_______________________________________________________________________________

Braille Monitor

Vol. 50, No. 5                                                                    May 2007

Barbara Pierce, editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president

 

National Office
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
telephone: (410) 659-9314
email address: nfb@nfb.org
Web site address: http://www.nfb.org
NFBnet.org: http://www.nfbnet.org
NFB-NEWSLINE® information: (866) 504-7300

 

Letters to the president, address changes,
subscription requests, and orders for NFB literature
should be sent to the National Office.
Articles for the Monitor and letters to the editor may also
be sent to the National Office or may be emailed to bpierce@nfb.org.

 

Monitor subscriptions cost the Federation about twenty-five dollars per year.
Members are invited, and nonmembers are requested, to cover
 
the subscription cost. Donations should be made payable to
National Federation of the Blind and sent to:

National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230-4998

THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES

        ISSN 0006-8829

____________________________________________________________________

Contents

Vol. 50, No. 5                                                                       May 2007

 

Convention Announcement  

Lead Photo

Could Politics Damage the Talking Book Program?

The Space to Try
by Tracy Soforenko

Spotlight on Affiliate Action

Independent Laboratory Access for the Blind
by Cary Supalo

The Proof Is in the Pudding
by Jennifer Moerke

Accessible Personal Data Assistance Reviews
by the Staff of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind

Fast Forward to the Future
Schedule of NOPBC Events for Families and Teachers of Blind Children
at the 2007 Convention

Ask Miss Whozit

Meet the New President of the WBU’s North America/Caribbean Region
by Jim Gibbons

Diagnosing Ingrown Eyeballs
by David Houck

Exploitation: Silent and Destructive in the 21st Century
by Paula Kelsey

Music and Community Theater
by Stan Greenberg

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

 

Copyright 2007 National Federation of the Blind

 

Atlanta Site of 2007 NFB Convention

The 2007 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, June 30 through July 6, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel at 265 Peachtree Center Avenue, Atlanta, Georgia 30303. For room reservations call (888) 218-5399.

The 2007 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $61 and triples and quads $66 a night, plus a 15 percent sales tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2007. The other 50 percent is not refundable.

Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2007, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our block of rooms for the convention. In other words you should get your reservation in as soon as possible.

Guestroom amenities include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and high-speed Internet access. The Marriott has several excellent restaurants. The hotel is currently undergoing renovations that will result in some alteration in the configuration of these. We will report on the changes as the convention draws near. It still features indoor and outdoor pools, solarium, health club, whirlpool, and sauna.

We strongly recommend preregistering for the convention itself online or by mail any time starting March 1 and ending May 31. The 2007 convention will follow what many think of as our usual schedule:

Saturday, June 30 Seminar Day
Sunday, July 1 Registration Day
Monday, July 2 Board Meeting and Division Day
Tuesday, July 3 March for Independence and Opening Session
Wednesday, July 4 Tour Day
Thursday, July 5 Banquet Day
Friday, July 6 Business Session

2007 National Convention Preregistration Form

Please use this form or provide all the requested information.

Registrant Name ___________________________________________________
(print legibly)
Address _________________________________________________________
City ____________________________________________________________
State ___________________________________ Zip ____________________
Phone __________________________________________________________

___ I will pick up my registration packet at convention.
___ The following person will pick up my registration packet:

Pickup Name ______________________________________
Please register only one person per registration form.
One check or money order may cover multiple registrations.
Check or money order (sorry, no credit cards) must be enclosed with registration form(s).

Number of preregistrations x $15 = ____________
Prepurchased banquet tickets x $35 = ____________
Total ______________

All preconvention registration and banquet sales are final (no refunds).
Mail to: National Federation of the Blind
Attn: Convention Registration
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Registrations must be postmarked by May 31, 2007.

 

On his April 3 presidential release, NFB President Marc Maurer announced important changes in the professional staff leadership at the National Center for the Blind. Jim Gashel, executive director for strategic initiatives, and Betsy Zaborowski, executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute, will both be leaving their current posts, he in July and she in September or October. Mr. Gashel, who is the longest-serving employee of the Federation, having begun as director of governmental affairs on January 1, 1974, has become vice president for marketing at the newly created company K-NFB Reading Technology. He will leave his position with the NFB following the 2007 national convention. Dr. Zaborowski will leave her position as executive director of the Jernigan Institute in the early fall to take another leadership position with the NFB.

John Paré, NFB director of public relations, will succeed Mr. Gashel as director for strategic planning, and Mark Riccobono, director of education at the Jernigan Institute, is now serving as interim executive director of the Jernigan Institute and, following a transitional period this summer, will officially become executive director when Dr. Zaborowski begins her new position. The presidential release in which these changes are discussed in more detail is available for download at <www.nfb.org>.

It is impossible to put into words the organization’s gratitude to Jim and Betsy for their dedication and service to the National Federation of the Blind and to blind people everywhere. We can all be thankful that, though they are leaving their current positions, they will continue to dedicate their talents to improving life for all of us.


Could Politics Damage the Talking Book Program?

From the Editor: It’s no secret in the blindness community that the single most broadly used and passionately loved program serving blind Americans is the Talking Book program, operated by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) of the Library of Congress. Nothing else comes close in general usefulness and popularity. Moreover, as the population ages, the incidence of blindness will rise, and the demand for the program will inevitably increase sharply.

For several years now at our annual conventions we have heard NLS Director Frank Kurt Cylke and his staff describe the technologically complex, logistically demanding project of designing, developing, and producing the next generation of Talking Book delivery systems. As cassettes followed flexible disks and 8 1/3, 16 2/3, 33 1/3, and 78-RPM records into the attic or the museum, the compelling question has been what technology can NLS develop to protect copyrighted material, be simple to use, and offer today’s range of text manipulation features at a reasonable cost. Since seven hundred thousand machines must be built and tens of thousands of books and periodicals placed on the gadget chosen, it’s essential that NLS get the solution right the first time. Not surprisingly the development process has been long and very careful. The conversion will also be very costly, regardless of how responsible the planning has been.

In recent weeks the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has prepared a study of the NLS conversion program. The report is apparently critical and clearly demonstrates that those assessing it neither understand the program nor appreciate the challenges to be overcome. Though the study has been circulated among those who will determine NLS funding in future budgets, it is not being published, which would enable interested parties outside government to comment on it and assess its merits.

On March 22 the Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations of the House Committee on Appropriations conducted a hearing. The NLS is requesting nineteen million dollars of additional funding in each of the next four years to cover the cost of the transition to digital recordings and equipment for the Talking Book program. When we learned about the hearing, we called on local Federationists to rally outside the hearing room to make sure that members of Congress got the message that this program is essential to the blind community. Fifty blind men and women gathered in the hallway to deliver that message, and President Maurer was in the hearing room to observe the proceedings of the subcommittee. James Billington, the librarian of Congress, made comments of support, and of course Frank Kurt Cylke argued strenuously for the appropriation.

We can only hope that Mr. Billington is as supportive behind the scenes as he was in public. He has not always been zealous in protecting the NLS program. Moreover, the Library of Congress has recently lost out on acquiring forty-eight million dollars in funding for its efforts to digitize library programs in general, and some have wondered if the critical GAO report might have been influenced, at least in part, by the Library of Congress’s need for additional funding.

Following the subcommittee hearing, President Maurer wrote a letter to the staff members of the subcommittee, transmitting to them a draft document prepared by staff members of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped responding to the allegations contained in the GAO study. We can only hope that they will read and understand this document and protect the funding necessary to bring the Talking Book program into the twenty-first century. Here is President Maurer’s letter:


March 28, 2007

Dear_____:

 

Several weeks ago I received a call from a man who identified himself as Mr. Dolak of the Government Accountability Office. He said he wanted to ask me about the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS). Inasmuch as this is the first time the Government Accountability Office has ever asked me about the National Library Service, I expressed considerable curiosity about the purpose for the inquiry. Mr. Dolak said that he would give me a report about the matter but that he was not free to do so at the moment. To date I have not received any report from the Government Accountability Office. However, I have set about seeking to determine the reason for the inquiry. My search for substantial background and detail about the GAO inquiry has provided quite a lot of information. What I have learned causes me to feel that what has occurred is potentially alarming and perhaps even more serious than that. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped has been doing a very creditable job in conducting its ongoing programs and planning for its future needs. Somebody appears to want to discredit this program either through a failure to comprehend the elements of it or through a deliberate wish to misrepresent it.
The NLS is the primary source of reading matter for the blind of the United States. It is virtually the only source of Braille material, and it is the only really substantial source of recorded books and magazines. Some small collections of recorded material may be obtained from commercial entities or from nonprofit organizations, but the only truly large, widely diversified collection of literature is maintained by the NLS. This means that literacy for the blind is dependent on this program and that any interruption or suspension of the service provided by it would be devastating.

I have learned from individuals within the Library of Congress that a report from the Government Accountability Office has been created. The report is sixty-five pages long. It contains statements that clearly indicate fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the program and of the planning that has been conducted in seeking to modernize the Talking Book portion of it. Presently books are distributed to blind people on cassette. Cassettes are ceasing to be a readily-available medium for distributing recorded material. Another medium must be adopted soon. The NLS has conducted a multi-year program of study to devise a new system. Part of the problem addressed by the NLS is the need to protect the intellectual property of the copyright holders. Another element of the puzzle addressed by the NLS is that many, many of its patrons are blind people who have not had training in blindness-related techniques or in the use of high-tech electronic equipment. The NLS distributes material to more than 600,000 blind people a year. I estimate that well over 50 percent of this population has not had the kind of training that would be required for using high-tech, complex playback equipment. Consequently, the book delivery system must be not only robust but simple to use. Apparently the Government Accountability Office did not consider the nature of the population to be served when drafting its report.

In the last few hours I have obtained a draft response prepared by staff members of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped to the Government Accountability report. I think that the response to the report is accurate. I am providing you a copy of it, and I would be available to respond to questions about it if you wish. I have participated in the planning for the modernization of the Talking Book program, and I believe I have sufficient background and knowledge to offer an informed opinion about what has happened in the effort to create this new Talking Book delivery system.

Sincerely,
Marc Maurer, President
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND

cc: Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Chair
Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations, House Committee on Appropriations

Congressman David Obey, Chairman
House Committee on Appropriations, United States House of Representatives

Ms. Carrie Apostolou, Professional Staff Member, Committee on Appropriations

Mr. Chuck Turner, Staff member, Committee on Appropriations

Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress
Library of Congress

Dr. Deanna Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services
Library of Congress

Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke, Director, National Library Service for the Blind
and Physically Handicapped
Library of Congress

 

The Space to Try

by Tracy Soforenko

From the Editor: Tracy Soforenko is president of the Arlington Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. In the following article he puts his finger on one of the many benefits of attending a convention of the National Federation of the Blind. People who return to the convention year after year often express the same appreciation for the freedom to explore and investigate that the convention provides. This is what Tracy says:

At the 2006 National Federation of the Blind convention in Dallas, I purchased a ticket for the Tuesday night, July 4, barbeque sponsored by the Texas affiliate. I was happily enjoying a delicious dinner while meeting the other people at my table when I struck up a conversation with Joanne Laurent, a sighted orientation and mobility instructor who works with blind rehabilitation clients in the state of Washington.

I said, “The three days I spent at BISM (Blind Industries and Services of Maryland), a training center applying Federation philosophy, were the best orientation and mobility (O&M) instruction I have ever received. I was surprised how much more I experienced traveling under sleepshades. The instructors had confidence in my abilities and high expectations for what I could accomplish. I wish I could do more of that.”

Joanne explained how she had connected with the NFB years before as she proceeded through her orientation and mobility instruction. She had read material and spent time learning the structured-discovery (NFB) method of travel instruction. She had attended conventions occasionally to recharge her batteries.

This was my second national convention, so I was marveling at the large number of students from the NFB training centers who come to national convention and travel under sleepshades throughout the convention. I remarked to Joanne, “The convention hotel is enormous. These students are using the entire week as a learning experience. I wish I could do it too.”

Joanne surprised me by responding, “Why can’t you? Heck, I will do it with you.”

Joanne was right. It would be perfectly natural for one or two more people to be wearing sleepshades and getting turned around in that enormous hotel. I didn’t have any specific plans for the evening other than to enjoy the barbeque and the band included in the ticket price. My wife and children were in Arlington, Virginia, watching the fireworks across the river in Washington, D.C. Why not? Then fear crept in. I began looking for an excuse. I responded, “I don’t have sleepshades.”

Joanne mentioned that she thought she might have two pairs and that, if she didn’t, the hotel gift shop might have them as well. We agreed to meet in the lobby in thirty minutes. I went up to my room to see if I might have something packed in my bag that could work. I didn’t have sleepshades, but I did have a handkerchief and black men’s dress socks. I folded the handkerchief and tied both ends of the black socks. Placing the folded handkerchief over my eyes, then tying it on with the socks worked to block out all light. It was comfortable. If all else failed, this would work. I shoved them in my pocket and headed to the lobby.

Joanne was waiting for me with just one pair of sleepshades for herself. We went to the gift shop to see what they might have. The gift shop was selling pink Barbie Princess sleepshades with a faux rhinestone pattern and a matching purse for $19. I have my pride. I was not going to spend money to have my fellow Virginia Federationists tease me. If they were going to tease me, let them tease me for free.
Joanne and I traveled everywhere in that hotel together under sleepshades. At first we struggled. Then we started to challenge each other. I explained that I was nervous in really loud nightclubs with people dancing, and not being able to hear anything over the music. She routed us to the Crocodile Bar to navigate the stairs and dance for ten to fifteen minutes. We had a great time.

We kept wandering around the hotel, learning the layout without relying on the visual cues, asking questions of others along the way. The sound of the fountain between the atrium and the Tower was very welcome.

We headed back to the barbeque to check out the music and free beer included in the ticket price. After sitting at the table and enjoying the country music and half a beer, we decided to go up and dance with the others. After a few songs I wanted more of my beer. I said to Joanne, “Don’t worry, I can certainly find my way back to my beer. That is a skill I learned in college.”

She joked, “Finding your beer after dancing is not the defining measure of the competent blind traveler.”

I took this statement as a challenge. After a minor detour through the sound man’s equipment, Joanne and I headed back to the table where I had left my plastic cup with half a beer in it. At this point almost no one was sitting at the tables. I checked every table to find my beer. I had to prove that I could find it. Joe Cutter, a well-known orientation and mobility instructor from New Jersey, came over to ask with amusement, “What the heck are you doing feeling each table and each chair?”

I told him of Joanne’s challenge because she couldn’t stop laughing. Joe explained, “The hotel staff is clearing off all the food and drinks from the table. It is an open bar; get another beer. And, by the way, come see me tomorrow in the New Jersey delegation; I will give you real sleepshades.”

The point of this story is simple. The national convention is a great deal of fun. While there are great speeches, exciting technology, and numerous opportunities to network with the fabulous community that is the National Federation of the Blind, it is more than just the list of items on the agenda. The national convention provides an opportunity to stretch and grow. You can make friends from all over the country. If you haven’t been for a while, consider going this year. If you have never gone before, make this the year to attend. I have already made my reservations for Atlanta in July 2007. This time I will bring my shades.

 


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:

Charitable gift annuities, charitable remainder trusts, and charitable lead trusts—income-generating gifts that allow the donor to make a gift of cash or other property in trust now and receive income for life.

Planned giving through wills provides for a clear and specific understanding about how you want to provide for the people and charitable organizations important to you.

Gifts of life insurance allow donors to ensure that the National Federation of the Blind will receive a death benefit that is larger than any gift they could make during life.

Memorials and honoraria in memory of a departed loved one or in honor of a loved one or a friend.

Gifts of appreciated securities generate a charitable deduction of the gift’s market value while avoiding tax for appreciation.

Gifts of real estate receive many favorable tax advantages. You may choose to make a deferred gift that allows you to use the property for life while giving the NFB future interest.

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

 

In the Spotlight: Affiliate Action

From the Editor: This month’s spotlight is focused on advocating for blind consumers by improving the affiliate’s working relationship with its state agency serving blind customers.


Building Partnerships with State Agencies

by Tommy Craig

From Dan Frye: Tommy Craig, president of our Texas affiliate, offers general strategies for cultivating a constructive working relationship between the NFB and the rehabilitation agency serving blind consumers in its state, and in doing so he focuses on the evolution of the relationship between the Texas affiliate and the blindness-specific rehabilitation agency there. His general observations and the unique Texas experience are both instructive. Here is what President Craig has to say:

Many of you who attended the 2006 National Federation of the Blind convention in Dallas heard me thank Barbara Madrigal, the director of our state agency for the blind, and her staff for working with the NFB of Texas as our partners. Since our national convention several people have asked me how to form a good working relationship with their state agency. This is a complex topic to address, but I will try to share some insights from the partnership that we have established with our state agency in Texas.

It is important for everyone to realize that it wasn’t always this way in Texas. The relationship that we enjoy took years of hard work by a number of very dedicated people. Years ago the only time we heard from the Commission for the Blind was when a hearing on their budget was scheduled before the state legislature. Of course they were always nice and made lots of promises. Once the funding was assured, they kept doing exactly what they had been doing until the next budget hearing.

One of my most vivid state convention memories was a resolution brought to the floor demanding the abolition of the Texas Commission for the Blind. We voted on the resolution, and the vote was too close to call. At this point the author of the resolution withdrew it. This should give you an idea of how bad services for the blind were in Texas and should convey the poor relationship that existed between the Commission for the Blind and the NFB of Texas.

During this time the NFB of Texas continued to grow, and we developed a very good legislative program. This brought us a lot of respect from members of the legislature, which forced the agency to recognize that they could no longer ignore the NFB and that they could no longer play one organization of the blind against another. At about the same time staff changes at the Commission for the Blind took place. Terry Murphy was appointed deputy director of programs, and he started attending our state conventions. He came, he listened, and he went back and did some of the things we asked him to do. Over the years Terry put up with a lot of anger and frustration from us, but he always kept coming back.

Slowly things at the agency began to change. Services for the blind in Texas started to improve. Blind Texans started developing better skills and being more successful in achieving their rehabilitation goals. The agency staff started to feel better about their jobs because the services they provided were actually making a difference in the lives of blind people.

As the years passed, more of the Commission for the Blind staff started listening to our suggestions. We all grew to trust each other more. I believe that trust is the most important building block of a partnership. Unless you can trust the people you are trying to work with, a partnership will never be forged. Trust has to be earned on both sides. Too many times agency professionals believe that they know what is best for the blind, and too many times blind people don’t give the agency staff a chance. When this happens, things continue to get worse instead of better. Once this trend begins, it can take years to turn it around. Many times through the years members of the NFB of Texas felt like giving up and taking our chances with a general rehab agency. I’m very glad we didn’t.

Another important point to remember about building partnerships is that both parties must benefit from the relationship. It can’t be one-sided. Our affiliate’s involvement with the Blindness Education, Screening, and Testing (BEST) program is an example of our giving something to the Commission for the Blind. This was a voluntary program we helped to establish, in which people who were renewing their driver’s license would donate one dollar to a fund to provide blindness education, screening, and testing. In reality this money is used to pay for sight restoration programs. The positive result of this program, from our perspective, is that the agency doesn’t have to use rehab dollars to pay for this service, so more funds are available to provide rehabilitation services. This program has been so successful that many other agencies have copied it.

About eight years ago the state legislature began an attack on the Texas Commission for the Blind. First the Sunset Commission, an entity that reviews state agencies, recommended doing away with the Commission for the Blind. Fortunately the NFB of Texas was there to fight this proposal. We could truthfully say that Texas had one of the best agencies for the blind in the country. Due in large part to the work of the NFB of Texas, the effort to abolish the Commission for the Blind failed.

During the next session the legislature undertook a major reorganization of state government. Once again the Texas Commission for the Blind was scheduled to be abolished and consolidated into a general rehab agency. Once again blind people from across the state came to the capital to stop this attack. The NFB of Texas was the loudest and most effective voice supporting the Commission for the Blind at the capital.

Unfortunately this time we were not completely successful in our attempt to save the agency, though our efforts did minimize the damage that could have been done to services for blind Texans. The Texas Commission for the Blind was consolidated into the Health and Human Services Commission, but we did manage to assure that blind Texans would still receive services from a separate and distinct department within the larger agency.

I believe that, if it had not been for the partnership between the Texas Commission for the Blind and the NFB of Texas, no separate department for the blind in Texas would exist today. I have no doubt that sometime in the near future we will once again have a separate agency for the blind in Texas. When this happens, the cause will be the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind.

As a result of the partnership we have in Texas, things have improved for everyone involved. The agency has grown and developed services that better address the needs of their clients. Commission leaders have also gained confidence in the fact that the members of the NFB of Texas will support them when members of the state legislature challenge their programs.

We in the NFB have gained the assurance that our ideas and suggestions will be heard and acted on. The NFB of Texas has now partnered with the Department of Blind Services on a number of projects including: NFB-NEWSLINE®, a mentoring program for students at the Texas School for the Blind, outreach to parents of blind children, and getting a record number of Texans to the 2006 national convention. Now, when I hear that someone is having a problem obtaining services, I can usually fix it with a phone call.
It takes time and dedication to develop this kind of partnership. It takes people with integrity on both sides who are willing to listen and learn from each other. A two-way flow of communication is imperative, and both sides must understand the benefits that can be gained from a successful partnership. Both sides have to learn to trust each other. This is not an easy process. If you are successful, everyone involved will be a winner.

Advocating for High-Quality Rehabilitation

From Dan Frye: The following practical list of ideas about how blind consumers can get involved in fashioning good rehabilitation services is excerpted from the Training and Organizing People to Serve (TOPS) handbook produced and published by the NFB’s Department of Affiliate Action. It nicely complements the previous article by Tommy Craig. Review these lists and make sure that you and other Federationists in your affiliate are doing most of these things. They will truly make a difference. The suggestions follow:

As Federationists we want every blind person in this country to have the opportunity to lead a productive life. In order to make this goal a reality, we must become partners in the rehabilitation of blind people. The organized blind can provide the experienced-based information, technical assistance, role modeling and mentoring, blindness training, job matching, consumer advocacy, and many other services that can improve the quality of service our agencies provide. Keep the following suggestions in mind as you work to establish a partnership with your state agency:

Mentoring and Role Modeling
Consumers come to the rehabilitation system because they want the experts on disability to tell them that there is hope for their lives. Who better to give that kind of hope than the National Federation of the Blind? The following strategies can help Federationists provide the mentoring and role modeling that rehabilitation consumers and employees need:

Program Evaluation
Who better to evaluate the rehabilitation system than Federationists, who bring to the job the collective thoughts and experiences of blind people from around this country? Successful businesses listen to what their consumers have to say. Begin thinking of yourselves as the mystery shoppers in our rehabilitation system. Consider the following ways that consumers can help monitor and evaluate rehabilitation services:

In order to evaluate your state agency effectively, you should become familiar with VR standards and indicators. These are measures of the numbers but, more important, of the quality of employment outcomes in rehabilitation programs. The first standard has six indicators. Three of these are critically important:

How many people were placed in competitive jobs?

How many of these were people with significant disabilities?

What kind of wages did these people earn?

Here are a few important questions to ask when assessing an agency's performance:

Policy Development
An agency's policies lay the foundation for the quality of services it delivers. NFB chapters and affiliates can take the following steps to promote the development of sound policies:

 

Independent Laboratory Access for the Blind

by Cary Supalo

From the Editor: Cary Supalo is a longtime Federationist and a leader in the NFB of Pennsylvania. He is president of the Happy Valley Chapter and a graduate student in chemistry at Penn State University. This is what he says about providing blind students the access they need in science laboratories:

The Independent Laboratory Access for the Blind (ILAB) Project (National Science Foundation Grant #HRD0435656) is a research program at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU), in partnership with Truman State University (TSU) and the Indiana School for the Blind (ISB), with additional collaborators from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the Institute of Chemical Education (ICE), and the Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC). Other support from Vernier Software and Technology, gh, LLC, and the chemistry department at Purdue University are also contributing to the ILAB project. The purpose of the ILAB project is to develop tools and techniques that enable the target group, blind and visually impaired high school and college students in introductory chemistry classes, to perform their own data acquisition in the laboratory. While the tools were successfully integrated into a modified and adapted curriculum at ISB, the team is now searching for mainstream curricula in order to demonstrate that these tools will perform well in typical, unmodified classrooms.

Many of the tools (currently undergoing field testing at ISB) consist of probes already available from Vernier Software and Technology, such as basic thermometers, pH meters, conductivity and voltage detectors, and several balances for measuring mass. These probes plug into a device called a LabPro, which interfaces the probe with a personal computer; a software package called Logger Pro, also from Vernier, then allows the user to access the tools from his or her PC in real time. The ILAB team is also at work with a JAWS script writer from SSB Bart Group to create JAWS script files, which will allow the screen-reader to work seamlessly with Logger Pro. Vernier has expressed interest in making future versions of Logger Pro more screen-reader friendly once this proof of concept study is completed.

The ILAB project uses other, currently available tools as well, including a talking bar code reader, useful for identification of chemicals, and graphic devices such as the Draftsman, which assists study by producing tactile representations of information in science and math classes. Portable electronic notetakers, laptop computers, and even the traditional slate and stylus also aid in recording data. Certain aspects of the Science Activities for the Visually Impaired/Science Enrichment for Learners with Physical Handicaps curriculum, also known as SAVI/SELPH, are also employed. This curriculum uses low-tech methods that enable blind people to measure weights and determine densities as well as measure liquids and is available from the Lawrence Hall of Science for grades K through eight. More information can be found at their detailed Web site, located at <http://www.lhs.berkeley.edu/cml/saviselph/>.

Hardware tools have been developed by the ILAB team as well. A senior design electrical engineering team designed a device called a submersible audible light sensor (SALS) during the spring 2005 semester. Later the SALS received further modifications from Rod Kreutter, the director of the electronics shop in the chemistry department at Penn State University. This third-generation device uses a light sensor encased in a glass tube connected to a control box and produces audible tones that change as the sensor detects changes in light level. Chemical reactions in solution often result in a change in the amount of light transmitted. The SALS produces an audible tone, the pitch of which corresponds to the light level at the sensor. This allows a blind user to follow the course of a reaction in real time. In addition to the laboratory, this device may also have home applications, such as determining the light levels in a room. The team is also working on probes that will indicate colors and liquid levels in burettes.

The ILAB team recently sponsored the workshop Seeing Chemical Reactions through Sound conducted at both the 2006 NFB of Virginia and Pennsylvania state conventions in Richmond, Virginia, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Approximately thirty attendees used the SALS sensor in the iodine clock reaction. This reaction causes a solution to change color abruptly, and the SALS output tone changed its pitch as the solution changed from colorless, then to blue, and finally to black, informing participants exactly when each change occurred. For more information visit the ILAB homepage, located at <http://ilab.psu.edu>.

Educators; parents of blind children; blind students interested in careers in the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics professions; and anyone else interested in the ILAB project are encouraged to contact Cary Supalo at <cary@chem.psu.edu>.

 

The Proof Is in the Pudding

by Jennifer Moerke

From the Editor: Jennifer Moerke is a college student and president of the Northwest Chapter of the NFB of Washington. She wrote the following paper for extra credit in her chemistry class. Here it is:

I have been blind since birth. Growing up, I was enrolled in my local elementary, middle, and high schools with six hundred to fifteen hundred sighted students. As a matter of course I took math, science, and literature classes. As someone with low vision, I often used a combination of blindness and low-vision techniques to do my work. Looking back, I now realize that most of my techniques, particularly in math and science, were done with residual vision. When it came time for classes relating to technology and science, I was always at a disadvantage because either things were not accessible at all or I had to spend time using my low vision to keep up. But this system worked well enough until I reached eleventh grade chemistry.

In the state of Washington the Washington State School for the Blind is responsible for assisting itinerant teachers of blind students to find ways to remove barriers to education. I knew they had extensive techniques to help blind students participate in chemistry. However, assuming that those techniques would take too much effort to put in place in my school, I decided that I’d be spending more time removing barriers to accessibility than taking the class. Unfortunately, both the chemistry teacher and my low-vision services teacher agreed. As a result the chemistry requirement was waived.

After high school I took time out for intensive training in the skills of blindness at the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB). As I learned to adjust to blindness (accomplished under blindfold), I realized what opportunities I had missed while taking computer and shop classes. I made up for those lost opportunities in both fields. I recognized that I had lost these opportunities in much the same way I’d lost my chance to take chemistry in high school. When I graduated from LCB, I entered college at Whatcom Community College and made a vow that, if the opportunity to take chemistry came again, no matter how difficult it was, I’d take it. My opportunity came during the last academic quarter of my education at Whatcom.

As a matter of fact, one other blind student was taking chemistry that quarter. Word had it that she preferred to be less active in the laboratory because she feared for her safety. This attitude certainly would not do for me since I prefer to participate as fully as possible. It was up to me to make some contacts and to do some research about how blind scientists safely and efficiently use both chemicals and equipment in the chemistry lab and to take notes on my observations.

The wonderful thing about being a Federationist is the network of blind people and experience that is always available upon request. Hearing about all of the exciting projects done at the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, I visited both our national Web site and the science Web site. I found at least two articles that gave me ideas about how to participate in both lab and lecture.

In her article entitled “Experimenting with Science Labs,” Arielle Silverman of Arizona describes how she used a sighted assistant to describe the visual aspects of a lab: the color of chemical solutions, the state of physical objects in space, or measurements taken using inaccessible measuring equipment. As she observed her environment and lab space, she used the Braille code and her electronic notetaker to record her observations. Since I am well versed in Braille, I knew this would be no problem. I believed that, if I could set up the lab equipment and manipulate as much of the lab as practical, I could bring in the same sort of assistance in observing my setup and experiment.

With that in mind, I arranged to have a reader present during lab times. As a blind student, it would have been ideal to have every piece of accessible measuring equipment known to man. Practically speaking, though, one quarter of chemistry did not warrant an investment of time and resources to obtain such equipment. So I used the blindness skills I learned at the LCB to manipulate all of the equipment and chemicals while my sighted lab assistant read thermometers, scales, and electronic devices to me. In this way I got as much out of the experiments as my sighted peers.

In order to complete chemistry labs with knowledge and grace, I had to listen to and understand the topics presented in lecture. For an understanding of how to do this, I turned to the advice of chemistry Ph.D. student Cary Supalo. In “Blind Students Can Succeed in Chemistry,” Supalo outlines all of the ways he learned the topics in chemistry, ranging from tactile models and diagrams to good note-taking and lab skills. As a matter of fact Supalo, like me, was a graduate of an NFB training center. His advice enabled me to communicate with my professor both in and outside of lecture. Considering that it was a first shot at chemistry, I came out of the class with a decent understanding of molecular structure and the math involved and with some lab experience under my belt. I also earned a B.

Without my strong network of advice and experience through the National Federation of the Blind, there’s no way I would have taken my second chance at learning about chemistry. I’ve enjoyed my education thus far. I will end this article with a metaphor. In the history of understanding the inner workings of atoms, one scientist described the atom as a pudding with chunks in it. That is to say that the actual matter in an atom is extremely minute compared to the atomic space that surrounds the matter. As I thought about taking chemistry and its potential problems, I discovered that the difficulties were only as large as the actual matter in an atom. The space between the atom’s bits of matter, the advice and support of the National Federation of the Blind, was more important in my success as a blind student learning chemistry for the first time. So it seems to me that the truth of why I’m a Federationist has been established and proved in the pudding.

Experimenting with Science Labs,” by Arielle Silverman, appeared in the July 2003 issue of the Student Slate, the publication of the National Association of Blind Students. “Blind Students Can Succeed In Chemistry” by Cary Supalo appeared in the Summer/Fall 2002 issue of Future Reflections.

 

Accessible Personal Data Assistance Reviews

by the Staff of the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind

From the Editor: Yesterday my daughter bought herself a combination cell phone and personal data assistant. She is very excited about this new piece of equipment. The notion of putting those two gadgets together strikes terror to my soul. Yet I see the handwriting on the wall, and I suspect that it is only a matter of time until I am trying to master a similar gadget. I am very pleased that blind people now have access to this part of the technology market, and even more pleased that we actually have choices. If you are thinking that the time has come for you to dip your toe in these murky waters, you will want to read the following article very carefully. Here it is:

Computer users who frequently travel for business or pleasure can stay connected with their offices or their homes with the help of PDA technology. Updating the contacts, calendar items, emails, documents and files, or tasks can be accomplished easily by synchronizing a PDA to a computer, a procedure that takes only a few minutes. With the use of an Internet-enabled PDA cell phone anyone can browse the Web or instantly download online content at any time and any place with cell phone signal. The compact size of a PDA affords users the ability to do away totally with laptop computers, thus lightening the traveler's load tremendously. The battery life of a PDA is generally much longer than that of a laptop. Some PDAs even contain small built-in QWERTY keyboards, or allow a user to connect an external Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard to the unit. A PDA user almost always prefers a larger external Bluetooth QWERTY keyboard to the tiny QWERTY keyboard on the unit. PDAs do not require any boot-up time, so accessing any installed application is almost instantaneous. PDA memory used to be extremely unreliable. When the battery went completely flat, all data and settings were lost. This is no longer the case if a PDA uses Windows Mobile5 as its operating system. As an enhanced feature some PDAs even contain an on-board GPS receiver.

With such a comprehensive feature list, why does anyone still use a computer? When compared to a computer, a PDA has a much smaller processor and hard drive. A typical computer contains at the minimum a 1.5 gigahertz processor and an 80-gigabyte hard drive. On average a PDA contains a 400 megahertz processor, and with the use of an SD card the maximum storage achievable is four gigabytes. Due to hardware limitations, PDAs do not contain a printer port, so a user cannot print directly from the PDA itself. Any mobile software programs designed for PDAs are much smaller and have many fewer features when compared to regular PC/Windows-based software. For example, Pocket Word does not have a spell check feature, and Pocket Excel cannot be used to create sophisticated graph and chart presentations. When using Pocket Excel, only three worksheets can be accessed simultaneously. Even with these limitations, PDAs are still very popular among computer users who embrace a mobile lifestyle.

In the past two years increasing numbers of accessible PDAs have been developed for the blind. Some of these have been designed with embedded screen-access programs; others are just off-the-shelf PDAs, for which the user must purchase an optional screen-access program. This article provides an evaluation of screen-access programs for PDAs. We will also look at accessible PDAs with embedded screen-access technology.

Mobile Speak Pocket 9
Reviewed by Mike Tindell

Mobile Speak Pocket is screen-access software for a PDA running Windows Mobile or Windows Pocket PC 2003 SE. An additional program is available for Mobile Speak Pocket, called Mobile Magnifier Pocket, that will magnify the screen for low-vision users.
It is possible to get a PDA with a built-in phone. If you do, the phone is also accessible using Mobile Speak Pocket. Before choosing a PDA, it is important to be sure that Mobile Speak Pocket can be installed on it. You can find a list of supported PDAs at <www.codefactory.es>.

Once you purchase the PDA, you will need to install active sync on your computer. This will allow the PDA and the computer to connect and communicate with one another. After installing active sync, go back to <www.codefactory.es> and download Mobile Speak Pocket. Connect the PDA to the computer, and install Mobile Speak Pocket. A free thirty-day trial of Mobile Speak Pocket is available from Code Factory.

A PDA has a touch-screen, buttons below the screen, and often buttons on the side of the unit as well. Sighted people use a stylus to tap the screen. The buttons quickly launch programs. Mobile Speak Pocket reassigns the buttons to shift, tab, control, and alt. A blind person taps, double-taps, or taps and holds one of the four corners of the screen to operate the unit. A command turns on stylus mode so that a sighted person can use the PDA while Mobile Speak is running. Mobile Speak allows a blind person to access contacts, appointments, and email. Pocket Excel and Pocket Word are available for creating spreadsheets and documents.

Some PDAs have no built-in keyboard. Mobile Speak offers keyboard entry using a touch virtual keyboard (a keyboard simulator). When the touch virtual keyboard is being used, the user turns the PDA sideways and slides a finger along the screen. The keyboard is arranged like a QWERTY keyboard. Each letter is announced as the finger slides across it. To insert a letter, lift the finger after the desired letter is announced, and the letter will be inserted. The keyboard simulator also uses the arrow keys to reach the desired letter; press enter to insert the letter. Bluetooth keyboards are also supported. Mobile Speak Pocket supports several Bluetooth headsets to route the audio through the Bluetooth headset for private listening.

Many third-party programs have been written for Windows Mobile and Pocket PC devices. Some programs work very well with Mobile Speak Pocket. Microsoft Voice Command allows a user to speak to the PDA using a set of predefined commands. For further information visit <www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/voicecommand/default.mspx>. For programs that do not work well with Mobile Speak Pocket, scripts can be written to improve accessibility.

Several Bluetooth Braille displays can be used with Mobile Speak Pocket. If your display has a keyboard, it is also possible to enter text using computer Braille or Grade II into the PDA. The user can control the PDA using the keyboard of the Braille display. Many Handy Tech and HumanWare Braille displays and notetakers, such as the BrailleNote mPower and the BrailleNote PK are supported. Visit <www.codefactory.es> to see if yours is in the list of supported displays.

The price of Mobile Speak Pocket is $599. To purchase this product, contact HumanWare at (800) 722-3933 or on its Web site <www.humanware.com>, or contact Triumph Technology at (651) 636-5184 or on its Web site <www.triumphonic.com>. Vision Cue LLC also sells Mobile Speak Pocket, phone (503) 459-4003; Web site <www.visioncue.com>.

Pocket Hal 702
Reviewed by Mike Tindell

Pocket Hal is screen-access software that will make most PDAs accessible. When using Pocket Hal, a user gains access to the applications provided on the PDA, such as email, contacts, calendar, Pocket Excel, Pocket Word, and Windows Media Player for playing music. If the PDA has a built-in cell phone, Pocket Hal makes it accessible. For a list of supported PDAs visit <www.yourdolphin.com>. The PDA must be running Windows Mobile or Pocket PC 2003 SE.

Before installing Pocket Hal on the PDA, install active sync on your computer. Visit <www.yourdolphin.com/downloads> to get the latest version of Pocket Hal. Connect the PDA to your computer and run the install for Pocket Hal. You have a thirty-day trial before purchasing the product.

Many PDAs have a built-in keyboard for entering text and for screen navigation. If your PDA has a built-in keyboard, it can be used. If not, you must use a Bluetooth QWERTY or Braille keyboard. Pocket Hal supports several Bluetooth Braille displays. If your Braille display has a Braille keyboard, you can use it for text input and screen navigation. Many third-party programs have been written for Windows Mobile and Pocket PC 2003 SE. If Pocket Hal doesn’t work with a program the user wishes to use, map files can be written for the program to make it more accessible with Pocket Hal.

The purchase price for Pocket Hal is $595. Contact Dolphin US at (866) 797-5921 or visit <www.yourdolphin.com>.

Icon
Reviewed by Anne Taylor

The Icon, manufactured by LevelStar, is a Linux-based screenless PDA designed for the blind. Therefore all of the applications installed on the Icon are guaranteed to be completely accessible to the blind. This is a strong advantage to users who like using PDAs but do not want to buy an off-the-shelf PDA which may contain inaccessible third-party software. The Icon comes with a text-to-speech program already installed. Since users have to depend on speech output only, LevelStar has made a commendable effort to help them become familiar with the telephone-like keypad and the Icon's features by providing a keyboard-learn mode and a context-sensitive help feature. Users can activate the context-sensitive help feature from within any application, and only help content related to that particular application will be spoken. LevelStar also provides a Braille quick reference guide with every unit.

When the unit is turned on, users will be presented with the following applications: address book, music player, library menu, Internet menu, tools menu, utilities menu, and games menu. The arrow keys located at the front of the unit are used to cycle between these menu items. To select a specific item, press the select key located at the center of the arrow keys. Once the desired application is launched, the menu key located right below the down arrow can be pressed to obtain specific user options relevant to that application. For example, if the address book application is selected and the menu button is pressed, users will hear "new address" for adding an address or "delete address" for deleting an address.

Even though the Icon is a Linux-based PDA, synchronizing contacts, the planner, and emails is easy using the proprietary software provided. When connected to the computer and in the disk drive mode (which can be selected from the utilities menu), the Icon will behave like a removable drive. Users can easily transfer files from the computer to the Icon. The Icon has many nifty features, but perhaps none is better than the library menu. In this menu users can access the bookshelf containing downloaded books, or an Internet book search option can be selected to perform a real-time search from the <Bookshare.org> Web site. Users can search by author, title, or category; books can then be downloaded directly onto the Icon. Using Newsstand, a user can subscribe to news periodicals and designate a number of days to keep them in memory. Note: in order to take advantage of the Newsstand features, one must be a member of Bookshare.

Icon not only contains well-designed firmware, but it is also equipped with an internal wireless antenna. Users can be connected to the Internet any place that has a wireless access point. The Icon has a built-in Web browser and is also capable of streaming audio. Sending and receiving email using POP3 accounts is also supported.

The Icon uses a mini-Secure Digital card (mini-SD card) as an extra storage drive. Those who are interested in collecting audio files should know that a four gigabyte mini-SD card is now available for purchase. For those who prefer to type on a QWERTY keyboard rather than inputting each character using a telephone-like keypad on the unit, an optional docking station can be purchased along with the Icon. The Icon is shipped with Icon mobile manager, an Icon carrying case, Interface cable, AC power adaptor, Quick-Start Guide (text, audio, Braille, and CD), user’s guide (text, CD), earbuds, lanyard, and a battery.

The purchase price is $1,395 for the Icon, which does not include the docking station. Contact LevelStar at (800) 315-2305 or <www.levelstar.com> for latest pricing information.


EasyLink
Reviewed by Steve Booth

EasyLink is a pocket-size, Braille-input Bluetooth-enabled keyboard that works with either a PDA or a cell phone using Talks software. Two models are available; one has a Braille keyboard, while the other has both the keyboard and a twelve-cell refreshable Braille display. EasyLink comes with PocketWrite software and a PDA. You can buy just the EasyLink Braille display if you already have a PDA or other equipment and wish to use EasyLink with it. The Bluetooth wireless connectivity makes this device truly portable. It has the standard Perkins-style six-key Braille input, the space bar in the middle just below the six keys, a joy stick (between dots one and four), and control and shift keys to the side of the space bar. The model with the Braille display has two navigation buttons to the left and right of the Braille display. The unit can be run on its internal battery or by connecting it to AC power.

Once set up to work with another device, EasyLink is easy to use; just Braille what you want and use either the twelve-cell Braille display or the speech your PDA or cell phone has. EasyLink is pocket-size and lightweight. If you plan to use a PDA or cell phone with Talks, this device can add functionality to those items.

The price for EasyLink is $495 without the Braille display; EasyLink with twelve-cell Braille display is $1,995; with PocketWrite software and a PDA, it is $1,495. Total package price is $3,490. As we are fond of saying, please contact VisionCue or your reseller for specific pricing and availability of the configuration you wish to purchase. EasyLink is available from VisionCue, LLC., 4858-A SW Scholls Ferry Road, Portland, Oregon 97225; phone (503) 297-1510; toll-free (888) 318-2582.

Maestro
Reviewed by Steve Booth

In an article in the February 2006 Braille Monitor I discussed the Trekker GPS option, a GPS solution from HumanWare. In this article I will take a look at the personal digital assistant with Maestro. I also add an update to the information provided in the Trekker article.
The Maestro option provides speech access to the functions of a PDA. It is available on several PDAs. Contact HumanWare or your reseller to find out the latest PDA available. There are only minor variations from one PDA to another, and each uses the same accessible keyboard and software program. The PDAs have an SD card slot for additional file storage, and some have a CompactFlash card slot for this type of storage card. For this article I used Maestro version 2.0.2 and Trekker Solo version 3.0.

The Maestro is a handheld PDA with a specially designed keyboard and fully accessible speech output software. A unique feature of the Maestro and Trekker keyboard is that it fits over the PDAs flat screen. It consists of buttons that, when pressed, touch the appropriate points on the flat screen to activate the desired functions. It fits around the PDA with an elastic strap to hold it in place. The keyboard can be removed to reset the unit or replace the battery. The keyboard is arranged with a set of Braille keys at the top. Arrow keys are arranged in a cross pattern for navigation, and function keys are located along each edge. A handy describer mode can be entered at any time to learn the function of any key. Entering Braille is slightly different because dots are entered one at a time, and each letter is verified with the press of a button. While this sounds cumbersome, Braille can be entered reasonably quickly with some practice. The system allows for the entry of contracted or uncontracted Braille.

The Maestro uses Eloquence speech, which is quite clear using the external speaker. The use of headphones or ear buds may enhance speech quality. Maestro has user settings for speech rate and volume to suit individual needs.

The menu system is familiar to those used to Windows menus on a PC. The key-describer mode is easy to use, and many functions may be toggled on and off by holding down keys. Hot-key functions are available for common tasks. For example, tab and shift-tab operate similarly to the way they function on a PC. There are an escape key and four function keys. Holding some keys down for several seconds provides additional functions.

Software installation is reasonably straightforward. The directions should be followed closely for best results. If the battery goes completely flat, the software must be installed again. Maestro comes with a program CD that includes the manual and quick reference guide. Print and Braille manuals are provided.

The Maestro main menu contains functions familiar to most PDA users including the calendar, contacts, email, media player, and more. You may synchronize with Outlook, which is especially handy when traveling. Calendar, contacts, and email entries can all be synchronized. In addition, text notes may be written in uncontracted or contracted Braille.

As noted earlier, it may take practice to enter Braille on the keyboard with speed and accuracy. If you desire, the Maestro has Bluetooth wireless capability, so a wireless QWERTY-style keyboard may be attached for added convenience.

Maestro has the ability to record voice notes, and the Victor Reader software makes it possible to read DAISY books. According to the manufacturer, efforts are well underway to allow reading of RFB&D books using the Victor program included with Maestro.
This system is useful for those comfortable with commercial PDA applications. If you travel frequently and require portability, this system may be right for you. The Trekker option adds the power of GPS navigation for greater access to the world around you. However, if you plan to do extensive writing of long documents or have other needs requiring the use of many Windows applications, Maestro and other PDAs may not be your best choice. These devices are best suited for synchronizing information with a computer and for quick, on-the-fly access.

Now here is an update to the Trekker article. Trekker Solo 3.0 has additional map storage and loading capacity. Up to four maps may be loaded at once. Each map contains several states for increased regional coverage. A map-manager facility, which can be installed on your computer, provides flexibility when installing and removing maps from your Trekker system. Points of interest are easier to use. Personal points of interest may be added or removed using the map-manager program. You will need a large SD card, 512 MB or greater, if you want to install the maximum number of maps. SD cards are widely available online and at many computer and other stores.
Maestro is available from HumanWare. The cost is $1,695. Visit the Web site <www.humanware.com> for the name of a distributor in your area or call toll-free (800) 722-3393.

We hope that you will be able to employ informed choice as you purchase a PDA. It is important to note that a smart phone and a PDA are different devices. We will cover smart phones in another article. Mobile Speak has a version of software that will run on a smart phone. Pocket Hal will also be releasing one soon.

Let us know if you have questions about the best products for you. We can be reached on the technology answer line at (410) 659-9314, option five.

 

Fast Forward to the Future Schedule of NOPBC Events for Families and Teachers of Blind Children at the 2007 Convention

Anticipating the future is part of the task of parents everywhere. This is especially essential in the modern world, where rapid advancements in technology change the way we live. Impossible as it may seem, preparing children to live in a world that currently does not exist is still as much a function of parenthood in the modern world as it was in the stone age. For parents of blind children this can be a daunting task. But the National Federation of the Blind can help. The NOPBC is collaborating with the twenty-five special interest divisions of the NFB to make the 2007 convention a chance for parents to anticipate a future full of hope and opportunity for their children.

The NFB divisions represent the diversity of possibilities for the blind in careers, hobbies, and all kinds of human pursuits. We have a division for enthusiasts in each of the following fields: recreation and sports, the performing arts, antique and classic cars, agriculture and equestrian, travel and tourism, and Braille. We have divisions for college students, diabetics, guide dog users, people in communities of faith, senior citizens, deaf-blind individuals, and writers and a Masonic Square Club division. Twelve other divisions represent specific careers: science and engineering, public employees, computer science, office workers, lawyers, educators, health care professionals, human services workers, rehabilitation professionals, piano technicians, merchants, and entrepreneurs.

Members from these divisions will be speaking at the seminar, conducting workshops for parents, and coordinating exciting activities for our children. They will share tips and techniques, triumphs and disappointments, and their excitement and hopes for the future. In other words, we plan an experience that is as close as possible to a leap into the future to see what your child could be doing next year or in five, ten, or twenty years.

To help you as you make plans for the convention, here is an overview of the schedule of events and a seminar registration form for the NOPBC activities:

National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
Seminar and Workshops for Parents and Teachers at the 2007 Convention
Schedule of Events and Registration

Saturday, June 30
SEMINAR DAY
· NOPBC seminar for parents and teachers
· NOPBC annual meeting
· Music and movement activities for toddlers and preschoolers
· Pet care, Braille Carnival, music, and other activities for all children (blind and sighted) at three age-specific levels: grades K-2 (ages 5-7); grades 3-5 (ages 8-10), and grades 6-8 (ages 11-13)
· The Teen Scene 2007: special activities for high school students coordinated by the NFB Jernigan Institute Education Department
· Chemistry demonstration for teens (evening)
· Teen talks (evening)
· Family hospitality (evening)

Sunday, July 1
· Cane Walk (morning)
· Orientation to the exhibit hall for first-time parents and families (afternoon)
· Teen hospitality, includes convention orientation for teens (all day)
· Dad’s Night Out (evening)
CONVENTION REGISTRATION (all day)
EXHIBIT HALL (all day)
RESOLUTIONS COMMITTEE MEETING (afternoon)

Monday, July 2
· NOPBC board meeting (time to be announced)
· Parent Power Workshop (3:00 – 4:30 p.m.)
· Braille book flea market (5:00 – 7:00 p.m.)
· Teen orientation to NFB divisions (11:30 a.m.)
· Teen hospitality (afternoon, evening)
NFB OPEN BOARD MEETING (morning)
EXHIBIT HALL (all day)
DIVISION MEETING DAY (afternoon, evening)

Tuesday, July 3
· IEP and other workshops for parents and teachers (evening)
· A special session for parents of babies and toddlers (evening)
· Drop-in crafts and other activities for children (evening)
· Teen’s Night Out (7:00 – 9:30 p.m.)
· Teen hospitality (noon and evening)
MARCH FOR INDEPENDENCE (6:00 – 9:00 a.m.)
GENERAL SESSION (all day)

Wednesday, July 4
· Family fun--recreational activities for the family (afternoon)
· Rowing clinic with indoor machines (afternoon)
· Cane talk with Joe Cutter (afternoon)
· “What You Auto Know”: hands-on display of tools, tires, and other automobile stuff (early evening)
· Teen hospitality (early afternoon, evening)
GENERAL SESSION (morning only)

Thursday, July 5
· Drawing for the NOPBC 50/50 raffle fundraiser (banquet)
· Teen hospitality (includes meet and greet with NABS board) (noon)
GENERAL SESSION (all day)
BANQUET (evening)

Friday, July 6
GENERAL SESSION (all day)
· Teen hospitality (noon)

Questions? Contact Barbara Cheadle: <bcheadle@nfb.org> or (410) 659-9314, extension 2360.

 

NOPBC 2007 SEMINAR REGISTRATION

Make checks or money orders payable to NOPBC. Mail to Sandy Taboada, 6960 South Fieldgate Court, Baton Rouge, LA 70808-5455

NOPBC Conference Fees
This fee includes annual dues for membership-at-large in the NOPBC.
$15 one adult
$10 per teen for youth groups accompanied by chaperones
$25 families

Fee enclosed (make checks payable to NOPBC) $________________

Adult name(s). Please include first and last names of each adult and please check relationship or interest in the NOPBC:
1. ______________________________________________________
[ ] parent [ ] relative [ ] professional [ ] blind parent [ ] chaperone for a teen group [ ] other

2. _______________________________________________________
[ ] parent [ ] relative [ ] professional [ ] blind parent [ ] chaperone for a teen group [ ] other

Address _________________________________________________________
City _______________ State___________ Zip______
Telephone(s) _______________
Email __________________

Do you already receive Future Reflections? YES NO

Are you a member of your state POBC chapter? YES NO

Is this your first NFB convention? YES NO

Please list names (first and last), birth dates, and grades of all children attending the convention with you. Please include a brief description of the child’s vision and any additional disabilities.

Name, birth date, grade, vision/other
1. ____________________________________________________________
2. ____________________________________________________________
3. ____________________________________________________________
4. ____________________________________________________________

Additional comments, questions, or requests: _________

 

Ask Miss Whozit

From the Editor: From time to time Miss Whozit answers reader questions about 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. Here are the most recent letters Miss Whozit has received:

Dear Miss Whozit,

I attend a formal church that includes Holy Eucharist each week and am wondering what is the most efficient and considerate way to go forward for communion. The church floor is tile, and the communion portion of the service is a solemn affair. Is it appropriate to use one’s cane in this situation? I have no hang-ups about using it or identifying myself as a blind man. I am a recent NFB member and have found the philosophy of the Federation to be an outstanding supplement to my faith and ability to live life successfully. But I prefer not to take away from others’ appreciation of this important point in the service, and fellow church members have a habit of being overly helpful, though I am educating them slowly. Thank you for your advice and suggestions in this matter.

Pilgrim

Dear Pilgrim,

Even though church attendance no longer involves the edifying traditions of hats and gloves for ladies and suits and ties for gentlemen, Miss Whozit still believes that aside from the personal spiritual enrichment of church attendance, blind people and their sighted neighbors can benefit greatly from our active participation in the religious community of our choice. You certainly have every right to use your cane and genteelly insist on your right and ability to use it when you think it appropriate. No one would think of asking members who use crutches or a support cane to go to the communion rail without that equipment or stay in their seats until the Eucharist can be brought to them. In the same way, if you choose to use your white cane, your fellow communicants will certainly not ask you to leave it at your seat.

But you are really asking whether, since people are still distracted by your use of the cane, and since the tile floor makes it difficult to use it silently, you should try to make some other arrangement for moving to the area where the Eucharist is administered. You did not mention the complication of disposing of the cane while kneeling, so perhaps that is not an issue in your church, but it is in many.

If you are accurate in reporting that you are educating the congregation and if you are using your cane and moving around independently during other parts of the service and at other church activities, I think you can suit yourself during the Eucharist. Civility during the service requires that you not call undue attention to yourself, just as what I might call “church etiquette” demands that all of us do what we can to enable ourselves and other communicants to focus on the sacrament rather than escaping children jumping down the steps to the chancel or teenagers exposing shocking amounts of skin or men wearing light-up neckties. If you have no good alternative to using your cane, such as walking to the altar with a neighboring parishioner, then by all means use the cane as quietly and carefully as you can. Church members will eventually learn to adjust and give you room, but you may find that they reach out to guide you silently, and that is difficult to deal with constructively when it is well intentioned but done silently so that you do not know who is touching you. If you decide to go this route, you might discuss with your friends what you are doing and what they can do or refrain from doing to help. They can then model the way to deal with you and the cane for other people.

You may find that it is altogether less obtrusive, however, to make arrangements with a friend to go forward together, leaving the cane in your pew. In short, you will have to decide which issues are most important to you and what strategy feels most appropriate.

 

Dear Miss Whozit,

What is the proper way to deal with a coworker who uses a guide dog that smells some of the time and sheds profusely all the time? I know that users have the right to take their dogs everywhere they go, but it seems to me that they also have the responsibility to control their dogs and groom them (including daily brushing). People avoid sitting next to this guide dog user, but sometimes that is the only seat available. The dog sheds all over offices, clothes, etc.
Quite often I invite coworkers out to lunch. I rarely invite people who use dogs because of this issue, and I never invite the person with the smelly, shedding dog. Sometimes we are required to travel off-site for meetings. I am allergic to dogs and don't want to have a shedding dog in my car. When I do have to transport this person and the guide dog, I have to have my car vacuumed professionally afterwards at my expense. I find this an imposition. What do you suggest?

A coworker with dog allergies

Dear Coworker,

You have my sympathy. No one who suffers from allergies or who has loved ones who do would think it appropriate for you to be exposed unnecessarily to dog dander and hair or to the expense of removing them completely. The responsible guide dog users I know would agree. What you do to educate a problem user will depend on whether the badly maintained dog is the result of ignorance, laziness, or inconsiderateness, in descending order of likelihood.

Because you are acutely aware of shedding and animal odor, you may find it difficult to credit that it is hard for some blind people to recognize how much their dogs are shedding. Moreover, since they are close to the animal all the time, they may not be sensitive to what you find an unpleasant odor or may even fail to find it distasteful. If this is the problem, tactful candor is your best strategy. Ostracism or snide remarks are easy for the blind person to ignore or misconstrue. I suggest that you sit down with your colleague and explain your allergy and describe accurately but as unemotionally as you can the level of the shedding problem. I believe that guide dog schools recommend daily brushing and frequent baths for dogs, just as Miss Whozit recommends them for people who wish to be socially acceptable.

The problem user may have been taught these things but may have grown lazy. When one doesn’t observe firsthand the hair drifting onto clothing, furniture, and rugs, one tends to forget its existence. A tactful reminder that “out of sight, out of mind” in this case can rapidly translate into “out of favor with working colleagues” may well be all that is needed to motivate your coworker to begin taking care of the animal properly.

If your dog-using colleague is merely inconsiderate, however, the rest of the staff, including the other guide dog users, have no obligation in the name of civility to put up more than necessary with the distasteful results of that behavior. If the group is meeting in common areas of your facility, you can spread a rug and ask that the dog lie on that in an effort to contain the hair. You could then try requesting that the offending owner take the rug or blanket outdoors to shake it afterward before storing it for the next meeting. If everyone agrees to acknowledge the problem and work to contain the hair, the user is likely to take the hint. Remaining pleasant, even humorous, and matter-of-fact about avoiding contact with the dog in its unwashed, unbrushed condition and going as far as to drape your car with drop clothes when you are forced to transport the troublesome pair should control the problem even if it does not modify the user’s behavior.

But, as I say, it is unlikely that you actually have a colleague who takes pleasure in causing awkwardness and discomfort. Here is a recent comment sent to Miss Whozit from a guide dog user with some vision: “I appreciated your fine suggestions in the March 2007 issue. I only wish you had added that, in addition to looking neat and clean and having good posture and body language, you had also pointed out that a person's white cane should not look as though it has been through the wars and that one's guide dog should be groomed each day. As one living in an area with many guide dogs, I must say that I have seen more canes with peeling finish than ungroomed dogs, because the guide dogs I know have owners who love them and take good care of them.”

I do hope that this reader is correct about most dog users’ care and concern for their animals. I am certain that denying a user important information about problems with a dog is misplaced civility. No one enjoys learning that his or her corner-cutting is obvious to others, just as we feel mortified to discover or be told that the seam in the crotch of the slacks we have been wearing is split or that we have sat in ketchup. The person who delivers such information and suggests a solution or offers to help set things to rights is more truly courteous than the one who says nothing and laughs or complains later behind our backs. Good luck to you in your effort to come to an understanding in your office.

 

Meet the New President of the WBU's
North America/Caribbean Region

by Jim Gibbons

From the Editor: Jim Gibbons is a forty-three-year-old blind executive living in Fairfax Station, Virginia. He is married and has three young children. He has served as president and CEO of National Industries for the Blind (NIB) since 1998.

At its December 2006 meeting, the North America/Caribbean region of the World Blind Union elected Gibbons as regional president for the next four years. Federationists who have direct dealings with NIB have known and worked cooperatively with Jim for some time now, but since he may not be as well known throughout the blindness community in general, we asked him to give us a personal profile so that others can get to know him better.

Jim Gibbons was born and raised in Beach Grove, Indiana. He is the youngest of nine children and has one older sister who is also blind. He was born with ordinary vision but began to experience significant vision loss from macular degeneration when he was about nine. He says that, as his vision deteriorated, his ability to participate in certain sports activities also deteriorated. He dropped baseball in the seventh grade, then basketball, then football, and finished high school doing the discus, shot put, and wrestling.

Gibbons received instruction in Braille and orientation and mobility from the Indiana state agency for the blind during the last two years of high school. Following graduation, he attended Purdue University, where he received an undergraduate degree in industrial engineering. He became totally blind during his junior year at Purdue.

Gibbons then entered Harvard Business School and was the first blind student ever to complete this rigorous program. Upon graduation he was hired by AT&T. During these years he became interested in and mastered speech-access equipment for the blind and advanced from an entry-level job to a chief executive career—developing business acumen and leadership training in a number of areas, including business operations, merger and acquisition, and market analysis. Before leaving AT&T to join NIB, Jim was president of a wholly owned AT&T subsidiary, Campus Wide Access Solutions.

In 1998 NIB assembled a search committee to recruit and hire a new president and CEO. Surprisingly NIB had never had a blind CEO in its nearly sixty years of existence, so some leaders of the search committee thought that it was time to break new ground by hiring a qualified blind person for the position. Jim Gibbons was ultimately recruited and hired.

Since 1998 Gibbons has been president and CEO of National Industries for the Blind, a national nonprofit organization whose official mission is “enhancing the opportunities for economic and personal independence of people who are blind primarily through creating, sustaining, and improving employment.” Today NIB and its eighty-eight associated nonprofit agencies employ more than 5,600 blind people to produce and deliver products and services to federal, military, and commercial customers.

Along with his executive responsibilities at NIB, Jim is also a leader in the World Blind Union (WBU), an international nonprofit organization representing 162 million blind people from 158 countries. In December 2006 he was elected president of WBU’s North America/Caribbean region, where he serves with President Maurer and other blindness leaders as a U.S. delegate for the North American continent and Caribbean region. He chairs the WBU Employment Committee and, as president of this region, is a member of the WBU officers board.

On March 30 Jim Gibbons was honored by Purdue University with the presentation of its 2007 Outstanding Industrial Engineer of the Year Award. This is what he says:


Let me begin by thanking the Braille Monitor for inviting me to contribute an article for this issue. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce myself to NFB members by way of the Monitor.

Under the Javits-Wagner-O'Day (JWOD) Act, a federal procurement program which allows for the provision of products and services to the federal government, NIB agencies employ more than 4,000 people who are blind, and through contracts with commercial partners, NIB and our agencies employ an additional 1,600 blind people.

Since joining NIB as president and CEO in 1998, I have had the privilege of speaking at two NFB annual conventions. The first was soon after I joined NIB and was a great opportunity to learn more about NFB and its members. The second was in 2003, when I had the chance to share NIB’s board-adopted policy of supporting at least the minimum wage for employees who are blind and working at NIB-associated agencies. At that convention I also shared the concept for NIB’s business leaders development program, which promotes professional upward mobility in NIB’s network of associated agencies and in the greater employment community by leveraging the NIB infrastructure to provide business training and leadership skills-development to team members who are blind.

In 2001 I became involved with the WBU on behalf of NIB. The WBU is dedicated to pursuing actions and opportunities that remove barriers for blind people around the world and is represented by six international regions, the North America/Caribbean region being one of the six. In 2002 I became a delegate of the North America/Caribbean region and joined Dr. Maurer and other blindness leaders in efforts to promote greater opportunities for people who are blind in North America and in the Caribbean islands, where the barriers to opportunity for people who are blind are far greater than in Canada and the United States.

This past December I was elected to follow Dr. Maurer as this region’s president. Through the efforts of the delegates and over the next few years, the North America/Caribbean region will work to determine how it can affect policies and opportunities for people who are blind in the United States, Canada, and especially in the Caribbean, where current socioeconomic conditions create a critical need for greater advocacy.

In conjunction with WBU regional efforts, I also currently chair the international WBU Employment Committee, made up of delegates from around the world, including the United Kingdom, Lebanon, Poland, and Japan. It is developing tools to promote employment advocacy through policy development; grassroots public awareness campaigns; and the sharing of public and government policy, technology, and educational best-practices across international regions. The committee is also focusing efforts on developing WBU-adopted employment policies for people who are blind that aim at leveling the employment playing field and securing workplace rights. These policies will be presented to and reviewed by the WBU Officers Board at the spring meeting in Toronto. Then in 2008 the best-practices tool kits and the adopted policies will be rolled out at the seventh WBU General Assembly, to be held in Geneva, Switzerland.
As the world becomes smaller, the intersections where the NFB, the WBU, and NIB meet and partner on behalf of advocating opportunities for people who are blind are becoming more frequent and valuable. I look forward to working with the NFB leadership and membership to grow and improve employment and upward mobility opportunities for people who are blind.

Like you I fully believe in the capabilities and potential of people who are blind. I also fully believe in the capabilities and potential of organizations to enable people who are blind with the resources they need to obtain and maintain economic and personal independence. All socioeconomic programs must be revised in order to continue to be viable solutions that meet modern day challenges. NIB supports and encourages the inclusion of JWOD program initiatives that encourage and reward greater upward mobility of people who are blind and more effective advocacy, accountability, and results system-wide.

Diagnosing Ingrown Eyeballs

by David Houck

From the Editor: David Houck is the executive director of the South Carolina Federation Center of the Blind in Columbia. He is also a longtime leader of the South Carolina affiliate. Every affiliate president could probably provide a list of names of members who need to read and digest the concepts in the following little essay. Unfortunately those folks usually can’t be bothered to read the Braille Monitor or the state newsletter. Still, the impulses it points to occasionally take up residence in virtually every member and chapter, so we must guard ourselves against them and jolly ourselves and our colleagues out of them whenever they rear their ugly little heads. Here is David’s warning:

Until recent years I had never heard the term "ingrown eyeballs," and it took me some time just to notice the disease. The symptoms are real. In fact, if left to spread, it causes self-imposed quarantines, isolation, and flat denial of the disease by those affected. In more serious cases it cripples the Federation body, which leads to increasing incapacity. In the long term the disease is fatal.
Symptoms include chapter presidents or members who say there is no need to do fundraising, blaming their inability on their own physical blindness. As for attending state and national conventions, those affected maintain that "There is nothing to learn, and after all it’s so far to travel when we have no way to get there because transportation is hard to come by--not to mention that getting around in unfamiliar places is too difficult."

If the chapter president wants to work with members of the larger blindness community, infected members will find excuses not to do anything outside the city limits or county lines. The symptom called "localitis" focuses their attention on their needs to the exclusion of those of others. Another symptom replaces independence and self-confidence with concentration on the physical limitations of blindness.
If the affiliate president urges the chapter to get busy with statewide projects or national issues, the affected group rejects the request with disgust. The usual symptom to watch for is anger. Sometimes this attitude results from hurt feelings or bruised egos because chapter members did not get the attention or flattery they thought they deserved. "After all, we have enough to do in our own area. We cannot be expected to do anything beyond our chapter."

If these symptoms spread to other chapters, the disease will cripple the state organization because one side of the body is ineffective and lethargic while the other side has to carry the ball, working ever harder to meet the affiliate’s responsibilities. Eventually the local chapter dies because no one cares enough to lead it. It will take years to eliminate the indifference of the blind in the area and reorganize a chapter. The health of the entire state affiliate declines. Its participation in the national organization wanes. Convention attendance falls, involvement in PAC and other funding efforts declines, and support for important programs affecting blind people locally as well as nationally withers away.

The cure: Identify the symptoms early and prevent them from spreading. Support your fellow blind people inside and outside your local area. Take part in every possible state and national event and program. Your chapter will grow and be lean and effective. Local leaders will emerge to succeed the chapter president, staff the committees, and carry out state and national duties. The health of the local chapter improves and bolsters the Federation statewide, which improves the Federation nationally, which is good for all blind Americans.

 

Exploitation: Silent and Destructive in the 21st Century

by Paula Kelsey

From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Winter 2007 issue of the Vigilant, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. It begins with the editor’s introduction:

Charles Dickens wrote about employers’ mistreatment of workers in the nineteenth century. Dickens’s stories don’t usually come to mind when we visit Winchester, Virginia, a serene, small city at the top of the beautiful Shenandoah Valley.

When one travels through Winchester, as many of us do, it looks like a quiet, friendly, small city with many historic buildings, quiet residential streets, church bells greeting passersby, and of course apples. One would not see a hostile environment, a reminder of dismal nineteenth century factories that forced Paula Kelsey, corresponding secretary of our Winchester Chapter, to leave her job.

Like many blind people Paula wanted to work. In fact her desire to be a contributing taxpayer led her into a job that became increasingly difficult and eventually impossible. Why did this happen? Who let it happen? Did this mistreatment and exploitation occur because Paula is blind and therefore a minority employee? We believe that the answer is yes.

Twenty-first century exploitation and discrimination are more difficult to identify than they were before it became officially illegal to discriminate against blind people in the workplace. But this kind of oppression still rears its ugly head and still takes the form of neglect and mistreatment. We must never be lulled into forgetting the unpleasant face of contemporary exploitation and job discrimination against blind people. Here is Paula’s painful story:

Hello there, from the previously employed. Yep, that's right. Another blind person back to collecting a monthly check from good old Social Security. Why, you ask yourself. Here is my brief bio. My name is Paula, and I'm currently thirty-eight years old and a college graduate who earned a BA in sociology back in 1991. I was employed briefly (four months) back in 1994. I did not hold a paid job again until 2003. That's a long haul in the out-of-work world. By this point, I was thoroughly tired of being asked if I was looking for a job and tired of dealing with rehabilitation counselors.

Finally, in 2003, my counselor told me about a guy here in Winchester who ran a small nonprofit company with the sole goal of finding jobs for disabled people. Mostly he dealt with nonblind disabled people, but I said sure I'd meet with him. So I did, we talked, and WHAM! the next thing I knew I had an interview at Sears. I worked there three long years. I'm proud to say, without bragging, that I am a fast learner. My job was in the warehouse in the receiving department. I opened hundreds of boxes containing small kitchen appliances, bedroom accessories, sheets, pillows, clothing, shoes, etc., that came on trucks that arrived two days each week. Six workers opened, hung, and stacked for hours on end. I worked with three people from Mexico and two high school teens. My salary was okay, $7 an hour, part-time. I was part of a team.

Sounds great so far. But I received no benefits since I was part-time. Thank God I still had my Medicaid and Medicare benefits.
The first year flew by. However, during that second year, one by one, all my fellow box openers were either fired or quit. I found myself alone with hundreds of boxes (not to mention a fashion truck twice a week) --two box trucks and two fashion trucks every week. Think of it like this: you know how drycleaners wrap clothes in plastic? Think of hundreds of garments individually wrapped. My job was to strip the plastic, which took hours and hours. Then I ink-tagged certain items. We're talking hours and hours of sticking tags onto clothes.

Now that you have some idea of my job and the fact that I went from a team member to a solo artist, let me speak about the pressure. Keep in mind that my responsibilities increased, but my pay stayed the same. Sears has a policy that on employees’ anniversary dates they get a pay raise. On mine I received a whopping twenty-one-cent raise. Three months later it zoomed up to $8 an hour.

Unbeknownst to me that would be my last pay hike. And they kept saying, "We want all the boxes opened in two days." So I had the fashion truck on Mondays and Thursdays and the box trucks Tuesdays and Thursdays. I felt like an Energizer Bunny with the cheap battery inside. If you think this sounds horrible, it was. The closer Christmas came, for example, the more boxes and fashions came in. I felt overwhelmed and exhausted. I was a part-timer who worked forty-hour weeks. In one two-week block I worked close to ninety hours.

So why did I stay? I was miserable. I was being taken advantage of and given crappy hours--night shift, no public transportation after 5:00 p.m., and lousy taxi service. My friends worked days. Some months I had to pay some of my earnings back to Social Security because I made more than allowed under SSI. The main reason I stayed was selfish: I loved the feeling of affirmation when a family member or a fellow blind person asked me if I had a job. I would say proudly, "Yes, I work at Sears." I might have been miserable, but I had a job.

After close to two years of doing everything myself and driving myself to the breaking point, I started seeing a chiropractor. I now wear an elbow brace because of the damage done by lifting so many hundreds of boxes.

Enough was eventually enough; I couldn't handle it one minute longer. I left my job at Sears. Now Social Security tells me that I owe more than $300, and I have no income besides my SSI check. Sears still hasn’t conducted my exit interview to find out what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what could have been improved in the warehouse work I did.

When asked why I finally quit that job, I respond, “It's for the health problems. I was both physically and mentally tired.”
(Please note: this original story was written three months after I left Sears. I no longer have any of the health problems I did while working. And sometimes I want to work again, but definitely not at my former place of employment!)

Did I take my job seriously? Of course I did. Perhaps that was my problem. Maybe I should have become a slacker and continued to collect a paycheck. So yes, I am unemployed and frankly have no desire to work for at least a while. I'm not one tiny bit sorry that I left that godforsaken job! And yes, I'm looking forward to collecting SSI and SSDI, and I think I'll apply for food stamps. That’s what job discrimination and exploitation can do to quench a person’s determination to work.

 

Music and Community Theater

by Stan Greenberg

From the Editor: In the December 2006 issue we published an article by Gail Snider titled “It’s a Long Way from School Plays to Community Theater, So How Did I Get from There to Here?” As a result I recently received an article by Dr. Stan Greenberg, who has directed community music theater for a number of years. Dr. Greenberg earned his doctorate from the Eastman School of Music in music theory, and has taught at all levels and worked in the music industry as well as being active in Independent Living circles. His story should inspire anyone interested in musical theater. This is what he says:

Music and I began dating when at the age of five I began taking piano lessons. We started going steady when, while listening to the radio, I sang along with all of the popular songs of the day. Our relationship became cast in stone when my parents gave me an LP of a Rachmaninoff piano concerto. I was hopelessly in love!

Life as a conductor started when I stood in our living room and waved my arms to the music coming from records and the radio. In high school the music teacher gave me a chance to conduct our chorus. I must have looked pretty strange, never having seen a conductor but loving to move with the sounds. He graciously gave me private conducting lessons, moving my arms in the patterns which are used to convey time signatures and the length of bars and phrases. When I had that technique learned, he told me that, if I wanted to get the singers to understand what I was trying to communicate, I had to look the way I wanted the music to sound. He then had me conduct and would sing in precisely the way I conducted.

My skills were refined in college and graduate school, where conducting was one of the major subjects I studied. For the past fifty years I have conducted orchestras, choruses, chamber music ensembles, and theatrical productions. I have been told that, had I not been blind, I almost certainly would have become a successful professional conductor.

Shortly after moving to Vermont in 1981, I was invited to a party at the home of people who were active in Lyric Theatre Company, a very high-level local community theater group in the area. The conversation revealed that they had not as yet identified a music director for the fall 1982 production of South Pacific. I told the folks of my background; was asked if I was interested; and, before I could catch my breath, was asked to interview for the position.

The questions I was asked related to my musical background and my thoughts about the show. Toward the end of the conversation I was asked how a blind person learned the music and conveyed it visually as a conductor and whether I needed any modifications in the process. I said that I memorized the score by listening to it, conducted in the same manner as one who is not blind, and worked with the accompanist to answer any questions that arose. I said that the only accommodation I would require was the addition of some kind of auditory cue in the event that music was needed to accompany something solely visual on stage.

The rest is history. South Pacific was the first of eleven shows that I have directed, most recently Fiddler on the Roof last October. I am scheduled to direct West Side Story this coming fall and A Chorus Line in the fall of 2008.

The sound cues we’ve added have been unobtrusive and sometimes have actually benefited the production. In the 1983 production of West Side Story, music is supposed to accompany Maria’s exit after crying over the fallen body of her lover, Tony. We simply had one of her friends on stage say in a choked voice, “Come, Maria.” In the 1985 production of Oliver, the cast of boys living in the orphanage file on stage and set up tables for the coming meal. The music is supposed to start when most boys are seen. We simply had a cast member drop a bench that he was moving into place. It worked. Most recently, in Fiddler on the Roof, the residents of Anatefka are leaving the stage after having been told that they have to move. The last person to exit uttered an audible sob, and the final music began.
Our shows have received the usual variety of criticism, ranging from ecstasy to the other kind. I cannot recall a single occurrence in the twenty-four years of my involvement with Lyric Theatre Company when my being blind has been even a minor issue. I cannot imagine a life which does not include listening to and conducting music and wish the joy that I experience to be felt by everyone.

 

Recipes

Members of the NFB of Minnesota submitted these delectable recipes as representative of traditional Minnesota cuisine—bars, wild rice, cookies, hot dishes, lime Jell-O mold, together with samples of the unusual: cold peach soup and casseroles. Happily you will find no recipe for Lutefisk. They all appeared so tempting that it seemed a shame to deprive readers of any of them. Here they are:

Cold Peach Soup
by Mary Trebelhorn

Mary Trebelhorn is the treasurer of the Rochester Chapter. This is one of her many outstanding recipes. She hopes everyone enjoys it as much as she and her husband Ken do. She says, “It's worth every calorie. This is really a fantasy adapted from an old French recipe. You may also serve it as a dessert poured directly over slices of pound cake and decorated with whipped cream. As a soup it will surprise and delight your guests if they like the unusual.”

Ingredients:
1-1/2 cups water
4 whole cloves
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick cinnamon, broken into small pieces
2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water
1-1/2 cups dry white wine
3-1/2 pounds ripe peaches (about 12 peaches)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh blueberries

Method: Place the water, cloves, sugar, and cinnamon in a small kettle and bring to a boil and allow to simmer for ten minutes. Add the cornstarch dissolved in water and stir with a wire whisk to blend the corn starch into the syrup without lumps. Bring the syrup to a boil again and set aside. Allow to cool. When cold, add wine to the syrup and refrigerate. Prepare the peaches. Remove the skin with a knife or dip the peaches in boiling water for thirty seconds before peeling by hand. You may also make the soup without peeling the peaches. Then split the fruit lengthwise and remove the pits. Reserve two cups of the nicest slices for garnish. Place the remaining peaches in a blender or food processor, puree them, and add to the chilled syrup along with the reserved peach slices. Refrigerate overnight or for a few hours before serving. Whip the cream and set aside. At serving time fill individual bowls, sprinkle the soup with blueberries, and top with a generous tablespoon of whipped cream. Serves six to eight.


Gumdrop Cake
by Joyce Scanlan

Joyce Scanlan is president of the NFB of Minnesota. This gumdrop cake is her family’s alternative to fruitcake at Christmastime.

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
2 cups raisins
2 cups water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup butter
1 pound pitted dates
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs
1 pound gumdrops
1 cup applesauce
3 cups flour
Chopped nuts

Method: Combine the first six ingredients in a saucepan and boil for two minutes. Cool. In a large mixing bowl stir together the cooled raisin mixture and all remaining ingredients. Mix well. Pour into one greased and floured standard-size angel food cake pan or two or more loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour and fifteen minutes, if using one pan. If using smaller pans, reduce time accordingly. When slightly cooled, remove from pan and cool completely on rack.

Sesame Noodles with Chicken
by Nadine Jacobson

Nadine Jacobson is the president of the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille and a member of the Metro Chapter.

Ingredients:
8 ounces uncooked linguine
1 cup raw carrots, cut into matchsticks
2/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root
1 teaspoon hot chili paste
2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced
2 cups cooked chicken breast, chopped
1 cup green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Method: Cook linguine according to package directions, al dente. Drain well. In a small bowl, mix chicken broth, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and chili paste. Add to linguine. Stir in chicken, carrots, onions, and sesame seeds. Serve cold or at room temperature and enjoy.

Blueberry Muffins
by Charlene Childrey

Charlene Childrey is the president of the Riverbend Chapter. She reminds us that Minnesota’s state muffin is the blueberry muffin.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup blueberry pie filling
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk

Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter, softened

Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease bottom of a twelve-cup muffin pan. Melt butter and beat in sugar. Add eggs. Place berries in ziplock bag with 1 tablespoon flour. Shake gently and set aside. Combine remaining flour and baking powder together. Stir half the milk and flour mixture into butter and sugar, then the rest of the milk and flour. Fold in berries and pie filling. Fill muffin tin cups three-quarters full. Mix topping ingredients together and sprinkle on tops of muffins. Bake twenty-five to thirty minutes. If this batter is baked in a prepared bread pan, add ten minutes to the cooking time.

 

Creamy Wild Rice Soup
by Jan Bailey

Jan Bailey is president of the Rochester Chapter.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
1-1/2 cups water
9 slices bacon, diced
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cans cream of potato soup
2 pints half and half (you can substitute milk)
2 cups cheddar or American cheese, grated

Method: Cook wild rice in water for forty to fifty minutes. Drain and set aside. Sauté bacon until crisp. Fry onion in bacon drippings and drain. In a large saucepan combine all ingredients. Heat slowly until cheese melts. Be sure not to allow mixture to stick to pan or burn. Serve with fresh pepper and parsley. I usually combine everything but the cheese and heat the soup through; then I add the cheese and allow it to melt while stirring.


Minnesota Hot Dish
by Jan Bailey

Ingredients:
1-1/2 pounds ground meat
2 tablespoons fat
1 tablespoon flour
1 can condensed tomato soup
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
Diced potatoes
Milk

Method: Brown meat in 2 tablespoons fat. Stir in 1 tablespoon flour. Add 1 can condensed tomato soup and place in greased casserole dish. Add diced celery and chopped onions and fill dish to top with diced potatoes. Pour milk into dish till it reaches the lip of the dish. Cover casserole and bake for one hour at 400 degrees.

 

Minnesota Scotch Shortbread
by Jan Bailey

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups all-purpose flour

Method: Heat oven to 300 degrees. Cream butter and add sugar. Beat well. Gradually work flour in. Divide dough and shape into two balls. Pat each into a 7-inch circle about one half inch thick. Place these on an ungreased baking sheet. Prick with fork in several places. Crimp or flute edges. Bake for forty to forty-five minutes. Cool and wrap in foil and store in refrigerator. Cut each into twelve wedges.


Almond Raspberry Cookies
by David Starnes

The students and staff of Blindness: Learning in New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc., held a cookie bake-off in March 2007, and this recipe was the first-place winner. David Starnes is a student and a member of the Metro Chapter.

Ingredients:

1 package sugar cookie mix
1 egg
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon water
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup sliced natural almonds, chopped
Seedless red raspberry jam

Method: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together cookie mix, egg, oil, water, and almond extract to form dough. Divide dough in half. Using first half of dough, place level-teaspoon-size balls on cookie sheet. Bake for six minutes.

Using second half of dough, make teaspoon-size balls, and carefully roll them in ground almonds so that only one side is coated. Place them on cookie sheet, almond side up, and bake for six minutes.

Spread jam on first half of cookies, and place an almond cookie on top of each to form a sandwich.


Wild Rice Hot Dish
by Dorothy Slentz

Dorothy Slentz is a member of the Runestone Chapter, the newest Federation chapter in Minnesota.

Ingredients:

1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup wild rice
1/2 cup long grain white rice
3/4 cup blanched sliced almonds
1/4 cup celery, chopped
3/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 cups boiling water
3 chicken bouillon cubes

Method: Parboil wild rice in 3 cups of water with boullion cubes dissolved in it. When it is partially cooked, turn off the heat and allow rice to soak covered in that water for one hour. Sauté mushrooms, celery, green pepper, and white rice in butter. Add the wild rice with its water. Pour into a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish. Cover. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour and fifteen minutes. Note: this makes a delicious side dish, but you can make it into a main dish by adding cubed cooked chicken or turkey.


Meat Loaf and Cabbage Casserole
by Trudy Barrett

Trudy Barrett is an active member of the Metro chapter.

Ingredients:

1 head fresh cabbage
1 cup white rice
1 pound ground beef, turkey, or sausage
1 cup tomato sauce
1 onion, chopped
1 egg
1 cup cracker crumbs
1 green pepper, chopped
1-1/2 cups ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: Mix ground meat, ketchup, egg, salt, pepper, cracker crumbs, onion, and green pepper together and set aside. Cook cabbage in saucepan until tender. Break up undrained cabbage and spread on the bottom of a greased 13-x-9-x-2-inch casserole dish. Layer uncooked rice on top of the cabbage. Pack the meat loaf mixture on top of the rice. Pour ketchup or other tomato sauce on top. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Serves four to six. This is a warm and hearty dish especially on a cold Minnesota night.


Pineapple Jell-O Mold
by Jean Rauschenbach

Jean Rauschenbach is a member of the Metro Chapter and a busy college student. She recommends this recipe as a big hit at picnics and potlucks.

Ingredients:

3 4-ounce packages of lime Jell-O
3 cups boiling water
1 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple
1 16-ounce container sour cream.
1 cup walnuts, crushed

Method: Prepare Jell-O using 3 cups boiling water to dissolve it. Then add juice from pineapples and enough water to make 2 cups cold liquid. Mix well and chill in refrigerator for three to four hours until Jell-O begins to set, jiggly, not firm. Remove Jell-O from refrigerator and add sour cream (or sour cream and softened cream cheese). Beat until whipped: about three minutes. There should be no lumps. Gently fold in crushed pineapple. Then gently fold in nuts. Transfer mixture to an attractive mold and return to refrigerator for another two to three hours.

Optional ingredients:
Instead of 16 ounces sour cream, you can use 8 ounces sour cream and 4 ounces softened cream cheese.
You can also substitute pecans for the walnuts or use half pecans and half walnuts.


Swedish Tomte Muffins
by Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is a member of the Runestone Chapter.

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 beaten eggs
2-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/4 cups cooking oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups finely chopped peeled cooking apples
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

Method: In a large mixing bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cloves. In another bowl mix the eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Add the apples, raisins, and pecans to the dry ingredients, then stir in the egg mixture just enough to moisten all the flour. Line 2-1/4-inch muffin cups with paper baking cups. Spoon batter into cups until they are two-thirds full. Sprinkle with caster [very fine] sugar. Bake in a 400-degree oven for fifteen to twenty minutes or till done. Serve warm or cool. Makes twenty-four muffins. Note: if you like, substitute ground cinnamon or nutmeg for the cloves.

(A “tomte” is a kind of tiny Swedish elf or brownie that, if treated correctly, protects a farmer’s home and family.)


Breakfast in a Crock-pot
by Amy Baron

Amy Baron is an active member of the Metro Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota.

Ingredients:

1 bag frozen hash browns
1 pound cooked lean ham, cubed, or cooked bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package sliced mushrooms
1 medium green pepper, chopped
2 cups shredded cheese
12 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika

Method: Chop the green pepper and onion. Layer hash browns at the bottom of the crock-pot. Cover with a layer of cooked bacon or ham. Then add layers of green peppers, mushrooms, and onions. The final layer is cheese. In a bowl mix together eggs, milk, paprika, pepper, and salt. Mix well. Pour egg mixture over the layers in the crock-pot. Cook on low for ten to twelve hours overnight.


Cheesy Hot Dish
by Bob Raisbeck

Bob Raisbeck is a longtime member of the Federation and an active participant in the Metro Chapter.

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1-pound package pasta, cooked according to package directions and drained
1 package slice mushrooms
1 cup onions, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 bag shredded cheddar cheese

Method: In a bowl mix together cream of mushroom soup, ground beef, milk, mushrooms, onions, paprika, pasta, and half the bag of shredded cheese. Mix well.

Pour ground beef mixture into baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for thirty minutes. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top and return to oven for another thirty minutes.


Peanut Butter Cup Bars
by Bob Raisbeck

Ingredients:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 sticks butter
2 cups peanut butter
3-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 12-ounce package chocolate chips

Method: Line a jelly roll pan or medium cookie sheet with foil, being sure that the foil extends beyond the sides of the pan to make handles. Place butter in a microwavable bowl and microwave on high for two minutes or until butter is melted. In a larger bowl mix butter, graham cracker crumbs, peanut butter, and powdered sugar. Mix well. Press peanut butter mixture onto foil-lined pan. Place chocolate chips in a microwavable bowl and microwave on high for two minutes or until melted. Spread chocolate on top. Refrigerate and cut into bars.


NFB Metro Cake
by Judy Sanders

Judy Sanders serves as secretary of the NFB of Minnesota and president of the National Organization of the Senior Blind.

Ingredients:

1 See's milk chocolate bar (if one is good, two are better)
1 yellow or white cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1-1/4 cups water

Method:
Purchase one or two See's milk chocolate bars from a member of the Metro Chapter at the Washington Seminar and resist eating them immediately. Prepare cake according to package directions, which will mean using the water, eggs, and oil listed above. Adjust amounts to conform to package instructions. Melt chocolate bars in microwave, pour into batter, and gently stir to combine. Bake in prepared pans of your choice in preheated 350-degree oven for thirty-one to thirty-five minutes. Cool on rack. Serve with ice cream on top.


Blue Cheese Potatoes
by Mary Beth Moline

Mary Beth Moline is a member of the Central Minnesota Chapter and serves on the affiliate board of directors.

Method:
Cut an unpeeled baking potato of any size into wedges and roll it in blue cheese dressing. Arrange the wedges in a cake pan or bread pan and bake them at 350 degrees for half an hour. Use as many potatoes as you like and cut the wedges as large or small as you like. Small wedges will of course bake faster.

 

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family


In Memoriam:
Many of us across the country were shocked and distressed to learn of the sudden death on February 16, 2007, of our colleague and friend Tom Hartig, treasurer of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, chair of the NFB Planned Giving Committee, and a member of the NFB-NEWSLINE® steering committee. The outpouring of tributes was widespread and heartfelt. This one from NFB Second Vice President Peggy Elliott captures the essence of the man:

Tom Hartig was a triangle: equal parts gentleman, advocate, and friend. Like the percussion instrument, Tom could appear solo, but he could also function as part of a larger whole, though, like the instrument, his distinctive voice was always audible within the broader soundscape.

Tom the gentleman was unfailingly courteous to all and treated each fellow human with respect. He lived by the Golden Rule in that he treated others in the way he expected to be treated, and it worked. In his interactions with others Tom demonstrated the respect he had for all humankind, seamlessly, routinely, thoroughly--as a gentleman would.

Tom the advocate proved that a gentleman doesn’t have to be a wimp. He had strong beliefs, not only on the way humans should interact but on what was right, valuable, and worth doing. These beliefs showed most strongly in his work for NFB-NEWSLINE® and for the National Federation of the Blind of which he was an active member, serving as treasurer of the state affiliate and chair of the national Planned Giving Committee. Tom’s advocacy shone most brightly, however, in NEWSLINE, a program of the Federation he loved, fostered, fussed over, and flacked incessantly. If there is someone in Florida who has not heard of NFB-NEWSLINE or an eligible Floridian who has not been offered the service, it’s not for lack of Tom’s trying. With its large senior population Florida also has a large population of those losing vision, and Tom viewed these facts as an opportunity, his own personal vineyard to cultivate, nurture, and harvest by bringing the newspaper back to people who thought they had lost access to that source of information through declining vision. Tom’s NEWSLINE advocacy was like a contagion, and he worked hard to infect fellow Florida Federationists with the same urge to spread NEWSLINE. With its large population and its devoted corps of workers, Florida consistently tops the list on all NEWSLINE measurements, a matter of pride for Tom but, more important, it is the result of his devoted work and advocacy in giving to others the richness of the Federation in which he so deeply believed.

Tom the friend was warm, interested, curious, supportive, encouraging, sometimes to the point of a quick, metaphorical kick in the shins if needed. The speed with which the news of Tom’s death swept across the country was a measure of the distress of his many friends. Encountering Tom, one encountered all three: the gentleman, the advocate, and the friend. It was always a valuable experience and always left one anticipating the next encounter.

Tom, gentleman, advocate, and friend, has gone on to other vineyards. We know he’s finding things to do, bolstering the hesitant and regaling his friends. No, triangle isn’t the right metaphor for Tom. Instead, Tom was a prism, breaking apart our daily existence into brilliant colors and allowing us to enjoy the individual constituents of life’s rich and varied experiences. I’ll always be grateful for this prism because of the joy it brought into my life and for the lessons he taught. And Tom the prism will live on through all those on whom he shed those brilliant colors of life.

Elected:
On March 10, 2007, the Kankakee Heartland Chapter of the NFB of Illinois elected the following officers: Bill Isaacs, president; Frank Einfeldt, vice president; Carol Kwaak, secretary; Ruth Isaacs, treasurer; and Raymond Kwaak, board member.

In Memoriam:
We have learned with great sadness that on March 10, 2007, Michael Marucci lost his long fight with cancer. His wife Marie worked at the National Center for the Blind for a number of years, and Michael generously volunteered his time to the organization to translate our literature into Spanish. In 1998 Michael received the NFB’s Distinguished Service Award. For several years now one of the NFB scholarships at each convention has been presented by the Maruccis to a student studying foreign language or otherwise committed to international study. Marie Marucci has requested that memorial gifts be donated to this fund, which is now to be called the Michael Marucci Memorial Scholarship. Michael will be deeply missed by all who knew him. We extend deepest sympathy to Marie and the other members of Michael’s family.

First Ever NFB Rowing Competition:
Everyone can do it! Young, old, big, or small--rowing is a fantastic way to get exercise. Come to the first ever rowing competition sponsored by Guide Dogs for the Blind, the Sports and Recreation Division, and the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Learn the basics of rowing and then compete in an indoor rowing competition with your peers. Prizes will be awarded for age groups and gender.

Rowing is on its way to being accessible for the blind of all ages and fitness levels. The Concept 2 rowing machine is unique equipment that requires no buttons to push or flat screens to mark. The company is developing software that will eventually be downloadable onto a BrailleNote or other pocket PC device with speech software that will provide feedback on elapsed time, stroke rate, and power produced while rowing. Erg Chatter software will be available to demo at the event, which will take place from two to five on Wednesday afternoon, July 4. Plan to join the fun.

In Memoriam:
We are deeply sorry to report the sudden death on March 12, 2007, of Toni Koehler, the president of our North Dakota affiliate. Toni was a graduate of BLIND, Incorporated, and had brought energy, ability, and commitment to changing what it means to be blind to her work with the NFB of North Dakota. She will be sincerely missed by all who knew her.

Resolutions for Convention:
Here is a message from Sharon Maneki, who chairs the NFB Resolutions Committee:

Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. At the 2007 national convention the Resolutions Committee meeting will be held on Sunday, July 1. The committee will debate and discuss resolutions on a wide variety of subjects. These resolutions will become the policy statements of the organization.

To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Maurer or to me by June 15, two weeks before the committee meeting. If you miss this deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairman before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email, <nfbmd@earthlink.net>; fax, (410) 715-9597; or snail mail, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, Maryland 21045.

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.


Braille Candy Bars Available:
Sweet Tooth sells a unique item--Braille chocolate bars with a choice of sayings including Happy Birthday, Have a Nice Day, Love You, Thank You, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays. The bars weigh four and a half ounces and can be made in milk, dark, or white chocolate and plain or with nuts, Rice Krispies, or peppermint flavoring (usually at the holidays). The bars cost $2.50 each for plain and $2.75 for nuts, Krispie, or peppermint. They are bagged in cellophane and tied with ribbons. All orders are made fresh for each customer. Orders are sent two-day priority by U.S. Postal Service. Shipping is extra.

After the order is made up, the customer will be notified of the exact total cost. Because postage is based on the weight of the package and the distance shipped, the rates vary. Payment is by check or money order only. Make these payable to Judy Davis. As the owner and operator of Sweet Tooth, she oversees all orders. Please allow five to seven days for an order to be processed and mailed. Contact Sweet Tooth by calling or emailing Judy Davis, 32 Vinton Road, Rochester, New York 14622; (585) 544-1853; <judydavis12@rochester.rr.com>.

Looking for Campers:
If you know a blind or visually impaired youth who likes hiking, canoeing, swimming, sports, arts & crafts, campfires, and making music, we need your help. These are just a few of the activities at Camp T in Michigan. We're looking for campers.

If you know a kid who enjoys having fun while strengthening blindness skills, check out <www.campt.org>. Here are some upcoming events:

Family Camp--Includes networking/support for parents, siblings, and grandparents
Adventure Sailing Trip on Lake Michigan GPS/Technology Weekend--Experience high-tech travel from wilderness to city.
For more information contact <Jackie@campt.org> or call (866) 789-9065.

Job Opening:
The School District of Philadelphia has an opening for a Braille transcriptionist/alternative media specialist, beginning September 2007. This is a full-time, ten-month, school-year position.

Responsibilities: Transcribe Braille, order Braille and large-print materials for students throughout the school district. Order vision-related materials for staff and distribute them accordingly. Coordinate the return and repair of Braillewriters and cassette recorders as needed. Maintain supplies used daily by students with blindness and vision impairments.

Qualifications: Certified Braille transcriber with experience in Nemeth Code, textbook format, tactile drawing, thermoform, and binding. Organized individual who will prepare orders, maintain inventory, and keep accurate records.

Contact: Thomas Woodman, Overbrook Educational Center, 6722 Lansdowne Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19151; (215) 581-5890; <twoodman@phila.k12.pa.us>.

Research Participants Interested in Learning Music Theory Needed:
Lauren Morgan is seeking research participants for a case study in alternative music pedagogy using computer technology and accessible software for the blind or visually impaired musician. The purpose of the study is to develop methods of teaching blind and visually impaired students appropriate music fundamentals and proficient use of the Braille music notation system so as to encourage abstract individual composition upon conclusion of the study itself. Each case study candidate will be individually evaluated for participation.

Preliminary guidelines include the following:

1. A minimum age of twelve years; no maximum age limit will apply.
2. Male or female.
3. No music experience is necessary--any candidate with experience at any level is welcome.
4. Visually impaired candidates must be able to use a computer with proficiency.
5. Blind candidates must proficiently read uncontracted Braille and proficiently use JAWS or other text-to-speech software.
6. All candidates must be available for a private lesson each week in person, by Web conference, or by telephone conference--the first two options are preferred. If instruction must be by telephone, I will pay for the call. If instruction is in person and beyond reasonable traveling distance (to be determined later), I will work with the participant on travel arrangements.

What can a candidate expect to learn? The fundamentals of music theory, harmony and structural form; pitch recognition, rhythm, and intervals; a brief synopsis of Western music history and literature; beginning composition, and other topics as they present themselves. The process will take between twelve and fourteen weeks from start to completion. There is no option for failure in the study because each student's specific learning needs will be evaluated and addressed with instruction tailored to provide the tools necessary for success.
For more information contact Lauren Morgan, 1518 Ranch Road 12 #408, San Marcos, Texas 78666; home phone (512) 878-2956; cell (512) 618-0363; email <lf11522@txstate.edu>. Lauren Morgan is a professional vocalist who earned her bachelor's degree of fine arts in music from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and is currently pursuing a master's in music composition at Texas State University. She maintains an active private music studio.

Attention Affiliate and Division Newsletter Editors:
Diamond Tape Productions would like to be of service to you. How? One of our specialties is producing professional-quality newsletters. Since 1980 we have also produced computer tutorials, informational bulletins, and books for Talking Book libraries.

Your newsletter can be produced on regular or NLS-format cassettes, CDs, or MP3s from your master or narrated at Diamond Tape from your copy. Quick turnaround. Reasonable prices. For more information call (800) 845-6322.

Attention Arkansas School for the Blind Alumni:
The Arkansas School for the Blind alumni invite you to convene June 1 to 3, 2007, at the school. Activities include graduation ceremony; memorial service; silent auction of honor Friday and Saturday; banquet, dance, and singing; food, fun, and fellowship. Call Beal and Alice Pickett at (501) 912-8699.

Monitor Mart

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

For Sale:
Ron Kolesar has a Juliet Classic Braille Embosser for sale that has just been refurbished, so it’s in very good condition. Asking $1,500 plus shipping or best offer. He will accept money orders or personal checks, but if you are paying by check, it will have to clear his bank before shipping.

If you have questions about the embosser, email Ron at <kolesar16417@adelphia.net>, or call him at (814) 774-5709 between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. EDT. He hopes you can do business.

For Sale:
Robin Hoerber has two Perkins Braillers in excellent condition for sale. She is asking $400 for each. Interested parties may contact <robinhoerber@comcast.net> or call (804) 744-0666.

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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