Vol. 49, No. 2 February 2006
Barbara Pierce, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
telephone: (410) 659-9314
email address: [email protected]
Web site address: http://www.nfb.org
NFB-NEWSLINE® information: (866) 504-7300
to the president, address changes,
subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature
should be sent to the National Office.
Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also
be sent to the National Office or may be emailed to [email protected]
subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year.
Members are invited, and nonmembers are requested, to cover
the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to
National Federation of the Blind and sent to:
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Site of 2006 NFB Convention The 2006 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will
take place in Dallas, Texas, July 1 through 7, at the Hilton Anatole Hotel at
2201 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, Texas 75207. Early this year the Wyndham Anatole
property in Dallas became part of the Hilton chain. Because of this transition
you should make your room reservation with the Hilton Anatole staff only. Call
(214) 761-7500. The 2006 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $60 and triples
and quads $65 a night, plus a 15 percent sales tax. The hotel is accepting reservations
now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent
of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation
cancellation before June 1, 2006. The other 50 percent is not refundable. Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations
may be made before June 1, 2006, assuming that rooms are still available. After
that time the hotel will not hold our block of rooms for the convention. In
other words, you should get your reservation in soon. Guest room amenities include cable television, coffee pot, iron
and ironing board, hair dryer, and high-speed Internet access. The Hilton Anatole
has six excellent restaurants, twenty-four-hour-a-day room service, first-rate
meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Dallas with
$16 shuttle service to both the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport and Love Field. The 2006 convention will follow what many think of as our usual
schedule: Saturday, July 1 Seminar
Day Convention Preregistration Information
Sunday, July 2 Registration Day
Monday, July 3 Board Meeting and Division Day
Tuesday, July 4 Opening Session
Wednesday, July 5 Tour Day
Thursday, July 6 Banquet Day
Friday, July 7 Business Session
Dallas Site of 2006 NFB Convention
The 2006 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Dallas, Texas, July 1 through 7, at the Hilton Anatole Hotel at 2201 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, Texas 75207. Early this year the Wyndham Anatole property in Dallas became part of the Hilton chain. Because of this transition you should make your room reservation with the Hilton Anatole staff only. Call (214) 761-7500.
The 2006 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $60 and triples and quads $65 a night, plus a 15 percent sales tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2006. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2006, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Guest room amenities include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and high-speed Internet access. The Hilton Anatole has six excellent restaurants, twenty-four-hour-a-day room service, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Dallas with $16 shuttle service to both the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport and Love Field.
The 2006 convention will follow what many think of as our usual schedule:
Saturday, July 1 Seminar
Convention Preregistration Information
At the national convention last year we announced that we would introduce a preregistration system for the 2006 annual convention in Dallas. Here are the preliminary details of that system. You will be able to register for the convention in advance as well as purchase your convention banquet tickets ahead of time. Those of you who take advantage of preregistration can expect to save a few dollars and wait in fewer lines when you get to the hotel in Dallas.
Preregistration can be done both online at our Web site and through regular U.S. postal mail. Registration at convention in Dallas this year will be $20, but you can save $5 by registering in advance and pay only $15. Tickets for the 2006 convention banquet will be $40 if purchased at convention. Again, save yourself $5 and pay $35 if you buy your banquet tickets ahead of time.
Preregistration will be available for three months, starting March 1 and closing May 31. You’ll be able to register online at our secure Web site using a credit card (MasterCard, Visa, or Discover only) by visiting <http://www.nfb.org/convent/prereg.htm>. Or visit our homepage and follow the convention link to information about preregistration. Preregistration can also be done through the mail with a check or money order. Registration forms will be available online and in the March Braille Monitor. All mail orders must be postmarked by May 31. Both online and mail preregistrants will receive a confirmation letter, telling you that your registration or banquet ticket purchase has been processed.
You should keep a couple of important details in mind.
1. Preregistrations and
banquet ticket purchases are final. We will make absolutely no refunds.
2. We will not accept registrations over the phone.
3. Preregistration does not secure you a room at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. You must still reserve your room by calling the hotel at (214) 761-7500.
So, beginning March 1,
save yourself both time and money by preregistering for our 2006 annual convention.
Vol. 49, No. 2 February 2006
Touched Us All
by Deborah Kendrick
Y’all Come to Dallas
by Tommy Craig
Within the Grace of God
by Jacobus tenBroek
Educating the World, One
Reporter at a Time
by Eric Vasiliauskas
GPS Technology for the
Blind, A Product Evaluation
by the NFB’s Access Technology Staff
A Mountain, a Waterfall,
a Cracked Pool, and a Christmas Tree Color Wheel
by Ray McGeorge
Pastor Shares the Light
by Raymond Reeves
Blind Seniors Garden Too
by Pat Munson
The Dream and the Desire:
The Power of Mentoring in Adjustment to Blindness Training
by Shawn Mayo
Ice Cream, Peanuts, Popcorn,
by Kevan Worley
Sometimes You Don’t Have
to See to Believe
by Amy Gillentine
George Blackstock: The
Bicycle Repair Man
by Jim Willows
Golf Widow or Golfer—I
Had to Choose
by Jan Omvig Gawith
by Allen Harris
Copyright 2006 National Federation of the Blind
Lead Photo Caption 1: The Jacobus tenBroek Memorial Library is located on the third floor of the NFB Jernigan Institute. In recent weeks Dawn Stitzel, director of the Jacobus tenBroek Memorial Library, and her staff have been busy beginning to fill the newly installed shelving in the stacks and generally turning wonderful open space into a real research library.
Caption 2: Visible in this picture are library tables and stacks.
Caption 3: Some books have already made it into the stacks, but there is still room for many more.
by Deborah Kendrick
From the Editor: Deborah Kendrick is a freelance journalist and columnist in Ohio. She has just been elected to the NFB of Ohio board of directors. The following column appeared in the January 8, 2006, edition of the Columbus Dispatch. In Ohio the week beginning January 4 is Braille Literacy Week. Here is Deborah Kendrick’s tribute to Louis Braille:
I was using a phone in a hotel lobby years ago when my friend, laughing, tapped me on the shoulder and guided my hand to a place on the wall at least a foot above my head. In a millisecond the dot pattern my fingers encountered sent the printed message to my brain, "No smoking." (What were they thinking to post a sign in Braille on a wall above a pay phone where no ordinary mortal, Braille-reading or otherwise, was likely to be touching?) Beyond the joke, that memory evokes pleasure. Like hundreds of other tactile glances over the years—finding a bit of Braille on a monument, a commemorative plaque, a bottle of perfume, even some articles of clothing at Target—the aha flash of joy is one of sheer delight in being included, having my literacy count as much as anyone else's.
It's a gift of the very best kind, finding words I can read in unexpected places, and an especially grand gesture of the inclusive kind swept through cyberspace this week. Email messages were rapidly criss-crossing the planet last week as blind people and their friends and colleagues spread the word that Google's home page greeted visitors with the Google logo in Braille, along with a "Happy Birthday Louis Braille" message to honor the inventor's birthday, January 4.
In 1809 three boys were born who would change the world: Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin, and—the one sadly under-celebrated—Louis Braille. Born in Coupvray, France, Braille was blinded at age three in an accident in his father's harness-making shop. He was lucky to have loving parents who encouraged his independence and who sent him at age ten to a boarding school in Paris, one of the first such schools for blind children.
And the rest of us—generations of blind people in every country of the world—have been lucky that he was a genius who seized a code shown him by Charles Barbier, a code used for "night-writing" by soldiers, and perfected it as a means of reading and writing for people without sight. When asked by parents of blind children what single tool has been most significant to me as a writer, student, parent, advocate, all-round member and lover of society, the answer is unequivocal: BRAILLE.
As I write these words, I look (with my hands) at them in Braille. When I read my email, press releases, newsletters, and the latest romance or thriller—in hardcopy or electronically—I read them all in Braille.
And I am not alone. The good news is that between 85 and 90 percent of all blind adults who are employed are Braille literate. But the bad news is that only 30 percent of all blind American adults are employed—most of that larger group having never learned Braille. Well-meaning but misguided educators have diminished emphasis on Braille in schools, so that only 10 percent of blind children today are taught to read and write.
Louis Braille was an inventor by the age of twelve. He grew to be a beloved teacher and gifted musician. Because of his remarkable invention, blind people today are teachers, doctors, lawyers, writers, musicians—and parents reading Braille storybooks to their children.
A bill (H.R. 2872) introduced in the U.S. House by representatives Bob Ney (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) would designate one of the two commemorative coins minted in 2009 to be in recognition of the bicentennial of Louis Braille's birth. It could be a simple but marvelous gesture, at long last, to honor a man who gave such a gift to the world—and garner recognition for the system of literacy that has the power to improve the lives of millions of blind children and adults.
(A forthcoming biography, Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius, by C. Michael Mellor, will be published in March by National Braille Press. The book will be available in both print and Braille, <www.braille.com> or (800) 548-7323.)
Deborah Kendrick is a Cincinnati writer and advocate for people with disabilities. <[email protected]>.
by Tommy Craig
From the Editor: Tommy Craig is president of the NFB of Texas. Here is his first-hand report on our 2006 convention hotel:
If you haven’t already done so, you should rush to make your plans to spend the first week of July in Dallas. Make your reservations now to attend the convention of the National Federation of the Blind July 1 to 7 at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas. This year’s convention facilities are some of the best we’ve ever had. The Anatole Hotel has 1,610 rooms, six restaurants, and over 345,000 square feet of meeting-room space. In addition the Anatole has one of the most extensive private art collections in the country. You can examine everything from sculptures of elephants in the lobby to pieces of the Berlin Wall in the seven-acre sculpture garden.
If exercise is more your style, the Verandah Club and Spa is just on the other side of the sculpture garden. It offers over 80,000 square feet of exercise facilities and an indoor Olympic-size pool and whirlpool. You can also make use of a wide range of exercise equipment and the indoor jogging track. If you’re more the outdoor type, you may take advantage of the outdoor pool, the quarter-mile jogging track, and much more.
If all this talk of exercise makes you hungry, then you’re in luck. The Anatole has six restaurants that provide a wide variety of dishes to satisfy any appetite. The main restaurant is the Terrace, open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It serves a wide variety of American food.
If you’d rather put a little spice in your life, you may want to try La Esquina. Here you can sample some great Mexican food and wash it all down with your choice of over forty brands of Tequila. This restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.
The Common Ground offers a wide variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, pastries, desserts, and Starbuck’s coffee. It’s the perfect place to grab breakfast or lunch if you don’t have a lot of time.
Open for lunch and dinner, the Rathskeller Sports Bar is the perfect place to grab a burger and some cheese fries. You can sample a wide range of domestic and imported beers while watching your favorite sporting events on the wide-screen TV.
The Gossip Bar is a unique place to pick up a pastry and Starbuck’s coffee for breakfast. It then turns into a wonderful place to relax with your friends for a drink and conversation in the evening. The Gossip is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
If you are looking for fine dining, look no further than Nana, a five-star restaurant on the twenty-seventh floor of the Anatole. It provides elegant dining with a wonderful view of the Dallas skyline. Choose from a variety of new American menu choices. Nana is open for dinner, and attire is upscale.
After a day of exciting convention activities, it’s time to retire for the night. In your room you will find great amenities such as pillow-top mattresses, two-line cordless speaker phones, and high-speed Internet service.
The Anatole is located a short drive from many Dallas hot spots like the West End and the American Airlines Center. Dallas has two airports. The DFW International Airport is about twenty miles from the hotel. Cab fare is currently around $40, and SuperShuttle service is available for $16. Those living in a city served by Southwest Airlines will fly into Love Field, only about six miles from the hotel. Cab fare from Love Field is around $15, and the SuperShuttle is $16.
The Texas affiliate is planning a few surprises for this year’s convention. One thing you can be sure of is that you won’t find a friendlier bunch of Texans anywhere than at the Anatole this summer. We can’t wait to meet, greet, and welcome you to the best NFB convention ever.
by Jacobus tenBroek
From the Editor: Last month we reprinted Jim Omvig’s convention speech setting the context of his new book, The Blindness Revolution: Jernigan in His Own Words. In that speech Mr. Omvig alluded to Dr. tenBroek’s powerful 1956 banquet address, “Within the Grace of God.” It seems likely that many readers of the Braille Monitor in 2006 may never have read this seminal speech of Federation philosophy. So here it is, taken from Walking Alone and Marching Together: A History of the Organized Blind Movement by Dr. Floyd Matson, chapter two: “Growth, Harmony, and the Fight to Organize”:
It is a privilege of a very special order, and one to which I have long looked forward, to address you here tonight in the unique and wonderful city of San Francisco. For all of us who are native Californians (which means as you know that we have moved at least six months ago from Iowa or Oklahoma), this occasion marks the fulfillment of a cherished ambition; and we feel something of the pardonable pride of hosts who know that their hospitality has been as graciously accepted as it has been warmly given. But there is something else that is special about the present occasion. Our city and our state are blessed in this year of grace with not one but two history-making conventions, each of which is appearing on the local stage for the first time: our own and that of the Republican Party. There can be no question, of course, which is the more important and far-reaching in its consequences, but let us admit that the Republicans too have an objective of some scope.
During our regular convention sessions today we have had a fairly full review of the work of the National Federation of the Blind. We have seen the accelerated growth of the organization, marked by the accession of nine state affiliates in the year since our last national convention, lifting us from a beginning of seven states in 1940 to a grand total of forty-two states today and with a clear view of affiliates in forty-eight states in the foreseeable future. We have seen an organization with purposes as irrepressible as the aspiration of men to be free, with far-flung activities and accomplishments, with the solid adherence and participation of rank and file members, and with the selfless devotion of an ever-increasing array of able and distinguished leaders. We have seen the action and the forces of action. We have also seen the reaction and the forces of reaction. There is perhaps no stronger testimony to our developing prestige and influence as the nationwide movement and organization of the blind than the scope and intensity of the attacks upon us. These attacks are not new. They have persisted from the very beginning. They have ranged from unspeakable whispering campaigns against the character and integrity of the leaders of the Federation to public disparagement of its goals and structure. Now, however, the attacks have taken on a new bitterness and violence. They include open avowals of a determination to wipe several of our affiliates out of existence, and every step possible has been taken to bring about this result.
Whence come these attacks? What is the motivation behind them? Are they personal? Are they institutional? Are they based on policy differences as to ends as well as to means? What is the pattern of action and reaction for the future? Is such conflict unavoidable? To what degree is reconciliation possible?
It is to an analysis of these problems and to an answer to these questions that I should like to direct your attention tonight. Let me begin by giving you a purely hypothetical and very fanciful situation. Imagine that somewhere in the world there exists a civilization in which the people without hair, that is, the bald, are looked down upon and rigidly set apart from everyone else by virtue of their distinguishing physical characteristic. If you can accept this fantasy for a moment, it is clear that at least two kinds of organization would come into being dedicated to serve the interests of these unfortunate folk. First, I suggest, there would appear a group of non-bald persons drawn together out of sympathy for the sorry condition of this rejected minority: in short, a benevolent society with a charitable purpose and a protective role. At first all of the members of this society would be volunteers, doing the work on their free time and out of the goodness of their hearts. Later paid employees would be added who would earn their livelihood out of the work and who would gradually assume a position of dominance. This society would, I believe, have the field pretty much to itself for a rather long time. In the course of years, it would virtually eliminate cruel and unusual punishment of the bald, furnish them many services, and finally create enclaves and retreats within which the hairless might escape embarrassing contact with normal society and even find a measure of satisfaction and spiritual reward in the performance of simple tasks not seriously competitive with the ordinary pursuits of the larger community.
The consequence of this good work would, I venture to say, be a regular flow of contributions by the community, an acceptance by the community of the charitable foundation as the authentic interpreter of the needs of those unfortunate and inarticulate souls afflicted with baldness, an increasing veneration for the charitable foundation, and a general endorsement of its principles, and, gradually but irresistibly, the growth of a humanitarian awareness that the bald suffer their condition through no fault of their own and accordingly that they should be sponsored, protected, tolerated, and permitted to practice, under suitable supervision and control, what few uncomplicated trades patient training may reveal them able to perform.
Eventually a great number of charitable organizations would be established in the field of work for the bald. They or some of them would join together in a common association which might well be entitled the American Association of Workers for the Bald. Step by step, upon the published “Proceedings” of their annual meetings, carefully edited to eliminate the views of the outspoken bald, they would aspire to climb to professional status. As a part of their self-assigned roles as interpreters and protectors of the bald, they, or some of them, would sooner or later undertake to lay down criteria and standards for all service programs for the bald to be a manual of guidance for those responsible for operating the programs.
These then would be the assumptions and the ends to which the charitable organizations for the bald would tirelessly and successfully exert themselves. They would petition the community through both public and private enterprise to support these purposes, and their appeals would dramatize them through a subtle invocation of the sympathetic and compassionate traits of human nature. Sooner or later some of them—in order to drive competitors out of business, garner favor with the public, and give color of legitimacy to their own methods—would issue what they would unabashedly call a code of fund-raising ethics. All this presumably would take much time; but before too many generations had passed, I expect that most if not all of these objectives would have come to fruition, and there would appear to be an end to the problem of the bald.
Unfortunately, however, there seem always to be those who persist in questioning established institutions and revered traditions; and in my improbable fable, at some point well along in the story, there would appear a small band of irascible individuals, a little group of willful men bent on exposing and tearing down the whole laborious and impressive structure of humanitarianism and progress. Incredibly and ironically, these malcontents would emerge from the very ranks of the bald themselves. At first I suspect that they would pass unheard and almost unnoticed; but eventually their numbers would increase and their dissent become too insistent to be easily ignored. What they would be saying, as I make it out, is something like this:
You have said that we are different because we are bald, and that this difference marks us as inferior. But we do not agree with certain Biblical parables that possession of hair is an index of strength, certainly not that it is a measure either of virtue or of ability. Owing to your prejudice and perhaps your guilt because you do not like to look upon us, you have barred us from the normal affairs of the community and shunted us aside as if we were pariahs. But we carry no contagion and present no danger, except as you define our condition as unclean and make of our physical defect a stigma. In your misguided benevolence you have taken us off the streets and provided shelters where we might avoid the pitiless gaze of the non-bald and the embarrassment of their contact. But what we wish chiefly is to be back on the streets, with access to all the avenues of ordinary commerce and activity. We do not want your pity, since there need be no occasion for it; and it is not we who suffer embarrassment in company with those whom we deem our fellows and our equals. You have been kind to us, and if we were animals, we should perhaps be content with that; but our road to hell has been paved with your good intentions.
One of the leaders of the bald doubtless would rise to say:
We do not want compassion, we want understanding; we do not want tolerance, we want acceptance; we do not want charity, we want opportunity; we do not want dependency, we want independence. You have given us much, but you have withheld more; you have withheld those values which we prize above all else, exactly as you do: personal liberty, dignity, privacy, opportunity, and most of all equality. But if it is not in your power, or consistent with your premises, to see these things as our goals, be assured that it is within our power and consistent with our self-knowledge to demand them and to press for their attainment. For we know by hard experience what you do not know, or have not wished to recognize: that given the opportunity we are your equals; that as a group we are no better and no worse than you, being in fact a random sample of yourselves. We are your doubles, whether the yardstick be intellectual or physical or psychological or occupational. Our goals, in short, are these: we wish to be liberated, not out of society but into it; we covet independence, not in order to be distinct but in order to be equal. We are aware that these goals, like the humane objectives you have labored so long to accomplish, will require much time and effort and wisdom to bring into being. But the painful truth must be proclaimed that your purposes are not our purposes; we do not share your cherished assumptions of the nature of baldness and will not endure the handicap you have placed upon it.
And so we have formed our own organization, in order to speak for ourselves from the experience which we alone have known and can interpret. We bear no malice and seek no special favors, beyond the right and opportunity to join society as equal partners and members in good standing of the great enterprise that is our nation and our common cause.
End of quotation, end of fable. Is this fable simply a fanciful story, or is it a parable? Some will say, I have no doubt, that I have not presented the case of the blind, that there is no parallel and therefore no parable. For one thing, is it not surely ridiculous to imagine that any civilized society could so baldly misinterpret the character of those who are not blessed with hair on their heads? It may be. But civilized society has always so misinterpreted the character of those who lack sight in their eyes and on a basis of that misinterpretation has created the handicap of blindness. You and I know that blind people are simply people who cannot see; society believes that they are people shorn of the capacity to live normal, useful, productive lives, and that belief has largely tended to make them so.
For another thing, did the fable accurately portray the attitudes of at least some of the agencies for the blind? Are their goals really so different from the goals of the blind themselves? Do they actually arrogate to themselves the roles of interpreter and protector, ascribing to their clients characteristics of abnormality and dependency? To answer these questions and to demonstrate the bona fides of the parable, I shall let some agency leaders speak for themselves in the form of seven recent quotations. Quotation number one, uttered by an agency psychiatrist: “All visible deformities require special study. Blindness is a visible deformity, and all blind persons follow a pattern of dependency.” That one hardly requires any elucidation to make its meaning plain.
Quotation number two, uttered by the author of a well-known volume upon the blind for which the American Association of Workers for the Blind conferred upon him a well-known award: “With many persons there was an expectation in the establishment of the early schools that the blind in general would thereby be rendered capable of earning their own support, a view that even at the present is shared in some quarters. It would have been much better if such a hope had never been entertained, or if it had existed in a greatly modified form. A limited acquaintance of a practical nature with the blind as a whole and their capabilities has usually been sufficient to demonstrate the weakness of this conception.” That one also speaks adequately for itself.
Quotation number three, uttered by a well-known blind agency head: “After he is once trained and placed, the average disabled person can fend for himself. In the case of the blind, it has been found necessary to set up a special state service agency which will supply them not only rehabilitation training but other services for the rest of their lives. The agencies keep in constant contact with them as long as they live.” So the blind are unique among the handicapped in that, no matter how well-adjusted, trained, and placed, they require lifelong supervision by the agencies.
Quotation number four, uttered by another well-known blind agency head: “The operation of the vending stand program, we feel, necessitates maintaining a close control by the federal government through the licensing agency with respect to both equipment and stock, as well as the actual supervision of the operation of each individual stand. It is therefore our belief that the program would fail if the blind stand managers were permitted to operate without control.” This is, of course, just the specific application of the general doctrine of the incompetence of the blind expressed in the previous quotation. Blind businessmen are incapable of operating an independent business. The agencies must supervise and control the stock, equipment, and the business operation.
Quotation number five, first sentence of the Code of Ethics (so-called) of the American Association of Workers for the Blind: “The operations of all agencies for the blind entail a high degree of responsibility because of the element of public trusteeship and protection of the blind involved in services to the blind.” The use of the word protection makes it plain that the trusteeship here referred to is of the same kind as that existing under the United Nations Trusteeship Council, that is, custody and control of underprivileged, backward, and dependent peoples.
Quotation number six, uttered by still another well-known blind agency head: “To dance and sing; to play and act; to swim; bowl; and roller skate; to work creatively in clay, wood, aluminum, or tin; to make dresses; to join in group readings or discussions; to have entertainments and parties; to engage in many other activities of one's choosing: this is to fill the life of anyone with the things that make life worth living.” Are these the things that make life worth living for you? Only the benevolent keeper of an asylum could make this remark, only a person who views blindness as a tragedy which can be somewhat mitigated by little touches of kindness and service to help pass the idle hours but which cannot be overcome. Some of these things may be accessories to a life well filled with other things—a home, a job, and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, for example.
Quotation number seven, uttered by still another head of a blind agency: “A job, a home, and the right to be a citizen will come to the blind in that generation when each and every blind person is a living advertisement of his ability and capacity to accept the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship. Then we professionals will have no problem of interpretation because the blind will no longer need us to speak for them, and we, like primitive segregation, will die away as an instrument which society will include only in its historical records.” A job, a home, and the right to be a citizen are not now either the possessions or the rights of the blind; they will only come to the blind in a future generation! A generation, moreover, which will never come to the sighted since it is one in which each and every blind person will live up to some golden rule far beyond the human potential. In that never-to-be-expected age, the leaders of the agencies for the blind will no longer discharge their present function of interpretation, because the blind will then be able to speak for themselves.
Whatever else can be said about these quotations, no one can say that these agency leaders lack candor. They have stated their views with the utmost explicitness. Moreover, these are not isolated instances of a disappearing attitude, a vestigial remainder of a forgotten era. Such expressions are not confined to those here quoted. Many other statements of the same force and character could be produced; and the evidence that the deed has been suited to the word is abundant. At long last we now know that we must finally lay at rest the pious platitude and the hopeful conjecture that the blind themselves and the agencies for the blind are really all working towards the same objectives and differ only as to means for achieving them. I would that it were so. We are not in agreement as to objectives although we frequently disagree as to means as well.
The frankly avowed purposes and the practices of the agencies tend in the direction of continued segregation along vocational and other lines. The blind would move vigorously in the direction of increasing integration, of orienting, counseling, and training the blind towards competitive occupations and placing them therein, towards a job, a home, and normal community activities and relations. The agencies, by their words and their acts, tend to sanctify and reinforce those semiconscious stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes which have always plagued the condition of the physically disabled and the socially deprived. We, by our words and acts, would weaken them and gradually blot them out altogether. Their statements assert and their operations presuppose a need for continuous, hovering surveillance of the sightless in recreation, occupation, and congregation virtually from cradle to grave. We deny that any such need exists and refute the premise of necessary dependency and incompetence on which it is based.
Their philosophy derives
from and still reflects the philanthropic outlook and ethical uplift of those
Friendly Visitors of a previous century whose self-appointed mission was to
guide their less fortunate neighbors to personal salvation through a combination
of material charity and moral edification. We believe that the problems of the
blind are at least as much social as personal and that a broad frontal attack
on public misconceptions and existing program arrangements for the blind is
best calculated to achieve desirable results. We believe, moreover, that it
is worthwhile inquiring into the rationale of any activity which takes as its
psychological premise the double-barreled dogma that those deprived of sight
are deprived also of judgment and common sense, and that therefore what they
need above all else is to be adjusted to their inferior station through the
wise ministrations of an elite corps of neurosis-free custodians.
The agency leaders say, and apparently believe, that the blind are not entitled to the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship or to full membership in society betokened by such attributes of normal life as a home and a job. This can only be predicated on the proposition that the blind are not only abnormal and inferior, but they are so abnormal and inferior that they are not even persons. We believe that blind people are precisely as normal as other people are, being in fact a cross section of the rest of the community in every respect except that they cannot see. But were this not so, their abnormality would not strip them of their personality. The Constitution of the United States declares that all persons born in the United States or naturalized are citizens. There is nothing in the Constitution or in the gloss upon it which says that this section shall not apply to persons who are blind. If born in the United States or naturalized, whether before or after blindness, blind persons are citizens of the United States now and are now, not merely in some future generation, possessed of the right to be citizens and share the privileges, immunities, and responsibilities of that status.
Moreover, the bounty of the Constitution extends to all persons, whether citizens or not, rights to freedom, equality, and individuality. As citizens then, or as persons who happen to be deprived of one of their physical senses, we claim, under the broad protection of the Constitution, the right to life, personal freedom, personal security; the right to marry, to have and rear children, and to maintain a home; and the right, so far as government can assure it, to that fair opportunity to earn a livelihood which will make these other rights possible and significant. We have the right freely to choose our fields of endeavor, unhindered by arbitrary, artificial, or manmade impediments. All limitations on our opportunity, all restrictions on us based on irrelevant considerations of physical disability, are in conflict with our Constitutional right of equality and must be removed. Our access to the mainstreams of community life, the aspirations and achievements of each of us, are to be limited only by the skills, energy, talents, and abilities we individually bring to the opportunities equally open to all Americans.
Finally, we claim as our birthright, as our Constitutional guarantee, and as an indivestible aspect of our nature the fundamental human right of self-expression, the right to speak for ourselves individually and collectively. Inseparably connected with this right is the right of common association. The principle of self-organization means self-guidance and self-control. To say that the blind can, should, and do lead the blind is only to say that they are their own counselors, that they stand on their own feet. In the control of their own lives, in the responsibility for their own programs, in the organized and consistent pursuit of objectives of their own choosing—in these alone lies the hope of the blind for economic independence, social integration, and emotional security.
You may think that what I have said exaggerates the error and the danger to be expected from those whose only interest is to serve the welfare of the blind. I think it does not. No one could ask, it is true, for any more conscientious and devoted public servants than those who serve in the rank and file of the agencies for the blind, public and private. The leaders of many agencies too must be given commendation for enlightened policies and worthwhile programs. We have heard from some of these agency leaders yesterday at our convention, and we will hear from more before our convention is over. No one can doubt either that the agencies when so manned and so led may be of immense and constructive assistance in a multitude of ways, during the onward movement of the blind into full membership in society. As to some of the agencies not headed by leaders of the character just described, credit must be given for sincerity and good intentions. This, however, but serves to raise the question whether, in social terms, sincere and upright folly is better or worse than knavery. This discussion I forbear to enter.
What should the posture of the National Federation of the Blind be in the midst of these attacks and struggles? As the possessors of power we must exercise it responsibly, impersonally, and with self-restraint. As a people's movement we cannot allow others to deflect us from our course. We must apply our power and influence to achieve our legitimate goals. To this end we must all exert ourselves to the utmost. Our opponents have history and outmoded concepts on their side. We have democracy and the future on ours. For the sake of those who are now blind and those who hereafter will be blind and for the sake of society at large, we cannot fail. If the National Federation of the Blind continues to be representative in its character, democratic in its procedures, open in its purposes, and loyal in its commitments—so long, that is, as the faith of the blind does not become blind faith—we have nothing to fear, no cause for apology, and only achievement to look forward to. We may carry our program to the public with confidence and conviction, choosing the means of our expression with proper care but without calculation and appearing before the jury of all our peers not as salesmen but as spokesmen, not as hucksters but as petitioners for simple justice and the redress of unmerited grievances. We will have no need to substitute the advertisement for the article itself nor to prefer a dramatic act to an undramatic fact. If this is group pressure, it is group pressure in the right direction. If this involves playing politics, it is a game as old as democracy, with the stakes as high as human aspiration.
In the sixteenth century John Bradford made a famous remark which has ever since been held up to us as a model of Christian humility and correct charity and which you saw reflected in the agency quotations I presented. Seeing a beggar in his rags creeping along a wall through a flash of lightning in a stormy night, Bradford said: “But for the Grace of God, there go I.” Compassion was shown; pity was shown; charity was shown; humility was shown; there was even an acknowledgement that the relative positions of the two could and might have been switched. Yet despite the compassion, despite the pity, despite the charity, despite the humility, how insufferably arrogant! There was still an unbridgeable gulf between Bradford and the beggar. They were not one but two. Whatever might have been, Bradford thought himself Bradford and the beggar a beggar—one high, the other low; one wise, the other misguided; one strong, the other weak; one virtuous, the other depraved.
We do not and cannot take the Bradford approach. It is not just that beggary is the badge of our past and is still all too often the present symbol of social attitudes towards us, although that is at least part of it. But in the broader sense we are that beggar and he is each of us. We are made in the same image and out of the same ingredients. We have the same weaknesses and strengths, the same feelings, emotions, and drives; and we are the product of the same social, economic, and other environmental forces. How much more consonant with the facts of individual and social life, how much more a part of a true humanity, to say instead: “There, within the Grace of God, do go I.” Thank you.
by Eric Vasiliauskas
From the Editor: Sometimes we set out to educate the public about the facts of blindness, and sometimes people get the message and even pass it on without our even knowing that they were watching and learning. Paul Silva is a columnist with the Beach Reporter: The Community Newspaper of the Beach Cities in California. Reprinted here is his column which appeared in the April 15-21, 2004, edition (Volume 28, Number 10):
A World Seen Without Sight
by Paul Silva
The boy walks past my house, the red tip of his cane hovering above the ground ahead of him. Walking with him is a man who asks him questions: What street did we just turn off? What street are we walking on now? What is the cross street ahead? The boy is blind, if not entirely, then at least severely sight-impaired. I would put his age at eight or nine. The man appears to be helping the boy paint a mental map of the neighborhood.
I have seen these two walking past my house twice lately when I have come home in the middle of the day to have lunch and check on my dogs. As they pass, my dogs bark. My house has probably been sketched into the landscape that the boy is drawing in his mind. This is the house with the two big barking dogs, halfway down the block, on the north side.
I assume the boy is a student at the public school a block away, and the man, wearing an ID badge, appears to be an aide, helping the boy become accustomed to making his way through the neighborhood. As they have passed, I have overheard their conversation. The boy answers the man's questions briskly and brightly. He seems smart, cheerful, and resolute, qualities he will need in the world beyond this quiet street.
But is it so quiet? I close my eyes and listen, straining to imagine the street by its sounds. I hear the wind rummaging through the trees, the tinkle of a neighbor's wind chimes, the distant yelps of kids at recess, the occasional rumble of a passing car. A door closes; a bird starts off a power line. It's a quiet street, not because there are no noises, but because the noises are familiar, comforting, and peaceful. I wonder if the little boy finds the same comfort, or does every noise subtly remind him of sights unseen? Can you miss what you never had?
He might have better questions for me: What do you miss when you think nothing escapes your attention? What does sight make you blind to? This boy does not see which house is large and which is small. He doesn't know a recent paint job from an ancient one, a brown lawn from a green one, a new car from a clunker. A map of the world derived from sound and touch is less concerned with surface aesthetics. The bird on the wire may not be seen, but its song can be better heard, and doesn't that say as much—or more—about the bird as its feathers?
No one would choose blindness. There is too much beauty to be seen, even with all the ugliness. But sight can be overwhelming, deceptive, and capricious. You can see only what you look at, and sometimes not even that much. It is very possible this boy can learn more about my street than I can. He can "see" the world in a way I can't. This realization makes me thankful, not for his blindness but for a society that makes accommodation for it. I'm thankful for the man who walks with the boy. If these are my tax dollars at work, directly or indirectly, I'm glad for it.
Making room for this boy is not just the right thing to do; it's also the selfish thing to do. Help him now, and who knows whom he will help later? Show him the way along this street, through this neighborhood, and he may show you the world some day. Helen Keller, undistracted by sight or sound, once said, "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do."
What is life for but finding the something we can do for ourselves and others? The boy walking down my street will find his something, and so will all of us if we take the time to listen to our own voice and each other's. Make a map in your mind of the world as it is and as you want it to be. Take a walk, ask questions, seek answers, and do the something that you can do.
Reprinted courtesy of the Beach Reporter.
The boy whom Paul Silva had observed and then written about was Vejas Vasiliauskas, the son of Dr. Eric Vasiliauskas, who sent the column to the Braille Monitor. But Dr. Vasiliauskas was not content simply to write a thank you note to the reporter; he took the time to reinforce Mr. Silva’s healthy impulses and build on the fine beginning of understanding demonstrated by his article. Here is a slightly modified version of the email he sent to the reporter:
Subject: A Note from the Little Boy’s Parents
My wife and I were touched by your article in this week’s Beach Reporter. We assume the young man that you wrote about is our seven-year-old son Vejas, who was out on an orientation and mobility (O&M) lesson with his instructor, Joe Snead. Both Vejas, whom you have seen out and about, and his three-year-old brother Petras are blind. Despite their young age they both teach us much and provide us with a view of the world that few come to fully appreciate. They are both curious and have a positive outlook, yet, as is often the case with siblings, each is unique.
It is admittedly an unusual sight to see a little boy with a cane, not to mention two happy little boys with canes, at times tapping in synchonicity. While for us the blindness issues have essentially become a normal part of our lives, we can’t help being aware that people are always watching us as we go into the community to do things everyone else does, and it is only natural for us to wonder what others are thinking.
We have high expectations for both boys and expect them to achieve much in their lives. We have no doubt they will attend university and pursue careers of their choice. Our primary long-term goal is for both to be happy and to be productive members of society. We want to do everything in our power to make sure that they have the tools and experiences that they will need to be able to achieve this. In our opinion this will best be achieved by integrating/mainstreaming both as much as possible with other children of their own age in all aspects of life (school and play). Yet in order to make sure that they both will ultimately be able to compete successfully in the real world, in addition to the standard academic curriculum, we are trying to make sure that they acquire all the blindness skills they will need including Braille fluency, independent living skills, and independent travel skills.
My wife and I have come to understand that blind people can and do independently travel not only within neighborhoods and cities but across the country and around the world. Mastering the art of independent nonvisual travel requires appropriate training and lots of practice. Both Vejas and Petras started receiving O&M training before they could even stand on their own. As parents we try to reinforce what they are taught during their formal O&M lessons. We encourage exploration, and when we go out, we frequently let them take the lead, for just as with anything else, they ultimately learn best by applying what they have been taught in lessons to real life situations. At times we bite our lips and hold our breaths as we let them learn by finding or bumping into obstacles or taking small tumbles if they don’t pay attention and miss a curb or a stair (rest assured, we are above all concerned about safety and obviously use careful judgment in such instances). It should come as no surprise that a few such controlled mishaps leave a much more profound and long-lasting impression than words of caution from a parent or teacher.
We have gotten looks or overheard comments at times from people who don’t understand why we don’t just make it easy for our boys by taking their hands and leading them everywhere. They don’t seem to grasp the concept that, when adults do everything for blind children, they deny them the opportunity to develop the skills they need ultimately to function on their own in life. We therefore make a concerted effort to foster independence. The boys never leave home without their canes, which they use to get information about their environment. When possible I encourage them to help me by carrying things in their free hand. They are then less prone to try to grab my hand and use me as a guide; they need to pay more attention. By doing so, they learn to take active control of their travel rather than being the passenger, so to speak.
As you suspected, Vejas attends our neighborhood public elementary school. The mainstreaming process is going quite well overall, though we continue to deal with hurdles along the way. We are looking forward to similar success with Petras. The local school system has thus far overall been responsive to our needs. Vejas and Petras each have an itinerant VI (vision impairment) teacher who comes to work with them and their classroom teachers three or four times a week. The VI teacher is responsible for making sure that the boys have full access to the curriculum through nonvisual techniques, which include Braille, raised graphics, and other adaptations. Most of the regular education teachers who work with the boys have shared with us that, by incorporating the nonvisual techniques they have learned, including enhanced verbal explanations and descriptions, they feel they have become more effective teachers overall.
Vejas is in first grade and has been doing very well. He knows Braille, and in fact he has won the Braille Institute’s Summer Reading Program the last few years in a row, both for his age group and overall. Last year he read almost 1,500 pages of Braille in three months and won third place in the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. He was the only kindergartener to place. This year our seven-year-old first grader read over 3,300 Braille pages during the three-month contest. Vejas sometimes Brailles our grocery lists on his Perkins Brailler (like an old fashion typewriter, except it punches out Braille letters) before we head out to Trader Joe's or Vons. At the store he reads us the list as we shop so we don't forget anything. He loves words and word play and spells better than I do at times. He enjoys geography and math and is also learning basic Spanish.
Vejas learned the QWERTY keyboard layout by four years of age from the various toys he plays with. At home we are beginning to use a computer that is adapted for nonvisual access. Vejas has access to text that appears on the computer screen via a screen reading program called JAWS. I am trying to make technology fun. He is learning how to email his relatives. I also recently figured out how to work Windows Media Player so that, with the assistance of JAWS, Vejas can on his own now access his favorite songs and Disney Read-Along stories, which I have converted into Playlists. He finds this latter feature quite cool.
His latest favorite toy is his BrailleNote, which is basically an oversized souped-up PDA for blind people that talks and has refreshable Braille cells. He loves this amazing tool that allows him on his own to create documents, write stories, and read children's e-books and children's e-magazines (like Spider magazine) that we have downloaded from the Internet.
Petras recently turned three and just transitioned into our school district’s preschool program. The school system is really doing a nice job with him as well. Petras is a delightful little boy who passionately loves music. He spends hours playing on the piano, creating his own tunes and even playing musical pieces that he has picked up by listening to Vejas play. His favorite toy is the Perkins Brailler. While some kids scribble on walls, Petras spends time scribbling with his Brailler. He also loves playing outside and reading stories with Mom, Dad, or his older brother.
We are of Lithuanian descent. In fact Lithuanian is the primary language we try to use at home, though at this point Vejas's English is clearly superior, while Petras at this point still understands Lithuanian better than English. Vejas attends Lithuanian school for four hours on Saturdays. He reads and types in Lithuanian Braille and is actually the fastest reader and writer in his first-grade Lithuanian Saturday school class.
My wife Rasa is a true gem. While she is an occupational therapist by training, she currently works at home caring for the boys and takes them to all their various appointments, activities, therapies, and extracurricular classes. Rasa is fluent in Braille and has in fact Brailled over three hundred children's books at this point. Rasa is quite creative with modifying toys. She Brailles Vejas's textbooks and modifies his worksheets for both Lithuanian Saturday school and Sunday school. Rasa really invests the time it takes to make sure Vejas and Petras understand the concepts introduced in school. She does most of the hands-on work to make sure the boys learn the skills they will need to succeed not only academically but in life in general.
Each helps out at home with designated age-appropriate chores. Both also assist us in picking out fruits, vegetables, and other groceries at the store and then help put the purchased items away at home. We play as well. The boys enjoy swimming; exploring the playground; jumping on the trampoline; and visiting the zoo, aquarium, Legoland, Disneyland, and water parks and just hanging out at the beach. We have even tried our hand at roller blading on the strand, tandem biking, kite flying, boogie boarding, kayaking, and believe it or not skiing and surfing.
Amazing as it may seem, when you spend time with the boys and interact with them, you find yourself quickly forgetting that they are blind. They are two wonderful little boys full of energy and personality. They are not defined by their blindness; they just happen to be blind. Through our interactions with the blind community we have come to fully believe that there is virtually nothing a blind person can’t do if they put their mind to it. Most of the limitations the blind face are conceptual biases that most of us have grown up with. We have had the fortune and honor of meeting quite a number of remarkable blind individuals who have been able to overcome the barriers. We have met or read about quite a few successful blind role models who inspire us to reach for what is possible. While it is becoming increasingly easy for the blind to blend into a predominantly sighted world, I have to admit that to a certain extent it sometimes feels as if we live in what could be described as a parallel world. As a result our lives have become much richer.
Thank you once again for sharing your perspective.
by the NFB’s Access Technology Staff
From the Editor: Global Positioning Systems are more and more common in our technology-laden world. It is a measure of the progress that the blind community has made that we now have three accessible systems to choose among. In the following article the staff of the International Braille and Technology Center of the NFB Jernigan Institute (IBTC) briefly explain GPS technology and evaluate the three current systems. This is what they say:
Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is a valuable asset to the United States military, aiding soldiers in determining their positions in combat. Commercial and private boaters use GPS technology to track their coordinates while they are out on the ocean or big lakes. Many automobiles are now equipped with GPS systems. A driver can get turn-by-turn directions to any destination nationwide. Furthermore, if an individual calls 911 from a GPS-ready cellular phone, emergency personnel can easily locate the caller.
In all of the situations mentioned above, GPS technology proves useful. With the advancement of GPS technology blind people can also use many GPS-ready devices as travel aids. Currently blind consumers can choose from three GPS products: the Trekker produced by HumanWare, a portable GPS system that connects to a personal data assistant; a GPS system from the Sendaro Group for HumanWare’s BrailleNote portable notetaker; and a GPS system for PAC Mate produced by Freedom Scientific. When using these GPS-ready products, a blind person can preplan travel routes without leaving the house. With GPS a traveler can explore the surrounding area by searching for a specific business or other point of interest. Whatever means of travel is used—car, bus, train, or shoe leather—blind travelers can be reasonably well informed.
Unfortunately, as with all technology, there are a few drawbacks. As advanced as GPS technology is, a traveler must realize that no machinery can function 100 percent of the time. In order for a GPS system to provide accurate information to a traveler, it must be able to receive a signal from a minimum of four satellites. Inclement weather or tall buildings can interfere with signal reception. Another disadvantage of GPS is its dependence on battery power. Even though using a battery enables a GPS system to have portability, a battery can fail without warning. All three of the GPS-ready products mentioned above use digital commercial mapping from a third party, and maps become obsolete if not updated periodically. A GPS receiver cannot inform a blind traveler of a drop-off on the sidewalk or a rise in elevation; therefore a blind pedestrian will not be able to use GPS to determine ordinary obstacles that may lie ahead or let him or her know when it is safe to cross the street at a busy intersection.
GPS technology has other disadvantages worth mentioning. The largest drawback is that the system does not work everywhere blind people want to travel. The GPS signal is sent as a low-powered radio signal from 20,000 kilometers (12,400 miles) out in space. By the time the signal passes through free space, the stratosphere, ionosphere, and the troposphere, not much power is left to carry the signal to the user. It is said that by the time the signal reaches a user its power is equivalent to that of two Christmas tree light bulbs mounted on the satellite seen by a watcher standing on the surface of the Earth. The signal strength transmitted to today’s GPS receivers is not enough to penetrate all useful locations.
A GPS signal cannot penetrate many of the ordinary objects around us. It cannot pass through dense materials such as stone, concrete, metal, dirt, or thick trees. This can be bothersome, since most travel is not done in large open spaces but indoors or on city streets. Another barrier for the GPS signal is water. While it seems implausible that water would impede the GPS signal for a person walking down a street, most of the human body is made of water. So our own presence causes signal blockage. When a system is mounted on a person, the antenna is usually mounted on the shoulder. A person’s head, which is full of water, will block the signal. Fortunately for us, it is only blocking about half of the sky so some satellites can still be reached and used to navigate. Impractical but effective, the best place to put a GPS antenna is on the head.
A GPS receiver actually provides very limited data. Its primary function is to relay three elements: position, velocity, and time (PVT). These three elements are the building blocks of basic navigation. The GPS receiver does nothing more than make constant PVT calculations.
Navigation software also
uses maps to pinpoint a person in the context of surrounding geographical references.
Unfortunately maps are not always accurate. Changes frequently occur to structures,
streets, curbs, and objects on the ground. Where no mailbox was on the corner
yesterday, one appears today. This type of information is not updated in the
map database. The piece of lumber that fell off a truck onto the crosswalk a
few minutes ago will not be in the database either. It would not make sense
to add it since, one hopes, it will be gone in a few hours. Thus a GPS system
cannot guarantee safety for a blind traveler; only good mobility training and
independent traveling skill can. However, no doubt anyone with good basic travel
skills can benefit from the advancement of GPS technology.
Since GPS technology is useful to just about any traveler, engineers and scientists constantly try to advance this technology. For example, a project currently underway will map not just roads, but also the centerline of each road, the curbs, and much more, to an accuracy of less than ten centimeters (four inches). This will greatly improve the accuracy of GPS. While completion of this project is several years away, it will certainly arrive.
In Fairfax County, Virginia, updated mapping has already been implemented using high accuracy GPS receivers in a few places. They have created a GIS (Geographic Information System) map not only of every road, but also of every manhole cover, storm drain, road sign, telephone or power pole, fire hydrant, walkway, sidewalk crack, and much more. Think of how useful it would be to a blind traveler to know that not only is a telephone pole just ahead on the right, but there could be a large crack in the sidewalk that may not have been repaired yet.
During GPS demonstrations and testing conducted at our annual National Federation of the Blind conventions, we have observed great interest in GPS technology. More and more mobile computing/communication devices such as cellular phones are equipped with GPS receivers for the general public. As more blind people travel for business and leisure, the use of GPS among the blind community will increase too. Blind people need to be educated about which devices are accessible. What follows is a product evaluation by the staff of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind of the GPS technology for the blind which is currently available for purchase in the United States.
A Review of Trekker Bluetooth, Version 2.7
Trekker software, Version 2.7, is supplied by HumanWare, Inc., as a stand-alone system on a PDA (personal data assistant). HumanWare supplies a PDA compatible with this software. Maestro software can be added to create a full-functioning talking PDA. In this review we concern ourselves with the Trekker option only.
The recently released Trekker Version 2.7 is more compact than its predecessor. It has a PDA with a tactile keyboard, a RoyalTek Bluetooth wireless GPS receiver, an external speaker, and a strap to attach the receiver speaker and PDA. The system includes a power splitter enabling the charging of the batteries in the PDA, speaker, and GPS simultaneously. Each unit contains its own rechargeable battery, so no extra power pack is necessary. A cradle is provided to download and install software and can be used to charge the battery in the PDA. Because the Trekker incorporates Bluetooth wireless technology, no cable is required from the GPS receiver to the PDA. This is convenient because there are fewer cables to attach and get in the way. The GPS receiver and speaker are handheld devices and come with carrying cases. The PDA is portable and lightweight and has its own carrying case. All of the units may be worn on the strap or on a person’s clothing or belt. Using the external speaker requires a cable.
The traveler can wear the strap over the shoulder or around the neck. It is also possible to attach the small units to clothing without using the strap. The system includes the traveler’s choice of one regional map, which is installed on a digital storage card. For an additional cost more regional maps may be purchased. Currently only one map may be installed at a time.
One basic function is obtaining one’s position with the GPS and then tracking streets and points of interest as one walks along a route. Trekker automatically provides pedestrian route details including whether the street is a two-, three-, four-way (or more) intersection with cross streets on either side. When traveling in a vehicle, the traveler may select “motorized route,” which provides less detailed information, so it is easier to keep up with the rate of travel. In motorized mode the Trekker will announce highway exits and intersections. The free mode is useful in parking lots, on large campuses, and on waterways. In this mode points of interest are announced along with direction heading and other useful information. “Browsing online” allows the traveler to explore nearby streets using the arrow keys on the keyboard to move along a route. “Browsing off line” is available to research points of interest and streets in an area or explore a route before using it. “Points of interest” are provided from the maps, or the traveler can create his or her own points and even record a short message describing the point. Points of interest are organized by categories such as restaurants, shopping centers, recreation, and so on. Routes may be created, saved, and deleted.
The keyboard is arranged with a set of Braille keys at the top. Arrow keys are arranged in a cross pattern for navigation, and function keys are located along each edge. A handy help mode can be entered at any time to learn the function of any key. Entering Braille is slightly different because dots are entered one at a time and each letter is verified with the press of a button. While this sounds cumbersome, after a bit of practice the user can enter the Braille quickly. The system allows for the entry of contracted (Grade Two) or uncontracted (Grade One) Braille.
Trekker uses Eloquence for speech, which is quite clear when using the external speaker. Using ear buds is not recommended because, though it may enhance speech quality, it may also interfere with safe travel. Trekker is currently a speech-only output system. It has user settings for speech rate, volume, and the other usual speech options to suit individual needs.
We find Trekker easy to use with some practice. We like the description of street intersections noting three-, four-, or more way crossings and whether the street changes name or is only on the right or left side of the intersection. The menu system is familiar to those used to Windows menus on a PC. The key describer mode is easy to use, and many functions may be toggled on and off by holding down keys. Hot key functions are available for common tasks.
Improvements we recommend for future versions would be the ability to load more than one map at a time, which the company is working on; adding more Bluetooth GPS receiver support; and adding the ability to print and email created routes. According to HumanWare the list of supported receivers is growing. For those who want a speech access GPS solution, Trekker may be the right choice.
To purchase Trekker, visit the HumanWare Web site at <www.humanware.com> for the name of a distributor in your area, or call HumanWare toll-free at (800) 722-3393.
A Review of PAC Mate GPS
The PAC Mate GPS system
is comprised of three components: a Bluetooth GPS receiver; Destinator, GPS
software that can also be installed on conventional PDAs used by sighted travelers;
and StreetTalk, proprietary nonvisual interface software. All are sold by Freedom
The GPS receiver and Destinator software can be purchased from a mainstream commercial supplier, but only Freedom Scientific and its dealers sell StreetTalk. If preferred, the buyer may purchase the entire package from Freedom Scientific, including all maps for the United States and Canada. A socket Bluetooth card is required for the GPS receiver and the PAC Mate to communicate. In either case the buyer must install the separate components in this order: Bluetooth drivers, Destinator, StreetTalk, then maps. We recommend that maps be installed on a compact flash card to be inserted in the PAC Mate. In order to activate Destinator and StreetTalk, a user will need access to the Internet.
Basic features of the PAC Mate GPS are the ability to create a route from one address to another as well as create a route from the current position of the traveler to an address or point of interest. One unique feature of this system is that the route created can be emailed, printed, or embossed. The GPS can operate in two modes—navigation mode and planner mode. Navigation mode is used when the GPS receiver is tracking satellites. Planner mode is used when a traveler wishes to create a route or find points of interest when the GPS isn’t available.
When the GPS receiver is tracking satellites, speech output can alert the traveler when to make turns along the created route. The PAC Mate will give directions such as “turn left” or “turn right.” The only time cardinal directions are given is when the journey begins.
Currently the traveler cannot create a pedestrian route in the same way that one can with the Trekker and BrailleNote GPS. Strictly speaking, the PAC Mate GPS program can create vehicular routes only. Moreover, only one region of the United States maps can be running at one time. Therefore a user can’t create a continuous route from New York to California because they are in different regions. When the GPS is tracking satellites, it can determine speed, direction, distance traveled, distance left to travel, latitude, longitude, and altitude. When the GPS receiver isn’t tracking satellites, the user can create routes, but the PAC Mate GPS will not report which streets are in the area, not even cross streets along the way. The GPS will say, “Turn right at Baker Street,” or, “Turn left at University Avenue,” but nothing else. A route can be created only from an origin to a destination. Once the route is created, it can’t be reversed. The user must manually create another route in reverse order.
When using GPS for PAC Mate, the traveler needs to initiate only the StreetTalk program. When the program is launched, Destinator is running in the background. StreetTalk has four menus. They are routes, favorites, toggle modes, and utilities. In the routes menu, the traveler can find out where he or she currently is by accessing the “where am I” option, and, if the system is tracking satellites, the traveler can query the system for cross street information. A route can be created from origin or current location or point of interest to destination. The destination may also be a point of interest. If desired, a traveler can retrieve a saved route.
StreetTalk has an interesting
feature called a breadcrumb route. This means that electronic breadcrumbs will
be dropped the first time the traveler explores a route, and the next time the
traveler wants to go to the same place, the traveler can reuse the breadcrumb
A traveler has the option of using a current GPS location or a specific address to create a point of interest and can later delete it. Another useful feature allows the traveler to give the new point of interest a name using his or her own voice. If desired, as the traveler moves, StreetTalk will announce upcoming points of interest automatically. The distance can be set to announce the points of interest when the traveler is a certain number of feet away. If the point of interest is not found, the distance can be expanded to search for it.
Improvements we would recommend for future upgrades are the ability to create pedestrian routes and the capability for a traveler to preview walking a route. This should include information on cross streets and points of interest in the same way as the other two GPS systems provide.
To purchase the PAC Mate GPS system, visit the Freedom Scientific Web site at <www.freedomscientific.com> or call (800) 444-4443.
A Review of BrailleNote GPS
Sendero Group is the manufacturer of the GPS application used in the entire BrailleNote family of products. The Bluetooth GPS receiver will work only with BrailleNote Bluetooth-compatible products such as BrailleNote PK and the BrailleNote MPower, while a regular GPS receiver will work with the BrailleNote Classic. The BrailleNote GPS software package includes a GPS receiver, eight CDs with maps of the United States, and a one-gigabyte compact flash card. This card contains the GPS software with ample room left over to install multiple maps. Sendero also provides an MP3 tutorial to introduce a buyer to the various features of the GPS application. BrailleNote GPS is the only GPS application that allows the buyer to install and pre-load multiple maps in multiple regions. BrailleNote GPS also provides a context-sensitive help menu which is already familiar to BrailleNote users.
In the BrailleNote GPS Version 3.3, a traveler can create, store, and delete both vehicle and pedestrian routes. A reverse route feature is also available. A traveler can choose to have every cross street on the route announced or just the turning points.
The heading mode (also known as travel direction) can be set according to the individual’s preference. The traveler may choose headings using clock-face navigation or the standard right or left. BrailleNote GPS offers both GPS mode for tracking while traveling and a virtual mode for route planning when no GPS signal is detected.
If a traveler is unfamiliar with a city or town, the street name mode can be set to short or long to enhance understanding of the route. For example, if one travels on I-695, when the street name mode is set to short, I-695 is the only information spoken. But if a traveler wants to inquire whether I-695 is the Baltimore Beltway, the street name mode should be set to long.
A traveler can search for the nearest points of interest while traveling or search for them in virtual mode while planning a route. The points of interest are arranged in categories such as restaurants, hospitals, or hotels. A traveler can jump quickly from one point of interest to another. When desired, a traveler can obtain the address and other detailed information about a particular point of interest with a single keystroke. A traveler can set a desired point of interest as a destination and create a route to it from the current location. While moving, the GPS system reports speed status, latitude and longitude, altitude, and directions. A look-around mode can be turned on so that the system will announce every point of interest and cross street on the route. With the BrailleNote GPS, a traveler can add a new waypoint or create a new point of interest when needed.
Of the three systems we
examined, the Sendero Group product offers the greatest flexibility in features
and ease of use. Currently the GPS system cannot print or emboss a created route.
We hope that this feature will be implemented in a future version. For pricing
details on the BrailleNote GPS, visit the Sendero Group Web site at <www.senderogroup.com>
or phone (530) 757-6800.
For additional product evaluation details on any of these three GPS devices, contact the NFB’s Access Technology staff at <[email protected]>, or call (410) 659-9314, extension 5, for the technology answer line (during business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time).
by Ray McGeorge
Editor's Note: Ray McGeorge is the first vice president of the National Organization of the Senior Blind. He has been a leader in the National Federation of the Blind for several decades. He is also one of those guys we would all love to have living near us; he does plumbing, electrical work, and machine design and building. He is also an amateur architect. Here is his account of creating a backyard fountain:
More than four decades ago, my wife Diane and I were visiting her family. One member had a patio. When I stepped out the door, I could hear the sound of water and a motor. I was told that the motor was powering a pump that forced water up so that it could then fall into the pool below. I got down on my hands and knees and examined the pool and the rocks which served as a backdrop for the waterfall. I really liked the whole setup except for one thing.
I am convinced that most sighted folks simply look at things without noticing the racket they add to the environment. The pump on that patio was noisy. As a blind person I found that the noise detracted from the beauty of the falling water. I was beginning to form a plan in my mind. I really liked everything about that waterfall except that pump motor noise.
At this point I must mention that my wife and I own two apartments. We live in one of them; the other has been rented to the same woman for many years. I found a big fish tank in our basement, so I asked our tenant whether the previous owners had had fish. She said they had and that they had also had several ponds in the backyard. She also told me that at some point they had filled the ponds in with dirt and old cement from the pond sides.
Since I had been thinking about how much I wanted a pool with a waterfall, I went out in the yard with a heavy, sharp tool and began to search for the sound of cement. It took a lot of heavy banging and clanging. The neighbors probably thought I had lost my mind, but I was not deterred. Finally I located a pond that was almost ten feet square and about two feet deep. It took a lot of work, but I dug out all the dirt and broken concrete. I decided to use debris to create the little mountain I wanted to build on two sides of the pool. In my mind I pictured the peak of the mountain at one corner. However, the building material I had at hand was insufficient for my purposes.
Let me digress for a minute to tell you about my next-door neighbors. They were young and managed the apartments in which they lived. But they had no yard. Diane and I began inviting them to bring over their food and share our patio at dinnertime. The couple became interested in my pool project, which was visible from where we sat.
They had an old truck. Being blind, I asked them for help with transportation. They said they would be glad to drive me to the nearby mountains so I could examine boulders to use to form the base of my mountain. I found some as big as three feet in diameter; it took two of us to lift them into the truck. I also made sure that the boulders were interesting colors.
Since the peak of my mountain
was to be in one corner, I wanted the mountain rounded, jetting out into the
pool. My neighbors helped me place the rocks where I wanted them. This was a
long, backbreaking project, but we all survived with our backs still functioning.
As a machinist by trade, I already had some of the skills I needed. One of my neighbors was a steam fitter. He became very interested in the project and donated a lot of one-inch pipe, which I badly needed. I was not rich in those days. However, I still had to purchase a goodly amount of plastic pipe to carry the water across the yard and into the basement to an old coal bin. I wanted that noisy pump far from my waterfall. I had to drill two holes through my house foundation, one to take the water from the pool, the other to pump it back out for the waterfall—about one hundred feet.
Remember, the pipe for the waterfall was on the inside of the little mountain. At the very peak I worked on the pipe with a file until I had a fan-shaped opening for the waterfall. I worked on the opening until the waterfall was about three feet wide. I finally controlled the water flow so it made a gentle sound as the water hit the pool, but it took a lot of work. The first time I turned on the waterfall, the water shot out with such force that it watered the entire yard. After many adjustments and tests, I found the flow level I wanted. I was simply overjoyed when I walked over to my patio and could hear the water clearly but not the pump motor. Boy, was I happy!
After I had all the rocks, dirt, driftwood, and plants in place, I installed a thirty-inch-high chain-link fence. We had two young children, so I did not want any accidents with the pool. As the children grew, they learned to climb over the fence, but by then they understood water safety.
You may think this is the end of this story, but not yet. My wife and I are blind, but we entertain sighted guests on our patio during the summer, so one evening, when we were sitting out there with the water splashing, it occurred to me that lighting for the waterfall might be nice.
I hunted around and finally found a Christmas color wheel. I decided to build a small rock garden in the pool corner, diagonally across from the waterfall. I built a form to house the color wheel and then cemented rocks around it. For twenty seconds one sees blue, then green, and so on. Our guests say that they like the colored lights. To complete the job, I put two switches inside the patio door: one for the waterfall and the other for the lights. Then the job was complete. Well, almost. I did have to build a fence behind the mountain so that the shed could not be seen. I then painted it green and trained a pretty vine with red berries to cover the fence.
Imagine how much we enjoyed
this backyard beauty for thirty years. But after three decades I began to notice
that the waterfall was not flowing at full force. I knew that the problem was
that plastic pipe was supposed to last only a couple of decades. So there I
was, digging a trench instead of rocking in my retirement chair. I had never
thought I would be working so hard, but what choice did I have?
I forgot to say that the pool was painted a pretty blue. Please notice that I used the verb “was,” for there is one more segment to this tale. When the water level in the pool began dropping, I knew what was wrong. The old pool was leaking. I refused to do any more work. I simply drained the pool and hired a company to come and apply a plastic layer to the interior.
The coming of the halfway mark of fall last weekend brought the end of listening to the waterfall for another year because the pipes must be drained for winter. We enjoyed our last supper on the patio listening to the music of the falling water. But, when spring comes around next year, we will have the joy of hearing our longtime project come to life once again. With my wife's and my NFB philosophy, we knew we could design, build, and ultimately enjoy bringing a mountain and a waterfall into our backyard. Perhaps the day will come when we cannot physically do the repairs needed. Then we will hire workers to do the job under our direction.
Yes, I do believe that at our house we have truly changed what it means to be blind. We recruited and organized sighted people to help with the driving, lifting, and so on, but we were the bosses, and the sighted were the helpers. Blind people love beauty, and we know how to create it.
by Raymond Reeves
From the Editor:
The following article appeared in the July 28, 2005, edition of the Jackson,
Mississippi, Clarion Ledger. Ronald Byrd is a longtime member of the
National Federation of the Blind, in fact, many years ago he served as a member
of the NFB board of directors. His wife Gwenn is first vice president of the
NFB of Mississippi.
As a premature newborn Ronald J. Byrd was exposed to too much light in his incubator and lost his sight. These days Byrd spends his time sharing the light with others by preaching the word of God.
Byrd has been in Jackson for about a year, after pastoring Sweet Home Baptist Church in Round Rock, Texas, since 1988. He moved after marrying Jackson resident Gwen Stokes on May 29, 2004. A job offer made the move easier. "Two things [made me move to Mississippi]: One, I fell in love with a girl in Mississippi and asked her to marry me," Ronald Byrd said. "And then I was surfing the Net and found this job..., so it all just fell in place."
Byrd became a communications specialist at Addie McBryde Center for the Blind, where he teaches Braille. For the past month he's held that job and mixed it with duties as pastor of Progressive Morningstar Baptist Church in Jackson. It's not the first time he's juggled two positions. He moved to Texas more than thirty years ago, appointed by then-President Nixon as a member of the equal employment opportunities team for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Other governmental positions followed, some of which overlapped his time at Sweet Home in Round Rock.
“Moving to a new place is always an adjustment; being blind doesn't make it easier. Having a new wife who is familiar with the area, I reduced the learning curve, he said. "Gwen knows the city better than any map could print it," Byrd said. "She's well known in the city, so she's introduced me to the right people. She's taught me how Mississippians think and how to be accepted."
Gwen Stokes Byrd, an alumna of and teacher at the Mississippi School for the Blind, had adjustments of her own in learning to be a pastor's wife. "I think I'm doing well; of course, I've never been one before," she said with a laugh. "The congregation has been so loving and kind. I just try to be who I am in Christ and show Christ's love to everybody. And I love people, so that helps."
Members at Progressive also had to adjust to having an unsighted pastor and wife, but Ronald Byrd said things are going smoothly. "Progressive is an intriguing church; I felt that everybody had a question `Who is this preacher? Is he really as good as the [former] pastor says?'" Ronald Byrd said. "When I first came in, they were warm, but they—as do most sighted people—wonder how do they click with this blind person:`Do we speak, should we help him, what do we do?’ But they just fell in, and we worked it out."
Gwen Byrd already knew many in the church. "I was familiar with Progressive, before I even knew Ron. I used to go over there and help them with their choir..., so it wasn't a strange place to me." Her husband's installation as pastor is an experience Gwen Byrd won't forget. Surrounded by friends and family, including Ronald's brother, who also preaches, she felt like they were treated royally. "I felt like I was getting married again; it was wonderful," she said.
Joyce Simelton, a member of Progressive, coordinated the installation. "I do believe...that he was sent to pastor Progressive Morningstar.”
by Pat Munson
From the Editor: The National Organization of the Senior Blind (NOSB) has been gathering material for a small book aimed especially at seniors losing sight. One of the people who have been most assiduous in working on this project is Pat Munson, a longtime leader of the NFB of California and of NOSB, where she edits the excellent newsletter. Several years ago Pat retired from her career as a public school teacher, and she and her husband Jack have more time for their travel and other activities. In the following article Pat describes her life as a gardener. This is what she says:
I was born blind, but not a gardener. My first recollection of plants was the ones in my family’s backyard about a mile from the Pacific Ocean, so it was full of sand. Cactus stood in one corner, and a few shrubs grew here and there. I do not remember my parents tending the plants, so I never gave them a thought. I learned quickly to keep fingers away from the cactus, but the shrubs were fun to climb and search for snails, which I kept in a jar.
My next experience with
a garden was years later when I was a teen. My family had moved, and my step-mother
was a wonderful gardener. She showed me how to water her many flowers and how
to clip off dead ones. The hardest was clipping off the roses. Like other family
members I had scratches from the ungrateful rose thorns. As I say, I did these
jobs but showed no further interest.
After I started teaching and had an apartment of my own, I decided that a few house plants would enhance my decor. I guess I cared for them well enough. I learned by trial and error to get the correct amount of water on the soil and not spill any on the carpet.
After I married, my husband and I moved to an apartment with a western exposure. After some discussion (the apartment was up fifty-two steps) Jack agreed that the plants could come along. With all that afternoon sun I soon had a jungle. They were fun, but I soon had to learn pruning skills.
In the fall of 1973 we bought a house. I carefully moved all those huge plants to our new home. However, I quickly learned that with a house came an outdoor garden that required endless work. Previous owners had bequeathed us tons of plants, shrubs, and mature trees around the yard. Caring for all those indoor plants was no longer much fun, so I gave them to friends.
Getting down at ground level, I quickly realized that I had no idea which growing things were nice plants and which were weeds. My step-mother volunteered to come over and put a small stick by each plant I decided to keep. It did not take me long to decide that I did not want to tend lots of plants. Again my step-mother taught me to dig up unwanted plants carefully. Our neighbors were always looking for extra plants for their gardens. I had so many that I could not get to the larger ones by the fence.
My step-mother also had to teach me about the assortment of garden tools, brooms, etc. I would need. She also pointed out that I should have more than one of each tool because they are easy to misplace behind plants. One does not want to waste half the gardening time looking for a lost tool. Sooner or later it will turn up.
Some years into my adventure with gardening, I met a wonderful Federationist, Muzzy Marcelino. Not only did he grow beautiful roses, but he was also a judge for his local rose club. He told me that he would help me choose, prepare, and plant some choice roses in my garden.
After giving me a detailed list of soil material, bushes, and rose trees to purchase, Muzzy showed up one day for the planting. The two of us worked for hours mixing the proper soil, digging the holes, planting, and finally watering them in. Of course he returned many times to instruct me about pruning, etc. He warned me to wear a jacket made of strong material because the thorns grab at everything they can reach. Being blind himself, he taught me techniques for grabbing the branches without losing fingers because we could not work wearing gloves.
At one point I decided I wanted some juniper trees in the front yard. As these trees grew I thought they would look pretty if they were pompommed. I had seen this done to bushes and trees in my neighborhood. Oh yes, I got a lot of ideas about gardening by touching plants, shrubs, and small trees in parks and yards. Homeowners for miles around know me from my knocking on their doors and asking to look at their gardens. One thing I learned from other gardens was that I should not plant shrubs and other plant material too close together because they grow and fill out. At one point part of my garden looked like an elevator full of Federationists at an NFB convention. But all gardeners learn what to do and not to do as time passes.
Somewhere along the way I got very tired of lawns. So we thought it would be a good idea to hire a landscape gardener to give suggestions and ultimately do the work of removing the grass and bringing in the rock. Ultimately the transformation took place, but as time passed, I decided that I did not like particular plants and rocks, so I have moved or removed them from the garden.
After three decades as an outdoor gardener I have chosen to keep most shrubs low enough that I can prune them myself. The large trees are trimmed by a professional under my direction. Since my retirement I have hired a gardener to come once a month to do the major work. My husband and I are gone from home a lot, so we need help keeping the yard neat and tidy.
Yes, blind people can garden. When beginning, examine other gardens and decide what you like. Do not be afraid of making mistakes. I have made plenty. Once I thought I could limit the growth of a tree by trimming its roots! Wrong, the poor thing died. Sure, I have scraped, cut, and injured fingers and hands, but show me a gardener who hasn’t. I was once late to an NFB chapter meeting because I had to stop at the doctor’s office to have my finger stitched from a close encounter with the cutting shears. But I’ve survived, and my garden has likewise. I use my white cane as a marker. You can also switch on a portable radio while you go to the garbage to dump weeds. Then it is easy to return to your work area. If you have questions about how a blind person gardens, call one of us. In the National Federation of the Blind someone always has an answer about how to accomplish the task at hand.
by Shawn Mayo
From the Editor: Shawn Mayo is the executive director of BLIND, Incorporated, one of the NFB’s adult rehabilitation centers. She is also a leader in the NFB of Minnesota and across the Federation. The following article first appeared in the Winter 2005 edition of the Minnesota Bulletin, a publication of the NFB of Minnesota. This is what she says:
One of the most interesting phenomena found in nature is mutualistic symbiosis. This phenomenon occurs when two or more species develop a relationship that benefits all parties involved. For example, butterflies burrow into flowers to get at their nectar and while so doing pollinate the flower with the traces of pollen they have brought along from the last flower they visited. Both species get something that they vitally need. The butterfly gets the sustenance it needs to fly freely through the world, and by contributing nectar the flowers get the opportunity to propagate themselves in another generation. It is truly a win-win situation.
On average, after three to four months of NFB-style comprehensive adjustment-to-blindness training, it is common to hear a student say, “Blind people can do anything sighted people can do.” This is a wonderful thing to hear, and when I hear a student make a statement like this, I know that student is on his or her way to independence. However, the fact that the student can make this general statement is only the first step. This often becomes apparent when that student begins looking at what she or he is going to do after leaving the program. This is when the difference between the theoretical blind person and the flesh-and-bone blind person becomes clear—the difference between “a blind person can get a job” and “I can get a job.”
Whether blind people—or people generally—reach their full potential and attain the career and life goals commensurate with their skills and passions depends on a combination of belief and desire. They must believe truly that they can attain the goal. This belief sets the desired goal in the realm of possibility, making it something that could happen rather than something that could never happen. However, in order to turn that possibility into a reality, a person must have enough desire to achieve the goal that he or she is willing to put forth the amount of effort needed—the time, sweat, and tears to climb over whatever obstacles lie between the person and the goal.
One might argue that you can’t teach desire. This is true. You can’t make a person want something; however, you can remove the fear that often blocks the path of that desire. This can be achieved by mentoring. Having a real, live, breathing person sitting there talking about the raise he or she just got, the fetal pig he or she just dissected, taking his or her three-year-old to see Santa at the mall, or building a new deck on the house, can put all kinds of ideas in a person’s head. But not only can a mentor put an idea in a student’s head, that mentor can explain in detail what it took to accomplish those goals.
So many misconceptions about the day-to-day life of a blind person are loose in the world that it is impossible to know which particular set has found its way into each student’s mind. Some of these misconceptions might seem to the student so silly or so particular that he or she will never articulate them. They can often mutate into abstract fears that prevent a blind person from letting desire propel him or her toward the goal. The student might be thinking: “I would really love that job, but what if I go into the interview and they see I have a cane, and they tell me the job has been filled. I don’t think I could deal with that.” However, when a mentor can say to a center student: “Yeah, I had twenty interviews before I got my job, and some days it was really hard to keep trying, but in the end it was all worthwhile,” or “The professor really didn’t want a blind guy in her class, but this is what I told her….” Fears about problems he or she might face are replaced by real situations with real solutions.
Mentoring can be integrated into an adjustment-to-blindness program in any of three ways: employing competent, well-adjusted blind people in all areas of the organization from the support staff to the executive director, developing an alumni network, and involving an active chapter of the National Federation of the Blind that has members willing to spend time with center students. Center staff members who are blind give students a daily reminder that blind people do work and have personal and social lives. Students see blind people every day who travel across the country, raise children, take graduate classes, pursue hobbies, etc. Then they have the opportunity to ask questions about how exactly they do what they do. While this form of mentoring is essential and irreplaceable, it isn’t quite enough. There is something invaluable about having mentors around who are not paid to be there. This is not to say that anyone would work for a Federation center solely for monetary benefit (they are called “nonprofits” for a reason), but rather to say that it makes an impact when people choose to give their free time to share what they themselves have received.
Also neither going through Federation-style training nor leaving a center is an easy time of life. The support, reassurance, and friendship a mentor provides make an enormous difference and can remove the barriers of fear and separation that keep some blind people from realizing their dreams. An alumnus mentor can sympathize with the stress and frustrations of training while proving to the student that these stresses and frustrations are temporary and conquerable. A chapter member mentor can teach the student about the history of the organized blind movement and show her or him the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done.
The key element in the development of successful mentoring is that these three groups overlap. Center staff should ideally be alumni and should always be NFB chapter members. Alumni, when they receive the support and encouragement of chapter members during their training, will want to become chapter members themselves. Chapter members, when they see the benefits of Federation-style training, will want to make sure that they have the skills and self-confidence that they need, and they then become alumni.
This overlap provides a network that both supports individual blind people and strengthens the organized blind movement. It allows us not only to survive but to thrive. It enables center staff, alumni, and chapter members to form a mutualistic symbiotic relationship that goes beyond mutual benefits to change the lives of blind people profoundly and permanently. It gives blind people the support they need to make it through the challenging process of becoming an independent and successful member of society while ensuring that this support will continue to be there for future generations. It both fills the landscape with vibrant and resilient flowers and gives people who thought they would spend the rest of their lives on the ground the strength they need to fly. It is truly a win-win situation for everyone involved.
by Kevan Worley
From the Editor: Many Federationists know Kevan Worley. He is first vice president of the NFB of Colorado and president of the National Association of Blind Merchants. In May of 2005 he was the Grim Reaper outside the Department of Education building in our demonstration to preserve rehabilitation in this country. In December of 2003 he was Santa Claus encouraging picketers outside the so-called summit meeting organized by the National Accreditation Council in Tampa, Florida. And of course he is a frequent contributor to NFB publications. The following story is reprinted from Beyond the Funny Tree, the twenty-ninth in our Kernel Book series. It is particularly interesting because it clearly illustrates the sort of imaginative, irrepressible person Kevan is. Here is Kevan's story, beginning with President Maurer's introduction:
Today Kevan Worley is a successful businessman with four dozen employees. Yet there was a time when—despite a wonderfully nurturing childhood filled with rich and colorful experiences—he felt that the world held no bright future. Here is how he tells his story:
Looking back on my life,
it seems I was destined to be in business. As early as I can remember I was
selling something. Born almost totally blind due to a brain injury, my parents
raised me pretty much as they brought up their other children. There was time
for play, time for chores, time for church, time for homework, and plenty of
time to just be a kid. My parents tried their best to find special schooling
to give me the education they felt sure a blind person would need. But many
times they just did not know what to do or where to send me for the best education.
For one thing Dad was in the army, so we moved around a lot. For another, information was pretty scarce, and Mom tells me what there was of it tended to be pretty doom-and-gloom or contradictory. She and Dad had trouble reconciling in their minds how the professional educators could say to them: “A blind child needs lots of extra help in order to succeed in life. But even with all of our extra special help and attention, don’t expect much.” Adding to their confusion, Mom and Dad saw a pretty normal, active, inquisitive, rambunctious child.
When I was four, my parents
sent me to the Easter Seals preschool program only a few blocks from our home.
Clang, clang, clang, I would bang on the iron railing leading to the front door
of the school, bouncing up and down the walk with a child’s boundless energy.
“Ice cream, get your ice cream here. Chocolate, strawberry, or vanilla. I’m
the ice cream man,” I would say. Usually one of the teachers or other children
would play along and hand me a pretend nickel for the best pretend ice cream
cone in our little town.
I have always been active, energetic, imaginative, and playful like that: part dreamer, part schemer. It must have been natural for the preschool teachers to dub me their little ice cream vendor, to serve as poster child for Peanut Days. In those days they would sell bags of peanuts to raise money for the preschool. There I was—Mr. Peanuts.
It’s funny what I remember and what I don’t, but I probably didn’t mind going to the luncheon and press conference festivities to kick off Peanut Days. The newspaper article my mother has saved says that I told everybody, “Buy peanuts.” But all I really remember about being Mr. Peanuts was that I got to ride in Mrs. Jameson’s big Buick with the bubbly plastic seats. I remember I cried about something at the luncheon, and Mrs. Jameson bought me a real chocolate ice cream cone on the way home.
My next foray into business, after selling pretend ice cream cones and serving as Mr. Peanuts, occurred when I went away to the residential school for the blind in Jacksonville, Illinois. At recess, those of us in first and second grade were allowed to go back to the dorm and play. There was a Pepsi machine in the kitchenette off the basement, and you could buy a soda pop for a dime.
There was a little gate with a hook latch as you entered the kitchen. I figured out that I could lock the gate from the inside and play soda clerk. Well, I kinda also figured out that some of the kids would hand their nickels and dimes over the gate, and I could sell soda from that machine for fifteen cents. Okay, I’m not proud of it, but I could actually pocket an extra nickel from some of my classmates. I guess I was a real soda jerk.
One winter afternoon in the third grade our cottage mother taught us how to make peanut butter cookies. It was a simple recipe, and I made dozens and dozens of cookies. I reasoned that, if I thought they were tasty, so would others. I bagged them up and went all over campus from the powerhouse to the high school girls’ dorm selling peanut butter cookies.
At that time, at that school for the blind, the expectations for us were pretty high. We were expected to be normal kids and to learn Braille if we had little or no vision. We were encouraged to play on the playground, to run the track, and to jump on the trampoline. Basketball, pogo sticks, stilts, scooters, tandem bicycles, red rover red rover, red light green light, and hide-n-go-seek played late into the evening are all part of my childhood memories.
We were also expected to participate in the normal family-like cottage activities such as making peanut butter cookies. We were also expected to empty our wastebaskets, police the yard, clean up our rooms, and make our beds. Well now, that was my next opportunity.
I realized that some of the younger children, and those at our school with additional disabilities, were having trouble making their beds. So I got the cottage parents to pay me to help them. As I got older, I was making about fifteen beds a day. By the time I reached the fifth grade, I had taught even some of the severely mentally challenged children how to make their beds quite well. But since I was being paid per bed, it worked out well for me. Of course I liked the money, but I also liked the challenge, the work, and the good feeling of teaching and the role modeling for others.
That next summer my brother Paul and I wanted to go to Scout camp. Mom and Dad said, “The only way you boys are going to Scout camp is if you find a way to pay for it.” What to do? There wouldn’t be any beds to make until I returned to school back in Illinois in the fall.
We were living on an army base in Germany, and I couldn’t think of any way to earn enough money to go to Scout camp—until one day Mom asked me to pop some popcorn. I always liked cooking peanut butter cookies, grilled cheese sandwiches, or Chef Boyardee pizza from a box. I loved to cook, and Mom always encouraged me. We didn’t have a popcorn popper, so I put a little oil in a hot skillet, dumped in some kernels, put on the lid, and shook the pan back and forth on the burner.
Hey, I thought, this popcorn smells good as I emptied the first batch into the bowl. I wondered if the GIs in the barracks would buy this popcorn for a quarter a bag. I looked under the sink, and sure enough, Mom had some small paper bags. So I popped up about a dozen bags, twisted them closed, put them in a big plastic trash bag, and convinced my younger brother Paul to go off with me and peddle popcorn. I bet we were hard for the young troops to resist—a couple of little kids hustling still warm popcorn for only a quarter, “And after all, we need the money for Boy Scout camp, sir.”
It was a pretty good deal too, because Mom never charged us for materials. Believe it or not, over the next three weeks we made the $250 we needed to go to camp. I earned several merit badges and my mile swim badge; and hey, guess what, there was a little snack counter at camp, and I convinced the Scoutmaster to let me work the counter a time or two. Surprise, surprise.
The next spring we lived in Connecticut, where my brother, little cousin, and I sold worms. Yep, worms. My aunt’s house was on the way to a popular lake, so we put up a sign by the road that said, “The best fishing worms three boys can dig.” Sales were slow our first weekend, so I called up the newspaper and said: “Do you know that three boys are in the worm business?”
The paper came out and did a story on our little venture, and the next Saturday we sold out. I don’t know what was more fun for a twelve-year-old boy: digging up the yard; finding and extracting the big, long, mud-encrusted worms; chasing my cousins around the house with one; setting up the stand and packaging the worms for sale; doing the newspaper interview and then having it actually appear in the weekly paper along with our pictures; or earning the twenty-one dollars.
Throughout high school I was always the chairman of the bake sale, hot dog sale, or candy bar sale to raise money for the class project, class trip, track, wrestling, or drama club. When it was my class’s turn to manage the snack counter for sporting events, I was always the guy who did the ordering and set up the counter, even though sometimes I was also a participant in the track or wrestling events. I must have developed some ethics since the second grade, because I never once pocketed an extra nickel. The profit always went to the projects for which they were intended. Even though growing up, my dream was always to be a radio broadcaster, I guess it’s not surprising that I ended up building a career in retail food service.
I currently have about forty-eight employees and operate a military dining facility under contract to the United States Air Force. I also own a little convenience store as well as a small deli and a cafeteria in a state building in downtown Denver. But I couldn’t have done any of this without loving parents and family who always allowed me to be me. Growing up, I was blessed with siblings, grandparents, and aunts and uncles who allowed me to be a kid.
Sometimes my parents and family were confronted by people who tried to limit my participation in normal activities because I was blind. But mostly my family ignored them or found ways around them, like the time some neighborhood parents got together and came to my father to tell him that he shouldn’t be letting me ride a bike.
Another time my army sergeant father was rebuked by a colonel because my dad made me take out the trash. Once my aunt and uncle were told by a Sunday school teacher that I shouldn’t be promoted to the next class. And there was also a time a Boy Scoutmaster wanted to give me a merit badge for a project I hadn’t fully completed. Of course my dad wouldn’t hear of it.
I was fortunate to have house parents and teachers at the school for the blind who tried to help me gain the independence I would need to succeed. They taught me Braille, English, math, literature, and science. They also taught me to feel good about myself for the most part, to explore my world, and to treat people with respect.
Later, as I began to make my own way in the world, I found the National Federation of the Blind. Lucky for me that I did, because it was the loving people of the NFB and the organization’s you-can-do-it philosophy that rekindled the attitude and ambition with which I was raised. You see, by my late teens and early twenties I had begun to question myself at every turn. My abilities, my ambitions, and my dreams seemed to be constantly bombarded by the powerfully defeating message sent by much of society that blindness is not quite respectable—that if you are blind, you are not really normal. And by virtue of that blindness, you can’t really compete. In spite of my parents, caregivers, and teachers’ attempts to shield me from those who tried to limit my involvement in normal activities, I heard them. I could not help being hurt and affected by them. The message was sometimes blatant, sometimes subtle, but it was almost crushing in its consistent presence.
Saying to me over and over, in situation after situation: “You are excluded, different; not as competent; in need of extra attention and special help; not as worthy; singled out and praised for the simplest accomplishment; of less value than those who have sight; less in every way: socially, scholastically, vocationally, in romance or in business.” And just about the time my naturally ebullient scheming, dreaming zest for life had almost been stifled and completely snuffed out, I happened upon the National Federation of the Blind, exhorting me through its wonderful literature not to quit and validating the way in which I was raised.
The NFB became the vehicle
through which I could reclaim and reaffirm my normality. Through the Federation’s
people, philosophy, and efforts on behalf of the blind I realized that I had
options—just as my family, teachers, and caregivers had thought there would
be. The opportunities didn’t come as easily as being the pretend ice cream man
or selling popcorn to the GIs, or worms to the Bloomfield, Connecticut, fishermen.
They never do come that easily, not when you are an adult in the real world.
When you are blind, opportunities can be even harder to come by, mostly due
to the limitations many in society place on those of us who are blind.
Through the work of the National Federation of the Blind on behalf of blind people, more opportunities are being created. The NFB is educating the public and providing blind people with knowledge, inspiration, and instruction. And through my involvement in the NFB I realized there could be meaningful social and vocational opportunities for me after all. There could be, that is, if I would only dream them and work hard for them. There would be if I took the initiative to claim them, and thanks to the National Federation of the Blind I have.
I am the project manager of my own joint-venture company with forty-eight employees providing food service in five locations. So come to think of it (even after all these years) I still sell ice cream, peanuts, peanut butter cookies, and popcorn. Of course there’s also veal Parmesan, fried chicken, the best burgers in Denver, salads, baked goods, and more. I love it all: the scheduling, staffing, financing, menu planning, costing, contract negotiating, purchasing, marketing and promotion, and providing staff training in sales and customer service. I love the challenges, and I love feeling good about working hard, providing leadership, and making a good living managing my own business. I guess it was my destiny.
I haven’t had a call for worms lately, but hey—make me an offer.
by Amy Gillentine
From the Editor: The preceding story provides perspective on an article that appeared December 16, 2005, in the Colorado Springs Business Journal. The story profiled two leaders of the National Association of Blind Merchants and shed light on the current struggle of vendors to preserve the Randolph-Sheppard priority despite the efforts of some to undermine the single most effective employment program for blind people in the country today. Here is the article:
After graduating from college, Kevan Worley found doors shut in his face time after time. As a blind man he had trouble finding a job. Then he found a solution. “I heard about the Randolph-Sheppard Act,” he said. “And I thought, if these people can train me so I can own my own business, become an entrepreneur, then I can take it from there.”
And he has. As the owner of Worley Enterprises, he runs a consulting firm that holds the contract to manage Fort Carson’s dining facilities. His company has worked with Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, and Worley provides consulting services to other businesses that want to gain federal contracts.
He said he owes it all
to the Randolph-Sheppard Act, a law passed in 1936 that gave preference to blind
merchants to operate vending facilities on federal property. “What’s better
– to give people a cup and a street corner, tell them to beg, or train them
for a job?” he asked. “Blind people are just like anyone else; we want to work;
we want to make our own way.” Worley has made his way, from a stint in radio
to a musician to owner of a company. And he is helping other blind people find
their way as president of the National Association of Blind Merchants.
The NABM is another way blind business people can find work, by using the organization’s network of partnerships and training. The nonprofit association encourages partnerships between businesses and blind professionals. “Our newest initiative is with Dunkin’ Donuts,” Worley said. “They have always been a big supporter of hiring blind people and training them. Now they are accepting franchises from blind business people.”
Worley is enthusiastic when he discusses the mission of his organization: to empower blind workers to create their own opportunities. “When I first joined NABM, it was about fifty blind guys in a room complaining about how they couldn’t get ahead,” he said. “Now we have about three hundred people nationwide, and we help empower and train them – everyone from the blind college student majoring in business marketing to the fifty-five-year-old man who wants to start an online business. We empower blind entrepreneurs and teach them leadership.”
One way the organization
teaches leadership is during its annual BLAST meeting, or Business, Leadership
and Superior Training. The two-day seminar draws about three hundred people,
all eager to learn ways to make their businesses more profitable. Most of the
businesses are in the vending or food service field, with locations at federal
and state military and National Guard facilities.
But even as the blind merchants’ association gains ground, actions in Congress threaten its success. Lawmakers are considering reviewing the seventy-year-old Randolph-Sheppard Act, which could put thousands of blind merchants out of business. “Some people say that it only benefits 3,100 blind Americans,” Worley said, noting that many blind business owners could receive Social Security disability payments. “But blind people want to work. We’re keeping an eye out, and we’re working to make sure they don’t change the law or do away with it completely.”
Don Hudson, a member of the NABM since 1974, said he believes the organization’s work is crucial to assist blind people in finding jobs and obtaining necessary training. “We’re a minority of a minority,” he said. “There are only half a million blind people in this country. We need to lobby; we need to fight for our rights for adaptive equipment to do jobs.”
Hudson oversees the dining facilities at the High Country Inn at the Air Force Academy. In the food service business since his first job at the University of Denver School of Law, he said his vision is not his biggest handicap. “My biggest handicap is the attitude of the sighted world,” he said. “There’s no correlation between the degree of sightedness and brain function. But it’s hard to get that through to people – I can do anything you can do; I just need to do it differently.”
While most blind entrepreneurs
work on federal and state property, some are branching out to private locations.
Worley hopes to see that trend continue as companies such as Frito Lay and Pepsi
hire and train blind workers. Companies, such as Aspen Pure bottled water and
Otis Spunkmeyer, are platinum partners of the NABM--providing their products
in vending machines and retail shops operated by blind people. “We have a lot
of partners who work under the auspices of Randolph-Sheppard,” Worley said.
“Blind people were extremely disadvantaged before the act; this [act] allowed
people to have business opportunities for the first time.”
NABM is a subsidiary of the National Federation of the Blind, the oldest organization of blind people in the United States, Worley said.
The NFB gave blind people another option–the option to become self-sufficient. It’s an option that Worley hopes to give other blind people, including his sixteen-year-old adopted son. “We work with the Colorado School for the Blind and Deaf here in Colorado Springs,” he said. “We hire blind teenagers and show them they can do it. So often you have a kid who has been told all his life, `You can’t do this; sit there and let me do it for you.’ By the time they are seventeen, they really believe they can’t do anything. We’re here to teach them they can.”
by Jim Willows
Editor’s Note: The following profile was first published in the Spring-Summer 2005 Journal, an NFB of California publication. The author is NFB of California Past President Jim Willows, a retired physicist at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories.
George Blackstock has been
a member of the National Federation of the Blind since the early 1980’s. He
is fortunate to live in one of the prettier parts of California—the Napa Valley.
He has been a bicycle repairman for some forty-four years. He operates his own
repair shop, George's Fix-a-Bike, in the city of Napa and is currently the president
of the NFB of California’s Napa Valley Chapter.
I telephoned George at his bike shop to set up an interview for this profile. While talking to him, I heard a train practically running through the shop. It turned out to be the famous Wine Train that runs several times a day from Napa past several of the well-known wineries in Napa and Sonoma Counties.
George was born in Vallejo, California, July 25, 1932. His family moved to San Diego. But upon his parents’ separation George went to live with an uncle in Arkansas. When his father remarried, George moved back to California to live with him and his new wife. They lived in Ontario, then Kentfield and finally in Lagunitas. While living in Lagunitas, George attended and graduated from high school in the neighboring town of San Rafael. During this time George was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), but he continued to use visual techniques.
Upon graduating from high school, George entered a four-year program as an apprentice machinist at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo. He completed this program as a journeyman machinist. After working for some time, George found his failing sight was causing problems. He had picked up bicycle repair and decided to begin what is so far his forty-four-year career in the field. He got a job at Domac Bike Shop in Walnut Creek, California, where he did bicycle and lawn mower repair. He went on to open his own shops, first in Vallejo and then in Napa, where George's Fix-a-Bike was born and lives to this day.
During the time George was working as a machinist, he met Hazel, the woman he would marry in 1957. George and Hazel spent eighteen years together. Shortly after their marriage their daughter Marie was born. She now lives in Washington State with her husband and George's twenty-year-old granddaughter.
In the 1970’s George took time off from bike repair to rent and run a farm near Napa. He raised goats, rabbits, and chickens. He also had a large garden. But even on the farm George still had people coming to him to fix their bicycles. With such a loyal customer base, George eventually decided to reopen his Fix-a-Bike shop.
As George's vision deteriorated,
he contacted the Department of Rehabilitation office in Napa County. He received
training in Braille, cane travel, and the skills of daily living from a counselor-teacher
for the blind. However, not until he met his NFB friends did he receive decent
cane travel lessons. These were given by Laveda Davis, the president of the
NFB-C Napa Valley Chapter at that time. Later George went to Guide Dogs for
the Blind in San Rafael to obtain his first guide dog. His current dog is a
fixture at the bike shop.
George Blackstock is a real inspiration. He has made a good living in a field that probably only other blind people know is one in which the blind can compete on equal terms with the sighted. A recent newspaper article provided good information about George's bicycle shop but marveled that he could do well in bicycle repair as a blind man. He can, and he does.
by Jan Omvig Gawith
From the Editor: Jan Gawith has been an active member and leader in the National Federation of the Blind for more than forty years. She lives and works in the state of Idaho. In the following story Jan tells us how she learned to replace the words “I can’t” with “How can I?” and of the striking difference that transformation made in her life. A slightly different version of this story appeared in the Kernel Book I Can Feel Blue on Monday. Here is what she has to say:
When I was a girl, few sports interested me—I couldn’t see very well and did not do well. When schoolmates did throw me the ball, be it softball or basketball, I usually missed it or got hit by it. My glasses were often bent or broken. Also I was usually the last one chosen for the team.
When I tried miniature golf, my play was clumsy and hesitant. When bowling, I had considerable difficulty finding my ball and then approaching the lane straight. My success was about the same as in miniature golf. And my friends seemed to have fun water skiing, but they always found excuses to keep me from trying. Eventually it became evident to me that they were afraid for my safety. After all, I didn’t see very well.
Following high school, the next ten years of work, college, and teaching were fraught with great difficulty and many frustrations. My eyesight continued to fail. After I lost a job I had worked hard to get, a friend suggested that I contact the center for the blind. I wasn’t excited by the idea, but I really had little to lose. Only later did I realize what a fortunate choice I had made when I decided to go to the center. That is how it happened that nearly ten years out of high school my life really began.
The night I was interviewed about entering the training program, I met the head of the agency. Yes, I said that night. He was still at work at 7:30 in the evening. Who else would that have been but Dr. Kenneth Jernigan?
I was lucky and blessed that my training took place in Iowa in 1960-61 while he was directing programs for the blind there. We all came to know that working late nights and early mornings was not unusual for him but the norm. Dr. Jernigan did not pussyfoot around with statements like, “You don’t see very well.” Instead he flatly told me that I was blind. His direct approach helped me. If memory serves me correctly, I gulped and thought, “Okay, now what?”
Shortly after that evening visit I began as a student at the orientation and adjustment center. There was no more time to worry about that lost job. I was too busy learning—cane travel, typing, home economics, and Braille—or so I thought. In retrospect and with 20/20 hindsight, I know I was really learning to live. “I can’t” had to be eliminated from my vocabulary and “How can I?” inserted. Some activities which I had formerly considered beyond my capacity, if I had considered them at all, became an accepted way of life. During my year at the center I gained confidence and freedom. I was also introduced to the National Federation of the Blind, and it has been an important part of my life for more than forty years.
My formal training at the center ended in April of 1961—the learning from the training has never ceased. And, with the exception of about two years, I have either worked or been in college ever since. One of the most exciting jobs I have had was serving as secretary to a member of the state legislature. Just being seen carrying on my normal activities by members of the legislature was helpful. We secretaries were told that we would be dismissed if we lobbied the legislators, but walking down the halls with my long white cane for the mail probably influenced them more than words could have done. Otherwise I was careful only to answer their questions, and they had many. My favorite long-term job was working with other blind people at the Idaho Commission for the Blind.
But what about the water
skiing, bowling, and golf? I’ve now done them all. The year before my husband
Harry (who is sighted) and I were married, we joined a bowling league, of which
we were members for twenty-three years. We continue to league bowl. I use a
rail to help me walk straight. A few people complain about the rails, but not
many, and the only perfect game I have ever witnessed was bowled against us
with the rails. After that we threatened to take them down whenever that fellow
was an opponent. He refused.
When I was about sixty, my husband took up golf with a vengeance. This presented me with a new dilemma. After all, it is one thing to bowl using a rail and quite another to strike a tiny little ball that is about four feet from your hand. After all, I hadn’t been able to play even miniature golf when I could see some. I temporarily forgot the how-can-I aspect of my way of life. I rode around in the golf cart part of the time, but five hours of that gets boring. Looking back, I can see that I put some strain on the golfing relatives; my sister-in-law sometimes decided she would rather not go.
One evening a family group was in the yard knocking golf balls around, and my brother-in-law coaxed me to try. They were using whiffle balls which won’t go very far. I tried and finally connected with a few, but I wanted to hit a real ball. The first one I hit went about twenty feet—behind me. I finally did hit one that traveled nearly a block. I knew that other blind people golfed, and I began to think “how can I” instead of making excuses. I understand that none of us will or cares to do everything—I still don’t wish to snow ski or float the river—but simply not to try was rather shameful. As Paul Harvey would say, “And now for the rest of the story.”
About six years ago I began going golfing, and I was really awful, going by the scores. I have since dropped thirty to sixty strokes off the game on any given day, and I am still awful as scores go, but, as a friend of mine said of himself, “Golf only costs me about ten cents a stroke!” The best part, however, is that instead of staying home all weekend doing exciting things such as laundry, I am often at the city course being highly frustrated along with my husband. The truth about golf is that it frustrates everyone, and I’m not there to be a professional golfer but to spend some quality time with my husband.
We also take this time to educate others about blindness. For the most part golfers are a great bunch of people. Some openly believe it is amazing that I golf. We spend some time disabusing them of this notion. Others ask questions and volunteer to line me up. One fellow from Baltimore who was in the group behind us said, “I just knew you would be slow when I saw you [meaning my cane], but now I see it is not you but the guys in front of us who are slowing us all down.” Once I hit a thirty-one yard putt. Another time I missed an eight inch putt. Considering this, with tongue in cheek I must say my golf game is truly amazing!
I will doubtless never be a particularly good golfer, mostly because I do not physically have the strength to smash the ball, making long distance hits out of the question. I do have fun and get some much needed exercise, and I’m not a golf widow. The most important thing is that I went back to the how-can-I mode of thinking that I learned so many years ago from my friend and mentor, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan. My thanks go to him for helping me to create a fruitful life for myself.
by Allen Harris
From the Editor: Allen Harris chairs the Jernigan Fund Committee. He has an important announcement for those who would like to attend this year’s national convention but find themselves short of funds. This is what he says:
The Jernigan Fund Committee has established criteria for the Dr. Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarships for 2006. These factors will be considered when awarding Jernigan Convention Scholarships:
• Attendance at previous national conventions (preference will be given to first-time attendees).
• Activity at the local, state, or national level.
• Recommendation from the state president. (A formal letter is required. The president must provide a letter to the committee on an applicant’s behalf. If you do not know who your state president is, contact Allen Harris at (515) 274-2256.)
• Amount of assistance requested.
When applying for a convention scholarship, please write a brief paragraph on why you wish to attend the convention. Submit your application letter and statement to Allen Harris, 524 4th Street, Apartment 502 B, Des Moines, Iowa 50309-2364, phone (515) 274-2256.
Applications are due by Monday, April 3, 2006. Every effort will be made to notify scholarship finalists by Monday, May 15, 2006. The National Federation of the Blind’s annual convention is in Dallas, Texas, beginning on July 1, 2006, and adjourning on July 7 at 5:00 p.m. If you have questions or need additional information, contact Allen Harris. His email address is <[email protected]>.
This month’s recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of warm and sunny Hawaii.
Hawaiian Style Portuguese Bean Soup
by Lea Grupen
Lea Grupen is locally grown—born and raised in Hawaii. She is affiliate treasurer, member of the Honolulu Chapter, married to David, and mother of David and Taylor. This recipe has never been written down before, mostly being part of an oral tradition passed down through many generations of her family. It is cooking by passion, intuition, and emotion, so let loose and enjoy while you are making it. It tastes better that way.
3 pieces smoked ham shank (preferred) or ham hock
2 whole linguica (Portuguese sausage, spicy or mild or 1 of each), diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 16-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, chopped
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
2 bay leaves
Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce to taste
Tabasco or any other hot sauce to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
2 cups cooked macaroni (optional)
1 15-ounce can chili beans
1 15-ounce can kidney beans
1 head cabbage or bunch kale, chopped
Method: Boil ham shanks or hock in one and a half gallons water. Simmer until tender, about two hours. Remove meat and reserve stock. In a large soup pot sauté diced linguica until brown, then add onion, and cook until it is soft or transparent. Add celery, garlic, and carrots and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the reserved stock, stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, bay leaves, Lea and Perrins Sauce, Tabasco, sugar, salt, and pepper. When soup comes to a boil, reduce heat. Add parsley or cilantro, macaroni, chili beans, kidney beans, kale or cabbage, and diced ham from the bones. Simmer for ten minutes or until cabbage is done. Skim fat from top before serving. This soup is much better when cooked a day ahead. Enjoy!
Quick and Easy Thai Peanut Sauce
by Debbie Gabe
Debbie Gabe is one of the NFB of Hawaii, Honolulu Chapter’s newest members. She immediately volunteered for the chapter’s transportation committee and to help coordinate the holiday party. She is married to Matthew and has two daughters, Elysia, fourteen, and Stephanie, twenty. She has worked in the audiology department of Hawaii's Women's and Children's Kapiolani Hospital for over twenty-five years. She reports that she uses this recipe thinned a little over noodles or thickened as the sauce for a Thai pizza.
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
3 tablespoons peanut butter (low-fat is fine)
4 tablespoons broth or water
1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar (or more to taste)
Salt to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste)
1 tablespoon chili pepper sauce (the sweet kind if possible)
Method: Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve this sauce over broiled or sautéed tofu or chicken.
by Debbie Gabe
This recipe is good for
dipping veggies and crackers or slices of pita bread.
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
4 teaspoons tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon rind (I just use a little extra lemon juice.)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon cumin (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
Method: Combine and puree all ingredients. Chill and serve.
Best Bran Muffins Ever
by Brook Sexton
Brook Sexton is a longtime member of the NFB but is new to Hawaii, celebrating the completion of her first year of residency. She is already a member of the NFB of Hawaii board of directors and a member of the Honolulu Chapter. She says, “When I was a child, my mother would make these light and moist muffins for an after-school treat or a quick breakfast. They freeze well.
6 cups all-bran cereal
2 cups boiling water
1 cup melted butter or margarine
3 cups sugar
1 quart buttermilk
5 teaspoons baking soda
5 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
Method: Pour the boiling water over 2 cups of the bran and set aside. Mix together butter, sugar, eggs, and buttermilk until well blended. Stir in remaining dry bran cereal. In separate bowl whisk or stir together baking soda, flour, and salt. Add to bran mixture. When the dry ingredients are well incorporated, fold in the 2 cups of soaked bran. Fill greased muffin tins or paper muffin cups three-quarters full and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for fifteen to twenty minutes.
by Adda Beamguard
Adda Beamguard first joined the Federation in Dallas, Texas, during the early 1950's, when her husband became blind. She has always been one of our many silent supporters. She retired to Hawaii about seven years ago and is now a member of the Honolulu Chapter, still quietly working for the equality of blind people.
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pecan halves or pieces
Method: Combine all ingredients but pecans, vanilla, and butter and bring to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Cook to 238 degrees on a candy thermometer or until a little of the syrup forms a soft ball when dropped into a cup of cold water. Remove from heat and beat in butter and vanilla. Gradually stir in enough pecans (do not grind) to make candy set. Drop pralines by teaspoonfuls onto a wax-paper-lined cookie sheet. If the mixture becomes too stiff to work with, add two teaspoons water and reheat, stirring until candy is manageable again.
Spicy Winter Squash Soup
by Katie Keim
Katie Keim is secretary of the NFB of Hawaii and a member of the Honolulu Chapter. She enjoys cooking and baking for friends and family. She reports that this recipe is a tradition at Christmas or any cold winter night. Depending on guests’ preferences, this soup can be made very spicy or just very flavorful.
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chunked
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, chopped
2 to 4-inch piece fresh ginger, chunked
1 stalk dried or fresh lemon grass
1 medium winter squash such as butternut, kabucha, acorn, or pumpkin, peeled and deseeded
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 cups water or vegetable or chicken broth
1 or 2 cans coconut milk, depending on how thick you like your soup
4 keefer lime leaves, found in Asian markets (extra lemon grass and lime juice can be substituted.)
4 limes cut in wedges
Method: In a heavy saucepan or double boiler, sauté all ingredients except liquids, salt, cayenne pepper, and keefer lime leaves, and lime wedges for about twenty minutes or until vegetables are hot. Then add 2 cups liquid, salt, and cayenne pepper. Let simmer until all vegetables are tender. Remove chunks of ginger and the stalk of lemon grass. Blend in food processor or blender or beat with an egg beater until smooth. Add coconut milk and keefer lime leaves. Reheat on low until soup is warm. Serve with fresh lime wedges for guests to squeeze into soup to taste.
Da Kine broke da Mouf Teriyaki Chicken
by Virgil Stinnett
Virgil Stinnett is president of the Honolulu Chapter and of the National Association of Blind Merchants of Hawaii. He loves to barbecue and does so almost every evening that he and Katie have dinner at home. Here is one of his favorites for friends and family. “Da kine” and “broke da mouf” are local expressions meaning really, really good!
1 family pack chicken, thighs and drumsticks for best results
1 1/2 cups soy sauce
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, pressed, or more to taste
1 inch fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 large yellow onion, pressed in a garlic press
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 red chili peppers, chopped
Method: Mix all ingredients except chicken in a large bowl or pan and immerse chicken in marinade. Refrigerate for at least twenty-four hours for best results. Remove from marinade, throw onto prepared grill, and cook until done. Yummiiiieee!
Secret Chinese Chicken
by S. Young
Mr. S. Young, a member of the Honolulu Chapter and treasurer of the Hawaii merchants division, here contributes an old family secret.
1 whole chicken
1 orange (a lime can be substituted)
2 tablespoons salt
Method: Peel the orange; eat the fruit; save peel. In a deep pot of boiling water place the orange peel and submerge whole chicken. Parboil chicken until almost done. Remove chicken, discard skin and bones, and chop into pieces. (To be authentically Chinese, just chop the chicken, bones and all.)
To serve, coat a wok or heavy frying pan with peanut oil. Combine one part sugar and two parts soy sauce; stir in grated ginger root and minced garlic to taste. Add lemon or orange zest or more ginger root, depending on the dish you are making, and reduce sauce to the thickness of a glaze. Add chopped chicken and stir to heat through and coat with the glaze. You can add Chinese vegetables and nuts if you like. Continue stirring until vegetables are tender crisp. This is a long standing Chinese recipe that takes away the gamey flavor of the bird. Using this technique, you can make lemon chicken, shoyu chicken (soy sauce), orange chicken, oyster chicken, garlic chicken, Kung Pao chicken, peppered chicken, teriyaki chicken, or curried chicken.
Ono'licious Katsu Ahi Sashimi Platter
by Dennis Russak
Dennis Russak is a member of the Honolulu Chapter and legislative committee who does not cook. See below for definitions:
1 portion Pacific Ocean
1 cell phone, land line will do
1 taxi or cab
1 beachfront seafood restaurant, Shorebirds is best
1 sunset over beach of Waikiki
Method: Using a phone, call taxi. Settle into taxi seat. Direct driver to favorite beachfront restaurant. Arrive before sunset, requesting the table closest to ocean. Take seat and order one mai tai (tastes best with umbrella) and one platter katsu seared ahi. Sit back, relax sipping mai tai, and enjoy ambiance of the scene. Garnish with a Waikiki sunset.
* Pacific Ocean: body of
salt water off Waikiki
* ono'licious: the very best, delicious
* ahi: tuna
* sashimi: raw fish
* katsu: tuna cutlets
* mai tai: famous Hawaiian cocktail made with rum and tropical juices
* umbrella: apparatus to protect one from the sun or a paper toy decorating tropical drinks
News from the Federation Family
Please note that the telephone number listed in the December issue for making room reservations at the Anatole Hotel in Dallas for the 2006 convention cannot be used. Reservations will only be accepted at (214) 761-7500, which is the number for the Dallas facility. The Anatole has recently become a Hilton property. We regret the confusion caused by corporate wheeling and dealing. Consult the convention summary at the front of this issue for up-to-date information about room reservations and convention preregistration.
First Call for Braille Books:
Donate your gently used but no longer needed Twin Vision™ books to the 2006 Braille Book Flea Market, sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Books should be in good condition. Cookbooks and Twin Vision books suitable for children are badly needed. We still have many books left from last year on other subjects. In other words, this year all we need are Twin Vision books and cookbooks.
In a few months we will have a local address in Texas where you can send the Braille books you wish to donate. Begin your search through the boxes in your basement and spare room, and get them ready for shipping. If you have any questions, contact Peggy Chong at (515) 277-1288 or email at <[email protected]>. Look for a Braille Book Flea Market update in the Braille Monitor very soon.
The following were elected to the NFB of Pennsylvania board of directors at the affiliate’s November convention: president, Jim Antonacci; first vice president, Judy Jobes; second vice president, Lynn Heitz; secretary, Connie Johnson; treasurer, Chuck Morgenstern; and members of the board, Denice Brown, Rod Powell, and Mark Stracks. Harriet Go, Kristen Jocums, and Cary Supalo continue to serve as board members for one more year.
The Parents of Blind Children of Michigan board of directors was recently elected. Members are president, Sharon Darga; treasurer, Debi Marlow; secretary, Sharonda Greenlaw; and board members, Cindi Dail and Tonya Erickson.
2006 National Federation of the Blind Science Academy:
The NFB's National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS) is currently planning our 2006 Science Academy. The Rocket On! session for high school students will be July 14 to 22, while the Circle of Life session for middle school students will be July 29 to August 5. For more information or to apply to be a part of the Science Academy, visit <http://www.nfb.org/nfbji/science_academy.htm>. Applications must be returned by March 31, 2006. For more information contact the Education Department at the Jernigan Institute at (410) 659-9314.
The Des Moines Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa held its annual election on January 14, 2006, with the following results: president, Michael D. Barber; vice president, Al Bickell; secretary, Cindy Ray; treasurer, Roger Erpelding; and board members Joy Harris, Merry-Noel Chamberlain, and Sandi Ryan.
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.
New Uncontracted Braille Scripture Book Available:
Touched by God's Word is a collection of over 100 comforting scriptures taken from the New King James Version of the Bible, compiled and translated by Sandy Price into an easy format to help those who struggle with reading Braille. The contents are double spaced and Brailled on one side only. It is spiral bound with a nice leatherette cover. Available in jumbo uncontracted, standard uncontracted, and contracted (Grade II) Braille. All translations are $14.95 each plus shipping and tax. To order a book, call Sandy Price at (804) 550-3733 or email <[email protected]>.
Announcing an Accessible World Symposium “The World of Work in the 21st Century”:
Don't miss the upcoming online four-hour symposium with experts in the area of employment, hosted by Talking Communities. You will hear professional pointers on job-seeking skills, whether beginning or changing your career in today's workforce. Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions of presenters. All you need is a computer with a sound card and speakers. You may interact with presenters by either text chat or a microphone. Consider having groups of students and individuals seeking employment remotely view this symposium for advice and tips by placement specialists.
When: Thursday, March 30, 2006, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. EST. Please contact Pat Price, events coordinator, for further details by emailing <[email protected]> or calling (317) 254-1185.
All symposia are free to the public from anywhere in the world. Programs are also archived for those who cannot attend the live events. To ensure you receive information about each event, join the Accessible World Announce List. Go to <www.talkingcommunities.com/pat>. Select the “subscribe to the announce list” link near the bottom of the page. You will then be taken to a preaddressed message in your email client. Send that message, and your name will automatically be added.
Did You Know?
A toll-free information service is now available to all phone users in the United States. Federal, state, and local government numbers are also available from the same source. The service will even dial the number at no cost to the caller. Cell phone companies charge $1 or more for 411/information calls. Instead, when you need to locate a phone number, try dialing (800) FREE-411, (800) 373-3411. The only charge you will incur is that for the cell phone minutes required to make the call.
Canadian Federation on the Move:
We recently received the following press release. It speaks for itself:
Learn that Braille Is Beautiful
with Help from Times Colonist Grant
Members of the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB) are teaching grade four students in School District 61 about Braille and about blindness through the Braille Is Beautiful education and curriculum program.
"It was cool to learn about how blind people do things just like us,” says a grade four student at George Jay Elementary School.
"Braille is an essential form of literacy for blind people—just as print is an essential form of literacy for sighted people—and it should be a mandatory part of the education of blind and visually impaired children," says Elizabeth Lalonde, CFB president. "I had a bit of sight when I was young and, because of this, was not taught Braille. This was a major mistake since print was next to impossible for me to read," said Lalonde.
In the presentations blind
CFB members teach children about the importance of Braille and provide a hands-on,
interactive learning experience for the students. They also use the time to
send a positive message about blindness and the abilities of blind people.
"It's great for the kids because they get to be involved. They watch a video about a blind person and get a chance to try Brailling their names and the alphabet with a slate and stylus—equivalent to a pen and paper for sighted people," says Lalonde.
The Canadian Federation of the Blind received a grant from the Times Colonist Book Drive Disbursement Fund as well as assistance from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), its sister organization in the United States. "The support from the Times Colonist, and the National Federation of the Blind in the U.S. made it possible for us to provide this valuable program to schools," said Lalonde. "It is also great that our own members who are blind are doing the teaching. We in the Federation believe the best way to give a positive message about blindness is for blind people themselves to give the message."
The Braille Is Beautiful program provides resources to the schools that teachers can use now and in subsequent years. Every class gets a kit that includes a teacher's guide, a video set, thirty sets of the student instruction book and workbook, a ream of Braille paper, twelve sets of slates and styli, forty-eight paperback books with real and fictional stories about Braille and living with blindness, thirty Braille alphabet cards, a teacher's guide on teaching Braille writing with a slate and stylus, and materials and instructions for doing Braille service projects.
"It was a wonderful presentation. The children really enjoyed it and learned a lot. They just love the slate and stylus and love to make Braille messages for me to figure out, and all the resources the CFB provided are wonderful," said Tracey Chrystal, grade four teacher at George Jay Elementary School.
The CFB has already taken the Braille Is Beautiful program to George Jay and Gordon Head elementary schools, and will visit James Bay, Northridge, Eagle View, Vickwest, and Frank Hobbs between now and the end of the school year. They will go to James Bay Elementary School on Tuesday, January 17.
The Canadian Federation of the Blind is a grassroots nonprofit organization made up of blind people committed to the equality and empowerment of blind Canadians. It is modeled after the National Federation of the Blind in the United States, the largest and most influential grassroots group of blind people in the world.
For more information about the Braille Is Beautiful program and the Canadian Federation of the Blind, contact:
Elizabeth Lalonde, president
Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB)
P.O. Box 8007
Victoria, British Columbia
Canada V8W 3R7
phone (250) 598-7154
fax (250) 595-4849
email <[email protected]
Web site <www.CFB.ca>
Retreat Counselors Needed:
The Sacramento Society for the Blind is seeking several energetic and highly motivated counselors age nineteen and over to work for its annual summer youth retreat. These individuals will have to be not only self-directed, highly organized team players, but skilled in areas of blindness. The youth retreat will be an approximate three-week commitment in July 2006. Counselor training will take place prior to the camp, which spans from July 17 to July 29. Stipends will be given for work performed as well as any transportation costs incurred. For more information or an application please contact Michelle Bruns at <[email protected]> or (916) 452-8271, ext. 328.
Online Writers Workshop:
Disabilities Task Force Chairman Sanford Rosenthal of the National Writers Union At-Large Chapter is launching a workshop project in mid March. It will be a weekly one-hour telephone format that participants can access from their homes at a scheduled day and time.
Writers will mentor aspiring writers on writing and publishing. We all have stories to tell, which should help to empower us all. Contact Sanford Rosenthal to get on the roster: <[email protected]>, (954) 563-9449.
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.
Tina Hubley wishes to sell a black-and-white and color CCTV. She is asking $1,200 or best offer. If interested, contact Tina Hubley, 971 Bancroft Road, Weston, Maine 04424, phone (207) 448-2719. If she does not answer, leave a message on her answering machine.
Hoping to Buy:
I am looking for a used Braille Blazer Embosser made by Freedom Scientific. The new list price is $1,895, but the most I can afford to spend is $900. If you can help me locate a used Braille Blazer as soon as possible, I'd greatly appreciate it. Please contact Melody Heath by email at <[email protected]>, by mail at 3237 Yanceyville Street, Apartment 4-A, Greensboro, North Carolina 27405, home phone (336) 638-5287, cell phone (336) 988-2835.
I have a
TeleTouch for sale. It is a mechanical device used with deaf-blind people mostly.
It is in perfect condition, and I'm asking $400 including shipping. Please call
(815) 654-3190, evenings; or email <[email protected]>.
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.