Vol. 49, No. 6 June 2006
Barbara Pierce, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
MARC MAURER, PRESIDENT
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
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
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
Vol. 49, No. 6 June 2006
JWOD Exposé Reveals Shocking Improprieties
Soaring Through Fear
by Merry-Noel Chamberlain
The Milestone 311: The
Epitome of Accessibility
by Michael D. Barber
Building an Education Program
at the Jernigan Institute:
Reviewing Progress and Imagining the Future
by Mark A. Riccobono
The Rest of the Story
by Betsy Zaborowski
Upside Down and Backwards
by James Christopher Wycoff
Accessible Cell Phone Technology
by the International Braille and Technology Center Staff
A Review of Education and
Rehabilitation for Empowerment
by Kathleen M. Huebner
NLS Celebrates Diamond
by Stephen O. Benson
Copyright 2006 National Federation of the Blind
Friday evening, April 7, 2006, was another example of excellent teamwork, outstanding community support, and joyful participation. This year's Jernigan Institute celebration event featured Ray Kurzweil and our new Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader. Before the evening's program more than six hundred guests and volunteers enjoyed delicious food and beverages from eighteen of Baltimore's best restaurants while they browsed the silent auction tables. Auction packages included overnight get-aways, boat excursions, sports memorabilia, and gift certificates for everything from romantic dinners to a backyard barbeque for fifty friends.
The evening's program began with a live auction of signed Ravens memorabilia, a travel package, and a beautiful diamond necklace, which was graciously purchased by this year's Honorary Chair, Jed Woelfle, senior vice president of Smith Barney. Master of Ceremonies Gerry Sandusky of WBAL-TV 11 Sports thanked our thirty-eight sponsors for their support with special recognition to this year's title sponsor, Citigroup Smith Barney. Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was then introduced and welcomed our guests. Governor Ehrlich has been a warm friend of the NFB for many years, and we always appreciate his taking time from his busy schedule to join us.
Betsy Zaborowski gave a brief overview of the Institute's progress and introduced our Imagination Fund chair, Kevan Worley, for a few words. The crowd was truly inspired as Kevan told the story of their adopted blind son Nijat, a sixteen-year-old young man from Azerbaijan. All were especially thrilled when Kevan concluded his remarks by presenting a check in the amount of $10,000 to the Imagination Fund.
The crowd then welcomed Jim Gashel, executive director of strategic initiatives for the NFB, who with the click of a few buttons brought the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader to life. The crowd was visibly moved by this historic technology advancement for the blind. Ray Kurzweil then told the audience that this is just the beginning of significant improvements in access to information by the blind.President Maurer concluded the program with inspiring words about the way our organization continues to change lives. He then invited his surprised wife Patricia to join him on stage, where he presented her with a dozen roses while the audience sang "Happy Birthday." Then the evening's special entertainment, Mood Swings, a twenty-one-piece dance band, took the stage with a rousing first song encouraging the guests to find a partner and start dancing. Overall it was an evening full of fun and inspiration, a frequent experience at NFB events.
JWOD Exposé Reveals
From the Editor: For the better part of a year now members of the Senate have been threatening draconian overhaul of the Randolph-Sheppard (RS) and Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) programs, both of which were established to provide employment for disabled workers, albeit in very different ways. As we know, the Randolph-Sheppard Program is entrepreneurial in spirit and structure, enabling blind business people to operate food-service businesses of various kinds with some support services from the state licensing agency. The Javits-Wagner-O'Day program provides manufacturing and some service-delivery operations to hire disabled workers as hourly employees (typically not managerial). As long as at least 75 percent of the hourly workers are disabled, these businesses (almost always charities) qualify to receive contracts with the federal government to produce things or services that it needs.
Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have been urging reform of both programs. They think the blind Randolph-Sheppard vendors should hire more disabled employees, and they are disturbed at the high salaries the able-bodied JWOD managers are getting. At the moment it is not clear what is going to happen. Randolph-Sheppard vendors can currently boast that about 32 percent of their workforce are disabled people--a far more respectable percentage than any other group of employers except the JWOD charities, whose disabled employees are almost entirely line workers at the bottom end of the pay scale.
In early March the Oregonian newspaper ran a series of detailed articles that blew wide open the growing scandal of high managerial salaries and the successful efforts of a number of JWOD agencies to avoid hiring the severely disabled workers the act originally intended to provide for. It is important for Monitor readers to understand what is going on. We are pleased to report that the JWOD agencies that are members of National Industries for the Blind (NIB) have not been implicated in this scandal. When the Senate begins proposing changes to the RS and JWOD programs, it will be important for us to recognize where the problems are and what should be preserved. Here, reprinted with permission, are two of the articles that appeared on March 5 and 6, 2006, in the Oregonian. All rights reserved:
Charity Leaders Prosper as "Disabled" Is Redefined
Federal program to help the severely disabled draws scrutiny over executive pay as hiring shifts to a new class of subsidized workers
by Jeff Kosseff, Bryan
Denson, and Les Zaitz
March 5, 2006
When Congress created the nation's most ambitious jobs program for Americans with severe disabilities, the idea was straightforward and rich with compassion. Federal agencies would reserve contracts for small nonprofit workshops that hired epileptics, paraplegics, and the mentally retarded to make simple products such as mousetraps, blackboards, and first-aid kits. The disabled would gain a decent paycheck, some self-esteem, and a chance to learn skills that someday might land them a better job.
More than three decades later, the nonprofits increasingly are hiring workers who are mildly disabled, if at all, with aching backs, substance-abuse problems, and other maladies common in the American workplace. This new class of federally subsidized worker is getting the highest-paid jobs, while many of the most severely disabled toil for pennies an hour.
Their bosses are benefiting handsomely, with leaders at many of the program's biggest charities pulling in private-sector-style compensation as the new money rolls in. At least a dozen earn $350,000 or more a year, and average pay and benefits for top executives at the program's largest nonprofits have grown more than three times faster than their workers' pay.
The program's key requirement--that three of every four hours of work is performed by people with severe disabilities--is policed under what's essentially an honor system. Oversight is so weak that the biggest contractor, a Texas nonprofit, amassed $834 million in government sales despite repeated findings that it couldn't document many of its workers' disabilities.
This radical reordering of the government's priorities comes at a cost. Many of the most severely disabled workers, who labor at charities with shoestring budgets, have been left behind. "Like a lot of federal contracting, the big money drives it," said David Wiegan, who believes workers at his small McMinnville nonprofit are simply too disabled to win many of the contracts now offered by the program. He said some bigger charities are drifting away from their social welfare missions: "I think they get sucked in, and I think they lose their sense of what's right and wrong when they're tempted by a lot of big dollars." Called Javits-Wagner-O'Day after its founders in Congress, the program requires federal agencies to buy certain goods or services from nonprofits that employ blind or severely disabled workers. Prices are set by regulators and the nonprofits, which collaborate with federal agencies that set aside contracts for the nonprofits.
The program is administered like no other in the government. A presidentially appointed committee delegates much day-to-day oversight to two trade associations representing nonprofits. These groups collect up to a 4 percent commission on every contract they monitor, creating a basic conflict of interest: Booting a charity from the program cuts their own revenue stream.
Sales in the $2.25 billion program have doubled during the Bush administration, driven largely by the post-9/11 boom in Pentagon contracts for complex tasks such as sewing chemical-warfare suits or fixing battle-scarred Humvees. Delivering on those contracts requires a more skilled--and less disabled--workforce with salaries that are often comparable to the private sector.
Across the country about 300,000 blind or disabled workers hold jobs at small charities similar to Wiegan's, with most earning less than minimum wage under a federal law that allows them to be compensated based on their limited productivity. While many federal programs for the disabled have faced steep budget cuts, Javits-Wagner-O'Day continues to grow year to year and now employs more than 48,000 workers.
The Oregonian began investigating the program as part of a continuing series of reports examining the evolution of nonprofits that employ America's disabled workers. The findings, drawn from hundreds of interviews, thousands of pages of documents, and visits to more than a dozen charities in seven states, reveal a program that drifted far from its founding principles with little outside scrutiny or public debate about who is benefiting.
Periodic attempts to change Javits-Wagner-O'Day have floundered on opposition from nonprofits and their advocacy groups, which are skilled at lobbying against reforms. But pressure for change is mounting as some in Congress question whether nonprofit executives are cashing in at the expense of the disabled.
The program "is intended to benefit many persons with disabilities, not a handful of nonprofit executives," said Senator Mike Enzi, a Wyoming Republican who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Enzi held a hearing on the program last fall and will be an influential player this year as Congress considers updating Javits-Wagner-O'Day. He said he's concerned that small charities can't get contracts while "much larger nonprofits grow rich." More should be done to get disabled workers into mainstream jobs, he said.
That long-term goal--to train disabled workers so they can compete for jobs on the open market--has taken a back seat. Figures reviewed by the Oregonian show only 2,450 workers moved from Javits-Wagner-O'Day jobs into the regular workplace last year, a figure that has fallen despite the program's surge in growth. The new disabled Mike Davis is not the kind of worker lawmakers said they had in mind when they drafted Javits-Wagner-O'Day, but he owes his job to the program.
The twenty-nine-year-old mechanic, out of the Army on a medical discharge, found work at Skookum Educational Programs, one of the biggest charities in Javits-Wagner-O'Day. Weekdays he fixes Humvees and nineteen-ton military cargo trucks at Fort Lewis, Washington, tearing into engines battered by duty in Baghdad and elsewhere. Davis earns $24.56 an hour, including about $3 for medical benefits and retirement. He has a hearing problem--corrected by hearing aids--and backaches that he says made him unemployable elsewhere.
Congress envisioned helping a different class of veterans thirty-five years ago. With troops streaming home from the Vietnam War, lawmakers pondered expanding a small program that since the 1930's had set aside contracts for the blind. Their plan was to open the program to veterans with missing limbs, paralysis, or brain damage, plus twelve million working-age adults left unemployed by major disabilities.
President Nixon's chief disability-employment training official told lawmakers who would get the jobs. "We are talking about mentally retarded and the paraplegic . . . and quadriplegic," Edward Newman told Congress. He included "deaf people with severe psychomotor problems . . . and people with other kinds of neurological involvement such as people with severe cerebral palsy or epilepsy."
That definition is now archaic. With the acquiescence of regulators, nonprofits gradually have expanded the notion of severely disabled to include ailments never discussed when the law was amended in 1971. The additions include conditions such as alcoholism or chemical dependency, minor learning disabilities, limited English, nasal polyps, carpal tunnel syndrome, allergies, arthritis, and speech impairments.
The broadened notion of who is disabled, in combination with the surge in military spending since 9/11, has revolutionized many of the biggest nonprofits in Javits-Wagner-O'Day. It also has stretched the boundaries of the program's most fundamental rule: 75 percent of the work hours logged by contractors must be supplied by blind or severely disabled workers.
Skookum is a case study in the transformation. For years the bulk of Skookum's developmentally disabled workers made jump-ropes or sorted recyclables in businesses cultivated by founder Jim Westall. The jump rope business still occupies a room at the company's airy headquarters in Port Townsend, Washington, but the fact that it no longer turns a profit is of little concern.
In 2001 Skookum landed a five-year, $64 million Javits-Wagner-O'Day contract to diagnose and repair Army vehicles that overnight promised to double the nonprofit's annual revenues. When the Army later told Skookum that thousands of damaged vehicles were heading back from Iraq, Westall couldn't find enough disabled employees in a hurry to handle the load. So the government granted Skookum a three-month waiver of its disability requirement, Westall said. The waiver has expired, and the work goes on.
The contract now has 120 workers with pay averaging $20 an hour. At least one has a missing leg, though most others suffer learning, hearing, and physical afflictions, such as back and joint pain. Westall, a former special education teacher and Skookum's chief executive, acknowledges that workers at the Fort Lewis garage are higher functioning than many others in Javits-Wagner-O'Day. The nature of the work demands it, he said: "They have to be able to do the work, or the Army has no use for them. You have to know an axle from a gas cap."
Westall thinks the program
should be expanded to cover a wider range of workers, including perhaps battered
women. Until then, he said, meeting the program's standard of 75 percent disabled
labor boils down to a balancing act. "Move too far one way--and hire too
many people with too severe disabilities who can't do the work--and we lose
our contract," he said. "Move too far the other way--to this place
where we have all of these high-functioning people that can do the work but
(have) questionable disabilities--we lose our soul."
Skookum is hardly alone. Many of the biggest charities in Javits-Wagner-O'Day routinely use workers with modest disabilities. What matters, they say, is not the type of disability but whether it prevents them from holding a job outside the program.
One of the most successful is Fedcap Rehabilitation Services, a New York City charity that pays an average of $17.87 an hour to Javits-Wagner-O'Day workers. Fedcap, which supplies custodial crews for federal buildings, reports the program's third-highest average wage, mostly because the nonprofit pays union scale.
Like Skookum, the charity specialized in hiring workers with profound physical disabilities when it was founded seventy years ago. Now Fedcap workers include many with learning disabilities, mental illness, alcoholism, and substance abuse who are judged unemployable elsewhere, said Susan Fonfa, the charity's executive director.
"Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not real," Fonfa said. "We will get people with every disability possible, just about." Critics of this hiring trend say it's less a balancing act than a cop-out. Some charities are cashing in on the government's largess, they say, while smaller nonprofits with workers who are far needier can't get in.
At Wiegan's nonprofit in McMinnville, for instance, the majority of the 150 workers are mentally retarded, autistic, blind, or beset with other physical or developmental disabilities. Their problems are too severe to perform much of the work now being offered under Javits-Wagner-O'Day, Wiegan said. For years Mid-Valley Rehabilitation has tried to land a contract under the program, Wiegan said. The nonprofit turned down one offer to make military footlockers, he said, because the costs were too high. Any worker who can repair a Humvee has no business taking money under Javits-Wagner-O'Day, he said.
"It's beyond absurd," Wiegan said. "If they can do that work, they're competitively employable. It's crystal clear." Wiegan's nonprofit is more typical of those that employ the severely disabled. Because such workers are normally less productive, the law allows charities like Mid-Valley to pay less than the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. About 300,000 workers fall into this category, according to U.S. Labor Department estimates. Even so about 70 percent of the nation's disabled adults remain unemployed.
When people with truly severe disabilities are lucky enough to land work under Javits-Wagner-O'Day, they're often paid a subminimum wage. To get a picture of how little these employees earn, The Oregonian analyzed earnings records for eight large contractors. They show that 1,644 employees with severe disabilities received a median wage of $1.93 an hour.
Megan Brixey is the type
of worker lawmakers envisioned helping when Congress expanded Javits-Wagner-O'Day.
The twenty-seven-year-old McMinnville resident has Down syndrome and a job shagging
lumber for $3.91 an hour at a wood-products company run by Wiegan's nonprofit.
Brixey said she dreams of magic--"Like Harry Potter," she says--wishing
that it flowed into her hands to make her a faster worker. Wiegan said the big
contracts and high pay for workers with mild disabilities send a blunt message
to his severely disabled employees: "They're not as important as the money."
Private Sector-Type Benefits
The money has been a boon to top executives at the biggest nonprofits. As sales ballooned under Javits-Wagner-O'Day, charity boards have adopted compensation packages and marketing budgets that resemble those of the private sector.
Nineteen years ago, a disability counselor started a tiny nonprofit jobs program deep in the heart of Appalachia with a small grant. Since then Terri McRae has built Advocacy and Resources Corp. of Cookeville, Tennessee, into a multimillion-dollar producer of baking mix, fortified vegetable oil, and other food for the government. The charity drew $50 million in federal contracts last year, making it one of the largest in Javits-Wagner-O'Day.
McRae's paychecks mirrored the charity's success. In 2004, as her nonprofit landed large contracts with the military and U.S. Department of Agriculture, her wages, deferred compensation, and benefits had grown to $518,835, up from $66,500 a few years earlier.
McRae readily defends her compensation. Her nonprofit pays market wages to all employees, including the executives, she said. Running a multimillion-dollar government contractor requires deep knowledge of many regulatory requirements, something that has taken years to develop, McRae said. "I'm telling you what--my job's a hard damn job," McRae said in an interview last summer. "And when I'm gone, I'm going to be really hard to replace."
The Oregonian analyzed tax forms for Javits-Wagner-O'Day's fifty largest contractors, which together account for about two-thirds of the program's sales. More than a dozen reported executives with pay and benefits exceeding $350,000 in 2004, the most recent year for which complete tax records are available. The list includes Bill Hudson, president of LC Industries Inc. in Durham, North Carolina, who made $537,787; John Miller, chief executive of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, who made $444,405; and Terry Allen Perl, chief executive of The Chimes Inc. in Baltimore, who drew $704,175. The charities said salaries for all three were set by their board members based on pay at similar-sized operations.
The largest Javits-Wagner-O'Day contractor, an El Paso, Texas, company with $276 million in sales to the military and other agencies last year, reports no salary for its president, Robert E. Jones. Instead, the National Center for the Employment of the Disabled said it paid $4 million in 2004 to a management firm controlled by Jones's family trust.
Average pay and benefits for the top contractors' CEOs climbed 57 percent between 2000 and 2004, a period in which average hourly pay for their severely disabled workers increased 16 percent. The CEOs averaged $248,287 in pay and benefits in 2004, up from $241,164 a year earlier and $158,400 in 2000. By comparison, only a quarter of human-services nonprofits with budgets greater than $5 million gave their CEOs pay and benefits exceeding $155,520 in 2003, according to Guidestar, a national clearinghouse for charity data. The Oregonian's averages exclude two nonprofits: Mississippi Industries for the Blind, because it is run by the state, and the El Paso charity, because it reports only a management fee and not Jones's salary.
Few observers expect charity officials to take vows of poverty. But in recent years, controversy about perks, insider deals, and big executive salaries has prompted Congress to threaten a crackdown.
IRS rules require nonprofit boards to base executive salaries on a review of what's paid to comparable business leaders. Some of those familiar with Javits-Wagner-O'Day, including Fredric Schroeder, a former member of the committee that oversees the program, find the rising paychecks unseemly. "There is the clear appearance that people with severe disabilities are being paid low wages with no oversight of those wages and that executives are being paid astronomical wages," said Schroeder, who sat on the program's oversight committee during the Clinton administration.
The boom in contracts has fattened both salaries and the balance sheet at many Javits-Wagner-O'Day nonprofits. Net assets of the top fifty charities grew 60 percent between 2000 and 2004, with the biggest exploding by five times or more. Charities now fret over things like "brand identity." The trade association representing most of the program's nonprofits spent $500,000 on lobbying and $3 million on marketing and communications in 2004, according to tax forms and congressional records. Charity officials say the spending aims to boost awareness about the program's goals and to attract more federal business. But it also adds overhead. Supplies, marketing, management salaries, and other costs take up the bulk of the program's money. Only about 18 percent of the $2.25 billion spent in 2005 went to wages for the disabled.
The fifteen-member committee that oversees Javits-Wagner-O'Day does not police salaries, deferring instead to the IRS. Recently the program's growth prompted the committee to consider setting new governance and conflict-of-interest standards for nonprofits, which overwhelmingly have criticized the move as an intrusion.
Stronger oversight would
be a departure. When it comes to policing its key mandate--that contractors
use severely disabled workers for three-fourths of their labor--even top officials
concede they haven't aggressively monitored the nonprofits. Who's keeping watch?
Headquartered on the tenth floor of a bland high-rise near the Pentagon, the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled is one of the smallest and most unusual agencies in the government. By law the panel of fifteen presidential appointees--four representatives of blind and disabled workers, and eleven federal government managers--decides which federal contracts are set aside under Javits-Wagner-O'Day. Their choices, which are seldom reviewed by Congress, can steer hundreds of millions of dollars to obscure nonprofits.
In an arrangement with few parallels in government, the law allows the presidential committee to assign most contract management duties to two trade associations, the National Industries for the Blind, or NIB, and NISH, formerly known as the National Industries for the Severely Handicapped. For years government regulators visited charities to determine whether they employed enough severely disabled workers. Employees of the trade groups also visited the charities to help them comply with the labor rules. But in 2001, with fewer than thirty staffers tracking more than $1 billion in contracts, the agency delegated regular site inspections to the trade associations.
The decision was made without significant public debate or even a committee vote. "With my staff of twenty-nine people, NIB and NISH can put more resources against that," said Leon Wilson, executive director of the presidential panel. "I still believe that was a better path for us to take." On paper the panel still has broad authority to cut off contracts from nonprofits that fail to meet the program's requirement that 75 percent of all labor be performed by workers with severe disabilities.
In reality it's an honor system with little enforcement. Nonprofits file annual reports, but NISH officials visit only once every three years. They randomly sample employee files to check the ratio of severely disabled labor hours. If paperwork is complete, the nonprofit passes.
Robert Chamberlin, NISH's chief executive, said his staffers do not interview workers to verify their disabilities because of restrictions set by federal health privacy laws. More important, Chamberlin said, NISH does not have the legal authority to conduct audits or investigations of the program's contractors.
"They have specifically told us, ‘You're not auditors,'" he said. "‘You're not investigators. Your mission is to go in an assist mode.'" The tiny federal committee does visit new nonprofits or those known to have problems. But officials acknowledge that no one regularly audits longtime participants in the program.
The trade groups have an incentive to resolve issues amicably. The charities pay them up to 4 percent on each contract. The commissions helped boost NISH's revenue 86 percent over four years, to $58 million in 2004. The trade associations "live on the commissions that come from the contracts that go to these nonprofits," said Schroeder, the former committee member. "So are they genuinely interested in pulling the plug on a contract that appears to be unreasonably operated? . . . I'm not suggesting evil, but there's no truly independent oversight."
Rules of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program leave room for some interpretation of who qualifies as "severely disabled." They say a worker must suffer from a "severe physical or mental impairment" that so limits their ability to walk, talk, or work that the person is unable to "engage in normal competitive employment."
The law specifies a measurable standard for blindness--20/200 vision in the best corrected eye. As such, there are few questions about workers at the seventy-four nonprofits represented by NIB, the trade group for the blind. But the range of other disabilities is much less clearly defined. NISH, which represents 553 contractors, only demands its charities document that workers have disabilities preventing them from finding other jobs.
The program's lax oversight can be seen in the committee's dealings with El Paso's National Center for the Employment of the Disabled, the program's biggest contractor.
Officials with the committee and NISH began examining in 1999 whether the nonprofit used enough labor from severely disabled workers. By May 2000 officials on three separate occasions had found inadequate documentation to back up disability claims. The problems did not stop the nonprofit from building its business year after year. Last spring an anonymous complaint triggered a visit from committee investigators, who found payroll reports indicating only 39 percent of the nonprofit's labor was from severely disabled workers. Still it wasn't until January that the committee ordered NISH to send a compliance team to El Paso to review all the nonprofit's records.
Since then the charity's largest customer--the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia--said NISH alerted commanders of "some concerns" about whether the nonprofit was using enough severely disabled labor. A spokeswoman said Friday that the center last week "ceased placing orders with NCED" until the concerns are resolved. Separately charity officials are scheduled to appear before the committee Thursday to address the workforce issue.
Not since the early 1990's has the committee or NISH released an accounting of the types of disabilities in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day workforce. The Oregonian sent surveys to the fifty largest contractors in an attempt to categorize disabilities, but only six responded, too few for a reliable sample. NISH has worked for months to compile such a report, but results were not ready as of last week.
Linda Merrill, chief executive at Envision, a Kansas nonprofit that primarily employs blind workers, said it's time for "severely disabled" to be defined more strictly. "We're kind of joking among ourselves," said Merrill, "that instead of National Industries for the Severely Handicapped, it's National Industries for the Severe Hangnail and Hemorrhoids." NISH's Chamberlin acknowledged that nonprofits have an incentive to employ people who have higher productivity, but he does not blame that on the federal program. Customers increasingly are demanding high quality at low prices, he said.
"The government is
tough," Chamberlin said. To address the problem, he said, NISH is attempting
to find more business in areas such as document destruction and laundry, which
are better suited to people with more severe disabilities.
Momentum for Change
Powerful forces on Capitol Hill are beginning to recognize problems with Javits-Wagner-O'Day, foreshadowing a showdown between lawmakers and charities in the program. Two U.S. senators have introduced a bill that would reserve some federal contracts for private businesses employing disabled workers. And a Senate committee held a hearing in October, taking testimony about soaring executive salaries and misdirected resources.
Enzi, the Wyoming senator, said the program should do more to move workers into mainstream jobs. As it stands, only 5 percent of the severely disabled workers in the program move to private-sector jobs, down from 7 percent in 2000. Wilson said workers are reluctant to leave nonprofits because they are friendly places with wages and benefits that are often superior to comparable private companies.
Newman, the former Nixon administration official, said policymakers expanded the program in 1971 hoping to train workers and move them out of low-paying "sheltered workshop" nonprofits and into the regular workforce. Now he sees a reversal. "They are rebuilding a sheltered workshop mentality, when the efforts of the '60's and '70's was to help people with disabilities be able to join the mainstream of the work world," said Newman, now a professor at Temple University.
If history is any guide, changes to the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program are likely to be met with great resistance by many of the biggest charities. The chairman of the presidential oversight committee, Steve Schwalb, said alarm about rising executive pay led members to propose a $207,000 compensation cap in late 2004. The figure seemed reasonable because $207,000 was the top compensation for federal managers, most of whom run agencies larger than the program's nonprofits.
What followed was a roar of protest from nonprofit executives, board members who set their salaries, and some of their lawyers. Schwalb's committee withdrew the proposal. But after the Oregonian last fall reported on rising executive salaries and Enzi's committee held hearings, the presidential panel proposed more stringent governance standards for nonprofits along with a possible compensation limit, though it has not specified a number.
Chamberlin, who as head of NISH earned salary and benefits totaling $299,565 in 2004, has been among the opponents of a salary cap. The trade group had argued against the $207,000 pay limit, calling it discriminatory and unnecessary.
One supporter of a compensation limit is John Murphy, who earned $130,310 in pay and benefits as the head of Portland Habilitation Center in 2004. The nonprofit provides janitorial services for federal buildings and is Oregon's biggest Javits-Wagner-O'Day contractor. Murphy, who sits on the NISH board of directors, said it will be difficult for the program to determine a maximum salary. But it's needed, he said. "The committee should make some judgments and come down on organizations where it just stinks," Murphy said. "The reputation of the program is at stake."
Texas Charity a Launchpad for Entrepreneur's Empire
Robert E. Jones takes a faltering nonprofit under his wing and reaps rewards under a federal program aimed at benefiting those who are severely disabled
by Les Zaitz, Jeff Kosseff,
and Bryan Denson
Monday, March 6, 2006
EL PASO, Texas--Robert E. Jones arrived in this hard-luck border city two decades ago, trailed by a bankrupt business, angry creditors, and millions of dollars in court judgments against him. Today he oversees a business empire that includes garment factories, downtown office towers, and a hospital. The family trust he controls recently claimed a net worth of more than $40 million.
How did he do it? Charity. In just nine years the nonprofit Jones directs--the National Center for the Employment of the Disabled--has landed $834 million in exclusive federal contracts, emerging as the Pentagon's primary manufacturer of chemical-warfare suits.
Today $1 in every $10 spent through the federal government's most ambitious program to employ severely disabled workers flows through the charity. Yet the government repeatedly has found that NCED couldn't document that it met the program's primary mandate--that severely disabled workers provide three of every four hours of labor at participating nonprofits. Last week the U.S. military took the rare step of suspending all orders with the charity until "concerns" about the makeup of its workforce are resolved.
Over the past decade Jones has amassed a fortune in a rags-to-riches journey that took him from a messy business failure in Houston to last year's El Paso "Entrepreneur of the Year" honor. The charity paid his management firm $14 million from 1999 to 2004, according to its tax returns. And it has invested or lent $5 million to for-profit businesses in which Jones held a significant interest.
The story of NCED illustrates many of the shortcomings in the federal Javits-Wagner-O'Day program, which last year set aside $2.25 billion in government contracts for nonprofits that employ the severely disabled. An investigation by the Oregonian found skyrocketing executive pay in the program at the same time nonprofits increasingly hire workers with lesser disabilities. Oversight of the program is essentially an honor system that allows charities to go for years without being inspected to see whether they're using the required amount of severely disabled labor.
In NCED's case the charity repeatedly assured regulators it was in compliance. But one internal record obtained by the Oregonian represents that from 2002 to 2004, fewer than half the workers were disabled. Another document, a quarterly report summarizing hours worked by each employee, shows hundreds of workers with only "English" listed as a "disadvantage."
Regulators independently established last year that the charity was combining "disabled" employees and "disadvantaged" workers, a classification that doesn't meet the federal labor standard. But that finding came years after questions first arose about its labor documentation. By that time NCED had built its annual government business to $276 million. The figure is more than thirty times the sales logged by the thirteen Oregon charities in the program.
Responding to detailed queries from the Oregonian, the charity issued a two-paragraph statement saying it complied with all relevant government rules. Jones did not respond to written questions about the nonprofit's labor ratios, charity operations, and extensive dealings with his private business interests.
In an initial interview last year, the sixty-year-old Jones said he's been successful because he's taken a different path than most charity executives. "I'm a hard-core businessperson, not a born-again do-gooder," Jones said. Federal tax law allows the nation's 820,000 public charities to strike deals with their executives and directors and their for-profit businesses, but only if fair value is paid for the goods or services.
Late last year the Internal Revenue Service visited the offices of a trade group representing most of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day charities to discuss NCED, a federal official familiar with the visit said. Jones also has drawn previous IRS scrutiny for dealings with the charity, according to two of the nonprofit's board members and an email the Oregonian obtained.
In 2004 a charity accountant said in the email that two IRS officials told him they were concerned about the "egregiousness" of "acts of self-dealing" at the charity in 1999 and 2000. The accountant, Richard Speizman of KPMG, wrote that the IRS also questioned a "lack of independent oversight" by the charity's board.
Jones recently paid "a substantial sum" to settle a long-running IRS audit of the charity for those years, according to John Oblinger and Stephen Benson, members of the charity's board of directors. Neither Jones nor the IRS would disclose the amount. Speizman indicated in the email that the IRS was discussing the charity's tax-exempt status. Losing it would disqualify the charity from its federal contracts. KPMG officials declined to comment on behalf of the firm and Speizman.
Last spring an anonymous complaint prompted the committee of presidential appointees that oversees the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program to re-examine whether the charity was using enough severely disabled workers. In an email obtained by the Oregonian, the program's executive director fretted that he didn't need a "scandal" involving the program's largest contractor. Nonetheless, the committee ordered a comprehensive investigation of the nonprofit's workforce and has summoned charity officials to a hearing Thursday to answer questions.
Back in El Paso, Jones
remains a commanding figure, lauded for his work with the disabled. He has cemented
that stature with a wide array of charitable donations, giving to the YMCA,
public schools, and other causes. The nonprofit is one of the city's largest
employers, listing 4,000 employees. Jones speaks frequently of his passion for
charity. "Doing the right thing has been a wonderful godsend for the community,"
he told the Oregonian. "But it's mirrored back to us and magnetized
back to us as being a white knight as a corporate citizen."
Starting Over in El Paso
Little in Jones's past predicts this emergence as a charity operator and big federal contractor. The burly six-foot-four Texan got a start in business as an electrical contractor in Houston. Stacey Inc., a company he founded, grew rapidly, then went bankrupt in 1980, eventually saddling Jones with $3.9 million in court judgments from creditors. Court records show only one judgment, for $35,375, was ever paid.
The U.S. Labor Department in 1983 sued Jones, accusing him of "repeatedly" using the Stacey employees' profit-sharing plan as his "personal banking account." He agreed two years later to pay the federal government $506,680 to settle the case; court records do not show the sum was paid, and the Labor Department says it no longer has records relating to the judgment.
Jones made a fresh start in El Paso, where he managed a business park and involved himself in downtown development. In 1995 the owner of the business park, Evern Wall, asked him to look over operations at a struggling charity. The National Center for the Employment of the Disabled was in bankruptcy. Its major contract, making cardboard boxes for the General Services Administration, could not support its workforce of fifty people.
Jones saw promise in the nonprofit and said he would try to save it--but not on a salary. Instead, he struck a deal that gave him a personal stake in its success, with the nonprofit paying an annual management fee to a firm owned by the Jones Family Trust. The beneficiaries of that trust are his children, Jones testified in a civil suit. He said he administers the trust with his sister and brother-in-law.
The management fee initially was set at 1 percent of the charity's revenue, plus $5,000 a month. The deal later was doubled to 2 percent of revenues plus 5 percent of each year's increase in net assets, an arrangement that proved lucrative as the charity began buying factories and for-profit businesses. The formula has worked well for Jones. JFT Management was paid $294,300 in 1997. By 2003 and 2004, it was earning more than $4 million annually, or about $75,000 a week.
Jones told the Oregonian his personal tax return shows he takes home about $500,000 a year for all his business ventures. The majority of the management fees, he said, are invested in "socially correct" enterprises in health care and education. Jones said he approached the work with trepidation when he took over the nonprofit in 1995. "My great dread was, God, working with disabled people, what's this going to be like?" he said. "I wasn't a very good or caring person in those areas."
The factory was dismal, he recalled. "My first mission was just cleaning the place up," Jones said. "It was filthy. . . . The idea of the company surviving was one in one thousand." Jones brought in new directors for NCED's board, including his brother-in-law, and pulled the nonprofit out of debt by pressing suppliers to discount outstanding bills and winning new contracts to make boxes.
A break came in 1997, when the biggest trade group that helps run the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program offered the El Paso charity the chance to sew chemical-warfare suits. The operation owned only a few ancient sewing machines, but after Jones won a $9 million contract to make suits for the Marine Corps, he cobbled together the needed equipment and factory space, according to Jones and the nonprofit's board minutes.
By 2000 the charity held
$37 million in government contracts--a dramatic turnaround for a nonprofit that
just five years earlier had earned less than $3 million in revenue. But that
was just the start.
An Opportune Juncture
Jones had stepped into exactly the right business at exactly the right moment. The 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subways put the issue of preparedness on the front burner at the Clinton White House. Inside the Pentagon worries grew about the military's ability to cope with chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks.
Chemical-protective suits are sewn from a permeable fabric lined with carbon beads. Making them is exacting work. Because exposure to even minute amounts of nerve agent can be fatal, military contracting officers keep a close eye on the quality. Jones said the quality demanded is "twice that required by commercial products." The suits, which cost an average $241, also offer an attractive business opportunity. Because the protective fabric degrades quickly, they must be replaced within six weeks once used.
Jones's foray into chemical-suit manufacturing made economic sense. El Paso's unemployment rate had topped 11 percent, double the national rate. The city, once a mainstay in U.S. textile manufacturing, was awash in skilled workers who lost jobs as the garment industry moved overseas. Hiring those workers could make the nonprofit immediately competitive. But rules of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program required that three-quarters of the work be performed by blind or severely disabled people. Jones told the Oregonian that up to 20 percent of El Paso's laid-off workers had severe disabilities.
A local official whose agency helped him with recruiting said the call went out for sewing machine operators who faced "barriers." Martin Aguirre, the former chief executive of the Upper Rio Grande Workforce Development Board, said the "barriers" did not have to be physical disabilities. Charity officials told Aguirre's agency it was sufficient to be "economically disadvantaged" and struggling with language or literacy, he said. Jones said the jobs paid an average of about $9 an hour, including benefits.
From 1997 to 2005, a period in which the nonprofit's sales under the program totaled $834 million, Jones signed annual reports required by the government declaring that severely disabled workers were providing at least 75 percent and as much as 97 percent of the labor. But an internal document obtained by the Oregonian states that a top charity executive informed Jones that less than half the workforce was disabled during three of the years.
The document, a 2004 handwritten note to Jones from Ernie Lopez, the nonprofit's chief operating officer, summarized NCED's labor history in the years 2002, 2003, and 2004. "Bob, these are the ratio numbers that I was telling you about on the phone," the note says. According to the note, the nonprofit's percentage of disabled workers was falling, from 44 percent in 2002 to only 38 percent in the spring of 2004. The note counted "disadvantaged" workers--33 percent in 2002 rising to 38 percent by April 2004--to reach totals slightly above 75 percent each year.
A quarterly employment report from 2002, also obtained by the Oregonian, included 345 workers whose only disadvantage was designated as "English." Nearly 80 percent of the hours listed in the report are logged as "disabled/disadvantaged." Excluding those with only an "English" disadvantage, however, drops the figure to 43 percent.
Jones, Lopez, and the charity's
board declined to answer questions about the report or other internal documents.
Oversight and Assistance
The chemical-warfare suits have provided a steady revenue stream for the charity. Before orders were suspended last week, the nonprofit was making 70 percent of the military's suits, according to the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia. It took years for questions about the makeup of NCED's workforce to slow that buildup of business.
In an unusual arrangement for the federal government, the Javits-Wagner-O'Day program is overseen by a small federal agency that disburses contracts and enforces rules. The committee, in turn, delegates some duties to two nonprofit trade groups representing charities. The biggest, known as NISH, represents the bulk of the 627 charities in the program.
Both the oversight committee, with twenty-nine employees, and NISH have said their primary focus is on helping charities stay in the program rather than sanctioning them. Robert Chamberlin, the chief executive officer of NISH, said the trade group's staffers work to "assist" contractors in following the law.
Even so, a charity can lose its federal contracts unless three-quarters of its labor is performed by people with severe disabilities such as mental retardation or partial paralysis. Regulators say lack of English fluency isn't a severe disability. Nor can charities count "disadvantaged" workers to reach the 75 percent ratio, regulators say. "If they don't qualify as severely disabled, they shouldn't be counted," said Steve Schwalb, chairman of the federal oversight panel, which carries the unwieldy name of Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled.
Both the committee and NISH have examined the El Paso charity's disability ratios. In February 1999 a NISH inspector visited NCED and found inadequate paperwork to prove workers' disabilities. "Individuals without the required medical documentation must be considered nondisabled," Victor J. Dennis, a NISH official, warned Jones in a follow-up letter that summer.
Later that year someone purporting to be an employee sent an anonymous letter to regulators alleging misconduct at the nonprofit. Among other things the letter asserted that workers were being sent to company-approved doctors "so we can keep our percentage of disabled workers high."
Following up that July, a committee compliance officer, Lou Bartalot, wrote in a memo that allegations in the anonymous letter ought to be taken seriously, partly because Jones is a "fast-talking, wheeler-dealer type of businessman." But Bartalot said the mix of allegations in the letter made the case daunting. "Neither NISH or the committee staff has the expertise necessary to really investigate this type of claim," he wrote.
Nonetheless, Bartalot and another committee official went to El Paso and also found documentation problems. Jones responded that his charity was shoring up its files and putting workers through a new round of physicals. "We have gone to great lengths and spared no expense in complying," Jones wrote in one letter to the committee. "There is no doubt that the reported percentage of disabled in our direct labor force is accurate."
Less than a year passed before another review turned up "serious deficiencies in the medical documentation," according to a report by Peter Brandom, a program analyst with the federal committee. Some workers recorded as having severe visual impairment wore glasses or contacts that gave them 20/15 vision--better than normal. Workers aren't severely disabled, Brandom wrote, unless vision in the best-corrected eye is 20/200 or worse. Some documentation indicated "the individual has no disability," Brandom added. Still other medical records provided no proof that the condition, such as high blood pressure, was severe enough to qualify under the program.
Once again, the charity promised to make changes. It appointed an El Paso doctor to make sure medical documentation was adequate, and it hired a local health care company to maintain files and make sure they reflect "full compliance."
Regulators next returned to El Paso in 2002, when a NISH inspector reviewed 20 of 959 worker files and concluded the charity was complying with the rules. It wasn't until three years later--a period in which the nonprofit's government contracts doubled--that a second anonymous letter triggered more rigorous attention. The complaint last spring alleged that only a fraction of the nonprofit's workforce was disabled and asserted that doctors working at two clinics linked to the charity were providing documentation for their disabilities. The new letter prompted the committee's executive director, Leon Wilson Jr., to order a review. Though skeptical of the allegations, Wilson sent a June 13, 2005, email to Schwalb saying, "We don't need a scandal" with the program's largest contractor.
Committee officials visited El Paso and found an internal document indicating that only 39 percent of the nonprofit's labor came from severely disabled workers. Regulators said they didn't think the nonprofit was "trying to hide anything" but noted "problems" with counting "disadvantaged" workers as severely disabled.
More recently a committee spokeswoman said NCED in fact had lumped the two categories together. After another visit in December, the committee confirmed that the charity's ratio of disabled labor could not be higher than 60 percent and that its 2005 filings with NISH "might not be accurate." "This question of accuracy is no minor problem," Wilson wrote in a January letter to NISH ordering a complete review of the charity's files.
Officials conducted the review and in mid-February notified the Defense Supply Center in Philadelphia, which manages military contracts with NCED, that the El Paso charity "may be non-compliant" with federal labor requirements. Last week the center suspended further orders to the charity until the committee settles the issue.
Diana Stewart, a Defense
Supply Center spokeswoman, said Friday that officials at the supply center couldn't
recall another instance when orders to a nonprofit were suspended. The decision
immediately affected a new order for chemical-warfare suits, she said. Details
of that contract were not available. Marc Schwartz, an NCED spokesman, said
late Friday that the charity had not been informed of the military's action.
Other Business Ventures
In 2003 a gleaming boutique hospital opened its doors on El Paso's East Side. With its state-of-the-art equipment, Physicians Hospital was poised to claim its share of the local health care business.
Among its major financial backers was the National Center for the Employment of the Disabled, which lent the venture more than $2 million and bought $3 million in stock, records show. The hospital lost money in 2004, its first full year. But if it eventually prospers, the El Paso charity would reap the benefits. So would Jones.
The deal is one of several in which Jones the charity leader helped Jones the businessman. Records show that Jones Family Trust is a shareholder in the for-profit hospital, and that Jones serves as chairman of the hospital's board. Tax returns for the charity say Jones and two other directors have "control" of Physicians Hospital.
Federal tax law allows charities to do business with directors, officers, and other insiders so long as they don't unfairly benefit. The IRS advises charities to negotiate such deals openly and at a fair value. Some states have tougher laws. In Texas charities also are prohibited from making loans to directors, and loans to businesses controlled by a director are restricted, the state attorney general's office says.
Internal records and tax returns show that NCED repeatedly has lent money to the Jones Family Trust or its related management company since 1997. On October 9, 2003, Jones signed a $1.5 million check from the nonprofit to his management company dated with the handwritten notation that the money was a loan against future management fees. Jones is a director as well as president of the charity.
The nonprofit's 2004 tax return, the most recent available, reported that the Jones Family Trust owed the charity $2.5 million. Other records show the nonprofit has financially supported an El Paso air-charter business in which Jones holds an interest.
Federal records show that the nonprofit helped ATI Jet Sales LLC buy two new Lear jets. Lyle Byrum, ATI's manager, said the company used a $1 million certificate of deposit owned by the charity as collateral for the loan that financed the purchase of the two jets. Records show the Jones Family Trust lent the company an additional $591,000 to help buy the jets, and Byrum said the trust was a "business partner" in the venture.
The charity also bought seats from the charter company. In 2004 it advanced ATI $200,000 for "prepaid airfare" and a "retainer for flight services." Byrum said the charity's executives have used the jets to travel around the United States. "NCED got a good deal," Byrum said. The charity got a top-notch charter company, one of the safest in the business, at a good rate, he said.
Under Jones's leadership the charity also struck several land deals with Jones or his family trust. Unlike many states, Texas does not require reporting of purchase prices in public records, so it is difficult to trace the value of specific transactions. In 1998 the nonprofit bought a condominium next to a horse track in the mountain resort town of Ruidoso, New Mexico. The same day Jones signed the deed transferring the property to the Jones Family Trust. Records do not show what the trust paid for the condo.
That same year Jones negotiated to buy a sportswear company and building in El Paso for his charity. Under the deal the two men selling the building passed $266,666 of the $1 million they received from the nonprofit to two Jones-related entities, New Sahara Inc. and the Jones Family Trust. The arrangement was described in escrow documents provided by one of the sellers.
Board records show that NCED's directors approved the acquisition. It is not clear whether the board was aware of the payments to New Sahara and the trust; board members declined to answer questions about the transaction. Two of the nonprofit's board members told the Oregonian that they were unaware that Jones's businesses had borrowed money from the charity. Despite the fact that tax returns are publicly available, the two said the board never had been shown the returns.
"NCED has never made any loans to Bob Jones," said Benson, a New Mexico business consultant who has been on the board since 1997. Oblinger, a retired Army general named to the board four years ago, said he believed the arrangements were the other way around--that Jones was lending money to the nonprofit. The charity's financial records show that Oblinger has a point. In several years tax returns list unpaid fees to Jones's management company as loans to the nonprofit.
How much Jones has earned
from his various charity-supported business deals is hard to determine. But
in 2004, as part of a land deal with the El Paso schools, he allowed local officials
to examine a financial statement, which they said showed a net worth of $40
million for the Jones Family Trust, then twelve years old. Margaret Gallardo,
a school district spokeswoman, said Jones reclaimed all copies.
Nominating itself for a national award several years ago, the charity offered its own appraisal of Jones's success. "A bear of a man," the charity called him, "steeped in tough management practices."
Soaring Through Fear
by Merry-Noel Chamberlain
From the Editor: Merry-Noel Chamberlain is a teacher of visually impaired students in Iowa and holds national orientation and mobility certification from the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. The following story demonstrates that even folks with a lot of letters after their names can find themselves challenged by new situations. Her honesty and determination to overcome her personal fear provide an excellent example of how to deal with new situations. This is what she says:
I stood in line next to my husband Marty at airport security check-in, and my stomach felt as if the last hurricane that pounded Florida were roiling inside me. It was the first time I was going to travel independently by plane since I had become blind. This day I was on my way to Kalamazoo, Michigan, for weekend classes at Western Michigan University. Having a father in the military allowed me to travel extensively between Europe and the United States when I was growing up. But this was different. I thought how lucky I was that Marty had been given a special pass to escort me to my departure gate. Marty was very supportive, and I tried to appear confident as I clung to his sleeve. My heart was pounding, and my head was full of questions such as how was I going to be able to find my connecting flight? Where exactly should I stow my long white cane on the plane? What did the Braille Monitor suggest? What should I do if the airline wanted to take my cane away from me? Hadn't I read stories in the Monitor about such situations? I was terrified at the possibility of having some sort of confrontation with the airline. I concluded that perhaps I should have brushed up on plane orientation and mobility.
What had I just overheard? Was the flight cancelled? Would luck be with me and Marty have to cancel his weekend plans in order to drive me to Michigan, which was what I secretly hoped for? That would be fine with me, I told myself. I really didn't need to sit in on that elective seminar, did I? If we left within the hour, I would be in Kalamazoo tonight, just in time for class.
As we inched our way forward, the voices became louder and clearer. The hurricane in Florida had grounded planes in Tennessee. Too bad, I happily smiled to myself. I didn't have to face my fear today, and Marty was going to have to drive me after all. We quickly exchanged my ticket, zoomed over to our house two miles away, packed an overnight bag for Marty, and headed towards the sunrise, leaving Des Moines behind us.
What a loss, the great opportunity to learn; to explore new terrain; to discover--using the discovery method--how to travel by plane. For several weeks afterwards, I regretted having my secret wish come true. Also I felt guilty for monopolizing Marty's time by taking away his weekend and for being so selfish. If I could have done it over again, I would have embraced the learning experience of making that flight independently.
The opportunity to fly again came sooner than I anticipated, and this time I was eager to take the challenge. Western Michigan invited me to attend the 2005 Josephine L. Taylor Leadership Institute in Boston, which meant I was going to fly even farther than I would have the first time. Although I was nervous, I reminded myself how much I had regretted missing that learning opportunity. I also told myself that, if I was going to expect my students to face their fears, I needed to do the same thing. Besides, how could I face my own fears if I couldn't even set foot on a plane? How could I show my face at a leadership conference (of all places) if I couldn't be a leader?
The day soon arrived for me to jump and hold on tight to the bungee cord. I decided that I would take this opportunity to immerse myself totally in the flying experience. Well--except for the beginning when Marty would walk me to the gate to send me off. Perhaps that was the romantic side of me or a tiny bit of residual fear. I'll never tell.
I won't detail each flight, just report the highlights. Each plane, I discovered, had its own personality deriving from the cabin crew on duty. When I chose to enter the plane before the other passengers, the crew made a point of describing the overhead air and light functions to me. Later, when a passenger was seated beside me, one crew member introduced me to her, informed her that I was blind, and asked if, in case of an emergency, she would escort me to the nearest exit. Of course she said that she would, but I doubted it. That would have been the last thing on her mind if the plane made an emergency landing.
Generally everyone was helpful. One time a passenger retrieved my cane from the overhead compartment when I was experimenting with storage options. I tried putting it there a couple of times but ended up feeling more comfortable with it stored between the seat and the window. Not once did anyone try to take the cane away from me, which pleased me.
As I say, I wanted the total experience and decided to pick my battles later when it came to changing planes in Minneapolis, St. Paul. There I was stopped by a gate agent as soon as I exited the plane and was escorted to a row of blue chairs that displayed the handicapped icon on the back. I was instructed to wait there for the shuttle that was on its way to transport me to the next gate. I said that I could walk, but he insisted that it was quite a long way to my gate. So I sat and waited. Finally the electric cart arrived, and we went for a long, long ride. I was happy for the ride but felt that the cart was totally unnecessary. My layover was long enough for me to have walked, and I would have loved the opportunity to explore some of the shops along the way.
As I was nearing Boston, I suddenly wondered how I was going to find the luggage carousel once I had left the plane. I thought to myself, there are a lot of people on this plane. I'll just ask someone with a sweet-sounding voice if he or she was going to baggage claim. That's what I did. Together we walked to baggage claim, where I ran into John McMahan, a college classmate whose plane had arrived just ahead of mine. Radiating quiet confidence, I didn't want him to guess how much I was exploding with triumph inside. I wanted to jump up and down for joy and give him a huge bear hug and a high-five. I was ever so proud of myself! I had done it. But I wasn't brave enough to share my accomplishment with John, who is also blind.
In orientation and mobility we often talk about traveling with confidence. This trip taught me that traveling from home to the store really is no different from traveling by plane, providing that you have confidence in your independent travel skills. The structured discovery method of orientation and mobility allows individuals to develop such confidence. What one learns in the mall when using the discovery method can be transplanted to the airport terminal. For example, when you hear the footsteps of several people walking in the same direction at the mall, you can conclude that the exit is in that direction. Following the sound of footsteps in the airport concourse can often lead to baggage claim or get you near enough to hear it. When you have confidence in your mobility skills, orientation information will flow in when you are traveling over new terrain.
I am writing this on yet another plane as I head home from the Washington Seminar. This is now the eleventh plane I've been on since that first ride to Boston, and I have discovered that, if you appear to be a confident traveler, people will treat you like one. If you appear to be an inexperienced traveler, more assistance will be offered. Today I found my gate and entered the plane when my row was called. I counted the rows to number eight and sat down in seat B. The crew member didn't make a point of introducing me to the overhead buttons. In fact, I wasn't visited until drinks were served. That was when she saw my BrailleNote and must have concluded that I was blind because she carefully described where she had placed my soda on the tray and then gently patted my hand.
We all face fears from time to time, and even those who have received training in orientation and mobility or have years of experience traveling may encounter new opportunities to learn. Just today, as I left the Holiday Inn Capitol, I embraced the challenge of taking the Metro so I could experience and discover a new mode of transportation. But I'll leave the description of that experience for another article because I feel the plane starting to descend. The cabin crew member just stopped by to see if I needed any assistance in Des Moines. "No," I proudly told her, "I'm home."
We are all fortunate to have the National Federation of the Blind to pave the way and allow us to learn from one another so that we can fly both literally and figuratively. I can hardly wait to soar through the sunny blue sky to the national convention in Dallas. Can you?
The Milestone 311: The Epitome of Accessibility
by Michael D. Barber
From the Editor: Michael Barber is president of the Des Moines Chapter of the NFB of Iowa. He is an assistive technology analyst at the Iowa Department for the Blind, so he is used to dealing with gadgets of all kinds. Here is his evaluation of a new piece of equipment that may be of interest to lots of blind people, particularly those who do not think of themselves as technically savvy. This is what he says:
I was intrigued when I read the blurb from Independent Living Aids about the Milestone 311 digital voice recorder/MP3 player. And after I heard the audio presentation by Stephen Guerra of Independent Living Aids, I was sold. So intrigued was I that, being a gadget kind of guy, I put down the $369 to buy this little device.
The first thing I noticed was how very small it was. It's about the size of a credit card and fits nicely in the palm of your hand. It's a little narrower at the bottom and gets broader as you move toward the top of the device. Moving from the bottom to the top, you find the speaker and onboard microphone, a mode button with an X on it, a round circle that is the play button, and a left and right arrow on each side for rewind and fast forward. Just above the play button is a small button with a depression in the center. This is the record button. On the very top of the unit, moving from left to right, are the select button, which allows you to switch from internal memory to memory card to MP3 player; the USB port; and a place to connect the AC adapter for charging the unit.
On the right side of the
unit as you face it is a slot for an SD card of up to two gigabytes. On the
very bottom of the unit is a combination line in/earphone/external microphone
Here are some features that make this an outstanding device:
Operating the Unit
Recording Made Easy: You can make recordings in one of three ways. (1) You can hold down the record button and make a simple recorded message, such as a phone number, someone's address, or other contact information. However, you cannot do two things: pause the recording or insert/append to the recording. (2) You can make a continuous recording by first depressing the record button and then pressing the play button. This is very handy when recording a lecture or some other presentation. I used this feature at the recent CSUN conference in Los Angeles to record a presentation. The sound quality was absolutely superb. You can either record using the internal microphone or use an external mike plugged into the earphone/line in/microphone jack at the bottom of the unit. (3) You can connect to your computer's sound card or another external device and record that way.
Using the USB cable that is provided, you can connect the unit to your computer and easily transfer files to and from the device. This is handy for copying the onboard manual to your computer for later reading. Also you can create more folders if you need them. Not only can you transfer files, you can also charge the rechargeable battery using the USB connection.
If you like to listen to music or podcasts, this device will allow you to do so. Transfer your favorite music files to the Milestone 311, or download podcasts and listen to your heart's content. You'll be delighted with the sound quality. The files in a folder will be played one after the other. You can also cause the files to be played folder after folder by adding an "autonext.yes" file to each folder.
Switching from mode to mode is very easy. You simply press the selection key at the top left of the unit to move from internal to memory card to MP3 player. Using various combinations of the six keys moves you between folders. When you switch to a new folder, the Milestone 311 says "folder one" or "folder two," but you can add a voice label to each folder. As you press the key combination to move to a particular folder, just keep holding it down for a few seconds and then say the label you want on that folder. I used this feature to label a folder "CSUN" while at the conference.
The first thing I noticed when I opened the package containing the unit was the printed manual, but no Braille instructions or CD with the manual on it was present. I had to call to find out that the electronic version of the manual is in the unit itself. I have recommended to Independent Living Aids that it should provide some accessible instruction indicating that one must connect the unit to the computer in order to find the electronic version of the manual.
After I found the manual, I noted that it was written clearly enough to be quite useful. Everything seemed to be well organized and logical. The clipped and decidedly British female voice is easy to understand. Updating firmware is a snap. All you need to do is unzip the file you have been sent, switch the Milestone 311 to internal mode, connect the unit to your PC, and transfer the BIN file. Disconnect the unit and remove the USB plug from the device and wait thirty seconds, and you will be told that the update is complete.
Holding down the mode key
for two-to-three seconds will give you information on how much room you have
left either on your memory card or in the internal unit and whether your battery
is fully charged, charged, or low and needing to be charged.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Because of its simplicity and extreme accessibility, I highly recommend this unit to anyone. When I compare it with other digital voice recorders I've tried, this one ranks way above them in accessibility and recording quality. You don't have to count your way through menus and hope you've hit the right button to delete a file because everything speaks. It's a little pricy, but it's definitely worth the money. I would recommend the following enhancements:
1. The manual should be
included on a CD as well as being in the unit.
2. Add a pause recording feature.
3. Add an insert/append feature when recording.
For further information about the Milestone 311, or to purchase this unit, either visit Independent Living Aids at <http://www.independentliving.com> or call them toll-free at (800) 537-2118. You can also hear an audio presentation about the Milestone 311 at <http://www.accessible-devices.com/milestonerecorder.html>.
Building an Education Program at the Jernigan Institute: Reviewing Progress and Imagining the Future
by Mark A. Riccobono
From the Editor: Mark Riccobono is director of education at the NFB Jernigan Institute. More than any other single individual, he has his finger on educational programs being planned and conducted in the Institute. Because it is difficult to keep all of them in mind, I asked Mark to report to our readers on the various programs now being conducted. Here is that report:
Recently we celebrated
the second anniversary of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.
Two years is a relatively short time, and it seems even shorter when you consider
the educational programs we have built in that time. It can be difficult to
keep up with the pace of development at the Institute, even for those working
here every day. While articles have previously appeared in the Braille Monitor
about various educational programs of the Jernigan Institute, the purpose
of this article is to provide a comprehensive look at the educational initiatives
established by the blind through the Institute and to provide a brief overview
of each program.
National Center for Blind Youth in Science (NCBYS)
This initiative is a cornerstone of the Jernigan Institute's education programs. During the grand opening for the Institute, we launched the initiative with the announcement of the first NFB Science Academy. The Science Academy consists of two one-week summer sessions that provide blind middle and high school students with a challenging opportunity to broaden their experience and expectations in science-related courses and careers. During the summer of 2006 we will hold the third annual Science Academy. Twelve blind middle school students will again come to Baltimore for the Circle of Life Academy, which focuses on earth science. In addition twelve high school students will attempt to be the third NFB team to launch a 10-1/2-foot sounding rocket during the Rocket On! Academy. Will this Rocket On! mission fly higher, farther, or faster than the previous two? All dreams are possible in the NFB Science Academy. To learn more about this program, read the article entitled "Two Small Camps, One Giant Leap into the Future for Blind Youth: The Next Generation of Rocket Scientists" from the November 2004 issue of the Braille Monitor.
Using the Science Academy as a starting point, we brought together an advisory work group to help us focus on the most pressing needs in the area of education and employment in science, technology, engineering, and math. The NCBYS advisory work group includes scientists, educators, parents, researchers, and other partners. As with all NFB programs the NCBYS advisory work group includes the perspectives of many blind individuals. The work group helped develop a strategic plan for the NCBYS, which highlighted a number of important priorities. One central theme was positioning the NCBYS as a central clearinghouse of information and resources for the rest of the country. In this way the Institute could help drive innovation in the field and focus resources in the most critical areas of need. As a result of the clearinghouse priority, the Jernigan Institute pursued and was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to establish the NCBYS Web portal, <www.blindscience.org>. As of May 1, 2006, the portal became available for public use and feedback. During the initial evaluation period of the portal, through August 31, 2006, visitors to the site can complete a brief survey and have a chance to win a gift certificate from the NFB Independence Market. Please visit the site and provide your feedback.
While the Science Academy focuses on modeling educational practices for engaging blind youth in science, we have also taken steps to encourage employment opportunities. In the summer of 2005 the Institute established the Excellence through Challenging Exploration and Leadership (EXCEL) internship program in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). This program provides rising college freshman and sophomores who are blind with an opportunity to receive mentoring from blind professionals through the NFB while working in scientific jobs at NASA. This year EXCEL has been expanded from six weeks to eleven weeks, and it again includes an opportunity to attend the NFB national convention. To read about the 2005 EXCEL program, see the article entitled "Blind Students Excel at NASA" from the October 2005 issue of the Braille Monitor.
Other activities of the
NCBYS include the Goals for Achieving Math Accessibility (GAMA) Summit, book
launches, videos, and workshops. First, the GAMA meeting brought together those
working on technologies to allow blind people greater access to powerful math
tools. A number of projects have grown out of the partnerships established at
the meeting. We have also helped launch the latest NASA Braille book, Touch
the Sun, and have sparked a project to create a prototype Touch the Earth book
using innovative technologies from Somatic Digital. In addition we have also
created a new video providing science teachers with tips on working with blind
students, and we will be disseminating it to schools across the country this
spring. Last, this summer the Institute will be a partner in the Vertical Mentoring
Workshop for the Blind at the University of Washington. This workshop will bring
blind professionals together with blind students interested in careers in the
sciences in order to help build a community of expertise about how blind people
succeed in science and engineering. The NCBYS is fulfilling its mission of driving
innovation and building partnerships to improve opportunities for the blind.
In June of this year a summit meeting will be held at the Jernigan Institute
to chart future innovations of the NCBYS initiative including big ideas expected
to come out of the Institute in 2007 and beyond.
NFB Transition to Independence Club and Youth Excellence Seminars Program
The NFB Jernigan Institute has taken on previous work of the Federation in order to continue its development and help disseminate it across the country. The first initiative the Institute took on was to jump start the Transition to Independence Club, previously operated by the NFB of Maryland and the Maryland Parents of Blind Children, by connecting it to the NCBYS initiative through a grant from the High School High Tech Program (HS/HT) operated by the Maryland Department of Education, Division of Rehabilitation Services, through support from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy. For a year now the Institute has been building the Transition Club by working with blind teenagers in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. These at-risk youth are receiving mentoring, training in blindness skills, and exposure to employment opportunities in high-tech fields. They would not otherwise have the tremendous opportunities they are receiving in the Transition Club. The Institute's goal is to take what it is learning in the operation of the club and disseminate it to local NFB chapters to assist with the establishment of a network of Transition to Independence Clubs. This network will include the development of a database of resources housed at the Institute to assist chapters in building their outreach and empowerment of transition-age blind youth in their communities.
In order to support the Transition to Independence Club and the goals of the NCBYS, the Institute held its first Transition to Independence Career Fair on February 23, 2006. With support from a variety of community partners, including the Maryland Division of Rehabilitation Services, the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, NFB training centers, and local educators, the Institute hosted sixty-five students at the first fair. Students from Maryland, Virginia, New York, and even Washington State were on hand for a full day of workshops, mock interviews, and exhibits. Participants were surrounded by successful blind role models who are employed in everything from engineering to the Randolph-Sheppard Program to government and politics. Anil Lewis, member of the NFB board of directors and president of the NFB of Georgia, got everyone thinking positively with a rousing keynote address at lunch. Additional presentations by Betsy Zaborowski, executive director of the Jernigan Institute; Kristin Cox, secretary of the Maryland Department of Disabilities; and many other inspiring individuals kept the youth in attendance engaged and thinking about their futures. The Career Fair is also intended to be a model that NFB chapters can use to reach out and affect blind youth in their communities. Through the Transition Club and the Career Fair, we continue to build opportunities for blind youth to be better prepared for life after high school.
Also the Institute has taken on responsibility for coordinating youth visits to the National Center for the Blind. These Youth Excellence Seminars are a powerful way for young blind people to receive mentoring from blind adults and learn about opportunities for their future. Recently the Institute hosted a group from the New York Commission for the Blind. The New York visit has become an annual occurrence during the week of President's Day in February. This year the New York teens were fortunate that their visit fell during the same time as the Career Fair. In addition to attending the Career Fair, the teens participated in activities to expand their experience in daily living skills, technology, travel, and examination of critical topics related to blindness. Many of the teens particularly enjoyed learning to cook on a barbecue grill under the direction of blind mentors and sitting through a lively session of the Dating Game that taught all sorts of lessons about what it means to be blind. Similarly, a group of New Jersey teens visited the National Center in April. During their weekend trip the New Jersey teens examined the life of a training center student by participating in a variety of activities under the direction of blind mentors.
The Institute hopes to
expand these youth opportunities to other groups who wish to bring students
to the National Center for intense training experiences. Eventually the Institute
would like to take these seminars on the road to reach out to those who cannot
travel to Baltimore. By providing training and leadership from blind mentors,
we can help educators keep blind students on the road to success. Blind youth
have few opportunities to work with positive blind mentors in challenging training
situations in which they can understand their blindness better. These experiences
help educators reinforce the importance of skills they are attempting to teach
students at home. They also help to counteract the negative messages about blindness
these students receive from teachers, peers, the general public, and sometimes
their own families. By teaching these youth to expect excellence and empowering
them to reach for it, we are positively affecting the next generation of blind
leaders and mentors. Both the Transition Club and the Youth Excellence Seminars
at the Institute demonstrate the power of blind mentors working closely with
educators and rehabilitation professionals to help blind youth raise expectations
for themselves and embrace the techniques that successful blind adults have
National Center for Mentoring Excellence (NCME)
Mentoring has been a cornerstone of the NFB since its beginning. It is part of everything we do in the Federation, something that we can do better than anyone else in the blindness field. It should be no surprise that mentoring is an important component of the Institute. A five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration has allowed the Institute to develop the National Center for Mentoring Excellence (NCME). The goal of the NCME is to design, develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive national mentoring program to connect young blind people with successful blind adults. The NCME project is equipping the Institute with greater expertise in mentoring and a model that demonstrates the important role blindness-specific mentoring plays in encouraging blind youth to break through barriers and reach greater heights.
A demonstration mentoring
project is currently underway in two states, Louisiana and Nebraska. In the
fall of 2007 the project will be expanded into four additional replication states.
Through the NCME we the blind will continue to build our own futures by passing
our knowledge, experience, and perspectives to the next generation of blind
youth. Through mentoring, blind youth will most certainly experience a greater
future full of opportunities. Read more in the article entitled "Introducing
the National Center for Mentoring Excellence" from the October 2005 issue of
the Braille Monitor.
National Literary Braille Competency Test (NLBCT)
On the horizon in 2006 is the conclusion of a long awaited product to help ensure higher levels of competency in the Braille code among those charged with teaching Braille. For a more extensive history refer to the January 2006 issue of the Braille Monitor and the article entitled "National Literary Braille Competency Test: New Partnerships, New Possibilities." The NFB has supported the initiative to create a national examination of competency in the Braille code since it was first discussed in the late 1980's. Furthermore, the NFB has led a significant revolution in Braille literacy over the past twenty years. It seems natural then that the NLBCT will have a place in the Jernigan Institute. Over the past year the Jernigan Institute has been working closely with a steering committee of experts to pilot and launch the test that has been in development of one kind or another for better than a decade.
We anticipate that by the
time of the 2006 NFB national convention a final version of the National Literary
Braille Competency Test will be ready for use by universities, states, and agencies
wishing to ensure that their staff or students are competent in the Literary
Braille Code. Soon individuals who took the pilot test and passed will be displaying
with pride their certificate of competency from the Jernigan Institute. In the
future this test will become a national measure for how well we are preparing
teachers to teach Braille and will help training programs improve and understand
what strategies work best in preparing educators to teach Braille. The NLBCT
is one more step on the long road to increasing Braille literacy in the United
States. The establishment of the final test and its ongoing administration will
undoubtedly be only the beginning of a series of Braille-literacy-related projects
at the Jernigan Institute in the future.
Lions Blindness and Low Vision Education Project
In a number of projects the Jernigan Institute is a partner rather than the leader in the effort. One significant example is the Institute's partnership in the Lions Blindness and Low Vision Education Project. The International Association of Lions Clubs is well known in the field of work with the blind, and many blind people have benefited in some way from the work of a Lions Club or an individual member. The Jernigan Institute, the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center at the Wilmer Eye Institute, and the Department of Health Policy and Management in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are collaborating, under the direction of the Lions Multiple District 22, to develop an educational project to change and clarify knowledge, perceptions, and attitudes about blindness. In this project the Jernigan Institute is helping develop an educational video and training materials based on focus groups that were held with leaders of clubs in Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.
During late April and the
first week of May, training was held at the Jernigan Institute to prepare Lions
to use the educational materials in presentations to their local clubs and other
community organizations. The Jernigan Institute staff hopes that the success
of this collaboration will lead to future opportunities to work closely with
local Lions Clubs around the country. Since many Federation members are also
contributing members of local Lions Clubs, this partnership is a natural extension
of work being done all over the country by Federationists and Lions with a passion
for changing what it means to be blind. Those attending the NFB national convention
in Dallas can look forward to learning more about this emerging project.
Giving blind children the best resources at the earliest possible age has been a priority of the Jernigan Institute from day one. The Institute is building resources to help focus attention on the needs of our youngest blind children and to help their parents map a future full of opportunity. In the July 2005 issue of the Braille Monitor, I highlighted the success of our first conference on early childhood in the article entitled "Beginnings and Blueprints: Early Education, Empowerment, and the Jernigan Institute." In the fall of 2005 the Institute sponsored "Have Cane Will Travel" seminars at NFB state affiliate conventions through support of the NFB Imagination Fund. These seminars featured Joe Cutter and emphasized his promotion model of independent travel for blind children. They continued to promote best practices in early education for the blind child by focusing on the significant impact parents can have as the child's first teachers.
Distribution of Future
Reflections: The Early Years continues to spread the word about the opportunities
parents have to ensure that their blind children get a good early start on the
development of blindness skills. Last, the Institute recently presented at the
Council for Exceptional Children's (CEC) national conference in Salt Lake City,
Utah. This presentation again featured Joe Cutter with support by Ron Gardner,
president of the NFB of Utah and past director of the Professional Development
and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University. These efforts
and more on the horizon will continue to promote greater learning opportunities
for blind children, beginning as early as possible. The sooner we can reach
out to blind children and their families, the more they will be able to benefit
from the rich resources available through the National Federation of the Blind
and its affiliated divisions such as the National Organization of Parents of
Online Education Program
The Institute launched the Online Education Program as one of its inaugural projects at the grand opening in 2004. This program currently consists of four online courses that can be taken for a small fee and completed at the individual's own pace. These courses are targeted at educators unfamiliar with teaching blind students, paraeducators, parents, those interested in blindness topics, and technology specialists and Web site designers seeking greater information about nonvisual Web accessibility and technology used by the blind. Courses currently available include:
The Institute is currently
reviewing the infrastructure of these courses and making improvements to the
system. The Institute's goal is to expand this program with an emphasis on content
to support parents of blind children. There are a number of other opportunities
for expanding this program in the future as needs and resources become available.
For more information about the online education program, visit <http://nfb.org/nfbji/onlineeducation.htm>.
Remember that we are always interested in getting feedback about critical online
education courses for professionals, parents, and others needing information
The Jernigan Institute is committed to both performing and partnering in research efforts that will improve practice and opportunities in education. Currently the Institute is engaged in a number of research efforts related to educational products. Additionally it is working on an Excellence in Teaching Blind Students project with Dr. Matt Maurer of Butler University in Indiana. Through Professor Maurer's work the Institute is examining instances of outstanding teaching in the education of blind children in order to publish best practices and common characteristics of outstanding educators. This research effort has also allowed the Institute to reach out to educators and administrators across the country, including those at a number of residential schools for the blind. The goal of this research is to focus on those elements of the education of blind children that are most outstanding and to build partnerships to enhance future projects. The Jernigan Institute is committed to building a research agenda that moves the field of blindness forward and addresses the most pressing issues related to education and employment of the blind.
Outreach and Partnerships
Finally, the education staff at the Jernigan Institute spends considerable time doing outreach; providing technical assistance to parents, educators, and blind students; and building partnerships with other organizations. This also includes presentations by Jernigan Institute staff at a number of conferences and meetings across the country. These presentations help others to learn more about the NFB, spread the work of the Institute, and increase dialogue around important topics related to blindness education. Recently presentations have been given at the Getting in Touch with Literacy conference, the Space Science the Special Way conference, and the spring training conference of the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind. This is central to the mission of the NFB, and it assists Institute staff to stay grounded in the work that needs to happen at the grassroots level. If you have opportunities to involve the Institute in your local work or you know of individuals or organizations that you believe could be synergistic to the Institute's mission, please refer them to us. Often those seeds turn out to produce fruit over time. The Jernigan Institute is intended to be a centralized resource and knowledge base for blind people across the country to build upon. Please take advantage of your Institute and contribute to its work.
There you have it, an exhaustive list of the activities of the Jernigan Institute Education Team. These activities have grown out of the expressed needs and priorities of the blind. It may be hard to believe that all of this has been built in just two years. Imagine what it will be like in 2009 on the Institute's fifth anniversary or in 2019 during the fifteenth anniversary. If we continue to dream and build together, as we will, we can feel confident that many more opportunities will exist for the blind, the Jernigan Institute will be further regarded as the central influence in the field of blindness, and the emerging generation of blind youth will be more confident and skilled than any previous generation. We will also be able to look back with pride to these pioneering efforts.
We can say with confidence, however, that much work will still be left to do. In reflecting upon the work of the Jernigan Institute in building an education program, I am reminded of Dr. Maurer's 2005 banquet speech. In concluding his remarks, he said in part, "Our perspective is not just for one day. It stretches back over the decades to the time of our beginning, and it reaches forward to the moment of the fulfillment of our dreams." In the perspective of two years, we have achieved quite a bit. From the perspective of our dreams, we have a long way to go. Our commitment to education is strong, and our collective will is deep. Let's continue building our education programs and spreading them across the country. Before we know it, the next two years will have passed, and we will have collectively achieved another milestone on the road to our dreams. Imagine.
The Rest of the Story
by Betsy Zaborowski
From the Editor: The preceding article discussed in depth the educational programs conducted or currently in development by the NFB Jernigan Institute. Following is a description of the other activities of the Institute prepared by Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, the executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute:
It is quite amazing to
consider that we are in the third year of the development of the Jernigan Institute.
Last year at our national convention I used three words to describe the primary
purpose of the Institute--innovation, inspiration, and influence. We can now
say progress has been made in all three of these areas. In a separate article
Mark Riccobono has outlined the programs of the Education Initiative, so let
me share with you the rest of the story.
The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC)--A comprehensive evaluation, demonstration, and training center, complete with over $2.5 million worth of the tactile and speech-output technology now available to the blind, has served since its inception in 1990 and continues to serve as a rich resource for vendor-free advice on all aspects of access technology. Staff members of the IBTC consult with individuals, employers, rehabilitation and education professionals, and technology developers, thus helping to ensure that the consumer perspective is represented and technology choices are the best for each blind person.
Along with providing useful information to the thousands of visitors who tour the IBTC each year, the access technology staff led by Anne Taylor answer thousands of calls on the technology help line and frequently meet with specialized access technology vendors and mainstream technology developers. This past year we added to the list of those who have benefited from the IBTC engineering students from Johns Hopkins University, who have received orientation on access technology issues and have participated in technology demonstrations.
The Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader--The first handheld portable reading machine for the blind has been developed through a partnership between Kurzweil Technologies, Inc., and the National Federation of the Blind, making print accessible with the flash of a camera. The Reader uses digital camera technology and specially enhanced optical character recognition technology to produce a synthetic speech translation of text. Soon to be launched at the 2006 NFB convention, this revolutionary technology will make a significant impact on the lives of all of those who have difficulty accessing regular print. Many Federationists serving as ambassadors for the Reader are reporting nothing but tremendous excitement when demonstrating this new technological advancement for the blind. Success has been documented when the Reader is put to the test reading correspondence, newsletters, menus, recipes, and common household bills. It is a real joy to pick up a piece of print and in a matter of seconds know if it is something that has to be dealt with immediately or if it can wait. If you haven't had a chance to see the Reader firsthand, get in touch with your state president; Readers are being tested throughout the country.
The NFB Nonvisual Accessibility Web Certification Program is a Web-site certification process that provides a mechanism for governmental agencies, for-profit companies, and others to ensure that their Web sites are usable by blind individuals who use access technology. Certified to date are such companies as General Electric, Wells Fargo, Merck & Co. Inc., HP, and several others. This program provides a vehicle for us to educate the technology community about accessible design that really works.
Access to consumer electronics remains a high priority for the Institute. Finding a washer, stove, or dishwasher that a blind person can operate using nonvisual techniques is a challenging task but one that many face. The Institute has launched an initiative to:
• Provide an online location for up-to-date information on what is out there that works for the blind. For details see our Web site at <www.nfb.org>.
• Conduct discussions with consumer appliance and electronics producers that will encourage the development of usable products for the blind. The Whirlpool Corporation is actively involved with the Institute in identifying usable products and improving the design of future models.
• Establish the Accessible Home exhibit each year at the NFB national convention and a permanent exhibit at the national headquarters of the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore.
The Technology Training Lab in the Jernigan Institute will soon be completed. Thanks to the generous help of HP, Microsoft, Freedom Scientific, the HumanWare Group, and others, this--the first fully accessible technology training lab--will train blind individuals, educators, rehabilitation providers, and technologists on a full range of access technology and related issues. Later this year we will be announcing more about the various kinds of training seminars that will be available in the lab.
The Help America Vote Act,
NFB Nonvisual Election Technology Project, now in its third year of funding
by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, primarily educates voting
officials and protection and advocacy state agencies about accessible electronic
voting technology. Training material now located on the NFB Web site has been
designed to familiarize state officials with voice-driven electronic voting
machines now available and provide objective evaluations of all features, thus
helping to ensure that this new technology will truly make a secret ballot available
to the blind. Included on the Web site are video clips of the various voice-driven
voting machines, giving blind users and election officials a comprehensive look
at the various options. This is one more way that we work to ensure the full
implementation of this historic legislation.
Seniors Fair--For the past four years the Jernigan Institute has sponsored the Possibilities Fair for seniors with low vision or blindness. Kaiser Permanente and many area nonprofit organizations help to make the event, which hosts over four hundred seniors, a big success. The emphasis is on presenting helpful information in the context of exposure to successful blind role models. Demonstrations of nonvisual techniques and equipment are available to participants along with informational tables featuring service organizations. Members of the NFB from around the country have attended with the goal of learning how to conduct such fairs in their home communities; to date Possibilities Fairs have been conducted in New Mexico, Colorado, and Idaho.
This year's Celebration event was another success. The over four hundred in attendance had a great time sampling cuisine from eighteen of Baltimore's best restaurants and browsing the silent auction tables featuring over $20,000 worth of gift certificates, sporting memorabilia, trips, artwork, and jewelry. Guests were dazzled by the demonstration of the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader and words from Governor Robert Ehrlich and special guest Ray Kurzweil. Once again we brought to life the efforts of the Federation in a style envied by many other organizations. Although a full accounting of income and expenses is not complete for the Celebration, we are confident the net proceeds will significantly increase the total raised in this year's Imagination Fund.
The NFB Meet the Blind Month was even more successful this past year with over two hundred different community outreach events reported by affiliates around the country. Materials distributed from the National Center were handed out at fairs, in malls, and at special events. We will be challenged to make Meet the Blind Month in October of 2006 even more successful.
The Imagination Fund will
soon complete its second year campaign. This year hundreds of Federationists
and friends of our movement have been involved. Many state affiliates have been
able to reach out to parents, those newly blind, and professionals working with
the blind thanks to Imagination Fund grants distributed this year. A full report
of this year's campaign will be given by the fund's chair Kevan Worley at convention
Jacobus tenBroek Library
This library, named in honor of the founder of the National Federation of the Blind, includes an extensive collection of material dealing with blind people. The collection chronicles the history of the organized blind, blind authors, materials written for the blind (both historical and contemporary), and the papers of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek. Dr. tenBroek was a distinguished blind professor at Berkeley in the 1940's and 1950's, well known for his writings promoting immigrant rights and his perspective on blindness, which has become the philosophical underpinning of the NFB. The library also has the complete collection of the extensive writings of Kenneth Jernigan, president of the NFB from 1968 to 1986 and active until his death in 1998, including many original speeches and video footage of civil rights activities in the 1970's and 1980's.
The Independence Market, formerly known as the NFB Materials Center, will soon be housed in the tenBroek Library, featuring numerous aids and appliances for purchase by blind and low-vision individuals and their friends and families. Also the extensive free literature collection will be displayed for visitors in alternative formats--large print, Braille, and cassette.
The historical archive
of the NFB is now being organized, and a fully accessible library management
system will make available both the digital and hard copy resources from this
library dedicated to telling the story of blindness from the perspective of
As you can see, a number of programs are in full operation in our Institute. Along with these efforts we continue to strengthen partnerships with universities, companies, and influential individuals. Staff of the Institute are increasingly asked to present at conferences and participate on numerous committees. The largest challenge we now have is to choose strategically where to place our limited time and resources. We all know that rehabilitation and education of the blind, access to the ever-expanding world of technology, and society's attitudes about blindness continue to demand innovation; the effectiveness of our voice in matters of the blind continues to strengthen our influence; and the quality of programs and well-placed partnerships built upon the strong foundation of the NFB's philosophy continues to inspire those touched by the Institute. Input from our members, friends, and others concerned with improving the lives of the blind is essential. The only way that the Jernigan Institute will be successful and worth all the talent and treasure we are investing in the effort is with your input. I will be conducting conversation hours on the Institute the afternoon of Saturday, July 1, at our national convention in Dallas; please join me and help to make sure we are creating a future full of opportunity.
Upside Down and Backwards
by James Christopher Wycoff
From the Editor:
Chris Wycoff is a member of the Utah Valley Chapter of the NFB of Utah. He has
truly learned what we mean when we say that we are changing what it means to
be blind. Here is his story of his journey into blindness:
"Is there a chance I will be blind?" I hesitantly asked the eye doctor, not really wanting to know the answer. He calmly reached over to his small work area, picked up a business-size card, and placed it in my hand. I quickly gave it to my wife because I wanted to know what the card said since it was no longer possible for me to read it. She quietly read the words, "I am legally blind." I had known my vision was getting worse, but this felt like the pronouncement of a death sentence. I will never forget those words I heard that day for the first time: "I am legally blind."
For several months afterward the shock of that simple declaration dominated my every thought. I felt that my life was over. What would I do now? My mind focused repeatedly on all the things I believed I could not do. I couldn't work anymore. I couldn't play golf. I couldn't read. I couldn't drive to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. I couldn't see my children's faces. I couldn't enjoy the canyon or a beautiful sunset. As far as I could determine, my life was over.
Several months passed before I began to deal with my blindness. Fortunately the human spirit is an amazing and wonderful thing. I had never really thought about what I was really capable of achieving or what was really important for me to learn in this life. After months of feeling sorry for myself, I slowly began to sip the new drink that I had been served. It was a simple thing: drink or you will not survive.
As with most people, several factors helped me find the path back: a loving and strong spouse who has provided both compassion and tough love, gifted blind educators who have taught blind skills, technological advances that allow me to adapt skills I used before blindness, and a personal willingness to accept the challenge and perform the required work to learn blindness skills. Finally, the blindness consumer movement through the National Federation of the Blind has helped me realize that I can live successfully and determine my own future.
The most difficult aspect to understand and internalize about blindness is also the most rewarding. It can be stated many ways, but for me the difference between sighted people and blind people is that blind people do things differently. That's it. Any other conception one holds about blindness has been, is being, or will be proven erroneous. I now play golf. I'm attending college again because of a decision to change professions. I can go to the store and purchase a loaf of bread or anything else I need. True, I do not see my children's faces clearly, but I hear their voices, participate in their lives, and feel their spirit and their love. Those things are much more important to me than the ability to see them.
Blindness has taught me to realize the blessings that are mine. Once you personally experience the goodness of life, you can begin to change your attitudes. I have changed many of the have to's in my life to get to's. I don't have to learn Braille; I get to learn Braille. I don't have to walk to the store or the gym; I get to walk there.
I was just beginning to change my attitudes about blindness when I attended my first National Federation of the Blind convention in Louisville last year. It was an experience I shall never forget. When I first arrived at the hotel, I found my way around with my limited vision. I remember helping a few totally blind people find the elevators and hallways. The funny thing was that there were too many people to help. I had never been around so many blind people. I realized I was reacting to blindness like most sighted people. I was trying to help them, but there were too many. Then I realized a simple but profound thing. They didn't need my help. They do this every day.
I remember several years ago watching a Ken Burns documentary on baseball. A Baltimore sports reporter was talking about his first day of covering major league baseball. He had grown up in Baltimore and badly wanted to be a sports reporter. He loved the Baltimore Orioles. He spoke with glee of their great stars: Brooks Robinson, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer, and others. He admired Earl Weaver, the manager of the Orioles. Finally he was hired by the Baltimore Sun newspaper and remembered his first day of covering the team on opening day of the season. The teams were on the field warming up for the game. He was in the dugout excitedly interviewing Earl Weaver. Weaver was answering a question when the "Star-Spangle Banner" began playing. The players on the field came to attention and removed their hats, but Weaver continued to answer the question. This was bugging the reporter, who finally broke into Weaver's remarks and blurted, "Shouldn't we be standing at attention or doing something?"
Weaver stared back at the young reporter and calmly said, "Relax, kid: we do this every day."
By the end of the Louisville convention I could go into the restroom and see blind people searching for sinks, paper towels, etc., without feeling any urge to help them. They were fine. They do this every day. I no longer needed them to do things on my timetable or in the same way I had done as a sighted person.
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the NFB, spoke at the convention about perspective. Sighted people need to learn that blind people are like everyone else. They just do things differently, and that's okay. We as blind people need to help educate sighted people, but we also need to be willing to change our own perspective about blindness. We shouldn't be satisfied that only 10 percent of blind people read and use Braille. We need actively to seek to pass equitable laws so that blind people can compete and live successfully in the modern world.
I had to laugh the other day when I was trying to make the bed. I was wrestling with the comforter when my wife said, "You've got it upside down and backwards." When I first lost my sight, I thought my world had turned upside down and backwards. But I was wrong. Blind people sometimes get physical things upside down and backwards. Pondering more about that phrase, I now think sighted people often think about blindness in an upside-down and backwards way. Their perceptions are often completely wrong and backwards.
Like the comforter on my bed, we can turn things around and get them straight. As Federationists we need to help the world turn these misconceptions right-side-up and move them forward instead of backwards.
Accessible Cell Phone Technology
by the International Braille
and Technology Center Staff
From the Editor: In late May of 1995 I found myself traveling between Alamogordo and Santa Fe, New Mexico, in a convoy of vans. Members of the NFB of New Mexico had attended an open meeting of the New Mexico School for the Blind board of trustees, and they were now traveling to the capital to talk with the governor and his staff about problems at the school. President Maurer was in the front seat of my van. He handed me his cell phone, saying, "Start calling press," so I did. But I remember my shock at confronting that panel of tiny buttons. President Maurer had to give me a quick lesson before I could use this remarkable little gadget.
I remember this event because it was the first time I tried to use a cell phone. During the course of that drive three other passengers pulled out phones at various times and did business, checked with babysitters at home, and maintained contact with the other cars in our caravan. I remember marveling at the idea that this one vehicle contained four telephones.
Today, a mere eleven
years later, I am certain that more blind people than not carry cell phones.
How proficient they are at using them or accessing the various features is another
question. But the industry, with the encouragement of the blindness field, is
making progress at helping us to do so. Time was when we asked only, "If I purchase
this phone, will I be able to make and take calls and then hang up again with
the amount of tactile information available?" Today a number of cell phones
on the market are partially accessible to users who cannot see the screen, and
several actually advertise themselves as fully accessible. How accurate are
these claims? How savvy does a user have to be to operate them efficiently?
The members of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind
of the NFB Jernigan Institute have been considering these questions and are
prepared to report on three solutions. This is what they say:
Using cell phones has become commonplace, and it seems that everyone has at least one. Until recently blind users have not been able to use many of the features on their cell phones because the menus were accessible only through LCD screens. So we muddled along, memorizing some functions or having sighted assistance set up the features so we could use them.
Today the situation is changing. Talking cell phones are increasingly available. In this article we review three accessible solutions currently available for purchase. We say solutions because several software programs run on a variety of cell phones. Before reviewing the specific phones and software, we discuss cell phone technology and several phones that provide some accessibility. Then we take a look at the specific phones that are accessible with speech-access software.
First a few words on cell
phone technology. The phones reviewed here operate on the GSM network. In the
United States, only Cingular and T-Mobile use the GSM network. Providers such
as Verizon use the CDMA network, and Nextel uses the IDN network.
Some phones provided by Verizon have software with accessibility features using spoken output of their menus and functions. Several LG phones work this way. They come with talking software already installed. Not all Verizon sales locations have these phones, so some searching may be necessary to find one in your area that does. You can search on the Web for LG phones or contact other cell phone sales providers for the LG phones with speech. We know of the LG4500 and LG4650. Other models may also have the accessible software. There is no additional charge for the talking software because it is included in the phone.
Nextel offers free software that can be downloaded for the Motorola model I355 phone, which runs on the Nextel IDN network. This phone has a touch-tone-style keypad with easily accessible buttons spaced far enough apart to be reasonably easy to use. The software provided for these phones does not make the phone fully accessible. It generally works for the first level of menus only. Some memorization of set-up functions will be necessary. Once configured, caller ID and other basic functions will talk. The contact list and the labels for multiple numbers can be accessed. Even though submenus do not speak, when entering them you will be placed at the top of the list of options. You can also use the walkie-talkie function to communicate with other Nextel users nationwide who have this capability.
Many of the accessible Nokia phones listed below do not have standard touch-tone-style keypads. Instead they have buttons arranged in a circular pattern. Becoming familiar with their location and functionality may take some adjustment.
As with all technology,
models, pricing, and availability change rapidly, so some of these phones may
not be available in your area or may have been replaced by other models which
may or may not offer accessibility. If you already have a cell phone provider
and plan to purchase one of these phones and change your phone provider, check
your current service contract for any early termination fees before you buy
a new phone, or you may incur major costs. You may want to wait until your current
contract expires or add your new phone under another contract before your current
contract expires to avoid early termination fees. Now on to the phones and software
specifically reviewed for this article.
Reviewer, Anne Taylor, IBTC Director of Technology
Mobile Speak is a screen-access solution for GSM cell phones. The software is distributed in the United States by Optelec USA, Inc. Contact Optelec for prices and availability. When purchasing Mobile Speak, the customer can either download and install the software independently or send the cell phone to Optelec for installation. Mobile Speak is compatible with the following cell phones: Nokia 3650, Nokia 3660, Nokia 6600, Nokia 6620, Nokia 6260, Nokia 6630, Nokia 6670, Nokia 6680, Nokia 6681, Nokia 7610, Nokia 7650, Nokia Gage, Nokia N-Gage Q, Nokia N-Gage QD, Siemens SX1, Panasonic X700, and Panasonic X701. Mobile Speak provides access to applications such as contact, caller ID, battery status, missed call, messaging, and the Internet.
However, for gadget lovers Mobile Speak provides access to more than the customary applications one expects to find on a cell phone. With the use of Mobile Speak blind cell phone users can gain access to various value-added applications proprietary to Mobile Speak such as accessible calculator, voice recorder, accessible MP3 player, DAISY Player, Mobile Color Recognizer, and Mobile Keypad.
The user can synchronize
the cell phone to the computer to transfer contact or text information. One
can use Bluetooth or USB connectivity when connecting with computers or other
external devices such as a PDA (personal data assistant). If entering information
using the cell phone keypad is difficult, Mobile Keypad allows the user to input
information using a QWERTY keyboard on a computer. Those who want to enjoy their
cell phones fully can use Mobile Speak's various game options such as Spider,
ToneMaster, Fuse Mania, and Mines. Although Mobile Speak is in our estimation
the most robust screen-access application for cell phones, it is not for inexperienced
computer users. Another factor that makes the Mobile Speak user interface seem
complicated is that it does not contain a keypad-learn mode. Some memorization
of keys and their functions may be necessary. One good feature of this software
is that both sighted and blind people can play the software games provided.
Screenless Talking Phone
Reviewer, Steven Booth, Access Technology Specialist
The Screenless Talking Phone, as it is often called, is actually the Owasys model 22C Screenless Talking Phone, distributed in the United States and Canada by Capital Accessibility. At time of publication the price of the phone was $199.95 to those who sign up through Capital Accessibility as a new customer with T-Mobile. Visit Capital's Web site at <www.screenlessphone.com>. No additional software is necessary. As the name implies, because there is no LCD screen, all functions talk. This is a basic telephone. It has a standard Touch-Tone-style keypad with large enough keys spaced far enough apart for easy navigation. There are specific keys to select menus such as adding contacts and searching your contact list. You can send and receive text messages. All menus are spoken and are arranged in an easy-to-follow list. For example, if you select the contacts list, you can press the up and down arrows to scroll through the contact list and select the one you want. You can store up to three numbers for each contact, and you can use the number pad to find people alphabetically if you store large numbers of contacts. Other menus for configuring the phone and managing your calls work the same way.
The phone has both a speaker-phone function and volume up and down controls. You can hear numbers as you enter them, delete characters, and hear what you have entered by pressing the information key. You can lock and unlock the keypad when traveling to prevent unwanted character presses. The talking caller ID announcement works through the phone handset only and not through the speaker phone to provide privacy. Many ringer tones are available along with a vibrator alert. The speech used is from Babel and has a female synthesized voice, which is reasonably clear. Several speeds and pitch levels for the voice may be selected and saved.
We noticed some distortion in both handset speaker and speaker-phone operation when the volume is turned up. Callers on the other end of the line complained of severe echo when the speaker phone is in use. Some users would prefer that caller ID announcements be available on the speaker phone rather than only through the handset.
If you want a basic, no-frills,
fully accessible talking cell phone designed specifically for the blind, the
Owasys model 22C phone is for you.
Reviewer, Michael Tindell, Access Technology Specialist
Talks is a software package that can be loaded onto a cellular phone running the Simbian operating system. These cell phone models include the Nokia 3650, Nokia 3660, Nokia 6600, Nokia 6620, Nokia 6260, Nokia 6630, Nokia 6670, Nokia 6680, Nokia 6681, Nokia 7610, Nokia 7650, Nokia Gage, Nokia N-Gage Q, Nokia N-Gage QD, Siemens SX1, Panasonic X700, and Panasonic X701. The software can be purchased directly from Cingular, Sendero group, Visioncue, or Beyond Sight. Check with a dealer in your area to see if he or she is a seller of Talks. If the product is purchased from Cingular, the cost is $199.00. If you purchase from the dealers listed above, the price is $295.00. But Cingular sells Talks Basic. The dealers sell Talks Premium. Talks Premium gives you five extra programs to use--MiniGPS, Extended Recorder, Multimedia Player, Extended Profiles Pro, and World Clock Pro.
Cingular sells an older version of Talks that will not run on the model 6682, and it no longer receives Talks updates. The only phone it sells compatible with Talks is the 6620. You can contact the National Center for Customers with Disabilities to order Talks at (866) 241-6568. A form will be sent to you for your doctor to complete for proof of blindness. If you sign a one-year contract, you can receive a $100 rebate. If you sign a two-year contract, you can receive a $199 rebate.
Talks works much like screen-access software on a computer. It reads the screen and tells the user what options are above keys one and two, soft keys just below the screen. The options controlled by each key change, depending on what the user is doing with the phone at any given time. Talks allows a blind person to use the cell phone in the same way that a sighted user would use it. When a call comes in, pressing key two announces the phone number of the incoming caller. The rate and volume of the announcement can be adjusted. When the menu key is pressed, Talks will announce what is highlighted as the user scrolls through the choices. Web browsing and text messaging are supported.
The MiniGPS program is not used for way-finding. Instead the user assigns various combinations of cell phone functions for use when the phone is in contact with different cell towers. For example, the user might want to invoke the meeting profile at the office--perhaps a vibration instead of a ring and no announcement of caller ID. This shift can be made automatically if the phone detects a different cell tower between home and the office. Then, when the user nears home and the original cell tower, the phone can revert to the standard profile with the preferred ring and voiced caller ID.
The sound recorder on the phone has a thirty-second record limit. Using Extended Recorder, the user can record as long as phone memory is available. The user can also program Extended Recorder to record active calls. Multimedia Player is an MP3 player that allows the user to create play lists.
Extended Profiles Pro gives the user much more flexibility with profiles. The user can choose to activate certain profiles at different times of the week or certain days of the week. The user can also program the phone to power on and off at specified times. World Clock Pro gives the time difference between the user's local time and that in specified cities around the world. This program also gives sunrise and sunset times for the selected city.
When Talks is loaded on the phone, it doesn't change the way that the user uses the phone. The phone is used the same way that a sighted person would use it, except that, when the phone rings, if key two is pressed, the caller ID info will be voiced. If the name of the person calling has been stored, it will be announced. If no name is in your contact list for the person calling, the phone number of the caller will be announced. The edit key becomes the Talks key. Pressing this key and specified numbers on the keypad allows modification of the settings in Talks. Pressing Talks 0 will place the user in keyboard-learn mode. Any key that is pressed will announce its name and the function that can be changed by pressing it, but no change will take effect. To exit this mode, press Talks key and 0 again.
I have found Talks very
responsive and reliable.
Several models of accessible cell phones are available for examination at the International Braille and Technology Center. Call for additional information and for further information about contacting companies that can provide the appropriate phones and software. You can call our answer line Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern time, at (410) 659-9314 and select option 5 at the main menu.
Companies mentioned in this article include:
Optelec Tieman Group, phone
(800) 828-1056, Web site <http://www.optelec.com>
Capital Accessibility, phone (877) 292-2747 or 240-715-1272, Web site <http://www.screenlessphone.com>
Sendero Group, phone (530) 757-6800, Web site <http://www.senderogroup.com>
Beyond Sight, phone (303) 795-6455, Web site <http://www.beyondsight.com>
VisionCue, phone (888) 318-2582 or (503) 297-1510, Web site <http://www.visioncue.com>
A Review of Education and Rehabilitation for Empowerment
by Kathleen M. Huebner
From the Editor: Dr. Huebner is a professor and associate dean of graduate studies in vision impairment at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry. We recently invited her to review Education and Rehabilitation for Empowerment, a book just published by Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan and James H. Omvig, both longtime NFB members. Here is her review:
This book is a volume in a series of publications about Critical Concerns in Blindness. It is authored by C. Edwin Vaughan, University of Missouri, and James H. Omvig, a former member of the advisory board, Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, Louisiana Tech University. The target readership includes both educators and rehabilitation professionals who teach and work with individuals who are blind. The foundation on which the book is developed and built is a positive philosophy of blindness as introduced in the teachings of Newel Perry and Jacobus tenBroek and expanded upon by Kenneth Jernigan; it maintains that most education and rehabilitation programs for individuals who are blind could and should be more effective.
The book includes an introductory chapter and seven thematic chapters. It is less than two hundred pages in length. The second chapter presents the authors' perspectives on the development of the United States rehabilitation system and human culture as an emergent quality. Rather than taking a chronological approach, the authors embark on history from the perspective of "some of the problems and issues related to consumer responses to rehabilitation services." (p. 16) This is true throughout the book, as each chapter provides some historical perspectives with a focus on problems, issues, and controversies. Mention is made of prior social histories of blindness, and prominence is given to Ferguson's 2001 publication, which applies to blindness Michel Foucault's archeological approach to institutional history. The chapter highlights accreditation using the example of decades of disagreement between the National Accreditation Council (NAC) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The chapter then turns to a sociological perspective and the concept of culture as an influence in social change.
Chapter 3 is titled "Ingredients
of Empowerment," which is the underlying philosophy of the book. The authors
describe what they consider the essential ingredients for the empowerment and
ultimately the power of individuals who are blind. They present a historical
perspective to support their conclusions along with an explanation of the importance
of "informed choice" in the process of including the customer (client) as a
"full partner with the blindness professional" in the rehabilitation process.
The chapter further discusses the ingredients of informed choice, empowering
organizations, and organizations that empower, and a consumer model for empowerment.
"The Professional Worker and the Road to Empowerment," the topic of the fourth chapter, provides strategies by which empowerment can result in an equal playing field between blind consumers and rehabilitation professionals. The authors present a sociological perspective on professionals and professional organizations outlining the history of what has led to the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving Persons with Blindness and Visual Impairment (NAC) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The chapter also provides a brief history of legislation and federal appropriations related to rehabilitation.
The authors describe their perceptions of AER's structure and relate it to larger sociological concepts of colleague control and hierarchies within a profession of elites comprised of higher-level administrators/researchers and lower-level professionals, who defer to "the pronouncements of elites." This makes for interesting reading and reflective pause, including the comparisons to other professions (such as the medical and legal professions) and other organizations, including consumer organizations. This reader, being a member of AER since its inception and prior to that a member of AAWB [American Association of Workers for the Blind] and AAIB [American Association of Instructors of the Blind], which merged to become AER, sees AER as a membership organization with an elected board of directors which governs its membership much like that of NFB. The authors describe AER in the subsequent chapter as an organization which operates "on a traditional, bureaucratic model." (p. 80) The chapter concludes with a response to the question, "Is something wrong with the way science is used?" The question is prompted by the authors' observations about research-based articles published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness (JVIB).
In chapter 5 the authors discuss some of the differences between rational bureaucratic and collectivist organizational models. The authors have long and rich histories in rehabilitation, and it is from this that they draw and present the organized blind view of the key factors required for and those which contribute to an effective state rehabilitation agency for the blind. These factors are "an independent structure, a specific defined philosophy of blindness, a committed board, a knowledgeable and committed staff, advocacy for its customers, and a quality adult orientation and adjustment center." (p. 82) Sections of the chapter are devoted to each of these factors. The defined philosophy of blindness is presented largely from Omvig's fundamental truths as presented in his 2002 book, Freedom for the Blind: The Secret Is Empowerment. The authors also present their view and describe a list of major components for model orientation and adjustment centers, which includes general guidelines and philosophies for location and facility; attitude; seminars and language; curriculum and white cane; sleepshades; Braille; etiquette; evening, weekend, and peer support; duration of training; and an interference-free environment.
The importance of socialization and the need for blind individuals to blend into the sighted world is the doctrine presented in chapter 6. The authors are vehement in their belief the "blind students must be held to the same standards as other students, such as courtesy, punctuality, dependability, and personal appearance." (p. 5) This chapter recommends that students "be separated temporarily from society to undergo immersion training to master the skills and attitudes of blindness." (p. 105) The authors ask, "Can one be immersed in the community of blind people and still be fully integrated into the mainstream?" (p. 105) They answer their own question with an unequivocal "yes." This chapter is rich with actual experiences of individuals who are blind that demonstrate the importance of understanding and using nonverbal communication skills such as eye contact and gestures. There is also a section on the social effects of presenting a well-groomed, clean, and neat appearance as well as an explanation and strategies to prevent, modify, or eliminate blindisms. The chapter concludes with a section on the importance of presenting a good impression, not just for the benefit of the individual, but for all blind persons.
The seventh chapter's focus is on communication skills, particularly the written communication skills of Braille. The authors clearly introduce the importance of all types of effective communication skills. They go on to describe the history of Braille in Europe and America and present their perspectives on the teaching of Braille to children, referencing Ferguson's 2001 work. The authors believe that "attitudes about blindness, attitudes about Braille, teachers with minimal training in Braille, and overreliance on and confidence in technology converged into what many leaders within the blindness community refer(red) to as the crisis in literacy for blind children. (p. 129) They present their theories of the effects of events and developments which they believe had a negative impact on the degree to which Braille has been taught to blind and partially blind students in recent decades. Other than Ferguson's archeological research, they do not support these theories with scientifically based research. Advances in Braille technology, the successful Braille bill movement led by the NFB, and other technological developments and their role in customer empowerment are also addressed.
The last chapter addresses mobility as a crucial ingredient of effective rehabilitation, which ultimately leads to customer empowerment. Brief histories of human guides, child and adult guides, dog guides, and long cane travel are presented. The structured-discovery approach is briefly explained, and the organized blind position on environmental modifications and electronic guidance systems is presented, including some minority views. Some of the controversies and differences in methodologies between the conventional and the structured-discovery methods as well as those between the Certification in Orientation and Mobility and the National Orientation and Mobility Certification are also presented.
The authors are articulate and make the book easy reading, but reading that requires thought, reflection, and consideration of the messages imbedded throughout each and every chapter. This reviewer always enjoys learning from those who have a talent for writing, application of concepts from one field to another, and an indefatigable philosophical perspective; these authors have all these qualities. While the book is rich with historical citations from the literature, conference proceedings, citations from the Braille Monitor, their own previous works, and otherwise generally untapped historical resources, the authors make it clear throughout that they are writing from "the experience and perspective of the organized blind movement (NFB) in the United States." (p. 83)
Empowerment is the thread that is woven throughout, regardless of the chapter. The authors have infused the importance of strategies and the potential outcome of consumer empowerment throughout the book. The thread is a prominent color--a strong and vibrant texture that not only pulls all the other themes together but results in a complex yet unified design.
NLS Celebrates Diamond Jubilee
by Stephen O. Benson
From the Editor:
The first article I wrote after joining the Monitor staff was called,
"Mapping the Enchanted Kingdom," and it appeared in the December 1988 issue.
It was a review of a little book that traced the history of the Talking Book
program of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
At the beginning of the article I reminisced about the revolution the Talking
Book program brought into my life as a nine-year-old child. That personal revolution
took place two years after a similar event in the life of Steve Benson, a longtime
NFB leader and the author of the following tribute to the National Library Service
during its diamond jubilee year. The article was first published in the Spring
2006 issue of "TBC Focus," the quarterly newsletter of the Chicago Talking Book
Center. Talking Book lovers will enjoy this fond recollection, and everyone
who likes to read should appreciate Steve's recommendations of classic recordings.
This is what he says:
In this, the seventy-fifth anniversary year of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), I can't help reflecting on the almost fifty-four years of reading I have enjoyed. My introduction to the NLS program occurred in September of 1952, after I had transferred from sight-saving classes at Abraham Lincoln School to Braille classes at Alexander Graham Bell School in Chicago. I was eleven years old and in fifth grade. As a sight-saving student I was never able to read print competitively or comfortably, so I had no interest in going to the library and checking out a book. My attitude toward reading had been shaped in the worst way by my struggle to read print.
My experience at Bell School was completely different. I learned to read and write Braille. It didn't take me long to realize that these compact patterns of raised dots would enable me to do what my peers had been doing since kindergarten and first grade. While my Braille reading speed was pretty slow at first, by January or February of 1953 I was not only able actually to read a book from the library, but interested in doing so. I think it was a biography of Andrew Jackson's boyhood. That was only the first of thousands of books I have read in Braille.
Over the intervening years my Braille reading speed has increased markedly with constant use. Braille is my primary access to the printed word, my avenue to literacy, as it is for thousands of other blind people. I have used it every day in my capacities as a high school English teacher, an agency administrator, a writer in the Chicago Public Library's press office and now part of the staff of the Talking Book Center, and a Braille teacher for the Veterans Administration. I have lectured at several universities, and I have delivered speeches before large conventions using Braille. I could not have done any of this effectively and efficiently without excellent Braille skills. How ironic it is that today (with changes in the copyright laws that allow almost immediate production of books in Braille and substantially reduced production costs) that 10 percent or fewer of blind children are being taught Braille.
My introduction to the NLS Talking Book program made me realize that reading could actually be interesting and fun. Recorded books have provided me many thousands of hours of information and entertainment. I can never think about reading Talking Books without remembering some of the wonderful narrators to whom I was introduced in the fifties. The NLS assembled an exceptionally talented corps of narrators in its first three decades. What made them extraordinary was their unique, classic training as Shakespearean actors or radio actors required to do cold reads and convey character with only their voices. Their cadence, dialect, tone, sonority, distinctive voices (often resonant), timing, and clear, precise articulation really made the stories come alive. Unfortunately some of the titles have been rerecorded and those exceptional performances lost. Fortunately, however, some of those fabulous voices can still be heard in outstanding interpretations of classic literature and contemporary fiction and nonfiction.
Here are a few examples:
RC 15199, The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, narrated by Burt Blackwell. Blackwell's reading vividly conveys the pathos, tension, drama, and hilarity of this Twain romp.
RC 23130, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, narrated by Ralph Bell. Bell was an actor whose voice was familiar to those of us who listened to radio programs when they were new. Bell played many roles on radio, television, stage, and film. His powerful tones are just right for this classic American drama.
RC 24426, Tender Prey by Patricia Roberts, narrated by Robert Donley. Donley recorded numerous science fiction titles, but his acting background enabled him to handle any task. His mastery of dialect and his clear grasp of the author's message is fully conveyed in this recording.
RC 17363, Castle in the Air by Donald Westlake, narrated by Alan Haines. Haines's cultured and elegant delivery is just right for Westlake's wildly funny and improbable comic mystery.
RC 21675, Trio for Blunt Instruments by Rex Stout, narrated by Alan Hewitt. Many narrators have read Nero Wolfe mysteries, but for me Hewitt captures the genius detective's persona better than any of the others. For me Wolfe's voice and Archie Goodwin's irreverent commentary, for that matter, are supposed to sound like Hewitt's interpretation. It is sheer fun. By the way, Alan Hewitt was in the original Broadway cast of Death of a Salesman.
RC 34826, Archy and Mehitabel by Don Marquis, narrated by Leon Janney. Janney's was another voice familiar to listeners of radio drama in the forties, fifties, and early sixties. He played many roles that didn't match his raspy voice, but he pulled them off with style and aplomb. So too does he render Archy and Mehitabel. Those of you who have never read Archy and Mehitabel are in for a treat. The whole notion of a cockroach writing pointed columns and commentary is hilarious.
RC 21320, The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, narrated by Norman Rose. Here is another distinctive voice heard frequently during the golden days of radio drama. Norman Rose does a superb reading of Chekhov. His big voice is perfect for conveying a theater classic. For my money, Rose was in the class of elite narrators.
RC 15289, The Double Image by Helen MacInnes, narrated by Alexander Scourby. If Scourby had recorded the telephone book I would have listened with rapt attention. He too was among the class of elite narrators. His reading was musical. No doubt that came from his training on the Shakespearean stage and in his many other roles on radio and television. He may have been the best.
Needless to say, the above descriptions are my opinion; however, I'll bet, after hearing these and other titles by this group of outstanding narrators, you will share my enthusiasm. Other narrators with the same background who performed their narrations in the same style and with amazing quality but who are either deceased or no longer active include Randy Atcher, Ed Blake, Bob Butz, Michael Clarke-Laurence, James Delotel, Patrick Horgan, House Jameson, Kermit Murdock, David Palmer, Phil Regensdorf, Merwin Smith, Guy Sorel, John Stratton, Suzanne Toren, Jim Walton, Pam Ward, and Jim Zeiger.
As I prepared for this article, I was particularly struck by the longevity and durability of some of the narrators. For example, Mitzi Friedlander has recorded more than 1,300 titles; Roy Avers over 1,100; and Bob Askey more than 1,000. Bruce Huntey, Laura Giannarelli, John Stratton, Jill Ferris, Suzanne Toren, and Madelyn Buzzard have put their voices to more than 670 books. Several have recorded over 500 titles, including Ed Blake, Andy Chappell, Jack Fox, Gordon Gould, Lou Harpenau, John Polk, Catherine Byers, Yvonne Fair Tessler, and Bill Wallace. The immense talent exhibited by these and other NLS narrators is quite remarkable and deserving of our praise. In a very real sense we invite these people into our homes; they make good guests.
For seventy-five years the NLS program has distinguished itself as the one government agency for the blind that has consistently demonstrated that quality service is possible. For more than thirty of those years the program has been carefully managed by Frank Kurt Cylke. He is to be commended for his exceptional stewardship of this vital program. One day he will retire, and it will be up to us, the consumers of this extraordinary service, to monitor closely its mission, funding, direction, and quality.
From the Editor: The recipes this month come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. As I considered what I might ask the Iowans to contribute, I naturally thought about summer fare in general and grilling in particular. We all know that many people, both blind and sighted, believe that cooking with its routine use of heat is dangerous for blind people--one of the reasons we include recipes each month in the Monitor. In addition to sharing our favorite tastes and styles of cooking from across this vast country, this monthly feature also steadily reminds our readers that blind people do cook. But to those who believe that heating water on an electric stove or warming leftovers in the microwave could be dangerous to blind people, how much more life-threatening is broiling meat over an open flame? I have known Federation leader and Iowan Doug Elliot for a number of years, and one of the first things I learned about him was his love of cooking in general and outdoor grilling in particular. He likes all kinds of cooking and cooking devices. For example, he once prepared dinner using the heat from a car engine, and he has prepared delectable salmon and other fish dishes in his dishwasher of all things.
For this recipes
column I have asked Doug if he would share, not only some of his favorite recipes
and methods for preparing grilled entrees, but also some tips and tricks for
grilling as a blind person. In true Doug fashion he has done just that, and
also in true Doug fashion he has recruited some fellow Iowans to help. Here
is the result, a blend of methods and recipes from three quite different and
devoted outdoor blind Iowa grillers:
Doug Elliott: Warm weather is on the way. It is time to think about the grill, outdoor food, and friends. Barbara Pierce asked me to submit recipes but not to stop there. She also wanted me to explain how blind people do the grilling and what equipment we use. Here are three different types of grilling presented by three guys who are totally blind.
My method is natural gas grilling. I have a large, three-burner grill with heat bars and a ceramic tub for catching run-off grease. Heat bars are angle irons placed above the burners horizontally, parallel to each other. The burners heat them to produce a constant temperature. Two heavy grills are laid next to each other and over the heat bars to cook the food on. This type of grill can be used like an outside oven because the top lowers, completely enclosing the heat and cooking surfaces. For fuel, it uses a flexible natural gas tube that connects the grill to the house. This allows you to reposition the grill when desired. The fuel supply is continuous, so you don't need to lug charcoal bags or propane tanks, and the heat is predictable and easy to regulate. This grill geography is easy to understand and remember with a quick examination by hand while the grill is not in use.
I like natural gas because it does not burn as hot as propane, and I seem to have more control of the heat necessary to cook at the temperature I like. The ceramic tub prevents flare-ups and can be removed easily to clean, as can the cooking grills. To light the gas, I use either the push-button flint and striker on the unit or a butane grill starter.
Without any trouble I have cooked burgers, chicken, turkey, hot dogs, brats, roasts, steaks and chops, both lamb and pork, and also carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and whatever other vegetables I feel like cooking. My greatest accomplishment so far has been a thirty-six-inch rack of lamb. It came out fine, tender and tasty.
You can cook meat and vegetables either directly on the grill or using a folding basket that you can flip without losing the food. Yet another technique is to place the meat on a steel sheet with holes in it. This sheet rests directly on the grill rack and allows better control when finding the meat and better leverage when turning food over. In kitchen catalogues and at big box stores you can find these sheets and also high-sided baskets for vegetables made of the same pierced steel. I have also seen spatulas with two sides hinged together that are designed to grasp and clamp the meat on both sides for easy flipping. I don't recommend these because they are too fussy and their makers assume that we cannot flip food without them. They are actually hard to use, and better techniques exist. I use a regular spatula in my right hand, locate the meat or vegetable by touching it lightly with the spatula and also with my left forefinger, then slide the spatula under and, with a quick wrist motion, flip the meat right back into the place it originally occupied, now ready for cooking on the other side. I have never found anything, meat or vegetable, that I cannot cook by using baskets or sheets and this flipping method.
Grilling any food involves heating it on both sides until done, and that is all. With practice you will learn how long various meats and vegetables take and flip with accuracy. Baskets have handles on both ends. You just grasp both handles, which holds the basket closed, flip, and replace.
I do most of my grilling with bare hands. I do own flame-resistant grilling gloves and regular kitchen potholders, but I rarely use them since I know what food I have placed on the grill and where it is, and I want the information my ungloved hands can provide. For example, I flip baskets so quickly that I rarely use gloves or potholders. A novice might want to have these available until the motions are familiar. I do have plenty of paper towels available to keep my hands clean and ready for the next operation, unslippery from occasional grease, and clean, in order to keep my final product just as clean. In fact, I sometimes jokingly call a long string of paper towels stuck in my back pocket my tail because I want it readily available and therefore make sure one end is firmly tucked in a pocket so I can quickly run my hand along the tail and tear off the free end for immediate use.
Planning ahead to have surfaces on which to place tools and food is another prudent ingredient for a successful grilling operation. My grill comes with side tables. If they weren't there, I would find a way to create them. I like to be able to grab for tools in a specific place, and I like to have a place to set down the plate on which I carry uncooked food to the grill. And, most important of all, I want to grab a tool from where I last placed it and move the food now ready to eat to a plate I can also predictably grab. When I use baskets, I just sling the basket on the plate. When I use sheets or the grill itself, I move the finished products to a plate to carry inside or to the outdoor dining area.
Practice always provides good experience, so no one should ever be daunted by a grilling failure. I once tried cooking bacon. This was in my propane days with fuel I think is harder to regulate and on a grill without a ceramic grease-catcher. The grease flared up before I caught it, and flames were shooting into the sky above my head. This is acceptable, if controlled, unless you are on a covered porch. My neighbors thought I, not the bacon, was in flames. I merely removed the bacon, which by that time was well done and would have suited Peggy but was not to my taste, and the flames subsided. I now know how to grill bacon but view it as too much of a hassle.
Grilling chicken properly is a challenge to some. Most people undercook chicken, being fooled by an exterior that is brown to the eye and firm and hot to the touch. Unfortunately, at this stage the chicken is probably not done and is masquerading as tasty. I have learned that chicken wants to be cooked more slowly, over lower heat than red meats. The other reason to cook chicken more slowly is that higher heat can cause it to catch on fire. This obviously does not produce the desired result, although my grease tub catches and retains most grease that in other grills would be available for flare-ups, and I can simply close the grill door, turn off the natural gas, and wait out a true fire, a purely theoretical solution for me since I have never had to do it and have only practiced the technique mentally.
With years of practice behind me, I can often gauge the doneness of chicken by smell, but I never trust a chicken without the taste test. I have a test piece among the rest, available for this taste test. I make sure not to give this piece to anyone but myself when the cooking is done. I am patient with chicken, giving it time to finish. When I think it may be done, I tease a little piece out with a fork or knife and eat it. Underdone chicken has a bitter after-taste, and it is stringy or elastic to chew. When I get this result and no matter how many sighted people are crowing that the chicken is ready for consumption since it is nice and brown, I keep cooking. I serve the chicken only when it passes the taste test--that is, it has no bitter after-taste and is no longer rubbery to chew. People love my grilled chicken, which is done with care and patience, but I always secretly suspect that they have also had a lot of badly grilled, undercooked chicken and that their compliments are partly due to their pleased surprise at the good taste.
During my propane days I decided to hold a chapter meeting and picnic at my house in Reno and to talk to the members about chapter business while grilling chicken breasts in baskets. I know by the smell and also by the increased sizzling when the chicken needs to be turned. As I talked, I was also monitoring the chicken behind me. As the sizzling began, I paused briefly to spin around, flip the baskets, and then turn back to continue my talk. A sighted attendee came up after the meal to thank me for the tasty chicken and also to say that she had been astonished and amused to watch me talk and grill. She said that, every time little flames started licking around the chicken, I would spin and flip, stopping the incipient grease riot. The first time this happened, she didn't have a chance to say anything before the chicken was flipped and peacefully cooking again. She watched me do this throughout my talk and quickly decided that she didn't need to tell me how to cook chicken because I had both the talk and the grill under control.
With meat other than chicken, doneness is determined by touch. The softer the meat, the less well done it is, and the harder, the more well done. Medium is firm but not hard, while rare is soft, and well-done is hard.
I season my meats by whim. I like a commercial barbecue sauce called Cookie's that I sometimes use straight from the bottle or as a base for a sauce or marinade that I make up as the fancy strikes me, using additional ingredients like salt, pepper, garlic, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, or whatever else strikes me. I apply the sauce to the meat before transporting it outside on a plate to start the cooking. Another good sauce is Basque sauce, originally made by the Basques of northern Spain, who were master sheep and lamb people. Nothing enhances lamb like Basque sauce, which also works on most red meats, sometimes in my kitchen dressed up with other spices and sometimes by itself. Basque sauce starts with a lot of garlic. One of Peggy's cats got to the point where he would not eat any meat unless it had Basque sauce on it.
I regulate heat now by long experience. Red meats can be cooked at higher temperatures. The heat is too high when the meat starts cooking too fast, which can be judged by audible snapping and sizzling. I usually preheat the grill at medium high or high and then edge back the heat by lowering the amount of gas until the meat isn't sizzling. I cook chicken at medium or lower. Chicken often takes me as long as half an hour per side, but, as I said earlier, the taste is the definitive test.
I take my grilling seriously, tending the grill and checking the future meal while communing with nature and a beer or two. For example, I have noticed that Iowa locusts are drawn to the heat column produced by my grill and flock over and dance in the air high above my grill while I'm cooking, rasping their little chest plates, producing their characteristic noise as I grill and sip. One technique I use for variety is to place an aluminum pie plate filled with water and wood chips under the grills and on top of the heat bars to use in smoking meat.
Peggy Elliott's Favorite Burgers
My wife Peggy likes burgers made with one pound of hamburger and one pound of Jimmy Dean hot sausage. Mix the two meats together with garlic powder or whatever other seasonings you like and shape into patties. This amount of meat should make about six patties. Cook each patty about fifteen minutes per side or to the point at which the meat is firm to the touch. This should make your burger about medium. If your family or guests like their meat more rare or more well-done, simply adjust the time and expectation of firmness accordingly. Remove from the grill and place on a hamburger bun with your favorite garnishes. Enjoy the meat and the compliments.
Roger Erpelding: Roger, or Rog, as he is known to his friends, is a member of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa board of directors and, as you will also note, a fan of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. Rog is also a big fan of NFB-NEWSLINE, which keeps him up-to-date on his beloved team. Here are his grilling tips:
I love outdoor grilling. I am a bit of a traditionalist, so I recently purchased my second Weber charcoal grill. It is simple to operate and reliable and helps me prepare tasty meals.
Preparation: I have a favorite brand of charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid. There are lots to choose from, so pick what works for you. I use a traditional and simple approach--a twenty-pound bag of my favorite brand and the same brand of lighter fluid--the bigger the container the better. I begin by making sure the grill is firmly placed on a patio, away from grass, leaves, and the house. I open all the air vents above and below. I do not measure the amount of charcoal, just open the bag and dump. Usually I have about one layer of fresh charcoal for hamburgers, perhaps one to two layers for steaks. Again, when it comes to the lighter fluid, "dump" is the word. Be generous and plan for a nice fire. You can use a variety of lighters, but again tradition seems best to me, so I use wooden kitchen matches, which work well. Place your hand over the lighted charcoal until it feels warm--then you are up and running. But be sure to place the grill racks over the charcoal after you have dumped the lighter fluid onto the coals but before you light them. This method is called "direct cooking" in Weber parlance.
There is also an indirect method that I enjoy for cooking pork chops, chicken, and ribs. This is a slower method for larger pieces of meat. I begin by placing a disposable pan in the middle of the grill, then placing a large pile of charcoal on each side. Again I don't measure or count--just dump. The same goes for the lighter fluid. Place the rack over the charcoal and pan and light both piles of charcoal. You'll want to light one side then the other rapidly, so have at least two matches ready to strike.
With both cooking methods I wait a half hour before placing food on the grill to cook. This delay assures that the charcoal is good and hot and burns off all the lighter fluid. If you're not sure whether the grill is ready, place your hand a few inches above the grilling surface. You should feel pure heat and not hear any crackling or smell lighter fluid burning.
Rog's Hawkeye Victory Dinner
Iowa Chops, Potatoes, and Carrots
The pork chops: Purchase one to four thick-cut Iowa chops, depending on how many people you are serving. Prepare a rib rub for the meat while you are waiting for the grill to settle down. I use equal parts of garlic powder, lemon pepper, and any kind of season salt. Again I don't measure--just spread generously over both sides of the meat and turn often on the plate to make sure coverage is complete. Wash, puncture several times if left whole, and foil wrap the number of potatoes you will need for your dinner. Peel and cut one to two pounds of carrots into one-inch pieces. Place the carrots on aluminum foil, and before wrapping them, add one half stick of real butter cut into pats and season salt to taste. Then double wrap the carrots tightly in foil.
When the grill is ready, place the chops in the middle of the rack so that the drippings will be caught in the disposable pan. As the chops cook, turn them every ten minutes or so. On one pile of charcoal place the carrots; on the other place the potatoes. Cook for one hour and fifteen minutes.
After forty-five minutes
turn the potatoes and carrots. At the same time spoon one cup of your favorite
barbecue sauce (if preparing four pieces of meat) over the chops. I use a cup
measure for the sauce and a tablespoon to place the sauce on the meat. About
five minutes before the cooking time is complete, close all the air vents. Enjoy!
Here are two simple recipes that work well as side dishes for any meal, including ones that are grilled. In fact, maybe I'll try them on the grill next time. But here's an indoor method for each:
1/2 stick butter
1 pound frozen whole-kernel corn
Generous handful fresh basil
Method: Cut the onion and pepper into small pieces. In a saucepan melt the butter and sauté the onions and peppers for five to seven minutes, stirring about once each minute until tender. In a microwave-proof pan place the corn, basil, onions, and peppers. Cook in microwave on high for nine minutes, stirring about halfway through the process. Season with salt to taste.
Mom's Fried Apples
This is the perfect dish
to use up apples that have gone a little soft.
4 to 6 medium to large apples, cored and cut into eighths
1/2 stick butter
Brown sugar to taste
Method: In a saucepan melt the butter and place the cut apples in the pan. Cover and cook on high for about seven minutes, until the apples are soft and mushy. Stir at least once a minute to keep apples from sticking. Sprinkle a couple of large handfuls of brown sugar into the pan, stir generously, and simmer for an additional two to three minutes--especially tasty on autumn evenings.
Bob has been a member of the board of directors of the National Federation of
the Blind of Iowa since anybody can remember. He's been a computer programmer
and a food service manager, but the Federation has been at the center of his
life for over forty years. Bob lives the Federation philosophy in his daily
life as shown by his contributions here:
This kind of smoking is not hazardous to your health!
A few years back we decided that we wanted to buy a smoker and start smoking meats to our taste. I talked with several people that use smokers, including President Maurer, and decided upon the smoker that I wished to purchase and learn how to use. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject of smoking meats.
Various types of smokers are on the market, but the principle underlying theme is the same. You want to cook the meat that you are smoking slowly and have the smoked flavor completely permeate the meat. My remarks here are intended for those who wish to smoke items using a smoker heated by charcoal and wood chips. For the most part the same principles apply if you are using some other fuel and wood chips. After you have selected the smoker you want to use, you must choose the proper fuel and wood chips for the task you are trying to perform. My preference is to use a soft charcoal with no chemicals added and wood chips that are sold for smoking. The type of wood will depend on what you are smoking and your taste. Different woods produce different flavors when burned under different kinds of meat. I like apple wood when I grill pork, and hickory when I smoke beef. I think I have never cooked a cut of meat the same way twice because I enjoy experimenting.
In addition to the soft, no-chemical charcoal, I also use some charcoal with chemicals on it to make it easier to start. I only use as much of the latter as I absolutely must in order to start the charcoal. I wait long enough to burn off all the chemicals before putting the meat into the smoker.
Place a mixture of the charcoal with chemicals for easy igniting and the charcoal that does not into the smoker. You probably should have about four times as much nontreated charcoal as treated. (I use Kingsford as the igniting charcoal.) Light the charcoal mixture and let it burn until you can no longer smell the chemicals burning and have a pure charcoal smell. If your smoker is the direct-heating type with adjustable air vents, adjust the air flow using the vents. You want to cook the meat slowly, so you want no more heat than absolutely necessary to do the job. A good way to tell is to place your hand about an inch from the top edge of the smoker. If you can hold your hand there and it is rather hot but bearable, then you probably have the right amount of heat.
Now place three or four handfuls of the wood chips selected for this session in with the burning charcoal. Place the meat that you wish to smoke on the rack and close the lid. Be sure that you have put enough charcoal in the smoker for it to run several hours. I never seem to get the amount of charcoal right, but it doesn't matter because I keep checking both the heat (with the hand method) and the meat temperature with the thermometer. If you don't put enough charcoal in, you can always add more to continue the smoking until the desired meat temperature is reached, so just keep checking by the hand test. If burning charcoal is left over when the meat reaches the desired internal temperature, you can just let it burn out. Remember that the air vents are present to aid burning and can be adjusted to establish a nice, even burn. I would want to smoke a twelve- to fifteen-pound turkey, for example, for four to six hours.
I have not addressed here putting any rubs or other items on the meat you are smoking. This is a matter of personal taste. I realize that most people prefer to use rubs and the like, but we do not. We prefer the taste of the meat itself enhanced by the smoked flavor. Rubs are often a liquid concoction you make up and rub into the meat before smoking begins. The concoction is made to your and your family's taste and for this particular piece of meat. Some common ingredients are commercially prepared barbecue sauces enhanced to suit your own taste. Some people rub lots of salt into the meat before smoking. Rubs or traditions can be handed down in families or created new for each session. And, as with any other endeavor, much can be learned from other practitioners. The fellows at my favorite grilling shop are competitive smokers, and I am always awed and amused at how seriously they take their rubs and how precise and finicky they are about them. Not my taste!
I purchased a meat thermometer to use when I am smoking. A talking one is on the market that works quite well. I would like to find one that has an armored cable between the probe and the electronics box, but the only one I know of has a basic telephone cable, so you need to be careful not to burn or puncture the cable. Cook the meat until it reaches the desired internal temperature. For pork and poultry the internal temperature should be in the 170-to-185-degree range. I cook pork until it is in the 160-to-170-degree range. For beef 150 to 160 degrees is quite safe. Again personal taste does play a part. As I have gained experience, I have gained knowledge about what we like. After all, smoking, like other food preparation, ends up being a long-range experiment with success built on previous experience.
When the meat reaches the
desired internal temperature, remove it from the grill, and let it sit until
it cools a great deal. I have found that if you let it cool completely and then
slice it, the smoked flavor permeates it even more thoroughly. Here is one other
small tip when you are smoking pork. As soon as you remove it from the cooking
surface, wrap it in foil. Before sealing the foil, with a knife cut a slit along
the top of the meat. Pour about a quarter of a cup of apple juice over the meat.
Seal the foil and let the meat set for at least twenty minutes. The apple juice
acts as a tenderizer. It should be pointed out that if you put too much juice
on the meat, the results will be extreme.
Smoked Pork Loin
Purchase a five-to-eight-pound boneless pork loin. If you like using rubs to add other flavors to the pork, apply your favorite one to the meat. Slowly cook the loin as described above for four to six hours. Remove from smoker. Place on a sheet of foil large enough to tightly wrap the loin. With a knife cut a shallow slit along the top of the loin. Pour apple juice over meat and wrap tightly in foil. Let meat set for at least twenty minutes before removing the foil. Enjoy your feast.
Easy German Potato Salad
by Brandie and Rose Sebeniecher
Brandie Sebeniecher works in Peggy Elliott's office and grew up in a family that often runs restaurants, always capitalizing on the family's German heritage. Brandie offers this salad recipe, which can grace any of the foregoing grilled meals, especially when enjoyed outside. Brandie credits this salad to her grandmother, who is also a strong salesperson of Iowa scissors:
5 medium potatoes, any kind
3 hard-boiled eggs
Chopped onion, any kind, amount to taste
1/2 to 1 cup of mayo, depending on size of potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Boil whole potatoes with skin on, until a fork inserted in the potatoes pierces them easily. Rinse with cool water and peel. Meanwhile hard-boil the eggs, then run cool water over them until you can handle and peel them. When the eggs and potatoes are done and are still warm, chop eggs, potatoes, and onion into bite-sized pieces and combine all ingredients. Optional ingredients can include olives, either black or green, or a teaspoon of horseradish mustard for those who like a spicier salad. Note that it is easy to get too much. This basic salad can be dressed up any way you like. Our family prefers to eat this potato salad while it is still warm, but it is mighty good when eaten cold as well.
News from the Federation
Mark Your Calendar Now:
We have just learned that Federationists can celebrate the Fourth of July this year with a Texas-size barbeque in the beautiful park, immediately outside the west door of our convention hotel. The cost of the meal from barbequed beef and grilled chicken to peach cobbler is $35 per person. The Texas affiliate has arranged for a band to serenade us, and you will be able to dash back to the hotel for meetings during the evening. Tickets will be available from members of the Texas affiliate and at convention registration.
We will conduct a brief ceremony to honor our veterans at the opening general session of the convention in Dallas. If you are a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States of America and plan to attend our national convention this year, please contact Dwight D. Sayer, first vice president of the NFB of Florida, 259 Regal Downs Circle, Winter Garden, Florida 34787; (407) 877-1970; email <email@example.com>. Knowing who will be present will help us plan this third annual ceremony.
The Chicago Chapter of the NFB of Illinois conducted elections on Saturday, April 8, 2006. Those elected were president, Debbie Kent Stein; first vice president, Patti Gregory-Chang; second vice president, Anthony Thomas; secretary, Connie Davis; treasurer, Carmen Dennis; and board members Joe Monti, Ronza Othman, Debbie Pittman, and Bob Widman.
Attention Cruise Lovers:
Cruise with the NFB of California to the Mexican Riviera on a sunny, seven-day fundraising voyage. A portion of each booking goes to the NFB of California. Sail Carnival's Pride from Long Beach on November 26, 2006, for a one-week trip to:
Puerto Vallarta--Winding cobblestone streets lead from fantastic shopping and art galleries to over twenty-five miles of tropical sandy beaches.
Mazatlan--the pearl of the Pacific, Mazatlan's blue lagoons welcome visitors year-round with average November temperatures in the low to mid eighties during the day.
Cabo San Lucas--Located on the tip of Baja, where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific, Cabo offers unsurpassed recreation and nightlife in a desert paradise.
Inside staterooms start at $579 per person. Outside staterooms start at $729 per person. Balcony staterooms range from $829 to $889 per person. Act fast since these rates are subject to availability--first come will be first served. These fares are based on double occupancy. Rates for three and four passengers sharing a cabin range from $319 to $379 per person.
To book this fantastic vacation, call Sian (pronounced Shawn) or Greg at the Cruise Shoppe of Boulder at (888) 440-5777.
Tour reservations are fully refundable (before September 10). A deposit of $250 is due at booking. Government fees and taxes are an additional $27.54 per person. Final payment is due on September 12. Travel insurance and airfare can be arranged.
For additional information
phone the NFB of California at (818) 558-6524 or email <NFBCevents@yahoo.com>.
Additional Information about the Showcase of Talent:
The Showcase of Talent, which will take place at convention the evening of July 4, will be divided this year into two sections. The first will be for anyone who signs up with Adrienne Snow, president of the Performing Arts Division, during the first days of convention; and a second part is reserved for performances by members of the division. A boom box will be available for those who wish to sing along with a recorded track. A piano will also be available for anyone wishing to play or bringing an accompanist. Those requiring other instruments must provide them.
The Potomac Chapter of the NFB of Virginia held its annual election on Thursday, April 20, with a change of the guard. Tracy Soforenko assumed the presidency when Larry Povinelli decided to step down after eleven years as chapter president and give some younger folks a taste of leadership. Larry says that he will find it hard to attend meetings without holding an office. After all, he was chapter treasurer for eight years prior to becoming chapter president.
The results of the election
are as follows: president, Tracy Soforenko; first vice president, Seville Allen;
second vice president, Nancy Yeager; recording secretary, Sandy Halverson; corresponding
secretary, Carol Cooper; treasurer, Albert Sanchez; and board members, Pam Hayes,
Priscilla McKinley, and Elizabeth Akinola.
The NFB of Louisville conducted its election on April 22, 2006, with the following results: president, Nickie Priddy; vice president, Tonia Boyd; secretary, Stephanie Brown; treasurer, Maria Jones; and board members, Mary Harrod and Kevin Pearl.
New Service Available:
Tom Barretta, a member of the NFB of Connecticut's board of directors, sends the following announcement:
I am starting a company
called Barretta's Imagery, and I am willing to donate 10 percent of my sales
to any NFB chapter, state affiliate, or the national organization. Barretta's
Imagery is about reliving your fondest memories and sharing them with the people
you love. Send me your favorite photographs and tell me the songs that you would
like to include, and I will make you a personal photographic DVD slideshow.
The DVD will play in any properly configured computer as well as most DVD players.
A personal DVD slideshow makes a great birthday, anniversary, or holiday gift.
If you have any questions or are interested in ordering a photo slideshow, email
me at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or call me at (860) 582-6703.
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.
NLS Publishes tenBroek Biography:
The following notice was printed in the July-September 2005, Volume 35, Number 3, issue of News, a publication of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped:
The first full-length biography of a champion of equal opportunities for blind people and founder of the National Federation of the Blind was recently published by NLS and Friends of Libraries for Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals in North America.
Blind Justice: Jacobus tenBroek and the Vision of Equality by Floyd Matson recounts how the crusader (1911-1968), who was blinded by an arrow at age seven, obtained a law degree, fought for and received a university teaching position, and became a pioneer in organizing the blind community to claim constitutional rights. "Individually, we are scattered, ineffective, and inarticulate. Collectively, we are the masters of our own future and the successful guardian of our own common interests," tenBroek stated in his 1940 keynote address to the inaugural convention of the National Federation of the Blind.
In his introduction, author Matson, a professor of American studies at the University of Hawaii and friend and collaborator of tenBroek, writes: "Equality, for tenBroek, was the last great goal of democracy yet to be accomplished--the hope deferred, the one true thing demanding to be realized in the world. His own life was an unrelenting battle for equality not just for himself as a blind man but also for all the disabled and dispossessed, the invisible people of the earth."
"To attain progress, individuals with common needs and shared goals must organize. And for the blind of America to progress, they too must organize. This salient assessment--and the ability to transform this assessment into action--was one of Jacobus tenBroek's greatest contributions to the blind community," NLS director Frank Kurt Cylke writes in the foreword of Blind Justice. "NLS is pleased to publish this biography of the man who built the case for the constitutional rights of many minority groups in America--including, but not limited to, the blind community."
Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind and of the Friends of Libraries, notes in the preface, "TenBroek's voice is one that expanded human potential by a faith in those who would otherwise have been rejected. He is a champion among the founders of freedom."
Copies in regular print
are available in both hardcover and paperback from the Government Printing Office.
The book is also available from the NLS collection in Braille (BR15863) and
on audiocassette (RC59656).
Important Announcement for Guide Dogs for the Blind Alumni:
Have you ever imagined what it might be like to have a guide dog? Visit the Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) booth at convention to take a test drive. The booth is a great place to connect with GDB staff and graduates, learn the basics of working with a guide dog, and actually have the chance to take a walk with a trained guide dog.
GDB alumns, get the inside scoop on clicker training and the details about this convention's alumni reunion at GDB's convention booth. Clicker training is a form of operant conditioning using a clicking noise to mark a desired behavior in the dog and reinforcing that behavior with food reward. GDB's director of training, Terry Barrett, and director of research and development Michele Pouliot will be conducting classes on clicker training for GDB alumni and their guide dogs throughout the convention. Classes will discuss the theory of clicker training and then provide the opportunity for you to introduce your guide to clicker work and complete a clicker exercise. Alumni and their guests are invited to join us on Monday, July 3, for a special Southwest fiesta reunion from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. Visit our booth in the exhibit hall for location and details.
Finally, throughout the
convention Guide Dogs' human resources staff will be on hand to conduct brief
informational interviews for those interested in employment opportunities with
Guide Dogs for the Blind. Sign up for interview times at the booth.
The People-Finding Challenge and a Potential Solution:
Mike May, president and CEO of Sendero Group, LLC, sent us the following tantilizing challenge:
If you wish to be part of designing a new technology, read on. Identifying and locating nearby people in professional and social meetings and events constitutes a significant challenge for blind people. Independent blind people employ a number of techniques to deal with this highly visual challenge. A blind person can use hearing to identify voices, but noisy parties or restaurants interfere with this technique. Teaming with a sighted spouse or colleague can be effective, but this isn't always practical, and it means dependence on a sighted companion. One can be gregarious and hope that friends will approach, but let's hope you aren't blind and shy. In other words, every blind person has coping techniques and a personality which work to various degrees for people-finding, depending upon the situation.
The most frustrating situation for me has been at conventions, where I know lots of people, but I don't know when they are nearby. This is one circumstance in which having eyes is a huge advantage, no matter how good one's coping techniques. A sighted colleague can spot someone across the room and make contact. My ability even to know that the person is in the room is limited.
An emerging technology for solving this problem deserves serious attention and testing. It meets two important criteria: it is ubiquitous in the commercial market, and it is relatively low priced.
There are over 170 million cell phones in the U.S., and I believe the percentage of blind users may be even higher than among the sighted. Most newer phones have Bluetooth capabilities. If a blind person has a cell phone with Bluetooth and screen-reading software, this tool may help with people-finding if the people being sought also have a Bluetooth phone. Although the number of users with these capabilities may be low at present, younger people are adopting the cell phone (with Bluetooth and text messaging) as their primary communication device. People-finding will be a very useful by-product of this trend.
Blind or sighted, most people probably aren't aware that their phones have this capability, much less how to implement it. Here are some of the technical details. Our goal is to highlight the challenge of people-finding in hopes that we can present the Bluetooth cell phone as a solution worth funding. We would then create software to simplify the process currently necessary to use Bluetooth people-finding.
Many blind people have a Nokia phone with Talks or Mobile Speaks screen-reading software, which includes having the Nokia 3650, 3660, 6600, 6620, 6630, or 6682. Newer models like the Nokia 6682 allow multiple Bluetooth devices to be used at once, whereas older models support only one connection at a time. The 3650 and 3660 have limited memory. So, if you are scanning for Bluetooth phones, with older models you cannot use a Bluetooth headset at the same time, but you can with a 6682.
Under the Connectivity menu item, you must turn Bluetooth on, show visibility, and rename your identity from the default phone name to a personal name like "Mike May6682." To make getting to the Bluetooth option easier, select one of your phone's hot keys, like the right selection key for example, to go straight to Bluetooth.
Once your phone is configured, do the following to locate another person: go to Bluetooth, press Options, and select New to search for new connections. A list of nearby Bluetooth phones will be presented if they exist within 30 feet or so. Other Bluetooth devices will be in the list as well.
To make contact with one of the experimental group at convention, select it, and you will be asked to enter a code if you haven't connected with this person before. Enter something simple like 1111 and press Okay. The other person will see your phone name and can recognize the code. If not, at least the person will know that you are within thirty feet. At a convention we could establish a code like 1111.
Once the recipient accepts your connection, you can permanently authorize this contact for future use. You can transfer files or messages or simply call out to find each other. You can ask for the person's phone number and call. It is also possible to send a greeting message without having to enter a code. You can use Bluetooth scanning to know who is around even if you don't wish to make contact. It is nice to know who is around as sighted people do.
At the NFB convention this July blind attendees can test cell phone people-finding for themselves with help from the NFB access technology team and the Sendero Group. If we can create a critical mass of 100 or more blind people with phones configured for people-finding, finding each other will be fun and helpful.
Here is how it will work: Use the instructions above to configure your phone. Come by the Sendero booth in the exhibit hall to sign up for the project and get help if you have any trouble configuring your phone. We want to make sure your phone is indeed Bluetooth-enabled. We will also announce a workshop for people who want to learn more about installing software on their phones, sending text messages, and adding accessories like a Bluetooth headset or external keyboard. We will have a meeting toward the end of the convention to get participant feedback on how things worked and what to improve for the future. A prize or prizes will make the research informative, fun, and rewarding.
If you need Talks screen-reading software for your Nokia phone, contact the Sendero Group, (888) 757-6810, extension 107. If you don't have a phone and are considering purchasing one, check out the Nokia 6682 with Cingular service. The Sendero Group and NFB access technology teams look forward to this experiment and the feedback from many blind attendees at the national convention, July 1 to 7 in Dallas, Texas. For more information go to <www.nfb.org>.
A college in Ghana desperately needs thirteen Braillewriters. Last October (for the first time ever) Wesley College admitted five blind students into its teacher-training school, and the college plans to admit seven more this year. In September I will be moving to Ghana to adapt materials for the math and science courses (they have never before taught these subjects). I am a trained teacher of the blind and visually impaired and will be teaching the Nemeth code and, I hope, a computer class. However, the school has no Braillewriters (the students are all using slates and styluses). We will also need Nemeth and science textbooks, talking calculators, a Braille dictionary (if JAWS is not available), math tools for the blind, JAWS, Kurzweil 1000, a tactile image machine and paper, and a Braille embosser. If you'd like to donate equipment or money to support this important project, please call Wendy Olson ASAP at (201) 918-1448. Your donation would definitely be put to good use. For more information check out <http://www.ghanaweb.com/public_agenda/article.php?ID=5041>
The notice in this section has been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given.
Specific Braille Publications Needed:
I hope to acquire Braille-only copies of the following magazines: Holiness Evangel, produced by the Church of the Nazarene, anything prior to November 1988, January to June 1989, September and October 1989, July 1992, January and February 1994, May and June 1994, November and December 1994, and anything after February 1995; the Pentecostal Digest, produced by the Assemblies of God, anything prior to June 1998, January through April 2001, and anything after January 2002; the Gospel Messenger, produced by the Gospel Association for the Blind, any Braille issues; and Guidepost, prior to April 1998.
Contact Pastor Earl Jones,
Southside Baptist Church, P. O. Box 391, 902 School Street, Charleston, Missouri
63834; office phone (573) 683-4704; home (573) 683-3398; email <email@example.com>.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.