Braille Monitor                                                                 December 2006


Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

In Memoriam:

Nicholas Richard Schmittroth III, March 13, 1976, to October 6, 2006

On Friday, October 6, Federationists across the country received an email message from Tai Schmittroth with the sad news we had been dreading to hear: Nick Schmittroth had died quietly that morning in his sleep at the age of thirty. He had been battling stage IV metastatic melanoma for eight months. After they learned the diagnosis, Nick and Tai moved their wedding forward to March 25 so that they could have more time together.

Nick was president of the Salt Lake City Chapter of the NFB and a member of the NFB of Utah board of directors. He earned a master's degree from Louisiana Tech University and was certified to teach cane travel. He was the Federationist who taught Nicole Rasmussen to travel with a long white cane on the NFB program, Three Wishes, last fall. He addressed the convention last summer during the agenda item about filming the program. NFB of Utah President Ron Gardner says:

Nick was unselfish, hard-working, energetic, and passionate about helping other blind people, especially helping children to have what he did not have as a child in the public school system. He was hired at our agency serving the blind under a hailstorm of criticism and controversy. The agency serving the blind in our state had an opening, and Nick was the only applicant. When he came for an interview, he was treated roughly. A majority of the interviewers wanted the position left vacant rather than hiring a blind or visually impaired person to teach O&M. Nick was subjected to a second interview (even though he was still the only applicant and obviously well trained, qualified, and certified and willing to take the job). The director of the training center said that, if Nick were hired, the director would refuse to supervise him because he believed it was dangerous to hire a blind or visually impaired O&M instructor.

Nick was eventually hired, and he of course faced negativity, criticism, and mistrust. He was assigned the most difficult clients, those with multiple disabilities (including cognitive disabilities). Nick did much to convince his supervisor and other staff members of his professional ability. He did even more to demonstrate understanding, and he maintained professional decorum throughout his tenure as an O&M instructor at our agency. He met criticism and questions with honesty, integrity, and a calm demeanor. Nick truly learned the lesson taught us by Dr. Jernigan that we must be comfortable enough with our blindness that we do not let the misunderstandings, misconceptions, and criticisms of others affect the way we feel about ourselves.

As a blind person with some residual vision, he was quick to encourage parents and students fighting for blindness services and instruction in Braille. He was kind and generous. Our movement has lost a committed and dedicated brother. Our sympathy goes to his wife, his family, and his many friends.


The Richmond Federation of the Blind of Virginia elections were held in October, and the following officers were elected: president, Maurice Peret; first vice president, Susan Roe; second vice president, Valerie Luther; secretary/treasurer, Janice Nuckols; board members, Roberta Shankle, Annette Williams, and Marshall Jordan; and alternate board member, Cyndy Iskow.


The NFB of Rhode Island conducted its annual election on October 21, 2006. Those elected were president, Richard Gaffney; vice president, Angie Stabile; treasurer, Robert Pires; secretary, Grace Pires; and board members, Barry Humphries, John Carvalho, and Mary Jane Fry. Special thanks go to Mary Jane Fry, who has served thirty-four consecutive years as affiliate secretary. The affiliate was established thirty-six years ago.

National Federation of the Blind Youth Slam 2007
A STEM Leadership Academy:

Join us next summer for the most dynamic gathering of blind youth ever. From July 30 to August 4, two hundred blind and low vision high school students will gather at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, to be mentored by blind role models during fun-filled, challenging activities intended to build confidence and increase science literacy. Participants will also have the opportunity to attend various social events and workshops on topics such as leadership, career preparation, and blindness. The NFB Youth Slam will culminate in an inspiring rally at Baltimore's Inner Harbor and a celebration at the center of innovation in the field of blindness--the NFB Jernigan Institute.

Those interested in participating as students or mentors should complete an application by April 1, 2007. We encourage candidates to complete their applications early, because qualified participants will be selected first-come-first-served. Students and mentors need not have a strong interest in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) in order to participate, enjoy, and benefit from this academy.
For more information or to obtain application materials, visit <>, send an email to <>, or call the Jernigan Institute at (410) 659-9314, extension 2293.

New Chapter:

We are pleased to announce the formation of a new chapter of the NFB of Michigan in Kalamazoo. The inaugural meeting was held on September 21, 2006, and the following people were elected: president, Jason Meddaugh; vice president, Leanne Merren; secretary, Corda Moss; treasurer, Nathan Prater; and board members, Debbie Robinson, Faith Meadows, and Matt McCubbin. More information on the chapter can be found at <>. Congratulations to the new Kalamazoo Chapter.


The Weber/Davis Chapter of the NFB of Utah just held elections, and the following officers were elected: president, Chad Wilburn; vice president, Cheralyn Creer; secretary, Erin Wilburn; treasurer, Jeff Smith; and board members, Richard Condie and Dave Mahlstrom.

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.

Taxpayer Advocate Service Offers Help with Tax Problems:

If you're having trouble resolving a federal tax problem with the IRS, you may be able to get help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent organization within the IRS whose employees assist taxpayers who are experiencing economic harm, who are seeking help in resolving tax problems that have not been resolved through normal channels, or who believe that an IRS system or procedure is not working as it should. You may be eligible for Taxpayer Advocate Service assistance if:

The service is free, confidential, tailored to meet your needs, and available for businesses as well as individuals. If you qualify, you will receive personalized service from a knowledgeable advocate who will listen to your situation, help you understand what needs to be done to resolve it, and stay with you every step of the way until your problem is resolved.

You can reach the Taxpayer Advocate Service by calling its toll-free case intake line at (877) 777-4778 or TTY/TTD (800) 829-4059. You can also call or write your local taxpayer advocate, whose phone number and address are listed in the government listings in your local telephone directory and in IRS publication 1546, The Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS - How to Get Help With Unresolved Tax Problems. To learn more about the Taxpayer Advocate Service, go to <>.

Autobiography for Sale:

Lois Dingess Howard enjoyed an almost perfect childhood, that is, until she was in the fifth grade and was suddenly confronted with the shocking realization that she was gradually losing her vision. Nevertheless, her faith in God gave her the courage to forge ahead, and eventually her troubled journey took her to a straighter and much smoother stretch of pavement on her life's roadmap.

To order your copy of "Loving in the Dark, an Incredible Journey" (print only), send check or money order in the amount of $8 to Lois Howard at 61951 High Hill Road, Cambridge, Ohio 43725.

Donations Needed:

The Braille Library Service of Khulna, Bangladesh, needs used Braille books and magazines, slates and styluses, Braille writing paper, abacuses, Braille watches, talking watches, white canes, Perkins Braillers, and any other kind of Braille materials. The Bangladesh Society for the Disabled has been abolished, and the National Society of the Blind has now been established. One of the projects this new organization has initiated is the Braille Library Service. Contributions may be sent to Moin Chowdhury, Post Box: 42, G.P.O. 9000, Khulna, Bangladesh.

Fortune Cookies For Sale:

The world's only genuine Braille fortune cookies can be yours for the holidays, birthdays, weddings, special events, and meetings. Lucky Touch Braille Fortune Cookie Company is a student-operated business at the California School for the Blind. We sell individually-wrapped plain or chocolate-dipped Braille fortune cookies. We also have giant fortune cookies that contain both Braille and large print. Customized cookies are also available with advance notice. Mugs, fancy boxes, and gift baskets can be filled to your specification.
To order or for more information, we can be reached at the California School for the Blind, 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, California 94536. Our phone number is (510) 794-3800; fax is (510) 794-3813; email is <> or <> or <>. Be the first on your block to have a Braille fortune cookie.

New NASA Software:

We recently received the following press release that will be of interest to those working on math access for blind students:

NASA recently released an innovative open source software suite that may forever change the way blind and vision-impaired users view complex graphs. The Math Description Engine Software Development Kit <> (MDE SDK) is a reusable software library that generates text, sound, and visual representations of graphs in both math and science applications. Visually-impaired computer users access these alternative text-and-sound descriptions through the use of a screen reader and standard computer speakers.
The MDE (Math Description Engine) distinguishes itself from other accessibility software by determining the key characteristics of a graph on the fly. Using this determination, it builds natural-language text descriptions that enable visually impaired users to view spatial relationships through sound alone.

Designed with flexibility and ease of use in mind, the SDK (Software Development Kit) allows Web and software developers to adapt the MDE's graph descriptions to a variety of applications. Key audiences who might benefit from the MDE SDK include:

The NASA software program MathTrax is one example of the way MDE technology serves as a powerful learning tool for sighted users as well. Acting as a virtual math and science assistant, MathTrax engages both the eyes and ears of these students to increase overall comprehension.

The MDE software library was created by NASA's Information Accessibility Lab (IAL), under the direction of Dr. Robert O. Shelton, a blind mathematician. The IAL's mission is to develop technologies that increase accessibility to NASA's vast library of outreach products and to release these technologies to the public for further application and development.

The MDE SDK is currently available for download under an open source license at <>. Visit the site today to learn more about the program and how you can play an integral role in developing the future of accessible graphing technology. To learn more about the MDE SDK or MathTrax, email Terry Hodgson at <>.

Sleep Study Needs Volunteers:

Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School are investigating sleep and the body clock in people with no light perception. This research may help us understand how light and stimuli other than light affect the body clock and may also help blind people sleep better. If you volunteer and are accepted for this research, you will be asked to collect information for eight weeks while at home. You will then be asked to live at the laboratory in Boston on two separate occasions for up to five weeks total.
You will receive up to $7,325 for taking part.

If you are interested, contact Joe at (617) 278-0857, or email Joe at <>.

Seeking Applicants for Graduate Certificate Program in Vision:

The RRTC on Blindness and Low Vision at Mississippi State University is seeking applicants for the Vision Specialist in Vocational Rehabilitation graduate certificate program being held March 26 through May 25, 2007. The purpose of the program is to provide vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors and graduate students in VR programs with the expertise to address issues specific to vision impairments. Students receive a stipend which includes tuition and fees, per diem for university housing and meals, and a travel allowance.

The program consists of four courses for twelve graduate-level credit hours:

(1) Rehabilitation for Persons who are Visually Impaired,
(2) Resources for Persons who are Visually Impaired,
(3) Computer Access Technology for Persons who are Visually Impaired, and
(4) Special Project in Rehabilitation of Persons who are Visually Impaired.

The registration deadline is December 15, 2006. Interested applicants can obtain additional information from our Web site: <> or by contacting BT Kimbrough, RRTC training director, at phone (662) 325-7824 or email <>.

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:

I have a Braille 'n Speak 640 that has been updated to the last update available. Asking $400 for this unit. I have the original cassette manual, some floppies with information, and a data cable. The updates files are also on the unit. If interested, contact Franklin E. Tompkins, 2708 Cherokee Road, Birmingham, Alabama 35216; phone (205) 879-0665; cell phone (205) 542-5688; email <>.

For Sale:

I would like to sell a Juliette interpoint Braille embosser. It is under service warranty and is in good working condition. It comes with software and cables. I am asking $2,500 or best offer. Please email or call Dennis Shepard at <>, phone (510) 594-9468.

For Sale:

Braille Note Classic with qwerty keyboard, speech only, Keysoft version 6.11. Comes in original box with all manuals and accessories and a free Wi-Fi card. Asking $750 + shipping. Contact Steve Brand at (443) 570-5285 or <>.

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.