Vol. 50, No. 7 July 2007
Barbara Pierce, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 50, No. 7 July 2007
of the Blind in a Democratic Society
by Dr. Jacobus tenBroek
Agents of Change: Teaching
Structured Discovery in an Agency for the Blind
by Brook Sexton
A Report on the Quiet Car
The Media Weigh in
A Primer on Using the Free
by James D. McCarthy
Spotlight on Affiliate Action
This Was No Art Lesson
by Merry-Noel Chamberlain
A Sense of Isolation
by Loraine Stayer
Things Are Looking Better
Thanks to Sight Dog, Elroy
by Bob Shryock
Take a Closer Look
by Lunzeta Chretien
Report on the 2006-2007
Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
by Seth Lamkin
Copyright 2007 National Federation of the Blind
by Dr. Jacobus
From the Editor: Dr. Jacobus tenBroek delivered the following speech at the Andrew Jackson Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday, July 12, during the first afternoon session of the 1952 NFB convention. The convention that year concluded on July 15. The Sunday evening banquet address was broadcast locally on radio station WSM. Dr. tenBroek’s Saturday afternoon speech, however, was actually broadcast nationally by NBC. His speech was not listed in the draft agenda, suggesting that the opportunity to generate a national broadcast developed late in the preparations for the convention and was available only on Saturday afternoon. The speech has not been reprinted in many years if ever. It is clearly addressed to a broad national audience. In parts its message still rings with dismaying truth. At the same time we can observe places in the social fabric of the nation in which blind citizens have made clear progress. Here is the speech:
I should like to ask you to join with me in seeking the answer to what may seem an easy question: Have the blind the right to a place in the sun—or only to a shelter in the shade?
In more conventional terms, the subject I shall discuss with you this evening is the role of the blind in a democratic society. No doubt that sounds like a simple and straightforward issue, clear enough in its meaning if not in its solution. But I fear that the appearance of simplicity may be greatly misleading; and so, before proceeding further, I shall ask you to bear with me while I attempt to clarify the principal terms involved—the big word "democracy" and that other term "the blind."
course means many things to many people; and no doubt its accents and implications
have altered somewhat over the years. But after a century and a half of living
with the idea and the practice, most Americans would probably agree that whatever
else it may suggest, the essence of democracy consists in four indispensable
guarantees to the individual citizen: the guarantees of liberty, equality, opportunity,
and security. Full membership in a democratic society, that is to say, entitles
the individual to liberty in thought and action, equality of treatment, opportunity
to develop his potentialities, and security against the calamities of fortune
over which he has no effective control. The withholding or withdrawal by society
of any of these fundamental rights from an individual leaves him at best in
a role of probationary membership, of second-class citizenship, and to that
extent refutes the practice and violates the spirit of democracy.
To come quickly to the point: Something more than a quarter of a million Americans are today denied full membership in their society--restrained in liberty, forbidden equality, refused opportunity, and threatened in security—for the reason only that they are blind. Moreover, their tragedy is heightened by the seeming paradox that this denial of the rights of citizenship is sanctioned by a society motivated wholly by benevolence and for the most part unaware of its intolerance.
This brings us squarely up against the second of our crucial terms: "the blind." What does it mean? According to Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the word "blind" means, first of all, "sightless." But it also means (and I quote) "2. Lacking discernment; unable or unwilling to understand or judge; as blind to faults. 3. Made without reason or discrimination; as, a blind choice. 4. Apart from intelligent direction or control; as, blind chance. 5. Insensible; as a blind stupor; hence, drunk. 6.... made without knowledge or guidance or judgment; as, a blind purchase."
The word "blind" then, like the word "democracy," has many different implications; but as this list of Webster's so graphically reveals, they are virtually all implications of inferiority, of incompetence, even of stupidity. Language habits, as we know, arise simply as a response to our inarticulate thoughts and feelings; and it is therefore of the greatest significance that society has come to speak of an unreasoning choice as a "blind" choice, and an insensible stupor as a "blind" stupor. Unless something is done to alter drastically the habit of thought which has given rise to these brutal expressions, it is clear beyond a doubt what the role of the blind must be in society. It must, in brief, be a role outside society, or at best on its outer fringe: a role of inferiority and assumed incompetence: the role of a pariah class.
Such a role for the blind would, I must confess, represent no radical departure from historical practice. From time immemorial the blind man has been the object of alternating social attitudes of rejection and overprotection—the opposite side of the coin of prejudice. The blind have been overprotected, like lunatics and lepers, because it was supposed that their disability was synonymous with inability to compete or participate in the regular channels of social and economic activity. They have been rejected both as a consequence of this paternalism and of the time-worn superstitions which equated blindness with evil forces and the wrath of God. In primitive societies the blind were either cast out as bedeviled or left to die as social liabilities. Even the high-minded Greeks of classical antiquity found no place for them in their philosophy of the good life but pronounced them parasites and condemned them to extinction. Through subsequent centuries, with the growth of the humanitarian conscience, these overt persecutions were gradually diminished, and the blind were finally extended the right to live and to be protected. Like the humane societies which developed during early modern times for the protection of dumb animals, a variety of benevolent and charitable organizations appeared in western society for the protection of blind people. This was a substantial improvement, of course, for the animals and for the blind. They were both assured of kindness and a home. They were not, and they are not now, assured of independence.
The issue before us, then, is not whether the blind are deserving of humane treatment; they are getting that. The issue is whether they are deserving of human treatment—consideration as normal human beings and full-fledged citizens, with all the rights and responsibilities which that entails in a democratic society. To many of you it may seem obvious that the blind have a right to such consideration. I have still to prove that in fact they are denied this right: that with regard to the crucial four freedoms of democracy—liberty, equality, opportunity, and security—the nation's blind are victims of a policy of containment and their efforts to achieve responsibility remain effectively smothered beneath a tyranny of kindness.
The real deprivation of blindness, let it be said once for all, lies not in its physical but in its social effects. The loss of sight by itself is tragedy enough, to be sure, imposing numerous and stringent limitations upon individual activity and demanding a far-reaching series of adjustments in every department of life and work. But such adaptations, however painful, can be successfully if not readily carried out, and by themselves need never result in permanent isolation and incapacity. Years of research and demonstration in the field of rehabilitation have established beyond all possibility of dispute that, given competent guidance and sufficient opportunity, the person who has lost his sight can once again make rich contributions to his own well-being and that of his community. Whatever may once have been thought, there is no longer room for question as to whether the blind man is competent to care for his personal needs and desires—such routine activities as traveling alone and shaving unaided. Nor is there any longer possibility of doubt as to his ability to carry on a normal social life and to take part in the central activities and affairs of his community. What is still more to the point, even less question exists today about his capacity to perform successfully a vast range of jobs in industry, commerce, and the professions.
What prevents the blind man, then, from practicing the rights and enjoying the fruits of membership in his society? Quite simply, it is the refusal of his neighbors to take him at his word and deed; it is the reluctance of the vast majority of Americans to relinquish their comforting and charitable conception of the blind individual as not only sightless but helpless, and not only helpless but hopeless. Viewing him through this ancient stereopticon, they continue to regard him as finally and permanently disabled despite clear evidence to the contrary; and with the greatest good will they lead him by the hands off the busy main avenues and into the sheltered back streets of society.
The consequence of all this helpfulness—the crowning touch to the tragedy of errors--is that the blind man himself usually succumbs sooner or later to the attitudes and assumptions of society, and succumbs to them not merely as a prejudiced practice to which he must defer but as complete and literal truth. In the typical case the newly blinded person, continuously in contact with the public stereotype, begins soon to see himself as others see him—which is to say, as an indigent and a misfit, unworthy of independence and incapable of normal association. Holding himself thus in contempt, he will retreat voluntarily to apathy and isolation, almost as eagerly as society seeks to impose it upon him. He will surrender unconditionally to the stereotype, on its own terms. He will sell his democratic birthright for a mess of almshouse pottage.
It will perhaps be objected at this point that the picture has been overdrawn, that the blind of America are not any longer condemned to total isolation. For have we not, through our government, established a variety of welfare and rehabilitation agencies on both federal and state levels? We have indeed; and because most Americans think of themselves rightly as both generous and kind, it is commonly assumed that these public agencies are adequately equipped to handle the needs of the blind. Most people take it for granted that they are prepared to supply assistance payments to the economically dependent blind, to aid their clients in adjusting to a world of darkness, and eventually to rehabilitate them through training for some type of useful work. But it is precisely at this level, unfortunately, that we encounter the second real tragedy in the situation of the blind. For the pervasive social stereotype of blindness as incompetence and inferiority is accurately reflected in the nation's welfare program. Instead of helping the blind man to escape the deadly inertia of emotional, social, and economic isolation, our welfare agencies actually reinforce that isolation. Instead of assisting him to become psychologically and financially self-reliant, they intensify his utter dependence on others.
Though destitution is a poor basis for the difficult task of economic and psycho-social readjustment of the blind, destitution is made a condition of eligibility for public assistance. Though economic encouragement by way of an improved standard of living, retention of reasonable amounts of resources, accumulation of some capital, and income are necessary to translate a theoretical social interest in rehabilitation into terms which have meaning and value to the individual, the blind man who is on public assistance is denied all of these or permitted them in sharply curtailed and wholly inadequate form.
Though poverty begets only poverty, stultifies the personality, and stifles ambition, gross material inadequacy is the rule, the nation over, under a standard of relief which has fallen far below the cost of living and left the blind ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-housed. The means test, glorified into a welfare principle, in the expression "individual need individually determined," has been integrally associated with the precarious maintenance of the recipient at the barest level of minimum survival. Though for the many thousands of blind who might eventually be restored to self-support, it is indispensable that psychological independence be strengthened even while they are temporarily economically dependent, this is an impossibility if, as the means test requires, their scanty finances are under continuing review, their meager consumption expenditures are scrutinized and judged, and they are treated as chattels in custody without rights or powers of self-government rather than as first-class citizens.
Under the welfare system as it exists today, the blind man is treated as a congenital indigent who must be firmly guided through the most routine and intimate details of his private life by the insistent hand of the social worker. He is soon aware of the inferior position into which he has been thrust. He comes to understand that he is the victim of unique discrimination, that other groups in society—labor, farmers, and industrialists—make no such sacrifice in personal liberty in receiving a helping hand from government. And with this deepening realization his resentment is compounded; his frustration, insecurity, and hostility intensified; his alienation from self and society complete. He has been robbed of self-respect and the right to resume a useful role in society. For freedom in the direction of one's personal life is a fundamental democratic right, but it is also more than that—it is a basic human need. The individual who is not permitted to fulfill that need is sharply cut off from the rest of society; and, in the case of the blind aid recipient, he becomes the captive of a system which was designed to make him free.
The pervasive assumption of incompetence also underlies and qualifies most rehabilitation work for the blind. Case-finding is almost nonexistent; and counseling, guidance, training, and placement are severely limited. All too frequently the end of this process is graduation into a sheltered workshop. Sidetracked into this literal blind alley by his training and his trainers, the blind client will find himself at last at the dead end of the road.
If the blind person seeks employment in private industry, in the public service, or in many of the common trades, callings, and professions, he will find the door of opportunity shut in his face. His own demonstration of ability will have little bearing on the treatment he receives. Not his ability but his disability will hold the attention of employers and governing boards; and not his disability but its false concomitant of inability will determine his fate. All will agree that he is more to be pitied than censured, but more to be censured than hired.
With the exclusion of the rehabilitated man from industry, commerce, government, and profession, we have come full circle. His emotional, economic, and social alienation is complete. The energetic, self-reliant, and respected citizen of yesterday—before the onset of blindness--is today a hopeless dependent of the state. The initial shock of blindness had cast him into what by all scientific and rational standards should have been a transient state of frustration and insecurity. But the general public falsely supposed that he was permanently helpless and treated him accordingly. Welfare agencies assumed that he was incapable of employment and built their system on that premise. Rehabilitation workers considered him limited to the economic back streets and led him there. Business and industry, government and profession judged him before his appearance and found him wanting. And the blind man himself soon became convinced that these attitudes were not worth fighting and finally that they were true.
The four great rights of liberty, equality, opportunity, and security have gained a firm foothold in the ideological structure of American democracy. With respect to the blind, however, as our analysis has shown, they are more honored in the breach than in the observance. Excessive social-worker interference in the lives of blind welfare clients constitutes a flagrant invasion of their liberty. A welfare system which condemns the blind to perpetual surveillance while exacting no such sacrifice from other aided groups deprives these citizens of their right to equal treatment and equal protection of the laws. Inadequate welfare payments far below the accepted level of existence deny the blind their right to security. And, finally, the persistent refusal of both government and business to employ blind workers—and of the welfare program to furnish the incentive to advancement—is a clear violation of their right to opportunity.
The nation's blind, in brief, are the victims of a double standard. On the one hand they are seduced by the promise of independence and self-sufficiency emblazoned on the standard of the four freedoms. On the other hand they are trampled under by the four horsemen of pity, insecurity, overprotection, and rejection. The consequences for the blind citizen of society's ambivalence are all too clear. Materially he is denied the rewards and benefits held out by the four-fold ideal of freedom. Psychologically he is thwarted by the discrepancy between the ideal and the reality, immobilized by the polite restraint of an iron hand in a velvet glove—by the gentlemen's agreement through which the harsh fact of exclusion is concealed in an atmosphere of benevolence.
The ultimate goals of any public policy designed to aid the blind must be, first, the emotional and economic emancipation of as many blind citizens as possible; second, their reintegration into society as full-fledged members and first-class citizens. Expressed more simply, the twin objectives are independence and interdependence. The immediate means of implementing these objectives require an extension to the blind of those democratic rights and liberties through which they may be enabled to develop and apply their capacities and talents, and to establish their prerogative to equal membership in society. With these broad goals in mind, it is possible to single out several specific areas in which reformist action not only is feasible but may be expected to provide the stimulus for progressive change in all other areas of policy and philosophy toward the blind.
First of all, the so-called needs system must be abolished from both the law and the practice of social welfare. As long as the unrealistic concept of need—an archaic residue of the medieval Poor Laws—is retained on the statute books, the country of the blind must bear on its portals the inscription: "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."
Moreover, the laws must be further revised to permit more reasonable exemptions both of earnings and property. What the blind applicant for aid is told in effect is: if you wish to get on the dole, you must promise not to try to get off it. These restrictive provisions effectively prevent the client from pulling himself up by his boot straps, from working his way forward in the traditional American way out of charity and subservience to independence and self-respect.
Second, the unjustifiable practice of social-worker infiltration into the lives of blind aid recipients must be radically reformed. The degrading assumption behind this procedure is that the blind are incompetent to plan their lives and budgets; it is the clear demonstration in practice of those dictionary definitions which suggest that to be blind is to be lacking not so much in eyesight as in foresight and insight, in mental vision and intellectual perception. The blind, it should be said, do need intelligent social-worker guidance in the planning of independent careers; they do not need the feeling of frustration and futility which are the product of social-worker captivity.
This failure of the public welfare program points up a deeper reform which is ultimately necessary to gain equality of respect and treatment for the blind. It is the reinterpretation of welfare itself away from the shackling philosophy of poor relief toward the modern conception of rehabilitation. In the new orientation, public aid for the employable blind must represent not a handout to the helpless but an encouragement to self-help: not a permanent charity which perpetuates dependence but an immediate incentive which invites independence. The American people have always believed in the virtues of work and condemned idleness as a plague. From this strongly rooted attitude have emerged both the gospel of self-help, of laissez-faire, and more recently the right to work, the social obligation of full employment. What can be said of a system which forbids to a substantial minority the possibility of self-help and the right to work—except that, if it is not inhuman, it is surely un-American.
The modern view of public assistance for the blind as essentially reintegrative depends largely for its success, of course, upon the simultaneous victory of this philosophy within the sister field of vocational rehabilitation. Far too commonly rehabilitation officers have shared the public prejudice which is typically expressed in rejection and overprotection—rejection from the mainstream of competition and overprotection in sheltered eddies of employment. What is needed is a profound revision of the rehabilitation process on the principle that the blind are normal human beings with a diversified occupational potential, possessed of the right and the capacity to do a full job in our economy. The principle of normality must infuse the entire program and strike the keynote of all rehabilitation efforts. It requires prompt methods of case-finding to rescue the newly blinded from apathy and isolation. It demands a new emphasis on counseling and training marked by full faith in the abilities of the blind and genuine cooperation in developing career plans. Above all it requires the thorough demolition of existing stereotypes concerning blindness in the minds of the public in general and of employers in particular. For ultimately, as we have suggested, it is this pervasive image of the helpless blind—the traditional equation of physical disability with total inability—which represents the greatest handicap imposed by blindness and constitutes the discrimination without justification by which a quarter of a million Americans are forbidden full citizenship in their society.
One concrete means of deterring economic prejudice and safeguarding the interests of the blind, perhaps the most urgently required of all, is that of adequate legislation. A very few states have enacted laws which prohibit discrimination among applicants for public employment because of physical handicap. But thus far the majority of states have failed to take this step, while private industry has been left completely free to perpetuate its prejudice against the sightless. There is immediate need for iron-clad legislative provisions, on both state and federal levels, which will guarantee to the blind a fair chance to demonstrate their abilities. If employers are required by law to evaluate blind workers on their individual merits rather than their class demerits, it is safe to predict that both industry and the public will soon come to acknowledge the great contribution which the blind men and women of America have been waiting to make to the nation's economy.
We the blind people in the Federation ask that the blind be given the liberty of action which is the groundwork of human dignity, the quality of treatment which is indispensable to self-support, the security of mind and body which is necessary to their rehabilitation, and the full degree of opportunity which will enable them to prove their economic value and social worth. But neither the National Federation of the Blind nor any other organization can itself grant the rights which will restore the blind to a role of full and equal membership in our society. Only you, the people, can finally decide whether the blind of America are deserving of a place in the sun—or must be kept forever in a shelter in the shade.
by Brook Sexton
From the Editor: In 2002 Ho`opono Services for the Blind in Hawaii adopted the structured-discovery method of training students. Brook Sexton began working for the agency as the Braille instructor in early 2005. She has recently accepted a job as a cane travel instructor. Brook was part of the first class to graduate from Louisiana Tech’s teachers of blind students program with certification in orientation and mobility. She was the first person hired to work in the training center who had a background in structured discovery. She made the following presentation at the Sunday, January 28, 2007, National Orientation and Mobility Certificants (NOMC) seminar. This is what she said:
Though I have never been married, I received some marital advice as an undergraduate student studying marriage, family, and human development. This advice is something I intend to remember when the time comes: after you are married, forget the person you thought you married and get to know the one you did.
When any of us begins a new part of life such as marriage or a new job, we have expectations about the way things are going to be. We believe that marriage, for example, is highly desirable and that it will bring much gladness to life. We recognize that tough times will come, yet, if in general we approach the situation with gladness, we will make it through those difficult times.
Two years ago I decided to go to work for an agency for the blind in Hawaii that for several years has been in transition from being a traditional training center to one modeled after our NFB centers and the program Dr. Jernigan developed in Iowa. The road has not been easy, and we have a long way to go, but much energy has been put into the effort. Some days I am tired of being one of the few people in the agency with a foundation in structured-discovery training. Some days I am tired of being an agent of change and the person coworkers turn to for advice. At these times I remember gladness--the things that have made it possible for me to continue to be an agent of change and a positive role model to my students and coworkers.
I would like to share my gladness formula with you. The eight points are not in priority order, but each has relevance.
G: Gain Administrative Support
I would not be able to do the work I do without the support of my administrative team. This doesn't mean I get my way all of the time or that the administrators always agree with me. It also doesn't mean that the suggestions I make will always be implemented. It does mean that fundamentally my supervisor and agency director believe that blindness need not be a barrier to success and that they value my suggestions. It means working together to find solutions and to continue to challenge our expectations about blindness. Dave Eveland and Lea Grupen have worked tirelessly to bring about change, and I am fortunate that they believe in structured discovery. They understand the uphill battle we face, and they are not afraid to take steps into the unknown, even though they face criticism from many sources. Without their support I would not be able to deal with the daily challenges of working with people who don't quite understand what structured discovery is and how it can help transform lives. Not everyone will be as lucky as I am, but it is essential to have support at the top to help reinforce your way of teaching. One way I established a relationship with my administrator was very simple: from day one I went into his office to say good morning. I have done this with other coworkers, and it has established a relationship that would otherwise be very limited.
L: Listen and observe before suggesting changes
The fact that I know structured discovery works and have my own ideas about how to go about implementing it doesn't mean other ways of doing things cannot be effective. I remember well my first day on the job and my first staff meeting. I don't recall the discussion, but I remember thinking, “I can't just sit here listening to this erroneous idea without speaking up.” Later I realized that I hadn’t known the students, the situation, or the possible reasons we were going to proceed in the way decided, and I had been out of line to pronounce my coworkers wrong.
I quickly learned that it is essential to understand why things are done a certain way and to observe and listen for a while before voicing strong, contrary opinions. In doing this, I have been able to guide gently and change perceptions.
Vincent Van Gogh said, "Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination. Do not become the slave of your model." Structured discovery is a model, and, while it includes some definite principles and practices, there are thousands of ways to implement a program. Just because I have learned to listen and observe, I have not become a slave to others’ ideas, and I have not been persuaded to stick with the status quo. By listening and observing, I have been able to bring about more change because people know I'm not speaking out of ignorance. I must never allow my imagination to be quenched, but I must also never become a slave unwilling to compromise.
A: Always the example
As a person who has had the good fortune of being trained using the structured-discovery model, I must be aware that my coworkers who want to learn about structured discovery watch everything I do. They learn much more through my example than by what I say. They seek me out when they have questions, and they model their behavior after mine. Even on a day when nothing seems to be going well, I have to remember that people are watching and learning and anxious to understand why I do something a particular way. I often feel that I can't allow myself to be human (I will talk about that in the next section), but I also understand that a blind person who has been lucky enough to have had proper training has a duty to be a good role model.
Recently we went on a field trip to Chinatown in downtown Honolulu. It turned out to be a productive day in which students planned the shops and restaurants they wanted to go to, and the staff backed off to give students more freedom. We decided to drop students off at various bus stops and have them figure out how to get downtown. Again staff was not to interfere. After the field trip a coworker commented that I was an example to the students. I responded by saying: "It's not about me; the students led the way, and all I did was follow along."
Later my supervisor pointed out that this coworker, with whom I don't particularly interact, was giving me a genuine compliment. I later apologized and acknowledged that I was a role model by the very fact that I was there.
Other field trips have taught me that sometimes staff members don't know how to interact with me, though they actually want to learn from me. It becomes my responsibility to be approachable as questions arise about why I do what I do. Also I must be ready and willing to accept constructive criticism and recognize that I can learn from everyone else too.
D: Don’t be afraid of mistakes
When you begin a new job and go to an agency in which you do things differently from your coworkers, you may feel as if you must be absolutely perfect. Recognize that this is impossible. You must be willing to make mistakes and be prepared for the possibility of making them. You will try things that fail, and you will do things that do not build relationships. In the end you must learn to regroup and keep trudging forward.
One day in a staff meeting
a mobility instructor announced that a blind person could never learn a new
place as quickly as a sighted person. This angered me, and I lost my temper
in front of everyone. I slammed my hand on the table and said: "That's
"Oh, yes it is," he said.
"How would you know? You've never been a blind person," was my biting response. This was inappropriate and a grievous mistake. I lost the respect of my coworkers and my supervisor. It took a long time for me to reestablish a working relationship with this mobility instructor.
I wish I could go back and change that incident and many others, but I cannot. However, the next time I can try to do better. I can't let these sorts of things stop me from moving forward.
N: No one can do it alone
Just as having administrative support is essential, you must also understand that you cannot be an agent for change by yourself. You need to surround yourself with people who can encourage you and remind you why you work for an agency for the blind. You need people who understand structured discovery to help you regain perspective and energy. I gain this needed support through my participation in the NFB and through interaction with fellow NOMCs.
E: Establish working relationships
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "A man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions." The only way my peers in my agency will truly understand structured discovery is through observation and interaction with those who believe in it. I must work at developing personal relationships with each of my coworkers. This is not always easy. Some members of the staff in Hawaii do not like me and avoid me at all costs. Nonetheless, I recognize that it will be easier for me if I establish a relationship with each person. They may never agree with me, but at least we can work together on a team. I have made it a point to get to know things about my coworkers--their children’s names and activities, their interests, etc. As I have reached out to various members of my team, we have been able to find common ground. It is important to be inclusive and have personal time--"talk story”--as we call shooting the breeze in Hawaii. Through these relationships I have been able to say things or present ideas that I could never have addressed in a more formal setting. Also through one-on-one discussions minds have been stretched and change has occurred.
S: Seeing the progress
I often ask myself: “Is it worth it?” Then I look back to the year I came to Hawaii; I remember where we were six months ago, last month, and even last week. Looking back reassures me that we are making progress. When I get caught up in the day-to-day challenges of center life, it is difficult to see the progress. If I am not careful, I am likely to focus on the minute details that are wrong and not what is right. Sharon Omvig was the first to give me this advice, and whenever I feel hopeless or frustrated, I try to remember and begin counting all the positive changes that have occurred.
S: Select your battles
Change takes many years and lots of patience. Some battles must be fought, and some things can be let go. I don't always know the difference, but I'm working on it. I want to wave my magic wand and make everyone understand and work together, but I don't have magical powers, and I don't have limitless energy. Therefore I have to select my battles. I must decide when holding my ground is necessary and when to go with the flow. This approach helps tremendously for a variety of reasons. First, it allows me to relax and enjoy my work. Second, I am not seen as combative on every point. Finally, when I am not battling everything that is wrong all the time, if something really needs to change, people listen to my suggestions.
Working for a state agency in which structured discovery has not been the norm is absolutely challenging. I do not have all the solutions or answers, but I do know that it is rewarding. When my students realize there is hope for their futures, when students leap ahead in their confidence, and when my coworkers recognize the power of structured discovery, I am reminded of the reasons I chose to work in this field. My heart is full of Gladness.
So my advice to all of you who work for agencies for the blind is ultimately: Forget the agency you thought you joined, and get to know the one you did. Then work with your heart full of Gladness to bring the strength of structured discovery to your program and bring real hope to your blind students, for where there is no hope for the future, there is no power for the present.
From the Editor: As Monitor readers know, we have been increasingly concerned over the past several years about the growing threat electric and hybrid cars pose to all pedestrians, but particularly to those who depend on hearing the sound of vehicle engines to travel safely. For the most part we have been something of a voice crying in the wilderness with next to no one listening, but in recent months several reporters have written stories about the problem, most notably Raymund Flandez in the Wall Street Journal edition of February 13, 2007, in an article titled, “Blind Pedestrians Say Quiet Hybrids Pose Safety Threat.” Then, on February 22, the NPR program All Things Considered did a fine interview and demonstration on the street in which Robert Siegel talked with NFB First Vice President Fred Schroeder about the dangers of these stealth cars.
In late May two more stories appeared, and we can only applaud this indication of growing media recognition of the problems associated with quiet cars. Any optimism that this coverage might have engendered, however, is tempered by a worrisome decision on the part of automobile manufacturers. We have been urging individual carmakers to discuss the quiet car problem with us in the hope that one of them might agree to develop a low-cost, relatively nonintrusive method for belling the automotive cat. Neither Toyota nor General Motors has indicated interest in such a meeting, but Honda expressed willingness to come to the National Center to discuss the issue in May. Four days before that meeting, however, a Honda official called to cancel the meeting. He explained that the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, an industry trade association, had assumed responsibility for dealing with this issue, so Honda officials had decided that it would not be appropriate for individual manufacturers to discuss it. Needless to say, so far the Association has said nothing to us about the matter.
It begins to look as if the manufacturers will not take the problem posed by quiet cars seriously until the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration mandates that they do so.
We are hampered in bringing this matter to the attention of federal officials, however, because we are working to solve the problem before people are killed or severely injured when they did not hear a quiet car coming. This means that we do not have statistics demonstrating beyond doubt that silent cars pose a genuine threat to pedestrians, particularly blind ones. We request that readers be diligent in passing along personal experiences of problems with quiet cars or media reports of pedestrian accidents caused by these vehicles. You should contact Debbie Stein, chairperson of the NFB Committee for Automobile and Pedestrian Safety (CAPS), <[email protected]>, (773) 631-1093.
Below are the two articles that appeared in May: the first in the Albuquerque Tribune and the second in the Vancouver, Washington, Columbian. On the whole both these stories are balanced and lay out the problem fairly. One does wish, however, that reporters would press manufacturers a bit harder when they respond to questions by acknowledging that they are aware of the problem and therefore urge drivers and pedestrians alike to be more careful at intersections. One wonders how they expect blind pedestrians to use greater care while crossing streets when ambient noise completely masks the approach of virtually silent vehicles. Here are the two articles:
Hybrid Cars Silent, Deadly, Advocates for Blind Warn
by Peter Rice
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Art Schreiber took a walk in his Old Town neighborhood recently--he often does while on the hunt for a bite to eat or just to run some errands. Approaching the corner of 12th Street and Roma Avenue Southwest, he stopped to do what all blind people do at intersections: listen for cars. Hearing none, he started to walk across the street.
"Suddenly, I hear a horn and a screeching of brakes," he said. "The driver swerved to miss me. Fortunately, there was nothing coming the other way."
Schreiber had nearly been injured or killed by what is an increasingly vexing problem facing the visually impaired and, some say, pedestrians in general: super-quiet hybrid cars. "I didn't hear anything," Schreiber said. "It's going to be, more and more, a problem. I don't know what we're going to do."
At lower speeds hybrids run off of batteries, which means the engine makes almost no noise. A louder gasoline engine kicks in at higher speeds. The cars are proving popular, and manufacturers are struggling to keep up with demand. But worries grow right along with the popularity.
"The strides that we've made in terms of training blind people to travel independently are in jeopardy," said Greg Trapp, the executive director of the New Mexico Commission for the Blind. "This is an issue of life and death."
Imagine another scenario: Someone with 20/20 vision is putting groceries in the back of a car. He hears a conventional car behind him, then looks over at it. "That's the reaction that keeps you from backing up into the path of a car," Trapp said. "I really think this is an issue that goes beyond people who are blind and visually impaired."
So what to do? One obvious solution is to install some sort of noise-making device on the cars. "Everybody that we've talked to on the engineering side says that there are technical fixes," said Fred Schroeder, a vice president at the National Federation of the Blind. But, "we've contacted the major car manufacturers many times and really not had a response from them."
The big fish in the hybrid pond is Toyota, which has sold just over 500,000 hybrid cars in the United States since 2000 and leads the world in manufacturing the vehicles. "Toyota is aware of this issue, and we are studying it," said Sam Butto, a spokesman for the company. He said it was a matter of balancing concerns about the visually impaired with concerns about noise pollution.
One Albuquerquean is offering what could become a technical solution to the problem. Mike Langner, the retired engineer of KKOB radio, says an enterprising company could put together a motion-sensing device that could give a sound-based clue about approaching objects. Pack it all together, and it could act as a kind of flashlight that blind people could use to avoid hybrids. "It's all commercial, off-the-shelf stuff," Langner said. "It just needs to be put together."
Trapp called it a laudable idea, but said it's a long way off and could present some problems, such as what would happen if the batteries died. "I tend to favor low-tech solutions," he said. "We really need a solution that will solve the problem that we're encountering today."
by Brett Oppegaard, Columbian staff writer
Taken from the Columbian of Vancouver, Washington, Friday, May 25, 2007
Each weekday morning Nick Wilks crosses just one street. That's how the seventeen-year-old gets from his dorm room at Washington State School for the Blind to classes at Hudson's Bay High School.
The intersection of East Reserve Street and East McLoughlin Boulevard is quiet most of the time. But about 10:35 a.m., when Wilks is on his way back, it's an obstacle course. Parking lots at nearby Clark College are filling. Young drivers on lunch break from Hudson's Bay are often whipping through that intersection from all directions. Wilks has almost been hit by cars there twice this school year. What's saved him? Hearing the uncomfortably close chugs of combustion engines.
Yet what if cars were silent? That sounds like a futuristic dream, a pleasing idea to those irritated by contemporary noise pollution. But it's a frightening prospect to those, such as Wilks, who rely on sounds to survive. Hybrid vehicles are not only emitting less toxins in the air and consuming fuel more efficiently, but they are reducing ambient clatter. A Toyota Prius running on its electric motor, which it typically does at low speeds, is virtually silent.
The National Federation of the Blind has been voicing concerns about the unintended side effect of that silence since shortly after Toyota introduced the Prius, the first mass-produced hybrid, in 2000. The group says these quiet cars are a hazard not only to blind people but also to anyone who needs sounds for safety, including children, the elderly, and bicyclists.
"If cars don't make noise, blind people can't safely navigate streets. This really is a problem," said John Paré, the National Federation of the Blind's director of public relations.
A blind woman in California recently reported having her foot run over by a Prius. She commented that she didn't even know the car was there before it hit her. Several other blind people have described minor injuries or near misses to the National Federation of the Blind, though the organization hasn't kept detailed records of the complaints. The group forecasts even worse accidents ahead, as the cars become more prevalent, unless automakers develop some sort of noisemaker for these vehicles.
Hybrids have become a growing trend in American cars. There now are about 400,000 of them on U.S. roads, according to market researchers R.L. Polk & Co. New registrations doubled from 2004 to 2005, the most recent data available. No pedestrian death has been linked to these cars. But, National Federation of the Blind representatives note, there is no tracking mechanism either. Representatives for the two most prominent producers of hybrid cars, Toyota and Honda, say they are aware of the sound concerns and are considering options.
Aerospace materials engineer David Evans, who tested hybrid and electric vehicles at Stanford University in the 1970s, has been lecturing on this topic, including speaking to the National Federation of the Blind. He says early developers of the technology quickly learned that pedestrians couldn't hear the cars, and his group used whistles to solve the problem.
But carmakers are hesitant to add noise to the environment and to incur that expense, said Denise Morrissey, a spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Sales USA. "The [industry] trend is toward quiet powertrains in all sorts of vehicles," she said. "That trend has raised the need for other drivers and pedestrians to increase caution and to be more aware of the surroundings."
Honda spokesman Sage Marie says this topic is a broad manufacturer's concern, not something that each company should be pursuing individually. He says the solution invariably will come through a collaboration among government regulators from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, concerned groups such as the National Federation of the Blind, and the industry's trade associations, including the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers. Michael Cammisa, director of safety for that auto trade group, did not return multiple telephone calls requesting an interview for this story.
Stein [Debbie Kent Stein, chair of our Committee for Automobile and Pedestrian Safety] of the National Federation of the Blind and others already have begun lobbying the Society of Automotive Engineers to develop protocols for minimum sound levels for vehicles sold in the U.S. Stein said her group is proactively navigating the bureaucracy before someone gets killed or seriously injured in an accident that could have been prevented. In the meantime blind pedestrians feel vulnerable.
Wilks, the Washington State School for the Blind's student body president, said sound signals are particularly important to alert pedestrians to cars making right turns across walkways. Wilks was in the crosswalk between his schools a few months ago when two cars, both turning right, pinned him in the middle. In another incident in January he was about to step into the crosswalk when a driver decided to speed up and make a right turn directly in front of him.
"That was really scary," he said. "I was just a couple of feet from the car." Both times, he said, the sounds of the combustion engines helped him to avoid injury.
The National Federation of the Blind has become concerned enough about this perceived threat that it conducted an experiment this year at its annual conference. About thirty blind or visually impaired members waited at an intersection in front of the group's headquarters in Baltimore and were asked to signal when they could hear a car approach. A Prius went by undetected. They repeated the experiment in a quiet alley. The Prius that time could be heard, but only at about fifteen feet away.
Stein said, "I was aware, in the abstract, that we were going to have electric cars that are very quiet, and something would have to be done to make those pedestrian-friendly. Then, all of a sudden these things were out on the road, and nothing had been done."
Stein said the National Federation of the Blind supports hybrid cars and their benefits. But the group also wants to ensure they are safe for pedestrians. The organization is pitching for a device that makes the usual engine noise: "We want something that's not going to be irritating to people. We're hoping for a low-tech, inexpensive solution that can be an automatic add-on."
The Washington State School for the Blind, meanwhile, has a dilemma. As a state agency, its staff reports directly to an office in Olympia. That means four or five road trips a week from the Vancouver school, plus the 300 to 600 miles a week that teachers drive to serve students throughout the state. The staff makes those trips in a fleet of four hybrid vehicles.
Principal Craig Meador acknowledges the irony. "I kind of look at it this way: The technology is here, whether we like it or not," he said. "The issue isn't so much that we are doing a good job with our gas mileage as, are we supporting something that can be a danger and sometimes lethal to the blind community? That concerns us." He added, "We're probably going to see more of these kinds of things on the market. We need to teach [blind students] to operate safely around these cars, rather than to bury our head in the sand."
To keep up to date on this issue, check out the CAPS Web site at <quietcars.nfb.org>.
by James D. McCarthy
From the Editor: Most blind people know generally that the U.S. Postal Service includes, among its thousands of regulations, provisions for mailing the specialized materials used by blind people. It is called the “Free Matter for the Blind privilege,” and it is very useful, protecting us from paying more than the rest of the public to receive and send the bulky materials in alternative formats that we need. The rules are quite specific and must be followed exactly if we are not to abuse the privilege. In the following article Jim McCarthy, NFB government program specialist, reviews and explains the regulations. This is what he says:
In March 2003 the United States Postal Service (USPS) last revised the rule governing the mailing of items using Free Matter for the Blind and Other Physically Handicapped Persons, as the rule is formally called. Failing to comply with requirements of the Free Matter rule can lead to much unnecessary time, expense, and frustration for blind people. Therefore this article will explain the requirements and describes how to avoid violating the rule.
Two primary questions are addressed by the Free Matter rule. The first is who can send or receive Free Matter mail. The second is what types of mail may and may not be sent as Free Matter. The USPS certainly has legitimate interests both in banning those unqualified to send and receive Free Matter mail from doing so and in assuring that items that do not meet Free Matter standards are not mailed free. However, we individuals and organizations rightfully eligible to use the Free Matter mail provision must ardently defend our right to do so, consistent with the rules. This is best achieved with a complete and thorough understanding of what is and is not required.
The relevant section of the Domestic Mail Manual (the document that contains rules governing conditions of mail within the United States) states that matter can be mailed without postage “if mailed by or for the use of blind or other persons who cannot read or use conventionally printed materials due to a physical handicap." Despite the phrase "mailed by or for the use of,” a person who is not qualified to use the provision cannot send mail, even to a blind person. The relevant section also states, "Letters prepared in any form by sighted individuals, to be sent to a blind or other physically handicapped person, or empty shipping materials for mailing matter described in this section, may not be sent free and must bear the full applicable postage." This prohibition is not intended to prevent nonprofit organizations of and for the blind from preparing mail even when done by sighted persons, but is instead intended to prevent a sighted person from corresponding with a blind person and failing to provide sufficient postage for the mail sent.
Most NFB members already are or easily can be qualified to send and receive Free Matter mail. Proof of certification by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) program makes a person eligible to send and receive Free Matter mail. Verification that a person is legally blind: (with visual acuity of "20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting lenses, or with the widest diameter of visual field subtending an angular distance no greater than 20 degrees”) qualifies a person to use the Free Matter provision.
There may be others with "a visual disability, with correction and regardless of optical measurement, that prevents the reading of standard printed material," who must have this verified by "competent authority," which includes physicians, social workers, or rehabilitation teachers. Finally, individuals eligible to send and receive Free Matter mail must be residents of the United States and territories or citizens of the United States living abroad.
Organizations of and for the blind may send Free Matter mailings "for the use of blind" people. Some who receive the mailing will not be blind. However, by being mailed to a facility where most people who will receive it are blind, the mailing is clearly aimed at the blind and therefore considered "for the use of blind" people. The same mailing could be sent to a blindness rehabilitation center. Sending the same mailing to a nursing home is probably defensible, but the less likely it is that the recipients are blind, the more likely the USPS will prohibit the mailing, claiming it is not "for the use of" blind people.
The rules are quite particular about which items qualify to be mailed under the Free Matter provision, and the postal service reserves the right to inspect this mail at any time. Reading matter must be in Braille, in print that is 14-point type or larger, or on tape or record to fit this provision. Readers should assume that these rules will be strictly enforced when mail is inspected. Readers should note that compact and floppy disks are not listed among covered items that may be mailed Free Matter. Also, if the material includes handwriting rather than type or if any typing is less than 14-point, including the address label, the postal service has justification to reject the mailing for violating the Free Matter rule. I know of an instance where an affiliate included a form generated by its convention hotel printed in less than 14-point type, which led to rejection of the mailing. Finally, mail that complies with Free Matter requirements can be rejected if it is sealed, thereby hindering its inspection, but I have also heard of post offices advising Free Matter mailers to seal mail. I would therefore suggest that, to the extent it is possible, you securely close mailings without sealing them. There may also be instances when a postmaster wants you to seal mail, but you should understand that the next postmaster could reasonably change the rules.
Mail that contains any advertising is strictly prohibited from being sent as Free Matter. This is the broadest single prohibition and the one most likely to be cited when affiliate mail is rejected.
Advertising is defined
in the rules as,
"(1) All material of which a valuable consideration is paid, accepted, or promised, that calls attention to something to get people to buy it, sell it, seek it, or support it.
(2) Reading matter or other material of which an advertising rate is charged.
(3) Articles, items, and notices in the form of reading matter inserted by custom or understanding that textual matter is to be inserted for the advertiser or the advertiser's products in which a display advertisement appears.
(4) An organization's advertisement of its own services or issues, or any other business of the publisher, whether in display advertising or reading matter."
When rejecting an organization’s mail as advertising, USPS officials are most likely to cite items 1 and 4 as the violated provisions. Item 1 speaks of material where a "valuable consideration is paid, accepted, or promised that calls attention to something to get people to buy it, sell it, seek it, or support it." Some may worry that special media publications for the blind could be found to violate the prohibition because of notices that offer blindness-related products for sale. However, these individuals do not pay to ensure their announcements will be published.
Item 4 bans "an organization's advertisement of its own services or issues, or any other business of the publisher, whether in display advertising or reading matter." This is a rather elastic definition seemingly capable of stretching infinitely far to ensnare the mailings of organizations of the blind. However, when we sought guidance from the USPS, they stated that mailings listing costs for attendance at conventions and printed materials lists are not advertising because there is no profit motive and prices do not exceed associated costs. In addition we were informed that materials produced or modified to assist blind people could be mailed free.
This article should help chapters and affiliates avoid the hassles that result from violating the Free Matter for the Blind and Other Physically Handicapped Persons rule. Follow the guidance provided here and you should have less conflict with the postal service. Nevertheless, postal rules are interpreted locally, so you may face occasional challenges to your mailings. When that happens in spite of your best attempts to avoid it, you should call upon the NFB national office for help in resolving the issues.
Strategic Planning: A Structured Means of Affiliate and Chapter Building
From Dan Frye:
The relatively restful summer seems as good a time as any to think about the
future of our local NFB chapters and affiliates. The strategic planning process
is a structured method for reflecting on our organizational direction and for
reducing our plans to writing. This exercise requires us to consider and articulate
clearly our organizational mission, goals, objectives, and action items. For
many people strategic planning techniques facilitate informal discussion about
organizational direction; our larger entities should use the concepts of strategic
planning in a more formal way. The following information on the elements of
a strategic plan is taken from the Training and Organizing People to Serve (TOPS)
handbook prepared by the NFB’s Department of Affiliate Action. Here is an amended
and supplemented version of the information offered in the handbook:
Strategic planning is the process of identifying the direction of an organization firmly based on the mission, purpose, and values of that organization. This planning can be done either informally or through a formal process involving techniques such as brainstorming, consensus building, and establishing shared definitions. What follows is a brief outline of the building blocks for a well-designed strategic plan. Notice that the conventional structure of a strategic plan is that of an inverted pyramid with the broadest vision given first expression and each smaller element listed in order. The beginning of a strategic plan focuses on an abstract vision; the end features detailed steps to be achieved consistent with the overarching organizational mission.
The mission or purpose, the first element in a well-designed strategic plan, is a clearly articulated statement expressing the reason for the organization’s existence and what the organization intends to do. The mission statement of the NFB is a good example of such an overarching expression. The NFB’s mission statement reads as follows:
The mission of the National Federation of the Blind is to achieve widespread emotional acceptance and intellectual understanding that the real problem of blindness is not the loss of eyesight but the misconceptions and lack of information that exist. We do this by bringing blind people together to share successes, to support each other in times of failure, and to create imaginative solutions.
Affiliates and chapters may wish to use some variation of our national mission statement to describe their work and purpose. Alternatively local leaders may wish to develop entirely new language to define their mission.
A section on organizational values should follow. These are statements of what the organization articulates as the ethical and moral framework for personal interactions, methods for accomplishing the mission, and the general culture of the organization. These values should be interwoven throughout the strategic plan. Examples of some of the NFB’s organizational values include:
The third section of a strategic plan should focus on primary goals. This section should offer a list of major areas that will be priorities during the strategic plan. Broad goals at the national level might include realizing progress in the areas of employment, education, rehabilitation, civil rights, and access to all types of technology. Examples of appropriate primary goals for affiliates or local chapters might include passage of legislation, progress on public transportation issues, or provision of individual advocacy assistance to members or others in the blindness community.
A section on objectives is the fourth element in a properly structured strategic plan. Objectives are specific statements that clearly delineate what will be accomplished in order to achieve the plan’s stated goals. A clear correlation should exist between each broad goal and the objectives that will be undertaken to achieve that goal. Objectives must be specific and clear so that they are believable, measurable, and achievable. An appropriate objective in the example goal of realizing progress in employment for the blind in the previous paragraph might be to sponsor and organize a series of educational seminars for both employers and employees focusing on the Americans with Disabilities Act and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
Once the overall direction of the organization has been stated, goals listed, and objectives established, the activities to be undertaken to accomplish the objectives must be listed. Finally each activity needs to be broken down into a series of specific action steps. These should be put on a timeline, and specific people should be assigned responsibility for all steps. It is also helpful to estimate the costs for activities and, where possible, for specific action steps. Some strategic plans include this degree of detail; others stop at the objective stage and leave the corresponding activities and action steps for a separate document called a business plan.
In conclusion, authors of strategic plans should be mindful of the following overarching guidelines that should characterize the entire written planning process:
Good luck developing a strategic plan for your chapter, affiliate, or division. It is demanding but rewarding work.
by Merry-Noel Chamberlain
From the Editor: Merry-Noel Chamberlain teaches blind children. In fact, she is a past NFB Distinguished Educator of Blind Children. She lives in Iowa. In the following story she describes an encounter with a so-called expert art teacher of blind students. Heaven preserve us all from experts like this one. This is what she says:
While working on my bachelor’s in education at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, I was taught to give “wait time” to my future students. Wait time is a pause in the lesson to allow time for students to process new information, gather their thoughts, and perhaps develop appropriate answers, if requested. It also allows the student the opportunity to organize and file new knowledge for future use or draw upon previous knowledge to help digest the new information. Wait time can also give the student an opportunity to touch and explore an object tactilely. In structured-discovery learning this wait time need not be lengthy, but it is important not to make it too short either.
For the benefit of my students, I build wait time into my lessons because I find it extremely valuable for them. However, I learned its importance personally when I attended a class in alternative techniques in teaching art to blind students. Among those in attendance and seated six to a table were regular education, special education, and physical education teachers as well as teachers of the visually impaired. Throughout the lesson two adults at each table wore sleepshades and were required to perform the activities for the various lessons. The others at the table were the "readers" and "helpers" to the blind guys as the instructor modeled how to work with blind students, including how to talk to them. Eventually it was my turn to wear the sleepshades and be the blind guy.
As a blind person with some residual vision, I didn't mind wearing sleepshades. Over the years I have had many hours of training under sleepshades through my employment at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind, Iowa Department for the Blind, and master’s program at Louisiana Tech University for National Orientation and Mobility Certification. So, when my name was called, I quickly picked up my long white cane and went directly to the required location in the room for the activity. (Needless to say, others struggled with this simple task because they were not given a long white cane to use.) Once I arrived at the worktable, I felt someone try to take my cane away from me. I held on tight. The instructor, who was sighted, said something to the effect that they were “going to put my cane over here." I said that I could put it on the floor beside me. The instructor commented that it would be fine resting against the wall "over here.” I didn't let go, starting to lay my cane on the floor beside me. Another class participant, whose voice I recognized, offered to hold it for me. So, to avoid causing a scene, I held my cane out to her. With that my so-called art lesson began.
The instructor placed the long skinny handle of a tool in my right hand. Instinctively I moved my left hand to investigate the tool. The instructor quickly grabbed my hand and warned that the tool was very sharp and I shouldn't touch it. I insisted that I wanted to see the tool. Of course, my way of seeing was with my hands. So with the fingers of my left hand I began gingerly to touch the base of the tool in my right, only to have my left hand removed instantly and placed on a ruler on the table that extended away from my body with the metal ridge on the right. The instructor clasped my right hand around the handle of the tool so that I was holding it the way she wanted. It was not comfortable. With my right thumb I explored the handle and discovered a button, which I concluded opened and closed the tool, so I moved it forward.
"Did I say that you could do that?" the instructor asked me.
"No." I answered. The tool was removed from my hand. I was warned not to do that again as the tool was replaced in my hand. The instructor's hand held mine, and I was instructed to keep the edge of the tool on the table and move it away from my body along the edge of the ruler. All I could feel was the heat and pressure of the instructor's hand over mine. At this point I wondered what I was doing. So I put the tool down in front of me and started to investigate the table.
"What are you doing?" The instructor asked.
"I want to see what I'm going to do." I answered.
"You are going to cut some material."
I reached to feel the material with my right hand, but the tool was quickly replaced in that hand. So I lifted my left hand from the ruler and explored the cloth. I discovered that the material was the size of a handkerchief and that it seemed to be two-ply because it was thick. I searched ahead to see how far forward I needed to push the tool. The student who was holding my cane told me that I would know when I reached the end because I would feel a little drop off. I put my left hand back on the ruler, and the instructor's hand instantly covered it. She placed her other hand over my right hand, and she positioned it in front of my body.
"When I tell you to, move the tool forward," the instructor said. "Ok?"
"Ok," I said.
"You can move it forward now," I was instructed, as she released my hands. I moved the tool forward. I did feel the drop down at the end of the material, and on reflex I closed the tool with my thumb.
"What did you do?" the instructor asked.
"I closed the tool." I replied.
"Did I tell you that you could do that?" the instructor asked.
"No," I answered. I reopened the tool and set it on the table.
The instructor addressed the rest of the class: "This is what I call a problem student," and the class chuckled.
My cane was returned to me, and I returned to my seat without seeing the finished cut material or knowing what became of it.
Did I learn how to teach art to a blind student by a professional instructor of the blind? No. I learned something more important. At times teachers, university instructors, and parents alike are rushed to complete a lesson or task and may lack the time necessary to allow their students or children an opportunity to explore and process new information. I did not learn anything from this art lesson other than how to maneuver some tool forward. I still do not know what the tool was, nor do I truly have a picture of it in my mind. I am only guessing it was some sort of miniature pizza cutter, based on my personal experience. How many students would have had such knowledge to draw from?
When working with students with visual impairments, instructors need to give the student wait time to develop a picture in their mind's eye of the task so that they can walk away feeling they have truly accomplished the required assignment successfully. With such experience the student can then transfer this new knowledge to future use. Problem student? I only wish that I were lucky enough to have more such problem students under my instruction. Spontaneous investigation demonstrates that the student is organizing, processing, and filing away information to draw upon at a future date.
by Loraine Stayer
From the Editor: Loraine Stayer has been a dedicated Federationist for many years. Her husband David is a past president of the NFB of New York and is currently the president of the Long Island Chapter. He also chairs the NFB in Judaism interest group. He is the cantor who traditionally gives the invocation at the beginning of one convention session, ending with a lovely chant. Loraine is a leader in the Writers Division and edits its quarterly publication, Slate and Style. The following report will be of interest to many observant Jews. This is what she says:
“I can’t possibly be the only Frum [religiously observant] disabled Jewish woman in the world,” said Sharon Shapiro, as she told of the despair that used to permeate her life at a conference on Sunday, June 3, 2007, for the Jewish Blind and Disabled held in Brooklyn at the Metropolitan Jewish Geriatric Center.
“For six years after I lost my vision, I was incredibly depressed. There was no one to reach out to [in the Jewish community],” Judith B. revealed to me in a private conversation during the conference.
A sense of isolation assails the blind in the Frum Jewish community. The general attitude towards someone who is different, whether blind or otherwise disabled, is shame. Mothers with blind children tend to hide them rather than seek education, in case others might discover that their child is not perfect. A disability is looked at as a punishment by God for some unknown sin.
Discrimination against the blind in religious observance is even written into Halacha (Jewish religious law). If sighted women are present, a blind woman is not required to light candles at the beginning of the Sabbath. A blind man is not required to light a candle to end the Sabbath. Nor is he necessarily required to eat in the Sukkah (a temporary booth usually built in the back yard) on the holiday of Succoth (depending on which rabbi you happen to ask), because he is not able to look up and see the stars. Even worse, no matter how educated he is, he is not allowed to lain (chant/read aloud) from the Torah, because each letter, each word must be pointed to as it is read.
Regardless of whether the text is available in Braille or not, he is not allowed to do this by religious law.
The conference I attended with my husband was given by CSBCare: Computer Science for the Blind, created and directed by Rabbi Nachum Lehman. We first met Rabbi Lehman when he came to our home to install his Torah program in David’s computer. To conserve space, the monitor had been placed on a shelf seven feet in the air. Since Rabbi Lehman is something like five feet six inches tall, he had to stand on a stepladder to see the screen as he installed the program. The program was developed by Rabbi Lehman and others who were computer savvy to assist those who wished to learn Torah. At that time this program was the extent of CSBCare’s services. However, the program has grown over the last couple of years as the needs of the community became known.
Several years ago, when the group National Federation of the Blind in Judaism was formed, discussion occurred regarding how to fill the gap the Jewish Braille Institute was leaving now that it had turned its attention mainly to Talking Books. CSBCare stepped in to fill the gap.
For a religiously observant Jew, using electronic text on the Sabbath is forbidden. This immediately eliminated the possibility of using the electronic Torah program on any but an ordinary weekday. CSBCare was asked to assist in this matter. Rabbi Lehman told us at the conference that he now can produce Braille prayer books upon request (given enough lead time) in Hebrew Braille. He also has been asked at times to produce large print prayer books. Fourteen-point texts are already available, but many of those making requests need far larger text. One person even requested text in sixty point. Rabbi Lehman commented that this would necessitate a prayer book of some twenty thousand pages!
Rabbi Lehman’s nonprofit organization now gives away Braille displays for use with the computer programs. Like all not-for-profit organizations, CSBCare faces the need to raise money to support its efforts. To date the Jewish community has been quite generous, but obviously the expense generated by producing the programs and giving away programs, equipment, and Braille books continues to escalate the need.
The conference lasted from eleven to five and was attended by perhaps a hundred people, most blind or otherwise disabled. Agency representatives from JBI and Visions also attended. Afterwards we stayed around to talk with Rabbi Lehman, and I was able to see one of his programs, very large-print Hebrew on a computer screen.
Because of some of the religious strictures of this community, it is unlikely we will see many of them at our conventions. Kosher meals aside, men and women often request separate seating and speak Yeshivish, a dialect of English sprinkled with many Hebrew words. The efforts of CSBCare will help relieve the sense of isolation many of those at the conference have come to feel.
For more information visit the organization’s Web site at <www.csbcare.org>, or call Rabbi Lehman at (718) 837-4549.
by Bob Shryock
From the Editor: The following dismal article first appeared in the Tuesday, May 15, 2007, edition of the Gloucester County Times in New Jersey. It is a painful reminder to us all of how much education we still have to do. The job is particularly difficult when the reporter is inclined to be sloppy with facts like the location of the training facility and inaccurate with terminology: has anyone else ever referred to guide dogs as “sight dogs”? Whether we use canes or dogs, it is incumbent upon us all to do everything we can to insist courteously that people use correct terms and try to understand the partnership between user and animal. Here is the article:
Bob Colter's fading eyesight is a deep concern. A diabetic who has glaucoma, Colter, sixty-three, has been legally blind for five years and faces the possibility of one day losing his sight altogether.
But since passing an intensive thirty-day course at Guide Dog School for the Blind in San Rafael near San Diego [actually much nearer to San Francisco], California, the Turnersville resident's spirits are soaring. His new best friend, Elroy, a two-year-old yellow Labrador sight dog he brought home from the West Coast, is making sure of that.
"The dog has turned my whole life around," Colter says. "Without a doubt I'm 100 percent better."
Colter, who has lived in Gloucester County for fifteen years, was the only New Jersey resident to complete the course among the twenty graduates. There are East Coast schools which also match students with sight dogs, but, Colter says, "they're not as complete as this one--it's one of the best in the United States."
Colter passed a mobility test prior to attending the California school. He said he was selected "through hard work." Featuring routine fifteen-hour work days, the school prepares the student and his dog for everyday challenges. The two already are pals who make frequent trips to Philadelphia on public bus transportation to test their compatibility. "If there's something I can't see, he'll stop," Colter says. "Not every Lab can make a guide dog. But Elroy is very cool, very gentle, very easy to handle, and he sees what I don't. It's working out fine. I trust him."
Prior to losing his sight, Colter worked in construction with his father, Luther. He is married (Joanne) and has two daughters (Michelle and Sharita).
by Lunzeta Chretien
From the Editor: The following story appeared in the Monroe, Louisiana, News Star on January 21, 2007. Robert Jaquiss is a longtime Federationist and has worked at the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind at the NFB Jernigan Institute.
When Robert Jaquiss was
a little boy, his parents showed him things. He saw historical markers, animals,
and houses being built. "When I was a little kid, they'd show me how a
house was built," he said. "And I got to see how tools were used.
We did that kind of thing. We took trips and looked at all kinds of historical
markers. I looked at a dead jack rabbit and porcupine, very carefully."
Even though he couldn't see with his eyes, Jaquiss, who has been blind since he was four months old, used his hands. Other blind children, he said, don't get those opportunities. It is his goal to inform and afford blind children and adults some of the same opportunities he's had. Jaquiss, a West Monroe resident, plans to do this through an organization called View International Foundation.
Jaquiss is the executive director of View—a newly formed nonprofit organization (501C3) with the mission of creating environments in which blind and sighted children and adults can work and learn together. One of the goals of his organization is to make educational material readily available for the blind and provide more hands-on opportunities for them to see the world. "A lot of problems that blind people have is they've never had hands-on experience," he said. "If you're a kid in school reading about sea turtles, great," he said sarcastically. "Your sighted friends see pictures of them. That doesn't work for you, so what you really need is a model of a sea turtle."
With this purpose in mind, Jaquiss organized an eight-day, seven-night cruise for the blind and visually impaired. The cruise ship made stops in Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Belize—about eighteen other blind and visually impaired people attended. Cruisers looked at small Mayan ruins, climbed pyramids, visited a sea turtle farm, and got up close and personal with dolphins. "It was an amazing experience," he said of the tour.
Jaquiss, who had gone cruising before, said he thought that this would be a great opportunity for blind people to see. The fifty-three-year-old uses the word "see" to describe something he's felt or touched. Blind people, he said, use the words “look” and “see” the same way sighted people do.
"But of course when we look, we're looking with our hands," he said. "It doesn't make sense for a blind person to say that 'I felt Joe at the store.’ We might say it for a joke, but typically among ourselves."
Another important project Jaquiss is working on through View International is producing tactile graphic books with raised pictures. Jaquiss, who grew up in Oregon but was born in Nebraska, became involved in the book project through his work as a tactile expert for the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore. "Blind people need tactile images for the same reason sighted people need pictures," he said.
In 2002, Jaquiss typeset the Braille for the book Touch the Universe, written by Noreen Grice and sponsored by NASA and the Joseph Henry Press. In 2005 he produced the molds for the book Touch the Sun by using thermoform technology, which was developed in the late '50s and '60s. Jaquiss, who has a thermoform machine in a back room of his home, made 1,377 copies of Touch the Sun, in West Monroe. Some copies have been given away, while 500 were sold on Amazon.com. The books have been shipped all over the world to South Africa, West Africa, and Tibet.
In Touch the Sun the molds for the book were produced using computerized techniques. This technology is important because more information is being presented visually, which causes problems for the blind. "You can't explain with words some information that's presented visually," he said. "Now you have books and a lot of images, and you have to know what the images are to know what's going on in the books."
New technology is helping to explain information visually to members of the blind community. Jaquiss described a rapid prototyping machine that produces plastic models for teaching instruments. For instance, if someone wanted a model of an internal organ, car, or ship, the machine could be used to make the model. "If you're studying Kato Indians in school, the sighted kids have books, but if you have a model you can say this is what an Indian canoe looks like," he said. "If you're a kid studying animals, you can find a stuffed one, but maybe you need a model."
In the future he'd like to purchase a rapid prototyping machine and begin his own tactile lending library. In the next six years Jaquiss hopes to produce a hundred titles, including science, technology, engineering, math, and books on history and art.
"I want to improve the education of blind people," said Jaquiss, who holds a computer science degree and has done postgraduate work. "I have benefited from having an education. We want to facilitate more hands-on opportunities for blind people, kids and adults.”
by Seth Lamkin
What’s the best way to beat the summer heat? With a good book of course! Whether it’s enjoying the wonders of air conditioning or lounging at the beach or pool, sometimes the best way to spend an afternoon is reading. But while having the ability to read is great for leisure, it’s fundamentally necessary for participation in our global society. The ticket is literacy, and this year 334 blind young people across the continent booked their flights for success. These students, from forty states and Canada, read over 440,000 Braille pages in the National Federation of the Blind’s contest to promote Braille literacy. The twenty-fourth annual Braille Readers Are Leaders contest was as competitive as they come, and in the end the top ten winners were announced in seven categories.
Each winner received a Braille Readers Are Leaders T-shirt--complete with raised Braille text--a special top-ten winners certificate for his or her category, and a cash prize. In addition, many NFB state affiliates chose to recognize their contestants and winners in their own way, several including additional prizes as well.
This year saw our greatest turnout for the prestigious Community Service Award competition--an award recognizing individuals who worked to better their communities by using their Braille skills. Congratulations to winners Jack Desmond (OH), Daniel Dintzner (MA), Stephanie Dyke (AZ), Trey Lewis (OK), and Andrew Nantz (OR). Cooper Alexander (TX), Tiana Knight (AB, Canada), and Kristen McCoy (MO) received honorable mention. All of our Community Service Award winners and honorable mentions received T-shirts, special certificates, and cash prizes.
The Braille Readers Are Leaders contest is made possible by a partnership between NFB divisions NOPBC (the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children) and NAPUB (the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille) with help from friends at Braille International, Inc., Braille Enterprises, and Printed Apparel of Catonsville, Maryland. The contest is also possible only through the dedication of countless parents, teachers, librarians, and school administrators across the country, as well as the invaluable support of volunteers at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore.
“As blind people we know from personal and empirical evidence that Braille literacy is a key component of success for the blind,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind and a lifelong Braille reader. “Studies have shown that among employed blind people approximately 85 percent read Braille. Encouraging blind children to begin learning and reading Braille as early as possible is one of the best things parents and teachers can do to insure blind children’s future success. That is why the National Federation of the Blind has created and continues to sponsor these important Braille literacy programs.”
Each contestant received a personalized print-Braille certificate of congratulations from the NOPBC and NAPUB as well as a white 2006-2007 Braille Readers Are Leaders contestant ribbon. Contestants received an additional ribbon for reading at least 500 Braille pages. Not only were these club ribbons awarded for reading 500 pages, but special ribbons were presented to those who read 1,000; 2,000; 4,000; 8,000; and 12,000 Braille pages. Our top reader this year was Daniel Dintzner, an 8th grader at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. Over the three-month span of the contest, Daniel read an astonishing 22,549 pages.
Daniel is also one of our Community Service Award winners. To fulfill the requirements for this category, Daniel had to read at least 500 pages (he obviously had no problem meeting that requirement) and complete a service project that used his Braille skills to better his community. He convinced local business owners that having Braille menus available would not only make their businesses more accessible to the blind, but increase their profits as well. One of the menus turned out to be twenty Braille pages. Daniel completed menus for two restaurants in the area and plans on doing more in the future.
“Many parents and children do not know that Braille is a viable alternative to print or that Braille readers can be competitive with print readers,” said Barbara Cheadle, president of the NOPBC. “Too many blind children graduate from school with low expectations for themselves as readers. The Braille Readers Are Leaders program generates enthusiasm, raises expectations, and instills pride as children come to realize that reading Braille is fun and rewarding.”
We’d like to thank all of the parents and teachers who took the time to fill out the comments section on the contest entry forms. The information provided has proven invaluable in our efforts to analyze and improve the program. One recurring theme we found in many of the comments was the difficulty in acquiring Braille books. While the availability of accessible products has been a major hurdle, the National Federation of the Blind is working to ensure that all blind children have the ability and opportunity to read. To this end the NOPBC has compiled a list of resources where individuals, teachers, and libraries can acquire Braille books. Simply visit <www.nfb.org/nfb/nopbc_braille_storybooks.asp> and browse through organizations offering Braille books at cost, on temporary loan, or for free.
Be sure to stay up to date with information about next year’s Braille Readers Are Leaders contest and look for some new and exciting changes in the contest in 2007-2008. For information about this year’s contest, visit <www.nfb.org/nfb/nopbc_braille_readers_are_leaders.asp> and look for updates later this summer.
Following are several representative messages taken from the comment section of the 2006-2007 contest forms:
Thank you so much for your program. After Ivana had her cancer treatments, the doctors did not give us much hope with Ivana’s academics. They said she would definitely not learn Braille. We spoke with a special needs teacher we learned of, and he said we should at least try. We did, and Ivana loves to read now!
This contest really added to our Braille program. Tanya is tracking better and is able to read more fluently. … thank you for acknowledging these students.
I would like to say thank you for the encouragement of reading. My student has really increased her reading fluency as well as becoming more familiar with Braille books. This contest has really encouraged her to read more. Thank you again.
2006-2007 Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest Winners
Most Improved Braille
Ashley Stewart, MD 9
Austin Ingle, SC 5
Jenna Willis-Johnson, MD 8
Aaron Lynch, OH 6
Michael Coughlin, PA 7
Chris Givens, SC 5
Jessica Thompson, SC 6
Meztli Fierros, AZ 5
Jacob Brooks, IN 8
Jodi Jones, IN 4
Chandler Williams, OK 1,192
A.J. Hovet, AZ 1,039
Hannah Siemer, OH 1,031
Katie Robinson, OH 951
Dalilah Eldomialti, MN 900
Daniel Kane, PA 547
Ashley Sorrels, CA 506
Jessica Dail, MI 474
Eric Robertson, CA 456
Kelsi Hansen, AZ 415
First Grade Pages
Ahbee Orton, TX 2,609
Nathan Clark, CA 1,789
Gabrielle Nicholas, MO 1,224
Alexander Grigalus-Kern, MD 1,136
Brittany Breen, TX 1,059
Liam White, AL 999
Jaecob Mullett, KS 966
Leeann Nichols, OH 865
Faith Kauffman, PA 801
Autum Radcliff, OH 588
Second - Third
Merlyn Hileman, CA 13,753
Eleanor Hardwick, VA 7,575
Gabriella Welsh, WI 4,937
Nathan Stocking, MN 3,999
Alyssa Townsend, IL 3,486
Andrew Zeman, WI 3,155
Mia Correia, MA 2,741
John Frampton, RI 2,687
Claudia Sucre, FL 2,033
Kathleen Budd, MI 1,568
Fourth - Fifth
MarChe Daughtry, VA 9,354
Lydia Elizabeth Evans, AL 7,509
Larry Byler, DE 7,263
Christopher Palmieri, CT 6,462
Annabelle Costanzo, IA 6,450
Austyn St. Vincent, MN 5,943
Lucas Leiby, PA 5,177
Amal Momani, SC 5,057
Dasha Radford, NC 4,866
Kelcey Schlichting, MO 4,533
Sixth - Eighth
Daniel Dintzner, MA 22,549
Marisa Parker, MA 11,623
Paige Tuttle, KS 9,728
Lauren Beyer, MT 7,931
Angel Singh, CA 6,346
Riki Danielle Burton, KY 6,103
Holly Carneal, MO 4,600
Alana Gude, GA 3,656
Ka Yat Li, ON, Canada 3,365
Zulay Valencia, NY 3,029
Nineth - Twelfth
Tiana Knight, AB, Canada 11,691
Dionne Dyer, FL 9,565
Macy McClain, OH 6,404
Kurt Elliott, MO 5,349
Jonathan Wong, CA 4,968
Mark Puzon, OH 3,980
Alyssa Perez, AZ 3,929
Amanda Estes, AZ 3,326
Jennifer Wing-Proctor, MI 3,134
Chris Muñoz, AZ 3,133
This month’s recipes are offered by members of the National Federation of the Blind of Missouri.
Apple Oatmeal Muffins
by Shelia Wright
Shelia Wright is the first vice president of the NFB of Missouri and lives in Kansas City.
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup nonfat milk
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar
Method: Soak the oats
in milk for about one hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray twelve-cup
muffin pan with cooking spray. Combine the oat mixture with the applesauce and
egg whites and mix until well combined. In a separate bowl measure and whisk
dry ingredients together, except for cinnamon and granulated sugar. Add wet
ingredients to dry and mix until just combined. Add nuts or raisins if desired.
Do not overmix the batter, or the muffins will be tough. Spoon muffin mixture
into muffin pan. Combine the cinnamon and sugar, and top each muffin with some
of the mixture. Bake for twenty to twenty-five minutes or until a toothpick
inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan, cool, and enjoy. These
muffins can be frozen and reheated in the microwave for a quick breakfast.
Spinach Strawberry Salad
by Shelia Wright
1 bag fresh spinach
2 boiled eggs, sliced
3/4 cup grated cheese
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped
8 to 10 strawberries, sliced
Grilled chicken strips, optional
Method: Wash spinach and spin dry. Add sliced egg, strawberries, chopped nuts, and cheese. Toss well. Add grilled chicken strips if desired. Serve with poppy seed dressing or a raspberry vinaigrette. Note: Pecans or almonds may be substituted for walnuts. Also raspberries or pineapple are tasty if you want a change.
Chocolate Mint Bars
by Shelia Wright
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
6 ounces Hershey's chocolate syrup
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) margarine
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 1-ounce squares baking chocolate
1/2 cup margarine
Method: Mix together all
ingredients for first layer. Spread evenly in greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for twenty-five to thirty minutes. Allow bars to cool before
proceeding. Melt margarine for the second layer. Mix margarine, powdered sugar,
and peppermint extract together, blending well. Spread mixture evenly on top
of first layer. To make the frosting, the third layer, melt margarine and chocolates
together. Stir well to combine and then spread over bars.
by Shelia Wright
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Honey mustard sauce (see recipe below)
6 slices bacon, cut in half and fried crisp
1/2 teaspoon McCormick Season-All
1-1/2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
3 cups colby or Monterey jack cheese, shredded
Parsley for garnish, optional
Method: Sprinkle chicken breasts with Season-All and let stand while you gather all other ingredients. Fry bacon until crisp and drain. Shred cheese and set aside. Sauté chicken over medium heat in just enough oil to prevent sticking. Cook on both sides until it’s a light gold and cooked in the middle, but not dry. Place chicken in bottom of baking dish and liberally brush with honey mustard. Then layer mushrooms, bacon, and top with colby or jack cheese. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for thirty minutes or in microwave just until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with parsley (if desired). Extra honey mustard may be served on the side.
Honey Mustard Ingredients:
1/2 cup mustard
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup or less light corn syrup
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Method: Blend all ingredients together until smooth. The corn syrup may be adjusted according to taste.
by Shelia Wright
1-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 cup shortening
3 to 4 tablespoons water
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon paprika
Method: Sift together the flour, salt, and dry mustard. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles meal. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of water over mixture and stir with a fork until flour is moistened and forms a ball. Add more water, a small amount at a time, if necessary to make a dough that can be rolled. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and roll into a quarter-inch-thick rectangle. Sprinkle half of the surface of the dough with a third cup of shredded cheese and 1 teaspoon paprika. Fold plain half over the cheese-covered half and pinch edges to seal. Roll out to a rectangle and again sprinkle half with another third of a cup shredded cheese and 1 teaspoon paprika. Seal and repeat rolling and sprinkling one more time.
Roll into a rectangle a
quarter-inch thick and cut into three-inch strips. Place cheese straws on ungreased
baking sheet and bake at 425° for ten to twelve minutes, until puffed and
Easy Breakfast Casserole
by Lois Ulmer
Lois Ulmer is a leader of the NFB of Missouri who lives in the St. Joseph area.
2 boxes dehydrated hash browns (found next to boxed scalloped potatoes)
4 cups boiling water
1 dozen eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup ham, diced
1/4 cup real bacon bits
1 cup sausage, cooked, drained, and crumbled
1 pound cheddar cheese, finely shredded
Method: Preheat oven to
400 degrees. Place the dry hash browns in a large mixing bowl and pour the boiling
water over them. Give them a stir and cover with plastic wrap for ten minutes.
Beat the eggs in another large mixing bowl and add the ham, bacon bits, and
cooked sausage. Stir together. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking
spray. Drain any water not already absorbed by hash browns. Press them lightly
into the baking pan. Bake for fifteen minutes or until they just start to brown.
Remove from oven and pour egg mixture over the hash browns. Return to the oven
for fifteen to twenty minutes or until the eggs are almost set. Remove from
oven and sprinkle cheese over the top. Return to the oven for five to seven
minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from the oven and let
rest for ten minutes. Cut in squares and serve with a side of fresh fruit and
juice for an easy meal.
by Lois Ulmer
1 jar dill pickle spears, any flavor
1 16-ounce package thinly sliced deli ham
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
Method: Drain the pickles
in the colander. Place several layers of paper towels on a plate and lay the
pickles on the towels. Use another couple of paper towels to dry the pickles
thoroughly. Separate the ham slices carefully and dry them with paper towels
as well. On a dinner plate place a slice of the ham with the long side towards
you. Carefully spread about a teaspoon of the cream cheese on the ham. Place
a pickle spear on the long side closest to you. Begin rolling the pickle in
the ham slice. Place it on a serving plate, seam-side down. Repeat until you
run out of pickles or ham. Place the serving plate in the refrigerator for about
a half hour. Before serving, cut the rolls in about four chunks and secure each
with a toothpick. These make great little appetizers.
by Lois Ulmer
1 package white cake mix
1 30-ounce can purple plums, chopped, drained, and pitted (reserve the juice)
1 16-ounce can dark sweet red Bing cherries, pitted and drained (reserve the juice)
1 stick butter, not margarine
Method: Preheat oven to
375 degrees. In a microwave-safe dish or measuring cup melt a half stick of
the butter. In another small bowl place half of the dry cake mix and set aside.
In a 13-by-9-inch cake pan place the rest of the dry cake mix. Spread it across
the pan and pour the butter over the dry mix. Using a spoon, stir the dry cake
mix and the butter a little and pat the mixture down in the bottom of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl place the plums and the cherries. Mix together. Pour
the plum and cherry mixture over the crust in the pan. Melt the other half stick
of butter and pour over the reserved cake mix. Using hands, mix together the
dry cake mix and the butter until it resembles crumbs. Sprinkle over the fruit.
Bake for twenty to twenty-five minutes or until the top crumbs are slightly
browned and the fruit mix is bubbly. Remove from the oven and let cool for about
ten minutes. Served with a dip of vanilla ice cream, it is very good.
by Dan Flasar
Dan Flasar is the Webmaster for the NFB of Missouri and lives in the St. Louis area. He explains that red-cooking is an old Chinese technique that can be used for meat, poultry, or fish. The times just need to be modified for each one. It involves simmering the food being cooked in a mixture of soy sauce, water, sherry or wine, and spices. It's simple to do; the fat melts out, leaving the meat very lean, tender, and flavorful. Here's the basic recipe.
1 2-pound boneless pork tenderloin, cut into 2-inch chunks
4 ounces (1/4 cup) Kikkoman low-sodium soy sauce (don’t use La Choy)
A 2-inch piece fresh ginger root, cut into big slices
1 cup dry sherry or dry red or white wine
A big squirt of honey
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 pieces star anise (optional)
1 small onion, cut into big pieces
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
Method: Place all ingredients in a deep pot and add enough water to cover the meat by a few inches. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for forty-five minutes. Remove meat to a platter and serve. Meat is so tender it falls apart. Goes well with a salad, steamed or microwaved carrots and potatoes, and fresh fruit for dessert.
Notes: La Choy and store-brand
soy sauces are chemically brewed and taste very different from Asian soy sauce.
Kikkoman is available in most grocery stores. Star anise is a Chinese spice
that can be found in large supermarkets or Asian grocery stores. A small jar
will last for years. It is mostly used in soups and stews. Use fresh ginger
root only. This is a basic recipe--you can modify it any way you want. Try red
wine instead of white, experiment with other spices, or add carrots and vegetables
to the cooking liquid fifteen minutes before end of cooking. This recipe works
well with beef also and perhaps with lamb. If you use it with poultry pieces,
reduce the time to thirty minutes; for seafood, cook no more than fifteen minutes.
By increasing the amount of cooking liquid, you can cook even a small turkey
with great success.
by Gail Bryant
Gail Bryant is a longtime member of the NFB of Missouri and lives in Columbia. Her husband Ed has recently retired as the editor of the Voice of the Diabetic.
10 ounces spaghetti
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled (optional), seeded, and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled (optional), seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup honey
1 8-ounce bottle Italian dressing
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons seasoned salt
Method: Cook spaghetti
according to package directions. Add all other ingredients and gently toss.
Chill in refrigerator overnight.
Hamburger Up-Side-Down Pie
by Gail Bryant
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 pound ground meat
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 green pepper, chopped
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 can ripe or green olives
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 package biscuit mix or can refrigerator biscuits
Method: In oven-safe frying pan brown onion, ground meat, and green pepper in oil until onion is transparent. Drain. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for a few minutes. Cover with a biscuit dough prepared according to package directions. Prick the top and bake at 425 degrees for twenty minutes or until biscuit crust is browned and pie is bubbly. Remove from oven, loosen edges, and invert onto serving plate. Serves four to six. If you like, instead of making a biscuit crust for top, cover surface of pie with the biscuits in a can found in the refrigerator case at the store.
by Gail Bryant
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 cup Monterey jack cheese, shredded
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped
5 10-inch flour tortillas
Method: Combine the cream
cheese, sour cream, seasoned salt, and garlic salt in a large mixer bowl. Beat
at medium speed until blended, scraping the bowl occasionally. Stir in the Monterey
jack cheese, red onion, and green olives. Then stir in the black beans. Spread
the mixture over one side of each of the tortillas; roll tightly to enclose
the filling. Chill tightly wrapped in plastic for at least two hours. Cut into
3/4-inch slices just before serving. Yields fifty pieces.
by Cheryl Owens
Cheryl Owens is an active member of the NFB of Missouri and lives in Columbia.
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 cups sugar
2 10-ounce boxes frozen strawberries, thawed but undrained (reserve a little of the syrup for use in the glaze)
1-1/4 cups cooking oil
Chopped nuts, optional
Method: Mix dry ingredients. Then add frozen strawberries, eggs, oil, and nuts. Stir to mix. Pour batter into two greased and floured loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for forty to forty-five minutes. When done, allow to cool slightly before removing from pans. While still slightly warm, cover with the following glaze before serving.
Approximately 3 cups powdered sugar
Reserved juice from strawberries
Method: Add juice and
coffee to sugar to form a glaze. Make it thin enough to pour over warm bread
so that it dribbles down over the sides.
by Cheryl Owens
1 can corn
1 can creamed corn
1 package Jiffy cornbread mix
1/2 cup margarine or butter, cubed
8 ounces sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cheddar cheese (reserve 1/2 cup as topping)
Method: Combine all ingredients in a greased baking dish, reserving a half cup of the shredded cheese for later. Bake at 350 degrees for fifty to sixty minutes. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake five to ten minutes more.
News from the Federation Family
The Metro Chapter of the NFB of Minnesota held its annual elections at its May meeting. The following people were elected to the board: president, Pat Barrett; first vice president, Sheila Koenig; second vice president, Lori Brown; secretary, Charlotte Czarnecki; and treasurer, Jeff Thompson.
Take a Stand:
We recently received the following brief article that appeared in the Spring/Summer issue of the Merchant Messenger, the publication of the National Association of Blind Merchants:
The Tennessee Business Enterprises Program, long considered to be one of the shining stars in Randolph Sheppard, has survived a recent legislative attack. The blind vendors, led by a group of NFB and Tennessee Association of Blind Merchants members, stood strong and fought off the challenge.
A bill was introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly to exempt jails from the state’s Little Randolph Sheppard priority. Tennessee has been recognized nationally for the success it has had in securing inmate commissaries for its blind vendors to manage and operate. "Jail commissaries are our most lucrative vending facilities," explains Kim Williams, TABM president and NABM secretary. "That explains why they are after us." Six of Tennessee's top-ten earning facilities are inmate commissaries. "We don't have troop dining in our state," Williams explains. "These are the equivalent of our troop dining facilities."
Thanks to the efforts of the blind vendors, the legislative sponsors could not get enough votes to pass their ill-intentioned bill. However, they weren't ready to quit, so they amended their proposed legislation to call for a legislative study committee of the entire BE program. They thought the vendors would not oppose a study committee, but they were wrong. The vendors knew that this wasn't a real study committee. Instead it was a witch-hunt and a way to get information that they could use to hurt the program. "If it had been a fair and open study, we wouldn't have opposed it, but we knew the sponsors had their own agenda and that we would not get a fair shake," Williams said.
The vendors fought on and
gathered more and more support for their position opposing the study. The bill
was eventually killed, and Tennessee's vendors celebrated the victory. The vendors
fought the good fight and are pleased about the support they received.
"We've learned a lot about politics in Tennessee," Williams laughs. "The good news is we have more people on the Hill who are proud of our program than those who want to destroy us."
It is eerie how similar Tennessee's situation is to what we see happening on the national scene. They are targeting the high-income facilities. There's talk about opening up the program to other disabilities. And then they call for studies in hopes of finding something they can use against the program. But a victory in Tennessee sends a signal to vendors in other states. We have a program to be proud of, and we need to defend it.
Ready or Not, Here
With October just a few months away, it is time for your chapter to begin making plans for 2007 Meet the Blind Month activities. There are plenty of opportunities to locate suitable venues if you begin planning soon.
Many communities have fall festivals that allow your members to talk to their neighbors about blindness. Sometimes the festival organizers provide tables and signage for the exhibitors. If this is the case, then your team just shows up with handout literature. Many chapter organizers have found Wal-Mart or other big-box stores an excellent location to meet and greet hundreds of people in a short period of time. At these types of venues a fundraising component can be added to make the day both educational and profitable for your chapter. If you have Krispy Kreme in your area or a local bakery, speak with them about selling some of their specialties.
Our Braille Is Beautiful program is designed so that it can be shared with a class of students or at a service club meeting like the Lions or Rotary. The Braille Is Beautiful video set is available to chapter leaders at no cost if they make arrangements for members to present the program to children or adults.
Whatever programs you choose, remember to provide an opportunity for your members to demonstrate techniques that show that you accomplish everyday tasks, just in a slightly different way. Assistive technology, such as the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader, can also be demonstrated to add a high-tech component to your display.
This year it is easier than ever to share your plans with the national office and order free literature at the same time. NFB literature, including Braille alphabet cards, is available again in multiple-size packets to speed up the order process. Find Meet the Blind Month information and order forms on our Web site (nfb.org). Because of the popularity and continued growth of Meet the Blind Month, the literature order shipment cutoff date this year is Friday, September 14. To guarantee your delivery of materials for October activities, be sure to place your order by that date. For more information or to brainstorm about activities you can plan, contact NFB Director of Special Projects Jerry Lazarus by calling (410) 659-9314, extension 2297, or by sending an email to <[email protected]>.
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.
for Folks with Disabilities throughout Vermont:
Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports is a nonprofit organization empowering and providing recreational opportunities for individuals with disabilities. We promote independence and further equality through access and instruction to sports and recreational activities. We have a number of locations for summer programs throughout Vermont--Stoughton Pond in Springfield, Lake Bomoseen in Bomoseen, and the Lake Champlain Sailing Center in Burlington. Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports provides opportunities to clients with a wide array of cognitive and physical disabilities. We provide adaptive techniques and equipment to accommodate the needs of each client.
Summer programs are offered seven days a week starting June 25 and provide sailing, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, horseback riding, hiking, and rock climbing. Group and private outings available and scholarships offered. For more information contact Donna Stanley for southern Vermont programs (802) 786-4991, <[email protected]>, or Maggie Burke for northern Vermont programs (802) 343-1193, <[email protected]>.
A retired artist and quilter at Eyepatch Studio offers Touchtalk Nap Quilts. Pick your colors, themes, and some textures. These are tactile, textile-art quilts measuring about five-by-six feet in four sections. Each section uses raised items like beads, zippers, buttons, and pockets to help parents, teachers, and close caregivers interest and challenge blind or low-vision children. Quilts can carry out favorite themes such as dinosaurs, animal friends, etc. Costs range from $75 to $125, which includes no profit for the artist. She is happy to provide textile samples and a cassette lecture in the design phase and activity instructions when quilt is complete. Call for an order form in print or on cassette (248) 874-0049. Ask for CT Walker.
David Houck, director of the Federation Center of the Blind, reports as follows in the May 23, 2007, NFB of South Carolina “Positive Note”: Saturday, May 19, was a beautiful sunny day with just a slight breeze as twenty-six Columbia Chapter blind volunteers made their way throughout the day to the Second Annual Rosewood Crawfish Festival. We did not come just to listen to the bands, eat crawfish, or participate in the many avenues of entertainment available (although many did do just that). We came wearing our light green Crawfish Festival staff T-shirts to work twenty-seven of the thirty-six entry-gate volunteer slots. Imagine blind individuals being the first point of contact for the estimated 8,000 to 10,000 festival goers, taking pre-sold festival tickets, receiving their $10 entry fee (even making change whenever necessary), and placing the entry wrist bands on their wrists. One person at each gate was responsible for stamping the arm of anyone leaving the festival but intending to come back.
This was a great opportunity for the sighted public, not to mention the Rosewood Merchants Association, who put on the event, to see that blind people were doing things normally accomplished by the sighted. Incoming traffic was high throughout the day, and we received compliments about our work. Those who participated in last year's first Crawfish Festival were glad to come back and volunteer again this year. As was the case last year, the Federation Center was named a recipient of a portion of the festival proceeds. In 2006 the Federation Center received $1,000. The point is that to many of us who are blind this was a demonstration of what we know we can do; to the sighted public it was proof that we really can do what we say we can.
NBP Seeks New President:
The National Braille Press, a leading nonprofit Braille printing and publishing house, currently seeks a new president. Founded in 1927 to promote the literacy of blind children through Braille, NBP has recently completed a three-year strategic plan, enabling the organization to expand its services and further its mission of supporting the integration of blind people into society, the workplace, and their communities by providing equitable access to information.
This position represents an exciting opportunity to take an organization that has earned widespread respect and credibility in the field of blindness to its next level of excellence and growth, both nationally and internationally. The president will serve as NBP's chief spokesperson, building and maintaining governmental and inter-organizational alliances and participating in public initiatives that relate to NBP's mission. She or he will be responsible for implementing and executing the initiatives of the long-range strategic planning process, as well as providing leadership in staff and board recruitment, fundraising, and administration.
The board seeks a charismatic, articulate leader with a proven track record of sound, effective leadership in a business or large nonprofit environment and with evidence of excellent management, relationship-building, and organizational development skills. She or he should possess an entrepreneurial spirit with experience leading change and/or raising the visibility of an organization in addition to an understanding of fundraising. The ideal candidate will have recognized expertise in the field of blindness.
To express your interest, in confidence, about this position or to make a candidate recommendation, please contact Mary Wheeler or Jennifer Jones at DRG, Executive Search Consultants for the Nonprofit Sector. We thank you in advance for your help with this important search. Inquiries should be sent to <[email protected]>.
Brief Report from Guide Dogs for the Blind:
At last year’s national convention in Dallas, Charles Nathan and Brad Hibbard, the directors of training on the San Rafael and Oregon campuses, were given the opportunity to discuss some of Guide Dogs for the Blind’s hiring initiatives. At that time Charles and Brad discussed Guide Dogs’ ongoing efforts to be a model employer, and in support of that initiative they specifically discussed examining opportunities within the training department for blind applicants. During this process Guide Dogs for the Blind sought input and guidance from a variety of sources, including the National Federation of the Blind and Louisiana Tech University. In addition, during the past two years we implemented trial projects, each conducted by Guide Dog alumni, to determine the accessibility of two positions within the training department, a canine welfare technician, responsible for dog care and kennel enrichment, and a guide dog mobility instructor. We are very pleased to announce that we have filled five positions within the training department, and we are hoping that, by the time this article is printed, we will have filled a sixth position with blind individuals who we feel will bring tremendous value to our program.
Guide Dogs for the Blind alumni Leisa Sekhon and Jessica Gonzalez have joined Guide Dogs as canine welfare technicians. Stacy Patnode and Erin Rumer have recently filled newly created positions as training/class specialists, in which they will be responsible for providing insights into the guide dog training program from the perspective of a blind traveler who is proficient in both cane and guide dog use. These staff members will provide effective student education and mentoring during student class training, hands-on dog training and care, and staff education. We have also filled one residence attendant position with Alumna Erin Lauridsen, a position that will provide supplemental support to our instructor team by being present for students in our residential dormitory setting during off-peak hours of instruction, including overnight stays during the week. In addition, the residence attendant will assist students in training with theoretical and practical campus and town orientation, provide peer mentoring, and impart guide dog-related care and education. Stacy Patnode and Erin Rumer have been at the national convention in Atlanta this summer, where they enjoyed sharing some of their experiences working in their new roles.
Senior Site, New
AFB Web Site:
A major public health issue is brewing in America. Over the next two decades rates of vision loss from diseases like age-related macular degeneration are expected to double as the nation’s seventy-eight million baby boomers reach retirement age. To help prepare for this dramatic increase in Americans with vision loss and to help the 6.5 million Americans over age 65 currently experiencing age-related vision loss, the American Foundation for the Blind has created a proactive virtual vision center that encourages older adults to live independently and productively with vision loss.
Available using a prominent link on AFB’s home page <www.afb.org/seniorsite>, AFB Senior Site focuses on common sense and daily living solutions to help seniors with vision loss better adjust to their changing eyesight. It will also connect seniors and family members to local services and spotlight the wide range of assistive living products available to people with vision loss.
The site has five main sections: Understanding Vision Loss, Finding Help and Support, Daily Living, Changing Your Home, and Fitness and Fun. Visitors to the site will also find inspiring video testimonials from seniors who aren’t letting their vision loss slow them down, as well as sections on exercise and travel and recreational opportunities for people with vision loss. In the near future Senior Site will also contain message boards, blogs, and support group links designed to foster a sense of community among seniors with vision loss and family members.
Like the rest of the AFB Web site, Senior Site is designed with adjustable text, color, and contrast to make it accessible to those with low vision. The site also meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines so blind or low-vision users can navigate the site using voice browser technology. Please send your comments and ideas for additional content to <[email protected]>.
Book for Blind
Messianic Believers Available in Braille:
The life-changing book, Who Is Israel? Past, Present, and Future, by Batya Ruth Wootten, is now available in Braille (625 pages in six volumes). Using Scripture as her base, Wootten explains the Church and Israel. She explains that long ago the Father divided Israel into two houses, Ephraim (Israel) and Judah. They were sent in two directions to accomplish two purposes. Now, in this last day, He wants the two to come together, that they might confirm His truth in the earth (1 Kings 12:15,24; Hosea 1:11; John 8:17). Read this book and be encouraged in your faith.
For more information contact Penny MacPherson at <[email protected]>. To order your Braille copy, send a check or money order for $62.50 to the transcriber, Penny MacPherson, 18427 Moorhaven Drive, Spring Hill, Florida 34610.
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.
Two Perkins manual Braillewriters for sale. First Brailler is brand new, never used, and includes dust cover and printed and Braille instructions. Asking $400 or best offer. Second Brailler is used but in perfect working condition. Asking $300 or best offer. Will ship within U.S. Please email Erika at <[email protected]> for more information.
Free Books and
Ted Lennox hopes to find good homes for several items.
1. The Official Book on Formatting Braille Books (in Braille) was published by the American Printing House for the Blind about four years ago, so it is up to date.
2. The Laws of Prosperity by Catherine Ponder was published back in the eighties and is an excellent book on finances.
3. Two Braille ’n Speak Scholars with one Braille manual.
4. A VersaPoint Braille embosser is in excellent working condition, but the left side, where the paper is fastened, will not lock. The paper lock needs to be fixed. I believe the right handyman would be able to get this great piece of equipment working well. If someone wants it, I'd be glad to pay the cost of shipping. I'd just like to have it being used.
If interested in any of
these items, contact Ted at email <[email protected]>, or call him at
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.
The National Federation of the Blind has marched and sung its way to freedom over the last sixty-seven years. When Federationists gather, they often enjoy singing the songs that have rallied blind people and expressed the frustration and sometimes anger that the members of a minority group often feel. Here are the lyrics of three NFB songs.
The NFB Battle
Tune: The Battle Hymn of the Republic
Words by Floyd Fields and Josephine Huff
Blind eyes have seen the vision of the Federation way.
New White Cane legislation brings the dawn of a new day.
The right of the blind to organize is truly here to stay.
Our cause goes marching on.
Glory, glory, Federation
Glory, glory, Federation
Glory, glory, Federation,
Our cause goes marching on.
We have seen it in the action of four hundred chapters strong.
Good leadership and courage have righted many a wrong.
Let’s aid NFB’s program, and join in its battle song.
Our cause goes marching on.
tenBroek has sounded trumpet which shall never sound “Retreat.”
We have sifted out the hearts of blind before our judgment seat.
Oh, be swift all blind to answer, and be jubilant your feet.
Our cause goes marching on.
To aid the blind’s long struggle we have formed the NFB
To free them from their bondage of workshop and agency,
To give a hand to all the blind wherever they may be.
Our cause goes marching on.
I’ve Been Working in the Workshop
Tune: I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
Words by the (Pennsylvania) Liberty Alliance
I’ve been working in the
All the livelong day,
And with the wages that they pay me
It’s just to pass my time away.
And when I ask about more money,
They give me the big lie.
“We’d like to give you lots of raises,
But you’ll lose your SSI.”
“Work is therapy,”
They keep telling me.
I’ve heard it till I’ve had my fill.
‘Cause if it’s therapy
I wish they’d let me be.
This therapy’s a bitter pill.
The Technology Song
Tune: The Marvelous Little Toy
Words by Debbie Brown, NFB of Maryland
When I wrote my rehab plan, my counselor promised me
The hottest screen access program of the 20th century.
I waited for six months, then gave my counselor a call.
He said, “Our budget’s frozen. You must wait until next Fall.”
It went “zip” when it moved and “pop” when it stopped and “whir” when it stood still.
I’ve never done a thing with it, and I guess I never will.
When my equipment finally came, my counselor explained
That I couldn’t get my hands on it ‘till I’d been thoroughly trained.
I said, “Let’s start tomorrow,” but my counselor told me,
“We have a six-month waiting list at our facility.”
I said I’d get trained on my own, but rehab made a fuss.
They said, “You won’t get funding unless you’re trained by us.”
Now my training’s finally done, and I’ve come home to wait.
If I ever get a job, my skills will be out of date.
Today I had an interview, but I didn’t get to go.
I called for para-transit, but my vehicle didn’t show.
The finest new technology won’t help us, it’s quite plain
Without good blindness training and a thirty-dollar cane.
It went “zip” when it moved and “pop” when it stopped and “whir” when it stood still.
I’ve never done a thing with it, and I guess I never will.
I’ve never done a thing in life – and I guess I never will.