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Braille Monitor

Vol. 49, No. 9                                                                        October 2006

Barbara Pierce, editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president

 

National Office
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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National Federation of the Blind
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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

        ISSN 0006-8829

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Contents

Vol. 49, No. 9                                                                        October 2006

 

Client to Consumer to Lawyer
by Anil Lewis

Of Cables, Chasms, and the Classroom
by Norman D. Gardner

The Story of the tenBroek Papers
by Lou Ann Blake

Proponents Say the Decline in Braille Instruction Is Leading to Illiteracy
by John Faherty

Braille Readers Are Leaders 2006 Wrap-up

In the Spotlight: Affiliate Action

Greater Expectations: Some Thoughts on Engaging the Wider World
by Geerat J. Vermeij

The Wings of the Dream
by Jeff Altman

Father and Son Duo Tackle Diabetes
by Gail Brashers-Krug

Identity Theft and You
by Jim Babb

Moving Out
by Marsha Dyer

Deaf-Blind Communication Devices
by Anne Taylor, Steven Booth, and Michael Tindell

Remembering Rami
by Ronza Othman

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

 

Copyright 2006 National Federation of the Blind

 

Client to Consumer to Lawyer

by Anil Lewis

From the Editor: On Thursday, July 6, the afternoon session of the 2006 convention began with the following thoughtful and inspiring address by Anil Lewis, president of the NFB of Georgia and a member of the National Federation of the Blind board of directors. This is what he said:

Dr. Maurer, thank you for the honor of addressing the convention. First of all I'd like to say good afternoon to my Federation family. Also I must give my sincere gratitude, appreciation, and respect to Tommy Craig and the Texas affiliate for creating such a tremendous convention. As you know, the convention is in Atlanta, Georgia, in '07, and although we may not be able to match the size--because everything is bigger in Texas--hopefully we can surpass the quality of this convention in '07.

It is indeed my honor to address you guys. When Dr. Maurer came to Georgia a few months ago for our leadership training seminar, he announced that I would be addressing the convention this afternoon, and he said there would be no shilly-shallying. I don't know exactly what that means, so, if you guys catch me shillying or shallying during my presentation, please stop me. When I timed my original presentation, it was an hour and twenty minutes, so I have reduced it some, to one Braille page. But in order to get to this one Braille page, I am going to tell you a little bit and hope it all makes sense at the end.
Let me cut right to the chase and tell you that in November of 1989 I lost my sight due to retinitis pigmentosa. It wasn't the slow, progressive deterioration that's typically associated with this disease. Over the weekend I lost enough functional vision so that I could no longer go back to work and read my computer screen, and I concluded I could no longer go back to college to complete my bachelor's degree in administration and computer information systems. If you have read by bio on the national Web site, you know a lot more than that. But for the sake of this presentation today, that's really what you need to know. That was the most frightening, isolating, lonely time in my entire life. It's very rare that you hear this type of story at a Federation convention or Federation event, because we know that it is respectable to be blind, and there need be nothing frightening about blindness.

But at that point in my life I didn't know the Federation. I was frightened. I stopped living. I laid up on the sofa and covered myself in a blanket of pity and depression. My mother, God bless her, was a very strong woman. She was a brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous lady--very soft spoken and of very few words. Yes, she was my mother, I know. I didn't get that gene. She saw me on the sofa, and as she went by, in her ultimate wisdom she said these words to me--it wasn't a long speech, very simple words. She looked at me real hard, and she said, "You need to get up and do something."

That was all it took. I got up and went to apply for vocational rehabilitation services. I became a client of VR [vocational rehabilitation]. I met with my counselor and filled out an application. I don't remember getting a copy, but I know I had to sign one because I did get the services. I don't remember receiving a client services handbook although I am sure he gave it to me. But it wasn't in a format that I could read. I went through all of the prescribed psychological evaluations, and we got to the point where we wrote the individualized plan for employment. At that time it was called the individualized rehabilitation plan. I don't remember getting a copy of that either. But he asked me questions about what types of services I would need in order to be rehabilitated.

Luckily for me, I remembered the experience of both my older brother and sister. They became legally blind long before I lost my sight. My brother attended the Georgia Academy for the Blind, where he excelled in wrestling and track and swimming, but I don't really recall any academic accomplishments. He went to community college, where I used to have to read his textbooks to him in the evening, but, because he had not developed those foundational skills of Braille and orientation and mobility, he wasn't successful in that endeavor. As a client of vocational rehabilitation, he found a job with their help through the state merit service as a file clerk. They gave him a lighted magnifier and put him back in a room and told him to file. It was a formula for failure.

Who was to blame? I don't focus on blame. I do realize that, if he had taken the opportunity, been encouraged to get or had been provided the training we all know is necessary: Braille and independent travel, he could have become a successful blind adult.

Unfortunately for him but lucky for me, I remembered that experience. In this discussion with the rehab counselor, I remembered that Braille was important. He encouraged me to use my remaining functional vision to read large print and learn to use a closed circuit television, but I insisted on learning to read Braille.

My orientation and mobility training consisted of an O&M instructor who taught me how to use my remaining functional vision to travel from one destination to another by rote. Luckily for me, the director of the center at that time was a totally blind person. We would sit and talk, and he told me, "If you truly want to become an independent traveler (at the time I knew nothing about the NFB's structured-discovery method of teaching cane travel), pick a place and go. That's exactly what I did. Periodically I would pick a place, and I would go there. My fears began to dissipate. My confidence began to grow. My ability to travel independently increased.

I spent four months at the center learning to read Braille, learning how to travel independently, and also learning how to use technology. Within those four months I became the Braille instructor. I started teaching assistive technology to all the other clients. I was a client in rehab, but because I was able to articulate to my counselor the specific services I needed, I did become successful as a blind adult.
A lot of people argue that you should be a consumer of rehab services. I disagree with that concept. A consumer has power based on the ability to purchase. State vocational rehabilitation is a program. I encourage people to recognize that they are clients with rights and responsibilities. As a client of VR, you should know the things I had figured out, the services you need. Through informed choice you help make the decisions that are written into your plan and affect your life. Your goal is to become a consumer, an independent, gainfully employed adult with the power to purchase. And that is what I did; I became a consumer.

A lot of things transpired in the following years. A year after I started teaching I became the job-placement person, working to place blind people in gainful employment, and I took pride in my job because I was helping people attain that wonderful goal that I had achieved.

You have heard the story of the man watching an old man walking along the beach and throwing starfish back into the ocean. He walks up to the old guy and says, "What are you doing?"

The old man says, "I am saving the lives of these starfish that have been washed up onto the beach and will die if they don't get back into the water."

The young man looks across the beach with all the stranded starfish and says, "You are not going to make a difference."

The old man leans down, picks up a starfish, and throws it into the ocean. He says, "It made a difference to that one."

That's what I was doing. At least I was making a difference in the lives of the starfish that I encountered.

Then a couple of things happened that really changed my paradigm. I met Miss Thelma Godwin at the Center for the Visually Impaired. I was doing job placement there and was trying to get people employed, but they didn't want to give up their Social Security benefit because they had had to fight so hard to get it in the first place. They were experiencing a disincentive to go to work.

She put me in touch with Jim Gashel at the National Federation of the Blind national office. That was my first contact with the NFB. Jim Gashel took time to educate this poor, ignorant blind man who had supposedly been helping people find jobs for a long time about the Social Security work incentives. I tell you, my job placement rate went from six to twenty-four in a period of two years. It's amazing what the power of information can do. But with that action, though he probably didn't know it, Jim Gashel had rubbed the magic lamp and let the genie out. I had gotten infected with a desire to understand this thing called "policy," these things called "laws" and "statutes," so that I could understand them and use them to leverage my desire to help people improve their lives.

I want now to transition into the whole lawyer piece. What really happened was that I recognized that law is in everything we do. Social Security Administration statutes had been passed and become law that affected people I was trying to help.

Later on I got married and became a father; unfortunately, the marriage didn't work out. I knew that I was more competent and should be the custodial parent, but I feared the stereotype of blindness. I thought, "Oh, no way are they going to give a child to a blind person." But the Federation stepped in again. I talked to people who encouraged me and empowered me. Dr. Marc Maurer spent many, many moments on the telephone encouraging and inspiring me. Luckily I found a lawyer who knew how to be an assertive, formidable advocate. We learned last night in the advocacy training workshop that being an advocate doesn't necessarily mean being aggressive. My lawyer told me that it would be best if I tried to talk to my spouse and come to a mutual agreement. And we were able to do so. Luckily, with my self-confidence I was able to dispel the myths and fears that officials might have had about my being a competent father. I was awarded full custody of my son.

At that time I was also taking care of my mother, who was dying of multiple myeloma, an aggressive blood cancer. I tried to secure various interventions for her, but the insurance companies continued to tell me that this procedure wasn't covered by her policy and that one wasn't allowed under whatever medical provisions were available. But I studied the policies that existed. I found the necessary loopholes, and I got my mother the services that were important for her to live those last few moments with quality and dignity.

Those were my personal experiences. I leveraged them with my desire and love for humanity. I went to Savannah with Dan Goldstein. You heard him present at the board meeting. Dan Goldstein is a formidable attorney. Although he is not blind, I consider him an honorary blind man because he gets it. I talked with Dan on that trip, and he let me participate in his thought process and his strategy for helping this blind woman who had just given birth to a baby and had it taken from her by the state. We were going to get that baby back. He showed me; he walked me through it. I watched Dan go into the courtroom, and he owned that courtroom. He walked around the courtroom. You could see the adrenalin pumping. I participated vicariously in all of that, and it was a plan to be reckoned with.

Unfortunately, to my dismay, we did not have to go to court. Dan successfully mediated or arranged a resolution that allowed this mother to get her baby back. But that left me high and dry. What was I going to do with all this adrenalin that I had built up? So I channeled and redirected it. I realized that my love of change had broadened. I realized that I didn't just want to help one starfish at a time, I wanted to be a starfish that had been thrown back into the ocean, where I could keep all the other starfish from getting up on the beach. I wanted systemic change; I wanted broader, bigger results. In order for me to do that, I realized I had natural ability, my love for people, my new spirit of Federationism. Now I wanted to be an attorney.

I wanted to affect policy first, so I enrolled in school to get my master's degree in public administration. As my Federation family you helped me in 2002 by awarding me a scholarship, and I appreciate that. I graduated with that scholarship in 2003 with my master's in public administration. Now, with my newfound skills, talents, and education, I applied to the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Services to make a difference as the director of the Business Enterprise Program. With ten years of experience in retail, six years of experience in banking, seven years or more of experience in rehabilitation specifically helping blind people access the Business Enterprise Program--I applied for the job, and they said I wasn't qualified. You know the end of this story: my Federation family pitched in, helped me get the broad, aggressive legal assistance of Dan Goldstein's law firm, and we won and settled that lawsuit last year.

At first I was afraid. I then became a client. Luckily I was educated and had people around me to help me understand what that meant. My goal was to be a consumer, and I became a consumer--gainfully employed, making decisions with my own money. Now I want to continue to grow in order to help others. I believe that the way to do this is to become a lawyer. I will be starting law school in the fall of '07. Only through your help and support have I made it this far, and I appreciate you, and I am glad to have this opportunity to thank you. As I said, I reduced my presentation to one Braille page. I guess I will get to it now.

I don't know the author of this quote, but it's not mine. I wish it were. A friend emailed it to me shortly before I came to convention. So bear with me as I fumble through this. "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It's our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Well actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that others don't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fears, we automatically liberate others." I'm going to tell you in simple terms, as my mom would say, "You need to get up and do something."

 

Of Cables, Chasms, and the Classroom

by Norman D. Gardner

From the Editor: Dr. Norm Gardner is a longtime member of the National Federation of the Blind, and he has been a leader in every affiliate where he has lived. The following article illustrates the principle that the NFB's positive philosophy about blindness can help us all to grow if we are willing to allow it to work in us. This is what he says:

I recently participated in a group activity that required everyone to put on sleepshades and walk on a cable suspended between trees. Other cables were available for balance, and we were permitted to help each other stay on the cable. The objective was to progress along the course from tree to tree without falling off the main cable. At first it was somewhat challenging; but, as we got used to the way the cable moved in response to the weight of other people and learned the best way to use the balancing cables, it was not too hard. After all the main cable was only a foot or so off the ground, so even if we were to lose our balance as we moved from tree to tree, the solid ground was not far away.

Toward the end of the cable course, however, we were told that we should now be careful because the last span of the cable would be over a gully twenty feet wide and thirty feet deep to a tree on the other side of the gully. Even though I had not fallen off the cable since the beginning of the course, at that point I experienced a great deal of fear. Some in the group began to shake and to lose their balance. Some began to cry out and refused to continue. In truth there was no gully. Crossing that final span would be no more difficult than crossing the previous ones. The only difference was that we assumed that falling would be much more devastating. By simply continuing to use the techniques we had been using all along, we would be able to cross without any problem.

A similar thing has happened with respect to my recent loss of vision. I have been legally blind since early childhood. The doctors always told me that my vision would remain the same for the rest of my life, but they were wrong.

When I first met the NFB over thirty years ago, my life was way out of balance. I was ashamed of my blindness and doubtful of my abilities. The NFB's philosophy helped me achieve more stability and self-respect. I came to believe that it is respectable to be blind and that with proper training and opportunity blindness can be reduced to a mere nuisance.

I confess, though, that at times I relied a little too much on my partial vision. I depended on it like a crutch, just in case the philosophy didn't work in a specific instance and I were to fall off my psychological cable. That is, my vision still felt important to me in accomplishing many tasks each day. Gradually through the help and example of others and through attendance at our national conventions, I began to understand, intellectually at least, that even with no vision at all I might still be successful in my work.
Since 1974 I have taught college classes in corporate finance. The alternative techniques I used were simple and not very creative. I just wrote in large characters on the chalkboard. Since I was the closest one to the board, I could read the large letters and numbers with no problem. During my college years as a student, I used a small pair of binoculars to scan the blackboard. I was never able to read more than 40 percent of what was written there. Things were much better when I got to be the professor because I could now read everything on the board. But when I faced the possibility of losing the rest of my vision, I began to panic. I felt very much as I had when I imagined that I had a deep chasm to cross.

In spite of our excellent philosophy, I became quite discouraged. I envisioned a significant deterioration in the effectiveness of my lectures, since I would no longer be able to write on the chalkboard. In my teaching I have always made heavy use of numerical examples, diagrams, formulas, and illustrations. Without much optimism I began casting about for some alternative technique to enable me to continue teaching. I tried using overhead transparencies, but the painfully bright light from the projector made it impossible for me to stand anywhere near it.

After admitting that my lectures would soon become grossly ineffective without the ability to refer efficiently to numerical examples and illustrations, I began to consider using PowerPoint slides. In time I became convinced that by using PowerPoint slide presentations under the right conditions, I could be just as effective as I had been when I was able to write on the chalkboard.

My objective here is to share some of the specific ways I have used PowerPoint slides in the classroom in the hope that others might find it helpful. With the help of a student assistant, I have now prepared several hundred PowerPoint slides arranged by topic to accompany my corporate finance courses. I have attached to each slide a small sound byte of my own voice announcing the title or theme of each slide. This sound byte is activated when the slide comes to the screen. It confirms for me the fact that a new slide has actually appeared and also the subject matter of that slide. I have attached lecture notes to each slide, very much like an MS Word file for each slide. This file is never seen by the students, but it is available to me either before or during the class. In this file I write notes to myself spelling out in detail every aspect of the slide. I include all numbers and formulas from the slide and their relationship to each other. In this way I do not have to remember everything on each of hundreds of slides.

Prior to each lecture I review the notes attached to the slides I will be using during that class. In order to facilitate this review, I copied the lecture notes for each slide sequentially into a MS Word document and then copied that file to my documents folder on my computer, my note taker, and my BookPort. This allows me to choose the most efficient source from which to review my slide notes at the moment I wish to do so.

Here are a few other suggestions for preparing slides for the classroom:

1. Carefully choose and instruct the person who will assist you in preparing the slides. The first assistant I hired took the liberty of dressing up the slides with bright colors, various border patterns, pictures of flowers, and even little teddy bears that moved around on the screen doing the rhumba. I was further embarrassed when I also found spelling and other errors on the slides. Needless to say, I got another student assistant.

2. Limit the total number of slides. At first I found myself preparing slides containing outlines, paragraphs, lists, and even my own lecture notes. Then I noticed that the students engaged in little or no discussion during my lectures. They seemed always to be occupied with copying what was on the slides. I felt that I was succeeding only in transferring the material from my notes to the students' without the information's passing through the mind of either. It occurred to me that, if I were to make copies of the slides and give them to the students, they would not even need to come to class.

I have now decided I will not prepare or use slides containing material that I would not actually have written on the board during my lectures. In other words I have adopted the philosophy that the PowerPoint slides are simply an alternative to writing on the board, nothing more. This has kept the overall number of slides manageable and has permitted healthy classroom discussion.

3. Use multiple slides to build concepts one step at a time. Of course with PowerPoint utilities it is possible to have each successive step come flying onto the screen from first one direction and then another until all the steps are visible. This can be done on one slide. I do not do it that way. I prefer to maintain more control over the progress of the class discussion. During the construction of the slides, I begin with the basic illustration and include only the numbers necessary to illustrate the first step of the overall concept. I then copy this first slide to a second one so that I now have two identical slides. I then add the figures for the next step to this second slide, sometimes using a different color. When the second slide is as complete as I want it to be, I copy it to a third slide and then add the figures for the third step to it. In this way I can appropriately pause at each step during the lecture to discuss the concepts and check the students' understanding before I bring up the next slide with the next step.

From the point of view of the students, it appears that each additional step has simply been added to the original slide. It is not obvious to them that they are actually viewing a series of slides. In other words it appears just as it would if I were writing the whole thing on the chalkboard, adding the appropriate numbers and arriving at logical conclusions one step at a time.

4. Use a remote mouse. I use a remote mouse, which allows me to position myself wherever I wish to be in the classroom. Once the slide presentation has started, a simple push of a button on the remote mouse brings the next slide to the screen. When it appears, the students hear the sound byte of my own voice through the computer speakers, and I simply continue with my lecture.

When I lost the partial vision I have had all my life, I experienced many of the same fears and emotions that sighted people have when they lose their vision. In the beginning I did not do very well in applying the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind to my individual situation. After a brief period of panic, however, I began to put that philosophy to the test, and I can tell you it works.

At first, when I thought about going back into the classroom without being able to write on the chalkboard, I felt as I did when I thought about crossing the chasm on a cable. In the beginning it seemed impossible. Yet by following the same process that had helped me before, I found that the sustaining, rock-solid philosophy of the NFB and the good ideas from knowledgeable people who were reaching out to help all came together to bring me across the chasm and back into the classroom.

The truth is that, by taking a deep breath and continuing to apply the philosophy of the Federation, I found it really does not matter if the ground is one foot or thirty feet down. It doesn't really matter if I still have some vision or none at all. The philosophy is true. It works. By finding the appropriate alternative techniques, the blind can perform and continue to perform the requirements of their employment and be just as successful and competent as their sighted peers.

 

The Story of the tenBroek Papers

by Lou Ann Blake

From the Editor: Lou Ann Blake is a research specialist at the Jacobus tenBroek Library. She is cataloging the tenBroek papers. Here is her second report on what she is finding.

In 1938 Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, founder of the National Federation of the Blind, began to collect the print documents he produced and acquired in his lifetime as a leader in the blind civil rights and social welfare reform movements, as a university professor, as a family man, and as a friend. At the time he was a third-year law student at the University of California at Berkeley. After Dr. tenBroek's death in 1968, Mrs. Hazel tenBroek continued to add to the collection, known as the "tenBroek papers" or the "tenBroek files," through the early 1990's. Today, as part of the collection of the Jacobus tenBroek Library at the National Center for the Blind, the tenBroek papers are a significant source of information about the early history of and the people behind the development and growth of the National Federation of the Blind and the blind civil rights movement in the United States, as well as the evolution of social welfare. This article will describe how the NFB acquired possession of the tenBroek papers, provide a general overview of the most common types of documents included in the files, describe in greater detail some of the files' most significant and interesting contents, and discuss current and possible future plans for the papers.

Journey to the Jacobus tenBroek Library

The journey of the tenBroek papers from Mrs. tenBroek's home in California to the Jacobus tenBroek Library in Baltimore began in the mid-1970's. At that time Mrs. tenBroek was contemplating retirement from her position as associate editor of the Braille Monitor, and she and then NFB President Kenneth Jernigan began discussing the disposition of the papers. Mary Ellen Jernigan visited the tenBroek home in 1976, and again in 1984 with Dr. Jernigan, to look at the papers and make a general determination of what types of documents were included. They decided during the 1984 visit that all of the documents would eventually be shipped to Baltimore. Nothing further happened until 1994, when officials at the University of California at Berkeley began expressing a strong interest in acquiring the tenBroek papers for the university. Finally, in February 1998 the ill health of both Dr. Jernigan and Mrs. tenBroek prompted them to renew discussions about the final home for the tenBroek papers. With the NFB set to begin construction of the Jacobus tenBroek Library as part of the National Research and Training Institute for the Blind, now the Jernigan Institute, Mrs. tenBroek decided that the proper place for the papers was the tenBroek Library and not the University of California. Later that spring the collection was transported by truck from her home in California to the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore.

Where Are the Papers Now and What Are We Doing with Them?

Currently the tenBroek papers are housed on the first floor of the Barney Street wing of the National Center for the Blind. The print documents are still stored in the thirty-five four-drawer and four two-drawer file cabinets and numerous boxes in which they were originally stored at the tenBroek home. As discussed later in this article, at some point the more important documents will be archived in a special temperature- and humidity-controlled room in the Jernigan Institute.

In September 2005 we began the reviewing and recording the contents of the tenBroek files. The first step was to create an index spreadsheet that will enable library staff to search the tenBroek papers by topic, as well as to locate a specific folder within the files. Next, starting with drawer number one of four-drawer file cabinet number one, the title of each folder was entered on the spreadsheet and the contents of the folder reviewed. A note about any important documents that a folder may contain was also included in the spreadsheet. By June 2006 the recording of folder titles and review of folder contents of four-drawer file cabinets number one through number twenty-two had been completed.

Any member of the general public researching a topic covered by the tenBroek papers may make an appointment with the Jacobus tenBroek Library to use the papers as long as the documents are not protected by attorney-client privilege or privacy laws. When an inquiry is made, we use the index spreadsheet to search for and locate folders that contain documents pertaining to the specific topic that the researcher is interested in. Recently the library hosted someone researching Raymond Henderson, the first executive director of the NFB, in preparation for writing a book, and a doctoral student researching documents relating to Dr. Isabelle Grant and organizations of the blind in India for his thesis.

What Is in the tenBroek Files?

The documents in the tenBroek files provide an insight into Dr. tenBroek's personal and professional life, as well as historical documentation of the growth of the NFB and of the blind civil rights and social welfare reform movements from the 1940's through the 1960's. The personal papers include hundreds of birthday and holiday greeting cards, postcards sent by vacationing family and friends, and personal correspondence. Letters written by Dr. tenBroek to his son Dutch and sister Lillian recount the daily activities of the tenBroek family, as well as Dr. tenBroek's work for the University of California and the NFB. An envelope found in the files contains letters written by Dr. tenBroek's friends and colleagues to Ralph Edwards, host of the television show This Is Your Life, encouraging an episode about Dr. tenBroek.

Many documents in the files pertain to the work and research performed by Dr. tenBroek as a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Examples include departmental and administration correspondence, student exams and grades, and class schedules. In addition the files contain documents that Dr. tenBroek used for writing law review articles and books in the areas of social welfare reform and constitutional law (including statutes from the colonial and civil war periods); Department of Health, Education, and Welfare publications from the 1950's and 1960's on federal policy and programs of public assistance; and documents on California's Aid to Needy Children program.

Researchers interested in the history of the National Federation of the Blind will find documents in the tenBroek files relating to the NFB's legal organization, administration, and legislative programs. The organizational documents include the 1949 NFB articles of incorporation, its April 1946 tax exemption certificate, and constitutions from 1946 through 1966.

National Federation of the Blind administrative documents contained in the tenBroek files range from invoices and personnel files to maintenance contracts and minutes of executive committee meetings. Correspondence between Dr. tenBroek and other NFB leaders, including Raymond Henderson, John Nagle, Perry Sundquist, Kenneth Jernigan, and Russell Kletzing, as well as many speeches by these early leaders, are also included in the files. In addition many documents relating to the NFB civil war in the late 1950's and early 1960's can also be found. Finally, folders containing resolutions, motions, ballot sheets, correspondence, photographs, and meeting minutes for NFB annual conventions from 1940 through 1979 are also included in the tenBroek files.

Draft legislation, testimony before the United States Congress, correspondence with members of Congress and the executive branch, and legislative bulletins are examples of the types of documents found in the tenBroek files that were generated as part of the NFB legislative program. The issues addressed in many of these documents include the old age pension and disability insurance provided under the Social Security Act, the establishment of a minimum wage for workers in sheltered workshops, discrimination against blind individuals by the United States Civil Service Commission, the right of the blind to organize, and the establishment of vending stands by blind people in federal buildings. Finally, the NFB model White Cane Law, which was distributed to state affiliates for passage by state legislatures, can also be found in the tenBroek files.

Many file documents also relate to NFB advocacy for the blind in administrative hearings and state and federal courts. Dr. tenBroek frequently corresponded with plaintiffs and their lawyers regarding legal strategy, precedent cases, and preparation of briefs. The files also contain amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs prepared by the NFB and submitted to the United States Supreme Court in support of plaintiffs who were challenging state laws that required a period of residency in order to receive public assistance and made relatives responsible for the debts of a family member who received public assistance.

In addition to NFB-related documents, many documents in the tenBroek files are related to organizations of and for the blind around the world. The folders for the International Federation of the Blind and World Council for the Welfare of the Blind include pamphlets describing the services provided to the blind and organizations of the blind in Europe, South and Central America, and Asia. There are also many documents concerning the California Council of the Blind (now the NFB of California), the American Foundation for the Blind, the Blinded Veterans Association, the Jewish Braille Institute, and many other such organizations.

Gems of the tenBroek Papers

Among the many tens of thousands of documents that comprise the tenBroek papers, a number of documents stand out because of their historic, literary, and human interest value. One of the historic gems is a July 2, 1951, letter to Dr. tenBroek from Kenneth Jernigan, then president of the Tennessee Association for the Blind, to introduce himself to Dr. tenBroek and discuss plans for the 1952 NFB annual convention in Nashville, Tennessee. An amusing exchange is the series of letters pertaining to the "American Express Wars," in which Dr. Jernigan gleefully uses military terminology and rhetorical language to reproach American Express for its inept administration.

Some of the oldest documents in the tenBroek files are Dr. tenBroek's school records from the California School for the Blind for the years 1927, 1928, and 1930. The record dated May 26, 1927, cryptically notes that Jacobus was a "good" student who was "somewhat self-centered and opinionated." Also included in the files are grade cards from 1932 and 1933, when Dr. tenBroek was an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. During that period he received fifteen A's and four B's.

Among the thousands of letters in the tenBroek files are several from notable politicians, jurists, and authors. California Governor Edmund G. Brown always started his letters to Dr. tenBroek with "My Dear Doctor." There is also correspondence in the files between Dr. tenBroek and United States Supreme Court chief justice and former California governor Earl Warren regarding Dr. tenBroek's book Anti-Slavery Origins of the Fourteenth Amendment. In addition, Dr. tenBroek corresponded with Nobel Prize laureate Pearl S. Buck, author of The Good Earth, regarding the vision loss experienced by Ms. Buck's husband.

Perhaps the most poignant gems in the tenBroek papers are the hundreds of cards, letters, and telegrams sent to the tenBroek family after his death on March 27, 1968. Neighbors, friends, colleagues, students, political figures, NFB members, and individuals and organizations around the world sent expressions of sympathy. Many of the letters describe how Dr. tenBroek had touched the writers' lives. They will be the subject of a future Braille Monitor article.

The Future of the tenBroek Papers

In addition to continuing to make the tenBroek papers available for research purposes, we intend to archive the most historically significant documents. Archiving these will involve placing the documents in acid-free file folders and then storing them in acid-free storage cartons. The storage cartons will then be placed on metal shelves in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room on the second floor of the Jernigan Institute.

Future plans also include posting the index spreadsheet to the tenBroek Library Web site as well as scanning some of them for Web site posting. In addition we plan to create a tactile exhibit about Dr. tenBroek for the tenBroek Library. Documents for such an exhibit might be a recording of a tenBroek speech, photographs and written documents with recorded descriptions, as well as items that may be touched.

The Centerpiece of the Jacobus tenBroek Library

Many of the people and events from the 1940's through the 1960's that paved the way to a better life today for blind and poor Americans are chronicled in the documents that comprise the tenBroek papers. In addition the wide variety of document types contained in the tenBroek files is ample evidence of the many facets of his life and personality. Because they are an important record of the early history of the blind civil rights and social welfare reform movements, as well as Dr. tenBroek's adult life, his papers are the centerpiece of the Jacobus tenBroek Library. All Federationists can benefit from the tenBroek papers as a source of pride in past accomplishment and as inspiration for establishing future goals.

 

Proponents Say the Decline in Braille
Instruction Is Leading to Illiteracy

by John Faherty

From the Editor: The following excellent article about the importance of Braille and the literacy crisis still facing blind Americans first appeared in the Arizona Republic on June 1, 2006. The reporter interviewed Arielle Silverman, president of the Arizona Association of Blind Students and a member of the boards of directors of both the NFB of Arizona and the National Association of Blind Students. While exploring the crisis facing blind Americans, the article also illustrates what Braille users can accomplish. Here is the story:

Can't read this? [a collection of Braille dots printed on the page] Neither can nearly 90 percent of blind schoolkids, and proponents say the decline in Braille instruction is leading to illiteracy

Arielle Silverman has always loved to read. From Little Women in fourth grade to Jane Eyre in high school, books were a constant companion. She could slide her fingers across the page and feel the world. Those words, however, have done more than make her well read. They have secured her place in society.

Silverman, blind since birth, has now finished her junior year at Arizona State University with a double major in biology and psychology and a grade-point average of 3.9. The Scottsdale native is ambitious, thoughtful, and well-spoken. And the twenty-one-year-old is convinced she couldn't have achieved this without her fluency in Braille.

A generation ago 50 percent of blind schoolchildren used Braille, according to William M. Raeder, president of the National Braille Press in Boston. Now, he said, it's less than 12 percent. Young blind students today are still instructed in Braille, but in the past few decades more students have been mainstreamed and no longer receive daily instruction. That is significant, because reading and writing Braille is a skill that needs maintenance. The less often a student uses it, the more likely it is those skills will diminish or even disappear.
The reduction in Braille literacy has been mollified by the fact that there are now more ways than ever for the blind to acquire information. Much of the world is moving away from words on a page and toward electronic/digital information. The proliferation of books on tape means blind people no longer have to wait to read the latest bestseller. Talking computers have brought the blind to the world and the world to the blind. These advances have placed a generation of blind young adults and children in an information paradox: they have more knowledge at their disposal, while their ability to read and write declines.

But proponents of Braille always fall back on the same argument: if reading and writing are important to the sighted, they are important to the blind. "If the literacy rate for sighted people was 10 percent, that would be a huge issue," Silverman said. "I think kids aren't being taught Braille, and they aren't being given enough time to practice."

Congenital Disease

Silverman is sightless because of Leber's Congenital Amaurosis, an inherited retinal degenerative disease. But her parents never considered not teaching her to read and write.

"I grew up thinking reading is one of the greatest joys of life," said Sharona Silverman, Arielle's mother. "Having a book in your lap is an incredible gift, and I was going to introduce that gift to both of my children." Arielle's sister is sighted. "Arielle had such a love of the written word early on. So she just flew with [Braille]," her mother said.

Because of her parents' commitment to literacy, Arielle Silverman was sent as a child to the Foundation for Blind Children in Phoenix to learn Braille. She could read by age five. Silverman then was mainstreamed into the Scottsdale schools and graduated from Chaparral High. She is now president of the Arizona Association of Blind Students.

In that role Silverman has pushed for better education for the blind, particularly an increased emphasis on Braille instruction. "Braille does not mean more than a sighted person's ability to read and write," Silverman said. "It's exactly the same. It's just the way we read what we read."

Law Debated

Arizona law starts with the presumption that blind students should learn Braille. But that law is not seen as necessarily valid by the person in charge of implementing it. "Just because there is a presumption does not mean it is not an archaic presumption," said Joanne Phillips, deputy associate superintendent for exceptional student services with the state Department of Education.

Arizona Revised Statutes Section 15-214, regarding the teaching of the blind, states that "proficiency in Braille is essential for that student to achieve satisfactory educational progress." The law is based on the fact that Braille still is the only way blind people can read and write. But it stops short of mandating Braille instruction. "There is no statutory mandate where every child who is blind must learn Braille," Phillips said.

You can argue that it does not matter how you read War and Peace, as long as you know the story and the genius of Leo Tolstoy. "There is no correlation between Braille literacy and educational achievement," Phillips said.

Karen Wolfe of the American Foundation for the Blind strongly disagrees. "You can't be literate just listening," she said. "Literacy helps us think and communicate our thoughts. You will never be truly literate without Braille."

The AFB says the employment rate for the blind in this country is 32 percent. And Blindinc.org says that 93 percent of the employed blind read and write Braille. Still the rate of Braille literacy is dropping across the country. The reasons for the national decline are many, but the primary reasons are:

Mainstreaming of blind students.

Increased technology, such as talking computers and electronic books.

More books on tape.

Increased number of blind children born with additional physical or mental handicaps, often the result of premature birth.

The state of Arizona requires that the Department of Education evaluate each blind student to determine whether he or she can learn Braille, but it does not require the retention of those records. So no one knows how many students in Arizona are learning Braille.

Rehabilitation Act

The beginning of the decline of Braille literacy can be traced to a 1973 federal decision called the Rehabilitation Act--Nondiscrimination Under Federal Grants and Programs. It mandated that public schools make accommodations for children with disabilities. For many blind students it meant the ability to come home. Prior to 1973 students who wanted an education had to travel to a school for the blind. In Arizona the school was in Tucson. The education was first rate, but it was segregation for blind students.

The new law allowed children to return to their communities, to sit every day with their peers in schools that were mandated to accommodate them. But one significant flaw was with Braille instruction. Braille teachers suddenly had to travel from school to school or district to district to introduce Braille to blind students one or two at a time. It was far more practical for districts with a few blind students to get by putting textbooks on tape and allowing test-reading aids for blind students.

The prevalence of books on tape meant they no longer had to wait for Braille publications to read the latest bestseller. All blind people, not just Braille readers, could take part in a cultural phenomenon like Harry Potter. Eventually, computers with voice capabilities came on the market. Braille began to be seen as a luxury more than a necessity. Knowledge was available without Braille. Literature was available without Braille. The irony is that as Braille literacy dropped, new printing technology made Braille much more accessible.

High-tech Aids

Silverman lives in an apartment on the ASU campus. Her course load includes such classes as organic chemistry with Professor Seth Rose, in which he says things like "Heterocyclic aromatic amines are weaker bases than heterocyclic aliphatic amines."

When she gets to class, she sits with a BrailleNote laptop that allows her to take notes and review them later. From a distance the BrailleNote looks exactly like the standard laptop computer used by her peers, but instead of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, six keys represent the six-dot system of Braille. Each letter of the alphabet is represented by a combination of the six dots.

Silverman points to this machine and others like it as an example of Braille working hand-in-hand with technology. "They are not mutually exclusive," Silverman said. "If I didn't know Braille, I couldn't use my computers to the level I need them."

But the teaching of organic chemistry is very visual. Formulas and models are used, and Silverman can see none of them. Rose helps translate some of his teaching material into a digital format that will have meaning to Silverman. If a class focuses on a particular compound, he will build a model that she can "see" with her hands. He expresses colors with different textures. He is glad to do it, he said. "It gives me a great feeling to know that when I hand a model to a student, that she can 'see' exactly what I've been talking about."

Literacy Vital

With her intelligence and work ethic, could Silverman have made it this far without the ability to read and write? "I doubt it," she said. "Would a sighted person be well-educated if they are illiterate?"

Silverman reads, writes, and takes rapid-fire notes in Braille. "I have a feeling the way our brains are designed, learning how to read opens up parts of your brain," she said. She adds that math and science notations are possible only for people fluent in Braille. They could not be replicated by books on tape or by talking computers. Silverman will occasionally listen to a book on tape, but only if she is traveling or if the book is not readily available in Braille. In high school she read Seventeen magazine in Braille, but now she is more likely to read a medical journal.

The American Foundation for the Blind celebrates independence and learning. It is the organization to which Helen Keller dedicated her life. So it is not a surprise how much it advocates the teaching and learning of Braille. The foundation says literacy is vital to a successful education, career, and quality of life in today's world. Whether in the form of curling up with a good book, jotting down a phone number, making a shopping list, or writing a report, being literate means participating effectively at home and in society.
"If our value system expects sighted people to be literate," Silverman said, "we need to expect blind people to be literate."

 

Braille Readers Are Leaders 2006 Wrap-up

by John Faherty

From the Editor: Each year from November through January, Braille-reading kids around the country grab all the Braille publications they can find to increase the count of pages they have read in the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. A generation of kids have now grown up sharpening their Braille skills with this contest.

In an effort to encourage these kids to do more than sit quietly and read in their spare time, the contest sponsors have added a second component to the contest for older students. This is an invitation to engage in community service. The contest forms now include instructions for participants to describe community service projects that have helped them become Braille leaders as well as good Braille readers.

Following is the report of the 2006 contest and the nomination materials for this year's Braille Leader Community Service Award winner, Hannah Weatherd, of Wyoming. Here it is:

After twenty-three years the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest is still going strong. In 2006 close to 350 blind students of all ages and from all over the nation participated in the contest, reading a combined total of over 450,000 pages. Top readers Dionne Dyer, Leah Grinder, and Daniel Dintzner each read over 7,500 pages in the three-month-long contest. Additionally, this year four students were selected and acknowledged for their outstanding community service and promotion of Braille Literacy and what it means to be blind. While the community service award is still new to the contest, we hope that in coming years more Braille readers will take that next step to being Braille leaders as well. We congratulate Hannah Weatherd--Community Service Winner--and Kristin McCoy, Estin Talavara, and Andrew Nantz--Community Service Honorable Mentions.

Along with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille joint awards and recognitions, some states and local schools honored their own Braille readers. The state of Pennsylvania held a special awards ceremony last spring for its state and St. Lucy's Day School for the Blind, awarding savings bonds to top readers, and the NFB of Maryland invited participants from the state and the Maryland School for the Blind to a party and awards ceremony, where they were given extra recognition from the state. Other participating communities are honoring their students as well.

Rhode Island's publication, the Valley Breeze, printed an article honoring seven-year-old John "JW" Frampton's accomplishment, having read 1,449 pages and earning top honors in the K-1 contest. In Delaware W. Reilly Brown Elementary School honored fourth-grade participant Larry Byler for reading 4,901 pages (approximately fifty-two pages a day) during the contest, with a write-up in its Good News publication.

The 2007 contest commences November 1 and runs through January 31. After this year's outstanding results, our Braille Readers and Leaders promise to impress again in 2007 with their next stack of books. Congratulations again to all!

Here are the nomination letters submitted in support of Hannah Weatherd, the winner of the 2006 Braille Leaders Community Service Award:

February 9, 2006

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is to serve as a nomination of Hannah Weatherd for the Braille Leaders Community Service Award. Hannah recently directed the Saratoga Elementary Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) program to over 180 children in Saratoga, Wyoming. Hannah introduced herself and spoke at length to the large student body on February 2, 2006. The children submitted a list of all the unusual places they had ever read a book before, and then Hannah read aloud back to them, in Braille, what they had written. The children, ranging in age from three to eleven, were very impressed about her skills and fascinated with this different learning style.

In addition to being the guest speaker, Hannah had prepared several jokes in Braille for the children to decode. She engaged the children by handing out a Braille alphabet card for each child to use to decode text written in Braille. They got to keep the Braille alphabet cards as bookmarks too. She further enriched the program by having a Braille machine on hand for the children to observe her using. Hannah also Brailled 180 name tags (one for each child) so they could put their own name in Braille format inside the free books they received at the RIF.

The Saratoga Elementary RIF program definitely benefited from Hannah's being so involved with RIF distribution. She was organized, had lots of great ideas on how to make the program work, actually completed the Braille work herself, and went above and beyond what was expected of her. This was a huge responsibility for a seventh-grader. I definitely feel Hannah Weathered is worthy of the Braille Leaders Community Service Award.

Sincerely,
Lisa Armentrout
Committee Chair
Saratoga Elementary RIF

December 22, 2005

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like to recommend Hannah Weatherd as a Braille Leaders Community Service Award recipient. I am Hannah's pastor and our local Cub Scout pack leader. Our Webelos den has been working on the communication pin. One of the requirements is to invite a person who communicates in sign language, Braille, or other means.

Hannah was very responsive to help our boys learn about Braille. She came prepared to our designated den meeting on December 5, 2005, to teach the boys about Braille and also how to read it and write it. After explaining the need for Braille and its history, she shared how it changes people's lives. She also demonstrated her Braille writing with the stylus and on her Braille machine and the technology available. She gave each Scout a Braille alphabet card and let the boys try to write with the stylus and machine.

The boys caught on very quickly with Hannah's help. They also attempted to read some of the Braille books that Hannah brought with her. In my opinion this was a great learning experience for our Scouts and me and a tremendous service Hannah provided to our community in helping us to better understand the challenges of someone who is not sighted, but also to see how they can overcome them. She has become an inspiration to us all.

Pastor Gene Smith

Here is the text of a brief newspaper article that appeared on February 8, 2006, in the Saratoga Sun.

Beta Sigma Phi gives away 170 books

Saratoga Elementary students marveled during a Reading is Fundamental program when Hannah Weatherd demonstrated how to read Braille.

Weatherd is in seventh grade at Saratoga Middle School and has been using Braille since she was three. The previous week students had been asked where they like to read. The answers were typed in Braille, and Weatherd read them for the classes. A Braillewriter was on display for the children to experiment with, and each student received their name written out in Braille on a name tag.
The Saratoga RIF program is sponsored by the Alpha Sigma Beta Phi Sorority. The sorority donates books to Saratoga Elementary three times a year as a service project. Each visit around 180 to 190 books are given away. The books are chosen for differing age ranges and difficulty levels.

These letters and this news story demonstrate the impact a Braille-reading student willing to undertake community service can have on the lives and understanding of an entire town. Let's encourage all the blind students we know to take part in the Braille Readers Are Leaders program this year and to engage in community service as a part of their effort.

 

In the Spotlight: Affiliate Action

From the Editor: What follows is a new feature. It will continue as long as members, chapters, and affiliates find it useful enough to contribute material.

Introduction

We in the Federation know well the truth of the saying, "We all do better when we all do better." When one of us succeeds in a job or earns widespread recognition for an achievement, more opportunities become available to all of us. Conversely, when one blind person is denied proper training or opportunity, all of our lives are affected.

As it is in our individual lives, so it is in the organized blind movement. We in the Federation are determined to act as one collective body. When all our component parts are vital, healthy, and working together, the whole body thrives. When one state affiliate gains influence, establishes innovative new programs, or sees an increase in membership, the whole Federation becomes stronger and more influential.

For this reason we are offering a new feature in the Braille Monitor. "Spotlight" will be a regular addition to our monthly magazine. You will find it filled to the brim with practical advice on many of the issues we all face as we seek to improve our affiliates and chapters, including suggestions for how to increase our membership, how to develop the next generation of leaders, and how to share our positive message about blindness effectively with the public.

We are most effective as a movement when we share our knowledge and wisdom with one another. The tips, ideas, and suggestions in "Spotlight" will come from Federationists in chapters and affiliates around the country, and we want to hear from you. If your chapter or affiliate has a success story that should be shared, please contact Joanne Wilson, executive director of affiliate action, at <jwilson@nfb.org>. You can find other useful resources for strengthening chapters and affiliates on the affiliate action team's Web page at <www.nfb.org>. Click on "Members" and then "Member Information." We hope that "Spotlight" will prove useful to every affiliate and every chapter across the country as we continue to work together to change what it means to be blind.


The NFB--Recruitment and Membership

by Allen Harris

During my years in the Federation, people have asked, "Can I recruit new members into our Federation?" My response is always, "only if you will." Each of us in the NFB can recruit new members and can work with our members to strengthen their interest and participation in our organization. In fact, it is our responsibility to share our organization with anyone who may be interested and who may add to our collective strength.

I would like each of us to consider three points when thinking about recruiting new members and supporting them as they become part of our organization:

1. All of us can be effective recruiters of new members, and we should use our personal characteristics and strengths to be successful.

2. Recruitment need not be a daunting task. We should think of recruiting new members as the ongoing opportunity to find one person at a time.

3. We should remember that we have a common characteristic; we are blind. We should regard each person as someone who can benefit from and contribute to the success of the NFB.

I believe the success we have recruiting new members begins with an individual commitment to building our organization; recruitment is not reserved for a few leaders. Each of us knows other blind people or will meet them over time, and we should regard every blind person we know as a potential member. Each of us possesses certain strengths and characteristics that make us good recruiters. In fact my style may not be successful with one prospective member while you quite naturally work effectively with that person. So get started and work to develop your ability to help bring new people into the Federation.

It is important to approach recruitment as a one-at-a-time process. Though outreach campaigns can be effective, there is no substitute for very personal efforts to work with prospective members and help them learn about our organization. If each of us finds one person, each-one-bring-one, we will continue to bring new people into our organization. They in turn will bring talent to our efforts. Each time you meet a blind person or for that matter any person who you know is not a member of the NFB, begin to plan for his or her participation--the next chapter meeting, a fundraising opportunity, a public outreach event, and so on. If you are able to get a person to participate in an activity sponsored by the NFB, be sure to follow up to plan the next opportunity. If each of us takes on this responsibility one person at a time, we will change lives, increase our membership, and strengthen our organization.

Finally, it is important to remember that we all have blindness in common, and we should not limit our recruitment of new members to a certain few. The NFB is a diverse group of individuals who happen to be blind, and any attitude that restricts our efforts to bring new people into the movement is not consistent with our commitment to every blind person. We want to see everyone who is blind, without regard for his or her place in society, to benefit from and have the chance to contribute to our Federation. This has been and must continue to be a characteristic of the NFB that has made us strong, diverse, and representative in our work on blindness issues.

It is also important to remember that, while everyone should be seen as a prospective member, you should be able to recognize when it is time to move on. In other words, invest time and energy in individuals who show signs of interest and willingness to participate. When it is clear to me that my efforts to bring a person into the NFB have not been successful, I must move on. Joanne Wilson was one of those who helped me understand that our future depends on finding members who want to build the NFB and not to trouble about those who indicate that they would not or could not participate effectively. She told me, "There are more where they came from." We all have limits on our time and energy, so it is important to use these resources well.

Think carefully about how to recruit new members effectively, and develop a strategy that works for you. You may not find my approach to new members one with which you are comfortable, but you can develop an approach that is uniquely yours. Each of us is responsible for building our membership, and finding and developing new members one at a time will help us grow and become more effective at our work. Being inclusive in our recruitment efforts will insure our continued ability to be representative in our work and to benefit from the broadest range of ideas and possibilities. For me, the NFB is an easy gift to share with others because our success on behalf of blind people is extraordinary. I find it a joy to approach prospective members since everyone can benefit from and contribute to our strength as a movement.

How to Share the Federation Message with Other Blind People

Most of us are active in the Federation today because NFB members reached out to us, befriended us, answered our questions, and said just the right thing that made us want to be a part of the organization. And, though we want in turn to reach out to other blind people, sometimes we find it difficult to know just what to say to someone who has reservations about the organization or even about blindness itself. Below are some suggestions for ways we can respond to the common questions and reservations we encounter as we extend a hand to other blind people.

1. What does the NFB do?

2. I'm not a joiner.

3. I don't get involved in politics.

4. I'm not blind.

5. The NFB is radical.

6. The NFB opposes dog guides.

7. The NFB opposes audible traffic signals.

8. I can't get to meetings.

9. How do I join?

Other Useful Tips

____________________

An Overview of Planned Giving

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 organization 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 the Blind
Department of Outreach Programs
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 659-9314, ext. 2406
outreach@nfb.org

 

Greater Expectations: Some Thoughts on Engaging the Wider World

by Geerat J. Vermeij

From the Editor: In the summer of 1988 Dr. Jernigan and I engaged in a serious discussion lasting many weeks about whether or not I should leave my job as the assistant director of the Oberlin College alumni office to become associate editor of the Braille Monitor. It is pretty obvious what the outcome of that discussion was, but during the course of the debate the result was far from clear. I had worked closely with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Oberlin College students and alumni, organizing conferences, internships, workshops, meetings, and reunions. I was active in the governing body of the administrative and professional staff of the college, and I frequently presented at meetings of the professional organization in my field. In addition, from time to time I was the staff organizer of alumni tours to London and supervised the design and creation of projects as diverse as a commemorative plate and a photo album of distinguished alumni. In short, I had daily opportunities to demonstrate to a large and diverse section of the brightest and most successful members of American society that blindness might be an interesting footnote to my life and work, but it certainly did not limit my capacity to do a complex and demanding job.

I believed passionately that we in the blindness community will never make significant progress in our climb up the stairs to equality until thousands of us across the country stride forth, demanding an equal share of responsibility in the life and work of our communities. Dr. Jernigan agreed whole-heartedly with this view. The problem was that he badly needed someone to edit the magazine, and he had been looking for that person for ten years without finding anyone who could meet the various requirements of the job. He believed that I could, and eventually my commitment to the National Federation of the Blind and to him led me to leave alumni relations and take up magazine editing. Looking back over eighteen years of this work and forward to the challenge of finding and training my replacement, I believe that I made the right decision, but I still struggle with the problem presented by competing goods that should face every competent blind person: whether to dedicate one's life to passing on to other blind people one's positive skills and attitudes or break new ground in the larger community, forcing the public to recognize that blind people really can compete effectively.

Clearly some of us must choose one path and some the other or the Federation will fail in its mission to change what it means to be blind. But I believe that each of us must struggle personally with this problem and honestly seek the best individual solution, not the easiest one. We who ultimately choose work in the blindness field must come to it in the clear knowledge that we are not hiding from the larger world, and those who engage in lives and work that have little to do with blindness issues must be certain that they are not seeking to ignore part of their personal identity and their responsibility to make things better for the generations of blind people who follow us. These are the important issues addressed in the following article.

Geerat Vermeij is Distinguished Professor of Geology at the University of California at Davis. The issues he raises and discusses are of profound importance to us all, and I believe that individually and collectively we must take up Dr. Vermeij's challenge. This is what he says:

In Great Expectations, Charles Dickens tells the story of Pip, a poor boy who, thanks to an anonymous gift, is given the opportunity to become a gentleman and thus to enter respectable society. In their rigidly class-based Victorian world, Pip and his benefactor provide a hopeful metaphor of upward mobility and social integration.

One of the great benefits of a liberal democracy is the realization of the ideal of full integration. Groups that in the past were excluded from meaningful economic and political participation in society are increasingly joining the ranks of the majority. In part through the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind, most blind people have firmly committed themselves in principle to this ideal. Not only has the Federation excelled in promoting a positive view of blindness and in developing techniques and programs to stimulate employment and social acceptance, but it effectively trains future leaders, an activity essential to the organization's continuing vigor. Its scholarship programs, seminars, conventions, training centers, publications, institutes, and support for technical innovation all play key roles in this endeavor. Throughout, there is an emphasis on helping others, on giving back, and on advocating and spreading Federation philosophy to the blind as well as to the public at large.

These efforts are indisputably valuable and commendable, but it is worth asking if we can do more to propel blind people toward employment in fields unrelated to the affairs of the blind or the disabled. This seemingly innocent question raises some troubling issues. It is my impression as an outside observer of the blindness field that many blind people, notably including students, feel more encouraged and more appreciated when they choose careers in the helping professions than when they elect to follow other paths. The stark reality is that, if a person's primary energies are directed toward work outside the blindness sphere, there will be less time and effort devoted to the tasks of activism, advocacy, and engagement with the issues of blindness. In the extreme case effective would-be leaders of the blind might be steered away from primary roles in rehabilitation, education, and the civil-rights work of the blind. With an increased emphasis on pursuits in other directions, the Federation and other organizations working with or on behalf of the blind might experience a reduction in the supply of vigorous future leaders and perhaps imperil their long-term survival. Even if this alarmist scenario is exaggerated, some reflection about how we promote both engagement with other fields and continued direct service to our own community of interest is in order.

It is in my view in the best long-term interest of the blind and of society as a whole for more encouragement to be given to those who seek professions in which blindness is not front and center. We must, of course, continue to train people for leadership roles in the blindness field, but we cannot afford to emphasize involvement in the affairs of the blind at the expense of other pursuits. To show the public that being blind no longer limits our ability to enter and succeed in most professions, we must not only continue to push back the technical and attitudinal limitations, but we must tinker with our own expectations.

How might this be done? In the awarding of scholarships, applicants contemplating careers unrelated to work with the disabled might be slightly favored over those who are directed toward the blindness field from the outset. Perhaps the Federation could reach out more than it does now to blind people whose primary interests lie outside the field of advocacy for the blind but who still feel the responsibility to contribute their expertise toward improving the lives and prospects of their fellow blind. Perhaps more blind people representing these outside pursuits could be featured at meetings, at conventions, and in publications. What we want to avoid at all costs, I believe, is to equate success as a blind person with making work for the blind the primary focus of one's life.

Perhaps it all comes down to the way we think of ourselves. I am a scientist who happens to be blind, not a blind man who happens to be a scientist. This does not mean that I am ashamed of my blindness or that I abandon or ignore other blind people. In fact I proudly rely on Braille and the long white cane, perhaps the most recognized symbols of blindness; and I eagerly lend what expertise I have to teach, advise, and encourage blind people and those who work directly with them. But blindness is not my central focus. By striving to be the most incisive scholar, the most productive scientist, the most inspiring teacher, and the most effective contributor to the scientific community I can be, I hope I also serve the long-term interests of the blind by showing the world that a blind person can compete successfully in fields where blindness is essentially irrelevant. Self-serving as this may sound, this viewpoint strikes me as necessary to the expectation of full integration.

"The National Federation of the Blind is not an organization speaking for the blind--it is the blind speaking for themselves." This is the well-known motto of the Federation, a sentence that crisply expresses a philosophy of independence and participation. As we continue to penetrate the spheres of business, government, academia, and the arts, I hope and expect that the blind will also increasingly speak on behalf of people and causes not directly concerned with blindness. This must happen as the next step in our drive toward full acceptance and inclusion. We must take this step ourselves and not, as Pip had to do in Dickens's tale, wait for an outside benefactor. The Federation has amply demonstrated that the blind can succeed. Now we must redouble our efforts to place the blind in positions of responsibility in matters of concern to a larger public.

Dr. Vermeij can be reached by email at <vermeij@geology.ucdavis.edu>.

 

The Wings of the Dream

by Jeff Altman

From the Editor: Jeff Altman is first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska and a member of the Lincoln Chapter board of directors. He teaches travel in the orientation center at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind. He holds a master's degree in orientation and mobility from Louisiana Tech University and is a member of the National Blindness Professional Certification board and a National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) examiner. Jeff has thought deeply about the differences between traditional travel instruction and the structured-discovery method. In the following article he finds an intriguing way of illustrating the differences. This is what he says:

In many ways the approach to orientation and mobility (O&M) espoused by the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness does not follow conventional wisdom about blindness or how best to teach blind people new skills. Some find it difficult to understand why the Institute is going against long-established practice that in their view has worked just fine. Among those who believe the conventional approach is truly meeting the needs of blind people are the majority of professionals employing traditional orientation and mobility techniques. Many of them work in or direct university programs that train students as O&M instructors. They not only appear to believe that these techniques work best for blind people, they claim to have conducted extensive research supporting what they are saying. With these academically trained professionals saying that everything is fine, that they are doing what is best, and that their research shows they are using the most effective approach, why would anyone challenge their pronouncements? Why would we in the National Federation of the Blind go as far as starting our own university program and certification process? Perhaps a page from history will illustrate why change must sometimes come from outside and why sometimes it comes from everyday life rather than the halls of academia.

The true story I wish to tell begins with a number of people independently working toward one goal with varying degrees of success and many more failures than successes. Most who had tried to solve this problem were looked upon as fools or even madmen.

Nevertheless, they had had just enough success to inspire people to keep trying, and each new researcher had his own ideas about how to solve the problem. The achievement they were seeking occurred in nature. In fact, if it hadn't been such a common phenomenon in nature, people might never have attempted it. Not surprisingly, when people tried to achieve the goal, they usually just imitated nature, which mostly didn't work. Others tried simpler solutions based on their observations and experience, but somehow they just didn't get anywhere. The more they failed, the more most folks became convinced that the problem could not be solved and that anyone who tried was simply foolish.

Then a well-respected German engineer named Otto Lilienthal entered the quest. He had some success, and he also kept records that he was willing to share with others interested in solving the problem. In fact his research became the basis for much of the experimentation that followed. Sadly his work ended with a catastrophic failure.

Although Lilienthal's work ended in failure, his successes inspired others to keep trying, and his beliefs about the possible solution became the basis of much of the work to follow. His work brought experimenters closer to the answer than anyone before him. In fact few even considered the possibility that his work might be misguided, so they continued along the path he had blazed. The respectability that Lilienthal's research brought to efforts to reach this goal slowly moved the search toward respectability and consideration by scientists in university programs.

Even so successes were few and far between, and, even more frustrating for those working on the problem, when they did succeed, they found their results difficult to reproduce. The military began to recognize the possible benefits of solving the problem, so they approached Samuel Langley, one of the best-known scientists in the country, who at the time was the head of the Smithsonian Institution. He was asked to take on the challenge and given a sizable budget and access to the best resources available. Like many others at the time, Langley was confident that his instincts, bolstered by the work of Lilienthal and others, would lead to the solution of the problem, so with confidence he set out to do just that.

Around this same time two brothers from the Midwest also became interested in the problem. They were not scientists by any means, but they were well read, and together they were good at solving problems. When they decided to take on the problem, they had very little money to invest, despite running a successful business. Rather than starting from scratch as so many others had, they decided to read every article they could find on the subject and base their efforts on the success of others.

They read the work of Lilienthal and others who had been working on the problem and grounded their first efforts on the most successful ideas. Within a few months they had some success, but they realized that something was wrong, not just with the techniques, but with the entire approach. They concluded that they could not simply assume that their predecessors had been on the right track. They needed to take a careful look at every aspect of the ideas they were employing to find the solution. So they stepped back from the problem long enough to think about how their approach needed to differ. They kept the things that seemed to be working and began afresh with the things that were clearly not. They knew of Langley's work and that of other scientists, but these two ordinary businessmen believed they could be the first to achieve the goal.

Meanwhile Samuel Langley decided he was ready to demonstrate his solution to the public. He arranged a demonstration and invited the media to witness this great achievement. However, things went very wrong; in fact it was nearly a complete disaster. Nevertheless, Langley remained committed to the design he had developed based on the accepted theories of the day. He was confident in the soundness of his ideas and convinced that only small, overlooked details had caused the failure. He analyzed what had gone wrong, reinforced these aspects of his design, and prepared to try again. Throughout the preparation he remained convinced that he must work out every possible problem beforehand because he considered it impossible for any human being at the time of the actual experiment to respond effectively to the immediate demands.

Meanwhile the two brothers began to recognize that some aspects of the problem had never been appreciated before. They needed to begin by solving the smaller parts of the problem, which required them to develop instruments that had not yet been invented, so they developed tools that would allow them to study specific parts of the problem. As a result they moved away from commonly held assumptions. They concluded that, not only could the average human being learn to manage the demands of the experiment, but that doing so was the only practical way for unpredictable conditions to be managed. They had more and more successes, and they also began to attract the attention of others working on the problem.

They were invited to address a group of experts on the problem and to share their findings, but rather than having their work embraced, they were for the most part met with ridicule. They left the meeting convinced that they knew more about the matter than the so-called experts.

They returned to their work more determined than ever, recognizing that they had many problems left to solve before they would be ready to test their theories, and knowing that Langley might succeed very soon. In fact they were hard at work solving the remaining difficulties when word of their successes reached Langley. He wrote asking them to come to Washington to discuss their findings. But they felt they could not afford the time to meet with him and frankly were not sure they could trust him. Langley made another attempt to prove his theories just a few days before the two brothers were ready to test their solution, and again he met with failure. A short time later, on a windy day in December, the two brothers saw their dream come to fruition. Their hard work, careful thought, and willingness to think beyond the conventions of their day allowed them to solve the problem and much more.

Ironically the machine these two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, built in their bicycle shop just over a hundred years ago hangs today from the ceiling in a place of honor in the Smithsonian Institution's Air and Space Museum, a few blocks from our Washington Seminar headquarters hotel. If you can, take the time to walk over. When you look at this remarkable machine, remember that the Wright brothers built this successful aircraft for approximately two percent of the budget provided to Dr. Langley. Modern aeronautical engineers stand in awe of this primitive machine because Orville and Wilbur didn't just build a flying machine; they defined the future of aviation.

Theirs is not a single invention but the culmination of many solutions to an incredible number of problems. These two ordinary men designed a light-weight engine at a time when the best engineers could not meet the necessary specifications. They invented the wind tunnel, the air foil, the formulas necessary to determine the amount of lift created by a wing, aircraft control surfaces, and the aircraft propeller. Beyond all this, through trial and error they had to teach themselves how to fly, a remarkable accomplishment when you consider that for a time they were the only human beings with access to a machine that could really fly, and nobody had ever before learned to fly.

The many inventions of the Wright brothers were so incredibly well conceived that a century later they remain at the very core of modern aviation, and most of the improvements since their initial invention have been more a matter of refinement than outright change. Yet the most important contribution the Wright brothers made to modern aviation was not a machine or a physical object at all. They gave to this science the understanding of the true nature of flight and the necessary thought processes to explore its possibilities freely. The absence of this freedom to think beyond rigid constraints had prevented true progress. This is the reason that sixty-six years later a small piece of that 1903 Wright Flyer accompanied Neil Armstrong as he stepped for the first time onto the surface of the moon.

So why speak of flying machines and ordinary people in an article about travel training? Because the history of orientation and mobility has some important parallels to the experiences of the Wright brothers. In the beginning blind people were pretty much on their own when it came to figuring out how to get around. Some blind people were successful travelers, and many were not. When someone devised a successful method, there was often no way to share this information with more than a few others. Few people were making organized efforts to solve the problem, and for the most part the blind were dismissed as too severely handicapped ever to be truly rehabilitated. It took the effects of a world war for society to become serious about finding a solution to this problem.
Emerging from the belief that blindness was the worst thing that could happen to anyone, programs were developed to reduce what the public perceived as the overwhelming dependency of blindness (if only to a small degree) so that these returning veterans could be less of a burden to their families and society at large. Rather like the work of Otto Lilienthal in the fledgling field of aviation, the work of Dr. Richard Hoover moved independent travel for blind people from the disarray of independent and disconnected efforts to a systemized approach teaching specific skills to be used consistently.

Yet, in much the same way that Lilienthal's work and approach to solving the problems of human flight were misguided, Hoover's work grew from the underlying misconception that blindness so severely limited a person's ability to get on in the world that independent, nonvisual travel was inherently difficult and dangerous. In such an environment even the simplest and most basic activities were viewed as impressive accomplishments, so it is little wonder that blind people learning to cross streets or walk a predetermined route through a busy city seemed a phenomenal success. Given this view of blindness, it is equally understandable that those who developed the techniques also came to view orientation and mobility as so complex and potentially dangerous that only highly trained, normally sighted specialists could impart these skills to the blind.

This approach to orientation and mobility arose out of a deficit model, that is, the belief that blindness makes a person deficient in some significant way as compared with others who are not blind. In this model success was measured against a standard of lowered expectations that fit with the beliefs about blindness held by society and for that matter by many blind people. It is easy to declare success when the people you are teaching meet the standards you have set for them, especially when those standards are based on the notion that a lower quality of life is the best they are capable of achieving.

This model was initially embraced by everyone because it was a clear improvement over what had been before. Then a few people began to recognize that something was wrong with both the basic approach and the underlying beliefs. The people that began to question these underlying principles were themselves blind and certainly not considered by the experts to be knowledgeable enough to have their opinions valued. They began to question the beliefs because they did not reflect the truth about blindness that they experienced in their everyday lives. They knew in their hearts that blind people could achieve the same dreams as their normally sighted counterparts. Like the Wright brothers before them, in spite of their experience and growing success both as independent travelers and instructors, their discoveries were not embraced but by and large were met with ridicule.

Just like Langley's approach to the problem of flight, much of the research coming out of the conventional approach to orientation and mobility seeks to refine or lend support to long-established notions about blindness. Apparently this research never objectively considered the possibility that the underlying beliefs on which this paradigm is based could be misguided. Now that we are nearly sixty years beyond the founding work of Dr. Richard Hoover, why has so little changed for the better in travel training? Perhaps because the failures of orientation and mobility are much subtler than the failures of early aviation. Certainly crashing headlong into the ground or never even getting off the ground at all is a bit more obvious than people not expected to do anything useful receiving training and then going on to do nothing useful. The failures of the conventional approach to orientation and mobility are in many ways more devastating and tragic than the failures of early aviation because the pioneers of flight truly believed in their dream, and each time they watched a bird in flight they knew there was hope. Now, a hundred years later, we fly higher, faster, and further than any bird could ever dream of doing.

The members of the National Federation of the Blind truly believe in the dream of independence and equality for all blind people. We continue steadfastly to hold on to our hope in the face of ridicule because we know there is a better way to provide training to blind people, and we understand that proper training begins with the recognition that blindness does not have to change who we are but only the way we do things.

"Structured discovery" is the name we have given to an important body of scientific research about something we in the National Federation of the Blind have understood for a long time. Blind people learn in the same way as others, the knowledge and experience we have is equally valid and valuable, and we have the same ability and desire to grow as everyone else. We have the same dreams as our neighbors and the capacity to achieve them. If the conventional approach to orientation and mobility truly provided the hope that those new to blindness deserve, if it offered more than a set of physical techniques, if it truly assumed that blind people are simply people who cannot see, and if it were in fact reawakening in the people it serves the dreams they believed were lost and moving them toward those dreams, then we would not be working with such determination to change the field of orientation and mobility.

The National Federation of the Blind has brought us closer to the dream of security, opportunity, and equality for the blind, yet we must continue to work hard because this dream has not yet been realized. The orientation and mobility program at Louisiana Tech University has come into existence because we now know the best way to assure that all blind people will have the best opportunity to achieve true independence. There can be no turning away from this promising future.

We are witnessing a paradigm shift that will change almost everything we have ever believed about blindness and blind people and will lead to a time when everyone will understand that blindness is merely one of the many characteristics that can be a part of a complete human being rather than the defining and devastating disability so many believe it to be. Together we have freed ourselves from the aspersions of conventional thinking and created the wings that will allow us to reach our dream. Blind people speaking for themselves through the National Federation of the Blind and the Louisiana Tech orientation and mobility program are defining the future for blind people, and we want to extend an invitation to everyone to join with us in changing what it means to be blind.

 

Father and Son Duo Tackle Diabetes

by Gail Brashers-Krug

From the Editor: The following story first appeared in the Summer 2006 issue of Voice of the Diabetic, our quarterly publication that not only deals with managing diabetes, but frankly and constructively addresses the disease's ramifications. Tom and Eileen Rivera Ley have been NFB leaders from the time they joined the organization as students. Here is the inspiring story of their challenging life today:

Five-year-old JonCarlos Rivera Ley looks just like his papa, Tom. JonCarlos inherited his charming smile, his delightful singing voice, and his goofy sense of humor. And a year ago JonCarlos also inherited his father's Type 1 diabetes.

But JonCarlos enjoys an important advantage that most diabetic children do not. He has an arsenal of the three most important weapons against a chronic disease like diabetes: know-how, a positive attitude, and terrific role models. One of JonCarlos's advantages comes from the fact that both his parents are blind.

Step Outside Your Fear

But how can blindness possibly be an advantage? JonCarlos's mom Eileen, who has been legally blind since birth, explains: "Tom and I know that being blind can be rather frustrating at times, but it doesn't mean that a good life is over. We accept that we have to make adjustments, and we get on with life."

Tom, a thirty-nine-year-old devout Christian and self-described math geek, lost his sight to diabetes at age seventeen. He is currently undergoing dialysis three times a week while awaiting a kidney transplant. Nevertheless, he is relentlessly upbeat, positive, and energetic. "You can always think of reasons why you can't, if you're coming from a position of fear. But if you step outside your fear and try, you can usually figure it out."

Much of Tom's hopefulness comes from his strong faith. "I truly believe that God allows struggles in our lives for our good. For example, if I had not become blind, I would never have met my wonderful wife or had my children."

JonCarlos's fourteen-year-old sister Maria agrees: "My parents have never let disabilities stand in their way. Some people think that, because my parents are blind, I do everything for them or that I get away with lots of stuff because they can't see. But it's not that way at all. Mom and Tom are super independent, and, trust me, my mom never lets me get away with anything." Maria is really proud of her family. In fact Maria recently gave a speech to her entire middle school about the strength she and her little brother have gained from their parents' approach to adversity.

Find the People Who Know

The Leys put their positive attitude to work to handle their son's diagnosis. "When JonCarlos developed diabetes," Eileen says, "we knew that handling diabetes would be a lot like handling blindness. The key was to find the real experts, people living with the problem every day. Those people are always out there, folks who are living with the problem and have already found solutions."

The Leys learned this networking strategy from the National Federation of the Blind. When Tom became blind in high school due to diabetic retinopathy, he and his parents were distraught. A gifted math and science student, Tom had dreamed of becoming an electrical engineer. Shortly after he became blind, his father took down a volume of the encyclopedia from the bookshelf and opened it to "blindness." There he read that blind people succeed at many jobs, "and," Tom recalls with a smile, "lo and behold, one of the jobs listed in the encyclopedia was electrical engineer!"

That experience planted the seed of hope, but hope began to bloom fully when Tom met the National Federation of the Blind. Joanne Wilson, then president of the NFB of Louisiana, reached out to Tom. "It was truly amazing. She did things that I never dreamed blind people could do. She had five children!" Tom adds, "Every time I talked to her, she would mention something new, and I'd think, ‘How does she do that? How does she go grocery shopping, or do her job?'" Dr. Wilson introduced Tom to people in the NFB Diabetes Action Network, who taught him how to manage his diabetes independently.

Eileen joined the Federation while a student at Harvard College. Her life has never been the same since. "It was a real relief to meet other blind people who were achieving their goals. It took a lot of pressure off me. I no longer had to be a super blind woman. I could just be myself."

Over the years Tom and Eileen have benefited from the advice and support of dozens of successful blind and visually impaired people. Today Tom is a software development manager for UPS, and Eileen is a strategic planning and fundraising consultant and works on Voice of the Diabetic. Now they mentor others dealing with blindness and diabetes.

The Leys reached out to another, different supportive community when JonCarlos was just nine months old and was diagnosed with severe hemophilia, an extremely rare, genetic bleeding disorder. Eileen: "We were shocked--no one in our families had hemophilia. But we handled it the same way we handled blindness: we knew the key was to find people who had done it before." They found the Hemophilia Foundation of Maryland, and through the foundation's families learned how to manage their son's hemophilia and, Eileen adds, "still help him have a normal childhood." With special IV infusions of a blood clotting factor every other day, JonCarlos's hemophilia is controlled.

Before JonCarlos developed diabetes, Eileen recalls, "Tom would worry every time JonCarlos seemed thirsty. I told him not to be silly. ‘Come on,' I said, ‘you know the odds are very low, and we already have the hemophilia to deal with.'" But when their son turned four, he began to be thirsty all the time and have a constant, itchy skin rash. As the familiar symptoms mounted, Tom and Eileen grew more concerned. "Finally we had a long, tense talk at three in the morning. Tom was very upset. He left the room to be alone for about a half hour and then came back and said, ‘Okay, I'm done feeling sorry for myself. We'll test him in the morning.'"

So when Tom and Eileen learned that JonCarlos had diabetes, they immediately put their NFB experience to work again. First they sought advice from their friends in the NFB's Diabetes Action Network, who assured Eileen that she could manage the glucose testing and insulin dosing safely and effectively. Next they set about finding other families raising diabetic preschoolers. Eileen recalls, "While we were in the hospital dealing with the diagnosis, a dear friend got on the Internet and found the Children with Diabetes Web site. Through it she found several families in our area who have other boys JonCarlos's age with diabetes." With the support of those families, Tom and Eileen learned things like how to train their son's babysitters and preschool teachers.

Managing Diabetes Is All Day, Every Day

Of course their positive attitude does not mean that the Leys are Pollyannas. They recognize the challenges and fears of raising a diabetic child. Eileen recalls, "I couldn't believe my little boy had yet another chronic disease. When he was first diagnosed, I was nauseated all the time. Of course Tom has diabetes, but he manages it on his own. He's the family expert, but he was at work and I was home with JonCarlos. Managing diabetes is all day, every day. I was terrified that I would forget to give him his insulin or give him the wrong food or something."

JonCarlos's diagnosis was particularly difficult for Tom. Tom recalls, "I had so many mixed feelings. I had gone blind and gotten kidney disease as a result of my diabetes. I didn't want my son to have to suffer. Now, with all the intensive therapies and better insulins, I'm hopeful he won't have to suffer complications at all."

He continues, "I don't want to sugar-coat it. Diabetes is a tough disease. You have to be a full-time manager of your diabetes. You're always thinking about it, always planning for it throughout the day. The sooner you embrace this life and accept it as your new normal, the sooner you can move on and keep living your life."

Managing with Adaptations

Managing diabetes can be challenging for anyone, but it is even more so for blind people. As Tom explains, "There are three basics to day-to-day management: giving insulin, testing blood sugar, and counting carbs. Those are all things that blind people can't do without some adaptation."

The Leys employ a number of adaptations to manage JonCarlos's diabetes. For administering insulin, they use the NovoPen Junior by Novo Nordisk to administer Novolog and the OptiClik by Aventis to administer Lantus insulin. The two pen devices are shaped differently, which greatly simplifies identification. The dials on the ends of the pens measure the insulin, and they make audible clicks for accurate dosing. Before switching to his insulin pump, Tom used the Count-a-Dose, a device that provides audible clicks so that a standard syringe can be accurately filled without sight.

For testing blood sugar, the Leys use both talking and nontalking blood glucose meters. Tom uses a talking meter, the ACCU-CHEK VoiceMate, while JonCarlos uses a traditional meter with a visual display, the ACCU-CHEK Compact, and reports the numbers on the display to his parents.

Counting carbs is a bit more challenging. "When a new food comes into the house," Tom explains, "we put a label on it, in Braille and large print, with the serving size and the carbs per serving. After a while, we've come to know from experience how many carbs are in our favorite foods." The Leys use their talking computer to access special Web sites like CalorieKing.com where they can find carb counts.

One of the most helpful strategies they used in managing JonCarlos's diabetes, Eileen recalls, was educating their friends and family on how to manage the disease. "When we first started meeting parents with diabetic children, we heard stories of parents who could never go out on a date or leave their children at all and grandparents who wouldn't watch their grandchildren because they were afraid of dealing with the diabetes. There was no way we were going to accept that." Eileen invested some time in explaining diabetes management to the parents of JonCarlos's friends, "and now he goes on playdates like any other little boy."

But even a glance at this remarkable family reveals that JonCarlos is not like any other little boy, and his family is not like any other family. Diabetes, blindness, kidney failure, hemophilia--it seems that they can overcome anything. Eileen laughs, "One of the diabetes educators I know told me that blind diabetics like Tom are a real inspiration to her sighted patients. She tells them, ‘If these blind people can manage their diabetes and not complain, then you can do it too!'"

 

Identity Theft and You

by Jim Babb

From the Editor: Jim Babb is the editor of the NFB of New Mexico newsletter as well as a member of both the affiliate and Albuquerque Chapter boards of directors. He serves on the state rehabilitation council working with the New Mexico Commission for the Blind and is president of the Friends of the New Mexico Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. Before retiring to New Mexico, Jim was a vocational rehabilitation counselor and then an area manager with the Ohio agency for the blind.

Jim has researched this troubling problem and provides below some very good advice that we should all read carefully and then act on. This is what he says:

We have all heard the often cited statistic that more than 70 percent of blind people are unemployed. However, no matter how desperate you are for work, you do not want this job. You will immediately hate it. You don't get paid for it. In fact, it costs you money. The job is undoing the havoc of identity theft.

Last year more than fifty-five million Americans had their personal data compromised through loss or theft of this information from banks, credit card issuers, colleges, health care facilities, government agencies, etc. More than ten million Americans were actual victims of identity theft, which means they were compelled to do this unwanted job.

What is identity theft? There are various levels of ID theft, ranging from a one-time fraudulent use of your checkbook, debit card, credit card, etc., to the much more severe crime of having a crook establish and assume your identity. Blind people may be more vulnerable than their sighted neighbors if they require assistance reading personal data such as Social Security numbers, checking account routing numbers, PIN numbers, etc. You must be careful managing such data. For example, when using ATMs or entering your PIN at a point-of-sale register, shield your hand while you are actually punching in the numbers.

How do you know that you are a victim?

Your bank, hospital, or college may notify you that it has suffered a data breach.

How can you prevent ID theft? You can't completely prevent it because many elements of your personal data are outside your control such as data breaches from large data bases. You can, however, take the following steps:

What should you do if you are a victim?

It may take you months or even years to clear up this mess. Meanwhile you will be subject to much tension and anxiety. The best approach is to take these preventive steps to reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

 

Moving Out

by Marsha Dyer

From the Editor: Marsha Dyer has been a mainstay of the national staff for more than sixteen years. She arrived shortly after our memorable golden anniversary convention. In the following article she offers some useful advice and important reminders to those who are about to move. This is what she says:

I enjoy immensely working at the National Center for the Blind and have a variety of jobs. One of my favorite tasks is updating our main mailing list database. It includes contact information on every person who receives our publications, the Braille Monitor and Future Reflections. The database also contains numerous other names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses associated with the blindness field.

I have always lived in Maryland and haven't moved very often. Therefore I have always been amazed by the number of notifications that we receive from the post office for people who have moved--not just within their states, but around the country and overseas. I'm here to tell you that blind people are on the move in the National Federation of the Blind! We usually receive 100 to 150 notifications of address changes each month--and that's just for the Braille Monitor. The number of notifications is just as high for Future Reflections, but it is published quarterly.

After ten years of living in the same place, an opportunity presented itself, so I have decided to move. I started thinking it might be useful for Monitor readers contemplating a move in the future to have a checklist that I have found helpful during my moving adventure. (I'm trying to think of it as an adventure; otherwise I would pull my hair out.)

So, if you have searched and found a perfect place to live, have signed a contract or agreement for the new residence, and have decided to make the big move, here are some suggestions for your checklist:

1. If you are renting a home or apartment, notify your current landlord that you are going to move and give sufficient notice in accordance with your lease agreement. (And don't forget to turn in your keys after you have moved out.)

2. Establish the actual day of your move. (I must vacate my apartment by the end of the month, so I chose the last Saturday for the move.)

3. Contact a moving company and reserve a van, or call a rental truck company and reserve a truck for that day. (I rented a truck, which cost $25 plus $.99 per mile. Fortunately I'm moving only five miles.) If you are renting a truck and moving yourself, beg/grovel/plead with your friends and family to help and ask them to reserve your moving date. (If you ask ahead of time, you'll give them plenty of time to plan a mysterious illness or sudden back problem to arise on your moving day, but at least they won't have previous plans.) My son Frank, who also works at the National Center, has able-bodied, young friends willing to help us, and I've asked several coworkers, who have kindly agreed to assist us. I'm going to have plenty of bottled water on hand for my movers during the day and offer pizza and beer and assorted sodas after the move as a grateful thank-you to them.

4. Fill out a change-of-address card at your post office and get a handful of address-change cards while you're at it for friends, magazines (especially the Braille Monitor and Future Reflections), and miscellaneous publications you would like to continue to receive.

5. Notify your gas and electric company, and arrange a convenient date to have the meter connected in your name at the new location and turned off at your former one. (This will cost me $30. My rental lease states that I must pay the gas and electric bills until the end of the month in which I move.)

6. Notify your telephone company, cell phone company, and long-distance carrier. I use Verizon, and my home telephone number will change with my move. It's good to have your new phone number ahead of time because a lot of the companies you inform of your move will also want your new telephone number. (My telephone company is charging $40 for disconnecting and reconnecting my home phone.)

7. Contact your insurance companies: home, life, health, and car.

8. If you have television cable service (I use Comcast), call them to arrange a convenient date to have your service disconnected and reconnected. (This will cost me a whopping $108.)

9. Notify the state motor vehicle agency (for identification/license card purposes), IRS, Social Security, Board of Elections (voter registration), your employer, bank, lawyer, doctor, dentist, hair stylist, school, drugstore, and every other person, place, or thing you can possibly imagine who might just want or need your new information in the next millennium. Also, if you have an IRA, mutual fund, etc., notify these companies as well.

Moving is inconvenient, expensive, and just plain not fun. How anybody can find enough boxes, pack up his or her belongings, avoid muscle pulls, notify the world, and move more than once every ten years is mind-boggling to me. Yet hundreds of people in the National Federation of the Blind manage to do it every month. I salute you all.

 

Deaf-Blind Communication Devices

by Anne Taylor, Steven Booth, and Michael Tindell

From the Editor: Anne Taylor is director of access technology, and Steve Booth and Mike Tindell are access technology specialists at the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind (IBTC). The following review of new technology will be of interest to anyone interested in communication technology for deaf-blind people:

During the past few years several new communication solutions for deaf-blind users have come on the market. In the following pages Steven Booth describes FSTTY, a product from Freedom Scientific for communication over phone lines; Anne Taylor describes FaceToFace™, an application from Freedom Scientific for face-to-face communication; and Mike Tindell discusses a hardware package from Krown which can be used for both functions. Each device incorporates a Braille display so that deaf-blind people can communicate directly.

Some explanation of terminology will help as you read about these items. A TTY (teletypewriter) and a TDD (telephone device for the deaf) are really the same thing; that is, they communicate over telephone lines by the use of analog audio tones. A TTY modem converts digital electronic data produced by a computer to analog audio tones, which are then transmitted over a telephone line. At the receiving end another modem converts the analog audio signals back to digital data, which can be interpreted by another computer. The teletypewriter is a device that prints information received over telephone or telegraph lines. From the early 1900's to the digital age, TTY devices were used by news wire and stock services to transmit their data, and the same name was used for the early devices used by deaf people to transmit data over telephone lines. As computers and other electronic devices became available, the term "TDD" became more widely accepted.

Today the terms "TTY" and "TDD" are often used interchangeably to refer to any device that transmits and receives analog audio data and converts it into digital data for the deaf-blind. By combining this technology with portable computers and Braille displays, communication between two deaf-blind people or communication by a deaf-blind person with either deaf or hearing people becomes easier. Some commercial and some nonprofit organizations and many emergency information centers have electronic TDD equipment, making it possible for deaf and deaf-blind people to communicate directly with them. With this advanced technology deaf-blind people can communicate with anyone--deaf, hearing, or deaf-blind, as long as the recipient has a TDD.

Freedom Scientific's FSTTY

FSTTY, a deaf-blind telecommunications solution from Freedom Scientific consisting of a modem and software, is an accessory installed on a PAC Mate. A deaf-blind person uses the Braille display to review the text he or she enters and the text others send in reply.

FSTTY can be used to place calls to anyone with a TDD. On a PAC Mate QWERTY keyboard the deaf-blind person types in text and then reads the response on the Braille display. Anyone using a Braille keyboard must type uncontracted Braille unless the recipient also has a Braille display.

A handy feature of FSTTY permits the user to scroll backward and forward to review a call session, including any commands sent and the entire conversation. Mistakes can be corrected as one types, and the text will be corrected on both the sender's and recipient's displays. The sender has the option of saving the file with the complete conversation or editing the file before saving it, thereby keeping only the items worth saving. For example, if someone sends an email address or a favorite recipe, these can be saved for later review. No need to remember the information or spend time rewriting it to a file because text can be copied or cut and then pasted into another file on your PAC Mate. If the deaf-blind person is talking to another PAC Mate user with a Braille display, he or she can write and receive contracted (Grade II) Braille text. However, it is critical for the sender to remember that, if an emergency message is sent to someone like a 911 operator, as mentioned earlier, the message must be in uncontracted Braille for the person on the other end to read the message.

FSTTY supplies both an Intelli modem and FSTTY software to install on the PAC Mate. Help files are available to assist with set-up and using the software and modem. Context-sensitive help is available while using FSTTY, including a list of commands to place and hangup calls; to save files; and to copy, cut, and paste text.

This product is easy to use and provides good communication options for deaf-blind people. Additionally, people with some hearing can use the Pac Mate speech to assist when using FSTTY.

If you already have a PAC Mate, the price for FSTTY is $1,200, or you can purchase a PAC Mate with a 20- or 40-cell Braille display plus the FSTTY as a complete system. Contact Freedom Scientific or an authorized dealer for further details, a demonstration, and specific pricing information.

Freedom Scientific's FaceToFace™

Freedom Scientific designed its FaceToFace™ deaf-blind communication solution to be compatible with the PAC Mate. This system facilitates real-time conversation during personal, face-to-face interaction between two people when one is a blind or deaf-blind Braille user and the other is a sighted, blind, or deaf-blind Braille-user. The package has a Hewlett-Packard iPAQ Pocket PC2003 with a thumb keyboard, a Bluetooth CompactFlash card, a CD containing an owner's manual, FaceToFace software, the driver, and the FaceToFace applications for a desktop computer.

To communicate, the FaceToFace software must be installed on both the iPAQ Pocket PC and the PAC Mate; while the Bluetooth CompactFlash card driver and the driver for the thumb keyboard must be installed on the iPAQ. Once installations are complete, the FaceToFace application must be launched first on the iPAQ and then on the PAC Mate, in this sequence, in order to begin the communication process. When you use FaceToFace with an iPAQ, the iPAQ will automatically become the server, and the PAC Mate automatically becomes the client. If FaceToFace is used between two PAC Mates by two Braille readers, one of the PAC Mates must be assigned as a server and the other as a client. Typically a sighted person types on the thumb keyboard of the iPAQ, and the deaf-blind person Brailles or types on the PAC Mate keyboard. The keys on the thumb keyboard are quite small, however, so the sighted person may prefer to type using an accompanying stylus on the virtual keyboard, located on the iPAQ screen. The conversation content will appear in print on the iPAQ screen and in Braille on the PAC Mate Braille display. Either user can review the conversation at any time during the exchange. The content of the conversation can also be saved as a text file on both the PAC Mate and the iPAQ.
There are some additional functions. Either person in the conversation can paste content from other applications such as a word processor, appointment book, or contacts into the edit area and immediately transmit the data to the other person. Either person can remotely control some functions on the other unit, for example: restart the conversation, shut down FaceToFace, and monitor the battery status. Both parties can easily manage the conversation, and any editing of the contents or any change that is made by one person will appear on the other device immediately. The current price for the FaceToFace is $1,495.

Note: For those who do not use PAC Mate, FaceToFace applications will also work on personal laptop or desktop computers.

Freedom Scientific, Blind/Low Vision Group
11800 31st Court North
St. Petersburg, Florida 33716-1805
phone: (727) 803-8000; toll-free: (800) 444-4443;
fax: (727) 803-8001
email: <info@freedomscientific.com>
Web site: <www.FreedomScientific.com>

Krown Manufacturing PortaView 20 Plus TTY

Krown Manufacturing, "a company that offers products and services for the hearing-impaired," built their TTY unit to be accessible to the deaf-blind for face-to-face communication, as well as a TDD for placing and receiving telephone calls to and from deaf or hearing people. The PortaView 20 Plus TTY includes a 4-row VTouch keyboard connected by cable to a 20-cell Braille display. When the user types on either keyboard, the text is displayed in print on the visual screen of the PortaView and in computer Braille on the VTouch keyboard.

The system comes in a case similar to a laptop case, and all components fit neatly for portability. The VTouch can be ordered with a Perkins-style Braille keyboard or a QWERTY keyboard. If a user chooses the QWERTY keyboard, the home row keys can serve as a Perkins-style keyboard. In this mode computer Braille must be used, unless the person receiving the message uses contracted Braille. On the visual display only ASCII text is displayed; so, for example, if you press dots 2, 5, and 6, a number four will appear and not a period; to type a period, the user must type dots 4 and 6.

The operating manual is easy to follow, with both print and Braille copies provided. An optional cell phone connector can be installed on the unit if requested when ordering. A tactile ringer consisting of two devices is provided. One device plugs into a telephone jack; the other device, a pager, can be worn on a belt and has a rechargeable battery pack. When the phone rings, the pager emits a beep and vibrates to alert the user of an incoming call. A flashing light on the PortaView lights when the phone is ringing as well. While the system can be used with AC or DC current, Krown recommends the unit stay connected to AC power when possible.

The PortaView has two modes for operating: TDD acoustic mode and direct-connect mode. Acoustic mode allows a user to place a telephone receiver on the cups of the unit, and the transmissions are sent and received by the microphone and speaker under the cups. If requested, an optional cell phone connector can be added to the unit. When it is in acoustic mode, a user can plug a PortaView TDD unit into the earphone jack of the cell phone with a supplied cable. The cell phone then serves as the phone line for transmission, which means the user can use the system on the go. According to the manufacturer, the PortaView's rechargeable battery will power both the PortaView and VTouch for eight hours of use.

The second mode is direct-connect mode, which allows a user to plug a phone line directly into the PortaView TDD and the other end into a standard telephone jack. When at home this is the recommended mode because the system is connecting directly to the phone line, so transmission is likely to be more reliable. The PortaView will perform face-to-face communication in either acoustic mode or direct connect mode.

Those who have some hearing should note that no audible signal is currently on the PortaView when the phone rings. Therefore the tactile ringer must be plugged into a separate phone jack from the PortaView, or a splitter must be used.

The unit can also be used as an answering machine. A deaf-blind person can call in from another TDD and read the messages stored in the system. Ninety-nine names and phone numbers can be stored for directory dialing. The price of the PortaView 20 Plus TTY is $5,995. (Note: The PortaView 20 Plus is sold only with the VTouch. It is not posted on the Krown Web site, which features the PortaView 20 Jr., a later model.)

Krown Manufacturing, Inc.
3408 Indale Rd, Fort Worth, Texas 76116
voice: (817) 738-2485; TTY: (817) 738-8993
fax: (817) 738-1970; email: <info@KrownMfg.com>
Web site: <www.krowntty.com>

 

Remembering Rami

by Ronza Othman

From the Editor: Perhaps everyone can look back and identify people whose impact on his or her life was profound--people who live on, at least a little, in us. Our lives are richer for recognizing such influences and for honoring them when they have been positive. We have occasionally published profiles of such mentors in the pages of the Braille Monitor, but I cannot remember a single one with the power and brevity of the following sketch.

The author is Ronza Othman, a 2006 NFB scholarship winner and a law student at DePauw University. Her sketch first appeared in the Fall 2005 issue of the Braille Examiner, the publication of the NFB of Illinois. Now meet Rami Atiya; you will not soon forget him:

I met Rami Atiya on the school bus when I was five years old and he was nine. Our families were from the same Arabic and suburban communities, but we hadn't met before that day. He was blind too, and to my surprise, he was both willing and eager to talk about his disability. I had been raised in an atmosphere in which it was taboo to talk about my blindness. This was true in his situation as well, but he defied cultural traditions. He said his blindness was just as much a part of him as his hair color, and since no one expected him to wear a hat to cover his hair, he wouldn't pretend he wasn't blind.

Rami and I were bused to the same school district for four years. It was a magnet school district, catering to blind, visually impaired, deaf, and hearing-impaired children from suburban Chicago. Our commute lasted about an hour each way, so Rami and I had plenty of time to talk. I was initially struck by his energy and enthusiasm. Then I was awed by his optimism and belief that any problem could be solved with a lot of hard work and a positive attitude. He was generous, kind, and absolutely hilarious. He taught me how to walk with a cane and made it look cool. Then he taught me how to use my cane to protect myself when other kids were cruel to me. He gave me the gift of being able to laugh at the world, and at myself in particular.

I transferred to a different school when I was nine, and Rami moved to Florida soon afterward. We exchanged letters for several more years and got together whenever he visited Chicago. Once we talked about how unlikely it was that either of us would ever get married, given how unreceptive Arabs were to blindness. Rami, with his usual enthusiasm, suggested we solve that problem by being one another's in-case person--if neither of us had married by the time I turned twenty-four, we'd defy everyone and marry each other.
Rami wrote me when he was sixteen to tell me that he was undergoing eye surgery. He said that there was a strong likelihood that the procedure would restore his sight. He confided that he had agreed to the surgery only because his parents wanted it so badly, but that he was otherwise willing to remain as he was. He talked about how afraid and lonely he felt. But in usual Rami fashion he told me that this experience would simply give him more material to laugh at when it was over.

I received a letter a few days after Rami's scheduled surgery, but it was from his sister. Rami had suffered a heart attack as a result of complications from the anesthesia. He had died instantly.

 

Recipes

This month's recipes have been contributed by members of the NFB of Kansas.


Alfredo Sauce

by Suzie Stanzel

Suzie Stanzel is president of the NFB of Kansas. She loves Italian food. President Maurer's brother, Dr. Matt Maurer, passed along the following recipes to Suzie when he visited the Colorado Center for the Blind, where she was a student. She used them in preparing her graduation meal. She recommends both highly.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup cream
2 cloves garlic, pressed (really pulverized)
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Place olive oil and butter in a saucepan and melt. Add the shallot and cook just enough to wilt it. Add flour and stir over medium heat. Be sure the flour is well cooked and free of lumps. Whisk in the cream, being sure to incorporate the flour well in the cream so the sauce doesn't lump. Add the garlic and bring the sauce almost to a boil. It should be giving off that great garlic fragrance. Stir constantly with a whisk throughout this process. Add parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over your favorite cooked pasta. Serves four.

Bolognese Sauce

by Suzie Stanzel

Ingredients:
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 medium carrot
1 stalk celery
2 large shallots
4 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup red wine (of drinking quality)
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Other spices:
Traditional:
1 teaspoon sweet basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano (fresh if possible)
Authentic:
A few grinds of fresh nutmeg

Method: Finely grate the carrot. Very thinly slice the celery. These vegetables should almost disappear in the sauce. Begin cooking the tomatoes in a heavy pan. Add the vegetables. The heat should be just high enough to keep the sauce simmering. Stir periodically to keep it from sticking. Cook for about an hour. Finely chop the shallots and mince the garlic and add to sauce. Then add bay leaves and other spices, either traditional or authentic. Cook for another twenty to thirty minutes. Add the red wine and milk. Bring back to a boil and simmer for another hour. Add browned ground meat, if desired, and cook for another hour. Serve over cooked pasta.

 

Portuguese Soup

by Pila Mahoney

Pila Mahoney is a close friend of Dick Edlund, the first vice president of the NFB of Kansas.

Ingredients:
2 cans chicken broth
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 potato, cut in small pieces
2 carrots, diced
1 bunch kale, cut small
1 tablespoon cumin, ground
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy pot. Cover and cook slowly until done, about three hours. Serve with garlic bread.

 

Baked Potato Soup

by Mary Thompson

Mary Thompson is the wife of John Thompson, president of the Johnson County Chapter.

Ingredients:
8 medium russet potatoes
3 cups milk or broth
1/2 cup chopped onion, sautéed (optional)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup Velveeta or cheddar cheese, cubed
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (adjust to taste)

Method: Bake potatoes until tender. Cool. Set two aside; peel the rest and place in 2-quart saucepan. Mash with fork to coarse consistency. Add milk or broth 1 cup at a time, mixing with electric mixer on low speed. Add onion, sour cream, cheese, butter or margarine, salt, and pepper. Place over low heat, stirring frequently. Peel and cube the remaining two potatoes and add to soup. Continue to heat and stir until cheese is melted and mixture is hot. Serve with optional garnishes of extra sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, bacon bits, or chopped green onion.

 

Soul Food Spaghetti
by Lynda Canady

Lynda Canady has sung opera professionally. She is an NFB of Kansas scholarship winner. She says, "I grew up on the basic spaghetti recipe and have added my own special touches over the years. I have included those here. These recipes are part of one of my favorite stick-to-your-ribs meals that I enjoy just before many performances. I created the garlic spread recipe several years ago while I was preparing a dinner for possible employers. It worked! I got my seven-week, thirty-six-performance run of Porgy and Bess after serving these to the music administrator of the Washington Opera, who was in charge of hiring singers for the opera as part of the Spoleto Festival in Melbourne and Sidney, Australia. Ladies, if the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, you just might be hired or get married after serving these recipes. Enjoy."

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1 pound Italian sausage
1 medium onion
1 medium bell pepper
3 to 4 celery ribs
3 medium fresh tomatoes
1 or 2 cans tomato sauce
1 or 2 cans tomato paste
2 to 4 cans water
1 to 2 cans whole black olives (pitted)
1 to 2 8-ounce packages sliced mushrooms
Lawry's Seasoned Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1/2- to 1-pound package spaghetti noodles
2 large cloves garlic, pressed or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 to 1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 to 1 teaspoon basil
Parmesan, romano, or asiago cheese

Method: Chop bell pepper, celery, onion, and tomatoes. Slice mushrooms if necessary. Brown sausage and set aside. In a large saucepan or skillet brown ground beef, which has been seasoned with Lawry's. Add bell pepper, celery, onion, and sausage. Sauté until vegetables are tender crisp. Add garlic, oregano, basil, pepper, tomato paste, and water, stirring until paste is thoroughly incorporated. Add tomato sauce, mushrooms, olives, and tomatoes. Mix well and heat thoroughly for at least thirty minutes. Note, the longer the sauce cooks, the better the flavors will blend and the sauce taste. If cooking longer than thirty minutes, reduce heat to simmer. Cook spaghetti according to package directions and mix noodles with sauce. Top with parmesan, asiago, or romano cheese. Serve with tossed salad, garlic bread, and your choice of desserts, or have the spaghetti as a one-dish meal.

 

Garlic Spread

by Lynda Canady

Ingredients:
1 stick butter, softened
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method: Mix all ingredients together and spread on sliced Italian or French bread. Broil until bread is heated through and slightly crisp and spread is melted. Serve hot.

 

Broccoli Rice Casserole

by Martha Kelly

Martha Kelly is treasurer of the NFB Kansas. She reports that her family thinks they have to have this casserole for Thanksgiving dinner.

Ingredients:
1 cup uncooked rice, 3 cups when cooked
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 8-ounce jar Cheez Whiz
1 16-ounce package frozen broccoli spears, thawed

Method: Cook rice according to package directions and set aside. Sauté celery and onion in butter. Add soups and Cheez Whiz. Stir until cheese melts, then add rice and broccoli. Bake thirty minutes in a greased baking dish at 350 degrees.

 

Monitor Miniatures


News from the Federation Family

NFB March for Independence:

During the July 2007 national convention we will conduct the National Federation of the Blind March for Independence to educate the public about blindness and to raise money for the Imagination Fund. Interested and eligible Federationists will walk a designated five-kilometer route through downtown Atlanta. We plan to conclude this high-profile event with an inspiring procession into the opening general session of the convention. In addition to raising money for the programs of the Jernigan Institute and our state affiliates, the March for Independence will proclaim by example blind people's ability to be active and engaged in the community. Imagine the positive impression of blindness and the National Federation of the Blind that hundreds of members and friends will make as we march together--canes and dogs conspicuously in action--while streaming through the downtown streets of Atlanta, the heart and home of America's civil rights movement.

In order to march, potential participants must pledge to raise two hundred and fifty dollars or more in donations between now and Thursday, May 31, 2007. Marchers who have made their pledges and turned in their raised funds by May 31 will be able to participate in the march and will receive an official March for Independence T-shirt at convention. We have established a contest with incentives for early pledging. The names of March for Independence participants will be placed in a drawing for one thousand dollars at the Washington Seminar during the last week of January. The name of each marcher will go into the drawing once for every one hundred dollars pledged and received by the Jernigan Institute outreach department by January 1, 2007. We will announce additional incentives in coming weeks.

Online registration and the opportunity to sponsor marchers with an online donation are now available on the NFB Web site. Promotional materials and a marcher's tool kit are coming soon. For more information click on the "Learn about the Jernigan Institute" link from the NFB homepage. Pledge to participate in the March for Independence by registering online as a participant as soon as possible. In addition to downloading online information, you can learn further details and register for this first-ever public education and fundraising event by sending email inquiries about the march to <independencemarch@nfb.org> or by directly contacting Kristi Bowman in the Jernigan Institute outreach office at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2406. Event logistics are still being ironed out, but we urge Federationists to sign up and begin raising funds immediately. Watch for additional information on the National Federation of the Blind March for Independence in upcoming issues of the Braille Monitor.

In Memoriam:

We regret to report the death of Gail Coppel. Don Capps, president emeritus of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, writes as follows: Gail Aliene Coppel, fifty-six, was an exceptional member of the NFB of South Carolina, having been a member of the Columbia Chapter for more than thirty years. She was faithful, caring, and generous and a good wife and mother. She and her husband Frank raised two children, Matthew and Laura.

Both Gail and Frank were natives of Baltimore, Maryland. Gail graduated from the Maryland School for the Blind in 1969 and from Towson State University in 1973 with a BS in elementary education. She fought to become the first blind person to do her student teaching in the Baltimore public school system and then taught at the Maryland School for the Blind for two years. When Frank accepted a position with the South Carolina Commission for the Blind, the family moved to Columbia, where they have resided ever since.

Gail served as secretary of her children's elementary school PTA, keeping the minutes in Braille. She was one of the first women trustees of the South Carolina Federation Center of the Blind, secretary and in the late 1980's president of the Columbia Chapter, a member of many affiliate committees, and a frequent children's counselor and director for about four years of children's camp at Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind. In recent years she was also active with the senior camp at Rocky Bottom. Her love for Rocky Bottom, in the mountains of northern Pickens County, was evident in the Coppels' contributions to building projects, their participation in annual Fun Day Festivals, and most recently in Gail's generous contributions to children's camp and senior blind camp. She attended every state and national convention and was a recipient of the Donald C. Capps Award, the highest honor presented by the NFB of South Carolina to a blind member.

Gail also helped organize several affiliate chapters and was instrumental in organizing the Beaufort Chapter. She was the first president of the South Carolina Parents of Blind Children Division and was once recognized by United Way of the Midlands as volunteer of the month.

Surviving Gail is her husband Frank, first vice president of the NFB of South Carolina, vice chairman of Rocky Bottom Retreat and Conference Center of the Blind, chairman of the Federation Center of the Blind, and president of the Columbia Chapter. He has retired from the Commission for the Blind. Also surviving are her son Matthew and daughter Laura. Gail will be deeply missed by us all.

Braille Readers Are Leaders Forms Available:

Forms for the 2007 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest are now available from the Independence Market, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230. You can also call the Independence Market at (410) 659-9314, or email your order to <independencemarket@nfb.org>.

In Memoriam:

In late June Ed McDonald, a past president of the NFB of West Virginia, wrote the following tribute reporting the death of Victor Gonzalez, a longtime affiliate leader: Victor Gonzalez died June 17, 2006, at the age of eighty-one. Victor was active in politics throughout his life. At the age of twenty-five he led an effort in his hometown--the small community of Anmoore, West Virginia--to incorporate the town and form a municipal government. He then served as mayor for eighteen years. He later received gubernatorial appointments to three three-year terms on the state's Human Rights Commission.

In the late 1950's Dr. tenBroek authorized a team of Federationists to conduct a study of the quality and delivery of services for the blind in West Virginia. As a result of the many negative findings made public by the study, the leaders of the state's rehabilitation agency agreed to meet regularly with a committee of Federationists to receive consumer input to improve services. Over the years the scope of these meetings has grown to include representatives of several additional agencies that provide services to the blind, including the Library Commission, Department of Education, School for the Blind, Human Rights Commission, Bureau of Senior Services, Department of Human Services, and West Virginia Assistive Technology System. Victor chaired the Agency Relations Committee from the time of its creation in 1960 until his death.

It is my recollection that Victor is the only West Virginia Federationist whose name is included anywhere in the pages of Walking Alone and Marching Together. Victor was a man of strong opinions and strong will. He and I have disagreed from time to time on a variety of Federation issues, and he never shrank from a spirited debate. Nevertheless, he also understood the principle of confining debate to the meeting room and not allowing personal disagreements to threaten the strength of friendship or the unity of organization.

Victor and his wife Joyce have attended several national conventions over the years, and I am sure many Federationists will remember him. He has certainly been a Federation pioneer in West Virginia, and those of us who have known him as colleague and friend for many years will truly miss him.

New Listserv:

The Science and Engineering Division invites you to join its new listserv in order to exchange emails with blind engineers, scientists, and students in technical fields. You can subscribe to the list, nfb-science, by going to the Web page <www.nfbnet.org>.

In Memoriam:

Debbie Stein, secretary of the NFB of Illinois, reports: it is with great sadness that I report the passing of Bryan Turner, who died of diabetic complications at his home on July 21, 2006. Bryan attended his first state convention in 2003 and immediately became an active member of the Illinois affiliate. He revived the Kankakee Heartland Chapter and served as its president until his death. To show the public the abilities of blind people, Bryan undertook a thirty-nine-mile Walk for Vision in 2005, alternating between cane and dog guide. We will remember "The Elf" for his energy and determination and for his commitment to the Federation.

 

In Brief

Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.

Optacon Users Unite to Preserve Valuable Reading Device:

The Optacon user list would like to share the following information with all current and former Optacon users:
1. Optacons can still be repaired. Repairers are located in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia.
2. We are seeking all nonworking or unused Optacons. They can be repaired and put back into circulation.
3. We invite all current Optacon users to complete a brief survey describing their experiences both negative and positive.
4. If the survey data we collect show enough interest, the Optacon might be redeveloped with updated circuitry to read some types of modern displays, colors, and print formats that other devices cannot currently read.
5. Users can share experiences and make plans for the future of the Optacon on an active Optacon listserv.

Invented in the early 1970's, the Optacon uses a handheld camera to explore a print document and convert the picture of what it finds to a small tactile array composed of vibrating rods. The picture is very tiny--about the size of a standard print letter or number. The Optacon was manufactured until the early 1990's. If you would like information on any of the above or have any questions, please email <braille@panix.com>.

Weekly Teleconferences for Writers:

Hour-long Written Word Workshop teleconferences are hosted by Sanford Rosenthal of the At-Large Chapter of the National Writers Union on Sunday evenings at 8:00 p.m. EST. You can register at no charge by calling Sanford at (954) 537-7557 or emailing him at <sanfordrosenthal@nwuatlarge.org>. Once you leave him your contact information, you can get the dial-in phone number for the conferences. Those with disabilities are invited to participate and give support to each other as we learn from everyone about writing and publishing. Published authors are also featured on alternate Sunday evenings as guest speakers for the live question-and-comment segment that is part of the workshop.

Attention Woodworkers:

Woodworking for the Blind, Inc., now provides monthly CD recordings of woodworking publications exclusively for the use of blind and visually impaired woodworkers. Voice recordings of all of the articles and features in Fine Woodworking magazine, Woodwork magazine, Woodsmith magazine, Woodworking magazine, and American Woodworker magazine are available as CDs in MP3 file format shortly after each magazine's current issue becomes available. Recordings of full-length books on woodworking also will be available from time to time. So far this year we have issued nine CDs, totaling more than seventy-two hours of recordings of magazines and books.

If you are interested, please contact us at <woodworkingfortheblind@comcast.net>.

Episcopal Worship Materials Available:

The Large-Print Ministry offers two CDs to help blind and visually impaired people in their devotions and in participating fully in worship. Prayers and Psalms for Today is a large-print CD that can help in all kinds of situations. It includes selections from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer of the American Episcopal Church: "Prayers and Thanksgivings," "Prayers for the Sick," "Prayers for Use by a Sick Person," and the entire "Book of Psalms" (from the BCP). While the prayers are from an Episcopal book, they may be helpful to people of all faiths. This CD is in APhont™, a special font designed for people with low vision and is formatted in MS Word. Most of the material is in 20-point print.

The Large-Print Book of Common Prayer CD includes the entire 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Material on this CD is mainly in 18-point type. The materials on both CDs are laid out for 8.5 by 11-inch pages. They can be used to prepare worship materials and can be loaded into an electronic notetaker or computer. This lay ministry is a labor of love in thankfulness to God for His many blessings and in memory of my father, who was visually impaired.

To order a CD, send a self-addressed, stamped 6-by-9-inch envelope with three 39-cent stamps attached (four if it's a padded envelope) to Ann Dahlen, 1900 6th Avenue, Apt. 513, Rock Island, Illinois 61201. Be sure to indicate which CD you want. A donation to help cover supply and other costs would be appreciated since this program is not a part of any diocese, church, or organization. Please make checks payable to Ann Dahlen. For more information, email Ms. Dahlen at <anndahlen3@aol.com>.

Elliot Zaretsky and Maxi-Aids Strike again:

Several years ago Maxi-Aids was found in contempt of court when the company began using the name of Independent Living Aids in conjunction with the name Maxi-Aids on its Web site, probably in order to pull in more business. Maxi-Aids also seems to have tracked the expiration dates of trademarked names of products that they had already done much to drive out of production so that they could take them over. Say When and Hi-Marks are examples that come to mind. But at this late date these rather sordid activities are merely unfortunate and unpleasant footnotes to history.

Now it seems that Maxi-Aids is at it again. If you go to <www.visaids.com>, you will find a shiny new Web site selling products for blind and otherwise disabled people, many of them Maxi-Aids products. At the very bottom of the home page is the statement that Maxi Aids holds the copyright on the Web site.

The New York Lighthouse for the Blind (now Lighthouse International) bought the original company called Vis-Aids several years ago and immediately ceased using the Vis-Aids name, though we believe they still own it. One wonders what Maxi-Aids is up to this time--Elliot Zaretsky is always up to something. Perhaps word of Maxi-Aids's business ethics is spreading, and Mr. Zaretsky hopes to garner business from unsuspecting folk who are trying to avoid doing business with Maxi-Aids by placing orders with Vis-Aids. Or it may simply be that Mr. Zaretsky hopes that adding one more mail order house to the three currently in the field (LS&S, Independent Living Aids, and Maxi-Aids) will ultimately result in his getting half rather than a third of the disability mail order business. It's a free country, of course, but let would-be buyers beware: Vis-Aids is not a new player in the field, and we have learned the hard way the kinds of games that Elliot Zaretsky plays.

Low-Cost Computers Available:

Join your friends in using a refurbished 350-MHZ-or-faster Pentium-based computer for a gift of $100. Listen on your Talking Book playback machine to eight audio cassettes providing a step-by-step tutorial on how to use Windows and Window-Eyes from Brian Hartgen, including email and reading Web pages. The package includes a demo copy of Window-Eyes. Keep track of your tax and insurance files. Write letters and emails to your friends and family. Keep your own recipes and family genealogy records. Send and receive email. A sample copy of an email service, Juno, and a shareware screen-enlargement program are provided.

Also available are twenty refurbished laptop computers. Must be operated from wall outlet service. These units are suitable for a mobile home or small apartment. Each has a demo copy of Window-Eyes and an enlargement program. An external monitor may be had, if wanted. Your gift of $100 will give you this rare item.

If you have wanted to own your own computer, now is your chance. Call Bob Langford at (214) 340-6328 during business hours. CDT. This offer is good in the U.S. and Canada only. Mastering the computer is a lot of work, but it offers many new pleasures.

NLS Receives Two Blue Pencil Awards:

The following notice is taken from the June 30, 2006, Gazette, a weekly newsletter to the Library of Congress staff:
A library book about the life of Jacobus tenBroek, a revered blind activist, and a public service announcement, "A Good Book Is Worth Sharing," each won a Blue Pencil Award from the National Association of Government Communicators (NAGC) on May 26.
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) issued both winners. The book, Blind Justice: Jacobus tenBroek and the Vision of Equality, received the Award of Excellence, and the announcement won a first place. The association recognizes the best publications and other communications products of local, state, and federal governments.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) was pleased to learn of the recognition. "Jacobus tenBroek was an extraordinary individual, and it is fitting that his life story received this national honor," said Marc Maurer, president of NFB. Blind Justice is the first full-length biography of tenBroek, a champion of equal opportunities for blind people and founder of the National Federation of the Blind.

Written by tenBroek's friend and collaborator, Floyd Matson, the book recounts how the crusader (1911-1968), who was blinded by an arrow at age seven, obtained a law degree, fought for and received a university teaching position at the University of California, Berkeley, and became a pioneer in organizing the blind community.

The book is available from the NLS collection in Braille and on audiocassette to blind and physically handicapped readers. Hardcover and paperback copies in regular print were offered for a fee to the general public through the Government Printing Office.

Pen Friend Wanted:

David Beaudoin, an inmate (nonviolent, nondrug offender) is looking for pen friends. He is forty-three years old and a former welder. He is learning Braille and reads the Monitor. Hobbies, poetry, writing to new people, sharing ideas, sports. Send letters in print or on tape. All letters will be answered. Send to David Beaudoin, 74500-L.C.C., P.O. Box 359, Lovelock, Nevada 89419.

Pop Up Magnifier for Cell Phones:

The Pop Up Magnifier for cell phones automatically pops up when you open your phone, magnifying your entire display screen. It instantly retracts when you close your phone. Its best feature is that one size fits all cell phones if the consumer trims excess lens. It magnifies two to three times. This magnifier offers cell phone users a visual aid for reading the small display screens of a typical cellular telephone. It also works with home phones and caller IDs. The cost is $7.95; free shipping in the USA. Contact Richards Vending and Supply, (614) 406-9793; email <phonemagnifier@yahoo.com>.

 

Monitor Mart

The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.

For Sale:

BrailleNote Classic with Perkins-style Braille keyboard and a thirty-two-cell Braille display that runs Keysoft 4.01 and comes with carrying case, AC adapter, cables to connect to your computer, large-print and CD-ROM users guide, and external disk drive. Everything is in very good condition. Asking $2,500 plus shipping or best offer. If you're interested or know of someone who is, please contact Stacy Cervenka at <stacy_cervenka@brownback.senate.gov> or during the day at (202) 224-6521.

For Sale:

This BrailleLite is in good condition. Just refurbished. Accessories in original packaging. Owner's manual in Braille included. I am asking $1,000 plus shipping, but I am willing to negotiate price. Anyone interested may contact Bill Meinecke at (757) 474-9476 or by email at <nanpuppy@cox.net>.

For Sale:

Enhanced Vision Merlin Video Magnifier for people with low vision magnifies an image of any paper or object placed on its base on a video monitor (not included). Platform supports up to a twenty-inch TV or similar monitor. Auto-focus. Only two years old and in excellent condition. All cables and documentation included. Asking $1,700 or best offer. Photo can be emailed upon request. Direct all inquiries to <dooleysson@yahoo.com> or phone (804) 769-9252.

For Sale:

Creative bold-line paper and colors. Do you have a sense of humor and enjoy loving touches? Send cassette or write to ask for free paper samples. Choose from polka dots, flowers, checkers, or fabric textures. Include phone number. Send to Cherokee Walker, 305 S. Telegraph Road, Studio 5, Pontiac, Michigan, 48341; (248) 874-0049.

For Sale:

Optelec Clearview 317XL CCTV with black-and-white seventeen-inch monitor, electronic controls, and line or Window marker option. Excellent condition. Two years old. Asking $975 or best offer. PayPal accepted. Payment plan available. Price includes UPS ground shipping and insurance within the continental United States. Contact Bill at (847) 342-7155 between 1:00 and 8:00 p.m., CST; or email <052338@comcast.net>.

NFB Pledge

I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.

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