Vol. 49, No. 8 August/September 2006
Barbara Pierce, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation
of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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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
Vol. 49, No. 8 August/September 2006
by Barbara Pierce
Affiliate Action Everywhere
by Daniel B. Frye
Presidential Report 2006
by Marc Maurer
Awards Presented at the 2006 Convention of the National Federation of the Blind
2006 Scholarship Class of the National Federation of the Blind
An Element of Justice
by Marc Maurer
An Overview of Planned Giving
A Celebration of the Life of Hazel tenBroek
Save the Fire
by Fredric K. Schroeder
Are You Ready?
by Kevan Worley
Revolution and Evolution:
A Report on the 2006 Convention Resolutions
by Sharon Maneki
2006 Resolutions of the National Federation of the Blind
Copyright 2006 National Federation of the Blind
by Barbara Pierce
Anyone who has been to Texas has heard the oft-expressed conviction that everything is bigger (and probably better) in the Lone Star State. The three thousand or so Federationists who converged on Dallas, Texas, the first week of July can confirm from firsthand experience that the claim to super-sized hotels, at least, is not an empty boast. The sixty-sixth annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind took place at the Anatole Hilton Hotel, a twenty-seven-acre resort complex with luxurious guest rooms, adventurous dining, Southwestern-accented retail shopping, spa and recreational facilities, memorable tactile artwork, and expansive meeting facilities. This grand hotel proved equal to accommodating one of our largest national conventions ever. Convention attendees steadily arrived throughout the first weekend of the conference, welcomed by large doses of hospitality from members of the host affiliate--a warm and generous greeting that even rivaled the headquarters hotel in size.
Bigger still was the convention program, filled with evidence of progress and possibility for the future. The unveiling of the revolutionary Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader; the description of the NFB's role in NBC's program, Three Wishes; and the inaugural release of an educational video on blindness to be shared nationwide with Lions Clubs set the tone for a conference full of substance and animated spirit. And a record-breaking attendance at the banquet on Thursday evening, July 6, confirmed in the minds and hearts of Federationists the simple little fact that everything is big in Texas!
Because the convention agenda had been available for a month on our Web site, attendees were greeted by stacks of Braille and print agendas almost from the moment we arrived. A tactile map of the hotel would also have been welcome. As the week progressed, however, we began to recognize and welcome such things as the little fountain that provided assurance that one really was heading for the other end of the hotel lobby.
On Saturday morning everyone hit the ground running. Those interested in technology found a full menu of workshops and demonstrations. A day-long seminar for those interested in careers in rehabilitation titled "Foundations and Professional Issues" attracted attendees from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
"The Equation for Success" was the title of this year's National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) seminar and the theme for many NOPBC activities. The agenda of parent and educator activities was astonishingly full and diverse. President Maurer got down to business with the kids at 9:00 a.m. when he taught them how to use the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader and talked about blindness issues in a way they all understood and could identify with.
The parents seminar is always splendid, but this year it was particularly fine. It's always dangerous to call special attention to part of the program because readers may assume that other presenters were disappointing. Ryan Strunk, president of the National Association of Blind Students, and Dr. Eric Vasiliauskas, a physician and father of two blind sons, were immensely entertaining and thought-provoking. But the panel talking about blind students and access to higher math was superb. We can only hope that all these presentations will make it into print in the months to come.
The afternoon was devoted to many workshops for older and younger students and their parents and teachers. All of these were excellent and filled with useful information and inspiration.
A number of families received scholarships to convention this year with the understanding that they would return home to help build parent programs in their home states. These new parents clearly enjoyed their convention experience and found the information and inspiration they had been looking for. Family hospitality was busy Saturday evening, especially before and after the Rookie Roundup. Teens, too, had a great time this year throughout the week in the teen hang-out room. Both blind and sighted teens found a comfortable and supervised place to spend time with new friends and old in a suite off-limits to parents.
While families were busy learning about chemistry and knitting; making up plays and doing art; and thinking about social skills, low vision, and effective blindness skills for children, the rest of us were sitting in on various workshops about accessible technology, exploring the Accessible Home Showcase, learning about effective strategies for the job search, reading poetry, and brainstorming about the programs of the Jernigan Institute.
Saturday evening continued
to be busy. Divisions and committees met, and about two-hundred-fifty people
attended the Rookie Roundup reception for first-time convention attendees. The
rookies received special ribbons and tote bags. Hundreds enjoyed Karaoke Night,
sponsored by BLIND, Incorporated, the NFB of Minnesota's adult training center.
Teen conversations in which young women or young men exchanged ideas honestly
with each other and blind adults were popular again this year. And for everyone
else the Henderson Family provided western swing, fiddle, and country music
at the Bluegrass Ball, hosted by the Texas affiliate.
Sunday morning we had a chance to see firsthand just what a difference our first-ever convention preregistration had made. Registration has never been particularly irksome because the lines have moved so quickly. But staffing it always swallowed a tremendous number of volunteer hours. This year those who had taken advantage of the efficiency and savings of preregistration simply walked to a table and picked up an envelope containing their materials. I did it while walking past. Of course those who decided to wait till the convention to register found their lines considerably shorter as well. The result was that even more people than in past years quickly filtered into the exhibit halls, the Accessible Home Showcase, and Sensory Safari.
The two sessions of the Cane Walk, intended to assist the families and teachers of blind children, were filled with parents, children, and teachers ready to don sleepshades, grab a long cane, and work with a teacher on travel skills. Joe Cutter, 2006 recipient of the Fredric Schroeder Award, supervises these sessions and makes himself available to those who need his help and wisdom. This is an extraordinary opportunity for families and provides great teaching experience for Louisiana Tech master's students, as well as the NOMC (National Orientation and Mobility Certification) teachers who volunteer to help.
A year or two ago the board of directors voted to limit Materials Center (now Independence Market) sales to items with an obvious connection to blindness. The NFB Store this year reflected that decision. As a result fewer aids and appliances were available for sale, but the exhibit hall devoted to NFB literature and sales was still crowded with attendees eager to see what materials were available.
Throughout the week the Accessible Home Showcase provided periodic demonstrations to standing-room-only crowds of the microwave prototype that was described as part of an agenda item Thursday morning. In the large exhibit hall fifty-six outside vendors and thirty-six Federation organizations staffed displays and talked with eager shoppers.
Sunday afternoon the Resolutions Committee considered twelve resolutions and recommended them to the Convention for passage on Friday afternoon. The complete texts of all the resolutions passed by the Convention this year appear elsewhere in this issue.
The afternoon was filled with old-favorite activities like the mock trial, which this year examined the Lee Martin case and used humor and common sense to explore employment discrimination, and brand new events like a seminar conducted in Spanish discussing NFB philosophy.
MATHCOUNTS® is a foundation that stimulates math excellence in middle and high school students by sponsoring competitions resembling spelling bees that test math skills. The foundation is committed to finding and nurturing math abilities in all sorts of minority groups, including blind students. Sunday afternoon the NOPBC, the Jernigan Institute, and MATHCOUNTS jointly sponsored a competition that attempted to use accessible materials and equipment for the four students who took part. Kids and adults all learned valuable lessons from both the competition and the panel discussion that followed.
Later in the afternoon the National Center for Blind Youth in Science launched its Web portal. This unique portal will serve as a resource clearinghouse for blind youth in science, technology, engineering, and math. The initiative was developed under a grant from the National Science Foundation's Research and Disabilities Education Program.
During the evening a number of divisions, groups, and committees met, some for the first time. The Classics, Antiques, and Rods (CAR) Division officially organized and held elections. The National Organization of the Senior Blind conducted a very successful not-so-silent auction in conjunction with its meeting. And the National Association of Blind Students conducted its usual high-energy and thought-provoking seminar for hundreds of blind students. Affiliate Web masters gathered to discuss the pros and cons of live Web broadcasting and the new NFB Web site and what it will offer state and division Web masters. Our new system will have a content manager, which will be usable with screen-reading software and will allow us easily to update information for our states and interest groups. Since we have spent a fair amount of time trying to determine which Web-authoring software is usable with which screen readers and at what price, this new content-management system will be helpful to us all.
As usual, the only program item Monday morning was the meeting of the board of directors. President Maurer began by calling for a moment of silence in memory of the Federationists who have died in the past year. Following that, the first order of business was a review of the offices open for election this year. Hold-over board members are Ron Brown (Indiana), Don Capps (South Carolina), Cathy Jackson (Kentucky), Anil Lewis (Georgia), Joe Ruffalo (New Jersey), and Fred Schroeder (Virginia). All other officer and at-large positions were open. President Maurer then recognized First Vice President Joyce Scanlan, who said:
Mr. President and fellow Federationists, for more than three decades I have had the honor of serving on the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind, first as a member of the board and then as secretary and finally as first vice president. During these years I have been proud to be a part of the outstanding progress we have experienced as an organization. Together we have grown in numbers as well as in understanding of what we as a people's movement are capable of accomplishing. I have personally benefited from the energetic work of this organization. I want to thank my fellow Federationists for that.
Today we have many young
leaders who have much to offer our movement. It is time for those of my era
to move on and encourage those with more innovative ideas and insight into the
problems of our day to come forward. Therefore I will not be a candidate for
election this year. I have no plans to disappear from the scene. I have long
been an enthusiastic student of history, and I ask you to remember that even
a fossil has value and can play a significant role. I look forward to a long
future in this organization. Thank you. [sustained ovation]
President Maurer acknowledged that Joyce had preceded him on the board by more than a decade. She led the struggle against the oppression of the Minneapolis Society for the Blind and taught us much about public demonstrations. He then thanked her for her service and recognized Charlie Brown, who said:
Thank you, Mr. President. President Maurer and fellow Federationists, I would like to take this opportunity to join the fossil brigade and announce that I will not seek reelection as your treasurer.
It seems time for me to move on. When I stepped aside as Virginia state president two years ago after twenty-six years, I did so because I firmly believed that it would provide an opportunity for dynamic new leadership to emerge. I was certainly right. Dr. Fred Schroeder became our state president, and he is doing a bang-up job. Yes, I certainly could have served another term or two as state president, but it seemed like the right time for me to move on then.
That same thing is true today. For twenty-two years I have been incredibly blessed to serve you on the national board, the last four as treasurer. As national treasurer I joined a relatively small group of distinguished Federationists who have held this position before me. What an honor to follow men like Richard Edlund and Allen Harris, a rare privilege indeed!
Thank you so much, Dr.
Maurer and all of the rest of you, for your generous help and support over the
years, but I think it is now time for me to make way for new leadership on the
national board. Yes, I am rotating off the board, but I'm not going anywhere.
I will continue to work with energy for the success of our wonderful movement.
I will just be taking on new and different tasks. I look forward to that with
genuine excitement. Thanks again, and God bless you. [sustained applause]
President Maurer acknowledged Charlie's wisdom, forthright good sense, and willingness to do whatever needs to be done and warmly thanked him for his service. Then he called on Diane McGeorge, who said:
My two predecessors gave such wonderful speeches. Dr. Maurer, I can't quite say "three decades." I'm close, Joyce. I was elected to the board in 1977 in New Orleans, and no question it was one of the greatest honors I have had. It has indeed been a great honor and pleasure for me to serve as a board member and in the role of first vice president, at one point, of this marvelous organization.
I spoke to the Scholarship Committee the other night, and I said, "I started the Colorado Center for the Blind, and I was state president for most of the years from 1976 until 2005. But don't look at me as a has-been. I'm a gonna-be. [laughter and applause]
I have been state president;
I have been director of the Colorado Center; I have been an active member of
the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind; but, believe
me, as long as there is breath in my body, I'm gonna be an active NFB member.
President Maurer recalled all the traveling that he and Diane have done through the years, building affiliates, finding potential members, and dreaming about what blind people could accomplish. He concluded by saying that it has been an honor to serve with her on the board. He then recognized Carla McQuillan, who said:
Dr. Maurer, fellow Federationists, I would like to begin by saying that I am not a member of the fossil club--brigade. But it is in fact because of the support and the work that this organization has done to enrich my life that at this time I have to say that I will not be seeking reelection to the board. This is only my sixteenth national convention. I am what some would call a baby in this organization. It was with the help of this organization that I got my business started and really became aware that I had the ability--Benson [Steve Benson], stop saying, "Now she's going to cry!"--[laughter] to achieve all my goals. We started in 1993 with a $15,000 loan from the National Federation of the Blind to start a school in a rented facility. We now own three pieces of real estate (and we own more of them than the bank does). We are looking for even greater expansion of about 25 percent of our current capacity in the '07-'08 school year. We have started a teacher-training program and a parent education program that will eventually result in brochures and books.
I am a member of the Jernigan
Institute Early Childhood Committee, and I believe that, as Dr. Jernigan said,
"We fought for our place in society, and it is now time that we step up and
take it" and be part of our community and show people what blind individuals
really have the capacity to do. I have found that both my career and the Federation
are suffering because I have too much on my plate. It is with great regret that
I have to say that I can no longer serve on the board, but I am not going away.
I will be here every year running NFB Camp as long as Dr. Maurer wishes for
it to happen. I thank you so much for your love and support. [cheers and applause]
President Maurer expressed gratitude for Carla's contributions to the board and referred to her part in making our recent videos more powerful.
In introducing Tommy Craig, president of the Texas affiliate, President Maurer mentioned that we were facing all the usual difficulties of having a large convention in a large hotel: full elevators, slow service in the restaurants, difficulty finding friends--the usual situation at the beginning of an NFB convention. He then commented that this hotel was about the size of a small continent. On that note Tommy stepped to the mike to welcome everyone to the convention and to review housekeeping details.
Mary Ellen Jernigan then made several announcements. She pointed out that the average wait in the line for those who had preregistered to pick up their materials had been about thirty seconds on the first day. She then urged everyone to find a way to preregister for the convention next year. She assured the audience that the very few kinks in the system this year had now been worked out.
Jim Omvig next came to the platform to explain the thinking behind writing his latest book, Education and Rehabilitation for Empowerment, by James Omvig and Dr. C. Edwin Vaughan, available at this convention. Jim explained that he had quite consciously written Freedom for the Blind as a straightforward statement of what the organized blind have learned about what effective rehabilitation for blind people is and how to achieve it. But the academic community wants and needs to understand the research underpinning the programs that are doing effective training. This new book is an effort to provide academics both the research and the footnotes they have demanded. Both books are available from the National Federation of the Blind.
The thirtieth Kernel Book, Freedom, was released at the convention, and President Maurer read his contribution to it. Fifty-eight Federationists submitted eighty-three Kernel Book stories this year and were eligible to win $1,000 in a special drawing. Art Dinges of Arizona was the lucky writer whose name was drawn. Another contest will take place during the coming year. Those wishing to enter the contest should send their Kernel Book stories to Marsha Dyer at the National Center for the Blind.
President Maurer then announced convention plans for the next several years: 2007, the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, singles and doubles, $61, triples and quads, $66; 2008, the Hilton Anatole, singles and doubles, $61, triples and quads, $66; 2009, the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, singles and doubles, $62, triples, $66, quads, $68; and 2010, the Hilton Anatole, singles and doubles, $62, triples and quads, $67.
With the passage of the
Louis Braille Commemorative Coin Act, we will need a list of the names and contact
information for every certified Braillist and proofreader that we can identify
in the nation. President Maurer asked that people attending the convention and
holding either of these credentials get their contact information to him during
the convention. Those who did not do so or who were not in Dallas but who are
willing to assist with the Braille literacy campaign should send or email their
information to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Jim Gashel reported that the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader had made a grand debut during the first days of the convention. He explained that those who had been beta testing the Reader through the spring would be wearing badges during the convention so that people would know whom to contact if they had questions. He also presented President Maurer with a very special ribbon for his badge. It said, "Ask me about the Reader; I'm an inventor." The press and television coverage of the new reader were extraordinary during and following the convention. Jim said that the night before at midnight he had gotten a call from a man in Phoenix, who wanted to buy the Reader for his mother and have it shipped that day. The toll-free number for asking questions about the Reader and ordering it is (877) 708-1853. A drawing for a Reader took place during convention, and another was given as a door prize at the banquet.
When Jim Gashel finished his report, Carl Jacobsen moved that $100,000 be added to the pool available for loans by the Committee on Assistive Technology, chaired by Curtis Chong. These funds are to be available to blind people interested in purchasing Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Readers. The interest rate for these loans is 3 percent. The motion was seconded and carried.
Sharon Maneki then came to the platform to present the 2006 Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award to Gayle Prillaman of Tennessee. The full text of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.
A number of state affiliates have made sizeable gifts to the national organization during the past year as part of our program of sharing bequests equally with the national organization. The two states that have contributed the most are Colorado, with $299,750, and California, with more than $368,000. President Maurer graciously accepted these gifts and acknowledged that this policy has enabled us to do much more for blind people than we would otherwise have been able to accomplish.
At this point Peggy Elliott asked the members of this year's scholarship class to come to the platform, where she introduced them. Their comments appear elsewhere in this issue as part of a full report of our scholarship program.
Allen Harris, president of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, introduced James Omvig, who presented the 2006 Fredric Schroeder Award to pediatric O&M specialist and deeply respected teacher and mentor Joe Cutter. The full text of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue. Then Allen had the names read of those who have earned National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) during the past year. They were Garrett Aguillard, Erin "Mandi" Bundren, Denise Mackenstadt, Bryan Schetele, and Daniel Kish.
The final business of the morning was a presentation by the International Braille Research Center. Dr. Harold Snider presented the 2006 Louis Braille Award to Dr. Abraham Nemeth. The full text of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue. Since no further business was brought to the board of directors, the meeting was adjourned.
The remainder of the day offered attendees a wide range of division and committee meetings, seminars, workshops, receptions, and theater productions. The Jerry Whittle play production this year was titled One Woman's Treasure and was performed as usual by the Louisiana Center Players, made up of students and alumni of the Louisiana Center for the Blind. All proceeds from the two performances were used to support the center's summer programs for blind children.
Federationists celebrated the Fourth of July this year by kicking off the convention general sessions with true Texas flair. Following the invocation, President Maurer called Tommy Craig to the platform. The four hundred Texans in the host delegation provided a real Lone Star State welcome, and the delegates responded appropriately. We received hot and spicy jellybeans as we entered the ballroom; now we got a sample of the diverse cultures that make up the richness of the Texas experience. A Mariachi band from La Esquina Cantina, one of the fine hotel restaurants, played their way into the ballroom and briefly serenaded the convention from in front of the platform.
Then, much to the delight of some in the audience and the shock of others, Tommy introduced author, musician, and candidate for governor of Texas Kinky Friedman. Kinky demonstrated his brand of irreverent, rather politically incorrect humor in his welcome to Texas.
The tone of the opening session shifted when Dwight Sayer, first vice president of the NFB of Florida, and Joe Ruffalo, president of the NFB of New Jersey and member of the national board of directors, called all veterans of the United States Armed Forces forward to receive red, white, and blue ribbons and introduce themselves and state their military branch. Thirty-four answered the call, including Robert Crawford of Ohio, who was one of the revered Tuskegee airmen of World War II.
The remainder of the morning was devoted to the roll call of states. Each president announced the name of the delegate, alternate delegate, and member of the Nominating Committee and then reported the date and location of the next convention as well as the name of the national representative if one has been appointed. In addition states took the opportunity to make a variety of announcements and comments. Here is a sampling of the information that we learned during the morning: The Jernigan Fund assisted more than fifty Federationists from twenty-six states to attend this year's convention. Ten state agency directors and many other agency staff members were part of their states' delegations. Noah Buresh, son of Nebraska affiliate President Amy Buresh and her husband Shane, celebrated his two-month birthday on July 2. All of the students and staff of BLIND, Incorporated, the Colorado Center for the Blind, the Louisiana Center for the Blind, Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, and Camp Tuhsmeheta in Michigan were attending the convention. The Mississippi affiliate had eighteen first-time convention attendees in its delegation. With four hundred registered attendees, Texas took home the attendance banner, but Maryland promised that, like General MacArthur, the banner will return [to Maryland]. Indiana, Idaho, Oregon, and Vermont reported that NFB-NEWSLINE is now or soon will be available in those states. Pam Allen, president of the NFB of Louisiana, read a resolution passed at the affiliate's April convention. It reads as follows:
NFB of Louisiana RESOLUTION 2006-04
WHEREAS, In 2005 Louisiana was devastated by two major hurricanes; and
WHEREAS, Following hurricanes Katrina and Rita, hundreds of Federationists contacted the NFB of Louisiana with expressions of love and support; and
WHEREAS, Along with their good wishes, many in our Federation family sent donations intended to assist blind people throughout the state; and
WHEREAS, As a result of the generosity shown by our brothers and sisters throughout the country, we have been able to assist blind people across Louisiana as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana in Convention assembled this ninth day of April, 2006, in the City of Ruston, that the members of our affiliate thank all those who gave so generously when we needed so much; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED,
that we will continue to support blind people throughout our state in their
efforts to recover from these devastating natural disasters.
Following the lunch recess, President Maurer delivered the 2006 presidential report, which appears in full elsewhere in this issue. Then Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute, reported on "Education Initiatives and the 21st Century." She described the various programs of the Institute and interspersed her comments with video clips of colleagues outside our movement describing the impact the various programs have had on them, the community at large, and blind people today and in years to come. When Dr. Zaborowski finished, it was clear that, now that the Institute is up and running, we are making progress on every front on which we have engaged.
Dr. Matt Maurer, younger brother of President Maurer and professor of instructional technology at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, addressed the topic of "Best Practices in Education of the Blind." He has conducted research in a number of schools for the blind and a handful of mainstream programs for blind students. He is convinced that we must recognize and salute the work of all gifted teachers of blind students and work in good faith to improve the skills of moderate to good teachers. In the instruction of blind children, "good" is not good enough, but simply criticizing entire programs will not accomplish our goal of improving the instruction that blind students receive. We must find ways of calling attention to and praising the work of excellent teachers while encouraging good teachers to improve and poor teachers to change their career paths.
Dr. Stuart Wittenstein, superintendent of the California School for the Blind, discussed the leadership of the California affiliate in setting the state's Braille standards for the education of blind students. He urged other states to take a look at the California standards and the way Braille has been interwoven into all the subject standards.
Mark Riccobono, director of education for the NFB Jernigan Institute, next discussed "The Power of Numbers" in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). As he reviewed the accomplishments of the Institute, it was clear that the NFB is increasing the opportunities for blind students to claim their right to a future in the STEM careers.
Dr. Bernhard Beck-Winchatz, associate director, NASA Space Science Center for Education and Outreach at DePaul University, then discussed "Science Education Initiatives for the Blind." He made it clear that his connection with the NFB has taught him new ways of teaching all of his students. He is certain that blind students have a place in astronomy.
The final presenter on this panel of Jernigan Institute programs was Dr. Ted Conway, program director, research in disabilities education, Division of Human Resource Development, Directorate for Education and Human Resources, National Science Foundation. His topic was "Science, Research, and Development: A Role for the Blind." He pointed out that effective people with disabilities are problem solvers, are creative, and know all about perseverance. These are the very characteristics of those who succeed in the STEM careers. The National Science Foundation is committed to helping disabled people, including blind people, find their rightful place in STEM fields.
Dr. Zaborowski concluded the Institute's presentation with a video announcement of the 2007 Youth Slam in late July. Two hundred young people will gather with mentors for four days of STEM activities in Baltimore, culminating in a public event at the Inner Harbor. Watch the NFB Web site for more information about this absolutely unique event.
The last item of the afternoon agenda was Kevan Worley's Imagination Fund report, which appears in full elsewhere in this issue. Dolores Reisinger of Iowa was named Imaginator of the Year. At the close of his report, Kevan announced that early in the morning of the opening day of actual convention, July 3, we plan to conduct a march for independence. We will undoubtedly find ways for everyone who wishes to have a part in the event to do so, but only those who have signed up and raised at least $250 will actually take part in the march itself.
While Kevan was making his report, we began to hear peals of thunder from outside. Sure enough, a Texas-size thunderstorm rolled in and caused the hotel to move the giant barbeque hosted by the Texas affiliate indoors. Luckily this hotel had space enough to pull it off. What the event lost in the way of ambiance, it made up in air conditioning. And the food was even more enjoyable with the absence of insect guests. After brisket of beef, grilled chicken, corn on the cob, peach cobbler, and free beer, guests enjoyed boot-tappin' music by the Cornell Hurd Band playing traditional western swing and country.
Parents of and advocates for blind children had a choice of three different workshops Tuesday evening, and music lovers could attend the showcase of talent. The exhibit hall opened that evening for shoppers to spend more leisurely time with convention sponsors. About four hundred Federationists took advantage of this opportunity. The tenBroek auction was also Tuesday evening, and the Classics, Antiques, and Rods (CAR) Division conducted its first business meeting, planning for its spectacular show the following afternoon.
The Wednesday morning general
session began with the election of officers and six at-large board members.
Sharon Maneki chaired the Nominating Committee and made its report. Those whose
names were placed in nomination as officers and who were subsequently elected
by acclamation were president, Marc Maurer (Maryland); first vice president,
Fred Schroeder (Virginia); second vice president, Peggy Elliott (Iowa); secretary,
Gary Wunder (Missouri); and treasurer, Pam Allen (Louisiana).
Those nominated and elected by acclamation to fill two-year, at-large positions were Amy Buresh (Nebraska); Sam Gleese (Mississippi); Carl Jacobsen (New York); Chris McKenzie (Arkansas); Alpidio Rolón (Puerto Rico); Dan Wenzel (Wisconsin); and, to complete Fred Schroeder's vacated one-year term, Dan Burke (Montana).
Following the election, Dr. William Rowland, president of the World Blind Union and executive director of the South African National Council for the Blind, delivered a fascinating address in which he briefly sketched the impressive actions the new South Africa is taking to ensure that people with disabilities are included in the workings of government and working life. He contrasted this hopeful progress with the situation in South Africa's neighbor, Swaziland, where only four blind people have jobs and only one has ever been educated at university. Dr. Rowland has offered to try to advocate for disabled people in Swaziland, but he admits that this will be difficult since the king is not permitted ever to look upon a person with a disability. Dr. Rowland acknowledged the role the NFB has played in shaping the philosophy of the World Blind Union and in helping to guide its course in the years to come.
One of the truly outstanding presentations of this year's convention was "The Secrets of Rehabilitation: Why Federation Centers Work." The presenters were Pam Allen, director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind; Shawn Mayo, director of Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions, Incorporated; and Julie Deden, director of the Colorado Center for the Blind, and their title was self-explanatory. The substance of the presentation was so clear and powerful that the entire text will be printed in a later issue of the Monitor.
The next speaker was Dr. Fred Schroeder, research professor at San Diego State University. His title was "Save the Fire," and the text of his address appears elsewhere in this issue.
Bob Phillips, president and chief executive officer of Guide Dogs for the Blind, spoke about "Partnerships" between his organization and the NFB, between dog guide schools and researchers, and many other pairings that have the potential to change the quality of life for all of society.
The final presentation of the morning was by Dr. Lee Hamilton, president and chief executive officer of Freedom Scientific. He described recent and upcoming developments in his company's technology for the blind and reviewed many improvements in Freedom Scientific's service delivery and reductions in product costs at a time when other companies' equipment costs are increasing. He then asked Glen Gordon, chief technical officer for Freedom Scientific, to demonstrate some exciting new products.
Wednesday afternoon is billed as free time, when delegates can enjoy personal or group tours or just relax around the pool. Many interesting tours did take place during the afternoon and evening, and some folks undoubtedly went off on their own to get acquainted with Dallas, but here is a sample of what other people found to do:
Twenty-one blind cyclists went tandem riding at White Rock Lake with members of area cycling organizations. This event will occur again in 2008. Twelve lucky journalists and journalism students got a personalized behind-the-scenes tour of the Dallas Morning News. The New CAR Division hosted a show of classic and antique cars in the parking lot of the hotel, and a number of kids from NFB Camp, as well as interested adults, examined the vehicles. Interested convention attendees tried out the prototype of a sonar cane that detects over-hanging objects and can identify empty seats in a room, among other accomplishments. Teachers of blind students strategized about how to attack the multitude of problems in their field. Families with blind children could drop in to talk with an expert about cane travel or attend a hands-on workshop on medical emergencies for younger children or CPR for teens. Federationists learned about grant-writing, Social Security, planning Meet the Blind Month activities, and advocacy. And of course several committees and divisions conducted important meetings. Those who had any energy left by the end of the day could socialize and play games at Monte Carlo Night, sponsored by the National Association of Blind Students.
The Thursday morning general session began punctually at 9:00, and the first presentation was a wise and delightful talk by George Wurtzel of Michigan, who is a carpenter and who offered sound advice about how to get and keep an unusual job. He was followed by our longtime friend Frank Kurt Cylke, director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Alice Baker, NLS digital program contract specialist, who reported good progress on the enormous job of converting the Talking Book Program from cassette to digital format.
Dr. Richard Mander, chief executive officer of HumanWare, Ltd., introduced himself to the audience and explained how it comes that a psychologist now heads a worldwide technology company. He reiterated HumanWare's commitment to Braille and access technology. He undertook to see everyone in Atlanta at next year's convention and announced that HumanWare will be a title sponsor of the convention for at least three years.
The next item was titled "Change in Rehabilitation: Federation Experience Leads the Way." It was delivered by Craig Kiser, director of the Florida Division of Blind Services. Mr. Kiser was a student at the Iowa Commission for the Blind during the Jernigan years, and he described how well that training had prepared him for dealing with the difficult and demanding challenge of bringing rehabilitation for the blind in Florida into the twenty-first century.
John Paré, director of sponsored technology programs for the National Federation of the Blind, James Gashel, NFB executive director for strategic initiatives, and John Lumpkin, vice president for business operations, U.S. newspaper markets at Associated Press, then reviewed recent NFB-NEWSLINE® successes. Many NEWSLINE papers are now available by email for portable reading on notetakers, Book Ports, or BookCouriers.Those interested in automatically receiving their favorite papers by email should go to <www.nfbnewsline.org>. There you will find a link for newspapers by email. Fill out an online form or download, complete, and return it to the National Center. If you have questions, call (866) 504-7300. Mr. Lumpkin described the state and national Associated Press services now available on NEWSLINE and expressed AP's satisfaction in being part of this marvelous program.
Bill Stevenson, business development manager for Home Automated Living (HAL), and Anne Taylor, director of access technology, NFB Jernigan Institute, made an exciting presentation titled "The Accessible Home." Mr. Stevenson demonstrated the way HAL-controlled appliances can work by voice command when cabled to a home computer loaded with the HAL software. Today HAL cannot work with speech access, but through the Jernigan Institute the company is working with screen-reader companies to make HAL fully accessible. Anne Taylor then demonstrated what might be possible in the future. With a specially configured microwave, she issued aural commands and controlled the microwave as easily as Mr. Stevenson had controlled a lamp and television with VCR. Our hope is to persuade manufacturers to work with the creators of HAL to build appliances that will allow all users to control them by voice command.
The final item of the morning was presented by Cari M. Dominguez, chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Her title was "Equal Employment Opportunity for the Blind: The Promise and the Partnership." She mentioned the EEOC's published guidance on disability issues, which is intended to prevent discrimination in the workplace before it happens. Recently the EEOC has published "Questions and Answers about Blindness in the Workplace," which was reviewed by National Association of Blind Lawyers President Scott LaBarre. She then reviewed recent cases involving blind people in which the EEOC has helped to see that justice was done and employers were taught what constitutes discrimination. She then described several EEOC programs that encourage best practice, including the Freedom to Compete Award for states and the first ever conference on the employment of lawyers with disabilities, which was conducted in consultation with Scott LaBarre. As she draws toward the end of her term as chair of EEOC, Ms. Dominguez said that one of the things she has cherished most has been her close association with the National Federation of the Blind. It has been productive, and she hopes that it continues.
The afternoon session began with an inspiring speech by NFB Board Member and President of the NFB of Georgia Anil Lewis titled, "Client to Consumer to Lawyer." It was a moving tale of his evolution from helpless client through becoming a consumer of services for the blind to embracing his dream to become an attorney. He will now soon enter law school.
We then had the chance to learn in detail about the NFB's part in assisting a young mother to regain her independence. November 3, 2005, NBC broadcast an episode of the program Three Wishes in which Utah Federationists undertook to give Nicole Rasmussen a crash course in mastering the skills of blindness while the cameras rolled. We watched the program segment and then listened to Nicole Rasmussen, Ron Gardner, Nick Schmittroth, and Karl Smith, who had offered Nicole their expertise and their friendship.
Then it was time to talk seriously about the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader. NFB executive director of strategic initiatives Jim Gashel described how freeing it is to be able to read or refer to printed material independently. Several of the Federationists who have been testing the Reader this spring told stories about checking out of hotels and reading signs while shopping, and they all agreed that they never wanted to return to dependency on others to manage their print. Then Ray Kurzweil reminded his listeners that he had been saying for years that 2006 would be the year when technology would make a portable reader possible. He then went on to forecast the future of reader technology. He has learned that accurate timing of inventions is essential, and he repeated that working closely with NFB leaders and members has made his inventions in reading for the blind the most memorable part of his distinguished career as an inventor. It was fitting that, while he was on stage, he was presented with his badge and ribbon that said "Ask me about the Reader; I'm an inventor."
President Maurer then read the following statement:
We say that the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader is a revolutionary technology. What characteristics of this device will bring about a substantial alteration in thought or behavior? The handheld reader provides a portable way to examine visually one of the elements of our environment--the printed word. However, the Reader is more than a mechanism to read print; it is the precursor of portable, universal, machine-based vision.
In years to come future technologies based on this handheld machine will recognize images, decipher patterns, and interpret scenes. The devices this technology will engender will have the capacity to recognize a face; to perceive the difference between the face and a picture of the face; to observe a room, interpreting the meaning of what is visible; to examine an intersection, determining whether the walk sign is being displayed; to look down a street, estimating the time before the oncoming traffic will arrive; and to select from among the crowded imagery of a public thoroughfare those elements that are important for a pedestrian or a motorist to understand. In the beginning the technology will recognize only still images. However, later perspective, motion, and the information from the intricate pattern of light and shadow will be interpretable.
Today the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader can detect what is visible to the eye. However, in the future it will be able to discern images created with light waves outside the visible spectrum. Thus machine-based vision will be able to see in the dark. Furthermore, the range of vision will be 360 degrees. The handheld reader will have eyes in the back of its head. When these characteristics have been perfected, sighted people will want our device as much as blind people.
We will build the technology
into other machines--automobiles and airplanes--and we will be able to use our
invention with remote sensing devices such as the medical instruments employed
for exploring the internal portions of the body. Our portable machine-based
vision will enhance capacity for us and for all others in the world. It will
bring about possibilities that have never previously existed.
When I came to be a part of the National Federation of the Blind decades ago, we proclaimed that blind people could do virtually anything that the sighted could. Usually we listed the exceptions: drive a car or fly a plane. The time is coming when these exceptions will no longer apply.
This is the beginning of
the revolution, but it must be understood in perspective. An essential element
of the change began more than six decades ago with the formation of the National
Federation of the Blind and the assertion that blind people can and must be
a part of the future of programming for the blind and of our society as a whole.
Part of the alteration is technological, but at least as important is the change
in attitude that alters thought and changes behavior along with it. Before the
technology can be implemented fully, there must be an acceptance that the people
who use it have the right to full participation. In other words, we have accomplished
much, but an enormous amount yet remains to be done before we shall have reached
the climax of our progress. Nevertheless, the invention of today, the Kurzweil–National
Federation of the Blind Reader, is a revolutionary advance in the integration
of the blind, and we are a part of the creation of this revolution.
Dr. Zaborowski moderated the next section of the agenda. She explained that the Jernigan Institute has partnered with the International Association of Lions Clubs Multiple District 22 and the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center of the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, the Department of Health Policy and Management, and the Department of Health Behavior and Society in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to conduct a pilot project using a video and study guide on blindness and low vision that have been specially developed. The intent has been to educate Lions Club members about blindness and low vision and how to more effectively help people losing vision. The program will be used in Multiple District 22. If it is successful, we hope to offer it to clubs across the country. Delegates then watched part of the video, which was very fine and provides much constructive information on dealing with vision loss.
Dr. Bob Massof, professor of ophthalmology and neuroscience and director of the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center, the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, then delivered an excellent address on low vision, which was so crammed with facts and useful explanations that it will be reprinted in full in a later issue. This segment closed with a description of Lions International programs to eradicate blindness delivered by Clement Kusiak, past international president of Lions Clubs International.
The final presentation of the afternoon was a moving testimonial titled "What a Father Has Learned from His Blind Son." The speaker was Dr. John Wai, director of medicinal chemistry at Merck & Co., Inc. It was another very personal tale of learning about blindness through helping and observing a blind child living a normal life. This was a truly high note on which to close the afternoon. When the gavel fell indicating the afternoon recess, delegates emptied the room in under three minutes so that the ballroom could be turned for the banquet which began in under two hours.
When we reassembled at seven, the first order of business was a tribute and memorial for Hazel tenBroek, the first First Lady of the Federation, who died last October. The full text of that tribute appears elsewhere in this issue. The photograph of Mrs. tenBroek that was projected on a giant screen so that it could be seen across the ballroom appears at the top of that tribute.
The title of this year's banquet address was "An Element of Justice," and as usual it was by turns thought-provoking, inspiring, and amusing. It appears in full elsewhere in this issue.
Following President Maurer's
stirring address, Peggy Elliott presented thirty scholarships to the class of
2006, and Ray Kurzweil left everyone speechless when he presented each winner
with a Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader. Chris Booher of Texas
was awarded the $12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship. A full report of the scholarship
program appears elsewhere in this issue.
Two awards were presented during the banquet: distinguished service to Associated Press, and the Jacobus tenBroek Award to Charlie Brown. A full account of these presentations appears elsewhere in this issue. Master of ceremonies Fred Schroeder did a masterly job of executing the agenda of the banquet. A memorable evening concluded with a door prize of 2,006 dollars from the host affiliate, which was won by Lucille Fair, one of the scholarship winners. It was truly a memorable evening.
No matter how late Federationists celebrated at the after-banquet party, the navy rule was in force in the morning. The general session began spot on time. President Maurer read the financial report as the first order of business. Following the honor roll call of states and divisions, in which these organizations announced their contributions to various Federation-connected funds, Jim McCarthy, Jim Gashel, and Jesse Hartle together presented the report from Washington. In the afternoon the Convention debated and voted on twelve resolutions and listened to the final reports on the SUN and Imagination Funds and the Preauthorized Check (PAC) program.
By the time we left Dallas, the convention magic had taken hold. Never have we returned home with the entire country as aware of the National Federation of the Blind as it was this year. During the convention and in the weeks since, more than five hundred newspaper stories and better than a hundred TV reports about the Reader and passage of the Louis Braille Commemorative Coin Act have spread our name across the country. We returned home conscious of our responsibility to spread the hope implicit in the name "National Federation of the Blind." Barriers and challenges undoubtedly await each of us, but we are united, and we understand that our philosophy and our drive are what blind people in the United States need in order to embrace life and join with us to change what it means to be blind.
by Daniel B. Frye
From the Editor: After Joanne Wilson was driven by principle to tender her resignation as commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration in March of 2005, she came to work as executive director for affiliate action at the National Federation of the Blind. For us this turned out to be the highly polished silver lining of the dark cloud that still casts a shadow over every disabled American. At this year's convention the affiliate action department popped up everywhere hosting events, sponsoring seminars, and conducting new programs designed to energize affiliates and educate Federationists at every level of the organization. Dan Frye is the manager of affiliate action--advocacy and training. Here is his report on the activities organized by Joanne and her staff:
The NFB's recently created department of affiliate action celebrated its first birthday at the 2006 national convention by offering an array of programs that shared an emphasis on person-to-person mentoring. In the NFB mentorship has long been the foundation of organizational growth and development. The wide range of programs sponsored by the department of affiliate action during the convention relied on the Federation tradition of mentorship as the overarching theme that loosely tied together this series of events.
The generous spirit of the NFB members who regularly share ideas and support one another through our organizational networks is the best measure of the heart and soul of our Federation family. Since the several department of affiliate action programs honored this spirit at this year's convention and since our grassroots members enthusiastically embraced these events, it seemed appropriate to bundle the reports of these activities in a single article. Following is a brief profile of each department-of-affiliate-action-sponsored event:
Our new online program,
NFB-Link, was launched at the 2006 national convention. This program connects
experienced NFB mentors with individuals seeking information about blindness
through a computerized system, by matching factors like careers or interests.
During the convention four NFB-Link training sessions provided prospective mentors with further detail about the purpose and function of this exciting program. The two-hour training sessions focused on building meaningful mentoring relationships, using effective communication skills, and providing information for mentors and mentees interested in signing up for the service. Betsy Zaborowski, executive director of the Jernigan Institute, offered workshop participants a primer on the basics of cultivating positive mentoring relationships. Rosy Carranza, staff member, and Arielle Silverman, student intern, then followed up with logistical information about the operations of NFB-Link.
Anyone interested in NFB-Link should visit <www.nfblink.org> to obtain further information. We are still actively soliciting interest from both mentors and mentees. Attractive NFB-Link brochures are available for use in helping us spread the word about our new program.
Attended by over sixty Federationists, the first-ever seminar held completely in Spanish was a resounding success. The seminar began with introductions. One by one attendees introduced themselves, indicating their native country and the number of conventions that they had attended. Later, participants heard the personal stories of such Federationists as Carlos Serván and Alpidio Rolón. In true NFB spirit the afternoon was full of hope and inspiration as each speaker told of the powerful influence that the Federation has had on his or her life. Participants were urged to continue learning about the Federation and to deepen their involvement in our organization. Upon the completion of the seminar, participants were eager to interact with one another and to meet the dynamic speakers who had made the seminar memorable.
On Monday evening of convention, participants from the first Training and Organizing People to Serve (TOPS) seminar, held during the summer of 2005, sponsored a recruitment workshop for those interested in building the movement. Presenting this workshop partially fulfilled TOPS seminar participants' commitment to share with the broader Federation family some of what they had learned during their original seminar last summer.
Allen Harris, longtime Federation leader and director of the Iowa Department for the Blind, began the workshop by speaking about important aspects of building membership. He urged participants to build the Federation by affirming people and by helping them realize that their contributions to the organization are important and valued. Mr. Harris also emphasized the importance of being open to new strategies for outreach and maintaining an innovative spirit as we go about our work in the Federation.
Workshop participants were given a hands-on recruitment challenge. They spent sixty seconds each with a series of blind characters role-played by TOPS mentors, who impersonated the folks we frequently meet as we try to bring people into our organization. Examples of the personalities met by these aspiring Federation recruiters included the blind person who is not a joiner and the blind person who is convinced that the NFB is opposed to the use of guide dogs. Participants had the chance to test the way they would respond to these situations in order to persuade the blind person to consider joining us.
TOPS mentors then provided feedback on what strategies or approaches had proven most effective in each encounter. In general mentors agreed that it is more important to befriend the person, collecting his or her contact details, than to waste precious moments of a brief first encounter arguing the nuances of our philosophy. Workshop participants offered positive feedback about this exercise, promising to bring their new-found insights and this recruiting activity home to their local chapters.
The NFB's department of affiliate action sponsored its first-ever national advocacy skills seminar on Wednesday evening, July 5, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. NFB executive director of strategic initiatives James Gashel keynoted this inaugural event, offering colorful and animated anecdotes about his experiences as an advocate. Blending humor and serious reflection, Mr. Gashel set the appropriate tone for this event, emphasizing the importance of an assertive and persevering spirit of advocacy.
Other nationally respected Federation leaders, including Betsy Zaborowski, Scott LaBarre, Ron Gardner, Greg Trapp, Norma Crosby, Carrie Gilmer, and Kristi Bowman, followed with individual and panel presentations on concrete strategies for effective advocacy and issue-specific subjects that advocates regularly encounter while working in the blindness community. The general advocacy topics surveyed during the seminar included elementary techniques for functioning as an advocate, advice on active listening and effective communicating, and an informative lecture on both common and obscure sources of advocacy support available from government and private entities. Representing blind students in the special education arena at their IEP meetings and securing appropriate services of choice through the rehabilitation system were the two featured blindness-oriented topics covered during this program.
President Maurer capped off the evening by urging the approximately one hundred members of the audience to take charge, be knowledgeable, and exercise sound judgment when representing themselves or others. While three hours is hardly enough time to address thoroughly the art of advocacy, these presentations packed a significant punch and made a real difference for seminar attendees. By all accounts this first-ever national advocacy skills seminar was well received.
Grant Writing Seminar
A seminar titled "Writing that Winning Grant" was jointly sponsored by the department of affiliate action and the Jernigan Institute, Wednesday afternoon. Focusing on strategies for developing projects that are results-oriented and would appeal to grant sources, Betsy Zaborowski, executive director of the Jernigan Institute and Joanne Wilson, executive director of affiliate action helped seminar participants think more precisely about affiliate and chapter activities as fundable projects. Leaders from our Colorado and Georgia affiliates described several of the successful grant-writing projects with which their organizations have been involved. Following the formal remarks of seminar presenters, a session of brainstorming and fruitful exchange of ideas was the order of the afternoon. Seminar participants left this information-rich session energized and better equipped to find alternative sources of funding for projects in their local communities.
Scholarship Alumni Program
The Scholarship Alumni Program (SAP) was established with the support of the department of affiliate action at our 2006 national convention. This initiative pairs each of our thirty scholarship winners with a previous NFB scholarship recipient in an informal mentoring relationship throughout convention week. More important, though, is the fact that these mentoring matches will continue during the coming year. Mentors and mentees will maintain regular contact (usually monthly) by telephone, by email, or in person. The program is designed to help new scholarship winners gain a deeper understanding of the policies and programs of the Federation and to encourage their continued active involvement with our organization. Funds have been allocated to assist promising scholarship winners to attend our Washington Seminar and the following national convention. We hope that this program will enable the NFB to retain more of the pool of talented scholarship winners as active members of the organization. SAP mentors are distinct from the mentors assigned by the Scholarship Committee to work with and select winners during convention week. The SAP is a supplemental program to enhance the hard and effective work undertaken by our Scholarship Committee.
On two designated occasions during convention week (Monday evening and Wednesday for lunch) this year's scholarship winners joined their SAP mentors in the Affiliate Action Suite to receive an orientation to the program and become better acquainted with one another. All indications are that this new program is off to a good start and that all of us will be the long-term beneficiaries of this membership-building effort.
Affiliate Presidents Gathering
Joanne Wilson invited all affiliate presidents to assemble in the affiliate action suite for a briefing on current organizational affairs. This forum also enabled state leaders to share a wide variety of membership-development ideas with one another and served as a reunion for the affiliate presidents who met together at the National Center in Baltimore last February.
Parent Leadership Program
In conjunction with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) the department of affiliate action hosted two sessions in its much-used suite for the eighteen sets of parents of blind children who were funded to attend the 2006 NFB national convention. In exchange for assistance to attend our convention, these parents committed to building and strengthening the NOPBC divisions in their states. The two sessions concentrated on membership development, organization-building, and mentoring. Follow-up conference calls focusing on these and other strategies for organizational development with these eighteen sets of parents will take place throughout the coming year. Strengthening of our parent organizations in our state affiliates will directly benefit blind children across the country and will immeasurably benefit our state organizations as well. Parents of blind children joining with blind adults to accomplish the work of the Federation will prove a formidable alliance indeed.
Finally, staff and interns with the department of affiliate action were on hand to greet members of the National Association of Blind Students (NABS) and first-time convention attendees. On different occasions during the week, representatives from both NABS and convention rookies met to socialize and plan in the affiliate action suite. It was useful to have the suite to facilitate impromptu gatherings that provided and will promote constructive results.
The department of affiliate action's mission to deepen the involvement of our existing membership, build our organization, and add a new dimension of animated spirit to the Federation went a long way toward being achieved during the 2006 convention. Many convention delegates spoke in glowing terms of the several department-of-affiliate-action-sponsored programs that added to their convention experience. The bar has been set high for next year's national convention. Plan to join us in Atlanta. The organizational flame that inspires change and progress--our motivation, commitment, and resolve to build our Federation--has only just begun to burn.
by Marc Maurer
During the past year the National Federation of the Blind has continued to conduct the activities that have made us the organized blind movement, but we have also initiated new ones. Though our purpose has not changed, our method of implementing that purpose has shifted, grown, acquired additional definition.
Our fundamental being as an organization is the representative voice of the blind of the nation. We are the blind from all areas of the country, from all walks of life, from every political perspective, from every aspect of the social fabric--blind students, blind employees of governmental and private agencies, newly blinded individuals, parents of blind children, blind people who have acquired the skills associated with blindness, blind people seeking rehabilitation, blind people who have not yet heard that rehabilitation exists, blind people in the professions and common callings, and blind people who are without employment. We are the blind, and we have come together to create opportunity, to make possibilities come true. We are the National Federation of the Blind.
One of our members came to the organization in the state of Utah and served as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Utah. She then moved to Maryland, where she worked at the National Center for the Blind. She subsequently worked for the federal government and then became the first person to serve as secretary of the Maryland Department of Disability. Last Wednesday the governor of Maryland announced that she would be standing for election as lieutenant governor on his ticket. She is a blind person and a member of the National Federation of the Blind. The experience of Kristin Cox shows just how far we have come. It indicates that we are recognized as an important element by major political parties.
Last spring the NBC program Three Wishes called the National Center for the Blind to inquire about what could be done to help a blind person who was being featured. The Three Wishes program has as its premise the proposition that laudable but seemingly unattainable desires should be granted. The husband of a blind woman wanted to grant his wife's wish that she become sufficiently independent to take her child to the park. NBC decided to help, and they asked us how to achieve this seemingly unattainable feat. The program appeared on November 4, 2006, depicting the work of the National Federation of the Blind in teaching blindness skills and independence. Our members, Ron Gardner, Nick Schmittroth, Karl Smith, and Rebekah Jakeman, were shown on national television. The work of Joanne Wilson, executive director for affiliate action, was evident in the program although Joanne was not featured. Blindness need not mean dependence and tragedy. This message was broadcast to the nation. There will be a full report of the work to create this program later during this convention.
Another well-known national television program, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, sought our advice. In this case, Joe Ruffalo, the president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey, coordinated the effort. The concept for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is that a home of a deserving family is bulldozed and rebuilt in less than a week so that the family in question has a new opportunity for a full life. The program will be shown later this month. Precisely what depiction will occur is yet to be known, but Joe Ruffalo, working with our members in New Jersey and at the National Center for the Blind, urged that the technology involved in this home be usable by its blind inhabitants. Among the technologies filmed for the program were products such as HumanWare's BrailleNote and the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader.
Beginning last year, we have established a program to promote a blind-friendly automated home technology display. Can the blind manipulate security systems, heating and lighting apparatus, the vast array of home electronics technologies, and the increasingly complex interfaces of home appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers, or other products? A few years ago this question would have been ridiculous. Almost anybody could operate a stove, a refrigerator, or the thermostat on a furnace. However, the technology being produced today very often incorporates a visual display for the simplest products, and virtually no access technology is being built into such displays. We are promoting joint programs with major manufacturers such as Whirlpool and others to create accessibility in home-based products, and what we have learned in our research concerning the automated home was part of the message presented to the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition program.
We are undertaking this year a substantially increased effort in public relations. In the past television and radio stations were required to carry public service announcements about the work of nonprofit organizations in the community. However, this requirement was removed by the Federal Communications Commission a good many years ago. Some stations have continued to carry public service messages, but the number with this commitment is diminishing, and the amount of donated radio and television time that we receive has decreased. However, the message of the National Federation of the Blind and the information about the work we do is of such dramatic importance that we must bring it to the attention of the public.
If blindness were properly understood, many of the problems associated with it would disappear. Consequently, bringing our message to the public is an essential part of our program. We have designated a member of our staff, John Paré, to concentrate his effort this year on public relations, and we have secured the services of one of the best known public relations firms in the nation, Fleishman-Hillard. We will be conducting public relations events at the National Center for the Blind, but we will also be promoting our work in our state affiliates, in our training centers, and in events conducted by our chapters and divisions throughout the nation.
Among the partnerships we have formed is one sponsored by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to design the digital Talking Book machine of the future. The lead contractor in this effort is Battelle. VisuAide, a Canadian company that produced the Victor Reader and other products, which merged with Pulse Data of New Zealand to form HumanWare, is another partner. The National Federation of the Blind is responsible for user testing.
I traveled with my wife Patricia Maurer, Mary Ellen Jernigan, and Jessica Thompson to New Zealand to meet with HumanWare officials. The former president of HumanWare, Russell Smith, who spoke to our convention last summer, had died in a tragic accident. I wanted to meet with senior personnel at the HumanWare company to gain an understanding of future prospects and to determine the possibilities that seemed practical for our partnership in the months and years to come. I am pleased to say that the digital Talking Book project appears to be on track, that exciting prospects will be discussed for the future of this project at this convention, and that technologies which have not previously been contemplated appear to be practical outcomes of the work that we have jointly done.
Two years ago we initiated
the Imagination Fund, a program designed to raise money by calling upon members
of the Federation to seek donations. The money is used to support initiatives
at the national level as well as through our state affiliates and divisions.
States or divisions with programs that could not readily be conducted without
additional funding may apply for Imagination Fund grants.
Shortly before last summer's convention we received a request to support a program designed to encourage the blind to explore nature--forests, streams, rock formations, and the like--at Camp Eureka in Montana. In support of this first camping experience for many blind people, Mark Riccobono, our director of education, attended a portion of the camp. Our state president in Montana, Dan Burke, and other members of our affiliate served as members of the faculty, and Camp Eureka was a tremendous success. More than thirty-five other programs supported with Imagination Fund grants have occurred throughout the nation.
The National Federation of the Blind continues to be a member of the World Blind Union, and I serve as vice president of the North America/Caribbean Region. During March we hosted at the National Center for the Blind a meeting of the executive committee of the world organization along with meetings of a number of other committees and working groups. Representatives from outside the United States attended from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Denmark, El Salvador, Fiji, France, India, Japan, Jordan, Lebanon, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Rwanda, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
"What Is a National Federation of the Blind Center?" was the topic of a discussion held this spring at the National Center for the Blind. As our influence in the field of blindness increases and as rehabilitation programs adopt some of the methods employed by centers directed by the National Federation of the Blind, some may argue that there will be a blurring of the distinction which has been clear about what it means to be a National Federation of the Blind center. The answer to this question has not been definitively settled. Presentations regarding this topic will be made at this convention, and a continuing dialogue will undoubtedly occur.
Throughout the past year our affiliate action department, led by Joanne Wilson, has been working diligently to initiate activities to change what it means to be blind. Over two hundred and fifty Federationists from every affiliate attended seminars including the presidents' seminar--a gathering of state presidents from our affiliates, the TOPS seminar (Training and Organizing our People to Serve), three grant-writing seminars, the Northeast leadership seminar, and the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader ambassadors' seminar.
Since the founding of the Federation in 1940, blind people have been mentoring each other. Sometimes the mentoring activities have been formal--sometimes not. In an effort to expand this activity, our Affiliate Action Department has developed mentoring programs including NFB-LINK, an Internet-based system that pairs experienced Federationists with other individuals seeking information about blindness; a parent leadership mentoring group, which has brought parents from eighteen families to this convention who will serve as leaders for parents throughout the nation; a scholarship alumni program, an ongoing activity to encourage former scholarship recipients to serve as a network for information and support at state and national conventions; and a veterans' mentoring initiative, which pairs blinded veterans who are active in the community with newly blinded veterans and their families.
Through our affiliate action department, we have initiated a rehabilitation training program to promote the commonsense ideals and principles of the National Federation of the Blind relating to rehabilitation of blind people. We have developed distinct training opportunities for both residential rehabilitation training centers and vocational rehabilitation counselors and administrators. The training program began in Florida and is presently being expanded to a number of other states. The positive influence of the Federation in rehabilitation services will continue to grow through this new initiative.
Voice of the Diabetic is the publication of the National Federation of the Blind produced through our Diabetes Action Network. Diabetes causes more new blindness in the United States each year than any other condition. GlaxoSmithKline, the world's second largest pharmaceutical company, after a search of the literature on diabetes, found Voice of the Diabetic the world's only publication devoted to managing blindness, diabetes, and its complications.
Glaxo has invited the Federation to collaborate in offering support and advice to those at risk from diabetes. With this in mind we will be expanding and reorganizing the Voice of the Diabetic. This publication, which is now circulated to more than 350,000 individuals each quarter, has been in the process of acquiring a more dynamic appearance during the past year. Further development will take place during the next few months, with the objective that the Voice of the Diabetic becomes the most well-recognized publication dealing with diabetes in the United States.
In the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, led by Betsy Zaborowski, we are now developing the National Center for Blind Youth in Science to make science, technology, engineering, and math (the STEM curriculum) real options for blind youth. This is a center for innovation in education and a clearinghouse for information for parents, teachers, and researchers. With the help of NASA, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, IBM, and the National Science Foundation, we are launching at this convention the new National Center for Blind Youth in Science Web Portal, a Web site dedicated to the teaching of science to the blind.
NASA, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, IBM, and the National Science Foundation are also assisting us with our Science Academy for blind youth, our program of Excellence through Challenging Exploration and Leadership (EXCEL), and collaborations with educators and technology developers regarding accessible artificial intelligence tutoring software.
The Science Academy, which was initiated in 2004, continues to offer classes in biology, earth science, meteorology, and other disciplines for middle school students and classes in physics, electronics, navigation, and related matters to high school students with the culmination of the program being the launch of a sounding rocket from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. The EXCEL program provides internships for blind youth at NASA facilities which expose these students to working scientists and Federation philosophy. Last year interns were placed at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. This summer interns will also be included among the personnel at the Houston Space Flight Center in Texas.
In late 2004 the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped approached the Federation about managing the administration of the National Literary Braille Competency Test. In 2005 we began the revitalization of the test development effort by calling together representatives from many organizations in the blindness field. Earlier this year we met the ambitious timeline set by the committee to implement the pilot test in three examination sites: Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and California. Fifty people completed the pilot test. This fall we expect the full implementation of the National Literary Braille Competency Test.
We have formed a partnership with the Lions Vision Research and Rehabilitation Center at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University and Multiple District 22 of the International Association of Lions Clubs to develop a new Lions Education Program on Blindness and Low Vision. With a proper understanding of blindness many of the problems associated with it would be eliminated. Consequently, this public education program is among the most important that we conduct. A full presentation of this program will occur later during this convention.
The International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC) is a comprehensive evaluation, demonstration, and training center for accessible blindness technology. This year we have acquired in the IBTC the following products: ZoomText Magnification software with speech; Book Port; a Sherlock Talking Label Identifier; a Dot and Print Braille embosser and print printer, a Visionary Pocket PC; an Owasys 22C accessible cell phone; a Sales-Talk accessible point of sale terminal; several BrailleNotes with associated software and hardware; Pocket Hal PDA screen access software; a Canon Talking Business Calculator; a single line telephone simulator for the deaf-blind; several PAC Mate upgrades with associated software and hardware; a FacetToFace™ deaf-blind communication solution for the PAC Mate; an FSReader for a desktop computer and the PAC Mate; an FSTTY for the deaf-blind; Braille Sense for notetakers; Window-Eyes upgrades; Small Talk Ultra computers; Virtual Pencil Arithmetic and Algebra software programs; Victor Reader Wave; a Trekker Bluetooth GPS Maestro; an omnidirectional handheld scanner for the PAC Mate; a Dragon voice recognition software program; a J-Say Pro plug-in software interface; a VX1 Parrott TalkPro USB microphone; a MedivoxRx Talking Prescription Bottle pharmacy kit; a Jot a Dot portable Braille writer; Mobile Speak accessible cell phone software; a reference XM Satellite Radio home tuner; an Aesop: The Talking Keyboard; a TVI Colibri splitscreen low vision CCTV; a BookCourier portable MP3 player; a Talking Tactile Tablet; a National Geographic Talking Tactile Atlas of the World; a Triumphonic Mobile PDA; a Tiger Software Suite upgrade; a Pico Portable Video Magnifier; math and algebra Windows basic programs; and a King James Solar Powered Talking Bible.
We have responded to more than 2,500 telephone calls and more than 4,000 emails about technology this year. In our Nonvisual Accessibility Web Certification Program we offer companies and governmental agencies certification if their Web sites are usable by the blind. Web sites certified in this program include the General Electric Company, Merck & Co., Inc., Hewlett Packard, Legal Sea Foods, and the eminent Baltimore law firm Brown, Goldstein, and Levy.
With generous help from our technology partners: Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Freedom Scientific, and HumanWare Group, the first fully accessible technology training laboratory has been established as part of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. In this facility we will train blind individuals, educators, rehabilitation providers, and technologists on a full range of access technology. The Adobe company has approved a grant to fund the first access technology training seminar for college engineering and computer science students.
For the third year we have
received funding to support our National Center for Voting Accessibility. As
a result of the work of the National Federation of the Blind, the Help America
Vote Act (HAVA), adopted in 2002, declares that every precinct shall have the
capacity to provide a secret ballot to the blind by 2006. Our HAVA project educates
voting officials and others about accessible electronic voting technology. We
want the capacity to cast our ballots in privacy. It is practical, it is fair,
and it is required by law.
Now, at the 2006 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, comes the time for the gestalt shift, the paradigm alteration. The change did not occur in an instant. One major precursor was the establishment of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind. A second indicator of redefinement was the creation of NFB-NEWSLINE®. However, the confirmation of the transformation becomes evident at this gathering of the blind.
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 press of a button and the flash of a camera. The handheld reader uses a digital camera and specially designed optical character recognition technology running on a PDA to produce synthetic speech from printed text. Since this reader is battery-operated, easy to use, and very portable, this revolutionary technology will make an extraordinary amount of information available to all who cannot read ordinary print. Furthermore, it will provide such information with complete privacy, a characteristic rarely known to the blind.
Although the handheld reading machine today is a device that reads print, it is the beginning of a kind of technology that will build visual access to information into portable devices usable by the blind. This is one of the elements of the revolution. The second part of the alteration of the pattern of our lives is that we have been an essential part of the process of bringing this device into being. It is the fulfillment of a promise we made to ourselves--If we need it, we will build it. We will change programs, we will modify understanding, and, if necessary, we will alter technology as well. This is the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader. This is the determination of the National Federation of the Blind.
Our National Center for Mentoring Excellence continues in its second year with support from the Rehabilitation Services Administration. Beginning with trainees in Nebraska and Louisiana, this transition program for youth aged sixteen through twenty-six will be expanded to four additional states in 2007.
Other activities in our National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute included a career day for over fifty blind youth, parents of blind children, and teachers of the blind and our fourth annual Possibilities Fair for seniors. This event sponsored by Kaiser Permanente brought over four hundred older Americans to the National Center for the Blind to learn about nonvisual techniques and access equipment. We have also been the hosts for the meeting of the Braille Authority of North America, the body designated with the responsibility of determining the nature of the Braille code. We sponsored a Wayfinding Conference to bring together all of the experts in the field of blindness who have studied methods of travel for blind people. We held our annual Celebration, that event which brings together public officials, community leaders, and members of the blind community to celebrate the progress of the blind and to imagine the work we are contemplating for the years ahead.
The Jacobus tenBroek Library,
named for the founder and first president of the National Federation of the
Blind, has been established to provide the most extensive information resource
on blindness that exists anywhere. We have furnished the library and have begun
to fill the shelves. Soon after convention we will be moving displays of aids,
appliances, and literature to the tenBroek Library. These items and many other
resources will be offered to the public through the Independence Market located
at the tenBroek Library.
A vital part of our collection is Dr. tenBroek's writings along with the background materials and notes he used to create them. For the first time this extensive collection is being sorted and organized so that researchers can examine in greater depth the extraordinary mind and magnificent work of our founder.
We have been working to pass the Louis Braille Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Act in Congress. This bill will provide more resources and public recognition to promote Braille literacy than anything else that has ever been done anywhere in the world. Recognizing the two-hundredth anniversary of Louis Braille's birth with a unique commemorative coin is a fitting tribute to Louis Braille, but it also signifies the growing power of our movement. Consider what we have done. The House bill, H.R. 2872, was introduced on June 13, 2005; it passed the House on February 28, 2006, with 309 cosponsors. The Senate bill, S. 2321, was introduced on February 17, 2006; it reached the stage for final passage in the Senate in late June with more than seventy cosponsors, and it passed the Senate on the twenty-ninth with that number plus. This is an accomplishment of outstanding proportions for any organization working on behalf of any cause. In the National Federation of the Blind we care about the ability to read and write both for the blind of the present generation and for those who come after us. Let the record proclaim who it is that supports Braille literacy. We do it--we who are the collective voice of the blind of the nation, the National Federation of the Blind.
This year we have worked with the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind and others to develop a bill calling for expansion of business and employment opportunities for the blind based on the Randolph-Sheppard Act. On October 20, 2005, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on the Randolph-Sheppard Program and the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Program. The report from this Senate hearing said that both programs are inadequate because they provide too few employment opportunities and there are substantial inequities in the way they are conducted. Inasmuch as the Randolph-Sheppard Program has created business opportunities for a very substantial number of blind people that would not exist without it, the Senate committee's report is inaccurate and unnecessarily critical of the Randolph-Sheppard Program. Furthermore, NISH (formerly National Industries for the Severely Handicapped) has wanted Randolph-Sheppard vending sites for itself because lucrative opportunities to support nondisabled managers exist, and NISH wants the money.
Our response is a bill designed to strengthen the existing Randolph-Sheppard Program and build upon its success to make additional jobs possible for blind people. This legislation has been presented to the chairman and the ranking minority member of the Senate committee.
The NFB-NEWSLINE® program continues to grow with forty states on the network including Idaho, Georgia, and Indiana. Ninety-two percent of the population of the United States has access to the 225 newspapers provided through the program including recent acquisitions: the Oregonian, the Indianapolis Star, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, and the Dallas Morning News. Four Spanish-language newspapers and four magazines are available. Recently acquired is the entire content of the Associated Press News Service including news for each state and national and international news updated hourly. The Associated Press is the largest news service in the world. NFB-NEWSLINE® has over 51,000 registered users and provides to them 2.1 million minutes of news per month. Later this summer, television listings will be put onto NFB-NEWSLINE®.
We have also pursued a number of legal cases this year. Although we did not manage the legal work directly, we were involved in the Chris Boone case. When Chris Boone was fired as the director of programs for the blind in Pennsylvania because of blindness, we came to her assistance. Fred Schroeder (a member of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind, a research professor at San Diego State University, and former commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration) and Allen Harris, former treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind and current director of the Iowa Department for the Blind, testified on her behalf in court. Jim Antonacci, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania, spoke with public officials, members of the legislature, and representatives of the press. The assistance paid off. Chris Boone won her discrimination suit. It is not surprising that the decision of the court is now being appealed. I believe strongly that Chris Boone will be vindicated and that the judgment she has received will be enforced. The Boone case is notable because, although discrimination against the blind is reprehensible and although it is a violation of the law, few substantial judgments have ever been granted based strictly on blindness discrimination. In this case the jury awarded Chris Boone $3,355,000.
In South Carolina the Commission
for the Blind, then under the directorship of Nell Carney, was seeking to impose
upon blind vendors a set-aside which violated the policies of the Department
of Education and probably other legal principles as well. When this effort failed,
the South Carolina Commission for the Blind agreed with members of the legislature
that an act should be adopted in South Carolina imposing the set-aside by statute.
During the period when this legislation was being considered by the South Carolina
Senate, the National Federation of the Blind was asked to provide an opinion
about the set-aside bill. I indicated that the statutory provisions were not
in accordance with federal law, but certain members of the Senate in South Carolina
seemed to think that this was irrelevant.
When this piece of legislation was adopted, the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina moved into battle array. Blind vendors with our advice and support sued the legislature. In the turmoil that followed many arguments were propounded, but when the dust settled, the blind vendors and the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina had won. The set-aside was eliminated--one might say it was set aside. The legislature may not adopt a policy (even one supported by a misguided director of a commission for the blind) that is in violation of federal law and policy.
Last year I reported to you that on June 30 the County Council of Volusia County, Florida, voted not to install accessible voting machines and that the Federation filed suit to secure our right to an independent secret ballot. We lost in the trial court, but at the argument in the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, we got the right to cast an independent ballot. Volusia County has agreed to install accessible voting machines, and we are being reimbursed for part of the attorney's fees.
W e continue the court battle with Cardtronics, the largest non-bank deployer of ATMs in the United States. This February the court ruled that ATMs are facilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and that they must be usable independently by the blind. However, Cardtronics continues to ignore the court rulings, behaving as if we will lose heart if they just pretend that the law does not exist. The lawyer for Cardtronics, who has sometimes behaved in a way that can only be described as reprehensible, is a very slow learner. If he believes we will lose heart or diminish in our determination or fail in our faith or change our intention of becoming an equal part of society, he has lost his mind. We intend to see that the law is obeyed. We intend to assure that blind people have access to the same commerce available to everybody else. We intend to see that Cardtronics pays for the litigation. It may be that the lawyer for Cardtronics has no capacity to learn, but the other leaders of the Cardtronics corporation will discover that they cannot avoid the lessons we intend to teach. This too is the meaning of the National Federation of the Blind.
While Mary Jo Thorpe was completing her master's of education degree at Louisiana Tech University with a concentration in teaching blind students, she contacted the Utah School for the Deaf and the Blind to say that she would be interested in any vacancies that might come open. Impressed by her credentials, but unaware that she is blind, the school contacted her about an opening for an early intervention specialist with blind or deaf-blind infants and toddlers. At her interview school personnel discovered that Mary Jo Thorpe is blind. They peppered her with questions about what alternative techniques she would use. To each question she answered with a number of alternatives. After waiting for some time to learn what decision school officials had made, Mary Jo Thorpe called the school. She learned that she was denied a teaching job because she is blind. The Utah School for the Deaf and the Blind needs some education about what it means to be blind. We have filed suit on Mary Jo Thorpe's behalf to teach them what they need to know. The course will be known as Education by Lawsuit.
In Pennsylvania a grocery store, Acme Markets, employed a blind person to work near the checkout counter. When a customer tripped over the blind person's white cane, the customer filed suit on the theory that it is negligence for a retailer to allow blind employees to travel in the public areas of the store unaccompanied or that it is negligence for the store to have a blind employee unaccompanied on the premises unless it posts signs warning the customers of the potential danger. I find it difficult to imagine what the signs would say. Should they contain the message "Warning, dangerous blind employee loose in store!"?
A Pennsylvania jury found in favor of the customer. The National Federation of the Blind, working with our Pennsylvania affiliate, helped convince the judge to reverse the verdict. However, the customer has appealed the decision. We have filed an amicus curiae brief opposing the illogical arguments of the customer. If these arguments were to prevail, judicial decisions in Pennsylvania would stand for the proposition that unaccompanied blind people are a danger to the community. This decision would reverse the public policy established by the White Cane Law and other nondiscrimination legislation. Consequently the customer's argument must not be permitted to prevail.
The Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation took the position many years ago that merit scholarships offered to blind students would decrease the amount of rehabilitation funding to pay for the education of the recipients. The National Federation of the Blind of Pennsylvania asked that this decision be reversed, pointing out that it was contrary to definitively stated federal policy, but rehabilitation personnel declined. Serving as the president of the National Federation of the Blind, I asked the Rehabilitation Services Administration for an opinion about the legality of the policy of the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. That opinion declared that the Pennsylvania policy was contrary to federal law. However, Pennsylvania officials ignored the ruling. When Lynn Heitz received a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind, the funding to support her education was reduced, and she filed a complaint. After years of argument the arbitration decision has now been issued. Lynn Heitz won. Rehabilitation officials have been ordered to change their policy.
In conjunction with the Federation's Merchants Division, ably led by Kevan Worley, we have developed a prototype agreement whereby Randolph-Sheppard vendors may team with Dunkin' Donuts in Randolph-Sheppard facilities. Several blind vendors across the country are planning to offer Dunkin' Donuts to their customers using this agreement. One of the first is a vendor in the District of Columbia, who was told by the District's legal counsel that the teaming arrangement was illegal. We successfully challenged this opinion, and the first Dunkin' Donuts Randolph-Sheppard partnership in the District is now scheduled to open for business on November 1.
In 2004 I reported to you that we had brought suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana against DaimlerChrysler on behalf of Lee Martin. Before becoming blind in 1999, he worked as a foundry technician at the DaimlerChrysler plant, where he helped to manufacture engine blocks. He had a great work record, and he served as a safety coordinator for his department. When Lee Martin became blind, he obtained training in blindness skills, and he attempted to return to work, but DaimlerChrysler said it was too dangerous. Not only did Daimler say that Lee Martin's working in the plant would be too dangerous, company officials would not even let him tour the plant to show what he could do. After long argument Lee Martin entered the foundry and performed one of the jobs there effectively and safely--a performance we were able to capture on videotape.
The case went to trial in February. The jury saw the videotape of Lee Martin working at DaimlerChrysler. When three jurors became ill, a mistrial was declared, and the action was rescheduled for later in the spring. Apparently DaimlerChrysler did not want to appear before another jury. Lee Martin received a settlement which DaimlerChrysler insists be secret. However, let it be known that it pays to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind.
Last year I reported that Lynda Waring, who had worked at the Deaconess Medical Center Daycare facility for ten years and who received steady promotions during that time, was dismissed from employment because she is blind. The Deaconess Medical Center said they liked her work, but they were prohibited from counting her in their ratio of children to adults because of blindness, and they fired her. The Washington Department for Social and Health Services said that blind people were unsafe in daycare centers and issued the ruling prohibiting counting blind employees in the ratio.
I am happy to say that the complaint we filed has been settled. Although some of the provisions of the settlement are confidential, Lynda Waring has received more money than she would have earned. Furthermore, the Washington Department for Social and Health Services has agreed to change its policy so that blind daycare workers will not be dismissed because of blindness.
One measure of our growth is the size and complexity of the structures at the National Center for the Blind. Our buildings contain well over 350,000 feet of floor space. At the National Center for the Blind we conduct hundreds of meetings, conferences, gatherings, and classes each year.
We have planted beautiful
new landscaping on the south and west sides of our property. Incorporated within
this area is a dog relief station designed in consultation with the National
Association of Guide Dog Users, a division of the National Federation of the
In our original building we painted our kitchen floor using a new epoxy coating. On the third floor of the Johnson Wing we completed a 1,600-square-foot living space. As we have an increasingly active calendar of events with an increasing number of people staying at the National Center for the Blind, we are preparing space in our building that can be occupied permanently so that we will have people on hand to deal with emergencies.
We replaced much of the
second floor Plexiglas glazing, air conditioning components, and hot water heaters.
We have installed an additional layer of glass along with insulation in my office
to provide a quiet work environment. We have placed a new reception desk in
the atrium custom-built to match the dimensions of this space. On the deck outside
the conference center we have installed a stainless steel grill hood with a
chimney to permit the use of charcoal grills. In our tenBroek Library we have
reconfigured the lighting, built a bulkhead to divide the reception area from
the bookshelves, and added a library desk for meeting researchers and visitors.
Although we took possession of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in 2004, we have discovered that some of the tile in our atrium area is loose. We are working with the contractors to replace it and to ensure that the walls that support it have the strength to carry the weight. This process is estimated to be completed by the fall. I am sorry to have to report that this will delay the installation of our Wall of Honor, which I had hoped would be in place by the time of this convention.
We bought our property in Baltimore in 1978. It needed a new roof. This was installed within the first few years that we were in our building. The roof is now more than twenty-five years old, and once again it will need to be replaced. This should be completed before our next convention.
With all that we do in the National Federation of the Blind, the National Center for the Blind is an enormous asset. We would be unable to accomplish the kinds of programs and to promote the kinds of advocacy we do without this asset. The National Center for the Blind is the best facility of its kind in the nation, and it belongs to us.
In 1985 we established the Louisiana Center for the Blind, our first independently run rehabilitation program for the blind. We were planning to celebrate its twentieth anniversary in 2005, but a hurricane interrupted the preparations for the festivities. At the convention of the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana in April of 2006, we celebrated the first two decades of progress in independently directed Federation rehabilitation. At the banquet, with our president, Pam Allen, and the founding director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, Joanne Wilson, we rang the freedom bell, letting the word go out to this generation and to all who come after it that the blind will be free.
Last year I reported to you that Professor Matt Maurer would be working with the National Federation of the Blind during a sabbatical year to promote education excellence for blind students. When we began this project with Professor Maurer, a teacher at Butler University and my brother, we did not know what to anticipate from his research. He came to the subject of teaching blind students from an education-based background. He had not lived through the struggles many of us have known in obtaining an education for ourselves or for our children. The research he has conducted will be published in the next few months, and it leads to some fascinating conclusions. I believe that education for blind children will receive significant advantages from the work we have done. There will be a report of Professor Maurer's activities later during the convention.
We continue to conduct the ongoing work of the Federation. Through our Materials Center we have circulated in the neighborhood of two million items--aids, appliances, and materials to blind people, to families of the blind, and to agencies for the blind. Our thirtieth Kernel Book, Freedom, is being released at this convention. Total circulation for the Kernel Books is well over six and a half million. These little volumes contain first-hand accounts of blindness which present the lives of blind people as they are, with the full range of abilities that blind people have. Volume thirty-one in the series, Revolution, will be released later this fall.
We continue to publish the Braille Monitor, with a circulation of 35,000 per month; Future Reflections, a magazine for parents and educators of blind children, with a circulation of more than 10,000 per quarter; the Voice of the Nation's Blind, our online publication; and the newsletters of divisions, affiliates, and chapters. We have welcomed to the National Center for the Blind more than 4,900 visitors this year from our own country and thirty-one other nations.
Since we last came together in our convention, Mrs. Hazel tenBroek has died. The first of our first ladies, Dr. tenBroek's loving companion, and a fiercely dedicated Federationist, Mrs. tenBroek helped to shape the future of blindness in the United States and around the world. At this convention we will be remembering her contributions and celebrating the spirit she helped to form.
The National Federation of the Blind has never been in better health--has never looked to the future with greater anticipation. Our organization, formed in 1940 and built over the years with loving hands, offers the greatest opportunity for change in the lives of the blind that has ever existed because we who are the Federation demand that this be so. We have come together to support each other, to dream of a future that is bright for us. At one time others made decisions on our behalf, but we have found our voice. If we need a program, we have the power and the will to create it. If we need a product, we have the intellect and the means to cause it to be invented. If we want a future filled with independence, we have the capacity to build it.
For some time now I have served as president of the National Federation of the Blind; you have accorded me the greatest honor that can be offered. To provide leadership to our movement is my responsibility and my joy. I pledge to you that you have all of my energy, my imagination, my enthusiasm, and my commitment. You have a responsibility as well. It is to believe in what we are and what we do, to act on that belief, and to support me as I pursue the policies we have established. To achieve our goals, we must dedicate our resources, our minds, and our spirit. However, I have no doubt that we will do whatever we must to attain those ends which are the meaning of the National Federation of the Blind. Once again this year I have traveled throughout our country; I have met with Federation members; I have planned, and worked, and contemplated the future. Because I know the people of the movement, because I know the hearts of those who make our organization what it is, I am absolutely certain that the future belongs to us. This is my faith in the National Federation of the Blind, and this is my report.
From the Editor: In the National Federation of the Blind awards are presented only as often as they are merited. This year the NFB presented three awards at its convention, the International Braille Research Center presented its Louis Braille Award, and the National Blindness Professional Certification Board presented its Fredric K. Schroeder Award. At the Thursday night banquet James Gashel presented an NFB special citation for distinguished service, and Ramona Walhof presented the NFB's tenBroek Award. The other three presentations were made at the board meeting on Monday morning, July 3. This is what happened:
The Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
About halfway through the board meeting, President Maurer called Sharon Maneki to the podium. She chairs the National Federation of the Blind Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Selection Committee. This is what she said:
Good morning, Mr. President and fellow Federationists. This morning we have to present to the convention a teacher with vision. I am not just making a semantic difference here. Yesterday at the Resolutions Committee meeting we talked about the inappropriateness of referring to vision teachers. We need to refer to these teachers as teachers of blind students. So this morning we have a teacher with vision, and the committee who puts her forward consists of Allen Harris, Dr. Ed Vaughan, Joyce Scanlan, and me. Let me tell you a little bit about her as she makes her way to the stage. She is from the great state of Tennessee, from Franklin, Tennessee, in particular. Let's give Gayle Prillaman a round of applause. [applause]
Gayle Prillaman has a master's in education from the University of Virginia. She has an Ed. S. from Vanderbilt University. She has taught in Virginia, in New York, in Arizona, and of course in Tennessee. She has thirty years of experience. Gayle is also a member of the National Federation of the Blind. In particular she is a member of the Middle Tennessee Chapter. She not only provides transportation for chapter members, she has also been an officer in the chapter because as a teacher with vision she recognizes the importance of finding good role models for her students. She is a pioneer because she started the Williamson County school system's program for blind students in 2001. She has the Federation spirit. She saw a job that needed to be done. She didn't wait for somebody else to do it; she did it.
Gayle, first I am going to present you with a $1,000 check. Here you are. We also have a plaque for you. I am going to read the plaque:
FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
DISTINGUISHED EDUCATOR OF BLIND CHILDREN
SKILL IN TEACHING BRAILLE
AND OTHER ALTERNATIVE TECHNIQUES OF BLINDNESS.
FOR GENEROUSLY DEVOTING EXTRA TIME
TO MEET THE NEEDS OF YOUR STUDENTS
INSPIRING YOU STUDENTS
TO PERFORM BEYOND THEIR EXPECTATIONS.
YOU CHAMPION OUR MOVEMENT
YOU STRENGTHEN OUR HOPES
YOU SHARE OUR DREAMS.
Before I present Gayle and give her the microphone, I just want to tell the convention that all of her family is with her, including her eighty-three-year-old father. Let's give them a round of applause. [applause]
Gayle Prillaman then came to the microphone and said:
Thank you so much for those kind remarks. I am so very honored to be here with you all. I am a relatively new member of the NFB family, about five years, and I am in awe of all the work this organization does and the values it promotes. I am so excited to be here for the entire week--and in the great state of Texas. Those of you who live in Texas know that you have one of the best services in the whole country for blind students.
I'd like to thank my Middle Tennessee Chapter for nominating me. They have been a wonderful group to work with, and they support me. They never say "no" when I ask them to do things to help me. I'd like to thank very much my family for being here: my husband, my dad, my sister from North Carolina, my brother from Atlanta, and my three nieces. That's Jessica, Leah, and Madison. Thank you all so much for the work you do to support families, students, and teachers. [applause]
The Fredric K. Schroeder Award
Late in the board meeting President Maurer called Allen Harris, president of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board, to the platform. He introduced James Omvig to present the 2006 Schroeder Award. This is what Mr. Omvig said:
The officers and directors of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB) are pleased to present the 2006 Fredric K. Schroeder Award for outstanding contributions to the field of travel training for the blind. In bestowing this high honor, the NBPCB follows the lead of the National Federation of the Blind: that is, the honor is not automatically presented each year, but only as often as it has been earned through exemplary service in the field of work with the blind. Our first recipient (in 2002) was Roland Allen, NOMC [National Orientation and Mobility Certification], of the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and the second (in 2003) was Doug Boone, NOMC, of Pennsylvania.
Before presenting our 2006 recipient, let me offer just a word about the award. In the field of orientation and mobility (O&M), no name holds more weight or lends more prestige and credibility than that of Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder. Therefore it is particularly fitting that the NBPCB's highest recognition be named in his honor. Fred Schroeder's background and record of achievement set a singularly high standard of excellence for this award. Many newer NFB members may not be aware of it, but Fred was the first blind American to earn a master's degree in one of the old-line O&M university programs. It is not of course remarkable at all that Fred graduated with high honors, earning a master's in O&M. He is extremely intelligent and highly motivated. More remarkable are the facts and circumstances surrounding his matriculation into the O&M program at San Francisco State University and his subsequent efforts to become certified in the profession.
By the late 1970's Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was being implemented. It prohibited discrimination against people with disabilities by entities that received federal funds. This prohibition included universities. To try to insulate themselves from charges and findings of discrimination for closing the university O&M programs to blind candidates, the good old boys who ran them in the 1960's and seventies agreed to stand as one on the presumption that sight was absolutely essential to teach travel to the blind. They reasoned that, if they were all to insist that sight was an essential function of the position, then excluding the blind could not be found discriminatory. However, the man who ran the San Francisco State program broke ranks. He met Fred, liked him, and admitted him to the program. Fred completed the program with high honors.
Then, since professional certification was completely closed to all blind candidates at the time of his graduation (discrimination against the blind was rampant), Fred never received AAWB/AER [American Association of Workers for the Blind/Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind] professional certification, but, to give you, as Paul Harvey says, "the rest of the story," I would like to state here for the record that Dr. Fred Schroeder is now a certified O&M instructor. It seemed only fitting that he receive the very first National Orientation and Mobility Certification ever presented by the National Blindness Professional Certification Board.
These then are a few of the salient facts about Dr. Fredric K. Schroeder, NOMC, but even these facts do not reveal all of the evidence of the true character and spirit of the man. Still this brief history tells the story of why it is fitting that our award for excellence be named for him. Intelligence, drive, patience, compassion, stick-to-itiveness, good sense, and a fierce passion for justice for the blind: what more can be said; what more could be wanted?
With this bit of history as a backdrop, we turn to our 2006 award recipient. He first earned an undergraduate degree in sociology from Bloomfield College in New Jersey. He then went on to earn a master's degree in special education with a special certificate as a teacher of blind children from Trenton State College (now known as the College of New Jersey). He is Mr. Joe Cutter. Joe, will you please make your way to the podium?
Many Federationists may not be aware of the name of Joe Cutter, but wherever people discuss teaching travel to blind infants, toddlers, and young children, Joe's name is ubiquitous. In case you don't already know it, Joe is sighted. His story demonstrates conclusively that it is not eyesight--or the lack of it--that defines a true professional in work with the blind. What distinguishes the true professional from the rest of the pack, the wheat from the chaff, is a complete understanding of and profound belief in the truth about blindness--the normality of the blind as a group and the concomitant high expectations for success which necessarily follow from an understanding of this enlightening truth.
Joe's first job was working with a special group of blind high-school-age residents of the Johnstone Training and Research Center in Bordentown, New Jersey. Before long, Johnstone requested that someone come to the institution to train Joe in O&M. A year or so later (in 1972) the New Jersey Commission for the Blind had a vacancy for an O&M instructor, and Joe got the job.
Within a couple of years the Commission identified a serious problem--an enormous void in real independence and mobility skills among the blind youth of New Jersey. Joe was asked if he would like to work with very young children. Thus began the Early Childhood O&M Program of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind. Joe's new program focused on blind children from birth to age seven, the first such program in the country.
By 1990 Joe was recognized by the New Jersey Commission as its Teacher of the Year. As a part of this recognition, Joe was presented with a cash award. Consistent with the character of the man, Joe used the money from his award to enable parents of blind children to attend infant development lectures at Rutgers University and organized a trip for blind children and their families to the newly created audio-described performance of the New Jersey Ballet's Nutcracker Suite. Then our own Carol Castellano met Joe Cutter and persuaded him to become involved in the National Federation of the Blind.
In 1994 Joe initiated the Cane Walk at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind: an event which has grown in popularity every year and in which he still takes part. At that same convention Joe was presented with the Federation's Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award. He is currently hard at work on a book that will be out sometime in the coming year. It is called, Independent Movement and Travel in Blind Children: A Promotion Model.
Although he is sighted, Joe exhibits a fierce passion for justice for the blind, and he exemplifies the personal dedication, teaching skills, and professional excellence that are the hallmarks of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. His teaching services have had a profound, positive, and lasting impact upon countless blind consumers of services.
Joe, in order to memorialize this special occasion, I am pleased to present you with this engraved walnut plaque. It reads:
K. SCHROEDER AWARD
AND DETERMINATION IN HELPING BREAK DOWN THE BARRIERS
IN THE FIELD OF LONG CANE TRAVEL FOR BLIND CHILDREN.
BECAUSE OF YOUR PIONEERING, DEDICATED, AND TIRELESS CONTRIBUTIONS
TO THE FIELD OF TRAVEL TRAINING FOR BLIND INFANTS, TODDLERS, AND YOUNG CHILDREN,
COUNTLESS BLIND TEENAGERS AND ADULTS OF TOMORROW
WILL BE ENABLED TO WALK INDEPENDENTLY THROUGH LIFE WITH FAITH JUSTIFIED BY SELF-CONFIDENCE.
NATIONAL BLINDNESS PROFESSIONAL CERTIFICATION BOARD
JULY 3, 2006
Joe Cutter came to the stage to receive the award. In accepting it he said:
Wow! This has certainly caught me by surprise. What an honor! You guys--the National Federation of the Blind…. When I was at a point in my professional career of--perhaps burnout is too strong a word, but approaching that--through Carol Castellano and Bill Cucco and other parents of blind children in New Jersey, I was introduced to the National Federation of the Blind and its philosophy and Joe Ruffalo and other New Jersey Federationists, I took to the philosophy like a duck to water. What I had to say seemed to be of interest to Federationists as well. It became a natural marriage.
I am so overwhelmed today to receive this honor. Especially since my first introduction to the Federation was at a state convention, where I shared a parents seminar with Dr. Schroeder and was mentored by his philosophy and his early writings, particularly his articles talking about blind preschoolers using canes. I was fueled and motivated by that because I was not motivated by the conventional profession of O&M. So my model changed from more deficit to asset thinking. And burnout was no longer in the picture. It was fuel--high octane.
This is a total surprise to me today and quite an honor. Just when I think I have perhaps reached my professional best and when I think that I have given what I have to give, this organization has always raised me up to more than I can be. Thank you so much, thank you. [applause]
The Louis Braille Award
Toward the close of the board meeting, Harold Snider, chairman of the International Braille Research Center, was called to the platform to make a presentation. This is what he said:
Good morning, everyone. I had to bamboozle our recipient by telling him that the board was going to discuss Braille. Indeed it always discusses Braille. The International Braille Research Center confers the Louis Braille Award from time to time, but only when we've found a worthy recipient. Today's honoree is no stranger to us; his is a household name among blind people. His biographical information and achievements are well known to many of us.
Now for some clues. He grew up on the lower east side of New York City in the early part of the twentieth century. One of his early playmates and close friends was Zero Mostel, the star of the original Broadway play version of Fiddler on the Roof. Here's another clue: our honoree's first language was Yiddish and not English, which, by the way, he eventually learned and hasn't stopped talking yet. He has survived two wives. His academic specialties are mathematics and computer science. He traveled independently and regularly on the New York City subway long before the NFB was founded and long before the advent of the modern long white cane. His favorite poem is apparently called "The Hermit," which he recites annually at the NFB Research and Development Committee meeting. He is a great pianist and likes to play popular music from the thirties, forties, and fifties.
A few years ago the late Dr. Jacob Fried prematurely published his obituary in the Jewish Braille Review, much to our recipient's consternation. Earlier this year we came close to losing him because of a near fatal heart attack, but here he is at this convention, traveling by himself, independently, at the age of eighty-seven. For at least the last two generations he has guided our thinking about Braille and its codes. When I was in fifth grade I thought I hated this guy and never imagined that he would become my friend. You see, when I got my fifth grade math book almost fifty years ago, you can guess what code it was written in--of course, the Nemeth Code of Braille Mathematics.
That's right. Our recipient today is Dr. Abraham Nemeth. [applause] He hasn't stopped inventing new Braille codes. Not only does the computer Braille code show his thinking, but the Nemeth Unified Braille system is a fantastic synthesis of the best features of the unified English Braille code and the Nemeth Code of Braille Mathematics. In my opinion, only Louis Braille himself has had more influence on Braille than our recipient. Therefore it is entirely appropriate that we honor Abe Nemeth for his lifetime achievement in research and development of the Braille code.
Now let's get to the good part. Abe, here is the Louis Braille medal. It is four ounces of gold. It's worth about $2,500 at the current price. It's our hope you won't melt it down just yet. On the front of the medal is a portrait in relief of Louis Braille. Finally I would like to present you with a plaque, which is appropriately written in both print and Braille. I will read the plaque and then present it. The plaque reads as follows:
BRAILLE RESEARCH CENTER
LOUIS BRAILLE AWARD
DR. ABRAHAM NEMETH, PH.D.
IN RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT OF BRAILLE CODES.
HAROLD SNIDER, CHAIRMAN
President Maurer: Congratulations, Dr. Nemeth. Would you care to say a word?
Dr. Nemeth: Thank you. I am reminded of rabbis and ministers who always begin their speeches by saying, "Before I begin to speak, I would just like to say a few words." I thank you so much for this award. I am developing a code called NUBS, Nemeth Uniform Braille System. I am doing it because when I looked at the Nemeth Code in my later years, I realized that there were a few youthful indiscretions for which I must now atone. So I am doing NUBS, which is nothing but a clone of the Nemeth Code and will not make any current Nemeth Code works obsolete, but it will make it more computable and easier to translate from Braille to print and from print to Braille. I hope to put it on the Web in a month or two, because I am proofreading it now.
I thank everybody in the Research Center for this award. Thank you very much.
A Citation for Distinguished Service
Late in the banquet festivities James Gashel came to the podium to make a special presentation. This is what he said:
Thank you very much, Dr. Schroeder and fellow Federationists. Tonight I have the distinct honor to present a National Federation of the Blind Special Citation for Distinguished Service. I don't believe that I have ever presented such a citation before. In 1994--that would be twelve years ago--we started NFB-NEWSLINE®. We didn't call it NFB-NEWSLINE back in those days, but we started NFB-NEWSLINE. At that time, September of 1994, we didn't have even one news organization to work with us, and it is of course essential to have a news organization for such an effort. So we called up Tom Curley, who at that time was--I don't know what his exact title was--but he was the big dog at USA Today. He ran the thing. And he said, "Sure, I'll be glad to work with the National Federation of the Blind" to create the first audio news service that you can dial up on the telephone and get the news right away, any time, anywhere. So we did that: we created that first version of NFB-NEWSLINE in the Baltimore/Washington area in September 1994.
Tom Curley was at our convention in 1975 to receive a special award for doing that, because he helped us get it started. Today that service has 233 newspapers, four magazines--you've heard all the statistics. But the most wonderful thing of all is that NFB-NEWSLINE now has the Associated Press national feed and the Associated Press for every single state in this country--updated hourly. [applause] Until recently it has been something of a well-kept secret--but I don't think it will be after tonight--blind people now have greater access to the news than you have if you can read the newspaper in print. And I think that's the way it ought to be! [cheers and applause]
They say that knowledge is power. I think the blind need some power. There is a lot of power in this room tonight. Do you think that there might be any coincidence in the fact that, in this year when we have added the Associated Press national and state news services, we now have two blind people running for lieutenant governor in their respective states? [cheers] We are making history in the National Federation of the Blind! I think that deserves a special citation, and John Lumpkin, who is in charge of U.S. news operations for the Associated Press, is here to accept this citation tonight. John, if you will step forward, I am going to read this. It says:
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
CITATION FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
OF OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE BLIND
BY PROVIDING NEWS TO NFB-NEWSLINE®
YOU CARRY IS TRUTH;
THE CAUSE YOU ESPOUSE IS FAIRNESS;
THE POWER YOU IMPART IS KNOWLEDGE!
JULY 6, 2006
John, thank you very much. We very much appreciate all that you are doing. Thank you, thank you, thank you! [applause]
John Lumpkin: It's not a coincidence that a man named Tom Curley is my boss now. Tom wished he could have been here tonight. He honored me by allowing me to accept this on behalf of the Associated Press. But it is really his belief in this organization and the services that you provide that led him as our CEO, after he left USA Today, to agree and help facilitate the Associated Press's becoming a participant in NFB-NEWSLINE.
As we heard tonight, before there is freedom, there has to be justice. Justice is a partner of knowledge. And for there to be knowledge, you have to be informed. If our participation in NFB-NEWSLINE helps you become an informed citizenry, to reach the goals that Dr. Maurer laid out for you tonight, then we truly are honored. Thank you. [applause]
Jacobus tenBroek Award
Near the close of the banquet, Ramona Walhof came to the podium to make the following presentation:
July 6 was Dr. tenBroek's birthday, an appropriate time to recognize him and Hazel tenBroek. Mrs. tenBroek used to take some satisfaction in the work of those who received the award I am about to present.
The Jacobus tenBroek Award was established in 1974 as a means of honoring one of our members who has shown outstanding leadership within the Federation. You will recognize the names and the work of many of those who have been recognized previously: Don Capps, Diane and Ray McGeorge, Mary Ellen Jernigan, Jim Gashel and Betsy Zaborowski, Joyce and Tom Scanlan, Barbara Loos, Jim Omvig, Joanne Wilson, Priscilla Ferris, Betty and Bruce Woodward, Sharon Gold, Sharon Maneki, Allen Harris, and others. What greater tribute could we pay to our founder than to remember him in the work of these leaders?
The individual whom we have selected tonight is again one of our very best. We honor a gentleman who discovered the Federation before many of you here were born. When this man was in law school at Northwestern University in the late 1960's, he met Dr. Jernigan at a meeting about Braille in Chicago. He began immediately to read the Braille Monitor. He joined a local chapter of the Federation in 1974. He then served a year as treasurer and then as president of his local chapter, and in 1978 he was elected president of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. [cheers and applause]
Yes! Charlie Brown, come on over here, Charlie. [tremendous cheer behind her words] Charlie was reelected to the Virginia presidency every two years until he had served for twenty-six years. In 1984 he was elected to the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind. In 2002 and again in 2004 he was elected treasurer. He is a longtime member of the Resolutions Committee, the Scholarship Committee, the Planned Giving Committee, and the lawyers division. Charlie's leadership is thoughtful and firm, imaginative and wise. I attended an NFB of Virginia convention when most of the agenda had to be scrapped. After most of the members arrived on Friday, Virginia had an ice storm, resulting in a sheet of ice about four inches thick on all of the streets, and the speakers just could not get to the convention. As president, Charlie Brown had to create a new agenda Saturday morning. It turned out to be an excellent program, at least as good as the first one he had planned. All the presidents here understand that this took creativity and wisdom.
As an attorney and community leader Charlie has also been outstanding. From 1971 to 1991 he was employed as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Labor, where he received five achievement awards plus a distinguished career service award after only eleven years. He also received a special commendation from the secretary of labor himself. In 1991 Charlie changed employment, moving to the National Science Foundation as assistant general counsel, where he manages prevention of conflict of interest, ethics, and financial disclosure. He has received two merit awards from the National Science Foundation.
Charlie has also been a
leader in the Rock Spring Congregational Church. He has been a deacon in his
local church, and in 1979 he was elected to the National Board of Homeland Ministries,
the board responsible for missions in the United Church of Christ. He chaired
this board for four years and served on its executive committee. In this capacity
he traveled extensively and was respected nationally.
Charlie has been an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Northern Virginia and was instrumental in securing grants from that club for the education of blind children. He has been appointed by Virginia governors to the state's Olmsted taskforce, where he has worked to see that blind people are integrated into the community. In particular he works to see that blind people stay out of nursing homes when they do not need to be there.
Charlie and his wife Jacki have raised two sons, Stephen and Richard. An outstanding attorney, a leader in civic and church work, and a man who has made immeasurable contributions to the work of the National Federation of the Blind--how could we find a more deserving man? Charlie, we are thrilled to honor you tonight. With this plaque we give you admiration and, even more important, we give you our love. We love you for who you are and what you do. I am going to give him the plaque to hold up, and then I will read it. [applause]
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND
FOR YOUR DEDICATION, SACRIFICE, AND COMMITMENT ON BEHALF OF THE BLIND OF THIS NATION. YOUR CONTRIBUTION IS MEASURED NOT IN STEPS BUT IN MILES, NOT BY INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCES BUT BY YOUR IMPACT ON THE LIVES OF THE BLIND OF THE NATION. WHENEVER WE HAVE ASKED, YOU HAVE ANSWERED. WE CALL YOU OUR COLLEAGUE WITH RESPECT. WE CALL YOU OUR FRIEND WITH LOVE.
JULY 6, 2006
Following tumultuous applause, in a shaken voice Charlie Brown said:
I am stunned. I had no idea, and I wouldn't have believed it if…. No! When I first joined the Federation, I thought a lot about it because I am one of those blind people with low vision, and I had to think about the way the world was. I won't talk to you about it tonight; you can talk to me sometime about it. But I recognized the way the world really is and what blindness really is and why I belonged in the National Federation of the Blind. Shortly after I got involved--I didn't know much about the history--Jim Gashel talked me into working on a case. I ended up reading a lot of the writings of Dr. tenBroek. Between you and me, folks, I don't think I could have held his coat--a true visionary genius, and we all see the results of that tonight with all of the wonderful accomplishments of this organization and the wonderful scholarship winners we have met.
I do not consider myself a role model. I don't consider myself many of the things that many of you out there are every day. Yet I have worked hard at it, as one should do when it comes to something that one takes seriously--whether it is this or the church or the raising of a family. But in this case I have received much more. So the idea that you would then give me an award on top of everything else that I have received from this organization is daunting indeed. I thank all of you for everything you have done for me and all of you for giving me this award. Thank you again, very, very much. [applause and cheers]
From the Editor: With every passing year we recognize the increasing value of the National Federation of the Blind's Scholarship Program to our national organization. Members of previous scholarship classes--more than ninety-six past winners this year--stream back to take part in convention activities and assume responsibility, doing anything that they can see needs to be done. Everyone looks forward to meeting the new scholarship class and to hearing what its members are doing now and planning to do with their lives.
On banquet evening, while we are still sky-high after listening to President Maurer's address, Peggy Elliott comes to the podium, presents the year's winners, giving an academic and personal sketch of each, and announces which scholarship the person has been awarded. This year each winner crossed the platform and shook hands with President Maurer and Ray Kurzweil, who astonished the entire banquet audience and delighted the members of the scholarship class by instructing Peggy Elliott to announce that the Kurzweil Educational Foundation was presenting each winner with an additional $1,000 scholarship; the latest version of the Kurzweil-1000 reading software, which is now DAISY-enabled; and a brand-new Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader! In addition to all this, Bookshare presented each winner with a one-year subscription to this valuable print-download service that also now includes most of the newspapers available on NFB-NEWSLINE®.
The final award presented in this year's scholarship extravaganza, which took place at the banquet on July 6, was the Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship of $12,000, presented to Christopher Booher, who then spoke briefly to the audience. His remarks appear later in this article.
But earlier in the week, at the meeting of the NFB board of directors, the twenty-eight 2006 NFB scholarship winners and two tenBroek Fellows, who were each receiving a second scholarship, came to the microphone and spoke directly to the Federation. Following is what they said about themselves. Each speaker was introduced by Peggy, who announced the home and school states after each name. She began by announcing that the first winner was a tenBroek Fellow.
tenBroek fellow, Jessica Bachicha, New Mexico, Massachusetts: Thank you so much. Good morning, fellow Federationists. It is a great honor for me to be here as a tenBroek Fellow. I received degrees from the University of New Mexico in music and foreign languages, and will begin a master's in vocal performance at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston this autumn. I spent a year doing research on music and theology last year at the University of Leeds, and my research has shown me more than ever that music can be an instrument of social change. I look forward to putting this knowledge to work for the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you very much.
Rachel Becker, Iowa, Iowa: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am currently a sophomore at Buena Vista University in Iowa. I am a media studies major, and I hope someday to be a newspaper reporter. I just want to say that it is an honor to be here and be part of the scholarship class of 2006.
Christopher Booher, Texas, Texas: Good morning, fellow Federationists. Once again I'd like to welcome you to the great state of Texas. Currently I am pursuing a master's degree in business administration at Texas State University in San Marcos. After I graduate I intend to find a managerial position in finance or information technology. Four years ago with a Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship and a small spark of curiosity I went to my first national convention, and when I got there, I didn't know a single person. But when I left at the end of the week, I had three thousand new family members and a new philosophy to live the rest of my life by. I gained confidence and independence from the Louisiana Center for the Blind, and I stand before you today to say that I am ready to go back and give to this organization that's given so much to me over the past four years. Thank you. Have a wonderful convention here in the Lone Star State.
Robert Crowley, New York, New York: Good morning, fellow scholarship winners, fellow Federationists, board of directors. I received my associate's degree in liberal arts with a major in chemical dependency counseling this spring. I will be entering Binghamton to pursue a degree in political science, and not become a lawyer, but to get into advocacy and lobbying. I am pleased to be here. I belong here, and I hope that I can contribute while I am here. Thank you.
Nikos Daley, Maryland, Ohio: Good morning, fellow Federationists. I am grateful to God and the NFB for having the opportunity to be here. I am a sophomore at Franciscan University in Steubenville, majoring in social work. I look forward to being a lifelong member of the Federation. Thank you.
James Dietz, New York, Ohio: Hello, everyone. I just graduated a few weeks ago from high school, and in September I am attending Oberlin College in Ohio, planning to major in computer science probably, to be something like a computer programmer. I first found out about the NFB in 2001 when I attended the Buddy Program and was really surprised to find blind people actually leading people around and living in their own apartments. You can hear all the lip service about blind people doing anything they want, but it is really something else to see it happen. Thanks.
Timothy Elder, California, California: Good morning, fellow Federationists. My name is Tim Elder. I welcome you and give you the warmest of California greetings from Palo Alto, California. I did my undergraduate work in electronic music. I have been working for the past two years as a musician and record producer, touring around with a rock band. I have recently been accepted into U.C. Hastings law school. Whatever you are doing, whether it's a rock musician touring around, changing the world's attitudes about poverty, like Bono; or blazing a trail in the Supreme Court like Sandra Day O'Connor, I believe that we can make a strong impact on this world. I thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to pursue my own dreams and ambitions through education, determination, and the community this Federation provides. Thank you so much.
Lucille Fair, Mississippi, Mississippi: Good morning, fellow Federationists and fellow scholarship winners. I'm proud to be one of them. I am proud to be a National Federation of the Blind member. I am currently a junior at Alcorn State University, majoring in business administration. I am holding a dean's scholar award. I am proud to be here among all of you. In the future I plan to become a health care provider and possibly a tax preparer to put back into the community and be supportive of blind people and people who are in need. Thank you.
Cyrus Habib, Washington, Connecticut: Hello, everyone. Good morning. I am from Seattle. I did my undergraduate degree in New York City at Columbia and then spent a few years as an expat in England. I am now back after my graduate study to start law school at Yale. I am absolutely new to the Federation, and as someone who is new to it, I have to say that I am excited to learn about the proud history of this organization and enthusiastic to be part of the initiatives in the years to come. I look forward to getting to know the litany of leaders and symphony of solidarity and Federation of friends that this Federation comprises. I also look forward to going on a joy ride in one of those cars that are going to be designed quite soon. But I insist on getting past the first block, so make it fast. Thank you so much.
Martha Harris, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Buenos dias, everyone. Thank you so much to the Scholarship Committee for giving me this opportunity to be here. I am a freshman mass media major and Spanish minor at Bloomsburg University. I am also the vice president of the Pennsylvania Association of Blind Students and the secretary of our local chapter. At this convention I am excited to learn the stories of individuals as Federationists, what this organization does, and how it works, why this organization is the strongest group of blind people in the nation, where we've been in the past, and where we are going to go. I want to be a newspaper reporter in the Spanish-speaking part of the United States, and I am so glad to be a part of this ongoing story of the National Federation of the Blind.
Mary Harrod, Kentucky, Kentucky: Hello, everyone. I am proud and honored to be attending my fifth convention, as a scholarship recipient. I am currently working on a master's in psychology at the University of Louisville and plan to pursue another degree to become a teacher of blind students. I am currently the vice president of the Kentucky Association of Blind Students. I currently hold a board position in the local chapter, and I am the secretary of the newly formed Sports and Recreation Division. I've learned a lot of tools and philosophy through the NFB and my years of experience, and I plan to teach these tools to the students I teach. Thank you.
Kotumu Kamara, Minnesota, Minnesota: Good afternoon, everybody. I am originally from Africa. I am a student at the University of Minnesota, majoring in international studies. I plan to go into international mediation and conflict resolution. I am proud to be here today. I was introduced to the Federation by Nadine Jacobson. She inspired me with the philosophy of the NFB. I have struggled through many difficulties through my journey from a senseless civil war as a newly blind person. From my experience I have learned that those who face great struggles become great learners. I am proud to be here today, and I will continue to be a learner and a giver in the National Federation of the Blind. Thank you.
Mary Krumwiede, Ohio, Ohio: Hello, everybody. I am a sophomore at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. I am pursuing a degree in international studies and French. Someday I'd like to do some interpretation work for the government. I am totally new to the NFB, and it's quite an honor to be here at the convention. I'd like to give a special thanks to the Scholarship Committee for allowing me to be here. It's truly an honor. Thank you so much.
Robin Kyle, Indiana, Indiana: Good morning. I am in the Indianapolis Circle City Chapter of the Federation, where I have been a member for five years. I am a mother of three and a grandmother of one. I am returning to school at the Indiana University, Purdue University of Indianapolis, commonly known as "UIPUI". I am receiving my bachelor's degree in education. My goal is to teach; I want to make a change in a young person's life. We are standing over 50,000 strong, and, people, that is power. With that power is the responsibility and the obligation to make a change within our blind community. That is my goal.
Matthew McCubbin, Michigan, Michigan: Good morning, fellow Federationists. This fall I will be attending Western Michigan University and majoring in telecommunications and information management. My longterm vocational goal is to become an assistive technology support specialist for the blind and to teach blind people how to use computers. This summer I am actually working at a camp program for blind youth in Michigan called Camp Tuhsmeheta. That has truly changed my life. That's where I got started with the Federation. The National Federation of the Blind is my family; you guys are my family. I have been so welcomed. I am proud to be here. You truly are my family--just without the Christmas gifts. Thank you.
Carrie Modesitt, Missouri, Missouri: Good morning. Albert Einstein said, "Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others; it is the only means." The examples set forth by Federationists sparked an inquisitive interest in achieving independence that encouraged me to obtain the necessary skills to become competitive. In the past two years that I have been in the NFB and an officer of the Missouri Association of Blind Students, others' modeling of success encouraged me and showed me that I and others like me can achieve similarly and reach to new heights. In the fall I will be attending Westminster College as a freshman, majoring in political science with minors in leadership studies and pre-law. I plan to complete law school and deal with cases relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Anna Muaswes, California, California: Good morning, fellow Federationists. It is respectable to be blind. Initially, when I was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, I sensed a sense of shame and the fear that I would not be a competent adult. I attended the Colorado Center for the Blind. There I discovered the truth about blindness. The NFB has taught me a lot and brought me tremendous opportunities, one of which is that I will be mentoring at the youth Science Academy this summer. I am so grateful for that opportunity, and I will also be involved in a mentoring workshop in Seattle, also cosponsored by the Jernigan Institute. My experience at the Colorado Center for the Blind in combination with these opportunities have proved to me that I will be a successful genetics counselor. Thank you very much.
Noria Nodrat, New York, New York: Good morning to each one of you. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to show my sincere gratitude for all support and care that I received from National Federation of the Blind and the Scholarship Committee. I am majoring in human services. I will be graduating in the fall of 2006 with the honor of being valedictorian of my class. My average is 3.7, and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind, and I am hoping that I will share my experience and knowledge that I will learn with the National Federation of the Blind to help every individual blind person in the United States as well as in other countries. Thank you so much.
Corbb O'Connor, Illinois, District of Columbia: Good morning. I have found that this is my first experience with the National Federation of the Blind, and I have met so many interesting people who have many interesting stories to tell. So I thank you for sharing those stories with me. In the fall I will be at George Washington University, studying business, specifically hospitality management. Thank you.
Ronza Othman, Illinois, Illinois: Hello. I am so grateful to be here. This is going to be my last year of law school, and hopefully I will sit for the bar next year. I am also a board member of the Chicago Chapter, which I am thrilled to be involved in. Because of the NFB I have actually been learning Braille. I have begun using a cane to travel, which has really opened a lot of doors for me that I didn't know even existed, let alone were closed. I think it's fitting since we are in Texas, the theme, in my mind at least, comes from a cowboy song by Garth Brooks, "A Dream Is Like the River."
I will sail my vessel until
the river runs dry.
Like a bird upon these wings, these waters are my sky.
I won't reach my destination if I never try,
So I will sail my vessel until the river runs dry.
I know I have a vessel, and I won't get anywhere unless I try.
Mary Anne Parks, Georgia, Georgia: How is everyone this morning? I am very honored to have been chosen an NFB 2006 scholarship recipient. I am currently obtaining my teaching certification to teach blind students as well as finishing a master's program in public administration. I am many things within my state affiliate. I am the secretary, an active member of the Atlanta Metro Chapter and a mentor at the Georgia Academy for the Blind. I am also a mentor for an NFB Science Academy attendee, and I love being a mentor. I am so excited to take my knowledge and the experience that I have gained from the NFB and to pursue it into my career as a teacher of blind students. Thank you.
Cali Sandel, South Carolina, South Carolina: Hello, everybody. Once again, I am Cali Sandel. I will be a sophomore in the fall at Winthrop University, majoring in political science with intentions of being one of many lawyers. I am so honored and it is such a wonderful opportunity to be included in this group of individuals. We've all come so far, and I know we'll just go so much further in life. Thanks to everybody.
The second tenBroek fellow, here for the second time, Ashley Skellenger, Florida, Florida: Hi, everyone. I will be attending Florida State University in the fall and will be going for my master's degree in social work. I'm interested in a few different areas including adoption and working in a hospital, particularly with the parents of premature infants. I got involved with the National Federation of the Blind when I was in eighth grade. Actually I started going to chapter meetings and finally attended my first state convention in high school and was amazed by the number of blind people I saw and what everyone was doing, the confidence and skills that everyone was demonstrating. That amazement was significant when I went to national; it was even more inspiring to see how many people were there, and all the levels of different things that were being done. I have learned so much, and I am hoping that I can give back as much as I have learned. I was recently elected president of the Florida Association of Blind Students. I am very excited about that opportunity, and I was able to participate in the first Florida seminar for parents of blind children that was held in conjunction with our state convention. That was such a great experience. I hope I can continue to do that. Thank you so much for the opportunity, and I am looking forward to this week.
Danny Solomon, California, California: Good morning, Dr. Maurer, board of directors, and my Federation family. I went into teaching junior high for seven years with a principal who wanted nothing to do with a blind teacher. I told her, "You've never hired a teacher with more passion and determination than I have." I challenged her and gave her a chance. A month later she gave me a plaque that read, "Only he who attempts the ridiculous can achieve the impossible, and you are right, Danny, I have never met any teacher as passionate as you." I still felt empty inside because I tried to teach as a sighted person, and just a little bit later I found the Federation, and they became my family. They became my strength and my source behind me. I then attended the Colorado Center for the Blind and grew incredibly as a person. Now I have turned it completely around and want to go to San Francisco State and earn my master's in education and a credential in teaching the blind. I will become a teacher of the blind and put all my passion into teaching Braille and bringing confidence and giving all the purpose in the world to all the kids, blind, sighted, everybody involved. Thank you so very much.
Ryan Thomas, Arizona, Arizona: Hello. I just graduated from high school in May, and I will be starting as a freshman at Northern Arizona University, majoring in environmental science, later to become a conservation biologist. I started in the Federation in '99, and I am so appreciative of everything that you have given me, most recently this scholarship. Thank you.
Jeffrey Thompson, Minnesota, Minnesota: Good morning, fellow Federationists. A year ago a bunch of people challenged me to change my life, and I looked at that, and since then I have graduated from BLIND, Inc. I have been serving as Minnesota Association of Blind Students president and am a proud member of the Metro Chapter of Minneapolis. I am attending the University of Minnesota, majoring in history with a minor in political science. I'd like to say that leadership comes in many forms, and I'd like to delegate a challenge to all of you. I'd like to challenge you to challenge someone near you, someone that you've met to change their life like the people I met last year did to me. Thank you.
Evelyn Valdez, New Jersey, New Jersey: Good morning, fellow Federationists, members of the Scholarship Committee, and our scholarship winners in 2006. It is truly an honor to be here. This is my first national convention. I have attended five state conventions in New Jersey, and every year it is a new learning experience. My inspiration to attend more state conventions was Miss Ever Lee Hairston. If it wasn't for her, I probably wouldn't have gone to the next convention. But anyway, I am currently a first-year graduate student at Kean University's Nathan Weiss College of Graduate Studies. I am pursuing a master's degree in special education with a concentration in preschool handicaps. I received my early childhood certification last May. I just ended the school year working as a paraprofessional in the Hillside School District with a seven-year-old blind student--monitoring, facilitating, and encouraging independence. I also work as a head teacher in the Elizabeth School District. I just want to say once again thank you so much for everyone's support, encouragement, and mentoring.
Sean Whalen, Wisconsin, Wisconsin: Good morning. Thank you very much. I'd like to express my gratitude, not only at receiving this scholarship, but also at the changes in my life that the NFB has induced in me as my philosophy of blindness and really changing my whole life last year in Louisville, Kentucky. I am currently finishing my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin in the honors programs, political science and philosophy. Upon graduation I intend to go to an NFB training center to perfect my blindness skills and then work on the '08 campaign cycle, after which I will go to law school to pursue a career in law and possibly academia as well. Eventually my ultimate dream is to take the floor of the Senate to represent my fellow Americans in the United States Senate. Thank you.
Laura Wolk, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania: Thank you, fellow Federationists. I am a sophomore at Swarthmore College (which can sometimes be difficult to say). I am working on a major in psychology with possible minors in cognitive science and religion with aspirations of being a clinical psychologist one day. I would like to thank the scholarship committee tremendously for giving me the opportunity to return to national convention as a child of the Federation and the secretary of the Pennsylvania Association of Blind Students, to rediscover everything that this Federation has to offer in terms of giving, taking, and growing in the realm of blindness as well as something that I have always known but feel is too often understated, and that is that Federationists are good people. They help us to grow not only in the realm of blindness, but in every imaginable facet in the best possible way. I greatly look forward to taking this opportunity to discovering all the vast amount that I have yet to learn as well as continuing the proud initiative for change. Thank you so much.
Jeffrey Young, Idaho, Idaho: Good morning. I will be attending Brigham Young University, Idaho, this fall. I will be majoring in music. I also have interest in music history and broadcasting and politics. One thing that I learned in the Federation or am learning in the Federation that I was already aware of and I hope everyone can become more aware of it: we as Federationists can achieve anything we want to.
Peggy Elliott: And there, Mr. President and my fellow Federationists, is the class of 2006.
After Chris Booher's name was announced as the 2006 winner of the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship, he briefly addressed the banquet audience on Thursday evening, July 6. This is what he said:
When I found this organization four years ago, it truly changed my life forever. I didn't believe that I was blind. I didn't know anything about blindness; I didn't even know any blind people at the time. That's why this scholarship program means so much to me, because a scholarship is how I got to my first convention. I applied for a Jernigan convention scholarship just because I wanted in-state tuition. So I got to my first convention and realized that this was it. This was what I had been looking for, and I had finally found it.
All of you have contributed to my being here. By living the philosophy and going out into the world every day with your white canes, every time you cross the street with confidence and skill, every time someone asks you what that big white stick is or why you are carrying a pool cue and you explain about the NFB, that's where it starts. We have to educate the sighted community and the blind community. That's why I am here today. I stand before you, ready to help out in any way I possibly can. I thank you all very much. Ulanda, I love you very much; thank you for everything you have done for me. Thank you.
Here is the complete list of 2006 scholarship winners and the awards they received:
$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarships: Rachel Becker, Nikos Daley, Lucille Fair, Cyrus Habib, Martha Harris, Mary Harrod, Kotumu Kamara, Mary Krumwiede, Noria Nodrat, Ronza Othman, Mary Anne Parks, Cali Sandel, Sean Whalen, and Jeffrey Young
$3,000 Guide Dogs for the Blind Dorthea and Roland Bohde Leadership Scholarship: Corbb O'Connor
$3,000 National Federation of the Blind Educator of Tomorrow Award: Evelyn Valdez
$3,000 NFB Computer Science Scholarship: James Dietz
$3,000 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship: Jessica Bachicha
$3,000 Kuchler-Killian Memorial Scholarship: Robert Crowley
$3,000 Howard Brown Rickard Scholarship: Anna Muaswes
$3,000 E. U. Parker Scholarship: Ryan Thomas
$3,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Scholarship: Ashley Skellenger
$5,000 Michael and Marie Marucci Scholarship: Laura Wolk
$5,000 Jennica Ferguson Memorial Scholarship: Matthew McCubbin
$5,000 Sally S. Jacobsen Scholarship: Robin Kyle
$5,000 Hank LeBonne Scholarship: Timothy Elder
$7,000 National Federation of the Blind Scholarships: Danny Solomon and Jeffrey Thompson
$10,000 Charles and Melva T. Owen Memorial Scholarship: Carrie Modesitt
$12,000 Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Scholarship: Christopher Booher
An Address Delivered
at the Banquet of the Annual Convention
of the National Federation of the Blind
July 6, 2006
One of the eternal questions is "What is justice?" The dictionary tells us that justice is the set of principles which assure that individuals get what they are entitled to receive. Incorporated in the concept is the notion of equality--that all in like circumstances are treated alike. The term also recognizes personal merit or moral turpitude. Those who offer significant service are rewarded; those who cause damage are punished.
Almost 2,500 years ago, Thucydides said, "Our laws secure equal justice for all in their private disputes, and our public opinion welcomes and honors talent in every branch of achievement, not for any sectional reason but on grounds of excellence alone."
The concept of justice is sometimes divided into subcategories: commutative, distributive, retributive, and social. Commutative justice means that a person who, in a business transaction, offers value to somebody else may expect value in return--it is unjust to sell a child an ice cream cone for $500. Distributive justice signifies that all people who are similarly situated have the right to expect equal benefits. Retributive justice declares that those who cause harm to others will be punished for their transgressions. Social justice asseverates that those possessing enormous amounts of property or power are not permitted to use these to abrogate the basic rights of others. Regardless of the subclassification, the idea of justice incorporates fairness, but it also contains the requirement for timeliness and a dynamic element. William Gladstone said, "Justice delayed is justice denied." Benjamin Disraeli said, "Justice is truth in action."
Some of the writers about justice appear to believe that this concept is fixed--that justice in one century or millennium is the same as it is in any other. These thinkers would say, as Plato did, that justice is a form--that we recognize an act as just to the extent that it approaches an immutable ideal. However, the American jurist Learned Hand said, "Justice, I think, is the tolerable accommodation of the conflicting interests of society, and I don't believe there is any royal road to attain such accommodations concretely." If we accept this definition, when the concept of what is tolerable shifts, justice changes. If this thought is extended to its limits, justice becomes merely a reflection of the social measures that have been adopted within society. Because laws reflect the accommodation of conflicted interests, law and justice become synonymous. Under such a formulation the concept of an unjust law is a contradiction. Thomas Hobbes thought that justice is an equivocal concept.
However, justice has been at the heart of civilizing force for thousands of years, and much of the time it has shaped the law. King John, who signed the Magna Carta in 1215, promised in that great document, "To none will we sell, to none deny or delay, right or justice." Thomas Jefferson said that "equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political" is one of the elements of our political faith and the touchstone by which we determine those we trust.
One measure of the value of a society is the nature of justice written into its laws, illustrated by its practices, and reflected in its beliefs. A society enhances its concept of justice when it includes the formerly dispossessed within the governing community.
The Constitution of the United States declares that one of the purposes for creating our government is to establish justice. However, in three places the Constitution implicitly recognizes the existence of slavery in the United States. Slavery was not prohibited until 1865, following the end of the Civil War. Incidentally, the Civil War was among the bloodiest ever fought. In its battles millions of people were killed and many others disabled. The name for the disabled from the Civil War era was the invalids. The language of disability has undergone considerable transformation since that time.
The Constitution of the United States says that all people have the right to expect the equal protection of the laws and that no person may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. These precepts were written to ensure equality of treatment for all. However, when public officials thought about blindness, the concept of equality seemed to bend.
In the history of judicial decision-making in the United States, blind people have been told that their very presence in public places without a sighted supervisor is evidence of negligence. Apparently some courts have believed that blind people could not be responsible for themselves. Having sighted people to take charge of the blind is necessary, they thought. Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, our founder and first president, challenged this assumption. He drafted the first civil rights act for the blind, the White Cane Law, which has been adopted in well over half of the states. Liberty and equality have become more secure with the adoption of this state legislation, and the concept of justice has changed.
In the first half of the twentieth century, when public welfare programs were being initiated, some government officials thought that blind people who wanted assistance should not marry. Some blind people were put through sterilization operations, apparently to ensure that they did not produce offspring as defective as themselves. Blind people might have blind children. Even if the children were sighted, their blind parents would not be able to care for them. Both the parents and the children would become wards of the state and a burden to the community. "You just can't trust these blind people to stay away from each other"--this seemed to be the attitude of some of the officials in these programs. Is it any wonder that blind people have often been suspicious of the programs intended to serve them?
Until the mid-1950's blind people were prohibited from applying for federal civil service jobs. To challenge this prohibition, the National Federation of the Blind, under the leadership of Dr. tenBroek, brought suit in federal court on behalf of a blind applicant. To avoid judicial review, the government abolished the position for which the blind person was applying. Because the case was moot, it was dismissed, and the prohibition against all blind applicants remained in effect. However, members of Congress who learned these facts demanded a change. The prohibition was removed for some positions in federal employment.
When Dr. Kenneth Jernigan became president of the Federation in 1968, the organization adopted an increasingly aggressive program to protect the rights of the blind through action in the courts. Protection of individual rights also received further attention in Congress. In 1973 the Rehabilitation Act included several sections intended to protect the rights of disabled Americans. The civil rights laws initially drafted by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek had been expanded to include all disabled Americans. Through the 1970's and 1980's an increasing number of cases appeared in court testing the validity and extent of the protections available to disabled people. In 1985, in the case of Cleburne versus Cleburne Living Center, the Supreme Court applied the principles of equal protection of the laws to disabled Americans.
"Justice is truth in action," Benjamin Disraeli said. It is worthy of note that those who act on their own behalf to receive recognition for the merit they possess are more likely to get the protection they seek and the opportunities they pursue than those who wait passively. Justice is a magnificent principle, but it cannot act on its own. It must have agents to comprehend its demanding doctrine, to appreciate the hidden potential of applying its precepts to circumstances which have not previously been within the ambit of judicial consideration, and to take action to bring about an alteration in the scope of the protection it affords. We are those agents.
We must seek the truth
and act upon it. We must never accept half measures, substitutes for reality,
or false statements. Some have told us that we who are blind are without ability,
but we know better. Others have said that the society in which we live cannot
be altered, but through our efforts it is changing every day. We have looked
into our hearts, and we know our will. Justice demands action, and we are prepared
to meet this requirement. We have chosen the road to equality, and we will never
Justice means equality and the removal of artificial, irrelevant distinctions. But what is an artificial distinction? How can irrelevancy be identified? What is equality?
In August 2004 the National Federation of the Blind inaugurated the first of its Rocket On! Science Academies, an educational class conducted with the support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to teach blind teenage students about physics, rocketry, electronics, and associated sciences. One of the stated objectives of this class was the launching of a ten-and-a-half-foot sounding rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility. One of the NASA team working with us to put the Science Academy together was Nancy Maynard.
Shortly before the beginning of the class, she noticed that many of the experiments to be conducted by the students involved measuring temperatures and electrical currents. The students would need a multimeter to conduct the tests, preferably a meter that could be operated without vision. A talking multimeter was at that time readily available from the OMEGA Engineering company. Nancy Maynard called OMEGA to order multimeters, but when OMEGA personnel discovered that she was planning to have blind people use them, OMEGA refused to provide the products, saying that these had not been designed for use by the blind.
Since when has this standard become the test for distribution of products? How many of the tools, artifacts, devices, or gadgets now available in the world have been designed for use by the blind? The chairs you are using in this banquet hall: have they been designed for the use of the blind? Is it not dangerous for you who are blind to use them? Is it not reasonable to assume that there is extra liability for those who have provided these items to you without considering the specialized needs of the blind? Or is all of this just a bunch of idiotic poppycock? Such thinking abrogates our right to equal treatment and violates the principles of justice.
In outrage at the behavior of OMEGA company officials, I, in my capacity as president of the National Federation of the Blind, ordered multimeters to be used by blind people in conducting scientific experiments. If the company refused to sell them, I was planning to learn whether the nondiscrimination laws in the United States were adequate to protect our right to purchase these products. To my satisfaction the OMEGA company sent the multimeters. I thought the incident was closed.
However, OMEGA company officials had apparently not changed their minds. When we decided to buy more of the multimeters, the company took them off the market. It said that, if blind people were going to buy them, OMEGA would not sell them to anybody. Although discriminatory intent is plain, the blind are not being singled out, we are told. Everybody is being treated the same way. Nobody gets the product; antidiscrimination legislation does not apply, the lawyers told me. However, if blind people had not sought to purchase OMEGA products, the decision to stop sales of the multimeters would never have been made. Is this equal treatment? Does such behavior promote justice?
I thought about stealing OMEGA's design and having its multimeter manufactured. However, the patent on the multimeter runs out in a short time. The National Federation of the Blind will cause multimeters to be built, which will provide as much information as the OMEGA product, and we will see that blind scientists, engineers, and students get the tools they need. We who are blind have been told repeatedly throughout most of recorded history that complex study is a realm of intellectual pursuit that is not available to us. However, we know more about our abilities than anybody else, and we intend to take action to see that they are recognized. The prejudice and misunderstanding of the people who run the OMEGA company cannot stop us. Nothing can keep us from studying what we want to know. We have looked into our hearts, and we know our will. Justice demands action, and we are prepared to meet this requirement. We have chosen the road to equality, and we will never stop marching.
It will come as no surprise that not all judges have a thorough appreciation of blindness. It will also be no surprise to learn that not all blind people represent blindness in a fair and reasonable way.
A report from the New York Law Journal of December 2, 2002, tells us that a blind lawyer contended that the rules of court should be altered for him because of blindness. Apparently this lawyer had received a favorable decision in a New York court for his client. He was directed to submit a proposed judgment within sixty days of the date of the decision. He failed to submit the proposed judgment, and his opponent moved to have the decision dismissed because it had been abandoned.
The blind lawyer said that he could not have gotten the proposed judgment to the court within sixty days because he was blind (apparently his secretary had departed), and he asked for a reasonable accommodation pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said that he had been granted four days to take the bar exam in New York when the customary time is two and that state and federal courts routinely grant him twice as much time to respond to motions as is available to sighted lawyers. The New York court accepted the argument that blind lawyers are slower than sighted lawyers and granted more time for this lawyer to file his proposed judgment.
Now let me be clear about what I am saying regarding reasonable accommodations. Sometimes I believe that more time is necessary for a blind person to perform a task than is needed for a sighted person. I believe that this is especially true when the method involved in doing the task is based largely upon sight. For example, many times examinations include diagrams. It takes time to comprehend the nuances of a diagram by having it described. Sometimes a chart is used. It takes time to translate the information on the chart into a form usable by the blind. Then circumstances involving live readers sometimes demand time that would not be used if the material could be read directly. All of these circumstances justify additional time for performing certain tasks.
However, in this case the lawyer argued that blind people are always slower than the sighted. He had sixty days to file a document with the court. His argument is that he could not meet the same standards required of the sighted because of his blindness.
Does this lawyer's blindness cause his mind to work more slowly than those of the sighted? Does it take him longer to eat his dinner? When he decides to kiss his girlfriend, does it take him longer to find her mouth than it would take other people? To argue that all blind people always need more time to do everything than the sighted require is not merely ridiculous but a disingenuous effort to mislead. We who are blind must not represent blindness as a destructive alteration of our fundamental capacity and personality but as the characteristic it is. We must not whine and complain but plan and compete. If we expect equality, we must demonstrate that we deserve it. And make no mistake, we expect equality.
On the subject of special treatment and equality: sometimes we should demand special treatment; sometimes we should request it; sometimes we should accept it even when it has not been sought; and sometimes we should refuse it. Many specialized programs for the blind exist. Such programs are valuable to the extent that they stimulate independence or promote equal opportunity. Blind people need information to participate in our society. We should demand to have it. No possibility exists for us to have equality of opportunity unless we can expect the same range of information that others have available. However, equality of opportunity does not require some of the other benefits blind people routinely receive.
For an illustration of the concepts involved, consider the income tax. Some blind taxpayers (those who take the standard deduction) receive a benefit because of blindness. The cash value of the benefit depends on the tax rate, but its maximum value is less than $500. How much do the blind pay for that few hundred dollars? Each year tens of millions of income tax documents are distributed throughout the nation, and commentators talk about the advantages of specialized groups. Blindness is depicted as a reason for needing specialized consideration, and the inability of blind people to participate in the activities of our communities is often one element of the presentation. The cost in social acceptance is high, and the money blind people receive is a tiny element of the wealth we possess. We the blind pay an exorbitant amount for the few dollars we get.
This kind of analysis can be used to determine the benefit of every program dealing with blindness. Does a specialized service or a specialized program justify its existence by the good that it produces? Does it stimulate independence or increase equality of opportunity? Does it pay for itself? If so, it is worth having. If not, then not. In the case of the New York lawyer, the special request fails the test. One of the disadvantages associated with the request for special treatment is that blind people are depicted in court and in public statements as slow, incompetent, and inferior. The cost is too great to justify the requested alteration.
I am pleased to say that not all judges permit themselves to be bamboozled by the nonsensical arguments offered by some misguided blind people. An Associated Press article from August 31, 1995, carries the narrative of a former blind employee of the United States Forest Service. A number of pieces of property owned by the United States government were at this employee's home. When he was charged with taking them, he offered the defense that he couldn't be held responsible because "he was so blind he couldn't see how much government property he had stolen." The property that he had failed to notice included tent straps, ready-to-eat meals, furniture, and a generator. Both the judge and the jury rejected the foolishness. In this case justice was served.
In 1990 the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was adopted. Although discrimination on the basis of disability had previously been prohibited in many parts of our society prior to its adoption, the ADA broadened the scope of antidiscrimination protection.
In 2003 a Washington-based entity known as the Northwest Americans with Disabilities Act and Information Technology Center (ADA & IT Center), which was funded by the United States Department of Education, issued a job announcement to fill a vacancy for the position of ADA program manager. The position description lists nine items under the title "Job Duties and Responsibilities." These include such matters as: to "plan and provide training and educational outreach activities on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and education-based accessible Information Technology (IT)," and to "monitor key state and local legislative and/or judicial activities which may have implications on ADA and accessible IT compliance." The position description contains the declaration that this agency is an equal opportunity employer that encourages the disabled to apply, and it offers to provide the job announcement in alternative formats. Although the alternative formats are not specified, one of the alternatives is probably Braille. However, the job announcement also requires that any applicant must have a valid driver's license.
Apparently the personnel at this agency believe that a valid driver's license is a bona fide occupational qualification for anybody to provide information about the Americans with Disabilities Act to the uninformed. And these are the people who are the experts on the law. Did the experts from the ADA & IT Center consult with the experts at the Department of Education when drafting their position description? Did the experts at the Department of Education review the document? Did they give it their approval? Did they give tacit support to the principle that the blind should be kept out of the labor force at least to the extent of advising others about the law? Who can say? Given the track record of the Department of Education within the last two years, such suppositions are not implausible. But, back to the ADA & IT Center.
If this idiocy weren't so serious, it would be positively funny. However, this kind of shallow logic is used to bedevil the lives of the blind in many places throughout our nation, and it must stop. After all, it is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Either the officials of the ADA & IT Center will come to recognize the mistake they have made, or we will provide them with education. We have looked into our hearts, and we know our will. Justice demands action, and we are prepared to meet this requirement. We have chosen the road to equality, and we will never stop marching.
The chronicle of the history
of the blind demonstrates that blind people have been a part of the medical
profession for almost a hundred years. An unpublished manuscript in the records
of the Jacobus tenBroek Library at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan
Institute confirms other reports of a blind heart specialist who practiced medicine
in Chicago before the First World War. A number of blind doctors are currently
in medical practice, some of them having earned their medical degrees as blind
people. Dr. Stanley Wainapel of New York, Dr. Mark Stracks of Pennsylvania,
and a number of others are currently providing medical treatment to their patients.
However, when a blind person applied to Case Western Reserve medical school a number of years ago, she was rejected because of blindness. In the ensuing court battle, the judges said that they would not challenge the decision of Case Western Reserve regarding the requirements for an applicant who sought to study medicine. The blind student did not get the opportunity to demonstrate her ability in this field because of prejudice and discriminatory treatment.
However, when another blind person sought to enter nursing school at Nassau Community College in 2004, and when she was refused admission because of her blindness, she fought back with the help of the Federation, and she was granted the opportunity to study nursing. During the course of the argument about her admission, school officials, legal experts, medical professionals, and members of the public speculated about the basic talent possessed by the blind.
I received a number of letters telling me that my conduct was irresponsible. To insist that blind people should study and practice medicine at any level is to endanger the patients, they said. To persist with support of the blind applicant after the obvious danger had been delineated is a positive disservice both to the community as a whole and to all blind people, I was told.
If blind doctors and nurses are permitted to practice medicine, will they know the limits of their abilities, and will they practice only within those areas in which they are competent? Is it reasonable to believe that some of the practices within the medical field require sight? If it is, will blind people who have the license to engage in medical practice avoid such areas? These are questions that I faced as we planned to support the blind applicant seeking nurse's training.
As I pondered these questions, and as I did my best to respond to those who posed them, it occurred to me that within them is a fallacy. Are all sighted medical professionals qualified to engage in all areas of medical practice? Do we ask them if they will have the sense to limit themselves only to their areas of competence?
Nursing school is intended to teach the skills required for nursing. The tests to acquire a license to practice nursing are intended to assure that those who pass them have the ability to engage in the profession. Either the nursing schools know what they are doing, or they don't. Either the medical boards understand and fulfill their mission, or they don't. Sight, or the lack of it, is not the test of ability. People with the keenest sight are not necessarily the best doctors. Perhaps those with the keenest insight are.
When I need medical attention, do I want a blind person to serve as my doctor or my nurse? The answer to that question depends on the skill possessed by the doctor or nurse. If the blind person has the ability to give me what I need, the answer is yes. Justice demands recognition of personal merit. We possess such merit--or some of us do, and we expect such recognition.
In the work that we do in the National Federation of the Blind, we believe that exploration of all areas involving blindness is essential. Do the minds of blind people work differently from those of the sighted? We believe that the answer is fundamentally no, although the sensory inputs we get are not entirely the same as those received by the sighted.
More than eighty years ago Thomas Edison argued that 80 percent of all we know we learn through our eyes. At the time he was trying to sell his newly invented movie projectors to the public schools. The sales weren't going very well. Consequently he devised his argument in an attempt to persuade school officials to pony up.
A number of administrators of programs for the blind have taken Edison's comment out of context. They have argued that blind people cannot be expected to possess the same quantity of information that sighted people have because we can only get at 20 percent of the available material, being deprived of the 80 percent that supposedly comes through the eyes. However, we somehow seem to get at the information that others have. Consequently, although some people may get 80 percent of what they learn through their eyes, other people find alternate routes for receiving much of the same information.
At the University of Wisconsin experimental research has occurred that transmits visual stimuli to blind subjects through the tongue. I know this sounds crazy, and it might be. However, if the optic nerve is unavailable for such transmission, some other sensory path must be employed. An Associated Press story of April 25, 2006, gives additional credibility to the argument that sensory input through the tongue may be useful for more than taste. This, in part, is what it says:
In their quest to create the super warrior of the future, some military researchers aren't focusing on organs like muscles or hearts. They're looking at tongues. By routing signals from helmet-mounted cameras, sonar and other equipment through the tongue to the brain, they hope to give elite soldiers superhuman senses similar to owls, snakes, and fish.
Researchers at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition envision their work giving Army Rangers 360-degree unobstructed vision at night and allowing Navy SEALs to sense sonar in their heads while maintaining normal vision underwater--turning sci-fi into reality.
The device [to transmit the information through the tongue, the article continues] known as "BrainPort™," was pioneered more than thirty years ago by Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita, a University of Wisconsin neuroscientist.
In testing, blind people found doorways, noticed people walking in front of them, and caught balls.
These are some of the words in the report from the Associated Press. The report may be nuts, but it may have elements of research within it that are worth knowing. Have we explored all the ways for blind people to gather information? I believe we have not. Braille was invented less than two hundred years ago, and we have not even done sufficient research to determine the best way to teach it. The standard we apply to experimentation is a simple but demanding one. Do the proposed experiments make sense, do they have the potential to produce results that enhance opportunity for the blind, do they incorporate the experiences of blind people within them? In other words, do the ideas incorporated in the experiments work? If they do, the experimentation is valid. If they do not, the experimentation must be discarded. We will not always know before experiments are conducted whether they will produce successful results. Such is the nature of experimentation. However, if the hypotheses are based in reality, this is sufficient.
I cannot leave the tongue experiments without adding one more thought. My tongue already has a number of uses, and I value the wiggly little thing for what it can do. I would not want to lose the delight that it offers in the process of exploring alternative sources of knowledge. This too must be considered in the research ahead.
Some years ago a letter came to the National Federation of the Blind from a man who says that he is a counselor, a therapist, and a pastor (retired). He wanted to talk to the president of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington, Mike Freeman, about an idea for rehabilitating violent criminals. The death penalty does not deter violent crime, the counselor said, and programs of reform don't work. His solution is to blind all three-time repeat offenders because blind people don't commit crimes. His program of rehabilitation would create, according to him, "terror and life in the dark."
The plan of this counselor would require a prison term for a first offense, removal of one eye and a prison term for the second offense, and removal of the other eye for the third offense. Prison would not be necessary for the third-time offender because blind people don't commit crimes. Even if they wanted to commit them, they can't because they are blind. Some vocational rehabilitation would be offered after the criminals had been blinded. The counselor recommends teaching the blinded criminals how to ride the bus. Then they could go to the grocery store, find the police station [why would they want to?], or get to the welfare office. Welfare is expensive, he says, but cheaper than prison.
The letter from this self-proclaimed counselor might be dismissed as the ravings of a lunatic. However, it is not the first of its kind that I have read. Blindness as punishment is a theme at least as old as the ancient Greek tragedy written by Sophocles.
The image of blindness created by such thoughts would stigmatize and enslave all blind people. What a picture of justice! The blind would become the criminal class, the corrupt, the violent, the outcasts, the dregs of society. Though the implementation of this proposal would never get serious consideration, the thought processes in devising it exemplify a kind of outlandish prejudice against the blind that is almost beyond belief. To this method of thought and to all of the irrational iterations of prejudice that constitute its structure we say no, not now, not ever! Justice demands recognition of personal merit, and we insist that ours be known. If necessary we will form a line of battle and take to the streets to fight for our right to participate fully in our society on the basis of equality. We have looked into our hearts, and we know our will. Justice demands action, and we are prepared to meet this requirement. We have chosen the road to equality, and we will never stop marching.
Within the last year I have met with a totally blind man more than seventy years old who comes from a rural community. During most of his life he has been under the supervision of one or another of his family members. They fed him; they clothed him; they gave him a radio. A few decades ago somebody decided that he might enjoy a guitar, and they gave him that. He did not receive a quality education; he did not get rehabilitation training; he did not explore the farms and fields or the woods and streams near his house. Most of the time he was shut in his room with the radio and the guitar. Whenever his guardian wanted to leave her home, she told him to stay in his room. He has been listening to the radio and playing the guitar for more than half a century. Occasionally he was given the chance to play his music for a picnic or a family gathering.
A couple of years ago this blind man got out of the house with his guitar, and somebody heard him play. He knows how to handle the instrument, and he can sing. He became a part of a band, and he plays in public venues from time to time. He may be able to get away from the custody he has known, at least in part.
This blind man has spent seven decades in his room. He knows his own voice, the intricate notes of his guitar, and the tones on the radio. He has no conception of the breadth and scope of the remainder of existence, and he is unlikely ever to achieve the level of independence that many of us take for granted. Justice delayed is justice denied, and for him the morning and evening of opportunity have likely come and gone. The recognition of personal worth came too late, and the mechanism that might have changed the future for him, the organized blind movement, learned of his plight when much of the time to alter the pattern of his future had passed.
However, we will not stop trying. Our commitment is unalterable; our hope is unshakable; our energy is unflagging. If we can help even at this late hour, we will do what we can to bring independence to this man, for we never give up--we never quit in our effort to shape the pattern of justice.
From ancient times to our own period of history, justice has symbolized truth, fairness, equality. Recognition of individual talent is a fundamental element of justice, and unless those who possess the talent are willing to demonstrate its value and fight for its recognition, the justice of a society will remain stagnant. For this reason those of us who possess capacity have a solemn obligation. We must use our talent, and we must insist that others recognize it. In the performance of this duty, we expand the scope of the protection that justice offers to everybody, and we improve the culture that is the basis for our society.
In 1940, Dr. Jacobus tenBroek and a handful of others brought the National Federation of the Blind into being. Part of the reason for the creation of the Federation is to ensure that justice will be ours, not as an act of benevolence, but as a recognition of the talent we have, of the equality we deserve--justice, as a matter of right. In 1968 Dr. Kenneth Jernigan became our president. One of the most dynamic leaders that the blind have known, Dr. Jernigan stated our purpose in words that echoed the sentiments of Dr. tenBroek. "We want freedom--jobs, homes, the chance to succeed or fail on our own merit, access to places of public accommodation, interdependence with our neighbors, and full participation in society."
As we come together at this convention in our thousands from every part of the nation, from every economic segment of society, and from every avenue of endeavor, our fundamental being has not changed and our purpose remains unaltered. We want the recognition that we deserve--all of us, all of the time, in every realm of endeavor, without stint or compromise.
Those of us who are blind have waited a long time to receive an accurate assessment of what we are, but the waiting is at an end. Our lives have been subject to the misapplication of the principles of justice for almost as long as all of recorded history, but the toleration of that misapplication is no more. The time has come to act, and act we will.
Some have wondered if those of us who come from such different backgrounds could be called a movement--if we really are the organized blind. To those who express such doubts, we say this: some of us are employed, others are not; some of us have college degrees, others do not; some of us earn substantial incomes, others do not; some of us have achieved recognition in our communities, others have not; some of us have training in the techniques used by the blind, others do not. Though the distinctions are many, they matter not at all. We are the blind, the agents of justice, and we are on the move.
We seek the truth; we accept no half measures--no substitutes for reality. We cannot be hoodwinked or diverted from our goal, and we expect to be recognized as the equal human beings we are. We have looked into our hearts, and we know our will. Justice demands action, and we are prepared to meet the challenge. We have chosen the road to equality, and we will never stop marching. The freedom that we seek will be ours. Our intellect demands it, our spirit assures it, and our lives proclaim it. Join me, and we will make it come true!
Making a charitable gift is one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Here are some of the special giving programs available through the National Federation of the Blind.
The National Federation of the Blind is a service agency specializing in providing the help to blind people that is not readily available to them from government programs or other existing service systems. The services of the NFB are specially designed to meet the needs of all blind people. By maintaining a widespread campaign of public education, advocating for the rights of blind children and their families, administering scholarship and mentoring programs for blind youth, providing financial and other specialized assistance, conducting seminars on blindness, evaluating and developing accessible technology, and providing information and services to senior citizens so that they can adjust to vision loss and live more accessible and independent lives, the NFB is changing what it means to be blind.
We will be happy to provide you with further information about the National Federation of the Blind or any of these giving opportunities. Please call or write us at:
National Federation of
Department of Outreach Programs
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314, ext. 2406
From the Editor: As the last few banquet guests settled into their chairs on Thursday evening, July 6, President Maurer came to the microphone to conduct a brief memorial to the National Federation of the Blind's first First Lady, Hazel tenBroek, who died last October, two months shy of her ninety-fourth birthday. The public address system proved insufficient to the size of the crowd and the confusion attendant on serving dinner to well over two thousand people. This is what was said:
Marc Maurer: Mrs. Hazel tenBroek, the beloved wife of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the founder of the National Federation of the Blind and its first president, died on October 7, 2005. We are dedicating this banquet to her. To my right, displayed on a stand, we have a portrait of Mrs. tenBroek, who I am sure is attending this convention in spirit. I now ask that this portrait be unveiled. Before it are candles which will burn during the banquet, lighting the image and signifying the spirit of Mrs. Hazel tenBroek.
Because Mrs. tenBroek was Jewish, we have asked the Cantor Dr. Mindy Fliegelman Jacobsen, only the third woman in history to earn a doctorate in her area of religious music, to offer the invocation.
Following the invocation Don Capps, the senior member of the board of directors, who met Hazel tenBroek at the NFB convention in 1956, recollected her as a woman of great compassion and grace, but one who would defend and understand the rights of blind people when roused. He said that she was always ready to fulfill any assignment that she received from Dr. Jernigan or President Maurer.
Then President Maurer introduced Sharon Gold as a close friend of Mrs. tenBroek, who assisted and supported her in many ways during the closing years of her life.
Sharon Gold: Nine months ago tomorrow Hazel tenBroek died, but our purpose tonight is to celebrate her life. She loved everyone in the Federation. The NFB was the primary purpose of her life. Toward the close of her life she was apt to reflect on the early years, when she and Dr. tenBroek founded this movement, but she was also interested in the way in which the movement had flourished. As we could tell from President Maurer's report on Tuesday afternoon, this movement has indeed flourished, and I am equally sure that she recognizes and appreciates that fact.
I first met Mrs. tenBroek
very briefly thirty-one years ago at the Chicago convention. The following spring
I had reason to be in Northern California and was invited to visit at her home
for a couple of hours. That two-hour visit turned into a week's stay. During
that week she taught me much about our movement and shared page after page of
Dr. tenBroek's Braille materials with me.
Years later, when she lived in Sacramento, I particularly remember one time when we organized a spur-of-the-moment NAC-tracking in San Francisco. This was when Mrs. tenBroek was more than eighty years old. I suggested that she might come with us to support us during the march. She resisted and argued with me a little, but I repeated that we would like to have her come. I assured Mrs. tenBroek that she would not have to march if she didn't want to. So she went with us. I remember how astonished Diane McGeorge was that evening to see Mrs. tenBroek in the line, marching along the Bayshore Highway in the cold, windy, foggy San Francisco weather.
Mrs. tenBroek always said, "When you think about me after I am gone, go out and celebrate," so that is what we are going to do this evening. I would like to give you Sheryl Pickering, who is going to read some remarks prepared by Dutch and Nic tenBroek, her two sons.
Sheryl Pickering: Any memory of our mother, Hazel tenBroek, must begin with reading aloud--very fast. This was a woman who spent the majority of her married life reading aloud from law books, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Braille Monitor (which was composed in print and then transcribed into Braille), and many other types of written material. We could all understand it and reacted with disbelief when a visitor would arrive with some document and was not able to comprehend a word of it when Mom would read the document aloud with incredible speed. Memories of taking the old Rambler station wagon to Boalt Hall Law School on the campus at the University of California at Berkeley and filling it with law books that Mom would then read to Dad seemed perfectly normal to us.
It is not without irony that Jacobus and Hazel met on a blind date. She used to love to tell the story that shortly after their marriage Dad took her to meet his family on the farm in Hanford, California. Our Aunt Lil, Dad's sister, herself approaching six feet in height, looked Hazel up and down and remarked, "Couldn't you find something with more size to it?" Little did Aunt Lil know the true stature of the diminutive person before her.
Mom's dedication, spirit (Lord knows there was plenty of that), work ethic, and belief in her husband's life work as activist, university professor, author, and thinker was remarkable. All this, in addition to raising three children and managing a household--I'm not at all sure that as a young woman she could have predicted such Herculean qualities in herself.
In 1968, after our father's untimely death from cancer (at age fifty-six), Mom carried on with all of Dad's interests--which seemed only natural, since his work became as much hers after so many years. Mom spent countless hours consolidating Dad's numerous papers (now the tenBroek Library), as well as giving her time freely to those in the National Federation of the Blind who came to her for advice, guidance, and general empathy. She also continued the annual pilgrimage to the NFB conventions with salami and San Francisco sourdough French bread for as long as she could.
Along with these impressive contributions, Mom had a great sense of fun. Dinners at our house--often with a colleague who had walked with Dad home from the Berkeley campus or a friend from the blind movement--seemed to involve a certain amount of drink (for the adults), foot-long cigars (also for the adults), animated conversation, and laughter.
Each year New Year's Eve was spent with the same group of friends, and Mom's famous beer stew was always on the menu. Late July always meant White Astrican apples and enough apple pies to put in the freezer for an entire year.
There was no food Mom didn't like. Sure, there was our father's hearty breakfast of steak, potatoes, salad, and apple pie; but pickled herring, liver and onions, the most unthinkable food choices for most people, were all just fine with her. From Chinese stir fry to ice cream sundaes--she loved it all.
For years Mom's hot-rod car, with racing stripes and mag wheels, was a fixture on the winding streets of the Berkeley hills. Her dogs barely fit in the car. Many times, given the right angle, you would think one of the dogs was driving. Soon after Dad died, Nic's high school friend Bernie, who was experiencing some family problems, said he could no longer stay at home. No problem, Mom simply invited Bernie to stay with us--which he did--for two years. She treated him like another member of the family, something Bernie never forgot.
When we were kids, we would all gather at the foot of Mom and Dad's bed to watch the fights on TV--I can't recall any mom but ours who wanted to do that. She loved the fights, and she always loved a beer during a football game, or a beer not during a football game.
In the early sixties, shortly after Dutch was transferred to Germany, Mom and Dad found themselves in Europe to help get the IFB (International Federation of the Blind) started. Mom packed two of her famous apple pies and, for two weeks, got every stewardess to place them in airplane freezers so the pies would still be fresh when they visited with Dutch in Nuremberg.
Mom's last years were spent in Kansas with the grandkids and great-grandkids close by. A year ago we were able to turn the tables on Mom, when she received an autographed copy of Floyd Matson's new book, Blind Justice. By that time she was unable to hold a book, so we read it to her.
These are some simple recollections of our mother--a remarkable woman who was ahead of her time; a woman with an indomitable spirit, endless energy, and a generous heart. We all knew what she thought about a given subject, and knew from an early age that she was a force with which to be reckoned. I'm sure she's in Heaven giving God a good piece of her mind, as well as anyone else who will listen to her.
We love her and miss her terribly.
The next person to speak was Gary Mackenstadt of Washington State.
Tonight we are celebrating the life of a wonderful woman, not only for her contributions to the organized blind and to the career of Dr. tenBroek, but for the contributions she made to the university, to the community, and to her family, including the Federation family. I count myself fortunate to have had a long friendship with Mrs. tenBroek.
I first met her in October
of 1971 at a convention in California that was extremely significant to me.
I had an opportunity, not only to meet Mrs. tenBroek, but to listen to a wonderful
banquet address by Dr. Jernigan. I also met the person who became my wife two
years later. And the name of the California affiliate was changed to the National
Federation of the Blind of California. I did not appreciate the significance
of that change, but Hazel tenBroek helped me to understand it. She spent a lot
of time talking to me about the Federation. (She told me I ought to grow a beard;
I never really asked her why. I am certain she would have told me.)
We moved from California in 1976 and spent several years on the East Coast, but we kept in contact with Mrs. tenBroek through conventions and telephone calls on birthdays and holidays. We moved to Seattle in 1980. Mrs. tenBroek had moved to Bainbridge Island, which is in Puget Sound, after her retirement as associate editor of the Braille Monitor. The Washington affiliate had been decimated because of political and personal strife. But she was there, and she helped us to rebuild that affiliate. She was elected to serve on the board--the only elected position she ever held in the Federation. I was president, but more important were her personal support, her ideas, her suggestions, her advice, her criticism. She was invaluable. She helped us with the newsletter. We discussed so many things during our time together at Thanksgiving, New Year's, and other events. She helped us develop chapters. She worked hard, and she always had enthusiasm. I remember her enjoyment in discussing literature and history and politics and sports and dogs and California wine. She was a very dear friend. As much as I mourn her loss, I celebrate her life (as I know we all do) and her contributions to this organization and to me personally.
President Maurer: Now here is the person who joined the Federation perhaps before all of us, Dr. Floyd Matson. He met Dr. and Mrs. tenBroek in 1948.
I am making these remarks brief upon request. As the story goes, Jacobus and Hazel first met on a blind date. Whether or not it happened, the story has almost achieved the status of an urban legend. The question is whether or not it is true. Some people maintain that if it isn't true, it ought to be. Not necessarily. I think the legend seems very unlikely. Professor tenBroek was a serious man about such things. Most probably he would not at all have approved of his own participation in such a prank--as in boy's bad joke, as indeed it would have been if it had come off. In this light the story seems less cute, less dramatic and begins to look like nothing more or less than a rude joke.
What we do know was that this marriage between the two, Chick and Hazel, was no joke. It was in truth the most uncomplicated, the most harmonious, the most continuously winning and successful and undefeated union between two people. As I have known, over a considerable lifetime, people of all sorts of merit, I consider this marriage in a class by itself. Their union was singular in its persistence and its purity. It was purely a game of hearts and a game in which both were winners--Chick and his devoted bride and wife, Hazel.
President Maurer: One of Hazel tenBroek's students and friends was the man who has come to serve in many capacities throughout the United States, and partly he has been able to do so because of what Hazel tenBroek taught him. Here is Fred Schroeder:
I met Hazel tenBroek when I was seventeen years old. I have so many memories of time spent with her, learning from her, being encouraged by her. The thing I would like to remember this evening is that Mrs. tenBroek took time for the students, for the young people. We so often hear the term "mentor" these days that perhaps it is overused. But she was truly a mentor. She helped me write the first resolution that I ever wrote. She invited me many times to her home and to meetings where she thought I might be able to learn. As students we were traveling on a budget. At my first national convention I had $5 a day for food. Many times I found my way to Mrs. tenBroek's room for the sourdough bread and salami and cheese that she always had for anyone who came by.
Finally I want to recall one thing that I will always remember. I was asked to give congressional testimony on Social Security. At the time I was perhaps eighteen or nineteen years old. Mrs. tenBroek told me that she would help me with that testimony, which I sorely needed. After we had finished all of the technical arguments, she added a sentence that in my mind sums up the National Federation of the Blind more clearly than just about anything else I have ever heard. The sentence was this: "We want no safe place in the shadow of nonparticipation." I have carried these words in my mind and in my heart for all these years. When I think of Mrs. tenBroek, I will always remember her profound ability to encapsulate in a few words the essence of the National Federation of the Blind: "We want no safe place in the shadow of nonparticipation."
President Maurer then returned to the microphone to conclude the tribute. This is what he said:
Mrs. Hazel tenBroek, the
beloved wife of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the founder of and its first president,
died on October 7, 2005.
She attended the founding meeting of the Federation in 1940 and served as acting secretary for its second gathering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1941. She was exceedingly active in the organization throughout Dr. tenBroek's life, but she was no less active after his death. Her last convention was 1998 in Dallas, and she would have attended those that followed if her physical condition had made it possible.
Throughout Dr. tenBroek's life Hazel served as his alter ego. She was his helper, his supporter, a primary research assistant, and a drafter of documents; but she was more than this implies. She helped him make the path, but she also imagined the path with him. He made speeches and wrote articles about our movement, but she helped him imagine the speeches and think of the content of the articles. The spirit of our movement is in substantial part her spirit; the future we have come to enjoy is in no small measure the future she helped us imagine.
The minutes of our 1941 convention contain, among other things, this information: The following telegrams were read to the convention by Mrs. tenBroek:
"Congratulations. Success to your convention. Hope to have your national convention convene in Des Moines in 1942."
Ike Smaller, Des Moines Association for the Blind.
"The division for the blind for the California State Department of Social Welfare extends cordial greetings to the delegates at the National Federation Convention and hopes that every success may attend your deliberations."
Perry Conduits, chief, Division for the Blind, California State Department of Social Welfare.
Contained in the minutes recorded in 1941 is the estimate that expenditures for the organization during the next year would amount to $5,500. Adjusted for inflation, the budget for the Federation from 1941 to 1942 would have been $72,464.
Speaking in 1965, Dr. tenBroek commented about the period of the 1940's, saying, "The Federation was not born with a silver spoon in its mouth…. We had the philosophy and the programs, but we lacked the membership and the means. The workers were few and the cupboard was bare. Each month, if I may be personal for a moment, as we received our none too bountiful salary as a young instructor at the University of Chicago Law School, Hazel and I would distribute it among the necessaries of life: food, clothing, rent, Federation stamps, mimeograph ink, and other supplies.
"So did we share our one-room apartment. The mimeograph paper took far more space in our closet than did our clothes. We had to move the mimeograph machine before we could let down the wall bed to retire at night. If on a Sunday we walked along Chicago's lake front for an hour, four or five fewer letters were written and our output dropped for that day below twenty-five."
Mrs. tenBroek became associate editor of the Braille Monitor, the primary journal of the National Federation of the Blind, shortly after Dr. tenBroek's death in 1968. She continued managing this publication through 1976. Following her retirement, Mrs. tenBroek continued as an active member of the Federation in each of the state affiliates where she lived.
At the time of Mrs. tenBroek's retirement, she expressed the view that had been a central part of her life and thought. She said: "We must look to the past only for such strength as it gives to go forward with the work we must all do. It would be misleading to say that I won't miss the intellectual stimulation of working with President Jernigan or the relationships that grew with the wonderful people who worked on the Berkeley office staff or the thrill of seeing the Monitor come off the presses each month or the groans that accompanied the discovery of errors. Of course I will miss these things. When all is said and done, I am retiring only as associate editor. It is impossible for me to retire from the Federation, for it runs deep in my blood and being. I am at your service whenever you think I can perform some useful duty."
At the 1990 convention Mrs. tenBroek described the activities of the 1940's--the bringing in of state affiliates, the need for federal legislation, the necessity for creating the magazine for which she eventually served as associate editor. She told us that Dr. tenBroek, who had been known as "Chick," acquired this nickname as a result of misunderstanding. The students at the school for the blind thought his name was "Chicobus."
I don't know when I first met Mrs. tenBroek. It was certainly very early in my participation in the Federation, in 1969 or 1970. From my perspective she was a figure to inspire awe. However, when I came to know her better, the friendship we shared gave me much satisfaction. Hazel tenBroek invited me to her apartment for dinner, urged me to visit her hotel room for a chat, and shared her warmth and determination wherever we met. I appreciated the food she offered (especially when I was a young and mostly hungry student), but I also appreciated her wit--her insatiable enthusiasm, her willingness to poke fun at the fallacies which so often surround the subject of blindness, her faith that working with each other we could achieve the success we so fervently sought. Part of what we are has been created by Hazel tenBroek. We will be placing her portrait on permanent display in the tenBroek Library at the National Center for the Blind. The first of our first ladies, an irrepressible laborer in the vineyard of our success, an inspiration to us all, Hazel tenBroek!
That was the memorial remembrance that took place during the banquet. On August 7 Mrs. tenBroek's ashes were interred at Dr. tenBroek's gravesite in the Rolling Hills Cemetery in Richmond, California, near Oakland. President Maurer was present to represent the National Federation of the Blind. This is what he said:
In 1969 Mrs. Hazel tenBroek made her first formal presentation to the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. By coincidence this was the first time I ever heard her voice. I was new to the organization, I had been aware that it existed for only two weeks, and I did not know of Hazel tenBroek's long history, extensive service, and magnificent contributions. Hazel tenBroek was then associate editor of the Braille Monitor, the monthly publication of the National Federation of the Blind, having joined the staff of the Federation after Dr. Jacobus tenBroek's death in 1968.
In Hazel's speech of 1969, she talked of the daily work of producing materials to spread the word about the Federation spirit, the spirit that she spent decades of her life building. In the first five and a half months of that year she mailed out 45,000 letters, produced 10,000 copies of the Braille Monitor each month, and distributed thousands of legislative releases. Much of her work may have seemed mundane--tracking down proper zip codes, maintaining mailing lists, operating office machinery. However, included in her tasks were creating responses to college students and other blind individuals about the nature of blindness and the characteristics blind people possess. She mentioned distributing research to attorneys and judges throughout the nation. No task was too humble and no task was too daunting for this intrepid warrior.
I met Hazel tenBroek at my second national convention. This began a period of friendship that continued throughout the remainder of her life. I was inspired by her stories, and I loved to share the warmth and gentleness of her personality. But I could also count on something else. In her hotel room at convention food and drink could generally be found along with the warmth of conversation. In the early days I was trying to round up students to be part of our student division, and Hazel tenBroek could always be counted on for support as well as bread and cheese.
Her spirit shaped the lives of the blind for several generations, and it will continue to do so through the decades to come--for as long as the blind walk the earth.
by Fredric K. Schroeder
From the Editor: Wednesday morning, July 5, 2006, Dr. Fred Schroeder, who serves as president of the NFB of Virginia and who had just been elected first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind, came to the platform to deliver the following speech:
The great author Elie Wiesel once wrote of a poet who was asked to name the one item that he would save from his home were it ever to catch on fire. The poet answered that he would save the fire, for without fire life would not be worthwhile.
We have just heard from the directors of our three orientation centers. While each is unique, they share a common bond, a common purpose, a common driving force--something more than a common curriculum or common teaching methodology--they share a philosophy, a passion for what they do, and an unshakable belief in the ability of blind people to live normal, productive lives. They share the fire--the fire that is the National Federation of the Blind.
We have adopted the name "structured discovery" to describe what we do and to differentiate it from the conventional approach to blindness training, but we could as easily call it the "National Federation of the Blind method." For structured discovery is a teaching methodology, but it is also a philosophy. It begins with high expectations and is rooted in the belief that blind people can learn to travel, learn to read and write, learn to cook and clean, and participate fully in society.
Of course conventional programs say that they too have high expectations and that they too believe that blind people can learn to be independent and participate in society. They use the same words, but they do not mean what we mean. Of course the idea of words having more than one meaning is not new. Several years ago I came across a number of newspaper headlines that, intentionally or not, carried double meanings, double interpretations, making the point that the same words can convey more than one message. Here are a few examples:
Include Your Children
When Baking Cookies
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Drunks Get Nine Months in Violin Case
New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
Words with more than one meaning. Sometimes the double meaning is intentional, and sometimes it is not. Sometimes it is merely entertaining, and sometimes it is gravely serious. We in the National Federation of the Blind speak of independence; other programs do as well. We talk of helping blind people live productive lives, and so do they. But we know that using the same words is not enough. It does not mean that conventional programs believe what we believe. Let me read to you a number of statements taken from the literature of various adult blindness training programs from across the country. Some are statements taken from the brochures of our centers, and some are taken from the brochures of conventional programs, among them some of the least effective. See if you can tell them apart.
1. We are "committed
to the concept of the independence of blind people and to promoting the belief
in their ability to lead independent lives."
2. We "help people who are blind...learn how to function independently and to live full, productive lives with dignity and respect."
3. "We teach the skills that blind people need to become independent and employable."
4. We are "committed to a strong, positive, constructive philosophy concerning blindness."
5. We provide "an environment of hope and encouragement for people who are blind."
6. "Underlying all instruction is the belief that education and rehabilitation are much more than the simple teaching of skills."
So there you have it. Six statements of hope, six statements of belief in the ability of blind people. The words of the most effective indistinguishable from the words of the most repressive. In our centers we teach Braille, we teach cane travel, and these days we teach computer technology. But of course so do they. Conventional programs also teach Braille and cane travel and computer technology. And they tell us that they push their students and have high expectations for them. They tell us that they do what we do, that there is no difference. Our good friend and longtime Federationist Dr. Ruby Ryles calls this the "we-do-that syndrome."
So is there a difference? Of course there is. The difference is that we mean it when we say we believe in blind people; we mean it when we say we believe that, given training and opportunity, blind people can live normal lives on terms of equality with others. The difference lies, not in the words themselves, but in what is meant by the words; it is the fire behind the words, the fire within the words--the fire that is the National Federation of the Blind.
That is why what we do works. We change blind people's lives--not just a few and not just occasionally, but person after person, day after day. But instead of seeking to understand, seeking to learn, conventional programs try to explain away their poor results. They say that our success comes from the fact that we pick and choose who we take; they say we accept only the most promising, the most motivated, the most likely to succeed, while they, on the other hand, work with all blind people, not just the best and the brightest.
They tell us that their clients have many problems in addition to blindness that limit their ability, that if they worked with only the highest-functioning blind people, they would have the same success we have. What a sad yet revealing way of thinking! Not only is it untrue, it shows that they believe that true independence--the possibility of living an integrated, productive life--is for only the exceptional blind person, the select few, the blind person with the greatest potential unhampered by other disabilities. But of course that is not true, and we do not pick and choose. Our centers work with all blind people because we believe in all blind people, because our centers share the fire--the fire that is the National Federation of the Blind.
Tiffany Lozono lost her vision as a result of a brain injury that also caused impaired mobility requiring her to use a wheelchair. The brain injury also affects her short-term memory and has left her with an intermittent speech disorder. Tiffany is a recent graduate of the Colorado Center for the Blind and now lives independently and works as a blindness technology trainer.
James Ard worked at Grambling University for twenty-two years before losing his sight to the complications of diabetes. In addition to blindness James experienced numerous related health problems. After graduating from the Louisiana Center for the Blind, James returned to his former position as a senior business manager at Grambling.
Craig Roisum is a graduate of BLIND, Inc. Craig is deaf-blind, is a former national scholarship winner, and is now in school working on a degree in geophysics. In the meantime, he performs contract work in the heating and cooling industry.
And there are many others. We have had students who use wheelchairs, students with traumatic brain injuries, students with shunts, students who stutter, students with cognitive disabilities, students with learning disabilities, students with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, students who are deaf-blind, and students who are double and even triple amputees. And we have worked with at least one child of whom I am aware who has Asperger syndrome, a condition similar to autism.
Our success cannot be explained away by claims that we take only the elite, the super blind; but more to the point, what we do cannot be replicated without an understanding of what it is that makes our centers different from other programs, without recognizing that what sets us apart, what makes us successful is our belief in blind people, our high expectations. It is the fire--the fire that is the National Federation of the Blind.
Yet the we-do-that syndrome persists. Lacking the fire, they look to the mechanics--the things that seem to be different in our approach. They know that we believe in using blindfolds. They know we use long canes--canes much longer than the convention. Yet without trying to understand the why, they mimic the procedures. Then they say that they use blindfolds too, not with everyone, but with a few; and they use longer canes, not with everyone, but with those who they decide need them. So now they are just like us--no difference.
At best such a view is naive. At worst it is dishonest and harmful. It implies that we are dogmatic while they are open to many approaches, that we treat everyone the same while they adapt to individual needs, that we force everyone to accept our beliefs and methods while they respect individual choice, the right of people to select for themselves which teaching method is best. It allows them to be self-satisfied and smug, professional and superior, and it allows them to avoid facing the simple fact that what we do works--not just for a few and not just for the elite, but for the ordinary blind person. It allows them to continue doing what they are doing without the need for self-examination or comparison; and it allows them to ignore the striking difference in results between our approach and theirs.
What conventional programs do not understand--will not understand--is that what has made us effective is our conviction; it is our passion; it is the fire--the fire that is the National Federation of the Blind. It is the fire that makes the difference. Our success comes from putting into practice what we believe, putting into practice our commitment, our collective energy, and imagination; it comes from encouraging all blind people, those with additional disabilities and those without, the old and the young, the motivated and the unmotivated.
That does not mean that
every conventional program is bad. Some are better than others, and a handful
are quite good. A few are working hard to change, and I hope others will follow.
But those who truly want to change, want to make a real difference need to understand
that a passing effort is not enough, lip service is not enough, and claims that
they do what we do does not make it so. Meaningful change takes commitment and,
most important, the openness and willingness to learn what it is that makes
The structured discovery method--the National Federation of the Blind method--is our philosophy put into action. It is the expression of our belief in blind people, and it is the depth of that belief, the passion, the fervor, the intensity of that belief. It is the fire--the fire that is the National Federation of the Blind. No worthy or unworthy, no one cast aside or left behind, no chosen elite, no select few.
To continue the progress, to meet the challenges ahead, to remain true to ourselves, we must strive continually to deepen our commitment and strengthen our shared belief in the ability of blind people. Said another way, we must work together to save the FIRE--the fire that is the National Federation of the Blind--for, as Elie Wiesel's poet so wisely observed, without the fire, life would not be worthwhile.
by Kevan Worley
From the Editor: Tuesday afternoon, July 4, Kevan Worley, chairman of the NFB Imagination Fund Committee, reported on Imagination Fund activity for the preceding year and unfolded some exciting plans for the year to come. This is what he said:
Thank you, Dr. Maurer, members of our national board of directors, Mrs. Jernigan, Institute Director Zaborowski, Imaginators, and fellow Federationists. Dolores, are you ready? Are you ready to imagine the flame, the spirit that builds our future? Each year your Imagination Fund steering committee awards an Imaginator of the Year. A person who through energy, creativity, and good old hard work has helped to fan the flame of progress, educating members of the public and gaining donations for our NFB Jernigan Institute. This year the committee is very proud to recognize Dolores Reisinger of our Iowa affiliate, where the roots of Federationism indeed grow deep in the soil (isn't that right, Peggy?). Here is your Imaginator of the Year for 2006, Dolores Reisinger. [Dolores was then handed an acrylic crystal statue about ten inches high, surmounted by a star. Etched in the statue were the words, "Imaginator of the Year, 2006, Dolores Reisinger." The NFB logo was etched in the base.]
Thank you, Dolores.
It is indeed a pleasure for me to serve again as chair of our Imagination Fund campaign and as the master of ceremonies of our Imagination campaign report and kick-off rally. Are you ready? Are you ready to honor many affiliates and individual Imaginators who have helped us throughout our '05-'06 Imagination Fund campaign? You know that the flame that is our Federation spirit truly burns bright. I would like to share with you the top ten state affiliates:
10. Illinois, $4,691
9. Kentucky, $5,327
8. Florida, $5,460
7. New Jersey, $5,501
6. California, $6,055
5. Arizona, $7,173
4. Massachusetts, $7,830
3. Connecticut, $27,126.89
2. Colorado, $44,060
1. Maryland, $62,305
Congratulations to the top ten and to all affiliates who participated in this last campaign.
Now let's credit our top
ten Imaginators of the ‘05-‘06 campaign, and they are:
10. Dolores Reisinger, $1,748
9. Ed Vaughan, $1,850
8. Chris Danielson, $2,260
7. Patricia Maurer, $4,130
6. Betsy Zaborowski, $4,295
5. Charlie Allen, $4,762
4 Amy Phelps and Scott LaBarre, $5,000 each
3. John Paré, $7,500
2. Mary Ellen Jernigan, $12,650
1. Kevan Worley, $23,034
Let us also pay tribute to our talented, hard working, gifted, and giving National Center for the Blind staff. Are you ready for this amount? Our National Center staff donated $57,425.71. Isn't that sensational? Sensational but not surprising. Thank you. Many, many of you worked hard to make this campaign successful. Now are you ready for the grand total from the 2005-2006 Imagination Fund campaign? $315,982.28
Remember that 50 percent of all of the money raised during our Imagination Fund annual campaign funds the imaginative, important work, the big ideas at our NFB Jernigan Institute. Twenty-five percent of the dollars raised is divided equally among our fifty-two affiliates. This year each affiliate is being handed a check in the amount of $1,519.15. Along with your check, state presidents or delegates are being provided critical information about our next Imagination Fund campaign and the process we will use for the dissemination of additional grant dollars for special Imagination-funded projects. Remember that 25 percent of all dollars raised through our Imagination Fund is made available for special projects. We urge affiliates to apply for these grants.
For example, making sure that the flame of Federationism burns bright on the Internet, here is National Board Member Joe Ruffalo to tell us how the New Jersey affiliate used grant money from our Imagination Fund. [The musical introduction to a radio program then began playing over the public address system, and an announcer introduced Joe Ruffalo as the host of the Internet broadcast, Through Our Eyes.org. Joe then described how Imagination Fund grant monies helped launch this Internet broadcast.] Thank you, New Jersey President Joe Ruffalo. This is a project that exemplifies our NFB spirit and imagination.
In our Florida affiliate, grant dollars made sure families of blind children received necessary support. Here is Sheryl O'Brien: [Sheryl O'Brien then introduced Debby Brackett. They talked about the parent seminar conducted at the state convention and the new parents division which was established this spring with Imagination Fund grant money. They also described how lives are being changed.] Thank you, Florida team, for using grant dollars to make sure that the spirit of our movement burns bright for blind children. Now here is Beth Underwood from Big Sky Country to share Camp Eureka with us. [Bird and nature sounds then played while Beth Underwood, who was the key player in developing Camp Eureka for blind kids, and Dan Burke, president of the Montana affiliate, had fun delighting the audience with their exchange about Camp Eureka.] Beth and Dan, thank you, that work would not have happened without collaboration with the NFB Jernigan Institute, our affiliate action team, and our Montana affiliate. We are proud of what you are doing to make sure blind kids learn about nature and have unique experiences, kindling that flame of exploration and imagination. These are the kinds of projects we have supported and must support through this Imagination Fund campaign.
Now we know that the flame burns bright in Indiana. Here is national board member and affiliate president Ron Brown. [Ron then spoke briefly about a how-to and philosophy-of-blindness seminar that the Indiana affiliate held at the Indiana School for the Blind and funded with Imagination Fund dollars.] Thank you, Ron. Bringing more blind people into the movement, developing unique partnerships, that too is what we are all about.
We have just featured four diverse, innovative projects that will have lasting impact. This past year Imagination grant dollars funded twenty-eight projects, NFB projects that are making a difference. Earlier this afternoon you heard about the exciting, big ideas happening at our NFB Jernigan Institute. Earlier this afternoon you also heard Dr. Maurer's annual presidential report, and again this year what a wonderful, wonderful report. Thank you, Dr. Maurer.
Are you ready to help us raise the dollars? To help us continue this imaginative and necessary work? To fan the flames of progress? I can tell you that I am. Dolores, are you ready? Beth, Joe, Ron, Sheryl, are you ready to imagine the flame, the spirit that builds our future? Announcing our 2006-2007 annual Imagination Fund campaign. We want, need, and deeply appreciate all of your contributions and pledges all week throughout this convention, throughout the upcoming campaign. Please go to the Imagination Fund table and begin making them now. And by the way where is that Imagination Fund table? [a disorganized shout from the rear of the room] I'm sorry, where is that Imagination Fund table? [louder shout from several voices at the back]
Let's talk for a minute about how we can get our coworkers, friends, neighbors, family members, fraternal organizations, and others to support the imaginative and vitally important work we do in this organization. There are so many ways to fan the flames and fund this necessary work. There truly are. You have heard this afternoon about the big idea coming next summer, and won't that be a slam? Well, we have a lot of big ideas in the National Federation of the Blind. We always have had. Our philosophy was first, best articulated by Dr. tenBroek and then was boldly expanded by Dr. Jernigan and now with nuance and fullness by Dr. Maurer--a philosophy which in and of itself is a very big idea that should be universally accepted by both blind and sighted people. We must have big funding to expose and expand the big idea of our philosophy.
You can make a personal request of someone or several people you know who may now be outside our movement. Ask them to make a substantial investment in what you do, in what we do. Each of us should think hard and identify someone we know who may be in a position to make a large gift to our Imagination Fund campaign. Over this past campaign I've begun calling this the "big ask." Make a big ask to fund our big ideas. Think of a person or two or three from outside our organization who may be able and willing to donate a substantial gift of $5,000 or more to fund our big ideas. If you want help making the big ask, just ask me or other members of our steering committee. If you have someone in mind who you think should be approached, please talk to me. Perhaps you'll want me or someone from our committee to make the big ask with you. Great! We are ready. You can do this.
People always ask, "How do I become an Imaginator? How do I join the ranks of the more than nine hundred Imaginators who signed up during the '05-'06 campaign?" First of all, if you were an Imaginator during the recent campaign, thank you and please sign up again here and now, at this convention. Where is that Imagination Fund table? [shout from the rear]
How to Become an Imaginator
Agree to ask at least ten people to make a contribution, or make a substantial contribution or a pledge yourself to be paid prior to May 31, 2007. Are you ready? Please make a donation yourself, and agree to ask at least ten people to make a donation big or small. Be imaginative. Get out there and spread the word about the big ideas, the life-changing, society-altering philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind and our Jernigan Institute.
This year we are adding a new and exciting component to our Imagination Fund campaign. I believe this will become a very important aspect of our effort.
Imagination Fund Fellows Program
Anybody who gives $10,000 or more before May 31, 2007, may name an NFB Fellow for the year 2007. Anybody who gives from $5,000 to $9,999 before May 31, 2007, may name a 2007 Jernigan Institute Fellow. Anybody who gives from $1,000 to $4,999 before May 31, 2007, may name a Presidential Fellow. Donations of $1,000 or more must be received in a single envelope at the National Office, but if a group wishes to pool its resources to bestow the honor of being named a Fellow on someone in their community, this is up to the group.
Remember that the primary goal of the Imagination Fund is to solicit support from those who are not already active members of the Federation. This affords us a new way to honor and thank our friends as well as to continue to raise funds for the Imagination Fund. The names of 2007 Fellows--Presidential Fellows, Jernigan Institute Fellows, and NFB Fellows--will be printed in the 2007 NFB convention agenda and in the Braille Monitor. In addition each will receive an attractive plaque.
Federationists, when you go to the table throughout this week to join the ranks of Imaginators, you can also indicate your interest in becoming a campaign booster. Campaign boosters are those Imaginators who really get it done, who make the big asks, who ask at least ten people to contribute, and who go above and beyond by helping us promote this outreach campaign by serving on committees, work groups, thinking up the ideas, and getting the message out. Spreading our message is a critical part of this campaign. Please talk to your colleagues, family members, friends, neighbors, fellow students, seniors, fellow church members, customers, public officials, small business owners, and community leaders. Tell them about blindness, what it is and what it is not. Tell them about our work; about our special projects in New Jersey, Florida, Montana, Indiana, and in your own state and community; and tell them about the ground-breaking, historic, and imaginative work we do at our NFB Jernigan Institute. Offer each of those you visit the opportunity to contribute, to become an Imaginator himself or herself, to join with you and your colleagues to fan the flames, to fund the big ideas. Are you ready? Maybe at the next convention you will be the one selected by our steering committee as the Imaginator of the Year, following in the footsteps of Dolores Reisinger.
We need to reach outside of our organization to educate, inspire, and garner support from the public, but I know that many of our colleagues right here in this room may want to contribute to our big ideas to make them come true right now, here, today. I am now asking if any Federationists right now are ready to fan the flame by making a significant pledge or contribution of $5,000 or more from the floor of this convention. [At this point a number of Federationists stepped to the audience microphones to make gifts and pledges. The first was Charles Allen of Kentucky with a $5,000 pledge. Kevan concluded these presentations with the gift of a personal check for $10,000 and a pledge of another $1,500.]
Many of us contributed through the capital campaign to build our magnificent NFB Jernigan Institute. Now we simply must fund the big ideas that emanate from that institute. Are you ready? [cheers and applause] Are you ready? [louder cheers] Are you ready to take it to the next level? [sustained cheer] Please go to the Imagination Fund table. Where is that Imagination Fund table? [shout from the rear]
[At this point Kevan Worley announced that early in the morning of the opening day of next year's convention in Atlanta we will conduct a March for Independence. Together he and President Maurer explained that each person who marches will have raised at least $250. We will also invite leaders in Atlanta's business community to march with us. As plans for this event unfold in coming months, the Braille Monitor will carry the details.]
The flame of our Federation burns bright with imagination, energy, big ideas, spirit, and joy. What once was a spark became a flicker and is now the flame, the spirit that builds our future. Thank you, thank you. [As Kevan concluded his speech, Whozit, almost seven feet tall and in full Whozit colors, entered the ballroom and made his way up the aisle.]
by Sharon Maneki
From the Editor: Sharon Maneki chairs the Resolutions Committee. In the following article she briefly describes each resolution brought for consideration by the 2006 Convention. This is what she says:
The 2006 convention agenda had an intriguing title: "The Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader: The Revolution is Here!" I was struck by the appropriateness of this title as a description of our new portable reading machine. During the Resolutions Committee meeting on July 2, James Gashel, the director of strategic initiatives for the National Federation of the Blind, had the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader read his proposed resolution to the committee. The machine read the material without missing a word and with no pronunciation errors.
The term "revolutionary" applies not only to the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader, but also to the National Federation of the Blind. One definition of "revolution" is: a drastic and far-reaching change in ways of thinking and behaving. This definition certainly describes the philosophy of our movement. Our positive outlook on blindness was definitely revolutionary in 1940 when Dr. Jacobus tenBroek founded the Federation.
Each year the Convention considers resolutions to determine the policies and future goals of the organization. When attempting to categorize the resolutions passed at the 2006 convention, I found that some of them are definitely revolutionary, while others were better classified as evolutionary. Some resolutions are policy statements that have evolved over the years, while others represent new ways of thinking about blindness.
In my opinion the Convention passed two resolutions that may be considered revolutionary and ten that demonstrate an evolution in our thinking. Another theme in the 2006 resolutions was access, including access to programs, to independent travel, and to information. A summary of the 2006 convention resolutions follows.
Resolution 2006-01 will revolutionize opportunities for blind people through a Braille literacy campaign that we will conduct in accordance with the Louis Braille commemorative coin legislation. In this resolution we commend Congressmen Ney and Cardin and Senators Santorum and Dodd for working with us to promote this important legislation, which passed the House of Representatives on February 28, 2006, and passed the Senate on June 29, 2006. Through the Louis Braille coin campaign, the Federation resolves to welcome "all blind and sighted citizens to a country in which differences in the way citizens perform tasks like reading are seen as irrelevant to competence and success…." Jesse Hartle, a program specialist in the governmental affairs department of the National Federation of the Blind, who worked tirelessly on this legislation, was the proponent of resolution 2006-01.
Carrie Gilmer, secretary of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, introduced a revolutionary resolution, 2006-07. Teachers of blind students, their training programs, and the institutions that provide services to blind children and adults, often refer to themselves as "vision teachers," "vision classes," and "vision programs." In this resolution we condemn and deplore this practice and demand that professionals replace the term "vision" with the term "blind" when describing a program or activity. Replacing "vision" with the term "blind" will bring about a revolutionary change in thinking because it will indicate to blind students "that no shame attaches to their being blind, that eyesight is not the sole link to success, that the value and potential of human beings are completely unrelated to the possession of sight …."
Resolutions 2006-04 and
2006-06 are good examples of policies that have evolved over the years. Both
of these resolutions were sponsored by Peggy Elliott, second vice president
of the National Federation of the Blind and president of the Iowa affiliate.
Resolution 2006-04 affirms our long commitment to eliminate the minimum wage exemption for blind workers in the Fair Labor Standards Act. In this resolution we urge National Industries for the Blind and the United States Congress to work closely with us to ensure that all blind workers are paid at least the minimum wage.
Resolution 2006-06 advocates various reforms in the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Program. This program was established during the Depression to create jobs for blind people by allowing nonprofit agencies employing the blind to have a priority in the sale of products to the federal government. Recently the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) in the United States Senate uncovered numerous abuses in the JWOD Program. For instance, two billion dollars in sales to the federal government yielded an annual average wage to blind and disabled employees of merely eight thousand dollars. The Federation has a long history of seeking reform in this program. The interest of the HELP Committee provides the Federation with a new opportunity to urge reform. Resolution 2006-06 outlines the various reforms that we will seek in Congress.
Several years ago the Convention passed a resolution concerning the danger of quiet cars to all pedestrians but especially blind pedestrians. Noel Nightingale, a leader in the NFB of Washington introduced resolution 2006-05. This resolution represents an evolution of our position on the quiet-car problem. In this resolution we call on Congress, the executive branch, and car manufacturers to mandate that vehicles emit sound. The resolution also describes various necessary characteristics of the sound to ensure safe travel for pedestrians.
The following resolutions
demonstrate both evolution and access to programs. Kevan Worley, president of
the National Association of Blind Merchants, sponsored resolution 2006-02. In
1982 Congress made blind vendors in the Randolph-Sheppard Program the exclusive
purveyors of food and beverages on the interstate highway system. Recently the
United States Department of Transportation published a notice of proposed rule
making for a new pilot program called the Interstate Oasis Program. This proposal
had no provisions for the participation of blind vendors. The Interstate Oasis
Program will be in direct competition with blind vendors because it allows others
to offer food, beverages, and other services near the interstate highway system.
In resolution 2006-02 we call upon the United States Department of Transportation
to facilitate the participation of blind vendors in the Interstate Oasis Program.
The Convention passed two resolutions regarding the Library of Congress's Books for the Blind Program, one of the oldest federal programs serving blind Americans. The National Federation of the Blind has been a strong advocate for this program for many years. Two resolutions were necessary because of recent attacks on the program.
Jim Gashel proposed resolution 2006-12. In this resolution we express our continued support for the plan to convert Talking Books produced by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped from analog technology to digital technology. We also urge Congress to provide the necessary funding for this modernization of the Talking Book Program.
Brandon Young, a senior at the University of Hawaii and a summer intern at the Jernigan Institute, introduced resolution 2006-10. Under present law funds allocated to the Books for the Blind Program cannot be transferred and used for any other purpose within the Library of Congress. Unfortunately the United States House of Representatives included language in its appropriation bill that would allow other uses for the Books for the Blind by the Librarian of Congress. The Senate version of the appropriations bill does not contain this damaging language. In resolution 2006-10 we urge Congress to follow the Senate lead by ensuring that funding proposed for the Books for the Blind Program may not be used for any other purpose.
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) is placing the guaranteed public access rights of blind people who use guide dogs in jeopardy because of its overly broad definition of a service animal. DOT includes emotional support or comfort animals in its definition of a service animal for purposes of air travel. Emotional support animals are not considered service animals for other modes of public transportation such as buses and trains. Owners of emotional support animals are falsely claiming public access rights to all places of public accommodation because of the United States Department of Transportation's overly broad definition. Many emotional support animals may not have had training for proper behavior in public places. Priscilla Ferris, president of the National Association of Guide Dog Users, and Michael Hingson, a Federationist and official of a guide dog school, brought this problem to our attention by introducing resolution 2006-08. In this resolution we call upon the United States Department of Transportation to create a separate definition for emotional support animals that preserves the distinction between these animals and service animals.
The Convention passed three resolutions regarding access to information. Cary Supalo, a past NFB scholarship winner and tenBroek Fellow, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Blind Students, and a member of the board of directors of the NFB of Pennsylvania, and Mark Riccobono, director of education for the Jernigan Institute, sponsored resolution 2006-03. In this resolution we strongly urge the College Board and the Educational Testing Service to ensure greater nonvisual access to online Advance Placement materials and practice tests. The resolution further stipulates that blind students who require testing materials in accessible formats should not face delays in the test-administration process.
Bob Ray, president of the Merchants Division in Iowa, introduced resolution 2006-09. Automatic Products International, a leading manufacturer of vending machines in the United States, has discontinued production of an interface device for its coffee maker that allowed vendors to use a speech synthesizer to operate the equipment independently. In this resolution we affirm our commitment to work with manufacturers to promote the creation of accessible vending machine equipment. We also urge state licensing agencies to include speech access as a main criterion in determining which vending equipment to purchase for its programs.
Two former scholarship winners introduced resolution 2006-11. Stacy Cervenka, who works for the United States Senate, and Mike Mellow, who works for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, have difficulty performing their duties because their agencies use BlackBerry personal digital assistants (PDAs) as a major form of communication. BlackBerry products are not accessible to the blind. In resolution 2006-11 we call upon Congress to urge Research in Motion, the manufacturer of BlackBerry, promptly to make its products accessible to the blind. We also urge the federal government to enforce section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act vigorously "to make BlackBerry products accessible to all federal employees, including the blind."
This brief summary is merely an introductory description of the resolutions considered and passed by the Convention. Readers should study the complete text of each resolution to understand fully our policy on these subjects. The complete texts of all resolutions approved by the Convention follow.
Regarding Louis Braille Coin Literacy Campaign
WHEREAS, Congress has just passed legislation that will promote the use of Braille and also help to improve the shockingly low literacy rate of blind people through a nationwide Braille literacy campaign in conjunction with the minting of a commemorative coin honoring the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of the inventor of the Braille system, Louis Braille; and
WHEREAS, this legislation was so widely supported and so well advocated that Congress completed its passage in barely over a year from its initial introduction in the House on June 13, 2005: H.R. 2872 passed the United States House of Representatives on February 28, 2006, and S. 2321 was passed by the United States Senate on June 29, within five months of its introduction; and
WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind offers commendation to Congressmen Bob Ney of Ohio and Ben Cardin of Maryland in the House of Representatives and Senators Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Chris Dodd of Connecticut for their commitment to working with us to enact this fundamentally important legislation for all blind Americans; and
WHEREAS, we the blind recognize that Braille is among the most important alternative techniques we use, along with independent travel skills, adaptive technology, and daily living skills, in order to compete on a level playing field with our sighted neighbors; and
WHEREAS, the literacy campaign authorized by the coin legislation and made possible by its passage provides a stellar opportunity for blind people to educate the whole of society about the importance Braille plays in the lives of successful blind people but also to illustrate in a powerful way that, while blind people perform some tasks differently, this difference does not mean inferiority and therefore should be celebrated as a part of the diversity that characterizes the American experience: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization thank Congressmen Ney and Cardin and Senators Santorum and Dodd for their leadership on the Louis Braille commemorative coin legislation; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization aggressively develop a nationwide Braille literacy campaign focused on making the gift of literacy more available to blind Americans, a gift recognized worldwide as an important component of taking one's place and exercising responsibility as citizens in society today; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization dedicate itself through the Louis Braille coin campaign to welcoming all blind and sighted citizens to a country in which differences in the way citizens perform tasks like reading are seen as irrelevant to competence and success and are celebrated as integral parts of our large and diverse American nation.
Regarding Participation of Blind Vendors in the Interstate Oasis Program
WHEREAS, what blind people know as the Kennelly Amendment was incorporated into the Surface Transportation Amendments of 1982 to create opportunities for licensed blind vendors to manage vending machines located on the interstate system's right-of-way, assuring that blind vendors are the exclusive purveyors of foods and beverages on the interstate highway system; and
WHEREAS, roadside rest-area vending has become an extremely important component of the business enterprise programs of virtually all states as well as an outstanding career opportunity for 20 percent of blind operators under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, which provides a priority for blind merchants to operate food service on federal property; and
WHEREAS, since passage of the Kennelly Amendment numerous state governments through legislation or departments of transportation have attacked the exclusivity of this program with the intent to replace blind vendors with commercial firms in order to acquire new and lucrative revenue streams for state treasuries, although it is universally agreed that America's blind roadside food service managers do an outstanding job of providing service; and
WHEREAS, Section 1310 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), Public Law 109-59, establishes a pilot program known as the Interstate Oasis Program for which the U.S. Department of Transportation published a notice of proposed rule making, which fails to offer any participation in the Oasis Program for licensed blind vendors; and
WHEREAS, although participants in the Interstate Oasis Program will not be located on interstate rights-of-way, but instead very near interstates, and because they are encouraged to offer a vast array of foods and beverages in diverse settings along with several other travel-related services, most of which blind vendors are not allowed to offer, the Oasis Program will directly compete with and sharply reduce the income earned by blind vendors on interstate rights-of-way; and
WHEREAS, to preserve the opportunities created by the Kennelly Amendment for blind operators, "direct competition" in this instance should be defined as an oasis within twenty-five miles of a roadside rest-area location of a licensed blind vendor to provide compensation as the Randolph-Sheppard Act mandates whenever direct competition occurs: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization publicly reaffirm its commitment to opportunities available to blind vendors in the rest areas along the interstate highway system by calling upon the United States Department of Transportation to facilitate participation of vendors licensed under the Randolph-Sheppard Act in the Interstate Oasis Program; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that the U.S. Department of Transportation in its implementation of the oasis pilot program follow the Randolph-Sheppard Act by defining and enforcing direct-competition compensation rules in those instances in which blind vendors are not participants in the Oasis Program.
Regarding Access to Advanced Placement Testing and Practice Materials
WHEREAS, the College Board owns the Advanced Placement (AP) set of examinations given to high school students seeking admission into postsecondary educational institutions; and
WHEREAS, the College Board contracts with the Educational Testing Service (ETS) to administer AP exams to tens of thousands of high school students each year; and
WHEREAS, these exams are offered in a wide range of subjects from U.S. history and English to mathematics and chemistry; and
WHEREAS, students who successfully take and pass these exams can secure college credit for their achievement before graduating from high school, saving these students and their families thousands of dollars in college tuition; and
WHEREAS, an essential part of preparing for these exams is the use of practice materials and sample test forms available to teachers and students by download on the Internet from Web sites such as <http://apcentral.collegeboard.com/>; and
WHEREAS, the downloadable versions of these study materials are available in image file formats only, rendering them virtually useless to the blind; and
WHEREAS, these materials are especially critical in advanced math- and science-related subjects, subjects historically hard for blind students to enter and for this very reason subjects now being especially emphasized for blind students; and
WHEREAS, the College Board and ETS have made only a minimal effort to make a few practice materials easily and quickly available to blind students in accessible formats such as Braille, leaving blind students with significantly less practice material with which to prepare as compared with their sighted peers; and
WHEREAS, the College Board has similarly failed to make a sufficient number of actual AP exams available in accessible formats, relegating some blind students to waiting lists and delaying the time between preparation and test administration: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization strongly urge the College Board and Educational Testing Service to work with the National Federation of the Blind to ensure greater nonvisual access to online AP practice materials and sample tests; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge the College Board and ETS to work closely with the National Federation of the Blind to develop strategies for better estimating the need for accessible AP tests and for ensuring more timely delivery of AP test materials so that blind students experience no delays in test administration.
Regarding Elimination of the Minimum Wage Exemption
WHEREAS, America's blind citizens created our own organization in 1940 to work our way into our country's mainstream through our own efforts; and
WHEREAS, through our collective efforts our progress has been steady and positive over the last six and a half decades with both laws and social attitudes concerning the blind continuing to improve; and
WHEREAS, one law stands out in stark contrast to this steady progress, a law that brands every blind citizen as second-class and unequal; and
WHEREAS, this law is the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a law which most Americans think is the guarantor of a minimum wage to Americans but which in reality guarantees that minimum wage only to able-bodied Americans; and
WHEREAS, even most blind Americans today do not know that the Fair Labor Standards Act authorizes payment of less than the minimum wage to any blind person, working in competitive contexts as well as sheltered ones, with the creation of such minimal and casually reviewed paperwork that the exemption from minimum wage can quite literally be applied to any blind person and not just to those working in sheltered employment; and
WHEREAS, social change brought about by the advocacy of the National Federation of the Blind has all but eliminated the actual use of subminimum wages for blind workers, providing the absolute proof that this exemption is not fair when applied to blind people, setting aside its insult to every blind person; and
WHEREAS, until the definition in federal law that specifically exempts blind people from the minimum wage is eliminated, all blind Americans are by federal law branded as noncompetitive and unequal, regardless of their actual life circumstances; and
WHEREAS, an organization that allocates federal contracts to sheltered workshops for the blind, National Industries for the Blind, has recently endorsed this change in federal law, reaching the same conclusion as blind citizens that the exemption is unfair and unnecessary: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization put the whole weight of its mighty nationwide volunteer corps to the task of righting once and for all the wrong embodied in federal law that defines blind men and women as second-class under the Fair Labor Standards Act, by achieving congressional amendment of the Act; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization work closely with National Industries for the Blind to achieve this worthy goal for all of America's blind workers.
Regarding Quiet Cars
WHEREAS, electric vehicles operate on batteries and are marketed as having the advantage of operating without the sound and smell of standard internal combustion engines, and hybrid vehicles combine conventional gas-powered engines with battery-powered electric motors and, when in the electric mode, also operate without making sound; and
WHEREAS, all pedestrians use the sound of traffic in combination with other techniques to travel safely, as evidenced by the fact that commercial trucks emit a sound when backing up to alert pedestrians to their presence; and
WHEREAS, blind people depend on the sound of traffic to travel independently and safely; and
WHEREAS, action must be taken to ensure that all vehicles emit a sound while turned on, and such a sound from all vehicles must be loud enough to be heard over the din of other ambient noise and to be heard from far enough away to allow pedestrians to travel safely, must be emitted both while the vehicle is in motion and while motionless, must change with speed, must not easily be disabled, must not be annoying but still emit a unique sound distinguishable from other noises, and must be uniform from model to model: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization declare that the only solution to the quiet car emergency is a continuous sound emitted by the vehicle itself; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization raise an alarm with car manufacturers, federal executive agencies, and the United States Congress about this emergency and demand that they act to ensure the safe and free travel of the blind and all other pedestrians.
Regarding Reform of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act
WHEREAS, the program now known as the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Program was established during the Depression to create jobs for blind people by allowing nonprofit agencies employing the blind to have priority in sales of products to the federal government as long as 75 percent of the labor hours worked directly on production of products at the agency were performed by blind persons; and
WHEREAS, JWOD was amended in 1971 to add those with other severe disabilities to the pool of workers and to add services in addition to products bought by the federal government as items eligible for priority, essentially the sole amendment in this nearly seventy-year-old law; and
WHEREAS, the priority and placement of contracts are administered by two central nonprofits, National Industries for the Blind (NIB) and NISH (formerly known as National Industries for the Severely Handicapped), mirroring the two separate systems of sheltered workshops employing the disabled, one for the blind and the other for those with other severe disabilities; and
WHEREAS, the two central nonprofits routinely decline to provide information about their programs and the agencies to which they allocate federal contracts on the ground that the central nonprofits are not arms of the federal government but are autonomous, making assessment of the program and accountability for the billions being spent almost impossible to perform; and
WHEREAS, the JWOD Program did for a time provide somewhat better employment opportunities to blind and otherwise severely disabled workers, but the law and practices under JWOD have not been fundamentally changed in nearly seventy years and have become outdated, not reflecting the growing complexity of federal procurement or vastly changed national policies on disability programming, which makes JWOD essentially a program from another era that urgently needs overhaul and oversight to eliminate abuses of the system; and
WHEREAS, some of these abuses include:
(1) to meet the 75 percent-hours-of-direct labor requirement, jobs may be split into three or four smaller jobs, generating more hours spent by blind or disabled workers, whose productivity is thus artificially capped;
(2) the resulting jobs are often paid as piece rate with the rates set so high that minimum wage can rarely be achieved;
(3) blind and disabled workers are kept on the shop floor and rarely advanced into management because they are more valuable in direct-labor jobs to qualify for the priority than they are as managers;
(4) the resulting jobs come and go, making employment of blind and disabled workers intermittent and present only to qualify for the federal priority; and
(5) the definition of people with other severe disabilities has been interpreted to be ridiculously elastic to qualify for the priority; and
WHEREAS, these practices have long been hidden behind a blizzard of paperwork through which it is almost impossible to learn the fundamental facts while program proponents routinely proclaim that they and their programs are dedicated to helping the disabled, all of which practices mean good jobs for some, but not for the blind and disabled workers; and
WHEREAS, the United States Senate's Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP Committee) has recently uncovered a whole second set of program abuses the Committee describes as "numerous examples of excessive executive compensation, lavish perquisites, conflicts of interest, and self-dealing" while media reports have fleshed out these findings as shockingly high salaries, manipulation of corporate shells for the personal benefit of able-bodied managers, and other financial shenanigans with the money intended to benefit disabled workers; and
WHEREAS, JWOD is now a program seriously out of control, blending antiquated language with no accountability, resulting in a situation in which $2 billion in sales to the federal government yields annual average wages to the blind and disabled employees of $8,000, a scandal recently exposed by the Senate HELP Committee, which demonstrates that the current JWOD Program is both financially and morally bankrupt, allowing some of its managers to grab millions of dollars while they pretend to care about the disabled and receive the plaudits of their communities for being so big-hearted; and
WHEREAS, it is time to end these abuses of worker opportunities and abuse of the American people's trust by amending JWOD in the following ways:
(1) remove the requirement that entities eligible for the priority in sales to the federal government be nonprofits, allowing both nonprofit and for-profit companies to establish eligibility;
(2) require that all entities seeking the priority agree specifically to the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, both of which have been disputed in the past;
(3) replace the 75 percent-direct-labor requirement with a requirement that the entity qualify for priority sales only if at least 51 percent of all compensation and benefits throughout the entire entity is paid to blind or disabled workers, if at least 51 percent of all full-and part-time jobs are held by blind or disabled workers, and if blind and disabled workers receive actual preference for promotion within the entity as a stated and implemented policy;
(4) provide that the entire entity must meet the 51-percent rules, including all divisions, wholly-owned subsidiaries, and any other corporate shell created to avoid application of the 51-percent rules;
(5) prohibit buying products and services from nonqualified companies and then selling exactly those same products or services which have not been made or packaged by blind or disabled workers to the federal government along with prohibiting qualifying entities from dealing with other companies owned by officers, directors, top managers, or families of these individuals;
(6) eliminate the temptation to be creative with the definition of "blindness" or "other disability," by defining as blind or disabled solely those individuals who are currently receiving or are currently eligible (except for resource tests) to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as a blind or otherwise disabled individual, placing the determination of disability outside JWOD and within a system that routinely makes such determinations for other unrelated and compelling interests, the Social Security Administration;
(7) eliminate the central nonprofits (NIB and NISH) from JWOD and replace them with administration of the JWOD Program by the Employment and Training Administration or another appropriate unit within the United States Department of Labor, achieving coordination with other employment programs and also vital public accountability;
(8) reconstitute the Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, a small federal agency with current JWOD oversight and administrative responsibilities, as a program oversight and policy committee having a majority of public members, a majority of whom are blind or otherwise severely disabled; and
WHEREAS, these sweeping proposals are needed to end the abuses of JWOD that have arisen within the program, including those abuses recently brought to light by the HELP Committee, and also to synchronize the original intent of JWOD with its daily effect on the lives of blind and disabled people: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization energetically seek congressional amendment of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act to restore the original intent and mission of the Act and to make real the original promise of good work, good-paying work, respectable work for blind and disabled Americans by ending abuses that have arisen in this seventy-year-old program, which can once again be progressive.
Regarding Elimination of "Vision" to Describe Blindness Professionals and Training
WHEREAS, the terms "teacher of blind students," "Braille teacher," "travel instructor," "department for the blind," and "nonvisual access to technology seminar" accurately and straightforwardly describe their purposes just as "math teacher," "teacher of foreign language," "department of music," and "astronomy seminar" clearly and accurately describe in a straightforward manner their purposes; and
WHEREAS, the terms "vision teacher," "vision class," "vision department," and "vision seminar or summit," etc., are wholly inaccurate by definition for the purpose of describing teachers of blind students; instruction in the alternative techniques of blindness; administrative centers of services for blind children, students, or adults; or seminars, workshops, or summits concerned with equal access and integration of the blind into the worlds of education, employment, and society at large; and
WHEREAS, with increasing frequency it has become the practice for many institutions of higher education that prepare teachers of blind students, school systems, and special education departments throughout the United States to refer to the instruction of blind children as "vision classes," and teachers of the blind often refer to themselves as "vision teachers" and their departments as "vision departments" and specialized gatherings such as seminars, conventions, summits, and workshops as "vision…"; and
WHEREAS, in addition to being patently wrong, this terminology conveys misleading notions--such as the idea that blind children can be taught to see--that sight is the best and most effective way for all children to gather information, and that a child's ability to learn is directly related to what he or she can see and serves to undermine the value and effectiveness of alternative techniques, which these professionals also teach and which the departments and programs exist to promote; and
WHEREAS, the term "vision" focuses on what blind students lack, rather than on their capabilities and the potential they can fulfill through the use of alternative techniques, causing them falsely to internalize notions that their value and opportunity are related to the amount of eyesight they possess; and
WHEREAS, the term "vision" is used to avoid the use of the word "blind," contributing to the general discomfort surrounding use of the word "blind" and its erroneous use as a stigmatizing term and further hindering the progress of blind people toward equality and full participation in society: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the city of Dallas, Texas, that this organization condemn and deplore use of the term "vision" to describe educators, programs, services, events, and institutions related to the instruction of blind children and adults; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization demand that these individuals and institutions replace their use of the word "vision" in this context with the word "blind" to indicate to our blind children that no shame attaches to their being blind, that eyesight is not the sole link to success, that the value and potential of human beings are completely unrelated to the possession of sight, and to make clear to them that through mastery of alternative techniques they can succeed and that the blind will choose what we call ourselves, our programs, our education, and our services.
Regarding the U.S. Department of Transportation's Definition and Classification of Emotional Support Animals
WHEREAS, the United States Department of Transportation is the federal agency responsible for developing rules and regulations concerning people with disabilities' right to travel with their service animals on all forms of public transportation; and
WHEREAS, the right to travel with a service animal in the cabin is guaranteed by the Air Carrier Access Act, (ACAA); and
WHEREAS, the Department of Transportation has developed two different definitions of service animals; and
WHEREAS, emotional support or comfort animals are presently classified as service animals for air travel under the ACAA, but not as service animals for other modes of public transportation such as buses and trains; and
WHEREAS, many blind people are partnered with specially tasked, trained guide dogs, the most commonly found service animal; and
WHEREAS, designating emotional support or comfort animals, which are not trained to perform tasks to benefit their disabled partners, as service animals for certain modes of transportation can only lead to confusion for the public, providers of transportation, and service animal partners; and
WHEREAS, many people with emotional support or comfort animals falsely claim public access rights to all places of public accommodation, including restaurants, hotels, and land transportation under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act because of the Department of Transportation's dual definitions of service animals; and
WHEREAS, animals that have not received training to perform tasks to mitigate their partners' disabilities may also not have had training for proper behavior in public places; and
WHEREAS, many guide dog handlers in the United States fear that their guaranteed public access rights will be jeopardized if this trend continues; and
WHEREAS, the Department of Transportation can, if it chooses, require carriage of emotional support animals on airlines under the ACAA and not require carriage by any other means of transportation, but this is bound to cause confusion for users of such animals and also in the public mind; and
WHEREAS, this confusion could easily be eliminated if the Department of Transportation used the well-known term "service animals" to refer to animals such as guide dogs that by law can be taken everywhere and a different term such as "support animals" for animals covered only by the ACAA and specifically addressed in the airline context: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization call upon the Department of Transportation to remove emotional support or comfort animals from the service animal category in all official publications and notices and develop a separate term and classification for such animals.
Regarding Speech for Managing Vending Machines
WHEREAS, for over twelve years the top manufacturers of automatic vending machines in the United States have offered for sale an interface device allowing a speech synthesizer to be connected to key operating elements of some vending machines, enabling blind vendors using this interface to perform key management operations independently that previously necessitated a human reader, such as setting prices within vending machines, keeping track of sales data, and correcting problems through the reading of diagnostic messages, because the machine can voice this key information through the interface; and
WHEREAS, Automatic Products International (API) has for many years been one company that has supported this concept and engineered its snack machines to work well with speech synthesizers; and
WHEREAS, when API released a new top-of-the line coffee machine that did not allow connection of speech synthesizers a few years ago, the company promised that the next version of the control board for its high-quality coffee machine would support speech; and
WHEREAS, when the new top-of-the-line API coffee machine was released earlier this year, it did not allow connection of speech synthesizers; and
WHEREAS, when asked why the promised upgrade was not provided, API officials stated that they probably wouldn't go ahead with plans for adding speech capability since so few speech-enabled machines were being purchased, thus making justification of the additional engineering expense impossible; and
WHEREAS, most state licensing agencies, responsible for administering a program creating job opportunities in food service and vending for blind merchants in a state-federal partnership program known as the Randolph-Sheppard program, do not seem to be aware of the interface device which can empower blind managers or, even worse, are saying that they will not consider purchasing the speech interface device because of the cost; and
WHEREAS, this short-sighted and penny-pinching attitude on the part of state licensing agencies overlooks two important factors: first, the cost they seek to avoid is in many cases $25 for a cable to connect vending machines to a speech synthesizer already owned by the blind manager and, second, many blind managers would be happy to pay the cost personally if they were aware of the availability of such devices, including the difference, if any, in cost of machines if the state licensing agency would order the right machines; and
WHEREAS, state licensing agencies should aggressively pursue all opportunities to improve earnings for every blind manager and foster independence along with a less costly (ongoing cost to employees compared to cost of equipment) method of completing management tasks by blind managers should be at the top of that list; and
WHEREAS, the current solution to accessing information in vending machines is neither perfect nor universal, but it has achieved a long step in the right direction, potentially moving the field of vending machine manufacture toward the goal of routinely engineering into all machines complete access through speech for every machine made in America; and
WHEREAS, the ignorance of state licensing agencies about this speech access along with their insistence on doing things on the cheap has nearly achieved elimination from the market of an important access device for blind vending machine managers; and
WHEREAS, individual blind managers and forward-looking state licensing agencies must immediately inform all blind managers of the opportunity for speech access to vending machines and begin spending money on such devices to preserve the current level of partial access and to move the market forward to complete access in time; and
WHEREAS, state licensing agencies manage millions of dollars to support this program and should be deliberately allocating funds to achieve this goal; and
WHEREAS, individual blind managers can improve their job performance and their bottom lines by insisting on having and using the speech devices as part of their strategies to improve themselves as managers and business owners: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization work with Automatic Products International and any other vending manufacturers to promote making vending equipment accessible to blind vendors by offering engineering and other assistance to accomplish this goal; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon all state licensing agencies systematically to use their power of large-dollar expenditures in the vending-machine market to promote speech access to the information needed by blind vending machine managers by including in their bid specifications for vending machines the information that speech access is strongly preferred and will be a deciding factor in vending-machine purchase and also make purchases of interface cables for each machine a standard accessory for the blind managers they serve.
Regarding the Budget for the Books for the Blind Program
WHEREAS, Congress will specifically allocate about $54 million for fiscal year 2007 to the Books for the Blind program within the budget of the Library of Congress; and
WHEREAS, under long-standing and present law, funds allocated to the Books for the Blind program cannot be transferred and used for any other purpose within the Library of Congress, a wise protection for the funds that produce a tiny fraction of print books each year in alternative media for blind readers; and
WHEREAS, this sum is a modest portion of the overall budget allocated to the entire Library of Congress, but the Librarian of Congress has long sought authority to poach on the funding for this vital program to blind people and has unfortunately succeeded this year in convincing the House of Representatives to include such authority in the instructions it has appended to its version of the appropriations bill, which would allow expenditure of Books-for-the-Blind money for library-wide training, technology, and other initiatives, instructions fortunately not included in the Senate version of the same bill, which is now in conference; and
WHEREAS, giving the Librarian of Congress authority to seize funding dedicated to the Books for the Blind program makes such seizure a certainty, sentencing blind people to fewer books because, as is obvious from his request, the Librarian wants newer, faster computers more than he wants to insure wide availability of books in alternative media for America's blind citizens; and
WHEREAS, though blind people derive some benefit from increased access to materials as a result of the information age, the Books for the Blind program remains the principal source of Braille, recorded, and soon-to-be-available digital books and magazines for blind readers nationwide; and
WHEREAS, the United States Senate can and should protect the Books for the Blind program from any and all attempts to reduce it, and the House of Representatives should recede from its ill-considered grant of authority to the Librarian of Congress: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization passionately urge the Senate to stand firm in the conference committee and the House of Representatives to abandon its position so that current law prohibiting the requisitioning of funds designated to the Books for the Blind program will remain in force and effect.
Regarding the Inaccessibility of BlackBerry Personal Digital Assistants to the Blind
WHEREAS, the BlackBerry personal digital assistant (PDA), manufactured by Research In Motion, is the de facto PDA used in all government agencies; and
WHEREAS, in Congress BlackBerries are the sole PDA option for all House of Representatives and Senate staff members because the Blackberry is the only PDA supported by the House and Senate servers; and
WHEREAS, in 1998 Congress amended the Rehabilitation Act to require federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities, which though not applicable to Congress and its agencies, nevertheless serves as a guideline; and
WHEREAS, several options make existing off-the-shelf PDAs accessible to blind people using screen-reading technology, but none of these existing PDA screen readers support BlackBerry products; and
WHEREAS, because the BlackBerry is the only PDA supported by the U.S. Congress's computer server and because of the unique functionality of BlackBerry products, there is no functionally equivalent alternative that blind congressional staffers or employees can use in government agencies that use BlackBerry products: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization offer our expertise on blindness and access technology for the blind to Research In Motion and call upon Research In Motion and leading assistive technology developers to collaborate on an effective access solution that provides blind government employees the same access to mobile information as their sighted colleagues; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon Congress to urge Research In Motion to make BlackBerry products accessible promptly; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED
that this organization insist that the federal government take a leading role
in enforcement of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act by requiring Research
In Motion to make BlackBerry products accessible to all federal employees, including
Regarding the Conversion to a Digital Talking Book Program
WHEREAS, since 1931 books in Braille and sound recordings have been provided to blind and disabled people through a program of the Library of Congress known as the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS); and
WHEREAS, each person eligible for this service in the U.S. is issued an audio playback machine capable of reproducing the books and magazines which are recorded in a specialized reduced-speed, four-track format unique to the NLS program; and
WHEREAS, analog technology using audio cassette tapes has been used to store and deliver sound recordings to blind and physically handicapped readers in the NLS program for more than thirty-five years, but this technology is now becoming obsolete and must be replaced to capture the considerable advantages made possible with digital technology; and
WHEREAS, a digital Talking Book conversion plan has been underway at the Library of Congress for several years, with 2008 firmly established as the year in which the digital audio service will begin; and
WHEREAS, the Library's conversion to the digital Talking Book technology has been based on a plan developed with participation by affected network libraries and by blind and physically handicapped readers; and
WHEREAS, the specific design of the Library's digital Talking Book technology has been guided by data obtained through substantial user testing with significant leadership provided by the National Federation of the Blind; and
WHEREAS, apart from the absolute necessity to convert to digital Talking Book technology, the competent planning of the conversion and opportunities for widespread involvement of all affected parties reflects great credit on officials of the Library of Congress responsible for serving blind and physically handicapped readers; now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in convention assembled this seventh day of July, 2006, in the City of Dallas, Texas, that this organization declare strong support for the digital Talking Book conversion program as planned and carried out by the Library of Congress; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge the Congress to approve appropriations needed by the Library of Congress in order to accomplish the conversion to digital technology as currently scheduled to begin in 2008.
Flea Market a Great Success:
The 2006 Braille Book Flea Market, held in Dallas, was another big success. On Monday, July 3, at 5 p.m., at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, the doors opened to a long line of parents and blind children eagerly waiting for an opportunity to browse through the eighteen large tables of books piled high with donated Braille books. Earlier volunteers had helped to open, weed through, sort, stack, and tidy the several pallets of books that had arrived during the last three months.
This year's selection again included Harry Potter, as well as the wonderful classics like Heidi. There were also a few cookbooks, a few books on gardening, history, and autobiographical material. But as usual, most of the offerings were fiction. Thanks to many individuals, schools, and libraries, we had several pallets of Braille books and a few games donated just for this event.
Over five hundred Twin
Vision® books alone were generously contributed to this event. Many had
been hand transcribed. But within thirty minutes of opening the doors, they
were all gone.
Hot dogs, brownies, and lemonade were available for busy browsers. They were the really yummy, large hot dogs, yet kids and adults alike were content to wait until the shopping was done before sampling them. Children sat on the floor, deciding which books they would keep to read at night and on the flight home and which should be mailed. UPS volunteers helped box up books to be sent home. In all, three pallets of books went to the post office.
Thank you to all who helped in Dallas, to all who donated the many wonderful books, and a big thank you to all those who spent time Brailling the Twin Vision books.
Federation Merchants March for Independence and Opportunity:
Mark Harris writes: On the heels of the most successful Business, Leadership, and Superior Training (BLAST) for blind entrepreneurs in late April in Nashville, some may have wondered how we could sustain the momentum, but as usual the National Federation of the Blind surpassed expectations. After Nashville with 509 registered blind vendors, thirty-five state licensing agencies represented, and sixty-four exhibitors--in short, the best-attended, most successful Randolph-Sheppard-related conference ever held--many of us were still celebrating that achievement as we headed to Dallas, Texas, for the sixty-sixth annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. In Dallas almost 200 blind merchants joined with more than 2,900 of our colleagues and friends to continue the march. In fact, it was there that we heard about the upcoming National Federation of the Blind March for Independence at our NFB annual convention in Atlanta in 2007, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
First, we sustained the momentum by filling and selling the ever-popular snack packs, breaking a snack-pack sales record of more than $7,000. We also broke our merchant association raffle record, selling over $8,900 worth of tickets. A heartfelt thank you to our hungry, gambling colleagues.
The annual business meeting of the National Association of Blind Merchants on Monday afternoon, July 3, was brimming with energy, business ideas, instruction, and inspiration. We honored retiring board members, many of whom have provided longtime leadership and we trust will continue to do so. We elected leaders who most surely will continue leading the march. Gold Braille watches were ceremoniously presented to Carl Jacobsen (New York), Bob Ray (Iowa), and immediate Past President Don Morris (Maryland). Charles Allen (Kentucky), who served as president during much of the 1990's, and current President Kevan Worley then presented a small sculpture to Don Morris signifying that he has become the first ever Presidential Fellow in the new Imagination Fund effort to raise awareness and offer appreciation to those in our movement and beyond who have contributed much to the NFB over many years. And the march continues.
Each year at convention a number of divisions conduct annual or biennial elections. What follows is the report of this year's results in the order we received the information:
The Science and Engineering Division: John Miller reports that the S&E Division has an exciting year planned. They are taking steps to make being a blind student or professional in science or engineering easier than in the past. Election results for the division are as follows: president, John Miller (California); vice president, Kelly Wills (Ohio); secretary, Nathanael Wales (California); treasurer, Al Maneki (Maryland); and board members, Brian Buhrow (California) and Dave Faiman (California).
The National Association of Blind Merchants: Elected were president, Kevan Worley (Colorado); first vice president, Nick Gacos (New Jersey); second vice president, Pam Schnurr (Indiana); secretary, Kim Williams (Tennessee); treasurer, Mark Harris (Texas); and board members, Don Hudson (Colorado), Sharon Paris (Tennessee), John Jones (Virginia), Deb Smith (Iowa), Virgil Stinnett (Hawaii), and Art Stevenson (Oregon).
Diabetes Action Network: The DAN conducted its annual diabetes seminar July 3, 2006. The following members were elected to office: president, Lois Williams (Alabama); first vice president, Joyce Kane (Connecticut); second vice president, Minnie Walker (Alabama); secretary, Bernadette Jacobs (Maryland); treasurer, Joy Stigile (California); and board members, Ed Bryant (Missouri), Mike Freeman (Washington), and Maria Bradford (Washington).
National Association of Office Professionals: Election results were president, Lisa Hall (Ohio); vice president, Mary Donahue (Texas); secretary, Sherri Brun (Florida); and treasurer, Debbie Brown (Maryland).
National Association of Dog Guide Users: Elected this year were president, Priscilla Ferris (Massachusetts); vice president, Marion Gwizdala (Florida); secretary, Melissa Riccobono (Maryland); and treasurer, Toni Whaley (Pennsylvania).
Deaf-Blind Division: The Deaf-Blind Division conducted elections at its business meeting Wednesday, July 5. The following were elected: president, Robert Eschbach (Arizona); first vice president, Burnell Brown (District of Columbia); second vice president, Robert Deaton (Nebraska); secretary, Patricia Tuck (Florida); treasurer, Bruce Woodward (Connecticut); and board members, Catherine Guillory (Louisiana) and Joe Naulty (Florida).
National Association of Rehabilitation Professionals: Election results were as follows: president, Carlos Serván (Nebraska); first vice president, Shawn Mayo (Minnesota); second vice president, Melody Lindsey (Virginia); treasurer, Sheila Wright (Missouri); secretary, Pam Allen (Louisiana); and board members Dr. Edward Bell (Louisiana), Lea Grupen (Hawaii), Ron Brown (Indiana), and Julie Deden (Colorado).
Classics, Antiques, and Rods Division: At its meeting the CARs Division elected president, Joe Naulty (Florida); first vice president, Harold Wilk(New Jersey); second vice president, Rick Canode (Wisconsin); secretary, Arlene Naulty (Florida); treasurer, Mike Stauffer (Pennsylvania); and board members Dave Hutchins (Kansas) and Harold Wenning (New York).
National Center for Blind Youth in Science:
The NFB Jernigan Institute announces the first national clearinghouse for all information and resources related to blind people in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). This new Web portal brings together resources and information in a new and dynamic way, creating an online community where blind people can learn about how to succeed in STEM professions and where teachers and parents can learn about how to engage blind students in these important subjects.
Your feedback on the first phase of this portal is critical. Visit <www.blindscience.org>, spend some time browsing the site, and complete the online survey. Those completing the online survey will be eligible to win a $35 gift certificate for merchandise available from the NFB Independence Market.
NFB Youth Slam Participants and Mentors Needed:
In the summer of 2007 the largest gathering of blind youth ever will come together to give voice to a new generation of blind leaders and explorers. The NFB Youth Slam will forever change the perception that challenging careers are not appropriate for the blind. Working under blind mentors, blind youth will engage in four days of inspiring activities centering on science, technology, engineering, and math. More information on the NFB Youth Slam is available at <www.blindscience.org>.
To express interest in being either a youth participant or mentor in the NFB Youth Slam, send an email to <email@example.com>. Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime event.
A Word of Thanks to Our Sponsors:
The 2006 convention had a record number of sponsors. Eight of them took part in the Tuesday evening opportunity for attendees to enjoy shopping in the exhibit hall without the usual crush. We are deeply grateful to our convention sponsors:
Title Sponsors: Freedom Scientific and HumanWare
Platinum Sponsor: Independent Living Aids
Silver Sponsors: Guide Dogs for the Blind, Hilton Anatole, IBM, Marriott Global Reservation Sales and Customer Service, and UPS
Exhibit Hall Sponsors: ifbyphone, National Industries for the Blind, Optelec, and Sendero Group
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.