______________________________________________________________________

Braille Monitor

Vol. 50, No. 3                                                                    March 2007

Barbara Pierce, editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president

 

National Office
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Baltimore, Maryland 21230
telephone: (410) 659-9314
email address: nfb@nfb.org
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National Federation of the Blind
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

        ISSN 0006-8829

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Contents

Vol. 50, No. 3                                                                       March 2007

 

Convention Announcement  

The Real Reason for the Reunion  
by Anil Lewis

Washington Seminar 2007
by Daniel B. Frye

Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans:
Priorities for the 110th Congress, First Session

Leveling the Playing Field: Providing Blind Students with
Accessible Textbooks in Higher Education

Preserving Ballot Access for the Blind

Making Work Pay: Removing the Earnings Penalty
for Blind Social Security Beneficiaries

Dr. Isabelle Grant–Teacher and World Traveler  
by Lou Ann Blake

The Power of Knowledge
by Eric Vasiliauskas

What a Parent Has Learned from His Blind Son
by John Wai

Affiliate Spotlight

Charlotte Woman, 90, Keeps Sight on Service  
by Dianna L. Cagle

Change in Rehabilitation: Federation Experience Leads the Way
by Craig Kiser

Ask Miss Whozit

A Loving Thank You from an NFB Mom  
by Maria Davis

Convention Scholarships Available 
by Allen Harris

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

 

Copyright 2007 National Federation of the Blind

 

The Real Reason for the Reunion

by Anil Lewis

From the Editor: Anil Lewis is president of the NFB of Georgia and a member of the National Federation of the Blind board of directors. These days he is busy preparing for the 2007 NFB convention. This is what he says:

As I was growing up, the third Sunday in August was always a heartwarming, rejuvenating time of year for me because members of my extended family from around the country came together at my grandmother’s little house in Woodville, Georgia, for our family reunion. I always considered myself blessed to have cousins that were as close to me as brothers and sisters. Fortunately for me I have another extended family, and from June 30 through July 6, 2007, approximately 3,000 of my sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and a host of cousins will be attending the largest family reunion of blind people in the country. Most refer to this event as the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Members of my Federation family from across the country and several foreign countries will take cars, buses, trains, boats, and airplanes to come together in Atlanta, Georgia, to renew old friendships and form new ones for a week of fun and fellowship.

Whenever I have the time, I like to get out and visit my family, and this includes my Federation family. Visiting other affiliate events is fun and edifying. I have had the pleasure of serving as the national representative for many NFB state affiliate conventions. Our affiliates are all dedicated to improving the quality of life for all blind people, and all find a way to have fun while they do it. Like members of a family, each affiliate has a distinct personality. Some are more outgoing; others are more conservative; some interject a lot of humor; and some are strictly business. Regardless of the personality of the affiliate, I always feel welcome. However, there is no substitute for coming together as one big family.

The national convention is the time when members of our family of over 50,000 can come together for a week of camaraderie. As the host family the Georgia affiliate is working hard to ensure that everyone feels welcome and has an enjoyable time while here. We are making plans for parties, tours, and the hospitality room. We will have plenty of Whozit water bottles for family members thirsty for the Federation. For those left a little tired from our March for Independence, we will have plenty of Federation relaxation seat cushions.

This year Tour Day falls on Independence Day, Wednesday, July 4, and a host of activities around the city will be available for conventioneers who wish to stray from our convention hotel to experience a little more of Atlanta. The Marriott Marquis is only a few blocks from Centennial Park, which is sure to have an outstanding Independence Day celebration. Also the Georgia Aquarium and the new Coca-Cola Museum are in walking distance of the hotel. Conventioneers will be a short MARTA train ride away from Underground Atlanta or Lenox Square, which, in addition to a wonderful shopping experience, will provide an entertaining atmosphere on the holiday. The Georgia affiliate is arranging transportation for those who would like to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. historic site or the Carter Center Library. Unfortunately, at the time of this writing we have been unable to secure guided tour commitments. We encourage you to contact the Georgia affiliate with tour suggestions or questions at (404) 371-1000 or email <theblind@nfbga.org>, and we will try to accommodate you. Of course members of the NFB of Georgia will be available at the Georgia information table to provide information and recommendations during convention.

I personally plan to spend the evening of Tour Day at Agatha's Taste of Mystery, which is only two blocks away from the Marriott Marquis. Agatha's is a comedy murder mystery dinner theater with audience participation. This was a tremendous hit at our 2004 convention and this year will cost $55 per person. All shows are original comedy murder mysteries that take place in the dining room between the courses of the meal. There is no stage, and the actors move around the diners, so you can see and hear from all seats. Two professional actors carry the show. The rest is up to the audience. Participation is encouraged but not required. Agatha's serves a five-course meal of appetizer, soup, salad, choice of entrée, and dessert. Once guests are seated, the waiters list the entreés for you to make your selection. Wine is served with dinner, beginning with the soup course. The performance scheduled for July 4 is Rocky the Italian Scallion’s Final Blow. There is space for only 169 family members, so make your reservations early by calling the Georgia affiliate at (404) 371-1000 before May 31, 2007.

The members of the Georgia affiliate are working around the clock to ensure that everyone has fun at convention. However, as we prepare to host the 2007 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, we must not forget the real reason for the reunion. President Maurer has gone to great lengths to negotiate convention hotel rates that leave no excuse for you not to attend. In addition a full agenda of presentations covers an array of issues that are important to the nation’s blind. Our national office staff will no doubt have a mix of training sessions on advocacy, self-determination, and strategies for collective action that will educate and empower. The convention presentations, seminars, and break-out sessions provide a real opportunity to educate ourselves and others about the true potential of the blind.

As the largest organization of blind people in the country, we have a responsibility to advocate for a better life for all blind people. We must take advantage of this opportunity to learn how to advocate effectively in elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as in colleges and universities, to ensure that blind students obtain full access to their educational environment. We must not miss this chance to learn about our rights and responsibilities so that we can make better use of the services available from state vocational rehabilitation service programs to pursue rewarding careers. There is no better environment than an NFB convention to demonstrate to parents of blind children the true potential of blind people so that they can set expectations of excellence and achievement for their children. Most important, we must capitalize on this occasion to build on the mutual support and collective action of our organization to continue to change what it means to be blind.

During my family’s reunion I always feel better knowing that I am part of a bigger unit that is full of love and support for one another. I experience the same love and support at a National Federation of the Blind convention. Being part of such remarkable work that has a tremendous positive effect on the lives of all blind people is extremely motivating. That is the real reason for the reunion. I can’t wait to see y’all in Atlanta.

Washington Seminar 2007

by Daniel B. Frye

As the sun set over Washington on the first day of February, the 2007 Washington Seminar had already come to another successful close. Due to the quirks of the 2007 calendar, this year’s Washington Seminar happened earlier than normal, running from Sunday, January 28, to Thursday, February 1. Larger than ever, this year’s annual legislative pilgrimage to our nation’s capital saw more than five hundred Federationists come to the Holiday Inn, the NFB’s traditional home-away-from-home in Washington, to attend division meetings and greet the members of the new 110th Congress.

This year’s midwinter gathering featured a blend of the old and new. The Mercury Room continued to serve as the efficient nerve center for our legislative operations, but for the first time Federationists were invited to submit their Hill appointments for the Washington Seminar electronically before leaving their homes. Peanut butter pie was available in Smithson’s Restaurant for those who wanted to partake of this treat that has become an expected staple at Washington Seminars, but the once formal banquet that has customarily capped off the day-long student seminar was transformed this year into a sit-down, dress-down casual social, where fried chicken and mashed potatoes were served to dinner guests. NFB First Vice President Fred Schroeder addressed the students, encouraging them to take advantage of all that the Federation has to offer.

New leadership seminars for parents of blind children and winners from the scholarship class of 2006 were held in conjunction with this year’s Washington Seminar. Twenty-one national scholarship winners assembled at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore on the Saturday before the Washington Seminar to learn more about the NFB, to sharpen their advocacy and public speaking skills, to gain further insight into the legislative process, and generally to strengthen their bond with one another and our organization. Similarly, thirty parents of blind children from across the United States who were part of our inaugural Parent Leadership Program at the 2006 NFB national convention in Dallas, Texas, came to Washington to further their commitment to working in their affiliates to strengthen parent involvement with the organized blind movement. Both parents and students then joined their affiliate delegations for several days of hard work conveying our legislative priorities to members of Congress.

Monday brought a series of seminars for early-arriving Federationists. The National Association of Blind Lawyers hosted a continuing legal education session and plated luncheon featuring the newly appointed commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Christine Griffin. Ms. Griffin spoke to the audience about further integrating disabled attorneys into the broader workforce and reviewed new case law related to employment discrimination against disabled people. The National Association of Blind Merchants held its annual seminar for interested Business Enterprise Program operators.

New Washington seminarians and others flocked to the Columbia Room for a hands-on legislative workshop jointly sponsored by the departments of Governmental Affairs and Affiliate Action from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. James McCarthy, NFB director of governmental affairs, offered the assembled crowd a thorough explanation of our three principal legislative priorities for 2007. The full text of the NFB legislative agenda for 2007 appears elsewhere in this issue. Federation member Stacy Cervenka, a legislative correspondent in the office of Senator Sam Brownback, presented her top eight suggestions for protocol when visiting congressional offices. Finally seminar attendees participated in group role-playing exercises with twelve NFB senators, who peppered each delegation with behavior ranging from tough questioning to condescending indifference. This exercise was met with enthusiasm and good humor. Those in attendance found the afternoon session immensely valuable.

President Maurer called the great gathering-in meeting to order promptly at 5:00 p.m. on Monday afternoon. The Columbia Room, our traditional meeting location, was lined wall-to-wall with exuberantly cheering Federationists, and for the first time ever we piped sound into the Discovery Room to accommodate our first-ever full-to-capacity overflow space, located down the hall. The two-hour agenda was full of important announcements. Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives James Gashel announced the newest release of software for the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader, which now features a currency identifier. Betsy Zaborowski, executive director of the Jernigan Institute, provided further information about the March for Independence and the Youth Slam, two exciting NFB-sponsored activities that will occur this coming summer. Carl Smith of Utah won one thousand dollars in the drawing of all those who had raised at least one hundred dollars for the March for Independence by the first of the year. Dr. Maurer announced that consideration would be given to fundamental schedule changes for future conventions during this year’s national convention in Atlanta; he also invited members to suggest potential agenda items as he formulates our program for this summer.

The highlight of the evening came when Representative Rush Holt, Democrat from New Jersey’s Twelfth Congressional District, addressed the membership. After some cultivating by our able governmental affairs staff, Representative Holt has become a supporter of our desire to insure that blind Americans continue to enjoy independent and secret access to the ballot. Efforts to guarantee that ballots be secure and auditable could potentially jeopardize our equal access to voting, but Representative Rush has agreed to champion our concerns during any deliberations on this issue.

Representative Jack Kingston, Republican from Georgia’s First Congressional District, spoke to Federationists who attended the Tuesday evening briefing at the Washington Seminar. A long-time friend of the blind, Representative Kingston reflected on his belief in blind people as evidenced by his commitment to hiring qualified blind staff members to serve him in Congress; his remarks demonstrated a mature and informed perspective on our overall philosophical approach to blindness. Friends of this caliber are hard to come by, and we are glad to have Representative Kingston counted as one among our loyal allies.

As the Washington Seminar drew to its conclusion, all objective measures suggested that our 2007 event was one of our most successful. Federationists from fifty of our fifty-two affiliates personally visited over five hundred Congressional offices, making our work this year the most comprehensive in our history. Preliminary evidence suggests that Federationists visited in person with more members of Congress than in previous years, a testament to the new Tuesday-Thursday schedule adopted several years ago.

Now that the 2007 Washington Seminar is history, the hard work of our legislative campaign begins in earnest. Energized and inspired by the events of the Washington Seminar, Federationists will be ready to meet the legislative challenges ahead.

 

Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans: Priorities for the 110th Congress, First Session


The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the Voice of the Nation's Blind. We present the collective views of blind people throughout society. All of our leaders and the vast majority of our members are blind, but anyone can participate in our movement. Every year approximately 75,000 people become blind in America, and there are an estimated 1.3 million blind people in the U.S. The social and economic consequences of blindness affect not only the blind, but also our families, our friends, and our coworkers. Three legislative initiatives require the immediate attention of the 110th Congress. These urgent action items include:

1. We urge Congress to require higher education textbook publishers to produce electronic editions for blind students in an accessible standard format. This can be accomplished by enacting legislation that will:

2. We urge Congress, in considering amendments to the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), to affirm the right of the blind to vote independently and in private. Enacted legislation should:


3. We urge Congress to amend Title II of the Social Security Act to mandate a schedule of increases in the level of earnings allowed for blind individuals before applying a work penalty, as follows:

For more information about these priorities, please consult the attached fact sheets.

Other priorities that may present opportunities for legislative action in this session of Congress include:

For more information on any of these priorities, please contact James McCarthy, director of governmental affairs for the National Federation of the Blind, (410) 659-9314, ext. 2207, or visit us online at <www.nfb.org>.
Blind Americans need your help to achieve our goals of economic security, increased opportunity, and full integration into American society on a basis of equality. Enactment of these legislative proposals will represent important steps toward reaching these goals. We need the help and support of each member of Congress. Our success benefits not only us, but the whole of America as well.

 

Leveling the Playing Field: Providing Blind Students with Accessible Textbooks in Higher Education


Purpose:
To require higher education textbook publishers to produce electronic editions for the blind in an accessible standard format.

Background:
Despite advances in publishing technology, access to textbooks used in college courses remains a difficult burden for blind students and higher education institutions. Sporadic help to meet the need for accessible texts is provided by on-campus disabled student service offices, by libraries for the blind in some states, and by service organizations including RFB&D (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic) and Bookshare.org. These organizations create audio and electronic editions of many textbooks. Publishers, however, currently do little or nothing to support production of accessible texts.

The Association on Higher Education and Disability (AHEAD), which represents over 1,500 postsecondary institutions, acknowledges the legal duty of institutions to meet access needs of blind students. Without greater support from textbook publishers, however, institutions cannot meet this obligation.

Existing Law:
The Americans with Disabilities Act; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act articulate the policy that individuals with disabilities are entitled to equal access to education. Successful implementation of this policy cannot occur, however, without clear, specific, and practical standards and procedures designed to address accessibility needs. At present no specific law to support ready access to higher education textbooks for blind students exists.

By contrast, publishers of elementary and secondary school textbooks must produce electronic editions prepared in an accessible, nonvisual format that meets a federally prescribed national standard. This requirement is part of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, Public Law 108-446, signed by President Bush in December 2004. Under this new law the U.S. Department of Education has issued a National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard. Publishers must prepare electronic editions of textbooks sold to elementary and secondary schools in accordance with this national standard. The publishers meet their responsibilities by placing one electronic copy of each edition of a textbook in a national access center managed by the American Printing House for the Blind. This approach offers a model for similar procedures that could also be applied in higher education.

Need for Legislation:
Preparation of textbooks in an accessible, nonvisual format is an achievable and reasonable expectation because of changing methods of textbook publishing. In fact, though printed editions remain essentially the norm, electronic editions of higher education texts and supplemental materials are becoming far more common. This trend toward using computers to access books will inevitably continue and expand over time. However, no standards for nonvisual use exist for books prepared in print or electronic formats. Therefore higher education institutions and taxpayer-funded programs continue to struggle with the burden of providing blind students with the assistance and support needed to achieve access.

With appropriate technology now available, publishers can produce textbooks in accordance with a national access standard but lack any incentive to do so. Recognizing this, eight states--Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Michigan, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, and Washington--have enacted laws requiring nonvisual access to college texts, with other states actively considering similar legislation. These state laws offer an important first step toward access, but impose an array of conflicting and inconsistent obligations on publishers. This patchwork of requirements underscores the need for legislation to establish a national standard.

Proposed Legislation:
Congress should enact the Higher Education Textbook Access Act. This legislation will assure that blind college students and instructors have access to instructional texts comparable to that available to blind elementary and secondary school students.

The legislation would:

Requested Action:

 

Preserving Ballot Access for the Blind


Purpose:

To affirm the right guaranteed by the Help America Vote Act for the blind to vote independently and in private so that this right is not sacrificed in the haste to address security concerns.

Background:
In the wake of the 2000 presidential election, states and political subdivisions scrambled to update antiquated voting systems with new electronic and computer-based systems. The advent of new electronic voting machines means that, through the use of text-to-speech technology, blind people can have the opportunity to vote independently and in private for the first time in American history. Recognizing this possibility, Congress incorporated nonvisual access provisions into the landmark Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002.

Since the passage of this historic legislation, questions have arisen about the reliability and security of electronic voting systems. As a result jurisdictions have implemented a wide array of measures to address these concerns, most of which rely on some kind of paper record of ballots cast. Jurisdictions in forty-five states now require paper records of ballots.

In the rush to implement these so called voter-verified paper trails, little consideration has been given to the effect upon nonvisual access. The result, however unintended, is that blind voters use voting equipment considered unfit for sighted voters and have their ballots segregated from those of other voters. In some jurisdictions the blind can use text-to-speech technology to cast their ballots, but cannot independently verify that their choices are recorded correctly on the paper ballot of record. Some jurisdictions have switched to paper ballots for sighted voters, while the blind still use paperless electronic systems, thereby segregating votes cast by the blind from all others. Worst of all, a few jurisdictions have simply refused to purchase new accessible voting systems, ignoring the right to vote independently and in private guaranteed to the blind under HAVA.

Existing Law:
The Help America Vote Act declares the right of the blind to vote independently and in private. The law requires that accessible voting technology must be universally deployed to achieve this right. In its primary access provision HAVA requires access to the voting system for individuals with disabilities, including the blind, “in a manner that provides the same opportunity for access and participation (including privacy and independence) as for other voters.”

The accessibility provisions of HAVA took effect in January 2006. The law states that accessibility can be achieved by at least one Direct Recording Equipment voting machine, “or other voting system equipped for individuals with disabilities,” in each polling place.

Need for Congressional Action:
The concerns about the security and reliability of voting systems have resulted in a threat to access for the blind promised by HAVA. For instance, to date only one known voting machine provides full access by the blind to paper ballots of record. This limits the options available to jurisdictions seeking both to implement HAVA’s access requirements and to address the demand for paper ballots.

Moreover, the committee charged by HAVA to establish guidelines for voting systems is expected to recommend verification methods that are independent of voting equipment and software, conceding that only paper ballots would currently meet this requirement, effectively endorsing paper trails. Therefore, gains made by the blind are threatened if access is not given equal emphasis, alongside security, with respect to voting systems.

Congress faces substantial pressure to amend the Help America Vote Act. If HAVA is amended, the blind, like all other Americans, want a system that provides confidence that our votes are counted accurately. Therefore, any legislation enacted should:

Requested Action:

 

Making Work Pay: Removing the Earnings Penalty for Blind Social Security Beneficiaries


Purpose:
To amend Title II of the Social Security Act by mandating increases in the level of earnings allowed for blind individuals before applying a work penalty.

Background:
By increasing the Social Security earnings limit in 1996, Congress gave seniors a powerful incentive to work. Advocates stressed that seniors would continue to work, earn, and pay taxes since they could do so without fearing loss of income from Social Security.

Today the need for a higher earnings limit for the blind is much more compelling because of an all or nothing penalty for exceeding the limit. Nevertheless, the earnings limit for blind individuals has not been increased, though historically this limit was tied to the applicable limit for seniors. In 2007 the earnings limit applicable to seniors is $34,400 for an individual who reaches Full Retirement Age (FRA). This limit is adjusted annually. For blind individuals gross earnings exceeding $1,500 monthly ($18,000 annually) cause complete loss of benefits until attainment of FRA. At that point, as is now the case for seniors, there is no earnings limit. This existing inequity must be rectified.

Existing Law:
Like "retirement age," "blindness" is specifically defined in the Social Security Act and can be readily determined. By contrast, evaluating "disability" is far more subjective. Although blindness is specifically defined, monthly benefits are not paid to all blind people, but only to those not working or whose work earnings are below an annually adjusted statutory earnings limit. Personal wealth derived from all sources other than work is subject to no penalty at all. However, excess income generated from work results in a total loss of cash benefits for blind beneficiaries. Recognizing the negative impact of the earnings limit on seniors, Congress changed the law in 1996 and later eliminated their earnings limit altogether. The present situation for blind people is identical to that which seniors faced prior to 1996.
Examples: For the blind who find employment, earnings almost never replace lost benefits once taxes and work expenses are paid. Therefore few beneficiaries can truly afford to attempt significant work, and those who do often sacrifice income and the security of a monthly check. The following examples illustrate the penalty for working.

Need for Legislation:
Steadily increasing the earnings limit for blind people over five years, thereby linking it to the limit applicable in the year of FRA, will allow blind people to work without facing an overwhelming financial penalty for their effort. This would provide more than 100,000 blind beneficiaries with an effective work incentive. In 2007 a blind individual’s earnings cannot exceed a rigid monthly limit of $1,500. Earnings exceeding this threshold result in immediate withdrawal of the entire sum paid to a primary beneficiary and dependents, following completion of a trial work period. The economic risk occurring to a blind head of household negates any possible economic benefit.

An increase in the earnings limit would be cost-beneficial. With an estimated 74 percent unemployment rate, an overwhelming majority of working-age blind people are already beneficiaries. With the meaningful work incentive proposed here, many would become taxpayers as well. Congress raised the earnings exemption for seniors, and Congress alone can raise the limit for the blind. The chance to work, earn, and pay taxes is a constructive and valid goal for senior citizens and blind Americans alike.

Requested Action:
Congress should enact annual increases in the statutory earnings limit for blind individuals over five years, ultimately linking it to that applicable to individuals in the year they attain full retirement age. The earnings limit should be increased according to the following schedule:

Please support Blind Americans by sponsoring or cosponsoring the Blind Persons Earnings Fairness Act of 2007. Please advise members of the National Federation of the Blind of your commitment to sponsor or cosponsor this legislation.

Dr. Isabelle Grant-Teacher and World Traveler

by Lou Ann Blake

From the Editor: Lou Ann Blake is a research specialist at the National Federation of the Blind Jacobus tenBroek Library. In sorting and filing the personal and professional papers in the tenBroek collection, she has recently been reading material written by and about Dr. Isabelle Grant, one of the early leaders of the National Federation of the Blind and a world figure in the education of blind students. Almost the only thing that younger Federationists remember about her today is the fact that she endowed an annual NFB scholarship for a blind woman in memory of her daughter Hermione Grant Calhoun. Here is Lou Ann Blake’s report on Dr. Grant’s life and work:

The documents collected by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek during his lifetime include the correspondence, speeches, and scholarly papers of Dr. tenBroek himself, as well as those of other early leaders in the blind civil rights movement. One of those early leaders was Dr. Isabelle Grant, a teacher in the Los Angeles, California, public school system for thirty-two years; member of the NFB board of directors; treasurer and third vice president of the International Federation of the Blind (IFB, now the World Blind Union); and editor of Braille International. However, it was Dr. Grant’s worldwide effort to improve the education of blind children that was her most notable contribution in the struggle for the civil rights of blind people. This article will focus on the life of Dr. Grant as revealed through correspondence, newspaper articles, and reports written by her that are part of the tenBroek papers collection in the Jacobus tenBroek Library at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland.

Many details about Isabelle Grant’s personal life are not well documented. While we know that she was a native of Aberdeen, Scotland, none of the documents in the tenBroek files thus far reviewed include her birth date, apparently because she never revealed her age, as evidenced by a newspaper article in the tenBroek files that quotes her as replying, “That’s one question I never answer,” in response to a reporter’s inquiry. An article entitled “Davis Woman of the Week” from the June 21, 1971, issue of the Davis Enterprise as well as issues of “Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind” from the 1960s indicate that Isabelle Grant received a master’s degree with honors from Aberdeen University in 1917. She pursued additional studies at the Sorbonne in Paris and the University of Madrid. Upon completion of her education in Europe, she moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s, where she received her doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Southern California in 1940. She and her husband Dr. Alexander Grant, a physician in the Los Angeles area who died in the early 1940s, had one daughter named Hermione. Dr. Isabelle Grant died in 1977, one week before that year’s NFB annual convention in New Orleans.

California’s First Blind Teacher

When Dr. Grant began to lose her vision in the mid-1940s from acute glaucoma, she was employed by the Los Angeles Board of Education as a vice principal at Belvedere Junior High School. In January 1949 the board of education informed Dr. Grant that, due to her vision loss, she would have to take a disability retirement from her vice principal position. A draft article written by Hazel tenBroek and entitled “Isabelle L. D. Grant: The Early Years” describes how the National Federation of the Blind and many of Dr. Grant’s professional colleagues joined her in a bitter struggle with the board of education to keep her out of forced retirement.

In February 1949 she was removed from her position at Belvedere and placed at Polytechnic High School as the first blind teacher in the California public school system. However, her difficulties because of school administrators’ misunderstandings about blindness did not end there. From Polytechnic she was moved from school to school and from program to program. Her better students were removed from her class after they showed improvement as a result of her instruction. A sighted adult was always in her classroom, and if that adult had to leave the room, the door was locked as a “safety precaution.”

As a result of her employment experience as a blind teacher, Isabelle Grant worked on both the legislative and organizational fronts so that future generations of blind teachers would not have to overcome the obstacles that she endured. In collaboration with the California Council of the Blind (CCB, now the NFB of California), she got the California legislature to pass legislation to eliminate visual acuity requirements for teacher certification and to ban discrimination against the blind in admission to teacher-training programs, practice-teaching assignments, and application for teaching positions. She also organized the CCB’s teachers’ division in 1960. At the sixth annual Conference of Blind Teachers, hosted by the CCB teachers’ division in 1965, she stated in her keynote address: “Good teaching is not measured in diopters of visual acuity, but in imagination, efficiency, competency, faith in one’s self and in one’s teaching.”

Isabelle Grant was an early proponent, both in the United States and throughout the world, of the integrated education of blind children with their sighted peers. She believed that because the blind can and must function in a sighted society, the time to start the integration process is during childhood. By attending regular schools, she advised educators, blind children “can be stimulated by and learn the ways of their sighted peers.” The best response to her integrated program was in developing countries, because they lacked the money to build separate schools for the blind.

As part of her campaign for the integrated education of blind children with sighted children, Dr. Grant prepared papers on the education of blind children and presented them throughout the world. Copies of these documents that may be found in the tenBroek papers include: “Some Considerations and Recommendations in the Education of Blind Children,” prepared in 1954 for the CCB Committee on Educational Policy; “Education of Blind Children in the Public Schools: A Teacher’s Viewpoint,” presented at the October 1956 convention of the CCB; and “A White Paper for the Education of Our Blind Children,” presented at the 1969 convention of the IFB in Ceylon.

A World Leader in the Education of the Blind

In 1959 Isabelle Grant took her crusade for the education and training of blind people to the world. She received a one-year sabbatical from her teaching position and traveled, accompanied only by her white cane, “Oscar,” to twenty-three countries to study the education and rehabilitation of blind children. Thus she became the first blind woman to travel around the world alone. As part of this trip, she spent September 1959 to February 1960 in Pakistan, where she helped to organize the Pakistan Association of the Blind.

Upon her retirement from teaching in the Los Angeles public school system in June 1962, Dr. Grant returned to Pakistan on a Fulbright Scholarship. The purpose of this trip was to train Pakistani teachers in the education of blind children in regular schools with sighted children. In 1964 she returned to Pakistan on a second Fulbright Scholarship to continue this work.

She began a trip in 1967 that took her to Africa, Indonesia, Pakistan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Japan. By far, however, the best documented of her travels in the tenBroek files is her trip to ten countries in Africa.

Odyssey to Africa

In late August 1967 plans were made for Isabelle Grant to travel to Africa and report back to Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, then president of both the IFB and NFB, on how blind African children were educated; the condition of blind Africans regarding the right to be in public places and the right to use public facilities, public transportation, and public accommodations; conditions of labor and employment of the blind; and to what extent the blind of Africa had organized themselves. She was provided with $2,000 from the American Brotherhood for the Blind (now the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults) to pay for her airplane travel and some additional expenses.

The first of her reports from Africa contained in the tenBroek files is a letter dated November 24, 1967, when she was in Rabat, Morocco. In this letter she notes that blind Moroccans could not vote or hold any positions in government. In addition, the blind of Morocco were not permitted to travel alone on trains, but, wrote Dr. Grant, “I went alone anyway.” Her December 31, 1967, letter from East London, South Africa, states: “My main asset when I meet with blind people, as well as sighted people, is that I am traveling alone, and if I can do it, their blind can do it too. This is where an agency cannot and does not function, for doing things FOR the blind is very different from the blind doing things for and by themselves.”

She found a wide variation in the education of blind children among the African countries she visited. In Nigeria and Uganda she found that blind children were educated with sighted children in an integrated program. However, in most of the African countries she visited, blind children were educated in missionary schools. Those she observed in Kenya were typical: “All education of the blind children in Kenya is done in mission schools, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Salvation Army. They stay in the school under mission care for twelve to fifteen years without making any contact with open society and, after that, return to their homes prepared for nothing, hopeless and helpless, or they are absorbed back into the schools as teachers. What kind of teachers is left to the imagination.” In Zambia, where religious missionaries also ran the schools for the blind, she found the education of the blind in arithmetic, geography, and history to be “a bare minimum.”

Because of the inadequate education that most blind African children received, she observed that most blind adults were either unemployed or employed in menial, low-paying jobs. With the average blind adult Zambian having only six years of education, she found that blind Zambians were “asking for jobs for which they were totally unprepared. Few, if any, could write on a typewriter. They told me they did not have typewriters in the mission schools.” Of the 70,000 blind living in Kenya, only 100 to 150 had jobs. The blind in Morocco made brooms, mops, and rugs in sheltered workshops. However, she did meet a handful of blind Africans who were employed as telephone operators, farmers, and factory workers, as well as one South African who was a physical therapist and an English teacher in Ethiopia.

In South Africa, where the majority of the blind were found among the native Bantus, she experienced firsthand the system of racial and ethnic segregation known as apartheid. In a letter dated January 20, 1968, she wrote, “According to the political arrangement, . . . [the Bantus] are kept entirely separated from the Europeans.” When describing her efforts to speak with some of the blind Bantus, she reported: “[I] was told that I would have to have a permit to visit the enclaves and be accompanied by a policeman when I entered. I felt I did not want to do that.” While in East London, South Africa, she had the opportunity to speak with some blind South Africans of European descent. Here she found that “again, there [was] a division. The preponderance [was] towards the Afrikaans or Dutch Boer group, and they in turn [had] little or nothing to do with the other Europeans of British descent.” In her report to Dr. tenBroek, she states: “This will give you a slight idea of the difficulty I have had in trying to find information, for the center of interest was not in the blind people at all, but in the political set-up.” Upon her return to California, she wrote in her “Quotes from My African Letters”: “In South Africa and in Rhodesia I was unhappy, uncomfortable, afraid. I have nothing in common with segregation of people, and apartheid to me is inhumane, does not face facts, and is absolutely discriminatory.”

Isabelle Grant’s letters reveal that her journey through Africa was full of hardship and adventure. In a letter dated March 19, 1968, from Thika, Kenya, she describes living conditions as “sometimes very, very difficult from inaccessible roads, torrential rains (for this is the tropical belt), the constant threat of malaria, and anything from dry toilets to non-potable water. . . . This is not America. It is not even America two hundred years ago.” She described her trip to visit a school for blind children in Malawi as “one hair-raising journey by Land Rover, down river beds [filled] with torrential rains, sliding down the ravines, up on the top of dangerous escarpments with pieces of road broken, with potholes and curves that defy imagination. Add to that, when we did hit a fairly flat piece of road, cows, goats, pigs, dogs, and children from the villages barred our path.” Even travel by commercial airline was an ordeal. A flight from Abat, Morocco, to Accra, Ghana, that she expected to take three hours actually took twenty hours because the plane made so many stops in between.

Encounters with the numerous and diverse animal population of Africa are also vividly described in her letters. In her March 10, 1968, letter written in Jinja, Uganda, she writes, “This is animal territory. . . . Hippos come up from the river, crocodiles are by the dozen, and elephants by the hundreds, not to mention giraffes, hyenas, . . . buffalos, and . . . the myriad of creeping and crawling things.” In her “Quotes from My African Letters,” she describes how she avoided stepping on a “slithering cobra” by jumping in response to the shouted warning of the principal of the Lulwa Blind School in Malawi.

A World Humanitarian

Isabelle Grant was a citizen of the world. Throughout her travels she handed out copies of the Model White Cane Law and talked about the NFB and the Braille Monitor. She met with ordinary people, government officials, and heads of state. In all of the countries that she visited, she identified potential leaders and sent their names and addresses to Dr. tenBroek. By 1972, according to an article in the July 2, 1972, Sacramento Bee, she was corresponding in seven languages with eight hundred people around the world.

When she was at home in California, she continued to help the blind of the world. She collected discarded Braille books and used Braillewriters and typewriters from throughout the United States and sent them to needy blind individuals, organizations of the blind, and schools for the blind around the world. Other items she collected and sent abroad included Braille watches, slates and styluses, Braille paper, folding canes, mathematical materials, and Braille music. As a result of this work she helped to establish Braille libraries in sixty-five countries.

For her tireless efforts, she received both national and international recognition. At the 1964 NFB annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona, she received the Newel Perry award for her distinguished contributions to the blind of the world. In his award ceremony speech, a copy of which is included in the tenBroek files, then NFB president Russell Kletzing noted that Isabelle Grant was the first woman to receive the Newel Perry award. She was also selected as the International Teacher of 1967 at the annual National Teacher Remembrance Day. In addition she received commendations from United States President Richard Nixon and the French Parliament.

Perhaps the most distinguished form of recognition she received was her nomination for the 1972 Nobel Peace Prize. In response to her nomination, she told a reporter for the Sacramento Bee: “In my work I have learned to know and understand people of all nations and all religions. The common denominator to all this is human relations. I guess you could say this is my religion. I can’t think of anything more important to the future of peace.”

An Ambassador At Large

The 1968 edition of “Who Are the Blind Who Lead the Blind” described Isabelle Grant as the “unofficial ambassador at large of America’s organized blind.” Her promotion of the integrated education of blind children with sighted children and her work to establish Braille libraries improved the lives of blind people throughout the world. Here in the United States her career as a teacher in the Los Angeles public school system helped pave the way for the many blind teachers who have followed her. It is through the collected papers of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, as part of the Jacobus tenBroek Library, that the life of Dr. Isabelle Grant will continue to be an inspiring example to the blind of the world.

The Power of Knowledge

by Eric Vasiliauskas

From the Editor: At the 2006 NFB convention two fathers of blind children made presentations. They were both memorable. The first was a PowerPoint presentation by Dr. Eric Vasiliauskas, the father of two blind sons. He spoke to parents of blind children at the seminar conducted by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children on Saturday, July 1. Here is what he said as it appeared in the Vol. 25, No. 4, Convention Report 2006, issue of Future Reflections, the publication of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children:

Over five hundred years ago a philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon, wrote, “Knowledge is power.” These words of wisdom hold true for every step along the way of raising a blind child. The title of this morning’s seminar is “The Equation for Success.” I humbly submit that these criteria are components for an equation of success in my mind. Can any of the kids in the audience tell me what letter dots one and three represent? The letter “k,” and what word is that? That’s right, “knowledge.” It’s the Braille contraction for knowledge. It has always been my favorite letter in the Braille alphabet. Knowledge plus hard work on the part of parents, and also kids, as well as high expectations and, just to spice it up a bit, dreams really make the equation of success.

Have you ever heard the question, what would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail? I want every kid and every teenager to ask themselves that question. Now I want to pose this question to parents. What would you attempt to do for your blind child if you knew you couldn’t fail? To embrace this philosophy, we need to examine our own paradigms and become aware of what is actually possible. Most important, we need to evaluate and educate ourselves about blindness issues. We need to expose ourselves to successful blind people and their parents. The more we do this, the more we come to realize that what is attainable for a blind person and a sighted individual is really not that much different. I want you to take a look for a second at a sampling of the careers listed on the AFB Web site that blind adults have chosen to pursue.

I want to go back to the equation. It’s important to remember and appreciate that everyone’s situation is unique and different. This is a dynamic equation: knowledge, hard work, high expectations, and dreams. The final result will depend on the data that you plug into this formula over time. I am sure that every parent amongst you can relate to the fact that you have been given a lot of advice along the way. It is not always an easy task to make intelligent and important decisions. One needs not only to understand the options but also the implications and consequences that follow. Today I would like to share with you some glimpses or examples of the way our family has chosen to address this challenge.

I’d like to discuss the value of becoming an informed and knowledgeable consumer. The areas I want to address are, first, medical issues, then the functional issues in raising and educating a blind child, including general education, special education, social skills, blindness skills, and independence.

My wife and I have been blessed with two wonderful children, who are sitting up front here, Vejas and Patras. Vejas is nine years old and is fully mainstreamed, having just finished third grade at our local elementary school. Patras is five and is transitioning from the district’s preschool program to elementary school. To help maintain our cultural roots, both Vejas and Patras attend Lithuanian school on Saturdays for four hours. Here, as you can imagine, we don’t have access to the same VI [visual impairment] resources that the boys have during the rest of the week. Rasa, my wife, Brailles the Lithuanian textbook pages and modifies the worksheets so that, as amazing as it may seem, Vejas and Patras actually have access to the Lithuanian school curriculum to the same degree as their sighted classmates.
Barbara asked me to touch base on some medical issues. Professionally I’m a physician and a clinical researcher. I am what you might call a super-subspecialist. My clinical and research focus is really limited to treating children, adolescents, teenagers, and adults with a potentially debilitating condition known as inflammatory bowel disease, that is, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

I must admit that, despite all my years of schooling and training, this has been the most educationally intense and educationally fulfilling and rich decade of my life. Over the years, during my medical training, treating patients, and in my own personal life, I’ve had opportunities to see how individuals and families deal with life-altering events. As with many other conditions, blindness initially presents the affected individual and parents with new challenges and new realities to face. How will this affect life and expectations? Through my interactions with the blind community I have come to learn that the degree to which blindness, as with many other conditions, is viewed as a nuisance versus a true disability is not so much based on the severity of the condition as how the individual and family choose to handle it.

One’s choices are influenced by one’s perceptions, which in turn are based on knowledge or lack thereof. Once you are faced with the reality of a visual impairment or blindness, a multitude of medical questions arise. What is the specific condition or diagnosis? How much can your child see? Are there any short-term or long-term implications? Are there associated issues? Is surgery needed? Can surgery fix the problem? How many surgeries will be needed? Will special glasses or special contacts be needed? Is a conformer necessary? Is eye-patching needed? Should glaucoma be treated medically or surgically? Is there a risk of further partial or total loss of vision from glaucoma, retinal detachment, or the natural progression of the disease? Where do you start with all these questions? Let’s be honest. For most people, processing, putting together all this information, which is very complicated, is not easy to do. The medical system can be quite difficult to figure out. It is pretty much a complicated maze.

So how do you choose the best doctor for your child’s condition? It’s not enough for your child’s eye specialist to be caring or kind. Now this may come as a shock to you, but I am going to let you in on a little trade secret; not all doctors are created equal. This is not a joke. What do you call the medical student who graduates at the bottom of his or her class? (A voice from the audience): “Doctor.” [laughter] Very good. A pediatric eye specialist may have different training from an adult specialist and a different understanding of things. Furthermore, a book-smart doctor may also not be enough. At times you really want a true subspecialist, one with the experience, expertise, and focus on your child’s specific eye condition. You will see doctors, ophthalmologists, optometrists, opticians, perhaps a retinal surgeon or glaucoma specialist; and you may seek out second or third opinions. There will be disagreements about the medical and surgical approaches and the prognoses.

At each step you will be given information, which may be conflicting, and you are going to be asked to make difficult decisions, sometimes on the spot, without being presented with all the information. On top of that everybody seems to want to give you advice--not just medical professionals, but other parents, blind professionals, educational professionals. Your parents clip out articles and send them to you. Indeed even strangers want to enlighten you and give you advice, including people at the checkout counter at the store, who share how some relative wore glasses as a child but then didn’t need them anymore when they grew up, or about the miracle surgery they read about or heard about on TV or in Newsweek.

Ultimately parents are the gatekeepers, the processors, and the filters of all this information. So where can we turn to help us process all this information? Unfortunately the doctor’s office isn’t always the best place to get this information because doctor visits are sometimes short and very focused. You can do a Google search for a specific eye condition. It is a good starting point for a lot of people. You will find out you are not alone. You may learn some things there and be directed to some condition-specific Web site that may be helpful. The problem with some of these eye-condition Web sites is that the information isn’t filtered, and sometimes there is an over-focus on the disability as opposed to moving on with more important issues down the line.

You can also turn to an ophthalmology-specific Web site. These are more carefully screened out. But the reality is that the experts, the physicians, may not be the real experts in your child’s condition. The real experts are out there taking care of patients; they’re busy, focusing on research. They really don’t have time to write back on these Web sites. So you need to process all this information selectively.

The National Institutes of Health has a searchable database of medical literature. You can get the abstracts, the highlights of all the studies out there. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long to realize that even here, all too often, studies are based on very small numbers of patients. Sometimes data are pulled from a number of different eye conditions, and many of these studies are retrospective, which means they kind of look back at things. They don’t look at it in a forward fashion, really limiting the quality of what’s there. You don’t have good long-term outcomes.

In our case we were aware that, despite the early surgeries, there was a risk of future retinal detachment. Then it happened; our son’s retina suddenly detached. Our retinal surgeon scheduled an emergency surgery. After taking a look inside, he came out and pulled us aside to talk with us. He told us we needed to decide right there and then whether to embark on what was likely to be a futile surgery. You see, the retina was so entangled upon itself that, while trying to unwrap and reattach this very, very thin, paper-like tissue, there was a high likelihood that a hole would be put in the retina. Then he might actually lose his eye. How do you think this conversation ended? I wish I could say that we were referred to early intervention services and advised to seek blindness skills training.

Rather, the pediatric surgeon gently reassured us that technology was advancing so quickly that there was no need to worry about Braille and stuff like that. Be sure, the medical system has shortcomings. Doctors and other medical professionals for the most part don’t have a very functional focus. You might see a functional optometrist or a functional ophthalmologist, but even they are focused on maximizing vision. These settings, when intervention is recommended to deal with vision loss, are really focused on maximizing whatever residual vision is there. They are really into saving any vision that they can find. They try to be optimistic and hopeful, and they have a hard time uttering the words, “Your child is blind,” because they view that as a failure. In our first year we saw four pediatric ophthalmologists and five pediatric optometrists. We were instructed to “Keep those glasses on,” “Make sure you get that contact in for most of the day, and keep it in.”

I am sure most of you have checked out the pamphlets in doctors’ offices. They address medical conditions; they talk about preventing blindness and vision loss. They don’t actually deal with blindness, though, or what to do once vision loss has been identified. Any functional literature is really focused on making use of residual vision. We didn’t see any literature from the NFB in the doctors’ offices, nor that of any blindness organization. Braille was never brought up. There was no emphasis or any reference to blindness-skill acquisition. There was no referral to early intervention services. For over a year we received reassurances that “It’s just too early to tell how much your child will be able to see in his remaining eye,” and that we needed to wait and be patient and “See how things turn out.”
Yet Rasa and I realized that, while our little boy recognized us, it was not through visual mode. We knew that he had never seen our faces. We knew what no one else was willing to come out and say. So when Vejas was four months old, we faced our reality and embarked on a Braille- and blindness-awareness journey without much of a map or guidebook.

Sadly to say, too many parents get paralyzed, sometimes for years, either in the premedical phase of “why did this happen?” or by focusing on blindness issues that often end up being incompletely realized hopes of normal or near-normal vision. Before I leave the topic of medical issues, I want to make an important point. I can’t stress enough how important it is that, as children get older, they too need to learn about their medical conditions. Over time it’s important to transition them so that they are aware of the medical issues of potential complications and assume responsibility for their eye care. Glaucoma, potential for retinal detachment, and, in many patients, diabetes are ongoing threats of additional visual loss of whatever residual vision there is to begin with.

Now, while we continue to deal with medical issues, including glaucomas, conformers, and scar-tissue build-up, retinal detachment, potential trauma from eye-poking, and such, your family really needs to move on. You can’t just stop there. If you want your child to succeed, the medical issues are really just the beginning.

Parent power: never underestimate the power of a parent’s experience and words. I’ll never forget the first major conference I attended where a lot of blind people were there. At the conference I met a mother who was manning one of these parent organization booths. She eagerly shared with me that, because her son had had some useable vision in one eye, she and the teachers had decided to hold off on the introduction of Braille. Oh how she came to regret that decision. You see, her son, already at the elementary school level, was having a hard time keeping up with his classmates. This mother did not beat around the bush. What she wanted to relay more than anything else was to make sure our son would be well versed in Braille skills. By that point Vejas was ten months old, and despite reassurances by our doctors that our son would have some useable vision, we had already come to the conclusion that we should learn Braille just in case. But this was an eye-opening personal philosophy change and realization. Our child needed to know Braille in order to succeed. This message, this bold truth, was put forth, not by a professional, not by an educator, but by a mom, a parent just like many of us in the room here today.

At that conference my interactions with blind adults, blind children, and parents of blind children changed the misconceptions and uncertainties I had about the future. From that point on I knew that the focus needed to change from the medical diagnosis and any residual thoughts about why this had happened to an emphasis on our child’s future.

At this point I would like to share with you my grandfather’s equation for success. It’s real simple: education equals success. From an educational standpoint the actual diagnosis is not so important; rather it’s critical to assess whether your child is functionally blind or is a low-vision student. Functioning blind students rely on senses other than vision as their major channel of learning, in contrast to the low-vision child, who still uses vision as her major mode of learning. Is your child low-vision or functionally blind? And, more important, is there a risk of further loss in the future? The answer to these two questions will help you answer this critical question: what is the optimal reading medium for your child? Will residual vision be a primary mode of learning or just a supplemental tool?

Now let’s take a look at some hard data from the American Foundation for the Blind’s Web site. Forty-five percent of blind or severely impaired individuals graduate from high school compared to 80 percent of sighted individuals. Only 16 percent of those who go on to college graduate from college if they are blind. If you do the math, that’s about 7 percent of our blind kids are graduating from college. If you look at work experience, only 32 percent of legally blind kids make it to the point where they are actually employed. Most of those are Braille readers. If you want to focus on the visually impaired kids, I want to show you this picture I downloaded from one of the schools for the blind Web sites. Look at this computer screen. At this magnification, you can fit only two lines on the page. That’s the equivalent of about two or three words per line. Can you imagine trying to keep up with any level of school work at this magnification? Indeed residual vision can be a disadvantage. The irony is that a lot of times these kids fall further and further behind. As I mentioned, many medical conditions are associated with progressive vision loss over time, and vision tends to decline with age. This applies to all of our kids. This picture is of Erik Weihenmayer, who is now a major advocate for Braille. He too was a kid who resisted blindness skills training and has come to understand that that wasn’t the best approach.

Print and Braille really aren’t all that different. You may hear that Braille slows you down. I want to share one thing my son said when he was in first grade at Lithuanian school. He had just finished an assignment, and I leaned over and said, “Everyone else is still working on their thing.”

He goes, “Dad, I know; that’s because reading Braille is faster.” My son participated in the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest over here. Last year he read over twelve thousand pages. Actually we have a young girl here who read over sixteen thousand pages in three months. Can you imagine any large-print student doing that? I downloaded this graphic from the United States Department of Education Web site. By the end of third grade an average third grader can read eighty-six to a hundred-twenty words per minute. We just found out that Vejas was reading at 182 words per minute with 100 percent accuracy. How hard is Braille? It’s so easy even a child can learn it.
So, if you want to rely on the system, I want to point you back to these two report cards I showed you: educational attainment and job performance. How would you rate your system? Indeed parents are needed to fill the gap between what is currently available and where we need to go. Look in the mirror, and you will find that you are the service coordinator. One parent really summed it up nicely. He said, “Kids need the skills to make it in the real world. They will not be given a break just because they have a visual impairment. Once your child graduates, it’s survival of the fittest.”

I just want to share one other thing with you real quick. My son is in third grade. In the year 2006 in the elementary school setting, first graders learn keyboarding; second graders are learning Word; and third graders, Excel and PowerPoint. My son Vejas just did a PowerPoint presentation on the Lincoln Memorial. How’s that for a wake-up call?

In his classroom we have actually set things up so that he can function independently. You’ll see in the picture over here that he’s got his Perkins Brailler, and behind that he is using his BrailleNote. All he needs to do is turn around over here, walk over to the back of the room, and, by pointing his BrailleNote at one of these infrared ports, he can either print or emboss whatever he needs, right in class, independently, on his own. Isn’t that pretty cool!

As I wrap it up I just want to share with you again; knowledge is important. Kids in the audience, you can use this to your advantage. My son asked me if he could go skiing because he read about it in a book. So we went skiing. He read a book about snowboarding, and indeed we went snowboarding. I wasn’t sure how to approach this, so I actually went to the NOPBC blindkid listserv, which you parents all should be a part of. Some parents gave me some tips on how to make that happen. Vejas read a book on surfing and asked what surfing was. He was five and a half. I put it off for a year; then he asked me again, and I had to do it. Here is my little six-and-a-half-year-old surfing the waves in Kauai. Here he is at eight and a half, and I think I have the coolest desktop in the entire world. With that I’m going to stop and ask that at this conference we take advantage of all the resources we have and network. We can all learn a lot from each other and spend time getting to know each other. Get the kids to interact, not just at the various official functions, but at the pool and such too.

 

What a Parent Has Learned from His Blind Son

by John Wai

From the Editor: John Wai is the father of Andrew Wai, who is blind. What follows is the edited text of the presentation he made on Thursday, July 6, to the 2006 NFB national convention in Dallas, Texas:

It was fifteen years ago--a cold and rainy day. As I came out of the doctor’s office, holding our first child in one arm and my wife in the other, I could not tell whether the falling drops were her tears or rain from the sky. We had just been told that Andrew, our four-month-old baby, had very limited vision, if any at all. He had a flat electroretinogram and a diagnosis of Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. Our hearts were dropping into an ever-growing black hole.

Dr. Levin, the pediatric ophthalmologist, gave us a small book with a unique title, What Color Is the Sun, published by the National Federation of the Blind. Yes, a Kernel Book published in 1991. Two articles in that book profoundly changed my perception of blindness. The first one is “Blind Faith,” written by Mike Pearson. It is about a group of seven students from the NFB Colorado Center for the Blind in Denver, climbing up the face of a 200-foot-high rock. The second one is “Growing up Blind” by Jan Bailey about her father’s role in breaking all the unnecessary constraints imposed on blind children. I was impressed. I wanted to learn from them. We contacted the National Federation of the Blind, talked to Mrs. Barbara Cheadle, and joined the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children--the NFB’s division for parents.

The most important word we learned from the NFB is “expectation.” We expect Andrew to be learning at a level comparable to his peers of the same abilities and interest, and nothing less. To achieve this, Andrew needs to fill his toolbox with special skills. He has to learn Braille. We were told that Andrew didn’t need Braille because it is slow and will be replaced by other technology. My wife tearfully disagreed. We fought hard on this, and we finally won the support of the special education supervisor in the school district. To date Andrew’s toolbox is populated with Braille, a BrailleNote, a Braille embosser, a scanner, an optical recognition program, a screen reader (JAWS), an e-book reader, speaking calculators, and more.

Andrew is doing very well in school and is particularly interested in science and math. Both my wife and I are scientists. We know these are tough subjects, and we have great concern about how Andrew will continue to excel. Two years ago Andrew was very fortunate to be chosen to participate in the NFB Science Academy. We trust that whatever the NFB chooses to do, it has a purpose and it will have profound implications. The camp lived up to our expectations and beyond. Between the day we dropped him off and the day we picked him up, we witnessed a tremendous transformation. The NFB instilled its philosophy in this young man. He demanded to be more independent. For the first time he whole-heartedly accepted his tools--the Braille, the cane, and everything. Through doing a dissection himself, he learned to trust his hands and fingers. Through interacting with excellent blind scientists, he was inspired to dream of doing whatever he wants to do. He is determined.

Andrew just finished ninth grade. I would like to report that he won eight academic awards. These include a presidential academic award; an academic excellence award; excellence in French; excellence in orchestra; excellence in social studies; and, in particular, excellence in science; excellence in Algebra II; and a gold medal for Continental Math. In eighth grade he led his team to win the championship in the Upper Bucks-Montgomery County academic competition among forty teams from area middle schools. He was chosen to be the most likely to succeed by his class of three hundred students. Thank you for the NFB Science Academy.

Last year Andrew went to the NFB Colorado Center for the Blind summer program. He climbed up the face of a 200-foot-high rock, exactly as described in the Kernel book I read when Andrew was an infant. I’m thankful to have this unassuming little book. A few months later I happened to be in Scottsdale, Arizona. Andrew encouraged me to try rock climbing. Halfway through ascending this vertical rock face, holding on to the cracks, I finally appreciated why the NFB sent these young fellows rock climbing. They need strong determination to get up the rock. The NFB was building their wills.

Early this week I was in a three-day leadership training program. One of the activities involved blind-folding all twenty-five participants. We were holding onto a rope, not knowing that we were all entangled. We were then told to find a way to hold on to the rope and make it into a perfect square. I asked myself, what would my son do? I quickly formulated the plan and communicated to the team how to complete the task. Later I was asked how I accomplished this. I replied that I know I do not need to see to have vision, I do not need to see to lead, I do not need to see to accomplish. I know a lot of people without sight who accomplish these tasks every day. Thank you Andrew, thank you NFB. You are inspiring.

In the Spotlight: Affiliate Action

From the Editor: This month’s spotlight is focused on the topic of effective advocacy. One of our most critical roles as Federationists is to serve as advocates for individual blind people as they seek the services they need to find normalcy in their lives. Of course we must continue to work to improve the rehabilitation system, but we must also commit ourselves to helping individual blind people get the most out of their participation in the vocational rehabilitation program. Keep the following federal policies in mind as you help individual blind people to negotiate the rehabilitation system:

Eligibility: Anyone with an impairment that constitutes a substantial impediment to employment and who can benefit from VR services in order to become employed is eligible to participate in the rehabilitation program. Anyone receiving SSI or SSDI is automatically eligible for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services unless the agency provides clear and convincing evidence that the person is too severely disabled to benefit from them.

The Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE): This plan outlines the consumer's employment goals and the services necessary to help him or her achieve them. Any consumer can develop his or her own IPE, work with a counselor to develop the plan, or bring in representatives of consumer organizations or other consumers to help develop the plan.

Informed Choice: Choice is a basic right of all consumers. Consumers must receive all the information necessary to make informed decisions about the various aspects of their rehabilitation. It is particularly important in determining employment outcomes, services, and providers of those services.

Policy Directive 97-04: This policy directive reinforces the concept that a consumer can select an employment goal based on individual interest and informed choice. It also clarifies that VR services can be used to advance a person’s career, even if he or she is already employed.

Regulation 361.50: This regulation prohibits an agency from developing policies that limit the nature and scope of services, that place financial caps on services, that restrict access to out-of-state services, and that limit the number and duration of services. Actually, an agency can have such policies, but it must provide for exceptions for consumers based on individual needs.

Financial participation: RSA does not mandate that consumers participate in defraying the cost of their rehabilitation, but states are permitted to develop their own policies about financial participation. Recipients of SSDI or SSI are not required to participate financially in their rehabilitation costs.

Becoming a Federation Advocate
by Daniel B. Frye

Introduction

One of the primary purposes of the NFB is to serve as a vehicle for collective action on behalf of blind people across America. As such, Federation leaders and members are often called upon to advocate on particular issues for themselves or other people or on behalf of a larger group. Active Federationists regularly need to advocate on an array of issues including vocational rehabilitation, Social Security, education matters, employment and housing discrimination, access and accommodations, and more.

Blind people may encounter challenges attributable to public misunderstanding, misconceptions, and occasionally active hostility toward members of our community. When faced with prejudice, leaders and members of the NFB need to be well equipped to advocate for themselves, others, or a general principle.

Since advocacy is so vital to the everyday work of the NFB, knowledge of certain concepts and advocacy skills is important to our members. The following general information and set of strategies are not designed to turn one into a master advocate, but they provide the basic information about the art of advocacy that everybody should know. No doubt unique elements in situations will arise requiring variations from the approaches discussed in this article, but in most instances these elementary techniques should hold the layman advocate in good stead.

Definitions of Advocacy

The following definitions should prove helpful in understanding what advocacy is and what forms it can take:

Advocacy: Supporting or defending a cause; pleading on behalf of another.
Systemic Advocacy: The act of advocating for a cause or issue which will have broad or global impact on or for an entire community, e.g., modification of Social Security rules that apply to blind people generally.

Individual Advocacy: The act of advocating on behalf of a particular person faced with a specific circumstance requiring resolution or clarification. While the issue in question may have broader implications for other people facing similar situations, the efforts are primarily taken to support the person in question.

Self-Advocacy: Speaking up or advocating for oneself; speaking up for personal rights or against personal discrimination.

Techniques for Effective Advocacy

The following principles are important for an effective NFB advocate to observe and understand:

(1) The successful Federation advocate must possess considerable self-confidence and self-esteem. Ideally she or he should be well adjusted and at ease with the social and political issues surrounding blindness. The person who demonstrates self-confidence and an accurate grasp of the blindness system will be in the best position to convey a positive, self-assured image.

(2) The successful Federation advocate must be knowledgeable about all of the substantive issues in question, must understand how all of the issues relate to one another, and must be ready with sound answers to the most difficult queries that might be encountered. One useful way to prepare for any advocacy exercise is to understand and master the arguments of your opponent. The phrase “knowledge is power” is never underestimated by an effective advocate. Become an expert in a particular field before you presume to advocate in that arena, or at least be smart enough to enlist the assistance of an expert to help you present your case when you lack detailed knowledge about a subject.

(3) The successful Federation advocate must be able to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.

Effective oral communication strategies include:

Effective written communication strategies include:

(4) The successful Federation advocate should be familiar with different negotiation techniques and other methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): mediation, arbitration, etc. An excellent book containing a comprehensive review of negotiation theory and a survey of ADR approaches is Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, by Roger Fisher and William Ury.

(5) The successful Federation advocate should be aware of and use the following miscellaneous concepts. These strategies, taken together, will enhance the effectiveness of any advocate.

Miscellaneous strategies include:

Pulled together in one document like this, the skills and characteristics of an effective advocate appear formidable, but that is no reason to duck the challenge of helping blind people who need an advocate. Remember that every good advocate started somewhere. Studying this article, preparing carefully for your work, and having a passion for helping those in need will set you on the path to becoming an effective advocate.

 

Charlotte Woman, 90, Keeps Sight on Service

by Dianna L. Cagle

From the Editor: Hazel Staley is a longtime Federation leader in North Carolina. She was surprised when the minister came into her Sunday school classroom to take pictures. When she asked why he was doing such a thing, he replied that to his knowledge she was the only ninety-year-old person still teaching Sunday school, and he thought that fact deserved some notoriety. The result of his efforts was the following story, which appears on the Web site of Baptist Life, <www.biblicalrecorder.org>. Here it is:

Each Sunday at Eastern Hills Baptist Church in Charlotte, Hazel Staley brings her Braille Bible to teach Sunday school. "She's just a very neat lady," said Bob Garner, minister of education and children, who has been at Eastern Hills for three and a half years. "Her being blind has no effect on her outlook on life. She said it's never been a problem."

Staley, ninety, said teaching God's word excites her. "I've been teaching Sunday school most of my adult life," she said. Staley calls her class "sixty-nine to heaven," referring to the ages of the people she teaches.

Born in Union County, Staley contracted bacterial meningitis at age two and lost her sight. She went to the School for the Blind in Raleigh from kindergarten through high school. She became a Christian as a teenager. She went to an all-women's college at Flora McDonald College, which later merged with Presbyterian Junior College to form St. Andrew's Presbyterian College (now located in Laurinburg). She received her master's degree in social work from the University of North Carolina and began working for the North Carolina Commission for the Blind.

Staley covered about ten counties, visiting her clients. She owned a car but paid someone to drive her to her clients' homes and to help her clients with errands and other needs they might face.

She was married in 1947 to Bob Staley, who served in World War II and the Korean War. "We had a wonderful marriage," she said. A son was born to the happy couple in 1951.

Since her husband died in 1986 after battling lung cancer, Staley has been living alone. It was not until the last couple of years that she realized the need to have more security and a system of people looking out for her. She sold her house and moved to a retirement community in 2005.

Staley remains active in the National Federation of the Blind of North Carolina. Over the years she has served in numerous roles, including sixteen years as president. Knee surgery in 2003 slowed down her efforts on a national scale. After her surgery it was more difficult to walk long distances and stand for long periods of time, both of which are requirements of traversing airports.

Staley also had carpal tunnel and lost sensitivity in her fingers. After surgery, she says she has regained her sensitivity, which is important in reading Braille. "I don't have much strength in my wrist," she said. Her nerves were so damaged that she can't close her right hand. She uses both hands to read. She uses her right to scroll from left to right following the letters and her left as a guide to read the first letter of the next line--giving her right hand time to come down and start the next line.

Staley continues to have a devotion each morning. She uses her CD player to listen to that day's Open Windows lesson. She has also started going to a Bible study at the retirement home.

"I'm inspired by her," said Garner, who recently bought the compact disc player for her. Garner said he tried to find one with big buttons. Staley said many of the devotions, books, and other materials that were coming on cassettes are now only available on compact discs.

"Wherever I've lived I've usually taught in Sunday school," she said. "I try to work on the lesson a little bit every day." Staley is the only totally blind person in the community. "They are the kindest most helpful people," Staley said, referring to the employees. "God has provided for me every step of the way through my whole life."

Staley considers the decision to move her third best decision in her life, behind trusting Christ as her Savior and getting married. Her son and two granddaughters live nearby.

Right now Staley is leading her class through Ezra and Nehemiah using the Explore the Bible Sunday school material. "I like studying a whole book all the way through," she said. Staley uses her Braille Bible, and an agency Brailles the lessons for her and others who need the materials.

Agnes Liles, eighty-seven, said Staley's love of history comes through in her teaching each week. "She studies all the time and keeps up with everything," Liles said. "I think sometimes we are a little negative about the historical points." Liles said the history Staley brings in actually adds to the lesson. "She makes sure she knows what she teaches," Liles said. "Everybody just marvels at her ability to do what she does. She's so thorough."

Garner said Staley's abilities astound him. "It's amazing to watch her read," he said, "her fingers flying across the page."

Each day Staley says she likes to go to the gym to exercise, but she needs to keep her mind active too. Now that she's finished a correspondence course in basic conversational Spanish, Staley said she is concentrating on memorizing Scripture. And there are many activities to keep her busy as well.

She also still serves as the state membership chairman for the Federation of the Blind. She does some traveling to help establish and organize new chapters. "I feel that God has used me, and I've enjoyed every bit of it," she said. "I'm still glad to continue working for him."

An article she wrote for the National Federation of the Blind sums up Staley's feelings on service: "Someone has said that service to others is the rent we pay for the space we occupy on earth. I plan to keep the rent on my space current."

An Overview of Planned Giving

Making a charitable gift is one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Here are some of the special giving programs available through the National Federation of the Blind:

The National Federation of the Blind is a service organization specializing in providing the help to blind people that is not readily available to them from government programs or other existing service systems. The services of the NFB are specially designed to meet the needs of all blind people. By maintaining a widespread campaign of public education, advocating for the rights of blind children and their families, administering scholarship and mentoring programs for blind youth, providing financial and other specialized assistance, conducting seminars on blindness, evaluating and developing accessible technology, and providing information and services to senior citizens so that they can adjust to vision loss and live more accessible and independent lives, the NFB is changing what it means to be blind.

We will be happy to provide you with further information about the National Federation of the Blind or any of these giving opportunities. Please call or write us at:

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

 

Change in Rehabilitation: Federation Experience Leads the Way

by Craig Kiser

From the Editor: Thursday morning, July 6, Craig Kiser, executive director of the Florida Division of Blind Services, presented one of the most exciting convention agenda items of the week. We have wished for years that Craig was the director of the state agency for the blind in Florida, and now he is. Here is the story of his first years in office:

Good morning. As usual it’s a great convention. Florida, are you out there? [applause] This past May 8 my wife of thirty-seven years passed away. She is with us here in spirit, I have no doubt. She knew and loved the NFB and what it stood for and stands for today. I promised her that I would include her favorite story in my presentation, so here it is. Three men were embarked on an important mission that entailed trekking across country. The first man reached the banks of a raging river. He looked at the river and began to pray, “Please give me strength to cross this river.” His prayer was heard, and poof, he was instantly endowed with muscular arms and legs. He plunged into the river, and despite nearly drowning several times, he struggled to the opposite shore. After witnessing the first man’s difficulties, the second also prayed; but he prayed, “Please give me the strength and the tools to cross this river.” His prayer also was heard, and poof, a row boat appeared. He got in the row boat, and after half an hour of struggling and nearly capsizing several times, he also reached the opposite shore. The third man, after witnessing the first two, also prayed. He prayed, “Please give me the strength, the tools, and the wisdom to cross this river. His prayer was heard, and poof, he was changed into a woman [applause], who promptly pulled out her map, studied it a few minutes, turned, walked several hundred yards upstream, and walked across the bridge. [applause] I think you can see why it was my wife’s favorite story.

In rehabilitation of the blind we the blind have the strength. The NFB can provide the tools through its training. We just need to convince agency bureaucrats to have the wisdom to take advantage of that strength and those tools. In April of 2000 I was sitting in my office as deputy controller of Florida, happily regulating banking, financing, and securities, when several of my blind friends came in. Some of them belong to the ACB affiliate, the Florida Council of the Blind, and some of them belong to the National Federation of the Blind of Florida. They told me that the division of blind services in Florida was in dire straits, that services were appalling, and that they were trying to get the then director fired. They asked, if they could get that done, would I be willing to take the job. I told them no for three reasons. I told them I loved the job I was doing. I have been involved in banking, finance, and securities all my legal career, for almost thirty years. Second, I have no background, training, or education in rehabilitation. Third, it would be a demotion from deputy controller to a division director. So they left.

About a month later they came back and again repeated their request, and I again told them no for the same three reasons. That night I spent a restless night. My conscience began to bother me, and it was as if I was once again back in Dr. Jernigan’s office getting a lecture, which happened quite regularly in 1968 when I was a student at the Iowa Commission for the Blind. It was as though Dr. Jernigan was saying, “Craig, think of the thousands of blind people who have sacrificed in order for you to have had the career that you have enjoyed. Maybe it’s time to give back. So the next time they came to me, I agreed to take the job. And I am so glad I did.

If I had known the true nature and status of the division at that time, I don’t know that I would have said yes even with Dr. Jernigan pushing me. The division was in trouble with the Rehabilitation Services Administration. They had been taking a million and a half dollars of federal VR money and misusing it. They were at odds with the private providers in the state to the extent that the private providers actually have legislation before the Legislature to dismantle the division and privatize services completely in Florida. And they were at odds with the organized blind. My predecessor, the former director, had steadfastly refused to attend the state conventions of the organized blind. A group had actually gone to the governor and forced him to attend a state convention. He stood up in front of the organized blind and told them that he knew nothing about blindness issues, nor did he care. He was only interested in keeping his job. He gave about a ten-minute prepared talk, refused to take any questions, and left.

The private providers in Florida had gotten the Legislature to create a new program for blind babies, an early-intervention program for blind infants from birth through age five. They had gotten it funded up to a million dollars over the objections of the director. He didn’t believe in the program, and he didn’t believe in it so much that the program was eligible to begin on July 1 of 2000. I was appointed director in February of 2001, and at that point he had allowed only 59,000 dollars out of one million to be spent. It was pretty bad. Fortunately I had the support of the organized blind. When I started making changes, the inevitable letters and calls to the governor and to the commissioner of education, my direct boss, came in. The organized blind, the NFB of Florida, was there to tell the governor, “No, you don’t have a lunatic running wild; he is really going about making changes that make sense.”

So we worked together for three years making changes in the overall Division of Blind Services in how direct services were provided to clients, trying to get counselors to view clients as whole people and to recognize that what they are doing impacts people’s lives. They need to talk to clients and find out who those clients are, what they want, where they’re going, and then try to help them achieve that goal. I am very taken with the motto of Home Depot. I’ve tried several times to see if I could steal it from them. It’s, “You can do it; we can help.” Isn’t that what we do? We can’t do it for anybody.

After making some changes in those first three years to the overall program, I turned my attention to the residential rehabilitation center in Daytona Beach. One of my difficulties is that I am located in headquarters in Tallahassee, and the residential rehabilitation center is 250 miles away in Daytona Beach. So I removed the director of the orientation center and replaced him with Ed Hudson, a man who, like me, has no training in rehabilitation but who has a great attitude and philosophy about the blind and blindness. And he is a known quantity; he has been working for the Braille and Talking Book Library in Florida for fifteen or twenty years, so he was well known among the blind, and they supported his appointment. Because of the distance involved, I told Ed what I wanted him to do and then went back to Tallahassee and expected him to do it. He kept calling me: “Craig, it’s tough down here. You know I’m kind of all alone. I have a staff meeting and tell them what to do, and they walk out laughing and then go do what they have always done.”

What they had always done was really bad. The residential rehabilitation center wasn’t really in the business of rehabilitation. It had become a vocational training center. That may have been good because the little rehabilitation they tried to do was just holding hands and catering to all the wants, needs, and desires of the students there. They had a cafeteria that provided three square meals seven days a week. Staff would take the tray for the student, get the food for them, bring it to the table, and then take the dishes away after the meal. If the students needed anything off-campus at a grocery store or drug store, they would give a list to staff, and the staff would go and get it. There was a policy that students could not leave campus until they got a clearance from a mobility instructor. Now these are adults, not children. I could go on and on about the things going on there.

Well, Ed finally convinced me that he needed help, that he couldn’t do it alone. It was impossible to do it alone. So I called an old friend of mine, Dr. Joanne Wilson. She told me that the NFB was just starting a program through the Jernigan Institute to provide training in how to run an orientation center. So we agreed to meet at last year’s convention in Louisville, and we did. Ed Hudson, Fred Schroeder, Joanne Wilson, and I met in Joanne’s room, and we agreed to a plan and contracted with the Jernigan Institute.

Bureaucracy being what it is, it took from July to January to get the contract approved. But we got it approved, and then in February Joanne and her team came down to Daytona Beach, and I met them there and participated in the first day’s meetings. It appeared to be going very well, so I left and went back to Tallahassee. The next day all hell broke loose. During a meeting with staff and students some of the staff got up and walked out. Some of the staff verbally attacked and abused Fred Schroeder. The students we found out had been lectured at lunch by some of the dissident staff and told that what we were doing was wrong and dangerous and that we were trying to destroy their lives. So we had to meet again and retool and make some different plans. So that’s what we did. Joanne and her team have been coming down every month for the last six months, and things are turning around. It’s kind of like turning an aircraft carrier around. Yeah, you can do it, but you’re not going to do it very quickly, and you will need a lot of room. But it’s getting done.

When Joanne and her team came down, I was immediately accused of trying to turn Florida into an NFB state. My response was a simple one. I told them, “As you knew when you hired me, I don’t have training or education or experience in rehabilitation. So the only experience I can draw upon is that which I learned at the feet of Kenneth Jernigan in 1968, and it works.” I told them I’m less interested in the messenger than I am in the message. We’ve lost some staff along the way. We need to lose a few more. We have one O&M instructor who absolutely refused to train students with sleepshades, so much so that I had a student not too many months ago call me up to say that he had been to the NFB convention last year in Louisville and had gone to the Colorado Center for the Blind reception, where he had learned about training under sleepshades. He asked to be trained under sleepshades. This O&M instructor told him, “No, I won’t do it, because you have so much residual sight that when you take the sleepshades off, you will forget everything that you learned. What you need to do is train without sleepshades; then, when you lose more sight, come on back. He said, “Mr. Kiser, do I really have to interrupt my life twice to go through training?”

I said “No” and sent him to Louisiana.

Most of us have heard it as a joke. I saw it as a fact; it really happened. I was at a public meeting where a blind woman stood up and, intending to praise blind services, said, “You know that residential rehabilitation services center is just wonderful; I’ve enjoyed it every time I’ve been there.” I thought, why would anyone have to go through it more than once? If it’s done right, you don’t. It’s been difficult. The challenges are great. The abuse is great, and I really admire what Joanne and her team have been doing. They’ve been talking one-on-one with staff and students, and the situation is turning around. It just takes a lot of work and thick skin.

It’s kind of like this farmer who had this old donkey. One day the poor donkey fell into an abandoned well, and the donkey was crying pitifully while the farmer was trying to figure out how to get him out of that well. The farmer finally concluded that the donkey was really old and the well needed to be filled anyway. So he called upon his neighbors to come help fill in the well. As they began shoveling dirt in, the donkey realized what was going on and cried even louder, but after a few minutes there was silence. They continued shoveling, and after a while the farmer decided to look in the well to see how it was progressing. What he saw was an amazing sight. As each shovelful of dirt landed on the donkey’s back, the donkey would shake it off and step up on the dirt, thereby elevating himself by a few inches each time. As they continued shoveling, to their astonishment the donkey finally stepped out of the well and trotted off. The moral of the story is that life is going to throw a lot of dirt at you. To be successful you have to shake it off and step up. There is a little more to the story. It seems that later the donkey returned and kicked the stuffing out of that farmer for trying to bury him alive. The moral of that part of the story is, if you try to cover your ass, it will probably come back to get you.

Thank you all for what you do. It is difficult to impart to you just how much the organized blind means. I could not do the things I do without the support of the blind. It would have been impossible. So stay with us and keep at it.

 

Ask Miss Whozit

From the Editor: From time to time Miss Whozit answers reader questions about proper decorum, etiquette, and good manners, particularly as they involve blindness. If you would like to pose a question to Miss Whozit, you can send it to the attention of Barbara Pierce, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or email me at <bpierce@nfb.org>. I will pass the questions along. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. This column seems to be a popular feature, but we have not received many or varied questions. Miss Whozit assures us that, if she does not receive letters, she will withdraw to ladylike solitude to practice proper etiquette and civility in private life. Here is the most recent letter Miss Whozit has received:

Dear Miss Whozit:

Thank you for your column in the December issue about appropriate dress. I really think this subject is critically important. I was shocked and distressed when I first realized that some men who attend our Washington Seminar do not wear coats and ties.

I hope I am not the only one who thinks that this subject is important and that blind people need to know what is expected by the sighted community. Please take the time to talk further about this topic.

I am also concerned about the question of appropriate posture, body language, gestures, and expressions. We need reminders and hints about all of these things.

Eager to make a good impression

Dear Eager:

Grandmother Whozit had a saying that still holds true today, “Dress the way you want to be perceived.” A second rule to remember is to dress for the event. If you are going swimming, wear a swimsuit; if you are going camping, wear camping gear; and if you are attending a formal or business event, wear formal or business attire. Sometimes it is appropriate for one to express one’s individuality, but not when presenting oneself in public.

Blind people, all of us, are typically judged by one, the one who creates a bad impression, the one who fits the beholder’s stereotype (usually negative) of the way blind people dress and behave. Generally the public considers blind people helpless, incompetent, unwilling to dress properly, and unable to care for themselves adequately. We of the Federation know that this is not the truth--or it should not be--but we must recognize that the public continues to hold many erroneous ideas about our abilities.

Hand-in-hand with this problem, readers need to be aware of another point. When a blind person is seen on the street, in a mall, at school, or at play, members of the sighted public are going to stare--their eyes are inevitably drawn to the novelty of watching a blind person. Some blind people who are aware of this fact look upon it as an unfair burden. Miss Whozit would prefer that we not find this a problem but recognize it as an opportunity to mend the public’s misconceptions by providing positive public education. Dressing and acting appropriately for the occasion, any occasion, is essential if we are to change the public’s misconceptions.

Miss Whozit also wishes to observe that leaders in our organization, communities, state governments, federal government, and indeed our world--sighted or blind--know how to dress appropriately and recognize when it is important to do so. They recognize that, when they are representing their constituencies, companies, or governments, it is important to project a positive image and leave a lasting impression that honors those they represent. In Miss Whozit’s opinion every blind person has the responsibility always to look his or her best. Since we as blind people are fully aware that we must overcome erroneous attitudes about blindness if we are to enjoy first-class citizenship, we must do what we can to change the public’s perceptions of us.

Ask yourself two important questions: “Am I contributing to the problem or the solution? Do I fit the public’s stereotype of what blind people should be like, or do I portray a picture of what properly trained blind people can really be?”

Whether or not as a blind person you wish to represent the blindness community by the way you present yourself, the fact is that you do. Whether we are talking about dress, grooming, and hair; courtesy, reliability, and punctuality; or posture, appropriate social behavior, and blindisms, you are always making a statement.

Regarding blindisms and body language, Miss Whozit said a good deal on the subject of blindisms and other unfortunate personal habits in the November 2005 Braille Monitor. With respect to gestures, expressions, and body language, human beings vary in the amount of animation they convey through movement and expression. Unless you plan to become an actor, using an animated voice and remembering to smile before greeting others in person or on the telephone are usually sufficient reminders to protect a blind person from appearing to face the world with a wooden expression. An alert sighted friend can confirm that all is well or tactfully suggest how and when to express more animation. Such a friend can also help you develop some gestures that can be used during conversation.

Developing good posture, effective body language, and appropriate personal boundaries, however, is a matter of steady attention to detail. You may have to recruit a coach from among sighted friends or family members. It takes practice to remember to sit or stand straight and not to sprawl in a chair or sit with legs spread wide. It may also take time and coaching to master looking attentive when you are listening to someone or remembering to face the speaker in conversation or when asking a question. Yet doing these things will be time well spent and will set anyone firmly on the path to acceptable public behavior.

Respecting personal space is merely a matter of getting used to the personal distance that Americans like to preserve around them and then remembering not to invade it. This distance varies by culture. Americans prefer about two feet and generally expect that others will ask permission before touching them. Blind people are painfully aware of how invasive uninvited grabbing and patting feels, so we should be the first to reserve tactile exploration for inanimate objects.

Here are a few additional pointers that may be useful if you wish to help dislodge old stereotypes. Seek counsel from a trusted friend who can provide specific, accurate feedback about fashion, grooming, and personal characteristics. But in the meantime consider these general tips:

Many young, sighted people today dress in a way which would not have been appropriate a generation ago--apparently they do not care what impression they make. However, sighted young people are not judged by one another; they represent only themselves. Also, when they want a good job, a prized internship, or admission to some special opportunity, they can pull up their trousers, throw away their stocking caps, cover their bare skin, and dress appropriately for the occasion. Young blind people do not have this luxury. They can’t discard their blindness. Remember that all blind people are judged by the one who perpetuates the negative stereotype.
You have only one chance to make a good first impression. For your own good and that of our movement, do your best to look great and conduct yourself appropriately. It will give you confidence and help you to feel secure. Miss Whozit is absolutely convinced that together we can change what it means to be blind.

 

A Loving Thank You from an NFB Mom

by Maria Davis

From the Editor: All kinds of things happen at NFB conventions. While the overwhelming majority are positive and empowering to blind attendees, occasionally a negative, even tragic event occurs.

An unforgettable event took place at our 1994 convention in Detroit. A young, single mother from Arizona named Maria Buterbaugh brought her two-year-old blind son Justin to the convention. Maria had just discovered the NFB, and she was ecstatic about her new-found understanding that her blind son could expect to lead a fully normal, productive, and gratifying life.

Then tragedy struck. On the second or third night of the convention Justin died in his sleep. Maria was devastated, and convention attendees were devastated as well. But in true NFB tradition the convention rallied, took up a collection, and raised the funds Maria would need to give Justin an appropriate burial back in Arizona.

As the following letter indicates, Maria has moved on with her life. She is now Maria Davis, she is the mother of another fine son, and she has become a special education teacher of blind children. Along with her gracious letter, Maria made a generous contribution to the National Federation of the Blind. Here is her letter:

To NFB Members:

This letter is late in coming, but I want to say “Thank you” to all the NFB members who supported me through the tragedy of losing my son Justin Buterbaugh. We were at the national convention in Detroit, Michigan, in 1994, and Justin was just two years old. When we learned that Justin was born blind, I contacted the NFB members in Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. The wonderful, happy, productive people I met gave me hope for my son. Jim and Sharon Omvig are just two of the powerful people who have had a lasting impact on my life. I learned many things from these people and from those I met at the national convention. I was treated with dignity and respect and was encouraged to look at blindness as more of a personal characteristic rather than a disability. Today I am a special education teacher, and the NFB’s positive influence on my life is passed on through my high expectations of my students.

When Justin died suddenly and unexpectedly there at the convention, I can’t begin to describe my shock, horror, and grief. The entire assembly passed the hat, and you all donated to raise the money for Justin’s funeral. You immediately had counselors and clergy available to me. You arranged for me to be on the first flight home, and you paid for a fellow member, who had become my friend, to travel with me back to Arizona only to return on the next flight back to Detroit. You helped with all the details of hospital, police, coroners, and I’m sure many other things. NFB member Judy Tunnell gave the eulogy at my son’s funeral, and she spoke of Justin so beautifully and shared the wonderful work of the NFB with my family and friends. I continued to receive many, many sympathy cards and letters from people I didn’t even know. A scholarship was set up in Justin’s memory. I was made to feel an honorary member of the NFB.

Today, twelve years later, I have another son, Zachary. He is happy and healthy, the joy of my life. Like any grieving parent I went through the horror of loss, and with time it has gotten easier. The grief never really goes away, but over the years I have thought of you often. Words will never be enough to express my gratitude, and I will never be able to repay the debt I owe you. I continue to read the Braille Monitor and follow the tremendous good works that you do.

 

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.

 

Recipes

This month’s recipes were submitted by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Massachusetts.

Yankee Doodle Casserole
by Al and Gloria Evans

Gloria Evans serves as affiliate first vice president. Al is a member of the NFB of Massachusetts board of directors and also edits the state newsletter, the Town Crier.

Ingredients:
8 ounces medium noodles (half package)
1 pound ground beef
8 ounces sour cream
8 ounces cottage cheese
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
8 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup grated medium cheddar cheese

Method: Cook noodles in boiling water according to package directions, (do not overcook); drain and set aside. Break ground beef into small chunks and cook in a frying pan with small amount of vegetable oil until ground beef is thoroughly done. Add tomato sauce and allow mixture to simmer for five minutes; remove from heat. In large mixing bowl combine noodles, onion, green pepper, cottage cheese, sour cream, garlic powder, basil, pepper, and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add ground beef and tomato sauce. Mix again thoroughly. Place in greased casserole dish, top with grated cheese, and cook uncovered in 350-degree oven for thirty-five minutes or until mixture is hot and bubbly. Serves four.

Pork Chops and Cumin Rice
by Gloria Evans

Ingredients:
1/2 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 center-cut pork chops

Method: Pour uncooked rice into casserole dish; add all other ingredients except pork chops and stir thoroughly. In frying pan place small amount of vegetable oil and brown pork chops about three minutes on each side. Transfer chops from frying pan and arrange on the rice mixture in the casserole dish. Pour pan drippings over mixture. Cover casserole dish, place in 350-degree oven, and cook for thirty-five minutes or until rice has absorbed the liquid. Serves two.

Chinese Chicken with Rice
by Michelle Gagnon

Michelle Gagnon is the NFB of Massachusetts office secretary. She has worked with our president for over ten years. Priscilla Ferris says, “I don’t know how to manage without her.”

Ingredients:
1 whole breast of chicken
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 large rib celery, cut into finger-sized pieces (about a half cup)
1 small can mushrooms, drained
1 green pepper, cut into 8 pieces
3 tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Method: Remove raw chicken from bones and cut into finger-sized pieces. Place in bowl with soy sauce, salt, and pepper. Toss well to coat chicken. Place oil in large skillet. Mix celery, mushrooms, green pepper chunks and half cup broth in small bowl. Over medium heat cook chicken in prepared skillet for three minutes. Add vegetables and half cup broth from small bowl. Cover and simmer for five minutes. Add tomatoes and another half cup broth. Cover again and cook for five more minutes. Mix cornstarch in remaining half cup broth, and stir well to dissolve all lumps. Add to chicken in skillet. Cook, stirring gently for about three minutes. Mixture will thicken slightly. Serve hot over rice.

To cook rice, bring to boil 1 1/2 cups water. Add 1 1/2 cups of minute rice and one tablespoon of butter. Stir well and cover. Remove from heat and let stand for five minutes. Serve hot.

Variations: shrimp or strips of pork loin or cooked beef can be substituted for the chicken. One cup drained pineapple chunks may be added with tomatoes.

Traditional Sugar Cookies
by Michelle Gagnon

Ingredients:
3/4 cup shortening (part butter or margarine), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Method: Mix shortening, sugar, eggs, and flavoring thoroughly. Blend in flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover or wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill at least one hour. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough about 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut into desired shapes and place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake six to eight minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Makes about four dozen.

Crock Pot Stew
by Priscilla Ferris

Priscilla Ferris has served as president of the NFB of Massachusetts for almost twenty-four years. She also served for eighteen years on the National Federation of the Blind board of directors.

Ingredients:
1 pound lean hamburger
1 pound kielbasa, sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon basil
1 envelope onion soup mix
6 cups boiling water
1 29-ounce can whole tomatoes
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup carrots, sliced
1 cup uncooked macaroni or noodles

Method: Brown and drain hamburger and kielbasa. Place in crock pot. Add salt, oregano, basil, and soup mix. Stir in water, tomatoes, and soy sauce. Add celery and carrots. Cook up to ten hours on low or four to five hours on high. During last half hour add noodles. Serve hot.

Kahlúa Chocolate Strawberries
by Priscilla Ferris

Ingredients:
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate pieces
1/3 cup Kahlúa
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2-3 pints fresh strawberries

Method: In top of double boiler melt chocolate over simmering water. Add milk. Remove from heat. Add Kahlúa and whisk until smooth. Cool until thick, about one hour. Makes about one cup sauce. Hand dip firm, dry, unhulled strawberries in chocolate. Fruit can be refrigerated up to four hours. Excellent served chilled, or have guests dip their own.

 

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

Elected:
The East Valley Chapter of the NFB of Arizona conducted elections in January. Here are the results: president, Mark Feliz; first vice president, Mary Hartle-Smith; second vice president, Ruth Swenson; secretary, Connie Ryan; treasurer, Tom O'Brien; and board members, Carol Scharlat and Mike Smith.

Elected:
On January 13, 2007, the following people were elected to the board of the Des Moines Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa: president, April Enderton; vice president, Al Bickel; secretary, Cindy Ray; treasurer, Roger Erpelding; and board members, Joy Harris, Rich Ring, and Tiffany Bickel.

In Memoriam:
With deep sorrow we must report the sudden death of Patti Brown McGahan on December 31, 2006, following a catastrophic stroke on December 30. Miss Patti began working at the Louisiana Center for the Blind in September of 1990. Initially she served as program supervisor, but after 2000 she served as the director of the LCB Career Center/Special Projects.

Patti was also responsible for many outreach and fundraising projects, including grant writing. She also handled facilities management, including supervising maintenance and landscaping, decorating the building, monitoring building upkeep, etc. She was multitalented. A gifted writer, she created many brochures, promotional materials, and grants for the center. She was conscientious and always eager to help anywhere, from writing a grant to cleaning up after an event. She was dedicated to the Federation cause and worked tirelessly to help spread our message. In her patient, kind, and gentle way, Patti could move mountains. Her outstanding judgment and attention to detail were invaluable. She often handled problems without being asked. She had a gift for addressing what needed to be done and dealing with every problem with grace and diplomacy. Patti did not seek the spotlight or claim credit. She recognized that life holds more important rewards. We can be quite certain that she is now reaping those rewards, but she will be deeply missed by all those who knew and loved her.

Open Call for NFB Performing Artists:
The Performing Arts Division invites interested NFB members and other blind or visually impaired artists to submit recorded music and poetry and short story readings for our first-ever “Sound in Sight” compilation CD. The professionally pressed disc will be sold as a fundraiser for the division and will be distributed to many national press and radio contacts. Offerings in all genres are welcome.

Preference will be given to high-quality recordings of original tracks. If your contribution is selected, we ask that you donate $5 to help offset the cost of assembling the album. Tracks will be subject to a simple, nonexclusive licensing agreement. No copyrights or publishing rights will change hands. The postmark deadline is April 1, 2007. Please keep your submissions under five minutes in length. Send your best material on nonreturnable CDs or cassettes to “Sound in Sight,” c/o Brooke Fox, P.O. Box 4203, New York, New York 10163. For more information visit <http://padnfb.starcitynet.com>. If you are interested in connecting with NFB Performing Arts members to help record your tracks or prefer sending your tracks to us by uploading to an FTP, contact PAD President Dennis Holston at (917) 903-5650 or <Dholston@nyc.rr.com>.

Where the Blind Work:
The National Federation of the Blind Writers Division is creating a new, accessible, easy-to-use resource covering the various types of employment that blind people are engaged in and the way they do their jobs. This new resource is called "Where the Blind Work," and it will be hosted on the NFB Jernigan Institute Web pages. The format will be unique among existing resources; we never have enough good information on the employability of the blind.

The target audiences who will benefit from this resource are:

• blind people looking for a first job or hoping to change careers;
• employers wondering if blind people are employable in their companies;
• professionals guiding career development for their blind consumers;
• parents wondering what employment is possible for their blind children;
• members of the general public interested in learning about the human potential to live and work successfully with blindness.

To accomplish this goal we are collecting as many employment descriptions with the widest range of jobs possible, not stopping with one example of each. Not only do we all not like doing the same thing, but we wouldn't all do any job the same way. Additionally, to make this resource tool as effective and user-friendly as possible, the structure of each entry must follow the same format. In this way readers can be assured that, in moving from description to description, they will know where to find specific information, and gathering the information being sought will not be difficult.

Who should fill out an employment description form? First, our definition of a blind person is someone who functions with a significant visual deficit noticeably different from the norm and requiring alternative techniques to carry out the duties of the job. Second, we are looking for people who are now or have in the past been employed. So you can fill out forms for any or all of the jobs you have ever held.

Please email completed forms to Robert Leslie Newman at <newmanrl@cox.net>.

Once we receive descriptions, members of the Writers Division will edit them for clarity and categorize them into career groupings.

Employment Description Form

Guideline 1--The total length of a completed form cannot exceed 1,000 words.
Guideline 2--The employment description must follow these five questions:

1. What are your name and job title?
Note: If you are willing to be contacted, consider registering with NFB LINK; this innovative program pairs people seeking information or advice of various kinds with experienced Federationists.

2. What are your job duties?
Note: Describe the basic tasks anyone would be required to carry out in this job; specialized blindness alternatives are addressed in the next question.

3. To what extent are you blind, and what special adaptations do you use on the job?
Note: Consider naming your eye condition. Otherwise briefly describe it in your own words. Describe the adaptations you use, from the common-sense things you do to the formal low-vision or nonvisual alternative methods and equipment you use to perform your job duties.

4. What qualifications are required to enter this job?
Note: List prior experience needed; special training, education, or certificates required; etc. Mention where you see your employment path leading from here.

5. What influences have helped you be successful?
Note: Did you have a mentor? Has participation in a consumer organization aided you? If so, explain.

In Brief

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

NFB to Manage National Braille Transcribing and Proofreading Certification Program:

On January 4, 2007, the NFB circulated the following press release:

The National Federation of the Blind, the nation's largest consumer organization of the blind and the leading promoter of Braille literacy in America, announced today that the NFB has been awarded a contract by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS) to conduct that agency's National Braille Transcribing and Proofreading Certification Program. The announcement comes on the anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille (1809-1852), the French inventor of the reading and writing system universally accepted as the most effective literacy tool for blind persons.

The contract from NLS was awarded to the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, the only research and training facility for the blind operated by the blind, which will conduct all administrative functions of the certification program, including the recruitment, training, and evaluation of those wishing to become certified Braille transcribers and proofreaders.

Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, executive director of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, said: "We are pleased and proud to have the opportunity to work with NLS to implement this critically important program. We are dedicated to significantly increasing the number of qualified Braille transcribers and proofreaders, thus making Braille literature, instructional materials, and musical scores more available to the blind of America."

Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said: "The National Federation of the Blind continues to be committed to increasing awareness of and proficiency in Braille. The implementation of the Braille transcriber and proofreader certification program is the latest manifestation of this commitment, which has also included the passage of important legislation mandating Braille instruction for blind children and the passage just this past summer of legislation authorizing the minting of a commemorative coin in honor of Louis Braille. Research has consistently shown that knowledge of Braille is critical to blind people’s becoming equal participants in the workplace and in their communities. The dedicated professionals at our Jernigan Institute will work tirelessly to make sure that materials in Braille become more widely available to blind Americans of all ages, interests, and disciplines."

AARP Publications Now Accessible to All Blind and Low-Vision People in the United States:
The NFB and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) have partnered to make all AARP publications available on NFB-NEWSLINE®. Users can now enjoy AARP the Magazine, AARP Bulletin, and AARP Segunda Juventud, AARP’s bilingual magazine.

White House Internships Available:
The White House Internship Program offers an excellent opportunity to serve our president and explore public service. We are seeking exceptional candidates to apply for this highly competitive program. In addition to typical office duties, interns attend weekly lectures and tours and complete an intern service project. Interns may serve a term in the fall, spring, or summer. Every candidate must be a United States citizen, enrolled in a college or university, and at least eighteen years of age.
An application and additional information about the program can be found at <http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/wh-intern.html>. Strong applications exhibit:

Applications should be submitted to Karen Race, deputy director and intern coordinator, White House Personnel, at <intern_application@whitehouse.gov> on or before the following deadlines:

If you have questions, contact Karen Race at (202) 456-5979 [Voice/Relay] or at <intern_application@whitehouse.gov>.

Sudoku Game Board Available:
If you have been looking for an efficient way to do Sudoku puzzles tactilely, the following product may be of interest to you. It is a box with a nine-square-by-nine-square grid that fits on the top surface. A drawer with compartments for eighty-one double-sided tiles as well as tiny thinking tiles slides into the box. It is relatively easy to label both sides of the game tiles in Braille. A dot six can be added to the number on the red side of each tile in order to identify immediately the numbers provided at the beginning of any puzzle. Here is the information about how to order the game board:

Sudoku Game Board makes it fun and easy to play this challenging game anywhere. The mahogany-finished board has tile storage and comes with mini thinking tiles to help you solve puzzles. Includes one hundred pre-printed puzzle inserts so you can easily set up a new game. Use this board with any Sudoku puzzle. The box measures 10.5 inches square, so it’s easy to use on your desk, lap, or coffee table. Go to <www.brookstone.com> and order sku #548529. The cost is $40 plus shipping. Have fun.


Tactile Map of Hawaii Available:
The Princeton Braillists announce a new publication, Maps of the State of Hawaii. In addition to overall maps of the state of Hawaii, this volume includes detailed maps of the eight major islands. Each island has introductory information followed by one or more key pages and a full-page map. A general view of the city of Honolulu and of Pearl Harbor is included in the maps of the island of Oahu.

Places on the maps are generally labeled with two key letters taken from the corresponding place name. These key letters are identified in key pages that precede each map. The maps were originally created by hand in metal foil; the thermoform copies are sharp and clear. The maps are detailed, and some experience with tactile drawings is recommended. Maps of the State of Hawaii contains ten maps, fifty-five pages total. It is bound with cardboard covers and a multi-ring binder. Cost is $11; shipping is by Free Matter for the Blind where eligible. A number of other atlases and maps are available from the Princeton Braillists. For further information call (215) 357-7715 (Ruth Bogia) or (609) 924-5207 (Nancy Amick). Please send check or purchase order to the Princeton Braillists, 76 Leabrook Lane, Princeton, New Jersey 08540. Credit card and fax service are not available. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

Marking Kit for Diva Induction Cooktops Available:
Diva de Provence has introduced a tactile marking kit for its induction cooktops. “Diva’s capacitive touch controls are perfectly suited for integrating the tactile markings,” says Amir H. Girgis, managing director for Diva de Provence. “The safety benefits of cooking with induction enable all Americans to enjoy the entire epicurean experience.”

The tactile marking kit can be used with the Diva Induction cooktop and includes your choice of raised letters or Braille symbols as well as 3M Bumpons™ to help indicate the burners. Incorporating the tactile markings on the cooktop is easy. They are placed under the controls, which are activated effortlessly when a finger is slid upward over the control.

Available in three models (DDP-2, DDP-4, and DDP-5), Diva Induction cooktops use electromagnetic energy to heat the cookware only. The cooking surface remains cool to the touch, providing the safest cooking surface on the market and virtually eliminating the danger of burns. Additionally, Diva Induction cooktops deliver over 25,000 BTUs, making it the fastest, most precise and energy-efficient cooking method available.

For more information on Diva Induction or the other revolutionary cooking instruments from Diva de Provence, visit its Web site at <www.divainduction.com>, or call (888) 852-8604. Toronto-based Diva de Provence is North America’s French cooking connection to professional-grade European-styled cooking equipment.

Scholarships Available:
The Blinded Veterans Association (BVA) will award three scholarships of $2,000 and three of $1,000 for the 2007-2008 academic year. The scholarship committee will choose six recipients and three alternates. Only dependent children and spouses of blinded veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible for the scholarships. Completed applications and supporting materials must be returned to the BVA no later than Monday, April 16, 2007. Applications may be obtained from the Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program, Blinded Veterans Association, 477 H. Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 20001-2694. For additional information contact the scholarship coordinator, (202) 371-8880 or email <bva@bva.org>.

Brailler Repair:
The Selective Doctor, Inc., is a repair service for all IBM typewriters and Perkins Braillewriters. Located in Baltimore, the service has done work for the Maryland School for the Blind and a number of other organizations in Maryland. They accept Perkins Braillers sent to them from around the country.

The cost to repair a manual Perkins Brailler is $50 for labor (flat rate), plus parts. Due to technical complexity, the cost to repair an electric Perkins Brailler is $60 for labor (flat rate), plus parts. The Brailler will be shipped back to you by U.S. mail, Free Matter for the Blind, and insured for $600. The cost of this insurance ($7.20) will be added to your invoice. This listed insurance charge may fluctuate due to rate changes by the postal service.

To mail Braillers using the U.S. Postal Service, send your Brailler(s) to the Selective Doctor, P.O. Box 28432, Baltimore, Maryland 21234-8432. If you care to use UPS or Federal Express, please send Braillers to the Selective Doctor, 3014 Linwood Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21234-5821. With your Brailler(s) please include your name and organization (if applicable), shipping and billing addresses, telephone number, and a brief description of your Brailler's needs. Should you require additional information, please call (410) 668-1143, or email <braillerrepair@yahoo.com>. The Web site is <www.selectivedoctor.com>.

Handmade Decorative Wagons for Sale:
Handcrafted, horse-drawn wooden wagons are available for $19.95, plus $6 shipping and handling. Covered wagons are also available. Wagons are approximately fourteen inches long and can be ordered with miniature logs, firewood, or lanterns. For more information or to place your order, contact self-taught blind craftsman Richard Wiseman, (740) 384-2755, P.O. Box 127, Hamden, Ohio 45634.

 

Monitor Mart

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

Reconditioned Braillewriters Available:
Braillewriter Cleaning and Repair Service has two fully reconditioned Perkins Braillers for sale for $300 each plus shipping. Contact Paul Dressell at (513) 481-7662 or email <pmd@pobox.com>.

For Sale:
Roger Behm has two new mPower transplant BrailleNote BT or QT 32 units for sale. They have a one-year warranty on everything, also included are a Keysoft software maintenance agreement, one 128 MB SD card, the new concise Oxford Dictionary-Thesaurus, and he will throw in a new Ambicom wireless CF card as well.

Asking $4,450 for these models plus $45 UPS shipping, insured ground. He accepts Mastercard, Visa, and Paypal. So save over $2,000 over purchasing a new mPower BrailleNote and get your hands on these units. His contact information is Roger Behm, Adaptive Information Systems, Inc., 1611 Clover Lane, Janesville, Wisconsin 53545-1388; phone (608)758-0933; fax (608) 758-7898; toll-free (800) or (877) 792-4768; email <aistech.ameritech.net>, Web page <www.adaptiveinformation.org>.

For Sale:
Dennis Farro is selling the following items:

1. 5100C Scanjet Scanner. This flatbed scanner is in excellent condition and is usable with any OCR-reading software such as Kurzweil or OpenBook. Asking $60.

2. HP Deskjet printer, in excellent condition. Asking $50.

3. Eureka A4, a portable personal notetaker with a six-dot Braille keyboard and voice output. It enables the user to do word processing, develop databases, and even compose music. The unit is in excellent working condition, having been used only two or three times. Comes with Braille and cassette learner’s manuals. Asking $300.

4. Perkins Brailler, used but in very good condition. Asking $200.

If interested in any of these items, contact Dennis Farro at (803) 979-2720, email <dfarro@concentric.net>.

For Sale:
Type ’n Speak notetaker, June 2003 revision. Case, AC adaptor, and tutorial on cassette included. In good working condition. Asking $175, including shipping and handling. If interested, contact Hal at (727) 735-0797. Leave a message, and I will call you back.

For Sale:
Two Braille music piano course books, Volume 1 and 2 by Thelma Dikeman, new, asking $40 each or both for $75. One Braille Music for Piano Beginners by Thelma Dikeman, asking $40. Step by Step Braille reading course, book 1, by Bernard M. Krebs, $30. Braille Bible author card game, $10. Large print Braille deck of cards in a box and case, $10. If interested, contact Karen (218) 729-9299 or Wendy (218) 723-8269.

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

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