that on a tape
recorder rewinding and fast-forwarding."
Legare has her own Braille transcription business, turning restaurant menus and agency documents into pages blind people can read. She said finding reading materials for the blind has long been a problem. "A lot of people just don't want to spend the time or money," Legare said. "We're trying to get people to realize we're as important as they are.”
Whozit Calling You
by Kevan Worley
From the Editor: Kevan Worley chairs the Imagination
Fund Committee. Our three-month campaign to raise a half million dollars
began in September. Kevan is imaginative and energetic. Here are his thoughts
halfway through the campaign:
Are you an Imaginator? If not, the time to become one is now. An Imaginator is an NFB member or friend of the Federation who is willing to make a gift or pledge to the Imagination Fund, ask at least ten people for a gift or a pledge to the Imagination Fund, or provide the NFB with the names of his or her top ten list of contacts and follow up with a call to those on the list once he or she has been notified that the direct mail appeal has been sent.
The Imagination Fund fall campaign is upon us. I encourage you to join me and your colleagues across the nation as we embark on a campaign to raise a half million dollars for our Imagination Fund. We have imagined a future full of opportunity, and now we want to make that opportunity a reality.
Already an Imaginator? That’s great. But it is not enough to just be an Imaginator; you need to be ready to behave like one. It is easy to say, “I’ll get around to it.” It’s easy to say, “Yeah, I’ll make a contribution,” or “I’ll make a pledge and make my payments later.” It’s easy to think, “You know I really should contact old friends, former classmates, or family members--yeah, I’ll get to it.” We’re all caring Federationists. We are all well intentioned about building that list of ten or twenty names to submit for an Imagination Fund mailing. But, if we aren’t careful, our best intentions will remain unfulfilled. So here are some can’t-miss, quick-start ideas that I hope will motivate you to begin today. These strategies worked for me and others during last year’s Imagination Fund campaign.
Making a pledge or donation yourself is the best way to get started and gain personal momentum. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it ought to be of sufficient size to allow you to say with pride, “Hey, I have contributed to the fund that is supporting the significant and meaningful work we are doing at our NFB Jernigan Institute and in all of our affiliates.”
Ask several friends--and do it right now--to join you as an Imaginator. Ask them to start by making a contribution. These Imaginators can be family members, neighbors, colleagues, or members of other organizations.
Compile your list of names. Challenge your memory. Whom do you know or can remember from the past who might give to support the great work of our movement? Spend a little time on this. You will probably come up with more people than you first thought you could. Take a walk down memory lane. Who was your favorite teacher? Who has expressed fondness for you throughout your life? Most of us have known at least a few people with whom we’ve had special relationships. What neighbors speak to you from time to time? Do you have co-workers who would not mind being approached about the kind of exciting, innovative work we are doing at the NFB Jernigan Institute and in your affiliate? People like to give when they know the contribution will help people in their community. Who in your community has approached you for advice about blindness because a loved one is facing macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy? These folks perhaps more than any others are eager to change what it means to be blind.
What about your siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws? Take a day or two, but not too long; don’t put it off. Dream up a big list. Focus. Write down every name that pops into your head. Call a close friend or relative for further suggestions. Call an old friend from high school or college to get their ideas for the list you’re building. Ask your parents for their ideas. Think about the community or fraternal organizations of which you are a member. Write down the names of your fellow members. Most important, do not limit yourself. If you think of a name, put it on the list. Don’t think, “Oh, she would never give.” At this point you are just compiling a long list of names. Also don’t think, “Well, I don’t have his contact information.” You can probably come by that information with a little effort, so write down the name.
Ok, now you have built a pretty large list of names. The length is up to you. It’s your list. Congratulations! If you have made an honest effort, whether it’s eight or eighty or eight hundred, thank you for a great start. Now it’s time to track down the contact information. Don’t panic. You’re on a roll. You’ve got momentum.
You need the name, complete address, phone number, and if possible
the email address. Back to the drawing board. Brainstorm to yourself, “How do
you find this information?” For many on your list it should be easy. You probably
already have most of the information. With some diligence and imagination you
should be able to assemble the contact data for most of the people on your list.
You may want to retrace some of the steps you used when you brainstormed the list. Touch base with siblings, parents, and old friends; see if they have any of the data you need. Along the way, as you explain why you’re gathering all this information, you can encourage their involvement and support. Recruit a couple of these close friends or family members as Imaginators themselves. Inspire them to build their own lists. When you come to a name on your list for which you cannot find contact information fairly quickly, don’t get bogged down. Skip that contact and move on to the next name. Remember your goal is to keep up the momentum.
Now that you have done the research and gathered most if not all the contact information, I thank you again. Job well done. Now it is time to roll up your sleeves and really get to work. This will be the fun part. Remember you have the momentum. Decide if you want to submit your comprehensive list to us so that we can mail directly to these potential donors on your behalf, after which you will then make a phone call expressing your personal support for and endorsement of the work we are all doing and the need for the Imagination Fund. Or do you want to sit down right now and begin seriously contacting your list of friends, colleagues, and family members in person, by phone, or by mail, asking for their support? It’s not that daunting, really. You’d be surprised how pleasant, warm, and giving those on your list will be. Many of them would be disappointed if you didn’t approach them about something this important to you.
You can do it! You have the momentum! Don’t let the days fade
into weeks and then into months. Start now. Let’s multiply our efforts. You
read the Monitor. You know about all the fabulous work we are doing.
Chances are you had some part in making it happen. Please get started now and
help fund the technology development and training programs for the blind of
today and tomorrow.
We have produced an excellent brochure that we encourage you to use when you send your request for support to your friends, associates, and family members. And don’t forget, some portion of the money you raise will help you build stronger affiliates. Remember to let people know that half of the money raised during this annual campaign will go directly to our Jernigan Institute to pay for opportunities never before imagined, opportunities that will make a difference in your life.
So affiliate leaders, chapter board members, NFB divisions, and committees, special interest activists, casual Monitor readers, professionals in the blindness field, blind vendors, and those of you who attend chapter meetings only occasionally, now is the time to make a difference, a big difference. You can do it, so please get going. Get started quickly to make a difference of long-lasting significance. Become an Imaginator. Start today, right now, to help us build a future full of opportunity. Thank you.
For more information, call me, Kevan Worley, at (719) 527-0488, or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>, or call Izzy Menchero, (410) 659-9314, ext. 2408.
From the Editor: On July 16, 2005, at its annual conference the National Governors Association presented eight awards for distinguished service to state government at its opening session in Des Moines, Iowa. One of those so honored was longtime NFB leader Allen Harris, director of the Iowa Department for the Blind. The following brief article describes why Allen was a recipient:
Director Allen Harris Receives Prestigious Award from National Governors Association
by Karen Keninger
On July 16, during the National Governors Association annual conference, Governor Thomas Vilsack presented the National Governors Association Award for Distinguished Service to State Government to Allen Harris, director of the Iowa Department for the Blind.
"This award," Harris said, "is a recognition of the achievements of the entire department. I am of course honored, but it is really because I am the director of a department which, quite frankly, continues to find ways to improve our results and provide increased value for the resources we use. After all, the department is in the business of changing lives. When you take our programs apart and look carefully at each effort to change attitudes about blindness or teach blindness skills, it comes to transforming individuals to become confident and capable blind persons."
Mr. Harris was appointed director of the department by the Board of the Iowa Commission for the Blind in September of 2001. Under his leadership department staff have been encouraged to creativity and excellence by his positive and dynamic leadership. The results have been significant. During austere fiscal times department staff have created programs and mechanisms for improving services, adding opportunities for blind Iowans, and maintaining national status as a leader in the field of blindness.
In the Orientation Center, Steppingstones and Camp Discovery have added new dimensions to transition services, while the Pathfinders Mentoring project has linked youth with adults. Enrollment in the center has increased, and a fresh approach to training was introduced by its director, Sandy Tigges, this year.
Vocational rehabilitation has maintained the high standards for job training and placement which keep IDB at the top of national rankings in the categories which make the most difference to the people we serve--competitive job placement and high wages. The mini-training programs in independent living have burgeoned, providing much-needed training opportunities for Iowa's older population in settings that work well for them.
The assistive technology team has continued to break ground
in training blind persons and assistive technology trainers in the ever-more-complex
use of computer systems equipped with assistive technology. One specialty in
this area has been training materials for deaf-blind people and others who must
rely strictly on refreshable Braille displays.
The Business Enterprises Program has expanded its opportunities in all areas, including a new project at Camp Dodge. The library has implemented new programming, including teleconferenced book discussions and a BookPort project as well as initiating the move to digital audio recording and digital Braille.
"The credit for these accomplishments," Mr. Harris
says, "goes to an extraordinary staff, creative managers, and blind citizens
who take an active role in the Department's work."
Here is the profile of Allen Harris circulated with the NGA press release:
Born with congenital glaucoma and permanently blind by age fifteen, Allen Harris has defied odds and broken down barriers his entire life. Despite being a valedictorian of his high school, Mr. Harris was told he could not attend college. Undeterred, he not only graduated from college, but went on to earn a master's in education. When told he could not student teach, again he ignored the naysayers and successfully completed two semesters as a student teacher in downtown Detroit. In 1968 Dearborn High School hired Mr. Harris to teach and coach wrestling. Mr. Harris has committed his life to public service, first as a teacher, coach, and school administrator and then in 2001 as the director of the Iowa Department for the Blind.
Despite a soft labor market, increased service demands, and budget limitations, Mr. Harris has done an outstanding job providing blind Iowans, many of whom have secondary disabilities, with better, higher-paying jobs. Mr. Harris upgraded Iowa's Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and bolstered the state's innovative Model Distance Learning program. "Allen Harris learned the true challenges blindness poses and has overcome these with a genuine zeal to effect positive change," said Iowa Governor Thomas J. Vilsack. "Under Allen's leadership the Iowa Department for the Blind provides the nation's most successful and progressive services to the blind, and the economic livelihoods of blind persons here are steadily improving."
Recipes for this issue were submitted by members of
the National Federation of the Blind of Delaware. They were compiled by Doris
Blake, who has been an active member of the Central Delaware Chapter. She has
held positions in the local chapter and is a member of the state board. She
serves as a volunteer driver and often hosts dinner meetings for both the local
chapter and the state board at her home. She is a second-generation Federationist,
since her mother, the late Viola Fraser, was also an NFB member.
Tomato Soup Cake
by Doris Blake
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons shortening
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 can tomato soup (with 1 teaspoon baking soda stirred into it)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts, optional
Method: Cream shortening and sugar together, add egg, and stir in soup. Add sifted dry ingredients, raisins, and nuts (if desired). Bake in greased 13-by-9-inch pan at 350 degrees until done (forty-five minutes to one hour, when toothpick inserted in center comes out dry).
Cream Cheese Icing
1 3-ounce package cream cheese
1 cup confectioner's sugar
Small lump of butter
Method: Cream three ingredients together until well mixed. Frost top of cake with the icing.
Ingredients for an alternative frosting:
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Method: In a saucepan mix flour and milk together until smooth and cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until thick. Beat the remaining ingredients together for four minutes. Add the thickened paste and beat until fluffy.
by Doris Blake
1 can whole corn, drained, but save the liquid
1 can creamed corn
2 boxes corn muffin mix
1 stick butter
1 cup sour cream
Method: Melt butter and combine it with all other ingredients. If the mixture seems too dry, slowly add some of the liquid saved from the whole corn. Bake in a greased two-quart casserole dish in a 350-degree oven for about one hour.
Beef Liver with Onions and Bacon
by Doris Blake
5 slices bacon
3 cups boiling water
1 pound beef liver, thinly sliced
2-1/2 cups sliced onions
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup hot water
Method: Fry bacon until crisp, then drain, leaving bacon fat in skillet. Pour the three cups of boiling water over the liver, drain, and dry. Dredge liver in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and sauté in skillet until slightly browned on all sides. Arrange browned meat in greased 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Cover with onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add the half cup hot water. Crumble bacon on top. Cover and bake in a moderate oven at 350 degrees for forty minutes.
Old Fashioned Cole Slaw
by Doris Blake
1 3-ounce package of lemon or lime gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
A little grated onion, to taste
1/2 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups shredded cabbage, approximately
Method: Combine flavored gelatin and boiling water. Stir to dissolve gelatin and add cold water and then the remaining ingredients, except cabbage. Mix well. Fold in cabbage. Pour into large mold. Chill until set. Unmold. Serves twelve people.
by Lisa Moller
Lisa Moller is the niece of both Doris Blake and the late Ruth Moller Whelan, who was also an active NFB member. Lisa won a blue ribbon in the Kent County 4-H Favorite Foods Contest in the Senior Dessert category with this recipe.
2/3 cup butter-flavored Crisco
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
48 well-drained stemless maraschino cherries
White dipping chocolate:
1 cup white melting chocolate (cut in small pieces)
2 tablespoons butter-flavored Crisco
Dark dipping chocolate:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces
2 tablespoons butter-flavored Crisco
Finely chopped pecans
Finely grated white chocolate
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream 2/3 cup Crisco, sugar, egg, milk, and vanilla in large bowl at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Beat dry ingredients into creamed mixture at low speed. Divide dough into forty-eight equal pieces. Mold each piece of dough, forming a very thin layer around a well-drained cherry. Place cookies two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for ten minutes. Cool one minute on cookie sheet. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.
For dipping, place chocolate of choice and Crisco in glass measuring cup. Microwave at 50 percent (medium). Stir after one minute. Repeat until mixture is smooth. Drop one cookie at a time into chocolate. Use fork to turn. Cover completely with chocolate. If chocolate starts to become firm, reheat in microwave. Lift cookie out of chocolate with fork. Allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed-paper-lined cookie sheets.
Immediately sprinkle tops of white chocolate cookies with chopped pecans and sprinkle chopped white chocolate over dark chocolate cookies before chocolate sets. Chill in refrigerator to set chocolate. Makes four dozen.
Recipes for this issue were submitted by members of
the National Federation of the Blind of Delaware. They were compiled by Doris
Blake, who has been an active member of the Central Delaware Chapter. She has
held positions in the local chapter and is a member of the state board. She
serves as a volunteer driver and often hosts dinner meetings for both the local
chapter and the state board at her home. She is a second-generation Federationist,
since her mother, the late Viola Fraser, was also an NFB member.
News from the Federation Family
Holiday and Specialty Gift Baskets, Wreaths, and Floral Arrangements Available:
We recently circulated the following announcement by email to Federationists around the country, but we want all of our readers to get word of this offer before planning their holiday gift-giving.
The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute is pleased to announce that the Imagination Fund has been designated one of Basket Magic's 2005 charities.
The Imagination Fund <http://www.nfb.org/nfbrti/inaugural_fund.htm> was established to support the work of the National Federation of the Blind state affiliates and local chapters across the country and the initiatives of the Jernigan Institute <http://www.nfb.org/nfbrti/enter.htm>, the nation's center of innovations in programs and services that help blind and visually impaired people live full and productive lives.
Gift basket, wreath, or floral arrangement purchases made through Basket Magic between September 1, 2005, and December 31, 2005, will result in a donation to the Imagination Fund. Just go to <www.basketmagic.com> or call (410) 719-6263 or (443) 740-4312 and place your order for a lovely customized gift basket, wreath, or floral arrangement. Mention that you heard about Basket Magic from the National Federation of the Blind, and 10 percent of your purchase (excluding shipping, delivery costs, and taxes) will be donated to the Imagination Fund.
Basket Magic customized baskets and other creations make wonderful
gifts for any occasion. Your order of a customized holiday gift basket, table
setting, or holiday wreath from Basket Magic will make a great gift and support
the Imagination Fund.
In an extraordinary accident while she was sleeping, Peggy Elliott,
second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind and president
of the NFB of Iowa, fell, breaking her right wrist and right leg above the knee.
Peggy will be in a wheelchair for a couple of months, but she cajoled her physician
into allowing her as much finger motion as possible so that she can continue
to type. Her husband Doug explains to bemused neighbors and friends in Grinnell
that as a result of coping with two large casts, Peggy is temporarily disabled.
We certainly wish Peggy a speedy recovery.
The Greater Daytona Beach Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida recently conducted elections. Here are the results: president, Kathy Davis; vice president, JD Townsend; Secretary, Bill Outman; treasurer and fundraising chairman, Allen Bornstein; transportation board position, Peter Cerullo; membership board position, Owen Henderson; public relations board position, Sabrina Deaton; and legislation board position, Chad Buckins.
We are saddened to report that NFB of Idaho President Paula Achter lost her husband Bernie on July 14, 2005. He had been in poor health for some time. She has our sympathy.
The North San Diego County Chapter of the NFB of California held elections recently. Those elected were Dave Faiman, president; Karmalynne Rios, first vice president; Denise Bravell, second vice president; Jake Salazar, secretary; Shirley Baillif, treasurer; and Beth Kats and Raquel Montoya, board members.
On September 10, 2005, the following officers and board members were elected at the annual convention of the NFB of Hawaii: president, Nani Fife; vice president, Charlene Ota; secretary, Katie Keim; treasurer, Lea Grupen; and members of the board of directors, Brook Sexton, Milton Ota, Tammy Robar, and Dr. Floyd Matson.
At the May 2005 meeting of the Buffalo Chapter of the NFB of New York the following officers were elected: president, Mike Robinson; vice president, Vinnie Teglarino; secretary, Julie Phillipson; and treasurer, Angie Robinson. Chris Minkler, Barb Elliott, and Kathy Teglarino were elected as board members.
It’s now easier than ever to contribute to the National Federation of the Blind online. The redesigned NFB Web site allows you to contribute to the general fund or the Imagination Fund using your credit card, or to donate stock. Go to <www.nfb.org> and click on “Support us.” Or you can go directly to <www.nfb.org/imaginationgiving.htm>.
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.
Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome Network Recruits for New Research Protocol:
Those affected by Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome (HPS), a rare type of albinism, now have the opportunity to participate in a ground-breaking clinical trial for a drug designed to treat the pulmonary fibrosis of HPS.
HPS is a serious genetic disorder that involves albinism, a bleeding tendency and bruising, and in some cases a life-threatening lung disease. Although the disorder occurs in all nationalities, it’s one of the most common genetic disorders among people of Puerto Rican descent, occurring in 1 in 2,000 people from Puerto Rico.
The clinical trial is being run by doctors at the National Institutes of Health, the foremost research institution for HPS. Patients will be treated by some of the nation’s leading experts at the NIH Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. All trial-related medical care and transportation will be free to participating patients.
Those eligible must have a forced vital capacity on pulmonary function tests of below 85 percent and above 50 percent or a diffusion capacity score below 80 percent.
If you have a breathing problem related to Hermansky-Pudlak
Syndrome, or if you have albinism and asthma, and suspect you might have this
syndrome, please call (800) 789-9477.
Adoptive Families Needed for Waiting Vision-Impaired Children:
The World Association for Children and Parents (WACAP) is seeking loving adoptive families for beautiful children from around the world. Currently we have twenty-six children with various forms of vision impairment ranging from mild to significant. WACAP has been placing children in loving adoptive homes since 1976. WACAP has adoption programs in six countries including China, Korea, India, Russia, Thailand, and the United States.
Xiao Min, born in February of 1997, is outgoing, friendly and
full of life. He loves music, singing, and playing the drums, all of which he
does very well. He dreams of attending a music school and through his music
“bringing happiness to everyone in this world.” Xiao Min is blind, and though
this little boy may have what others consider a significant obstacle, he doesn’t
let that stop him from living life to the fullest. He has a wonderful dream;
now all he needs is a wonderful family to help him make his dreams come true.
For more information contact Debbie Sweetland, Family Finders Recruitment Specialist,
WACAP, (206) 575-4550, fax (206) 575-4148, <www.wacap.org>.
Seedlings Braille Books Catalogue:
Seedlings Braille Books for Children’s 2006 catalogue is now available. It offers over 650 low-cost children’s books in Braille, including more than sixty new titles to help children ages zero to fourteen get excited about reading. Seedlings’ books allow blind and sighted family members to read together.
Free Services from Seedlings:
Anna’s Book Angel Project
Register your child to win a free Braille book through the Anna’s Book Angel Project. Information is available online at <www.seedlings.org/bkangel.html>. Blind parents may also register to win a book to read to their children, and updated wish lists are being accepted from previous registrants.
The Rose Project
Seedlings provides free World Book Encyclopedia articles in Braille for children in grades one to twelve brought to you by a generous grant from Teammates for Kids Foundation. Order an article online at <http://www.seedlings.org/rose.html>.
To obtain a free catalogue in print, in Braille, or on disk
or for more information about our books and Anna’s Book Angels or the Rose Project,
contact Seedlings at P.O. Box 51924, Livonia, Michigan 48151-5924, (800) 777-8552,
email <email@example.com>. Shop twenty-four hours a day on our accessible
Looking for Alumni:
Saint Lucy Day School for Children with Visual Impairments in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, will be celebrating its fiftieth anniversary on November 19, 2005, at 2:00 p.m. We are trying to locate former students who may wish to participate in the celebration or who would like to receive periodic updates about the school. So, if you have not received a personal invitation, please call the school at (610) 352-4550 to give Sister Meg your contact information. All of us here at Saint Lucy's hope that all of our former students are doing well and will be able to join us in our celebration.
Accessible Museum Tours:
The Jewish Museum of New York City offers specialized tours of its exhibitions for blind or partially sighted visitors. Museum docents are trained to provide Verbal Imaging Tours of any exhibition and Touch Tours of the permanent exhibition, Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey. Touch Tours feature handling objects, reproductions, tactile images, and fabrics and can focus on the following themes: “Art in the Ancient World” and “The Modern Jewish Experience.” Tours are available by appointment for individuals, adult groups, and school groups and must be booked at least three weeks in advance. Large-print labels are also available at the start of each temporary exhibition.
Admission fees: Specialized tours are free with museum admission: adults $10, seniors and students $7.50; Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., pay what you wish.
Upcoming tours are scheduled as follows:
Thursday, November 10, 2005, at 6:00 p.m.–Culture and Continuity:
The Jewish Journey
Wednesday, November 16, 2005, at 1:00 p.m.–The Jewish Identity Project: New American Photography
For more information or to be placed on a mailing list for programs
and services for visitors who are blind or partially sighted, call (212) 423-3289
or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>. The Jewish Museum is located at 1109 Fifth
Avenue, on the corner of 92nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
A Useful Service to Know about:
The Federal Citizen Information Center in Pueblo, Colorado, wants everyone to know how FirstGov.gov solves their problems and answers their questions about the government. The same helpful information is also available by calling (800) FED-INFO [333-4636].
FirstGov.gov is the official portal of the U.S. government. It's fast, easy-to-use, and always there with federal, state, and local information that helps everyone. People can even email questions, and FirstGov.gov will send them a personalized answer.
With FirstGov.gov you can apply for Social Security, change
your address, renew your driver's license, apply for government jobs, find government
benefits, shop government auctions, get a passport application, contact elected
officials, get your voter registration form, and find out about small business
loans. For more information contact Nancy Tyler at (202) 501-1794 or <email@example.com>.
American Express Announces Availability of Braille and Large-Print Card Statements:
American Express announces the availability of Braille and large-print statements for American Express Card members with vision impairments in the United States. This service continues American Express's tradition of offering the highest level of service to all its customers. Card members can request the new service by calling the American Express toll-free customer service number at (800) 528-4800, or the customer service number listed on the back of their American Express card. For more information visit <www.americanexpress.com>.
Third International Conference on Tactile Diagrams, Maps, and Pictures:
On December 1 and 2, 2005, in Birmingham, UK, the National Centre for Tactile Diagrams, RNIB, will host the 2005 tactile graphics conference. This exciting international event, which also offers an exhibition and pre-conference workshops, covers all aspects of tactile graphics for blind and partially sighted children and adults in education, work, and life activities, including techniques, applications, and literacy development. The conference will be of interest to all those involved in the design, production, procurement, use, and support of tactile graphics.
Full details can be found on the conference Website <www.nctd.org.uk/conference/>.
RNIB National Centre for Tactile Diagrams, 58-72 John Bright
Street, Birmingham B1 1BN, United Kingdom; telephone 0845 257-2587 (UK), +44
121 665 4257 (international); fax 0845 257 2588 (UK), +44 121 665 4201 (international);
email <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Web site <www.nctd.org.uk>.
FOFA EZ Finder:
Tired of losing your keys, remote controls, or wallet? Introducing the FOFA EZ Finder. The EZ Finder helps you locate lost items easily. Each device can find another with the press of a button. Just attach a finder to your keys, and the second device will find them. Attach the second Finder to your TV remote, and now your keys will find your TV remote. Press one; the second one will sound. Use your wallet to find your keys, your keys to find the TV remote control, or the DVD remote to find a wallet, etc. The possibilities are endless.
The EZ Finder works with a two-way RF wireless operation so that no base transmitter is needed, there are no false alarms, and no clapping or whistling is required. RF wireless operates through sofas, cushions, laundry baskets, etc. Each set comes with two EZ Finders, one key fob, and one flat unit (the flat unit comes with double-sided tape to enable attachment to your remote, etc.). Each EZ Finder has six buttons numbered in print and Braille, allowing each Finder to find six other misplaced items. The EZ Finder has a thirty-foot-radius range and a loud alarm. All batteries are included for a year of normal use (operates on commonly available coin cell). Instructions are easy, so you can get started in seconds. Attachment hardware and key rings are included.
This item is great for anyone. The cost is only $29.95 (plus
shipping and handling), so get yours now. Call (toll-free) (877) 4EZ-FIND, that’s
(877) 439-3463, or visit <www.4EZFINDER.com>.
Voice Email Support Group:
Joseph Colvin invites those interested to join his Sharing Support Group. Participants can raise any problem for which they need support, including blindness. They must be prepared to contribute, not just listen, and they must be members of the Philmore Voicemail System, which costs $12.95 a month and has instant messaging among members. To learn more about this voicemail system or to sign up, leave a message for Phil Scopes at (773) 572-3000. To sign up for the Sharing Support Group, leave a message at (773) 572-3059. Mr. Colvin also circulates devotions, daily inspirational quotations, and other materials upon request.
Envision Is Hiring:
If you are legally blind and looking for work, consider Envision, a not-for-profit agency based in Wichita, Kansas. Envision has jobs in Kansas as well as other states in the Midwest and West. The job opportunities include administration, retail, and manufacturing. At Envision you will earn competitive pay, will enjoy a generous benefits plan, and can be provided relocation assistance.
Envision currently has job opportunities available as an accountant,
a certified vision rehabilitation therapist, and a cashier-stocker at Envisions’
Base Service Stores that are located in various states. To learn more about
these and other positions, please check the Web site at <www.envisionus.com>
or call Sandy toll-free at (888) 425-7072.
CDArticles.com Magazine Available:
A new service is available online for all blind and visually impaired people. CDArticles.com magazine offers in-depth audio articles about today's world to NFB members and nonmembers alike. Unlike streaming Internet radio, phone services, or taped programs, the selection of topics and information is instantly available in CD-quality sound to anyone with a computer.
The audio-articles can be downloaded from home or work, so blind subscribers do not need assistance from anyone, and there is no wait for tapes and CDs by mail. Members have instant access to five CD-quality articles a week, twenty per month, plus context anytime and from anywhere. Experience a new medium of information that will bring the world closer.
The National Federation of the Blind is proud to work in partnership with CDArticles.com to bring this new experience to the blind. For a special introductory price of $38 for one year, marked down from $51, you will get more than 260 articles and hours of listening on topics of interest to all Americans.
For each subscription received from a member of the National
Federation of the Blind, CDArticles.com will donate $7 to the organization.
Your subscription will help finance new scholarships and programs through the
NFB and open new areas of opportunity for all blind and visually impaired Americans.
Join us and help spread the news! Access the subscription page of the Web site
Free Fundraising Offer for NFB Chapters:
Blind Mice Mart extends a special invitation to local NFB chapters and state affiliates to earn funds with our unique Coupon Code Fundraising Program. Here is how it works:
1. Your chapter selects a coupon code word specific to your group.
2. Refer members, friends, and family to shop at Blind Mice Mart, <www.blindmicemart.com>.
3. Instruct them to type your code word into the “Coupon Code” edit field when they check out. They will also get a small discount off their purchase for participating.
It is that simple: just three easy steps.
Your chapter earns up to 15 percent of the merchandise price
when its code word is entered--no hidden fees or charges and no hassles. Contact
Dale Campbell today to sign up or to get more information: phone (713) 876 6971;
email <email@example.com>; or visit <www.BlindMiceMart.com>
and go to the fundraising link. All purchases at Blind Mice Mart benefit the
Mouse Hole Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships to visually impaired
students and sighted students of visually impaired parents.
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.
I have the Connect Outloud screenreader software for sale as well as Vterm. If interested, call Joel at cell phone (801) 706-3343 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Perkins Brailler for Sale:
The Brailler was recently refurbished and is in good condition. Asking $300. If interested, contact NFB of Massachusetts, 140 Wood Street, Somerset, Massachusetts 02726, <email@example.com>.
I have a Pentium 3 laptop computer running Windows XP. It has other software programs that I am willing to throw in, an external 101 keyboard, speakers, and an Epson scanner. I am asking $2,000 or best offer. Please contact Robert Stigile at (818) 419-5331 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
This BookPort is one year old and has not been used much at all. I was just not ready for this yet. It comes with two memory cards (128MB and 1-GB), one set of ear buds (original), instructions (print and cassette), and carrying case. Asking $250, money order only, free freight. You may contact Steven Kimbrough, (281) 413-5755, email <Steve.email@example.com>.
Free to Good Homes:
Braille ’n Speak Classics and Braille ’n Speak Scholars (six of each) are free to good homes (one per household, please). Also tutorial tapes, Braille reference booklets, and battery chargers, but not enough for each Braille ’n Speak. However, these can be purchased at a reasonable price from the American Printing House for the Blind. If you are interested, contact Ted Lennox by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
My wife, who died recently, used with great satisfaction a Video Eye closed circuit television system. I would like to sell it at a very reasonable price. This CCTV sells today for $3,600 delivered. I am asking $1,200 or best offer. Contact Norman E. Levan, MD, 3112 Amber Court, Bakersfield, California 93301, (661) 322-3150, <email@example.com>.
BrailleNote QT32 with Keysoft 6.11, Spanish, French, and German multilingual pre-installed. BrailleNote is in excellent condition. Asking $3,500. Alva Braille Display for sale in excellent condition, asking $3,800. Contact Josh Kennedy at (610) 858-5204, or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The NFB-NEWSLINE Top Ten:
With apologies to the David Letterman Show, here are Harold Snider’s ten reasons why reading NEWSLINE ® is better than reading the newspaper:
10.Reading NEWSLINE does not get ink on your hands.
9.NEWSLINE does not get wet when it rains.
8.Your dog can’t chew up NEWSLINE.
7.Your husband, wife, significant other, son, daughter, or friend cannot get the sections of NEWSLINE out of order.
6.NEWSLINE discourages corporal punishment since parents cannot roll the telephone up.
5.You cannot spill coffee or food on NEWSLINE.
4.If you are in Washington, D.C., you can read the Denver Post, or if you are in Denver, you can read the Washington Post, both ahead of anyone reading it in print.
3.NEWSLINE is free.
2. You never have to struggle to refold NEWSLINE correctly or experience the frustration of dealing with a badly folded paper.
1.NEWSLINE is always there, ready when you are.
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.