Braille Monitor                                                                January 2007

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Fifth Annual Meet-the-Blind-Month Campaign

by Jerry Lazarus

From the Editor: Here is Jerry Lazarus's report on Meet the Blind Month, October 2006:

Louisville Chapter of the NFB of Kentucky members, Jayne Seif and Mary Harrod, welcome visitors, answer questions, and create Braille name tags at the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library.

It’s official. During the fifth year of Meet the Blind Month we have once again increased the number and types of events held throughout the nation. More than three hundred events took place in October 2006, during another active year by our affiliates and chapters. For a complete list of events go to our Web site at <www.nfb.org/nfb/Meet_the_blind_month_-_Events_2006.asp>.

The Meet-the-Blind-Month campaign, which was first launched in 2002 to be conducted annually during the month of October, is a coordinated, nationwide project designed to provide opportunities for members to reach out to their communities through retail establishments, health fairs, libraries, senior centers, schools, local civic groups, and community events to inform their neighbors about blindness and the NFB, ensuring that the public continues to learn more about our movement. Early planning by affiliate and chapter presidents, along with President Marc Maurer’s providing free Braille alphabet cards, NFB literature, and Kernel Books, increased the number of events and energized our chapters to seek new ways to broadcast our message.

Delores Reisinger, member of the Des Moines Chapter of the NFB of Iowa, distributes Kernel Books and Braille alphabet cards at the Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids to a mother and three children who stopped by her literature table to learn more about the NFB.

Many of our members have become regular presenters of the Braille Is Beautiful video kit program at their local schools. The program, a disability-awareness curriculum for elementary and middle school students, includes videos along with a teacher's guide in both Braille and print. Braille Is Beautiful is an easy and interesting method for demonstrating and promoting Braille. NFB Braille alphabet cards are given to the students, and, after viewing the video presentation, students have a better understanding of the Braille code. After the video a follow-up discussion with blind adults achieves the goal of sharing with the students the importance of Braille and the way blind people read and write.

Chris Zimmerman, Arlington County board chairman (Virginia), looks on as Seville Allen demonstrates the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader during a White Cane Safety Day Proclamation presentation. Also pictured, from left to right, are Tracy Soforenko (seated), Gerry Sanchez, Alan Schlank, Billie Ruth Schlank, Larry Povinelli, and Charlie Brown.

No doubt, this year a number of our events featured demonstrations of assistive technology devices, including the new Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader. This is the first portable handheld reading machine, which was released at our 2006 national convention. Having it this year provided a unique and timely opportunity for NFB members to demonstrate with pride a technology breakthrough that we helped bring to market.

Affiliates have been using Wal-Mart as a venue for their literature and fundraising activities for a number of years. This year many affiliates took advantage of these valuable locations, including California, Colorado, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Washington State, and probably more. White Cane Walks were conducted by a number of affiliates: California, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, and Ohio.
Braille Is Beautiful demonstrations were presented in Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Virginia. Affiliates that found public libraries beneficial as a venue to distribute information about blindness and the NFB included Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

One of the more novel events was the Great Blind Race held in Minneapolis. The Sunday Star Tribune covered this race with a short article and pictures. Twenty people competed in this NFB-of-Minnesota-organized event. The racers had to go to ten locations within two hours throughout the downtown area, including the Metrodome, the Basilica of Saint Mary, and Murray’s restaurant, then collect proof they were there. Walking, bus, and train were the only forms of transportation allowed. Bev Collins and Jennifer Dunnam were pictured in the newspaper article reading directions to their stops in large print and Braille. The winners of the race were Zach Ellingson and Greg Stilson.

During a meet and greet event at the South Side Wal-Mart in Pueblo, Colorado, chapter president Alyce Bouy organized white cane races and relays. Ron Lucero (who won the race and later joined the chapter) is shown in front, along with Rick Holcomb (a chapter board member) who came in second.

Alyce Bouy, president of the Pueblo Chapter of the NFB of Colorado, combined a meet and greet at a local Wal-Mart with white cane races and relays for members and interested shoppers. Congratulations to Ron Lucero, who not only won the race but also joined the chapter after the event. Rick Holcolm came in second.

Cary Supalo, from the Happy Valley Chapter in Pennsylvania, organized an all- afternoon event related to teaching chemistry, physics, astronomy, and biology to blind and visually impaired students at the Penn State University Park Campus. This seminar was open to teachers, education faculty, and current students with an interest in teaching.

The NFB of Georgia held its fifth annual Black Tie/White Cane Appreciation Banquet, with Dr. Maurer, our national president, as the keynote speaker. The theme this year was Blind People Sharing the Responsibility, Sharing the Reward.

The NFB of Idaho, through its Treasure Valley Chapter, held its annual community recognition dinner (and silent auction) to honor several people who have helped in one way or another. Chapter president Dana Ard, Ramona Walhof, and Jan Gawith each presented awards during this fundraising event.

During the October Possibilities Fair for Seniors event held at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, more than four hundred people heard President Maurer introduce Kristen Cox, Maryland's secretary of disabilities (cabinet-level position). Also pictured is John Paré, who served as the master of ceremonies during the fair.

Marion Gwizdala and the East Hillsborough Chapter of the NFB of Florida taught a number of drivers a costly lesson during a White Cane Safety Day awareness and enforcement activity. Many Florida drivers appear to have forgotten that traffic is required to stop for a blind pedestrian using a cane or dog while crossing a street. During this event chapter members set up a tent near a busy intersection to distribute information about blindness and the law. In just three hours one officer wrote a total of twelve violations: ten for violating the White Cane Law, one for violating the right-of-way of pedestrians, and one misdemeanor for driving without a license. Violating the White Cane Law in Florida results in three points and a $60 fine.

All in all, during our 2006 Meet the Blind Month, chapters and affiliates stepped up to the plate and hit home runs with both new and traditional activities. The members, chapters, and affiliates listed in this article only begin to recognize those who planned and participated in the many events. We congratulate and thank all who were involved and look forward to hearing about the types of activities your chapter will conduct in October 2007.

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