Vol. 50, No. 2 February 2007
Barbara Pierce, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Atlanta Site of 2007 NFB Convention
The 2007 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, June 30 through July 6, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel at 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. For room reservations call (888) 218-5399.
The 2007 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $61 and triples and quads $66 a night, plus a 15 percent sales tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2007. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2007, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our block of rooms for the convention. In other words you should get your reservation in as soon as possible.
Guestroom amenities include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and high-speed Internet access. The Marriott has several excellent restaurants. The hotel is currently undergoing renovations that will result in some alteration in the configuration of these. We will report on the changes as the convention draws near. It still features indoor and outdoor pools, solarium, health club, whirlpool, and sauna.
We strongly recommend preregistering for the convention itself online or by mail any time starting March 1 and ending May 31. The 2007 convention will follow what many think of as our usual schedule:
June 30 Seminar Day
Sunday, July 1 Registration Day
Monday, July 2 Board Meeting and Division Day
Tuesday, July 3 March for Independence and Opening Session
Wednesday, July 4 Tour Day
Thursday, July 5 Banquet Day
Friday, July 6 Business Session
Vol. 50, No. 2 February 2007
Is the Failure
to Produce Tactile Currency Really a Matter of Discrimination?
by Marc Maurer
Atlanta Welcomes the National
Federation of the Blind for the First Time
by Anil Lewis
It's Not Your Grandfather’s
by James H. Omvig
What It Means to Walk with
a White Cane
by Chris Danielsen
Lord Low of Dalston’s Maiden
by Lord Colin Low
Someone You Should Know:
Patti S. Gregory-Chang
by Ronza M. Othman
In the Spotlight: Affiliate Action
Blind Hunter Enjoys Success
in the Field
by Larry Porter
Provides Television Listings on NFB-NEWSLINE®
by Eileen B. Hogan
The Riveting Story of a Blind Man, a Blonde, and a Ballot
by Jim Salas
The Troubled Fish
by Daniel B. Frye
Pushing the Envelope
by Jeff Altman
Why I Am a Federationist
by Joleen Kinzer
by Allen Harris
Copyright 2007 National Federation of the Blind
the Failure to Produce Tactile Currency
Really a Matter of Discrimination?
by Marc Maurer
Braille money has been a minor topic of discussion among blind people for as long as I can remember. The way blind people handle coinage and bills was the subject of a lesson (an informal one, as I remember it) that I received during my early grade school years. Coins are not difficult to distinguish from one another tactilely. The bills that form the majority of currency present a somewhat greater challenge, but it is largely a manageable one. Stories abound regarding blind people who insist that they be paid only in one-dollar bills, but the vast majority of blind people receive, manage, disburse, and use bills of higher denominations as a matter of routine.
Most blind people have devised a system for keeping track of paper currency--folding different denominations different ways, separating different denominations into different pockets or different parts of a wallet or purse, or (in rare instances) creating tactile identification marks on bills of different denominations. In a customary transaction involving paper currency, a blind person transferring a bill identifies the denomination before releasing it to the person receiving it. In accepting paper currency, a blind person ordinarily asks that the bills be identified as they are received. Blind merchants ask that the bills they receive be identified publicly. In some instances blind merchants employ a paper money identifier to verify the denomination of a bill. However, in most cases the verbal exchange with the sighted person transferring the bill is sufficient for identification.
From time to time somebody gets the bright idea to ask the Congress to create Braille money. The National Federation of the Blind has been asked for its opinion regarding the creation of Braille money on many occasions. The response to this request for information usually includes these elements:
1) Printing Braille on money has been tested. The Braille wears out with extreme rapidity. Money identified with Braille becomes unusable in its tactile form after only a very short time in circulation.
2) Paper currency of different sizes or shapes could be made that would be identifiable by touch. However, unless the person managing the currency has the different sized or shaped bills to compare, it is frequently difficult to tell what denominations are present. The cost of modifying the currency management technology to accept bills of different sizes or shapes is high for the minimal benefit that would result.
3) We believe
that many legal changes are essential to ensure the right of the blind to full
participation in society. Even if a change in the nature of the paper currency
is desirable, it is not of sufficient importance to warrant our attention and
the attention of Congress. Other things should be done first. Because the management
of paper currency is well within the capacity of the blind, changing the currency
to gain a minor convenience is not justified. For these reasons during the nearly
forty years that I have participated in the National Federation of the Blind,
we as an organization have consistently decided not to put substantial effort
into changing the paper currency.
In 1994 at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind held in Detroit, Michigan, the members of the Federation discussed changes in the currency. Our general approach to the currency was set forth in Resolution 94-07. That resolution says:
WHEREAS, the United States Department of the Treasury is examining alternatives to the present currency for the purposes of making counterfeiting more difficult and for making currency more compatible with modern technology; and
WHEREAS, revisions to the present currency may include variations in color, raised markings, bar coding, or other electronically readable formats; and
WHEREAS, it is a widespread misconception that blind people cannot handle their own money because they cannot see it; and
WHEREAS, it is beyond dispute that blind people can, in fact, handle their own money; however, bills which can be identified by other than conventional print could be more convenient for everyone, may be a necessity to safeguard against counterfeiting, and may be desirable to take the best advantage of evolving technology: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this seventh day of July, 1994, in the City of Detroit, Michigan, that this organization express the interest of blind people in the discussion of a modernized form of currency so that any changes which may eventually be made will include methods of identifying money by other than strictly visual means; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this Federation, notwithstanding its expressed interest in the ultimate decisions on currency changes, do all in its power correctly to inform the public that blind people can and do successfully handle money in its present form.
In the spring of 2002 the American Council of the Blind and certain individuals sued the Treasury of the United States and others on the grounds that the paper currency of our country was not tactilely identifiable by blind individuals and that the failure of the Treasury to produce such currency constituted discrimination against the blind. Inasmuch as most of us who are blind have been using paper currency without major difficulty, the National Federation of the Blind thought the lawsuit was primarily an effort on the part of the American Council of the Blind (ACB) to gain publicity. Many thoughtful leaders of the blind felt that the ACB's publicity stunt was damaging to the blind not only because it focused attention on a putative problem that did not exist but also that it would present the capacity of the blind in a false and misleading manner. If blind people are incapable of managing paper currency, how devastating is the limitation of blindness? We felt that this kind of presentation would lead to the assertion that blind people were incapable of participation in commerce without substantial alteration of the documents or papers involved in financial transactions. To give only one example, if a check is not tactilely identifiable, is the signature of a blind person upon it valid? The answer to the question might be that the signature is not. If this were to become the result of the argument that the paper currency discriminates against the blind, the effect upon blind people would be devastating indeed. We in the National Federation of the Blind have fought for the proposition that the signature of a blind person is valid upon such documents, whether they are tactilely identifiable or not. To assert anything else would be to challenge the right of blind people to engage in the commerce of the world.
Fundamental to the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind is the belief that blind people can operate effectively within our society as it currently exists with only minor modifications of the tools used for participation in that society. How much alteration in the tools of participation is needed for our effective participation? This question is at the heart of the argument about creating a tactile currency. Tactile currency would be convenient and beneficial to the blind. However, it would cost a great deal to create it and even more to implement its use. The most frequently suggested method for creating a tactilely identifiable currency is to print bills of different sizes for different denominations. If this method of producing currency were to be adopted, the machines used to manage currency would require alteration. The cash registers employed throughout the country would need modified drawers. This is only the beginning of the cost. The bank machines, the vending machines, the currency-counting machines, and other paper-currency-managing tools would require alteration. If we who are blind expect our government, our businesses, and our citizenry to meet these costs, the benefit must be sufficiently large to justify the demand. What we said about the lawsuit brought against the Treasury was, "Show us a problem that exists. Then we'll join in urging that it be solved."
Of course the currency contains identifiable visual markings for the sighted. Why could it not also contain tactilely identifiable markings for the blind? Undoubtedly such currency could be manufactured. However, if no need for it has been demonstrated, the decision to produce such currency is a matter for policy determination by the government rather than a requirement imposed by law.
On November 28, 2006, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia issued a Memorandum Order declaring that the Treasury of the United States discriminates against the blind when it fails to issue tactilely identifiable currency. In this decision, the court said, "Most people with low vision, and all blind people, are incapable of looking at American currency and distinguishing one denomination from another. In order to know whether the bill in her hand is worth $5 or $50, a blind person must ask someone else for help or use a machine that can identify the denomination and speak it out loud." Although the court decision is many pages in length, this passage is at the heart of the ruling. The paper money of the United States is not tactilely identifiable. Blind people cannot identify the paper money without the help of a sighted person or of a machine. The government could have produced tactilely identifiable money. The cost to do so is small when compared to expenditures for creating a national currency system. Consequently the court ruled that discrimination has occurred and that the government is required to adopt a plan to issue currency that the blind can identify without help.
In 2002, shortly
after the lawsuit had been initiated, the National Federation of the Blind considered
the assertion of discrimination. As a result of the discussion, the Federation
adopted Resolution 2002-25. This resolution states:
WHEREAS, on May 2, 2002, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and two individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against the secretary of the Treasury of the United States and the treasurer of the United States alleging that the federal government is in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended, 29 U.S.C. Section 794, by issuing all U.S. currency in an identical size, color, and texture, which renders various denominations indistinguishable by touch, alleging that the blind are thus largely excluded from enjoying the benefits of monetary transactions and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief by requiring the Department of the Treasury to implement design changes in the currency to make the various denominations distinguishable by touch and color; and
WHEREAS, this lawsuit is based on a false and misleading assumption that the inability to distinguish banknote denominations by touch largely excludes the blind from participating in commerce and other ordinary activities of life; and
WHEREAS, the theory of this suit is disproved by the lives of tens of thousands of blind persons who live normal lives and participate in commerce every day without difficulty; and
WHEREAS, more than having difficulty with money, blind people are apt to suffer great harm from the attendant publicity surrounding this suit, fostering and reinforcing the notion that the blind cannot easily handle currency as it now exists and, for example, needlessly creating an albatross around the neck of any blind person seeking employment in any position involving handling money; and
WHEREAS, to the extent that currency identification is truly a problem for individual blind people, various technological devices capable of identifying banknotes and audibly announcing their denomination are available for sale, and in fact giving every blind person in the country such a device would be simpler and cheaper than re-engineering the nation's cash-handling capacity; and
WHEREAS, in view of its false premise and lack of merit, there is little likelihood that the relief sought by this lawsuit will ever be granted, thus using the blind in a publicity stunt and showing little regard for the genuine needs and concerns of blind people; and
WHEREAS, more than the adverse publicity resulting from the filing of this suit itself, there is a substantial risk of a ruling that could nullify the potential benefits of Section 504 by narrowing its scope and coverage or the law altogether, as has happened with other recent court decisions in the area of disability: Now, therefore,
BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this ninth day of July, 2002, in the City of Louisville, Kentucky, that this organization take all appropriate and legally available steps to advise the court that the failure to have U.S. currency issued as sought by the plaintiffs in this suit is not an act of discrimination against the blind and in such a fashion that the accompanying ruling does not harm current and future efforts to achieve genuinely needed and desirable accommodations for the blind; and
BE IT FURTHER
RESOLVED that this organization take steps to counter the adverse effects of
the harmful publicity arising from this particular lawsuit and renew efforts
to educate the public that the blind can participate in commerce on equal terms
and fully enjoy the benefits of U.S. currency as it now exists.
What is the harm that this ruling of the federal court is intended to stop? Blind people use currency—most of the time without problem and even without much conscious worry. Can blind people be defrauded? Of course we can. The opinion of the court says, "Unable to identify the value of paper money without help from others, blind and low-vision individuals are always at risk of being cheated." What the opinion of the court does not say is that sighted people who can identify currency are themselves always at risk of being cheated. The assumption of the judge who wrote the opinion is that the inability to see increases the risk. Is this true, or is it simply an assumption? How often does cheating of the blind occur? Has anyone demonstrated that the blind are cheated more often than the sighted? If this demonstration has not been made, what is the basis for declaring that discrimination exists?
The blind people with whom I have discussed the matter believe that cheating is rare. Comments to me indicate that blind people are cheated no more often than sighted people are. However, although the judge did not have evidence of a pattern of cheating, he did express an opinion. He said, "The frequency of such acts against blind and low-vision individuals [acts of cheating] is impossible to measure because victims may not know that they have been deceived unless someone tells them." This statement indicates the judge’s fundamental misunderstanding of blind people.
Blind people are not so lacking in discernment that we don't eventually discover when we have been defrauded. If somebody were to defraud me of my money, sooner or later I would notice. Part of the process of managing money is having a sense of how much there is. When the money is suddenly gone, it is not hard for me to know that it has disappeared. For the judge to assert that I wouldn't notice when my money is gone is an indication of the capacity he attributes to me as a blind person. Inasmuch as the judge has admitted that the record in the case does not contain evidence of a pattern of cheating, the decision he makes is based upon fear--his fear of the potential for fraud even though no evidence of it exists. Because blind people might be defrauded, the judge asserts that we face the inability to participate in the program of the United States which prints and distributes currency, and he determines that our inability to participate results from the failure of the Treasury to produce tactilely identifiable money. This failure, he says, is discrimination. The decision is based on speculation and emotionalism--not fact.
the issuance of the decision by the federal judge, I submitted a guest editorial
to the New York Times for consideration, which was printed on December 18, 2006.
In a ruling in a lawsuit last month, Judge James Robertson of Federal District Court said that United States currency discriminates against blind people because bills are all the same size and cannot be distinguished by touch. His decision was applauded by some advocates for the blind, including the American Council of the Blind, which brought the lawsuit. But as president of the National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of the blind, I believe that Judge Robertson’s ruling is wrong.
Discrimination occurs when the blind are barred from enjoying benefits, goods, or services. This definition of discrimination is what most people understand the word to mean. If a landlord refuses to rent an apartment to someone because of race, color, creed, or disability, then discrimination occurs. Sometimes people with disabilities are barred from certain facilities or services because of the way they are designed. A person in a wheelchair cannot climb the steps of a public building; if the building does not have a wheelchair ramp, that person is prevented from entering it. In another example, my group is suing the Target Corporation because the company’s Web site doesn’t accommodate the special text-reading software that the blind use to surf the Internet. In both cases a person with a disability is kept out of a public place or denied use of a service, just as African Americans were not welcome at whites-only lunch counters.
But while blind people cannot identify paper currency by touch, that does not prevent us from spending money. When we hand merchants our money, they take it and provide us with the goods or services we have paid for, no questions asked. People with whom we transact business provide us with correct change if needed, and we then organize the money in a manner that allows us to identify it in the future. We transact business in this way every day.
There is no evidence that the blind are shortchanged more often than the sighted; if a question does arise about a particular transaction, it is the responsibility of the blind person to sort out the matter. Identifying money by feel, as the blind are often able to do in many other countries, may be more convenient, but inconvenience is not the same thing as discrimination.
While it is
crucial that minorities have a voice in society, it is also the responsibility
of every minority group to use that voice wisely and not to cry “discrimination”
when no discrimination has occurred. The blind of America will fight discrimination
wherever we find it, but we achieve nothing by falsely portraying ourselves
as victims and engaging in frivolous litigation.
Part of the nuisance of blindness is managing printed documents. Until print disappears (which I suspect will not be soon), blind people will have to find a way to read it. Print is everywhere, and getting at the information it represents is one of the elements of the problem that blind people have. When methods for managing the information that is presented visually have been devised, claiming discrimination to alter the printed matter is unreasonable. This is true even if it would be desirable to create tactile representations of the print.
Charging the government, business owners, or individuals with violation of the law is a serious matter. It should not be done unless there is serious harm to redress. Built into consideration of discrimination based on disability is the notion of reasonable accommodation. Sometimes it is essential that print be modified for blind people to participate in a program. Unless the modification alters the nature of the program, the change is required. Reasonable accommodations are demanded by law unless they would cause an undue burden to the entity making them. Consideration of discrimination, therefore, incorporates the notion that an alteration in a program or activity must provide sufficient benefit to be worth the cost. If the cost is great and the benefit is small, no discrimination exists. In this case no demonstration of urgent need has been made. Consequently, the decision of the court is unsupported.
Welcomes the National Federation
of the Blind for the First Time
by Anil Lewis
the Editor: Anil Lewis is president of the National Federation of the Blind
of Georgia, the host of our next NFB convention June 30 through July 6. He is
also an Atlanta resident. Here is his first article about our 2007 convention
Sure, this will be the fourth annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, and those who think they have “been there and done that” should think again! We have added, upgraded, and improved the city and our convention hotel. With the addition of the world’s largest aquarium, upgrades to our world-class arts and cultural center, and improvements to the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, the 2007 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a new experience for all who attend. So many things have changed since the members of our Federation family were here in 2004 that I would be hard pressed to describe them in one article. The following are just a few additions and improvements to whet your appetite while we work to ensure that everyone enjoys our 2007 convention.
The Georgia Aquarium opened on November 23, 2005, as the world’s largest aquarium. With over eight million gallons of fresh and marine water, 100,000 animals representing 500 species from around the globe, and over 505,000 total square feet of space, the Georgia Aquarium is sure to have things you’ve never seen before. Come meet Ralph and Norton, our two resident whale sharks, the largest fish on the planet. These majestic giants can grow to over forty feet long. You will also encounter beluga whales, whose charismatic personalities will touch the hearts of the entire family. The Georgia Aquarium delivers wonder and excitement around every corner. You’ll want to come back again and again.
The High Museum of Art and the Atlanta Symphony Hall have been expanded and improved. This has made the Woodruff Arts Center a world-class destination for fine arts. The High Museum has entered into a distinctive partnership with the Louvre in Paris, one of the greatest museums in the world. The High has classic works of art from the Louvre's permanent collection on display. The exhibit is the largest of its kind in the United States and will last for the next three years.
Near the High Museum of Art is Atlanta’s newest place to live, work, and play. Atlantic Station is metro Atlanta's leading mixed-use development. Just over the big yellow Seventeenth Street Bridge you will find a vibrant pedestrian-friendly mixed-use center that’s a delightful place to walk, shop, and hang out. The Atlantic Station Market, which is like the open-air markets found in Europe and the northeastern United States, opened last November and is the first of many being introduced to the Atlanta metro area to showcase our local artists and unique vendors.
Even the Atlanta Marriott Marquis has recently been renovated. Although most of you have mastered moving around our traditional Atlanta convention hotel, you will find some additions and improvements that will make your visit special. Even though the hotel is new and improved, we have managed to maintain convention room rates that remain the envy of all. We will be sure to revise and reprint the changes made to the Atlanta Marriott in a subsequent Braille Monitor article.
Of course the landmark event that will make this convention like no other will be the NFB March for Independence. Hundreds of the nation’s blind, our family members, and friends will join together to march in a unified effort to reach out, educate, and fundraise. We could choose no better location than Atlanta, a city rich in civil rights history, to host this symbolic march for the civil rights of blind people. We, the Georgia affiliate of the NFB, are honored to have the privilege of being the host of the NFB convention that launches this historic event. No true Federationist can afford to miss the solidarity of this monumental moment.
By now you
should have registered as a participant in the March for Independence and made
your hotel reservations at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. In less than a month
you can preregister for the 2007 convention of the National Federation of the
Blind. All that will be left for you to do is make your travel plans. See you
It's Not Your Grandfather's NIB Anymore
by James H. Omvig
From the Editor: Jim Omvig is a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind. He was one of Kenneth Jernigan’s students at the Iowa Commission for the Blind in 1961. He went on to become the first blind student ever accepted into the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law and then the first blind attorney ever hired by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). He worked for the NLRB in both Washington, D.C., and New York City, where he learned about and became expert in the federal processes of employee unionization, before changing his career path and becoming deeply committed to vocational rehabilitation and residential orientation-and-adjustment centers for the blind.
In 1976, through his work as an NFB volunteer, Jim was able to bring about a change in federal labor relations law which meant that, for the first time in American history, blind sheltered shop workers had the right to unionize in order to improve their wages and working conditions through collective bargaining.
In February of 2003 he was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as one of the fifteen members of the President's Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled. This group of presidential appointees administers what is known as the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) program, under which the federal government purchases commodities and services from nonprofit agencies in order to provide jobs for the blind or severely disabled. Last July he was elected to serve a two-year term as vice chairman of the Committee for Purchase. Jim is also the author of the books, Freedom for the Blind and The Blindness Revolution.
believes strongly that certain facts about the changing status of National Industries
for the Blind and the JWOD program should be more generally known. Here is what
he has to say:
Those who attended last year's national convention in Dallas will recall that we had quite a discussion on Friday afternoon about the current status of what were formerly known as sheltered workshops for the blind. The debate had nothing to do with whether the shops are good or bad, improved or not, or whether National Industries for the Blind (NIB), which manages the blind side of the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) program, is doing a good job or a poor one. The sole question being debated was what political strategy the National Federation of the Blind should use in the twenty-first century to advocate most effectively for blind JWOD program workers.
It is well known that the Federation can and does sometimes use the in-your-face approach as a political tactic when this seems most appropriate, and I applaud it. However, sometimes another kind of diplomacy may be equally or even more appropriate. I believe that this is particularly true today, at a time when the National Federation of the Blind is the focal point of everything constructive taking place in the field of work with the blind in America.
Be all of this as it may, now that the dust has settled, it seems to me that it would be appropriate to provide Monitor readers with certain relevant facts about the JWOD program as it exists today. In my role as a member of what is commonly referred to as the “President's Committee,” I have had the opportunity to glean certain factual information that was not apparent to me as a civilian and that might not be apparent to you. Because I am integrally involved in the process of change, I feel some obligation to communicate the current facts accurately.
I begin by offering a few simple truths:
It seems to me that we who are blind (or at least most of us) are willing without a great deal of fanfare to acknowledge that improvements have actually taken place concerning library services, federal public assistance programs, vending stand opportunities, vocational rehabilitation programs, and the education of blind children. I believe that, as certain facts are made known, most of us will also agree that real and significant progress has been made concerning the employment and advancement of blind workers in the JWOD program.
Since some younger readers may be unaware of past issues that often brought about conflict in the blindness community, I offer the following brief history to bring you up to speed:
The first school for the blind in America, the New England Asylum for the Blind (now the Perkins School for the Blind), was established in 1829, and many others were established over the next twenty or thirty years. The stated purpose of these early schools was to prepare blind adults for jobs in the "blind trades," jobs such as rug or basket weaving, chair caning, and the like.
These lofty intentions failed, and officials concluded that a new employment program was necessary. Therefore, what was called a "sheltered workshop" program was established, and the first shop for the blind to provide employment for blind adults was established in 1850 in New York. Soon many other shops were established, and adult blind workers began making brooms, mops, brushes, etc.
By 1938, as America was coming out of the Great Depression, it occurred to a couple of members of the United States Congress named Wagner and O'Day that more employment for blind workers could be created if the federal government itself were to purchase the brooms, mops, and brushes it needed for cleaning federal buildings from sheltered shops for the blind, and a new federal program was created.
That year, 1938, Congress also decided to establish minimum wage protections for American workers. This was a lofty goal too, but in the view of some in the Congress, since “Blind workers couldn't possibly be as productive as sighted workers," they were excluded from the coverage of the new federal minimum wage laws.
The National Federation of the Blind was organized just two years later, in 1940, and from the very beginning the Federation was vitally concerned about the treatment and well-being of blind workers in the new federal sheltered workshop system. The Federation argued that blind workers were as valuable as sighted workers and should receive the same wages. As employee benefits became the norm in America, the Federation argued that blind workers deserved to receive these same benefits. Many of the shops were substandard in their working conditions and often tried to operate using antiquated or broken equipment, and the Federation argued that the shops should undergo modernization in the same way commercial businesses did. We maintained that shop workers should be able to try to improve their wages and working conditions through unions and the collective bargaining process just as sighted workers did, but the sheltered shops and their parent organization, National Industries for the Blind, vigorously opposed this effort. The Federation argued that blind production workers should be able to move into management or supervisory positions, but this rarely happened. And the Federation argued that at least some blind workers should be moved through the sheltered shop system and into ordinary, competitive employment, but this was also resisted by most of the managers--they had no incentive if they lost those whom they considered to be their best and most productive workers.
The original Wagner-O'Day Act was amended by the Congress in 1971 at the urging of Senator Javits of New York, and the program became the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) program. The new law included shops that employed severely disabled workers as well as the blind within the program, and it also authorized the federal government to purchase services as well as commodities in order to put more money in the pockets of blind or severely disabled workers. Even after the new amendments, however, conditions remained about the same for blind workers despite the fact that much more modern and sophisticated work has become available for blind workers through the years.
Few Monitor readers know, but I myself did a short stint in one of the shops--the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind. I was attending law school in Chicago, and I needed money in the summer of either 1964 or 1965, so I worked at the Lighthouse putting little things together with my hands for $.75 per hour.
These, then, and similar issues are what has kept the sheltered shop system and the Federation at odds through the years, and it is fair to say that there has not been much cooperation or collaboration on anything. But that was then, and this is now.
A brief review reveals that the Federation's dogged persistence has paid off and that major changes and improvements have taken place over the past twenty or thirty years. Although employment opportunities and conditions for the approximately fifty-eight hundred blind workers in the NIB system are not utopian, they are far better today than they were in the past, and relations between the Federation and the NIB and its associated agencies are also much better today than they have ever been.
Before turning to a discussion of some of these significant changes, one final piece of historical information is relevant: in 1998 the NIB board took what some would probably perceive to be drastic action. It hired a blind person as its president and CEO. This was a first. He is Jim Gibbons, a blind man who had made his mark in the rough-and-tumble of corporate America. Difficult as it is to imagine, never in its sixty-plus years had NIB appointed a blind CEO.
In the overall scheme it really doesn't matter who claims credit for what has happened. What does matter to blind people is that change, real change, has occurred.
rather than making mops and brooms, most production workers now operate high-tech
equipment producing office products; other, more sophisticated items for the
government; or uniforms, helmets, and the like for the military. Blind workers
also perform certain kinds of services for the government.
A few of the more notable policy changes or other events are:
A) A nationwide recruitment program was launched in 2003 to identify blind people who might possess leadership potential, and a two-year Fellowship for Business Leadership program was established. Three blind students graduated from the first two-year class in the fall of 2005--they are now working in key management positions in NIB-associated agencies, and six more blind trainees were enrolled in 2006.
B) Twenty-eight blind students graduated in 2005 from an eighteen-month management training program developed and delivered for NIB by the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia. It is called the Business Management Training program, and another twenty-eight trainees were enrolled in 2006.
C) An estimated one-thousand blind workers will have been served in 2006 through NIB's Leadership at All Levels program.
D) A new distance-learning program was inaugurated by NIB in 2006 to offer additional learning and self-improvement opportunities for blind production employees.
I believe all this adds up to a kind of progress that should be acknowledged, but there is more. Modernization is also taking place both in programs and facilities, and the management recruiting and training programs are already working and beginning to pay huge dividends.
At a recent
meeting of the NIB board of directors, I commended the associated agencies for
the outstanding progress they are making by moving blind people into key leadership
positions, but I also offered a caution. I reminded them that, occasionally
in the history of the blindness system, blind people have been moved into key
positions simply because they were blind, not because they were qualified, and
failure was the inevitable outcome. I reminded the agencies that their process
must be to hire qualified leaders who happened to be blind.
Finally, concerning modernization, a year or two ago my wife Sharon and I sat at the NIB annual awards banquet with a blind telephone operator who was being named NIB employee of the year. He answered phones at the Dover (Delaware) Air Force Base, and he earned $22 per hour with full benefits. And I have toured many modern industrial plants, including Baltimore's Blind Industries and Services of Maryland and Lancaster's Susquehanna Association for the Blind, which are quite different from the facilities I knew in the old days.
most intriguing of these is a military warehousing facility that members of
the Committee visited in Phoenix in the fall of 2006. It is operated by Arizona
Industries for the Blind. Members of the President's Committee (including admirals
and generals) were unanimous in their opinion that this was the most impressive
warehousing operation they had ever seen anywhere. It was huge, spotless, complicated,
orderly, and armed with high-tech equipment which made it possible for totally
blind employees to go independently throughout the warehouse picking out items
of inventory for packaging and shipping by other blind employees. I spoke with
a nineteen-year-old blind man (an inventory picker) who was earning $11 an hour,
and he enjoyed the same fringe benefits as Arizona state employees. He had been
earning $6 an hour (with no benefits) in a commercial business before coming
to work in the warehouse.
As we of the President's Committee were leaving the warehouse, the current sighted CEO told us that it is his plan that the next Arizona Industries CEO will be a blind person. Attitudes about the management abilities of the blind are shifting.
what the future may hold? Certainly not all NIB-associated agency programs mirror
what I have just described, but the good news is that many do. I have always
assumed that, as the Federation positively affects educational or vocational
rehabilitation programs everywhere so that blind people routinely receive the
training they need to become empowered, blind people would move more and more
steadily into competitive jobs, and the need, at least for the blind portion
of the JWOD program, would quietly fade away in the relentless, grinding crush
of evolution. And perhaps it will, but a tiny part of me wonders if the day
might conceivably come when employment opportunities in the JWOD program will
equal or exceed those in the competitive world and be at least as attractive.
The nineteen-year-old Phoenix warehouse inventory picker probably thinks so,
and the newly appointed blind CEOs probably think so too.
In any case, one thing is certain: It really is not your grandfather’s National Industries for the Blind anymore.
What It Means to Walk with a White Cane
by Chris Danielsen
From the Editor: Chris Danielsen is the editor of Voice of the Nation’s Blind, the blog of the National Federation of the Blind. He also does other writing for the organization, particularly in the field of public education. Recently he has been thinking about a young man who has become the darling of the media because he refuses to use the long white cane for mobility, preferring instead to pop and click his way through the world. This is what he says:
The public holds two beliefs about blindness that seem to be mutually exclusive. One is the idea that blind people are generally helpless and incompetent. This belief is prevalent, as evidenced by an unemployment rate among blind people that stubbornly remains at around 70 percent. But coexisting with this view is the seemingly incongruous conviction that the blind are endowed with almost superhuman abilities. This belief arises from the myth that, when a person has lost one sense, the remaining ones become sharper to compensate for the lost sense--in this case eyesight. Thus the blind are believed to hear better than the sighted, which accounts for the musical talents of famous blind musicians like Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Ronnie Milsap. It is also often assumed that the blind must naturally have extra-sensitive touch in order to read Braille.
Of course neither of these beliefs is accurate. The blind are not helpless and incompetent, at least not when we have acquired effective training in the alternative techniques of blindness. Nor are we superhuman; we have simply trained ourselves to use our remaining senses in ways and with an attention that the sighted do not usually employ. Our hearing is not sharper, but we are likely to notice sounds that the sighted tune out because they deem them unimportant, like traffic noise or the sound of an air conditioning unit at a building we pass on our way to the store that serves as a clue to where we are on the route. The fact that we are able to read Braille proficiently comes from practice and training, not from magically altered nerve cells in our fingers.
But though the public’s belief in the uncanny perceptual abilities of the blind provides little in the way of practical improvement to our lives--more job opportunities, greater social acceptance, and the like--it persists, and when the notion seems to be validated by a blind person, the media pounce on the story.
The latest blind media phenomenon of this sort is fourteen-year-old Ben Underwood of Sacramento, California. In the past several weeks Mr. Underwood has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, on the CBS Evening News, and in a number of print newspaper and magazine articles. Mr. Underwood navigates his neighborhood and high school by rapidly clicking his tongue and using the echoes from the sound to determine what is around him. Using this technique, he even zips around his neighborhood on roller blades.
Mr. Underwood’s seemingly uncanny ability to navigate exclusively by sound has been dubbed by the media “echolocation,” which is the name given by scientists to the ability of nocturnal creatures like bats to navigate by emitting sonar signals at frequencies that are too high for humans to hear and that allow them to locate and feed on flying insects. Some dolphins also use echolocation to navigate through the water by making clicking sounds. With television cameras recording the spectacle, Mr. Underwood went swimming with dolphins at Sea World to compare their methods to his own. Young Mr. Underwood did not seem to have any qualms about making a show of himself or about being compared to bats or aquatic mammals.
The concept of using tongue clicks to navigate isn’t new; another Californian, Daniel Kish, has been doing it for years and even teaches the technique to other blind people to supplement their use of a white cane or dog guide. Mr. Underwood has been using the technique since he was three, and, either through extensive practice or uncanny aptitude, he does appear to navigate quite well, at least within familiar environments. But unlike Mr. Kish, Underwood has publicly disparaged the tool with which most blind people navigate: the long white cane. With all the unrestrained hubris that only teenagers can regularly muster, Underwood declared on the Oprah Winfrey program: "I will never use a cane. A cane is for other people who cannot walk. I'm not falling over."
This brash statement betrays both contempt for the long white cane and ignorance about how it is actually used by blind people. Mr. Underwood seems to confuse the long white cane used by the blind with support canes used by those who have difficulty walking. He has apparently never considered the idea that a white cane might provide even more information about his environment, since he would be adding the sense of touch to the sense of hearing for a fuller picture of what is around him. Nor does he seem to understand that the tapping of a white cane serves the same purpose for a blind traveler as his tongue clicks; the sound provides information about whether one is walking along a row of buildings or in an open space and what kind of material one is contacting. A glass window sounds different from a metal drainpipe.
Members of the National Federation of the Blind have often observed that the wisdom of learning and using alternative techniques is not always immediately apparent. I use a white cane every day, but I did not always do so. When I was a child, I roamed my subdivision freely on foot, on my bike, and on roller skates, using my hearing and limited light perception to navigate. Obviously I survived, suffering only the customary scrapes and bruises of childhood. But when I began to explore the wider world around me, with its busy intersections and large buildings, I gradually realized that I could travel more effectively in unfamiliar areas by using a long white cane.
My high school orientation and mobility instructor used to refer to the cane as “your tactual digital extensor.” In using the word “digital,” he was referring to the digits of the hand (fingers), not to modern technology. And the phrase, though partly a joke, was intended to remind me that I needed to think of the cane as a part of me, an extension of my hand that allowed me to touch a larger piece of the world than I could without it. That same instructor also taught me to listen to the way my cane taps bounced off objects, but he never encouraged me to rely on my sense of hearing alone. He always reminded me to pay attention to everything that my cane, in conjunction with my other senses, was telling me.
Even then I didn’t fully realize the importance of what I was learning or develop full confidence in the power of the white cane. It took six months of training at the Louisiana Center for the Blind for me to integrate the white cane fully into my everyday life. Since my time in Louisiana, however, I have never ceased to carry my cane, and I have never regretted that decision. The importance of the white cane is a realization for which I am profoundly grateful to my blind brothers and sisters. My white cane gives me more freedom than I ever had as a child when I did not carry it. Then I was limited to the confines of my neighborhood, a familiar environment and one in which, I suspect, watchful neighbors monitored my every move and would spring into action if I appeared to be getting into danger. Now I can travel anywhere I please, whether I have previously visited the place or not, with full confidence in my ability to navigate efficiently and safely.
Mr. Underwood is fourteen years old, and like most people that age he believes that he knows a great deal more than he actually does. As a teenager it is also likely that he passionately wants to appear as much like his peers as possible, and they do not carry canes (though it’s worth pointing out that neither do they click their tongues as they walk). He will have to discover for himself the limits of his own capabilities and how alternative techniques can assist him best, just as all blind people must. (Despite his disparagement of the white cane, he does use Braille and adaptive technology.) Daniel Kish, the teacher of echolocation by tongue clicks, has met Underwood and seen his echolocation abilities, and he suspects that Underwood will ultimately find a white cane more useful when he visits unfamiliar places. Were it not for the recent national acclaim he has received, Underwood might be just another young blind person who needs to be urged, gently but firmly, to explore other alternative techniques and to develop a positive philosophy about blindness--a philosophy that brings him to the understanding that blindness is nothing to be ashamed of and therefore there is no reason to avoid carrying a white cane in order to appear not to be blind.
But Mr. Underwood’s national media appearances have fueled the belief in the public mind that the white cane is a mark of inferiority. He has inadvertently reinforced the distinction the public makes between extraordinarily gifted blind people and so-called ordinary blind people. His statements imply that the white cane is an inferior travel technique, a scarlet letter signifying incompetence and dependence. This assertion cannot go unanswered.
It is self-evident that the white cane has proved a useful tool to millions of blind people the world over. If it were not a useful tool, then the cane could never have achieved broad acceptance among the blind. Blind people who travel with a white cane navigate their environment with speed, confidence, and safety. The white cane is a tool that provides mobility and independence to blind people every day, and has done so at least since blinded veterans began returning from the battlefields of World War II. Other alternative techniques can supplement the white cane, but they will never replace it.
because it is such a useful tool, the white cane is a symbol of competence and
independence, not a badge of inferiority and incompetence. The fact that the
white cane signifies independent travel and civil rights for the blind is enshrined
in the laws of the United States. Generations of people, blind and sighted alike,
know what the white cane does and what it signifies. Our testimony as blind
people, whether in speeches and articles like this one or in the simple act
of walking quickly and confidently about our cities and communities as we work,
play, and worship, proclaims the truth about the white cane to the nation and
to the world.
Lord Low of Dalston's Maiden Speech
by Lord Colin Low
From the Editor: During the 1977-78 academic year the Pierce family lived in London, England. I joined the London Branch of the National Federation of the Blind of the United Kingdom and faithfully attended its meetings, even venturing off to Eastborn for the NFB’s annual conference. I met a number of impressive people during that year, but one of the most formidable was a young professor at Leeds University, whose career I have watched with interest through the years since. His name was Colin Low, and in 2000 he was elected to chair the Royal National Institute of the Blind. Last July he was made a Life Peer, which was a signal honor for Lord Low personally and for the RNIB as a whole. On November 21, 2006, Lord Low rose in the House of Lords to make his maiden speech. At President Maurer’s request, Lord Low’s staff sent us a copy of that speech, which we are pleased to publish. Here it is:
My Lords, when the other day I climbed up to the back of the Chamber, the Noble Baroness Lady Howe commented that I was very brave to climb up all those steps. "Not half as brave as I'll need to be to open my mouth," I replied. But my apprehension is tempered by my recollection of the warm and friendly welcome I have received from all your Lordships from the moment I entered the House--indeed from before I entered the House--and I hope I may be able to count on your continued understanding for at least a few minutes longer. And before I go any further, I should like to place on record my appreciation for all the help and support I have received, both from your Lordships and from the staff of the House, which persuades me that there are few problems of access which will not be overcome. In particular, I thank the Noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, and the Noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, who supported me at my introduction into the House on 11 July and are both here today; the Noble Lord, Lord Williamson of Horton, convenor of the cross-bench peers; and all those Noble Lords who have been kind enough to take the time and trouble to guide me through your Lordships' proceedings. In parentheses I might say that, if I had just one message I could give sighted people about the blind, it would be that blind people can manage stairs.
My Lords, though hailing originally from Scotland, where I spent the early part of my life, I have been exiled in England for the last forty years, the last sixteen of them in Dalston, whence I have taken my title. Dalston is in Hackney, which was recently voted the worst place to live in England, but never so bad that the London Borough of Hackney is incapable of making it worse, with the enthusiastic encouragement of the Mayor of London, the Greater London Authority, the London Development Agency, and the Department for Communities and Local Government. I think I might be thought to be verging on the controversial were I to proceed much further down this track, but I have detected some interest amongst your Lordships in issues of planning and housing in London, and so I hope we may have an opportunity of discussing them further before too long.
My appointment has rightly been described as a "singular honor," and of this I am deeply conscious. But what has given me greatest pleasure is the way so many people have seen it as recognition not just for me, but of blind and disabled people generally. One person went so far as to say that it was "a great honor for every blind person in the world." However that may be, I hope I may add a little to the diversity of your Lordships' House.
In actual fact, so far as concerns me, the honor is not quite singular. There has been some speculation to the effect that I am the first blind person to sit in your Lordships' House, but this is not the case. The late Lord Kenswood, an early president of the National Federation of the Blind, and the late Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, the distinguished chairman of St. Dunstan's for many years and founder of Talking Books, who both had wide-ranging public careers, both sat in this place within living memory--and with the aid of the History of Parliament Trust I have been able to trace four more blind peers going back to medieval times, and no one is able to say whether there might not be more. There have of course been other notable blind people who have occupied prominent positions in public life. We know this in our own day from the remarkable example of David Blunkett, whom I salute, but I like also to think of Henry Fawcett, perhaps because he was MP for Hackney for the last ten years of his life, who, as postmaster-general, introduced the parcel post in the 1880s.
The blind have a long tradition of independence and activism in pursuit of better conditions. The National League of the Blind, a trade union representing blind people in sheltered employment, were ahead of their time in organizing a march from the north of England to London in 1920, which was instrumental in securing the Blind Persons Act of that year. Things have obviously improved for blind people since then in a number of ways, but the fact that some people are apparently undaunted by blindness should not be allowed to disguise the fact that many are severely set back by it and remain in a condition of considerable deprivation, isolation, and social exclusion. Indeed it sometimes seems as though the conspicuous success of some highly visible blind people in overcoming their disability can lead to the deleterious impact of blindness on a person's life being down-played in public consciousness and official thinking. But this takes no account of the costs entailed or the toll taken in overcoming the difficulties, or the insuperable obstacles they present for the much larger number of less visible people who are not so successful in overcoming them.
There is a paradox here: 86 percent of people questioned in a recent survey said that sight was the sense they most feared losing. Yet much research confirms that, in public consciousness, disability is largely conceived of in terms of physical disability, especially that which affects mobility. This probably has to do with the fact that, though feared in the abstract, sight loss is so grossly underestimated as a likely contingency as not properly to count as a disability at all. In the same survey more than half of those questioned estimated their chances of becoming blind as less than one in a thousand, whereas for the population as a whole they are more like one in sixty--one in twelve for those over sixty, and one in six for those over seventy-five. It would be surprising then if something of this did not translate into official policy and practice.
There are two general points to be made here. First, though I have been a campaigner for inclusion and the mainstream provision of services all my life, we have to recognize that one size does not necessarily fit all. The loudest advocates of mainstream provision are usually the vocal and articulate elite who can cope best with it. We need a continuum of provision, including some specialist provision, especially in education and employment opportunities, attuned to the diverse needs of those who find disability more debilitating.
Second, your Lordships may wonder why I have spoken so much about blindness and not about disability. The blind do have some important interests in common with other disabled people--to be included in society, not to be discriminated against, and to be involved in shaping their own destiny--but they also have important needs which are peculiar to the condition of blindness--notably the need for information in a nonvisual form and for an environment largely designed for those who can see to be mediated for those who cannot. This is no small requirement considering how critical the sense of sight is to man's interaction with the natural world and the world he has constructed. Couching everything in terms of disability has led to the central importance of sight being obscured in recent decades so that there is now a pressing need for blindness to be raised higher up the political and social agenda.
My Lords, blindness is one of the severest disabilities. Yet under the Fair Access to Care Services framework of eligibility for social services, the needs to which it gives rise are rated only moderate to low. This effectively means that you get no service. Though research has shown that visually impaired people have greater difficulty with independent mobility than disabled people generally, they still only qualify for the lower rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance. Failure to bear the needs of the blind in mind reaches farcical proportions when we learn that they are now planning to lower the pavements and remove the barriers at traffic hot spots so that motorists and pedestrians will be more aware of one another and be able to demonstrate this awareness by means of eye contact.
Technology is a great force for inclusion, and we can now access much information which was formerly a closed book. But if the needs of the blind are not kept in mind when designing new devices, it can be just as great a force for exclusion. Try operating an iPod, a touchscreen, or a digital radio with your eyes closed. Most worrying of all, unless someone comes up with an electronic program guide which is accessible PDQ, digital switch-over is going to mean digital switch-off so far as visually impaired people are concerned.
My Lords, 90 percent of employers say that it would be difficult or impossible to employ someone with a visual impairment. As a result, scarcely more than a third of working age are in work. The proposals to move people off welfare and into work referred to in the Gracious Speech are thus very welcome. Blind people do not want to be written off on welfare if there is a realistic prospect of their being found work. But the Pathways to Work pilots have not delivered for the visually impaired. The fact, which emerged in committee in another place, that the £360 million allocated for roll-out represents a real-terms cut of 40 percent does not inspire confidence. But we want roll-out to work and will be looking to the Government to deliver on its promises.
When I began
my law studies over forty years ago, someone said that, where judges had to
find a solution for every difficulty, academics would find a difficulty for
every solution. My Lords, it will be my aim in this House to attempt to find
solutions rather than difficulties.
Someone You Should Know: Patti S. Gregory-Chang
by Ronza M. Othman
From the Editor: The following article was first published in the Illinois State Bar Association's Administrative Law Section newsletter in November 2006. It also appeared in the Government Section newsletter. It features newly elected National Federation of the Blind of Illinois President Patti Gregory-Chang. The article provides a three-dimensional look at one of our newest affiliate presidents and how she got where she is today. The author’s name, Ronza Othman, should also be familiar. Ronza was a 2006 NFB Scholarship winner. She is completing her final semester of law school at DePaul University College of Law. Here is her profile of NFB of Illinois President Patti Gregory-Chang:
Patti S. Gregory-Chang is undoubtedly someone you should know. Through dedication and drive she has become a prominent government attorney, advocate for the blind community, and exemplary wife and mother. Chang combines compassion, diligence, and commitment in every aspect of her life. She grew up in Harbor Springs, Michigan, where she lived with her younger brother Gerald and her parents, who divorced when she was fourteen. She later made her home with her father, step-mother, and older step-brother Tom, who died tragically in a fire at the age of thirty-four.
During high school she spent time living with each parent. She became an accomplished horsewoman and cattle driver while working on her grandfather’s ranch. Chang participated in her high school’s marching band and flag corps. At the age of twelve her life changed irrevocably when she was diagnosed with a genetic eye condition called microthalmia. This disorder causes a diminution in sight over time because the eyes are too small. In addition to the microthalmia, Chang was diagnosed with cataracts and glaucoma. She was told to expect to lose more and more sight as time progressed.
that she could succeed as a blind woman. She worked hard in high school to earn
scholarships and was accepted at Michigan State University. She majored in elementary
education with plans to become a teacher for the visually impaired and blind
community. She recognized an interest in learning about other cultures, so she
student-taught history and social studies. After obtaining her teaching certification,
she realized that she could have a greater impact as a lawyer than as a teacher.
She attended the University of Chicago Law School and was admitted to the Illinois
Bar in 1988. She was the first person in her family to earn a graduate degree.
During the summers as a law student Chang clerked for a private firm. After law school, however, she began to research government agencies that emphasized the welfare of the public. She wanted to work for the City of Chicago and was thrilled to receive an offer right out of law school. After a short stint in the Traffic Division, she transferred to Building and Land Use, where she has remained for eighteen years.
Chang has been very happy working in Building and Land Use. “What in people’s lives is more important than the space in which they live? Whether we’re talking about the quality of construction of their apartments or houses, or if there is crime in their neighborhood because of a vacant building, or if people are getting sick because there is no heat in their building, we’re talking about basic standard-of-living issues, and this is where I can make the most impact. What the City does is really about safety of the public.”
Chang litigated cases as an assistant corporation counsel for the City of Chicago for ten years. She received a promotion to senior assistant corporation counsel in 1998 when she began taking on administrative duties. Currently she supervises seven attorneys, approximately fifteen law clerks and externs, and four paralegals in the Administrative Law Unit. She interviews and hires about fifty attorneys and law clerks each year for the Building and Land Use Division. Her unit handles prosecutions at the City of Chicago Department of Administrative Hearings. These cases involve prosecuting violations of the city’s building code for the Department of Buildings, fire code for the Fire Department, and lead paint cases for the Health Department. This unit also handles cases for the Department of Construction and Permits concerning false statements made on permit applications as well as general contractors operating without licenses. Chang and her staff will handle four thousand cases this year.
Chang also serves on a number of task forces aimed at protecting the public’s welfare. Currently she litigates one to two days a week and spends the remainder of the week handling supervisory, training, and administrative duties. “I enjoy this position because I still get to litigate cases, but I also get the opportunity to teach and train new attorneys and clerks. I am able to combine my training as an attorney with my love for teaching.”
Chang is committed to her work with the Building and Land Use Division because of a personal tragedy. Her older brother died in a fire because his home lacked proper drywall and smoke detectors. “If we do our jobs well, we don’t have another Our Lady of the Angels fire. If we do our jobs well, people live.”
In addition to her professional accolades, Chang has a very active personal life. She is married to Francisco Chang, a nurse at Resurrection Hospital. They are busy raising two children. John is currently a sophomore in high school, and Julia is in the sixth grade. Both John and Julia enjoy extracurricular activities and excel academically.
Chang and her family value multiculturalism. Francisco is of Chinese dissent and was raised in Belize. The Chang family integrates the Asian, Hispanic, and American cultures in their home and activities.
Chang spends her free time working with the communities that influence her life most. She holds the position of first vice president for both the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the organization, and she was recently elected as president of the Illinois affiliate. She serves as the special events coordinator for both. Additionally, she mentors new members to the organization. She also volunteers with the PuiTak Center in Chinatown. There she assists permanent residents in becoming U.S. citizens by administering naturalization practice exams and review sessions. Chang is also active in the Chinatown Christian Union Church as well as in Bible study and fellowship groups. She sits on the Section Council for the Illinois State Bar Association Administrative Law Section, where she is a frequent contributor to the newsletter.
Chang’s blindness permeates all aspects of her life. She travels with a cane and reads using Braille and adaptive technology. Her computer is equipped with software called JAWS, which converts printed text to audio formatting. She carries a BrailleLite, which allows her to create documents, enter appointments, and take notes with Braille output. In court she uses a live reader. “This is usually someone I’m training. It’s a good system because it teaches the person to find information independently and not to rely on a supervisor to point it out.”
Chang believes that her blindness has given her a great deal more than it has taken away. She never would have sought higher education had she been sighted. The Department of Rehabilitation Services helped finance her education because of her disability. She met her husband when she hired him as her reader. “I think my blindness has given me the drive to really succeed. I’m just stubborn enough that, when people tell me I can’t do something, I try to figure out a way to do it. Society tells you a lot about what you can’t do. I think that my blindness actually makes me want to be more productive because on some level I can prove what I can do to myself and to society.”
commitment to the betterment of society in all aspects of her life. She works
diligently to safeguard the well-being of the public through her work with the
City of Chicago Law Department. She promotes the rights of the blind community
through her work with the National Federation of the Blind and assists immigrants
to become Americans by volunteering at PuiTak. She does this while raising a
family. It is through diligence, commitment, and compassion that Chang influences
so many lives.
In the Spotlight: Affiliate Action
From the Editor: This month’s Spotlight focuses on strengthening local chapters. Following John Bailey’s article is an excerpt from the TOPS Handbook.
How to Build and Strengthen Chapters
by John Bailey
the Editor: John Bailey is president of the Fairfax County Chapter of the National
Federation of the Blind of Virginia, a responsibility that has allowed him to
develop and practice the strategies and programs he describes in the following
article. This is what he says:
The old saying that “If you are not moving forward, you are moving backward” is as true in local chapters as it is in industry. A never-ending effort for chapter officers and members alike is seeking out new members to replace those who move or just stop coming. We spend many hours at quarterly chapter board meetings discussing how to juggle the ongoing need to build membership and the chapter’s limited resources.
Lots of information about building chapters is around. Below are some of those ideas applied in ways that fit the circumstances of my chapter in Northern Virginia. The effectiveness of these ideas for your chapter is limited only by your imagination and the constraints of your chapter’s situation.
People are busy. They have more than enough responsibilities and activities to fill their schedules. So why do people decide to take time out of their already overbooked schedules to attend meetings of the National Federation of the Blind? The answer is simple: the NFB satisfies a need that cannot be filled by any other organization. These needs are as varied as the people who attend our meetings. Parents of blind children attend because they want to know more about the options available in assessing their child’s educational options. Newly blind members need to meet others like themselves to exchange information, receive inspiration, and enjoy fellowship. Even though members’ needs are diverse, meetings of the NFB can go a long way towards assisting your entire membership to find the answers to their questions.
Look at a strong chapter, and you will discover that the membership believes that the monthly meetings are valuable to them. When this happens, members are more likely to participate in chapter activities, take on leadership roles, and (best of all) bring in new members, which helps the chapter grow.
Making a chapter pertinent to its membership takes effort. You must make it attractive to others while ensuring that current members stay involved. This article covers a few well-known methods that have helped many chapters meet their goals for membership growth.
Suppose you threw a party and nobody came. This can easily happen with chapter meetings if the word about your activities does not get out. No matter how good the program, refreshments, or door prizes are, if people don’t know about the meeting, the evening will be long and lonely for those who planned it.
The goal of any advertising effort is to deliver your message to the people you want to attract. One great resource for finding blind people in the area is your local access service or Talking Book library. The library has a database full of names of people in your area who are perfect for joining your chapter. Because such organizations must protect their patrons’ contact information, they will not just hand over a set of labels or an address list. But there are ways of getting access without violating patron privacy.
Several times we have used the following process to mail notices for NFB-sponsored projects to the library’s list of blind patrons. First we got the count of blind people in our zip codes on the library’s list. Then we printed that number of announcements and delivered them to the library. Finally the library staff labeled our flyers and mailed it for us using the Free-Matter privilege. If the library is short-handed, you may be able to provide volunteers to slap on the labels at the library.
We have used this technique for establishing new chapters, increasing NFB-NEWSLINE® subscribers, and announcing parents of blind children seminars, adaptive technology fairs, etc. If the event you want to advertise is important to the blind community, there is a good chance that your local Talking Book library can help you get the message out to the right people.
Many chapters have a group that goes by several names. They may be called the membership committee or the hospitality committee. Their job is to help introduce the chapter to potential new members. They do a very necessary job. However, the responsibility for bringing in new members does not fall on their shoulders alone. It is everyone’s job.
I heard about a church in which each member of the congregation is expected to talk about the church to others and to bring in new members. The program was called “Each One Reach One.” It is understood that no one is just a member of the church; everyone is an ambassador. There are many benefits to having members bring in new blood. One of the most important is the bond between the old member and the new. Each existing member takes special responsibility for everyone he or she brings in. This one-on-one attention makes it more likely that someone who attends a first meeting will return.
Each chapter program is an important part of developing a vital organization. As president of my local chapter, I plan most meeting programs. Making each meeting interesting and educational is a challenge. One aspect of the chapter program that we try never to forget is the inclusion of some aspect of Federation philosophy.
If you ask
most members of our organization to name the most valuable thing they have learned
by attending chapter meetings, they would say it is the notion that we are normal
people who happen to be blind. Learning adaptive blindness techniques enables
us to be participants in the community, not just recipients of social services.
Introducing philosophical discussions into chapter meetings is easy. It can be done by simply setting aside a few minutes each meeting for a discussion of some Kernel Book story or a recent newspaper article about a blind person. We have had many lively discussions describing personal experiences.
Two types of programs (adaptive technology fairs and transportation seminars) have been very successful in attracting new members to our meetings. Few topics have greater appeal to blind people. Adaptive technology fairs are easy to organize. We have had one or two vendors come to a meeting to tell us about their products and let us have hands-on experience with it. We have also filled a high school cafeteria with a dozen or so vendors. Dozens of members and new people went from table to table asking questions and getting literature. We made sure to get everyone’s contact information by having them register for door prizes donated by the vendors.
Transportation seminars are more complex to arrange. However, they have many PR benefits that are not available in other events. For example, my chapter hosted a transportation seminar to which we invited several public transportation providers to meet with their blind customers, to tell us what their goals are, and to let us give them feedback about what was working and what was not. This event was very well attended. In fact, we got a story about it in the local paper.
We did not attract as many new members as we had hoped--we never do. However, we established ourselves as an organization of action and advocacy. We have had several requests in recent months from the transportation agencies and their clients to host similar programs in the future. This is a win/win event for both groups, and it is a great way to raise chapter visibility in the community.
Just having fun at chapter programs is also a good idea. Here are some examples of things we have done and ideas we are currently working on. We invited an image consultant to come to our meeting and answer our questions about how best to present ourselves in social and professional situations. We covered giving a firm handshake, employing business card etiquette, introducing yourself, and (my favorite) dressing for success. We are hooking up with members of a local Harley-Davidson motorcycle club for a joint tandem ride around the city in the spring. We want to make this an event that will attract younger people to our meetings. It will also be a good media event because it lends itself to photos and television coverage.
One day a
chapter member mentioned that she wanted to drive a car so that she would know
how it feels to drive. We have made arrangements with a local driving school
instructor to use his two-steering-wheeled cars for a program in which we can
all have the experience of driving.
Chapters exist because members attend. If members don’t believe that they are getting something out of meetings and events, they will stop coming. Conversely, the more relevant chapter activities are, the more members will become active and the more new members will be attracted.
Two ways of finding potential members are sending notices of chapter events through your Talking Book library and persuading current chapter members to recruit the blind people they encounter every day. Chapter programs that entertain while they educate attendees about NFB philosophy are always popular and are an excellent way to introduce others to your chapter.
vibrant chapter does not happen by accident. The members must believe that their
chapter plays an important part in their lives and that it is their responsibility
to reach out to the community to bring in new members. In this way the chapter
will grow and become more important to its members and to its community.
Strengthening Local Chapters
We hope that the following suggestions will help you to make the work you do on the local level as meaningful and productive as possible.
Educating the Public:
Blind Hunter Enjoys Success in the Field
by Larry Porter
From the Editor: The following story first appeared in the November 19, 2006, edition of the Omaha, Nebraska, World-Herald. Richard Crawford is a longtime Federationist and second vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa. The article below is a hunting story, but it is also a fine example of how to demonstrate our philosophy about blindness in all that we do. Richard did his part in this interview, but the reporter also did a fine job of writing our positive message into his story. Here it is:
Among Richard Crawford's prized possessions is a .45-caliber pistol that his father-in-law carried during World War II. Crawford, fifty-six, a financial planner in Sioux City, Iowa, has completely refurbished that beloved pistol. The handle has even been fitted with ivory grips. The pistol is not for show. It isn't on display in some fancy wall mount or glass-enclosed cabinet. No, even though he is blind, Crawford uses the pistol for target practice.
For years Crawford has taken his pistol to the farm of a friend who is a doctor. The target this day was a battery-operated Christmas bell, which Crawford declared expendable because of its annoying tone. "It drove my ears nuts because it was a little flat," Crawford recalled. "I put six shots pretty darn close to that bell. My doctor friend had a brand-new .357 magnum. He handed it to me and told me to try it. I pulled the trigger and hit that bell. A dead shot."
The amazed friend asked Crawford how he had done it. "This doctor had a blind son, who was young at the time," Crawford said. "I said, `Doc, it doesn't happen if you stay in the house.' I was trying to teach him a lesson. It wouldn't happen for his kid if he stayed in the house."
A retina disease claimed Crawford's sight when he was ten. "As a child," he said, "my folks were too dumb to know that their blind kid wasn't supposed to run chain saws, change oil in trucks, change spark plugs, rotate tires, and work around the house. My dad taught me to do things like electrical wiring and plumbing. He didn't know he wasn't supposed to teach a blind kid those things. He didn't let these so-called sighted professionals put me in a box.
the joke that my brother always wanted to use me for second base, but at least
I was in the game. It drives home the point."
It was the opening morning of Nebraska's rifle deer season, and the three men tried to be quiet as they climbed the ladder to the tree house that serves as a deer stand. It was well before dawn, and at that point two of the men were disabled because of the darkness. But not Crawford. Being blind, he was in his environment. "Listen to the turkeys," Crawford whispered to Ernie Glup of Tekamah, Nebraska, a semi-retired dirt contractor on whose farm Crawford was hunting, and Dr. Everett "Buzz" Madsen, an Omaha eye specialist.
Crawford's companions strained to hear the turkeys. Not until five minutes had passed--after the turkey chatter had grown increasingly louder--could they hear the birds. By then Crawford knew how many birds were in the trees and their locations.
Madsen is president of the Nebraska chapter of the Safari Club. He and Glup have hunted together for more than twenty-five years. They were here this morning because Madsen had asked Glup to donate a deer hunt for a disabled person to be auctioned during the Safari Club's annual banquet. Madsen bought the hunt himself with the intention of finding a handicapped person to take to Glup's farm. He told Dr. Howard McCutchan, a Harlan, Iowa, optometrist, about the hunt.
"If you're going to take a handicapped guy," McCutchan said, "why not take a blind guy. I've got a friend who is just crazy enough to try it."
Crawford grew up in Grinnell, Iowa, where his father owned a tree service business. At age ten he went to the Iowa School for the Blind in Vinton, but he was booted out after his ninth-grade year. "I was just so darn ornery," Crawford said, laughing. "The superintendent had a policy that he didn't punish a kid the first time he'd do something wrong. But he used to say, `Crawford, would you quit figuring out new things to do?' I was finally asked not to return."
Crawford implored the Grinnell public school officials that he be allowed to attend high school there. "I begged them to let me try public school," he said. "That was back before handicapped kids were being integrated into schools. The superintendent looked at my grades. Since I had mostly Ds and Fs, he wasn't very impressed. He looked at my brother's grades. That didn't impress him either. But he finally agreed to let me try it."
Crawford made the honor roll that first nine weeks. He then settled into becoming a strong C student, heavily involved in school politics, drama, sports, and other activities. He found that wrestling was the sport for him. He averaged about nineteen wins--a dozen by pins--each of his three seasons. He qualified for the state tournament as a senior. "Do you know when I won most of my matches?" Crawford asked. "In the final thirty seconds. I couldn't see the clock, and I didn't quit early. I'd pin 'em when they flat ran out of gas or when they looked up at the clock and said, `Whew! I've about got it.' Then I'd flip 'em and stick 'em. To make up for not being able to see, I spent time getting in better physical condition. You could be bigger and tougher, but if you ran out of gas and I still had some energy left, I could beat you."
After McCutchan called with the news that a deer hunt might be in the offing, Crawford began to figure out how to make it happen. Answers to questions finally led him to Ted Hart of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, whose brother built an offset scope for a 30.06 rifle. That rifle, along with a companion who could see through the scope and tell Hart when to shoot, allowed him to realize a dream.
After getting the approval of Madsen to be the recipient of the hunt, Crawford borrowed the rifle and went to Glup's farm to practice. Glup stood to the right of Crawford, almost head-to-head, as they prepared to fire. Glup peered through the scope and placed the crosshairs on a forty-five-degree angle exactly 3/4 inches up and to the right of where he wanted the bullet to hit. Although Crawford held the rifle against his shoulder, Glup placed his right hand beneath the forearm to guide and steady the aim.
"We got to where we could hit a target at one hundred yards and group the shots pretty close together," Glup said. The second time Richard came, we actually got up in the tree house and practiced from there. That's when I really became very comfortable about it. I knew he could kill a buck."
Crawford's family was poor, and supper often was rabbits, squirrels, and pheasants provided by his hunter father. But those days in the field with his father also filled Crawford in other ways. He fell in love with the outdoors. This blind youngster would never stay in the house. Crawford even hunted pheasants after blindness blackened his world. "They make a ton of noise when they take off," he said. "It scares the pewaddle out of you if you're not ready. But by sound--and if you get lucky--you can shoot a bird."
Crawford hunted with his brother and with friends. One day a friend took him out and he shot a bird. Unfortunately it was a hen. "The guy said, `What are you going to do if the game warden stops us?' I told him it wasn't my problem. `What do you mean, it's not your problem?' I said, `Do you really think a game warden is going to believe a blind guy shot that hen? It's your problem.'"
Crawford specializes in solving real problems. For instance, he loves to roar down snow-covered Colorado mountain slopes on skis. "I hire a guide to ski behind me," Crawford said. "We wear headsets-- surveyor walkie-talkies that are voice-activated. He talks me down the mountain. He tells me the slope is cutting off to my right, that trees are on the right so stay to the left, that people are coming from the left. I can see the mountain in my mind's eye.
much better now. Before, he could just holler three commands--left, right, and
stop. Back then I just hoped he never said, 'Whoops!’”
The early-morning light began to nibble at the darkness, and dark blobs slowly became trees and bushes. Glup and Madsen watched for deer to appear at the edge of the woods that bordered the meadow. Suddenly Crawford pointed toward a patch of timber about fifty yards from the tree house. "I couldn't tell what Richard was pointing at," Glup said. "I got to thinking--can this guy see a little bit? Finally, four does stepped out of the timber right where he had pointed. I asked him why he had pointed. He said, `I heard them coming through the trees.'"
saw dozens of deer that day, but all the bucks were small. At 4:45 p.m. a bigger
buck stepped into the meadow. Madsen's range finder indicated the deer was 180
yards away. Glup bent into the scope. Crawford nestled the butt of the rifle
into his shoulder and reached for the trigger. The shot rang out, and the two
who could see began to verbally paint the scene for Crawford. He had to sift
through the shouts and babble, but he understood that the buck jumped when the
bullet hit, took a few steps, then fell to the ground.
"When I heard, `It's down,'" Crawford said, "it was such a rush. Money can't buy that feeling. It was a natural, God-given feeling that was just wonderful."
Sara Crawford, who can see, was asked how she met her husband. “On a blind date," she said, laughing. "I know that sounds terrible, but it's true."
A computer screen sits on Crawford's desk in his Smith Barney office. He taps a command, and some financial figures pop up that his clients can read. But his screen is a green strip below the keyboard that provides a Braille printout. The blind boy who once was so proud to earn Cs now manages money for clients who live in twenty-seven states and five countries.
Crawford has been told that within five years the transplant of miniature cameras in his eyes could give him sight. "If it happens," he said, "it will be wonderful. But the good news is that it doesn't matter. What else can I have in my life? I've got all the money I want. I have good health, a great family, good kids. I couldn't script a better life, even if I could see.
"The Apostle Paul teaches us to be content in all things. I think the lesson is simply that I can't control the deck of cards in life, but I sure can control how I play the hand."
After the buck dropped, the three men in the tree house whooped, hugged, and pounded on each other in jubilation. "We truly went a little wild," Glup said. "As we walked down to where the buck was, Richard said, `Fellas, we need more people like you to help people like us.' That's when it really got emotional." The emotion is still thick.
"This is more than a blind guy shooting a deer," Crawford said as tears welled in his sightless eyes and his voice began to quiver. "It was a bonding. Together we made it happen. The best part was when we were loading the deer into the truck. We knew this friendship was bonded. It will last a lifetime."
Technology Provides Television Listings
by Eileen B. Hogan
From the Editor: Eileen Hogan is the sponsored technology outreach manager for NFB-NEWSLINE®. If you enjoy watching television, she has some exciting news that you have been waiting for. TV listings are now available on NEWSLINE. Here are the details:
At long last television listings on NFB-NEWSLINE® are a reality. For the first time ever, blind and visually impaired Americans have independent access to local TV listings in one place and only a telephone call away. Until we launched this feature on December 20, 2006, this information had not been readily available to blind people in a usable format. NFB-NEWSLINE® has once again used technology to provide landmark information to its subscribers. Partnership with Zap2It television listings has made this valuable information possible. Zap2It is a product of Tribune Media Services and is the leading source of entertainment listings in the country.
NFB-NEWSLINE® is the only free, all-electronic national news service for the blind and disabled. Currently NFB-NEWSLINE® provides over 240 newspapers and magazines on demand twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, accessible through a touch-tone telephone. In July 2006 the option to receive newspapers electronically to your email address was added to NFB-NEWSLINE®. Now this newest feature gives the subscriber the local TV scheduling information. The user can then customize the channel lineup to find out what is on his or her favorite channels. By simply entering the zip code, source of TV reception, and time zone, blind users will have quick and easy access to local TV listings. The listings are interactive because the user can navigate and choose among date, time, and channel listings. After a user enters the local zip code, he or she is presented with a list of cable and satellite providers in the area. The user can also indicate the use of a television antenna.
Current NFB-NEWSLINE® subscribers can access the TV listings right away. Here’s how it works. Pressing #8 on the NFB-NEWSLINE® menu will bring you into the TV listings section. Then tell us where you are located and how you receive your television signal by following the prompts to enter your zip code and select your service provider from the menu. Then select your time zone.
After you complete these steps, NFB-NEWSLINE® will retrieve your programming information. It will start at the first channel in your lineup. You must then navigate through the listings by entering commands using the keypad. For help with these commands at any time, press the pound key (#).
goes back one channel.
Pressing 3 goes forward one channel.
Pressing 2 allows you to jump to a different time, date, or channel.
Pressing 4 goes back to the previous program on the current channel.
Pressing 6 goes forward to the next program on the current channel.
Pressing 7 slows down the speaking speed, and pressing 9 speeds up the speaking speed as it does in newspaper articles.
Pressing 0 pauses for sixty seconds, as it does elsewhere on the system.
Remember to press the pound key for help at any time with these features. After pressing the pound key, you can press the numbers on the keypad to identify the function they perform.
At the first menu in the TV listings, you can press 5 to create your Favorites List. The system will bring up the channel lineup you have selected. By pressing keys 1 and 3 you can navigate through the channels to find the ones you wish to add. Pressing 4 adds the channel to your list of favorites. At this point you will be prompted to keep the channel number assignment or to change it.
Those of you who receive your television signal with an antenna can also retrieve your listings. However, you will need to create a Favorites List in order to assign the proper channel number to your channel. Listen for the call letters of your local channel and then add it to your Favorites List. You will then have the opportunity to assign a number to that channel.
If a satellite company provides your service, the local antenna channels will be imported into the beginning of your lineup. You can create a Favorites List to assign numbers to these channels.
After your favorite channels have been set up in your Favorites List, you can go directly to them when you call again by going into TV Listings and pressing #4. You will then hear your favorites in ascending numerical order. To advance to your next favorite, press 3 to advance or 1 to go back, as in the original instructions.
We at NFB-NEWSLINE® are pleased to add this new feature to the service, and we hope you enjoy it. If you would like to sign up for NFB-NEWSLINE® or have any questions about the service, please call us toll-free at (866) 504-7300. You may also visit <www.nfbnewsline.org> for more information.
NFB-NEWSLINE® APPLICATION/REGISTRATION FORM
Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230
(866) 504-7300 • fax (410) 685-5653 • www.nfbnewsline.org
City ______________________________ State _____________________ Zip ____________
Home Phone ( ) _________________________ Work Phone ( ) ______________________
I am registered with a state or private vocational rehabilitation agency for the blind or disabled. ? Yes ? No
If yes, please give name:
I am enrolled in a public
school special education program for the blind or state residential school for
the blind or disabled.
___ Yes ___ No
If yes, please specify: ________________________________________________________________
I am registered with a
cooperating regional library under the program of the National Library Service
for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, Library of Congress.
___ Yes ___ No
If yes, please specify: ________________________________________________________________
If you answered “no” to all the above questions, you must include with this application a letter from one of the following, which certifies that you are blind or unable to read newsprint due to a disability.
___ Your doctor
___ Social Security award letter
___ President of a local chapter or state affiliate of the NFB
___ Teacher or counselor of the visually impaired or disabled
I certify that I am blind or disabled and unable to read a printed newspaper.
SIGNATURE _________________________________ DATE ___________________
PLEASE RETURN THE COMPLETED FORM TO THE ABOVE ADDRESS OR FAX NUMBER.
The Riveting Story of a Blind Man, a Blonde, and a Ballot
by Jim Salas
From the Editor: If you are old enough to remember the radio and television program from the fifties, Dragnet, the following description of voting day last November will tickle you. Jim Salas is a leader of the NFB of New Mexico. Here is his tale of a nonevent as told by a fictional poll worker:
My name is Harlow, Bill Harlow. I was working the 375th Precinct on the east side, Albuquerque. It was Election Day 2006. I'm a poll worker. In my day I've worked the polls many times, and I take my job seriously. I'm like that.
As the doors opened at seven a.m., the crowds streamed in, and the voters queued up. They were here to do their duty, their civic duty. As I scanned the line of voters, I couldn't help noticing him. He was tall, thin, wearing a long trench coat, and he was blind. I could tell by the long white cane he used. I couldn't help noticing the dame on his arm as well; she was blonde. She might have been his cousin or his niece, but I didn't think so. As the blind man and the blonde approached the table, I asked him for some ID. He produced it, the state-issued card. His name was Salas, James Salas. He was legit. The blonde was a Salas too, Michelle Salas. She wasn't his cousin; she was his wife--that lucky stiff. She was a doll. I couldn't help wondering how the blind man was able to snag this blonde dish, or what she saw in him. That, however, is discussion for another day. We had a job to do--vote.
I had seen the video, the poll worker video. I knew what to do. I placed the ID card along the line on the ledger, and the blind man used it as a guide to sign next to his name. Easy. Next was marking the ballot. I asked the blonde if she was going to help him, and she responded that he could handle it himself. I could tell that they were aware of the new machine that he could use to mark the ballot. I asked the blind man if he wished to use the new machine, and he nodded in the affirmative. The blonde went off to mark her own ballot. I peeled off from the table to help the blind man with the new machine. I had helped blind men cast their ballots before. I had even accompanied some into the voting booth and actually pulled levers for them. Being involved in such a personal act appealed to my voyeuristic side, but those days were over. The AutoMark was here.
I directed the blind man to the AutoMark machine with lefts and rights, even though I was facing him. I know my lefts and rights. I'm like that. The blind man sat at the machine, and we fed the paper ballot into the slot. While other voters were marking the paper ballot with a pencil, the AutoMark would mark the ballot for the blind man. I handed him a pair of headphones. He put them on. I heard when the aural instructions began, like when you walk by a teenager with an iPod and ear buds: you can hear the music, but you cannot quite name the tune. I had used the AutoMark myself at a poll-worker training class. I knew what he was doing. His eyes were closed as he listened to the instructions. He was focused. He had his right hand on the control panel. There were four arrow buttons, left, right, up, and down, with a square button in the center. The arrangement was similar to the Zia symbol on the New Mexico flag. You've seen it before. To the right of those keys were four more buttons, one above the other. These buttons allowed the blind man to turn the screen display on or off, repeat the message, and adjust the speech rate and volume.
The blind man turned off the screen display. My voyeurism would not be satisfied on this day. The left and right arrow buttons allowed him to move between contests; the up and down arrow buttons allowed him to move between candidates; and the square button allowed him to make his selection. A Braille label was on each button. Easy. The blind man manipulated the control panel like a pro. I stood to the side of the AutoMark in the event the blind man needed me for something. He didn't need me at all. I looked around. The blonde finished marking her ballot and walked over to the ballot scanner. I watched her walk. She handed her ballot to another poll worker who actually fed it into the scanner. Standard procedure. She then chatted with other voters as they completed the process, waiting for the blind man.
After a time my attention was drawn back to the AutoMark as I heard the sound of the mechanism marking the ballot. As the ballot was ejected from the AutoMark, I asked the blind man to hand it to me. He refused. He's like that. He wanted to hold the ballot until it went into the scanner. Again I directed him to the scanner with lefts and rights. At the scanner he handed the ballot to me, and I fed it into the scanner. Standard procedure. I asked him how it had gone. "Fantastic," he said. Funny, it didn't seem that fantastic to me. Maybe I don't have the same perspective as the blind guy. Then the blind man and the blonde were gone, and I returned to the table to help other voters at the 375th.
The Troubled Fish
by Daniel B. Frye
The Thanksgiving holiday this year brought reunion and celebration to my family. My sister Debbie and her daughters Kayla and Katelyn came from Omaha, Nebraska, to visit my wife Renee and me at our new home in Baltimore. I had not spent a holiday with my immediate family since my childhood, some twenty years before. In fact circumstances have allowed us to visit Debbie and our nieces only a few times during the last ten years. As a result we all looked forward to sharing this season of gratitude and reflection.
En route from the airport to our home I provided commentary on the parts of Baltimore through which we traveled: the historic Federal Hill neighborhood and the bustling Inner Harbor, where Baltimore residents enjoy dining and entertainment. After my regular taxi driver dropped us off, I oriented Debbie and the girls to our home, and they all settled in for a well-deserved week of rest and relaxation.
The plan for the week included both frenetic sightseeing and unstructured time at home getting ready for our long-awaited traditional Thanksgiving meal together. Two of the highlights were a survey of Baltimore’s attractions as seen from both land and sea on the Duck, an amphibious World-War-II-era vehicle, and an end-of-season cruise down the Magothy River on a friend’s boat. I purchased decks of standard and Uno playing cards labeled in print and Braille to help occupy us all as we gathered around the dining room table, consumed by a little friendly family competition. In short, the visit was shaping up to be memorable for all of us.
Throughout my relationship with my family, and particularly with my impressionable nieces, I have tried by word and deed to convey a positive image of blindness. I have striven to demonstrate, through my successful employment, independent travel, and the day-to-day handling of mundane tasks like money management and personal hygiene, the ability and normalcy of blind people. I think my efforts at positive education about blindness have largely worked.
On the second day of their visit I took Debbie, Kayla, and Katelyn to Baltimore’s National Aquarium, a renowned collection of thousands of aquatic animals housed in three buildings occupying several city blocks and linked by corridors, providing education and recreation for aquarium patrons. Debbie and the girls were fascinated by the obscure sea life on display. The rockfish, creatures almost indistinguishable from stones, and the dolphin exhibits were highlights of our visit.
The exhibit that captured the attention of all of us and provided the occasion for this reflection, though, was the showcase on blind fish. Presented under the caption “the troubled fish,” a narrator talked about the alternative skills these blind fish develop in order to function in their environment. As one might imagine, they adapt to their world using their other senses to find food; they exist efficiently in their habitat. Despite the disturbing title of the display, the accompanying explanation of the animal’s capacity for self-sufficiency was quite positive. Why then, we all wondered, the despairing character of the title?
One of us, however, was more disturbed than the rest. Katelyn, age eight, blurted, “Those fish aren’t troubled; they’re just blind.” Implicitly she was asking “What’s the big deal? Blindness doesn’t have to equal trouble.”
As we left the aquarium, I felt some pride in Katelyn’s observation. Clearly my indirect campaign to model a positive image of blindness was paying dividends. While Katelyn still has periodic questions, it was obvious from this encounter that she has intuitively grasped the notion that blindness can be managed and need not be troublesome.
Thursday of this memorable
week brought Thanksgiving Day. As we gathered around the table, I was grateful
that the fundamental message of the National Federation of the Blind—that blindness
is only one of many normal characteristics—was well on its way to being understood
by the next generation of my family. An increasing acceptance of this principle
by our sighted families, friends, and neighbors is something for which all committed
Federationists should feel thankful at this and every time of year. Our work
is clearly paying off.
Pushing the Envelope
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. In the following article he reflects on what makes the structured discovery method of blindness skills instruction work so much better than standard methods. This is what he says:
“Pushing the envelope” has become such a common phrase in our everyday language that it will soon take on the hollow ring of a cliché. However, before we allow the phrase to slip into social obsolescence and its true meaning to become obscured from overuse and abuse, blind people should not allow ourselves to dismiss the valuable insights into human potential that these few words perfectly express.
The phrase is somewhat obscure, but understanding it is well worth the effort. Moreover, pushing the envelope exactly expresses the very nature of our philosophy in the National Federation of the Blind and the rehabilitation programs based upon this truth.
The word “envelope” has several meanings, one of which refers to a collection of curves expressing data on a graph and the way they relate to each other. The phrase “pushing the envelope” has its origins in aerospace research, which in our time means exploring the unknown--the new frontier.
For many of us, people such as Kelly Johnson, Chuck Yeager, Alan Shepard, Neil Armstrong, and Sally Ride are among the larger-than-life heroes who have captured our imaginations and given us a sense of wonder about the future. Our image of their world is one of brilliant engineers, cutting-edge technology, advanced--often secret--aircraft designs, and those unique individuals known as test pilots, who seem vastly more skilled, professional, brave, and perhaps more insane than those who simply cannot imagine what it is like to climb behind the controls of an unproven aircraft and take it to its limits.
In aeronautics the envelope
refers to the curves on a graph that map out the various aspects of an aircraft’s
overall performance capabilities and limitations. Based on the project specifications
and the experience and knowledge of the engineers, the aircraft development
team arrives at a set of expectations regarding the aircraft’s likely performance
and maps out its projected operational envelope. In their professional opinion
these are the limitations within which they are confident the aircraft will
They could simply leave matters there, but then the true potential of the design would never be known and might even be accidentally exceeded later with tragic results and no real understanding of why things went wrong. To make certain that a new aircraft can be safely flown to its true potential, the engineers’ initial expectations have to be deliberately exceeded in a scientifically controlled manner. Graphing out these new data changes the curves of the envelope, moving them further away from where they had originally been established, hence “pushing the envelope.”
This process yields the
aircraft’s performance envelope, which means the aircraft can be taken to the
very edge of its potential performance. Through this research problems are discovered
and solved, and the overall science of aviation is expanded, along with the
understanding of human potential in this environment. This process has brought
about jet aircraft, supersonic flight, and space travel.
On the practical side, for safety’s sake the engineers then use the data they have collected to establish the operational envelope, which is comfortably within the performance envelope achieved during testing and spells out the maximum recommended limits to which the aircraft should be flown in ordinary situations. In reality, the engineers recognize that the average pilot will rarely approach the edge of the operational envelope, let alone the edge of the true performance envelope, so the margin of safety is reinforced through research. In this way the greatest utility can be obtained from each individual aircraft design in everyday use without unknowingly exposing passengers and crewmembers to serious risk.
How does all of this fit into our experience as blind people? Just like the new aircraft designs being tested, each of us has our own unique potential and limitations. We hear much discussion about people reaching their personal potential, but truth be told, few of us ever really have the opportunity to reach such levels of achievement. Even those who do reach their true potential would find it very difficult to live their lives at such great heights of achievement. Erik Weihenmeyer climbed Mount Everest, and Miles Hilton-Barber set the world’s altitude record for ultra- light aircraft. They are both powerful symbols of human potential. They have also made it clear that human potential is not limited to those with normal eyesight. Nevertheless, Erik had to climb back down from his mountain, and Miles had to land his plane. Even so, through their achievements each of them has found the higher ground in his life and helped carry all of us higher with him.
Each of us, no matter how much we challenge ourselves or what we achieve, still gravitates back toward the comforts of home and the security of our everyday lives. In saying this, we need to recognize that it is in how we come to define the comforts of home and our everyday lives that makes the real difference. The challenges we pursue and the achievements we reach are the measures by which we define what is comfortable, secure, and ordinary in our lives. Once we have achieved a part of our true potential, it is only natural and often necessary to step back a little from the edge of our performance envelope to rest and take care of the ordinary aspects of our lives within the comfort of our personal operational envelope.
For blind people, far too
often what is comfortable, secure, and ordinary is defined by someone else,
usually someone holding very different expectations from those they hold for
themselves and others with normal eyesight. This is why having the right philosophy
and proper training is so important. It is also the reason that effective training
must incorporate a positive philosophy of blindness.
Blindness can be challenging for those who have not had proper training, and the myths and misconceptions that surround blindness can make true independence seem like an impossibility to even the most determined. For this reason, simply providing nonvisual skills to blind people, no matter how good the instructors or how rigorous the skills, does not, in and of itself, represent proper training. Learning these new skills, even though they are intended to allow the individual to return to normal life, is very challenging.
Like all new skills the alternative techniques of blindness are at first awkward, inefficient, uncomfortable, and even a little scary--not unlike learning to climb a mountain or fly a plane. Often these skills have been developed by professionals who want the best for the people they serve, and most of all they want blind people to do as much for themselves as they safely can. While this is certainly sensible, it is also the way problems can emerge, especially if the professionals hold limited expectations for the blind people with whom they are working and are more focused on maintaining safety than in assisting them to achieve their true potential. In other words, the operational envelope has been established based on professional opinion rather than through the scientific process of pushing the envelope.
We need to recognize that most blind people enter skills training for the first time with very limited expectations for themselves. The challenge of learning the ordinary skills of life like independent cane travel, home management, and Braille can easily be perceived as truly pushing themselves to the limit of their abilities, especially since such mastery is well beyond what they expected of themselves. They are quite likely to believe that their training has truly pushed them to the very edges of their performance envelope, especially if the training is blended with expressions of concern for their personal safety and assurances that their training is the best available. When this kind of training has come to an end and these folks step back from what they believe to be the edge of their personal performance envelopes, they may very well live their lives at a level far below that of their normally sighted neighbors, assuming along the way that they have achieved an appropriate quality of life for someone who is blind.
Proper training is different because it begins with the philosophy that the limitations created by blindness are an individual experience that can only be truly understood through challenging one’s expectations and beliefs about blindness. The projected operational envelope is based upon the collective experience of thousands of successful, independent blind people, and the scientific method for pushing the envelope is known as “structured discovery.” Through observing good role models, being challenged to meet high expectations, learning to draw upon experience and to problem-solve, and internalizing a truly positive view of blindness, students move toward the goal of true independence.
Just as engineers and test pilots work together to discover a new aircraft’s true performance envelope so that it can be employed safely to the greatest effect, in the structured-discovery-based approach instructors work with their students as a team to help them discover the true edge of their own performance envelope. Students push themselves well beyond learning the ordinary, everyday skills to take on challenges such as woodshop training, rock climbing, and cross-country hikes through unfamiliar territory. The emphasis is on testing the limits and learning to problem-solve, and therefore students individually develop the skills that work best for them, rather than memorizing skills that have been formulated for them by an instructor. They also gain a true understanding of their personal limitations and the best way to achieve the goals they set for themselves. Because these activities would be considered challenging by anyone’s standards, when students have completed their training and returned to their everyday lives, they have a true understanding of their own capabilities and limitations. They are also accustomed to testing the limits, drawing on their own experience and knowledge, and well practiced in problem-solving. Moreover, their individual operational envelopes are realistically based on personal experience, and for many this is at an equal level with their normally sighted counterparts.
Pushing the envelope is truly at the heart of effective rehabilitation training for blind people, and it is also at the core of what we believe as members of the National Federation of the Blind. We can’t all be Erik Weihenmeyer or Miles Hilton-Barber, any more than most people will ever break the sound barrier or walk on the moon. Yet all of us can push our own envelopes, and as role models and mentors we can reach out to help others to push themselves beyond their expectations toward a better life.
Why I Am a Federationist
by Joleen Kinzer
From the Editor: Joleen Kinzer received National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) during the meeting of the National Federation of the Blind board of directors’ meeting on July 2, 2006. A number in the audience then wondered who she was. She is now teaching cane travel at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center in Austin, Texas. Here, reprinted from the Fall 2006 issue of the Eyes of Texas, the NFB of Texas newsletter, is the story of why she is a Federationist:
My presence in the NFB seems to be a mystery to the locals. Most people want to know how I got involved in the first place. I had no blind friends or relatives to introduce me to the NFB, no favored teacher to tell me about the O&M program at Louisiana Tech University, and I’m sighted. So how did I wind up teaching O&M and advocating the NFB philosophy? Really, how I got here is a story of fate or faith (take your pick); the reason I have stayed is that I believe in you.
A couple of years ago I was going through what I refer to as my “quarter life crisis.” I felt stuck; I had a college degree but a passionless job. I wanted to go to graduate school, but I didn’t know what I wanted to study. So, while I was figuring everything out, I worked with the Idaho Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired for a summer. My job was to hang out with teenagers all day. We went swimming, camping, running, and hiking; we had water balloon fights and rope swing contests. I can’t tell you how much ice cream I ate. It wasn’t a difficult job to enjoy. My enthusiasm was recognized by several staff members, who subsequently recommended that I look into TVI (teacher of the visually impaired) and O&M programs.
I was ecstatic. Never mind that I didn’t know about blindness; I was being offered a way out of my vocational uncertainty. I called several schools about O&M programs. They all offered professional opportunities (and scholarships that were hard to ignore), but I immediately noticed one difference--something exciting and positive--about the Louisiana Tech University program. The attitude of the O&M programs towards blind people was obvious in those brief phone calls; Louisiana seemed to care about where blind people were coming from and what they needed, while the other programs seemed to emphasize what sighted people could do for the blind.
Remember, I didn’t just want a job, I wanted to be passionate about my job, and the passion of the O&M program in Louisiana reeled me in. Six weeks later I found myself in Ruston, Louisiana, where I attended the Louisiana Center for the Blind and was inundated with the NFB philosophy.
I’m not going to say that it was an easy ride--rehab can be hard. I needed to learn to believe in myself and my capabilities as a blind person, just like my fellow LCB students. I also needed to learn how to teach others those same skills and attitudes about blindness. The more challenging aspect, however, was learning how to challenge appropriately the mainstream opinion of blindness and actually help change what it means to be blind. While being trained to become an O&M instructor and advocate for the NFB philosophy, I felt productive, not because I was going to be helping poor blind people, but because I was going to stand up against social negativity and teach blind people to help themselves.
In the short time I was in Louisiana, I met some wonderful people--some blind, some sighted, all passionate people intent on changing what it means to be blind. That attitude is addicting. I owe a lot to my instructors at LCB: my adoptive NFB parents, Dr. Ron Ferguson and his wife Jan; and my friends Rosy, Marco, Mandi, Mary Jo, Amber--the list goes on. My new colleagues had encouraged me throughout the O&M program, but they cautioned me that it would be an uphill battle once I got into the real world. Their cautions proved true. I am teaching O&M, but I am also trying to change the perspectives and attitudes of conventionally trained blindness professionals, which is a much harder task.
I enjoy my job, but I have my moments. Sometimes trying to get blind people to recognize their own potential to be fully independent is tiring. Sometimes trying to get blindness professionals to stop being custodial of the blind wears on me, discourages me, and takes the joy out of working with the blind. When my job gets me down, the NFB revives my passion about blindness. My passion isn’t necessarily to improve the condition of blindness, but to teach everyone, blind and sighted alike, that blindness is just another characteristic. I am the average sighted individual you hear about so frequently, and I am your colleague. What can I do now except teach others that a characteristic should not define a person’s ability to achieve? Blindness itself is not shameful, pitiable, or treacherous. The way the world reacts to a blind child, however, is shameful; the lack of competitive employment for the blind is pitiable; and a blind person choosing to be a second class citizen because it’s easier is treacherous.
I continue to be involved in the NFB because I believe that people who are advocating for a fair chance and who are willing to work for that chance deserve to have it.
Convention Scholarships Available
by Allen Harris
From the Editor: Allen Harris chairs the Jernigan Fund Committee. He has an important announcement for those who would like to attend this year's national convention but find themselves short of funds. This is what he says:
The Jernigan Fund Committee has established criteria for the Dr. Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarships for 2007. These factors will be considered when awarding Jernigan Convention Scholarships:
When applying for a convention scholarship, please write a brief paragraph on why you wish to attend the convention. Submit your application letter and statement to Allen Harris, 524 4th Street, Apartment 502 B, Des Moines, Iowa 50309-2364, or by email.
Applications are due by Monday, April 16, 2007. Every effort will be made to notify scholarship finalists by Monday, May 14. The National Federation of the Blind annual convention is in Atlanta, Georgia, beginning on June 30, 2007, and adjourning on July 6 at 5:00 p.m. If you have questions or need additional information, contact Allen Harris.
month’s recipes have been contributed by members of the National Federation
of the Blind of Maryland.
by Ellen Ringlein
Ellen Ringlein directs the Independence Market at the National Federation of the Blind. Before that she was a rehabilitation teacher at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland. One of her students shared this recipe with her about ten years ago. Since then it has become a standard part of her cooking repertoire, and she always has the ingredients for it in her pantry.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drained
1 can great northern beans, drained
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry red wine (I usually use cooking sherry.)
Up to 4 teaspoons chili powder, as desired
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded cheddar cheese
Method: Sauté chopped onion and green pepper in vegetable oil for five minutes. Stir in spices and add all other ingredients, except cheese and scallions. Bring to a boil and simmer covered on low for twenty minutes. Top with grated cheddar cheese and scallions and serve.
by Alice Kassel Gosse
Alice Kassel first met the NFB in the early nineties when she worked with Pat Maurer in Community Relations at the National Center for the Blind. She met and eventually married Michael Gosse, president of the NFB of Maryland. The couple has two children, Caroline, six, and Meghan, four. Today she is a realtor with Long and Foster.
5 pounds potatoes
2 large onions
2 to 3 large eggs (probably 3 large or 2 extra large)
7 1/2 tablespoons flour or matzo meal
2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
6 to 8 tablespoons cooking oil
Method: Peel and dice potatoes and onions. Use food processor to finely dice or grind potatoes and onions--do not puree. Add some of the onion to each batch of potatoes you are chopping. Over another bowl--using a clean dish cloth--squeeze potato and onion mixture by handfuls to remove water. The potato starch will rise to the top. Skim this off with a serving spoon and reserve. Discard the water you have squeezed out. Let potato and onion mixture stand five minutes. Stir eggs and reserved starch into potatoes. In separate bowl mix together flour, salt, pepper, and baking powder. Then stir into potato mixture. In ten-inch skillet over medium-high flame or in electric frying pan, heat the oil and drop latkes by rounded tablespoonfuls into oil, using the back of the spoon to spread batter to two-and-a-half-inch diameter circles, approximately one-fourth-inch thick--no thinner. Cook latkes three minutes on each side. Keep finished latkes warm in low oven on a paper-towel-lined cookie sheet.
by Alice Kassel Gosse
4 pounds corned beef brisket
1 cup brown sugar
1 12-ounce bottle Irish stout beer
Rinse beef completely and pat dry. Place brisket on rack in roasting pan or
Dutch oven. Rub brown sugar on the corned beef to coat entire piece, including
the bottom. Pour beer around and gently over the beef to wet the sugar.
Cover and place in preheated 300-degree oven and bake for two-and-a-half hours. Allow to rest for five minutes before slicing. During the last hour you can add vegetables to the roasting pan as well. Try a wedge of cabbage, new potatoes, onion, carrots, etc. You may need to add a little more beer with the vegetables.
by Terry Uttermohlen
Terri Uttermohlen is first vice president of the Baltimore Chapter. She is married to NFB Director of Governmental Affairs Jim McCarthy.
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons butter or shortening
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Approximately 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 cup raisins
Ground cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg to taste
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Method: Heat one cup of milk and five to six tablespoons of butter or shortening in microwave or on stove until milk is scalded, and butter melted. Allow to cool until lukewarm. Add one packet of active dry yeast. Stir in a quarter to a half cup sugar and allow yeast mixture to sit in a warm place for fifteen minutes. Mixture will become bubbly, so be sure that your bowl is large enough to contain the expansion. Gently stir in one-and-a-half cups flour and cover with a tea towel. Allow this very soft dough to rise in a warm place for a half hour to forty-five minutes, until light. Add one egg, one-half to three-fourths teaspoons salt, and one-and-a-half to two additional cups flour. Blend well but not too long or dough will toughen. Dough should be sticky. Return the ball to the bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for a half hour.
In a bowl mix approximately one cup light brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, nuts, and raisins to taste. Be generous with the nuts and raisins. That’s what makes the tea ring really yummy. Set this filling aside. When dough has risen, pat into oblong shape. My best guess is three to four inches wide, about a quarter inch thick, and as long as it will go. Brush three tablespoons melted butter on dough, then spread sugar/raisin/nut filling on top. If you can keep the very ends and one edge free of butter and filling, the tea ring will seal better. Roll dough jelly-roll fashion into a long cylinder around the filling. Press edge and ends to seal and place dough, seam-side down, on greased baking sheet. Coil the roll into a circle and press the ends together to seal. With a sharp knife slice into outer side of the roll at approximately two-inch intervals. Brush the top with more melted butter and bake ring at 375 degrees for a half hour or until it is golden brown.
To prepare glaze, mix one tablespoon milk with one cup confectioner’s sugar. Drizzle over tea ring once it has cooled a bit. If you serve this warm, you won’t have any left over to serve at room temperature. In my family this was our traditional Christmas morning breakfast.
Homemade Irish Cream
by Terri Uttermohlen
1 generous cup whiskey
2 eggs (or the equivalent in egg substitute)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Several generous tablespoons of chocolate syrup
1 pint heavy cream
eggs, whiskey, and chocolate together. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir
until well mixed. Then add the cream and stir until mixture is homogeneous.
Will keep in a tightly closed container for months in the refrigerator, assuming
it lasts that long. In these sad times, it is best to use pasteurized eggs or
be very confident about the handling of the eggs between the chicken and your
refrigerator. Otherwise egg substitute is the safe option.
by Terri Uttermohlen
1 cup dates
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 cup nuts, chopped
1 cup butter
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups rolled oats
Combine dates, granulated sugar, and water in a heavy pan and boil for seven
minutes. Add nuts and set aside. Combine the remaining ingredients in a large
bowl and work thoroughly with hands. Pat dough in a greased 9 x 13-inch baking
pan, reserving about a third. Spread the date mixture evenly over dough in pan,
cover with remaining oat mixture, and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for
forty minutes. Cut into bars and enjoy.
News from the Federation Family
More than ever, the deliberation, focus, and legislative and regulatory planning happen at BLAST. Extreme BLAST is coming. What is Extreme BLAST? It’s what happens when you add BLAST at a whole new level with a good, old-fashioned, down-home training, networking, and entertainment experience in the Mile High City. Think of a Tennessee carnival moving to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Think targeted classroom training taught by Harvard MBAs designed specifically to meet the educational needs of the blind in business and the agency personnel who partner with us. Think of successful blind role models in and out of Randolph-Sheppard, inspiring and teaching high-octane strategies for success. Think of world-class music and entertainment to include surprise special guests. Think of excursions for skiing, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing. Think of tours to the Colorado Center for the Blind, one of this country’s leading training and rehabilitation centers. Think of traveling to the mountains with friends and colleagues for an evening of gambling in an historic mountain town. Think of special deals for blind vendors found only at a newly expanded tradeshow on Thursday afternoon, March 8.
Extreme BLAST will take it to the limit with a full range of curriculum designed to heighten awareness, teach new concepts, and inspire each of us to reach for greater achievement, teamwork, progress, and profit. Talented instructors will make BLAST 07 worth your time and money. Experts in Randolph-Sheppard, top government officials, financial planning seminars, business opportunities beyond Randolph-Sheppard--Extreme BLAST will have more options and be more hands-on, more engaging, and more interactive than ever before. The National Association of Blind Merchants BLAST organizers paid close attention to evaluation forms and comments submitted after past BLAST events.
Come, enjoy the competition of the Pepsi machine challenge, the customer service slam, the indoor rock climbing wall. Go bowling with us (human bowling, that is). The coach is back. Many have asked that we bring back Coach Joe Gilliam. In 2004 Coach Gilliam taught one of the most informative, funny, and motivating sessions we have ever had at BLAST. His sessions teach coping and succeeding, powerfully motivating strategies for business and life. Coach Joe will wrap up our Extreme BLAST with an important three-hour training session on Saturday morning, March 10. But why not stay on Saturday and into Sunday and enjoy all that the Mile High City of Denver has to offer?
We are at a critical time in the history of Randolph-Sheppard. Extreme measures and coordinated effort by all of us are necessary to protect our roadside rest businesses, our GSA and USPS vending and food services, as well as our DoD facilities. BLAST has indeed served as an information-sharing and planning conference. The Business, Leadership, and Superior Training, the networking, the socializing, the camaraderie found at BLAST lead to greater collaboration in defense of our priority and help to focus our commitment to expand not only Randolph-Sheppard but other business opportunities for the blind. Extreme BLAST can be an extremely important networking and training tool for you and your business associates and partners, and it’s extremely good fun in the Mile High City. For more information call (866) 543-6808 or visit <www.blindmerchants.org>. Preregistration is only $100 prior to February 15. After that date and at BLAST it’s $175. We accept credit cards, checks, and purchase orders. Registrations for Extreme BLAST are being accepted now at the Adam’s Mark at the low rates of $76 a night for singles and doubles, $89 for triples and quads. Call (800) 444-2326. Make your commitment now.
We are deeply saddened to report the death of longtime NFB leader Karen Mayry on Tuesday, November 28, 2006, at the age of sixty-four after more than a half-century struggle with diabetes. She is survived by her devoted husband Marshall and her niece Gail Wagner, both committed Federationists for many years, as well as one brother and several other nieces and nephews. Karen was raised in Hibbing, Minnesota, and graduated from Hibbing High School in 1960 and Hamline University in St. Paul in 1964.
She taught school for one year before marrying Marshall Mayry in 1965. She taught in various schools for three more years, and in 1968 the Mayrys moved to Rapid City, where Karen was employed for several years as a juvenile probation officer. She began losing vision in 1965, and she was legally blind by her late twenties. Because of her strong determination and positive attitude in dealing with diabetes, blindness, and other health problems, she became one of two founders of the NFB’s Diabetes Action Network and the president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota, a position she held for twenty-five years.
It would be impossible to list Karen’s contributions to blind South Dakotans and diabetics across the country. Her energy and determination were legendary. When she decided that something needed to be done, she simply did not stop until she had convinced or worn down the opposition. She gave generously of her wisdom, experience, and passion for equality and justice for all blind people. We have all benefited from her contributions.
Karen received countless awards, including recognition in the U.S. Senate by South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson on April 8, 2004, and the Jacobus tenBroek Award from the National Federation of the Blind in 1984. The family has established a memorial to benefit the National Federation of the Blind of South Dakota. Contributions can be sent to the NFB of South Dakota at 901 S. Chicago Street, Hot Springs, South Dakota 57747. Our deepest sympathy goes to Marshall, Gail, Karen’s hundreds of close Federation friends, and those in the blindness community in South Dakota who will miss her mentoring spirit.
The National Federation of the Blind of Illinois recently held elections. The board members elected are as follows: president, Patti Gregory-Chang; first vice president, Debbie Stein; second vice president, Joe Monti; secretary, Carmen Dennis; treasurer, Kelly Doty; and board members, Bob Gardner, Annette Grove, Bill Reif, and Anthony Thomas.
Makes MATHCOUNTS Materials Accessible:
The NFB circulated the following press release in early December:
As part of its continuing effort to improve math education for blind students, the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute has partnered with the MATHCOUNTS Foundation to produce challenging mathematics materials in accessible formats. Through a contract with gh, LLC, the National Federation of the Blind has prepared Braille-ready files of the 2006-2007 MATHCOUNTS School Handbook, which is used by teachers across the nation to supplement the middle school math curriculum and prepare students to participate in MATHCOUNTS competitions.
The Braille files of the MATHCOUNTS handbook contain both the full text of the book and tactile representations of the graphics contained in it, which can be printed with Braille embossers. Students or their teachers can download the Braille-ready MATHCOUNTS School Handbook from the Web site of the MATHCOUNTS Foundation at <http://www.mathcounts.org/>.
“The greatest challenge for blind students who want to excel in math is obtaining materials in accessible formats,” said Mark Riccobono, director of education for the Jernigan Institute. “By producing the MATHCOUNTS School Handbook in Braille, we are filling a need for supplemental math study materials and paving the way for blind students to participate in local, state, and national MATHCOUNTS competitions. Our goal is to help prepare blind students to pursue and excel in careers relating to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
executive director of the MATHCOUNTS Foundation, said: “We are very grateful
to the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute for helping us fulfill
our mission to increase enthusiasm for and enhance achievement in mathematics
among all U.S. middle school students. The NFB provided the expertise necessary
to make these materials accessible to blind students, making a valuable contribution
not only to the education of the blind but to the advancement of mathematics
education throughout society.”
Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Blind students have traditionally been discouraged from pursuing the study of mathematics or hampered unnecessarily in their studies by the lack of accessible materials. We are committed to removing the barriers that limit the participation of blind students in math and science, and making the MATHCOUNTS School Handbook accessible is a manifestation of that commitment.”
We are delighted to report that on December 13, 2006, Melissa and Mark Riccobono became the parents of Austin James, who weighed seven pounds, five ounces, and measured twenty-and-a-half inches. Everyone is doing well. Melissa is president of the NFB Human Services Division, and Mark is director of education at the Jernigan Institute. Congratulations to the entire Riccobono family.
the Independence Market:
The latter half of 2006 brought some significant changes to what was formerly known as the NFB Materials Center. First, as you might have heard, is the name change: we are now called the Independence Market because we provide literature and products that enhance the independence of blind people. With the name change comes a new email address: <IndependenceMarket@nfb.org>. We also have a new manager, Ellen Ringlein, who joined the staff last July. When you call us at (410) 659-9314, extension 2216, your call will most likely be answered by Justin Shroyer or Sharon Ray, our customer service representatives.
The physical store location of the Independence Market has also changed since we have completed our move into the Jacobus tenBroek Library on the third floor of the NFB Jernigan Institute. We now have a dedicated space in which to display much of our free literature, which is available in various formats. Visitors are encouraged to take any literature of interest to them. We also have an attractive store area, where customers can browse and shop for the aids and appliances we have for sale. All items, both sale products and free literature, are labeled in Braille and large print to accommodate blind and sighted visitors alike.
If you would like to take a brief video tour of our modernized Independence Market, check out the second episode of our new Web video series, "Straight Talk about Vision Loss with Doctor Z,” at <http://www.nfb.org/nfb/Straight_Talk.asp>. In this episode Ellen Ringlein introduces the Independence Market and gives a brief overview.
In addition to these name and location transformations, we have just completed the revision of our catalog; it now has a totally new look and feel. The previously separate literature and aids and appliances catalogs have been combined into one handsome, magazine-style publication called the Jacobus tenBroek Library Resource Guide. Now you will have a complete listing of all the literature and products available through the Independence Market at your fingertips. The resource guide is available in print, Braille, and two-track cassette, as well as electronically as a Word document on CD-ROM and on our Web site at <http://www.nfb.org/Images/nfb/documents/word/ JTB%20Library%20Resource%20Guide%202007.doc>. The Word “document” on our Web site will always be the most current version of our catalog because we will update it whenever changes are made. Of course, you can always browse and shop our products online at <www.nfb.org>; click on the link to “Products and Technology” and then on “Product Catalog.” You can also search our literature online by clicking on the link to “Publications” and then on “Literature.” The text of many of our publications is already available online, and we are adding more as quickly as we can. Moreover, look for announcements of new literature and products in future issues of the Braille Monitor.
The final change for the Independence Market will happen behind the scenes. We are in the process of getting a new inventory management system which will streamline the way we process your orders. Through these alterations we are striving to improve the sale and distribution of our products and literature through the National Federation of the Blind.
As always, if you wish to order products or literature or if you should have any questions, concerns, or comments, please contact us. We will be happy to hear from you by phone, email, or standard mail at Independence Market, National Federation of the Blind, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230.
attempt to answer as many incoming calls as possible, our two representatives
are occasionally busy at the same time. Therefore, if your phone call is not
answered in person, please do leave a message with your name, state, and phone
number so that we can return your call. We look forward to serving you.
A Letter to Louis Braille
Paul Dressell writes a
monthly update for members of the NFB of Cincinnati, Ohio. We have deleted the
chapter news in the most recent “Suds Review,” but here is the rest for your
On behalf of the officers and members of the Cincinnati Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, I want to wish you a happy birthday. How does it feel to be 198 years old? We are really planning big things for your two-hundredth birthday: a commemorative coin will be minted in your honor along with one for Abraham Lincoln. His name may not be familiar to you, since his fame began a few years after your death. But, believe me, you're in very good company.
Today Braille is universally accepted in all English-speaking countries; but, as a comedian of the mid-twentieth century [Phil Harris] put it, "It wasn't easy, Clyde!" In the early years of that century a mighty battle took place. You should have seen it! On second thought, maybe not. Some folks are still tinkering with your system and discouraging blind youngsters with limited vision from learning Braille, but it remains the most viable means of reading and writing for the blind. All literate blind people owe you a tremendous debt of gratitude. We face a 70 percent or more unemployment rate among blind and visually impaired Americans, but the vast majority of those who are successfully employed owe their jobs to your invention.
I thought you would be interested in learning about the National Federation of the Blind. It was formed in 1940 and is now the largest organization of blind people in the United States, with over 50,000 members. Our members were the ones who campaigned in the United States Congress to have your commemorative coin minted.
Would you like to know about our chapter officers? Kelly Prescott, our vice president, is a computer consultant. "What's a computer?" you ask. Well, it is a machine that simultaneously enriches, complicates, and frustrates our lives. Come to think about it, you really don't want to know. Our secretary, Deborah Kendrick, is a syndicated columnist and wrote an excellent article entitled "Louis Braille Touched Us All" in the February 2006 Braille Monitor. Our treasurer, Cindy Conley, is the parent of a blind teenager; as you might imagine, he is an avid reader and writer of Braille. Oh yes, the Braille Monitor is our monthly magazine and is the most influential publication in the blindness field.
Bear with me, Louis, while I take time out for some chapter news: I've just returned from City Hall, where I left a sample proclamation for Braille Literacy Week, two alphabet cards, a medallion/keyring, and a reprint of Deborah's article reviewing your newest biography and collection of photographs and engravings, “Louis Braille: A Touch of Genius.”
Well, Louis, I could mention much more: modern modes of independent travel used by blind people--white canes and guide dogs, various types of Braille embossers, the expanding range of occupations for blind people, and on and on. But you will be having other birthdays, so I will fill you in then. Besides, my chapter members are perfectly content for me to send periodic newsletters, but books they will not tolerate. Best wishes, and I expect to correspond with you next January 4.
--Paul Dressell, president, NFB of Cincinnati, National Federation of the Blind of Ohio
With sadness we must report that after a long illness Doris Schaaf, Patricia Maurer’s mother, died on January 4, 2007, in Dexter, Iowa. She was a devoted wife and mother and a warm and generous person who will be deeply missed by all those who knew and loved her. We extend our sympathy to Pat Maurer and the entire Schaaf family.
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.
The Alumni Association of the New York State School for the Blind will hold its annual reunion at the Holiday Inn in Batavia, June 8 to 10, 2007. Room rates are $66 per night, singles or doubles. This rate is also applicable on Thursday night, June 7, for those who wish to come early. Deadline for registration and payment is May 1, and those who pay by that date will not have to pay tax. Funds are available to help someone who has never been to an alumni reunion or who has not been to one in many years. Application for this aid must be made by April 1, 2007. To have the entire agenda read or to learn whom to contact with specific questions, call Tim Hendel, (256) 650-5212. To arrange payment or to pay dues if you can't come to the reunion, contact Sukosh Fearon, treasurer, at (315) 363-4460. This is like a family reunion; everyone come.
Dr. Sunggye Hong, Northern Iowa University; Dr. L. Penny Rosenblum, University of Arizona; and Ms. Beth Harris, University of Arizona, are seeking parents who have visual impairments to participate in a telephone interview. The purpose of the study is to learn about the strategies, concerns, and experiences these parents have as they raise their children. Parenting partners of participants who have them will also be invited to participate in the study.
Who qualifies as a parent with a visual impairment for this study?
Who qualifies as a parenting partner for this study? A husband or wife, an ex-husband or ex-wife, a same-sex partner who is sharing in the raising of the child or children, a roommate or family member who is living in the home and sharing in the raising of the child or children.
How to participate: Visit <http://www.ed.arizona.edu/rosenblum/recruit.htm> and read a letter of invitation and complete an online information form. Or contact Dr. Sunggye Hong at (319) 273-7954 or <email@example.com> to request an information form. Complete the information form and return it to Dr. Hong in the stamped, self-addressed envelope.
After you complete the information form, Dr. Hong or a member of the research team will contact you to schedule a one-hour interview. Participation is voluntary, and there is no monetary compensation. For more information contact Dr. Sunggye Hong, University of Northern Iowa, Department of Special Education, College of Education, 150A Schindler Education Center, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614.
The National Resource Center for Blind Musicians is accepting applications for its seminar for blind college-bound musicians, which will be held July 15 to 21 at the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Designed for serious Braille-reading music students preparing for or already in college (average age seventeen to twenty-one), the program tailors instruction to each person's need to develop Braille music and theory skills and to learn to use technology to submit music assignments in print notation. Applicants must have already studied some music theory, have had several years of music lessons, and be able to present a polished and pleasing performance. They must be willing to put effort into Braille-music study and demonstrate a commitment to use the Braille music and computer skills they will learn at the institute when they return to school. Applicants must also show they have begun thinking realistically about reachable goals and that they have the independence skills, social readiness, and maturity to be a contributing part of a close-knit group. Contact the Resource Center regarding tuition, scholarship criteria, and the application and audition procedure. Deadline for requesting applications is April 13; all application materials must be in the Resource Center office by May 9.
Other options: Please contact the Resource Center if you:
Visit <www.blindmusicstudent.org>, which is also a music information resource. If you have questions, contact David Goldstein at (203) 366-3300, extension 229, or <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The following Braille books are now available for a donation. The dollar amount listed is the suggested donation:
The Very First Easter (children) by Paul L. Maier, 1 vol., $8
Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Dr. Henry Blackaby and Claude V. King, 5 vols., $40
The Very First Christmas (children) by Paul L. Maier, 1 vol., $8
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, Book 2 in the Chronicles of Narnia series, 2 vols., $16
Prince Caspian: The
Return to Narnia by C. S. Lewis, Book 4 in the Chronicles of Narnia series,
2 vols., $16
All books, except Experiencing God, include tactile graphics. These books are also available for borrowing. Experiencing God is available for download at <www.blindonline.org>. For details contact the Assemblies of God Center for the Blind, 1445 N Boonville Avenue, Springfield, Missouri 65802; (417) 831-1964; <email@example.com>; <www.blind.ag.org>.
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.
PAC Mate QX440 with qwerty keyboard and forty-cell Braille display. Latest version and little use, with wireless and memory cards in retail boxes. Manuals included. Asking $2,850, or will sell display and QX separately. Also selling PowerBraille 80 Braille display, asking $1,350. Also selling a Papenmeir Braillex 2D eighty-cell Braille display, asking $1,850. Both displays work with any computer and are in great condition. Call CJ Sampson at (321) 282-6376.
PAC Mate BX400, twenty-cell Braille display, comes with warranty, carrying case, manuals on CD ROM, computer cables, battery charger, and hard-copy documentation. Features include Bluetooth, MS calculator, calendar, stop watch, clock, and others. Asking $3,500, price negotiable. Call Annamarie Huie after 4:00 p.m., CST at (870) 365-8477.
Perkins Braillewriter with dust cover and a thousand sheets of paper. Used only once. Asking $400 or best offer. Call Michael Robles, (909) 854-0397, or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Mint condition Freedom Scientific BrailleLite M20 notetaker with 8-dot Braille keyboard, twenty-cell Braille display, modem, programmable whiz wheels, and speech output. Comes with print and tape manuals, 512-MB compact flash, carrying case with shoulder strap, AC adapter, and serial port connector cable. Ships in original box. Retails for $3,700; selling for $2,000 or best offer plus $15 shipping. Interested buyers should contact John Hammond at (804) 275-6676 (no calls after 8:00 p.m., EST).
Optelec Clearview 317XL CCTV with black and white 17-inch monitor, electronic controls and line or window markers. Excellent condition. Two years old, asking $575, payment options available. UPS ground shipping within the continental U.S. included. Contact Bill at (847) 342-7155 between 1:00 and 8:00 p.m., CST or email <email@example.com>.
Papers without Sight:
Touch samples are still available free upon request. Choose from stick-on labels, bold-line textures, big bold prints, dots, flags, hearts, flowers, and more. Contact Eyepatch Studio 5, C.T. Walker, operator, 305 S. Telegraph Road, Pontiac, Michigan 48341; phone (248) 874-0049.
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.