Braille Monitor August/September 2007
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Atlanta, Georgia, the modern home of southern hospitality and the historic cradle of the American civil rights movement, served as host city for the 2007 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, which occurred from Saturday, June 30, through Friday, July 6. Representatives from our host affiliate warmly welcomed almost twenty-nine hundred delegates to Georgia with the spirited greeting repeated throughout the week, “Federation family forever.” Many of the delegates attended the convention for the first time; fifty-one delegates from forty-one affiliates were sponsored by the Jernigan Fund Scholarship program.
The buzz that animated the early part of this year’s convention was anticipation about our first-ever National Federation of the Blind March for Independence, scheduled for sunrise on Tuesday, July 3, 2007, the morning of our first general convention session. Several planning sessions for both marshals and marchers were held on Sunday and Monday of convention week so that event logistics could be reviewed with all participants and every contingency could be addressed to ensure a smooth execution of this thousand-person-plus march. Stellar leadership, excellent planning, and cooperative weather gods all contributed to a remarkable occasion, successful beyond all imagining.
Led by President Maurer and other event organizers, Federationists with canes, banners aloft, and dogs flooded the downtown streets of Atlanta, filled Centennial Olympic Park for the midmarch rally featuring dignitaries including U. S. Representative John Lewis, and streamed back to the Marriott for a dramatic, percussion-inspired processional into the opening session of the convention. Our march and message received considerable press coverage in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, on the national Associated Press wires, and through local television.
This year’s exhibit hall bustled with activity throughout the week. All 102 exhibitors, the Independence Market, and the Accessible Home Showcase occupied a single ballroom for the first time in several years. A cadre of volunteers and staff met the wall-to-wall crowds just inside the doors at an information booth designed to provide directions and circulate Braille and large-print hall maps and vendor lists. A record fourteen organizations, most of which had representatives present in the exhibit hall, sponsored the 2007 NFB convention. Again this year the exhibit hall was opened on Tuesday evening of convention week for sponsor-level supporters only, so that interested conventioneers could have a more intimate shopping experience with these vendors. A wide array of free NFB literature was on display just outside the exhibit hall doors so that visitors could peruse and pick up items en route to or from the hall.
Buoyed by the prospect of a dynamic convention ahead and inspired by the good will of the assembled crowd, Saturday’s preconvention programming got off to an early start. The NFB ham radio users group retained its traditional first position on the convention agenda with a 7:30 a.m. emergency preparedness seminar, but a first this year sponsored by the New York chapter of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children was an opportunity for thirty Federationists to become certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation in a half-day seminar taught by representatives of the American Heart Association.
Adaptive technology enthusiasts were free to choose from a plethora of program options, primarily on Saturday but also scattered throughout the entire convention week. The staff of our International Braille and Technology Center (IBTC) sponsored a series of ninety-minute sessions focusing on computer communications for the deaf-blind, personal data assistants (PDAs) and new cell phone technology, Microsoft Vista, and the Linux operating system. The IBTC staff also promoted the Accessible Home Showcase again this year in our filled-to-capacity exhibit hall, where usable, if not fully accessible, home appliances were on display for curious conventioneers to examine. Freedom Scientific; HumanWare; GW Micro; K-NFB Reading Technology; the American Printing House for the Blind; GH, LLC; and Clever Devices Technology each hosted demonstration and training sessions for current and prospective consumers of their products. These companies promoted an array of products, including notetakers, screen readers, handheld readers, digital Talking Book players, and stop-announcement technology for public transportation providers.
Our Title sponsors for the 2007 NFB convention, HumanWare and Freedom Scientific, both used our NFB forum to unveil and inaugurate their own technological innovations. HumanWare Chief Executive Officer Richard Mander introduced to the convention the Victor Stream, a state-of-the-art pocket-sized digital Talking Book reader and MP-3 player, which was developed in partnership with the NFB. Shipping in August 2007, the Victor Stream will be the most versatile commercially available player of digital recordings and music from virtually all of the major recording vendors around the world. HumanWare also offered convention delegates a sneak peek at the newest features in Keysoft 7.5, the operating system for its line of notetakers. Lee Hamilton, president and chief executive officer of Freedom Scientific, released the PAC Mate Omni, a newly designed PDA that features both hardware and software upgrades to the original PAC Mate. Freedom Scientific offered a number of impressive purchasing and upgrading incentives for the new PAC Mate Omni.
Fast Forward to the Future was the theme for the week-long series of events sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). Boasting over forty organized events focused on the family throughout the convention week, NOPBC programming has become almost a distinct conference within our convention. Everybody involved understands, however, that it is the daily exposure to adult blind role models throughout the convention week and the defined philosophy of the Federation that helps to integrate our NOPBC initiatives and membership into the broader Federation family. Saturday morning saw the start of the annually inspiring NOPBC seminar punctuated by President Maurer’s regular Kid Talk segment; a stirring keynote address from LisaMaria Martinez, president of the NFB Sports and Recreation Division; and an informative panel on employment, moderated by NFB First Vice President Fred Schroeder. Catering to the diverse interests of the parent membership, fifteen different breakout sessions consumed the bulk of the Saturday afternoon seminar programming.
As the Saturday seminar drew to its conclusion, Barbara Cheadle, the able president of NOPBC since 1985, announced that she would not seek election to the office of president at the end of her term in July 2008. Her distinguished service and commitment to parents, their blind children, and the field of blindness education in general deserve our grateful recognition. Her visionary leadership as president of NOPBC will be missed, but it is clear that President Cheadle will continue to be involved and will exercise into the future the same positive brand of influence in her areas of expertise that she has for the last twenty-two years.
Seminars on science education, advocacy and the Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the correlation between learning Braille and securing employment, the traditional Kids Cane Walk, the Braille Book Flea Market, an outing for fathers of blind children, numerous family hospitality events, and a complementary array of programming for blind children themselves are only a few of the NOPBC-sponsored initiatives held throughout the week. The Parent Leadership Program, a developmental program jointly sponsored by the Department of Affiliate Action and NOPBC, brought eighteen sets of parents to the 2007 NFB convention to learn, grow, and return to their affiliates to start or further cultivate NOPBC chapters across the country. Following the convention, Texan Kim Cunningham, a first-time parent participant in our convention, wrote to say:
I would just like to take a moment to thank everyone involved for assisting me and my daughter in attending the national NFB conference in Atlanta 2007. As a parent, this was a life-changing experience for me. I feel an even stronger sense of hope, coupled with determination for my daughter's future. My daughter, Kayleigh Joiner, made several new friends and met some inspiring adults. Kayleigh has always been an outspoken and driven individual; however, she has never felt a part of any particular group. I believe that she has found a home with the NFB that confirms her belief about her blindness and her desire not to be pitied or thought of as disabled.
“Blindness: A Consumer-Based Model of Rehabilitation” was the title for the sixth annual rehabilitation and orientation and mobility conference held all day on Saturday, jointly sponsored by the National Association of Blind Rehabilitation Professionals, the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness (Louisiana Tech University), and the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. Joe Cordova, administrator, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Hawaii Department of Human Services, delivered the keynote address to the assembled crowd. Using anecdotes from his own life, Administrator Cordova identified the elements of a truly consumer-based model of rehabilitation. During the conference luncheon Dr. Edward Bell, director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University, received the Fredric K. Schroeder Award given to pioneers and meaningful contributors in the field of orientation and mobility in particular, and rehabilitation in general.
In addition to everything mentioned here, other Saturday options for Federationists included an employment seminar; NFB fundraising sessions; divisional meetings of blind entrepreneurs, office professionals, and guide dog users; a poetry reading session; the ever-popular Karaoke Night sponsored by BLIND, Incorporated, our NFB training center in Minneapolis, Minnesota; and a welcome dance hosted by our Georgia affiliate. First-time conventioneers were invited on Saturday evening to attend the Rookie Roundup, an orientation to the organized chaos that is the NFB national convention. Dr. Maurer; Anil Lewis, president of the host affiliate and member of the national board; Allen Harris; and Kevan Worley addressed the crowd of several hundred new participants. Coordinated by NFB Treasurer Pam Allen, ribbons, first-timer’s guides, and tote bags were distributed. NFB literature was available in both English and Spanish to help educate novice Federationists. The energy level at this meeting was high. Many longtime Federationists joined our newest members to welcome them into our Federation family.
By Sunday morning all facets of our convention operation were up and running. Convention registration opened to brisk business just before 9:00 a.m. The 1,954 Federationists who preregistered for the convention were able to drop by the preregistration square, pick up their already assembled packets containing their name tags and prepurchased banquet tickets, and be on their merry way. During the open NFB board of directors meeting on Monday morning, Mary Ellen Jernigan, who chairs convention organization and activities, urged everybody to preregister for next year’s convention, setting a target goal of preregistering twenty-five hundred people. Mrs. Jernigan explained that in this way staffing for traditional registration could be significantly curtailed.
One measure of our convention’s vitality and growth is the fact that an increasing number of meetings and events are now being scheduled simultaneously with the traditional Sunday afternoon meeting of the Resolutions Committee. Opportunities to participate in a National Library Service (NLS) Music Section focus group, a business meeting of the Blind Musicians Group, a meeting concentrating on cultivating community volunteerism, and the second annual NFB Spanish seminar all were on offer Sunday afternoon. The NFB Division Expo, a new wrinkle in our convention lineup, sponsored by the Department of Affiliate Action, where representatives from twenty-four of our twenty-six divisions staffed booths in a fair-like environment promoting information or activities unique to their organizational missions, also rivaled the Resolutions Committee for attention. Many convention delegates commented favorably upon this new event that promotes the resources of our NFB divisions.
Despite the allure of alternative programming, those interested in Federation policy flocked to the Sunday afternoon meeting of the Resolutions Committee. Committee chairperson Sharon Maneki gaveled this year’s committee to order promptly at 1:30 p.m. The committee considered sixteen resolutions and recommended to the Convention that they all pass on Friday afternoon. On Monday morning during the NFB board of directors meeting an additional resolution was generated directly from the national board and also presented to the Convention for its consideration. A more detailed report, including the complete text of each resolution adopted by the Convention, appears elsewhere in this issue.
Over three hundred Federationists interested in equal doses of humor and poignant blindness education attended the tenth annual mock trial sponsored by the National Association of Blind Lawyers (NABL) on Sunday afternoon. Scott LaBarre, president of NABL, reports on the reenactment of the case as follows:
We conducted the tenth annual mock trial, which was based on the Acme Markets case out of Pennsylvania, in which a sighted woman sued the company because she fell over the cane of a blind employee. She alleged the market was negligent because it did not post warnings about the presence of the blind employee or have an escort for him. In our reenactment we had the case of Couponclipper v. Yummy Foods. Carla McQuillan of Oregon played the role of plaintiff, Ima Genia Couponclipper. Tom Anderson of Colorado played I.M. Authority, a manager of a rival grocery chain, Superfluous Foods, who testified that he would never hire a blind worker. Dan Frye of Maryland played Dr. Know It All, an expert in the area of biomechanical parapetology, who rendered his expert opinion that a blind person would be far too dangerous in a grocery store environment, especially as an employee.
On the defense side for Yummy Foods, Jim McCarthy of Maryland played the role of Happy Tripp, the blind employee over whose cane Couponclipper tripped. Nicky Gacos of New Jersey played Mr. Bustem, the owner of Yummy Foods, Tripp’s supportive employer. Finally, Julie Deden of Colorado played Mrs. Sweet Lady, a nice old lady and a regular customer of Yummy. She observed the accident and confirmed that Mr. Tripp did nothing wrong.
Charlie Brown of Virginia served as judge, and Peggy Elliot of Iowa served as bailiff. Anthony Thomas, AKA C. Justice Done from Illinois, and Ray Wayne, AKA I. Eat Too Much of New York, represented Yummy Foods. Warren M. Ratnow, AKA Bennett Prows of Washington State, and Duey Cheetem, AKA Scott LaBarre of Colorado, represented the plaintiff, Mrs. Couponclipper.
At the end of the trial Jim Antonocci, president of the Pennsylvania affiliate, and Stanley (Buddy) Nowaczyk spoke about what happened in the real case. Buddy is the actual blind employee who works for Acme Food Markets near Philadelphia. They talked about the importance of the Federation's role and support. As you might imagine, the Federation jury in the audience returned a resounding verdict in favor of the defending store, Buddy’s employer.
Sunday evening was filled with meetings of divisions, committees, and groups. Topics of interest to blind seniors, parents, public employees, car aficionados, newsletter editors, Webmasters, and library patrons were just a few of the programs on the evening’s agenda. In keeping with tradition, the National Association of Blind Students also held its lively and thought-provoking meeting on Sunday night. During this meeting NFB Second Vice President and National Scholarship Committee Chairman Peggy Elliott received public recognition on behalf of all students (present and past) for her twenty-four years of leadership and commitment to the welfare and interests of this population. Anil Lewis presented Mrs. Elliott with an appropriately inscribed plaque acknowledging her long and devoted service.
In accordance with custom the NFB board of directors held its open meeting on Monday morning. President Maurer called for a moment of silence to recognize those Federationists who had died since the 2006 convention in Dallas. Delegates then joined in saying the American and Federation pledges of allegiance. After asking several board members if they remembered when the Federation pledge was first circulated, President Maurer reminded the Convention that it was written and released at the 1974 convention in Chicago.
President Maurer then turned to the organizational elections. He announced that the hold-over offices for 2007 were Marc Maurer, president (Maryland); Fred Schroeder, first vice president (Virginia); Peggy Elliott, second vice president (Iowa); Gary Wunder, secretary (Missouri); Pam Allen, treasurer (Louisiana); Amy Buresh (Nebraska); Sam Gleese (Mississippi); Carl Jacobsen (New York); Chris McKenzie (Arkansas); Alpidio Rolón (Puerto Rico); and Dan Wenzel (Wisconsin). All other board positions were up for election.
President Maurer then recognized Don Capps, the senior member of the NFB’s national board. Following a touching tribute to his wife of fifty-eight years, Betty, and a walk down memory lane of his work with our three major national presidents since his first election to the national board in 1959, Dr. Capps announced that he was “stepping down but not stepping away.” With obvious warmth and affection, President Maurer thanked Dr. Capps for his service, friendship, and education. The audience offered a sustained standing ovation in recognition of Don Capps’s forty-eight years of national leadership in the NFB.
Anil Lewis then welcomed the assembled crowd to “Hotlanta.” He promoted the convention theme, “Federation family forever,” and urged everybody to take full advantage of Georgia’s hospitality during the week ahead.
Bob Brown, president of the South Dakota affiliate, next approached the dais and made a presentation to Tom Ley of the Voice of the Diabetic in loving memory of Karen Mayry, who served as president of our South Dakota affiliate for twenty-five years and who concentrated on issues of blindness and diabetes throughout her career of volunteerism. The entire Convention, along with President Brown, mourned Karen Mayry’s recent death, but celebrated her lifelong contributions in a fashion that respectfully honored her hard-working spirit.
Dan Goldstein, one of the principal attorneys for the NFB, next spoke to the board and audience. He urged all Federationists to help him identify visual access problems with online security, including the concept of “visual captcha,” barriers to online education, and challenges to using electronic kiosks in commercial transactions. This research is being conducted to determine if litigation in these areas is necessary. If you were not at the convention but have useful information to share, Mr. Goldstein would be pleased to hear from you. He may be reached at (410) 962-1030 or by email at <email@example.com>.
President Maurer next recognized Christine Boone, a longtime Federationist and former director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services (PBBVS), for remarks and a presentation. Ms. Boone spoke briefly of the injustices to which she was subject when she was fired as the director of PBBVS several years ago and happily reported on the successful resolution of her lawsuit to remedy the mistreatment visited upon her by the state of Pennsylvania. She thanked both leaders and members of the NFB for our support of her and her family during their time of personal trial. In gratitude for the help of the Federation, she made a generous donation of ten thousand dollars to the NFB general fund. President Maurer thanked Ms. Boone for her gift and shared the good news with all present that she has now moved on and is effectively directing the adjustment-to-blindness training center at the Michigan Commission for the Blind.
In appreciation for the support of the March for Independence and the development of the Kenneth Jernigan Memorial Braille Map of the United States, both provided by the American Printing House for the Blind, President Maurer recognized our longtime colleague, Dr. Tuck Tinsley, president of APH, for his remarks. Following President Tinsley’s warm greetings to the board and Convention, Kevan Worley, chairman of the Imagination Fund, briefed the board and audience on logistics for the March for Independence.
Sharon Maneki, chairperson of the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award Committee, next took the platform to present this year’s award to Sister M. Margaret Fleming, principal of the Saint Lucy Day School for Blind and Visually Impaired Students in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The full text of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.
Jim Gashel, recently named vice president of business development for K-NFB Reading Technology, then addressed the board and audience, providing an update on the handheld K-NFB Reader. Mr. Gashel described the new features of release 3.8.0 of the Reader software and announced the availability of a reader stand, developed and sold by the NFB and selected K-NFB Reading Technology dealers. All were encouraged to visit the K-NFB Reading Technology table in the exhibit hall to take advantage of the special convention price of $2,250 for the Reader and the standard price of $150 for the K-NFB Reader stand.
President Maurer then introduced Betsy Zaborowski, executive director of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, to discuss the National Center for Leadership in Visual Impairment (NCLVI) Ph.D. Fellows program. After expressing delight at being able to attend the convention in view of her recent treatments for cancer, Dr. Zaborowski explained that the NCLVI, coordinated by Dr. Kathleen Huebner of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), is a consortium of fourteen universities with Ph.D. programs in blindness education throughout the country. The PCO administers a grant to assist NCLVI Ph.D. fellows with their education. Dr. Zaborowski explained that many of these students would become professionals and leaders in blindness education in years to come. Dr. Zaborowski announced that twenty NCLVI Ph.D. fellows were in attendance at our national convention, each mentored by a different Federation leader every day. Federationists were urged to introduce themselves to the NCLVI fellows. In closing, Dr. Zaborowski invited the Ph.D. students to stand and be recognized by the board and assembled audience.
Dr. David Ticchi, president of the NFB of Massachusetts, then approached the podium to present the Blind Educator of the Year Award to Sheila Koenig of Minnesota. The full text of this presentation appears elsewhere in this issue.
At this point Peggy Elliott asked the members of this year’s scholarship class to come to the platform, where she introduced them. Their comments appear elsewhere in this issue as part of a full report of our scholarship program.
Finally, President Maurer told the board that the NFB would be administering the Perlman Award, a new means of recognizing a blind person or organization that has been determined to have contributed the most in promoting independence for blind people. The award will be a sum of money generated from the one million dollar bequest left to the NFB by Rosalind Perlman and an additional sum of approximately fifty thousand a year designated for inclusion in this award fund from the Santa Barbara Trust. The award will be given annually or as often as circumstances merit. Assuming that an appropriate candidate can be identified for this award, President Maurer announced that the Perlman Award could be given as early as 2008 at the NFB convention. The NFB board of directors will establish a procedure for the administration of the Perlman Award. Rosalind Perlman was the niece by marriage and author of a biography about her blind uncle, Dr. Jacob Bolotin, a pioneering blind heart and lung specialist who practiced medicine in Chicago, Illinois, during the early years of the twentieth century. The award is to preserve and memorialize Dr. Bolotin’s contributions to improving opportunities for blind people. Copies of the book, The Blind Doctor, in print and on compact disc were available free to interested convention delegates. Since no further business was brought to the board, the meeting was adjourned.
The balance of Monday offered attendees a wide range of division and committee meetings, seminars, workshops, receptions, and theater productions. The Jerry Whittle production this year titled, Out of the Cradle, was performed as usual by the Louisiana Center Players, made up of students and alumni from the Louisiana Center for the Blind. All proceeds from the two performances were used to support the center’s summer programs for blind children.
Tuesday morning’s opening session of the convention represented the culmination of our 5K March for Independence. Basking in the immediate afterglow of an incredibly successful event, marchers entered the Marquis Ballroom, exhilarated and pleased. The Atlanta Drum Line band greeted our marchers and filled the convention hall with an elaborate percussion performance. In the wake of such joviality, President Maurer was hard pressed to gain the complete attention of the assembled membership after calling the Convention to order.
In due course, though, the hubbub subsided, and President Maurer introduced Anil Lewis to bring greetings to the convention on behalf of the host affiliate. President Lewis reflected on the success of the March for Independence, urged us all to enjoy our visit to Georgia, and introduced Carolyn Young, spouse of Ambassador Andrew Young, honorary chairman of the March for Independence, to address the entire assembly.
Mrs. Young reminisced about Atlanta’s civil rights history, reminding convention delegates that Atlanta is still called “the city too busy to hate.” She observed, then, that it was appropriate that our civil rights march be held in this historic venue. Standing with us, Mrs. Young gave voice to our philosophical principles and offered her support to our cause. She conveyed Ambassador Young’s greetings to our membership.
The mood of the convention turned from celebratory to sober when President Maurer invited Joe Ruffalo, national board member and president of our New Jersey affiliate, and Dwight Sayer, first vice president of our Florida affiliate, to recognize military veterans in our ranks. Veterans were called to the stage, given ribbons, and asked to state their names and branch of military service. Twenty-four former members of the military answered the call, including Robert Crawford of Ohio, who was one of the revered Tuskegee airmen of World War II. Gwen Byrd, second vice president of our Mississippi affiliate, capped off this tribute with a rendition of the national anthem.
The remainder of the morning was devoted to the roll call of states. Each affiliate representative announced the name of the delegate, alternate delegate, appointed member of the Nominating Committee, and date and location of the next state convention. In addition state presidents took the opportunity to make a variety of announcements and comments. Here is a sampling of the information that we learned during the morning:
Fourteen state rehabilitation agency directors and many other staff members were part of their states’ delegations. The staff and students of our three NFB centers in Louisiana, Colorado, and Minnesota were all present for the convention. South Carolina announced that it would be the home of a fourth Federation center in the relatively near future. Anahit LaBarre, spouse of Colorado Affiliate President Scott LaBarre, obtained her U. S. citizenship in June of this year. Our Hawaii affiliate brought twenty members to the convention, its largest delegation ever. Nani Fife, president of our Hawaii affiliate, took the time to remember Dr. Floyd Matson, longtime Federationist and author of Walking Alone and Marching Together, since he was too ill to attend convention this year. Michael Gosse, new affiliate president in Maryland, announced that the Maryland School for the Blind has finally severed its affiliation with the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving People with Blindness or Visual Impairment. As promised last year, Maryland recovered the attendance banner, registering 234 people at this year’s convention. Texas, New York, and Maryland were successful in having accessible textbook legislation for higher education adopted in their states during the last twelve months. Ohio’s affiliate president, Barbara Pierce, told the convention that seven students from her state were winners in this year’s Braille Readers Are Leaders program. Finally, Nebraska announced that they had fifteen first-time convention attendees, the largest announced number of first-time delegates during the 2007 convention.
the lunch recess, President Maurer delivered the 2007 presidential report, which
appears in full elsewhere in this issue.
Deborah Kent Stein, chairperson of the NFB Committee on Automobile and Pedestrian Safety, and Dr. Lawrence Rosenblum, professor of perceptual psychology at the University of California, Riverside, jointly presented on the topic “Quiet Cars and Blind Pedestrians: Avoiding the Impact.” Chairperson Stein briefly reviewed the Federation’s effort to address this vexing problem. Happily she was able to report that during the last year the NFB has forged a partnership with the Society of Automotive Engineers to develop a minimum sound standard for hybrid vehicles, but she also noted that manufacturers of these cars are not yet prepared to deal directly with the organized blind movement on this issue. In closing, Ms. Stein reflected that, “in order to preserve our freedom to walk alone, we may have to start doing some marching together.”
Professor Rosenblum offered audible comparisons between the sounds made by conventional vehicles and hybrid cars, noting that a fifteen-decibel difference in sound exists between these types of automobiles. According to him, the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles reported an increase in blind pedestrian accidents in the year 2004-2005, but no information about whether these accidents involved hybrid cars was recorded. Professor Rosenblum discussed the theory of auditory time of arrival, a concept which involves using one’s hearing to anticipate how close an oncoming car is, and he has concluded that most blind people are as good at using their hearing to anticipate accurately the distance of oncoming cars as sighted people are at using their vision for this same purpose. He proposes to do further research on this subject.
Addressing the topic “Education, Influence, and Inspiration: The Effect of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute,” Betsy Zaborowski, executive director of the Jernigan Institute, and Mark Riccobono, her designated successor in this position, both chronicled the activities of our institute during the last year. The convention was generally aware that this would be Dr. Zaborowski’s last time to present in her current capacity, and she was greeted with a warm standing ovation. Mark Riccobono offered autobiographical remarks as he assumed a more public role as executive director of the Jernigan Institute. The full texts of their remarks appear elsewhere in this issue. Finally, Lisa Hamilton, president of the UPS Foundation, talked to the convention about the strong partnership between the NFB and the UPS Foundation. President Hamilton affirmed that UPS and the NFB subscribe to common values, particularly in the areas of education. After providing some history about the rags-to-riches story of Jim Casey, the founder of UPS, President Hamilton closed with the supportive statement, “We are partners building tomorrow with imagination and faith.”
In a deviation from the printed agenda, President Maurer next reviewed with the members of the national board of directors the technically modified text of resolution 101-2007, urging Congress to fully fund the transition to digital services at NLS. Upon board approval of the text, the resolution was unanimously passed by the Convention. Telegrams and other messages supporting this position were sent to every member of Congress directly from the Convention floor. Our advocacy on this issue received press coverage during the week.
“The Promise Unmistakable: Organizational, Professional, Personal” was the title of the address delivered by Kevan Worley, chairperson of the Imagination Fund. With his trademark Imagination Fund chimes at the ready, Chairperson Worley dazzled the delegates with moving oratory recounting his evolution in thinking about blindness, starting with his reluctant attendance at his first NFB national convention in 1983. Chairman Worley attributed the personal and professional success that he has enjoyed to the guiding influence of the NFB, and he believes that his story illustrates clearly why generating revenue for the Imagination Fund is so important.
He then reported on this year’s record-setting Imagination Fund campaign. The grand total in the Imagination Fund this year was $580,457.54 raised by 967 contributors. Maryland won the honors for being the top state in fundraising with $115,849 toward this goal. Chairperson Worley distinguished himself as the top personal fundraiser with $30,058 in Imagination Fund gifts. Thirty-six walking teams in the March for Independence raised a total of $76,000 toward the 2006-2007 Imagination Fund campaign. Team McKenzie, named in loving memory of NFB staff member Kristi Bowman’s daughter, who tragically died earlier this year, was the leading team fundraiser with $13,590.
As a result of this phenomenal success, each affiliate received a check for $2,790.66 in Imagination Fund grants to use at its discretion. The application deadline for Imagination Fund grants is September 2007. This year NFB divisions are also invited to apply for Imagination Fund grants.
After setting a goal of one million dollars for our next Imagination Fund campaign, Kevan recognized Kathy Davis, president of the National Federation of the Blind of Florida, as the Imaginator of the Year. President Davis had thirty-nine investors and raised a total of $4,330. Following this announcement, President Davis said: “I am blown away, and believe me, I am in this house. Thank you so much for this terrific honor. Guys, I love you all.”
Lord Colin Low of Dalston capped Tuesday afternoon’s programming with a delightful presentation full of dry British humor. In his remarks, titled “Blind, and a Peer of the Realm,” Lord Low spoke warmly of his respect for the work of the NFB. He identified five characteristics of the Federation that especially appealed to him, including our philosophy, powers of communication, caliber of leadership, premium on independence, and social assumptions about blindness. Lord Low then offered some perspective on the blindness movement in the United Kingdom, explaining how governance reform of the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) was the primary way that blind people could assert power over their own lives since a small country was hard pressed to develop and sustain a strong and independent consumer movement.
Finally Lord Low offered the convention a brief primer on the structure of the peerage. He explained how he was elevated to the House of Lords and described his experience and philosophy about serving in this chamber as a blind person.
Weary Federationists, who had been up since before the crack of dawn, scattered to a full array of Tuesday evening events. The organization of a new blind veterans division, the Annual Showcase of Talent, NFB NEWSLINE® demonstrations, competing parent workshops, and much more provided delegates with plenty to do. The traditional Tuesday night welcoming dance, though, was moved to Wednesday evening on the theory that energy levels would be sapped after such a long day.
When the gavel dropped on Wednesday morning, President Maurer quickly turned his attention to organizational elections. All five national board incumbents were re-elected by acclamation. These board members were Ron Brown of Indiana, Dan Burke of Montana, Kathy Jackson of Kentucky, Anil Lewis of Georgia, and Joe Ruffalo of New Jersey.
Parnell Diggs, president of the National Federation of the Blind of South Carolina, was elected to fill the vacancy on the board created by Donald Capps’s decision not to seek re-election. After his election, President Diggs said:
Mr. President, it is with great humility that I stand before this body to accept the responsibility that this convention has placed in my hands. I came to this organization in 1989. I became a student of our movement, of our leaders, of our philosophy. I came to know Dr. tenBroek, though he had died the year before I was born. This was possible because, though our faces change, our philosophy remains the same. In 1989 I met Dr. Jernigan, who was already in his early sixties. What did he have in common with a young college kid at the age of twenty? We were both blind and had to deal with the myths and misconceptions of blindness.
Today our movement might be considered a senior citizen. It is now our sixty-seventh year as a movement; yet, Mr. President, I believe that our movement continues to walk in the sunrise. We have not reached midday. There is work to be done. Though the individuals who started this movement in 1940 would be astonished to see what we have accomplished today, they knew that we would make progress. They didn’t know how it would be manifested, but they knew that progress would be achieved. And we can only dream and look with a great deal of anticipation toward the future, to that day when our goal of first-class citizenship is realized. I look forward to working with you to bring about this reality and to working with you during the time ahead.
I thank you for the support, and God bless all of you.
Doug Geoffray and Dan Weirich, cofounders of GW Micro, delivered the item “Expanding Opportunities for the Blind through Technology.” Celebrating twenty-five years of service in the adaptive technology field, Federationists were treated to a fascinating history of the evolution of computer equipment usable by the blind. Dividing their remarks between the company’s hardware and software products, they explained to delegates the advantages of Window-Eyes, a screen reading software, and the HIMS line of notetakers, more commonly known as the Braille Sense and the Voice Sense. At the end of their presentation, one was truly left with the impression that the GW Micro representatives are truly committed to their craft.
Kirk Adams, president-elect of the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, painted a progressive portrait of a workshop for the blind in his remarks titled “Work, Instruction, and Community Activity at the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind.” Blind since age five, Mr. Adams received a solid education and good grounding in blindness skills from the Oregon School for the Blind and later the public school in his neighborhood. Confident as a blind person, Mr. Adams nevertheless was challenged to find employment after his graduation from Whitman College in Washington State. Ultimately he became a stockbroker and later decided to devote himself to working in the not-for-profit field. During seven years at the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, Mr. Adams received four promotions, leading to the position of chief executive officer that he will soon occupy.
He reported that since 1953 every Boeing aircraft has been built with parts manufactured at the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind. The agency manufactures sixty thousand parts for Boeing every month. In total, the Lighthouse manufactures eighty-five different products and has annual sales of thirty-five million dollars. Of the 185 blind employees working at the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, thirty-five are deaf-blind. The Lighthouse prides itself on being a leader in the employment of the deaf-blind community. Mr. Adams disclosed that the average wage for a direct service job is $11 per hour and that the average wage for an indirect service job is $20 per hour.
According to Mr. Adams the future at the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind is bright. He said, “My job is to create jobs by being the most efficient manufacturing company we can be.” Part of this will be to invest in Braille and adaptive technology literacy for all Lighthouse employees. As part of its commitment to Braille, the organization regularly purchases the NFB Braille Is Beautiful kit. Mr. Adams also told the convention that, in addition to Braille pay stubs and other regularly circulated Braille documents for employees, when he is in charge, his motto will be “No Braille, no meeting.”
Finally, Mr. Adams advised the convention that he agreed with our desire to modernize the JWOD program, focusing on upward mobility for employees, stronger advocacy for blind employees, greater accountability throughout the system, and an emphasis on good jobs for qualified employees. President Maurer observed that it was refreshing to learn of a workshop for the blind that believes in Braille and promotes good treatment of its employees.
Leslie Stocker, president of the Braille Institute of America, next delivered the presentation “Taking up the Braille Challenge.” Mr. Stocker reviewed both the Braille Special Collection and the Braille Challenge contest administered by the Braille Institute. He reported that the Braille Institute has 3,274 registered Braille readers under age eighteen throughout the United States, a good number considering that APH reports that only about four thousand minors throughout the country read Braille. The goal of both programs is to promote Braille literacy. Mr. Stocker suggested partnering with the NFB by promoting one another’s Braille programs and inviting local chapters or state affiliates to host regional Braille Challenge contests. He welcomed our sponsorship of Braille book production. Delighted with his presentation, President Maurer asked that Barbara Cheadle work with Mr. Stocker to cultivate a closer working relationship between our two organizations.
Longtime Federationists Jennifer Dunnam and Nadine Jacobsen jointly presented the item titled “Braille Campaigns: Changing Comprehension, Changing Lives.” This presentation focused on the work of the Jernigan Institute to promote Braille. Jennifer Dunnam now manages the Jernigan Institute’s Braille transcription program contract with NLS. Since January 2007 the NFB has forwarded one hundred names of people to NLS for certification as Braille transcribers or proofreaders. Promoting Braille access, including the Nemeth Code, on the Internet is one of Ms. Dunnam’s primary goals. Nadine Jacobsen highlighted the NFB Braille Readers Are Leaders contest for 2006-2007, informing convention delegates that 340 students participated in the program this year.
The next presentation was titled “Bringing the Full Range of Educational Opportunities to the Blind: A Work in Progress.” Dr. Mark Leddy, program director, Research in Disabilities Education, Division of Human Resource Development, Directorate for Education and Human Resources, National Science Foundation (NSF), talked to the convention about the new initiatives at NSF that could be of benefit to our community. He reviewed the existing grant relationships between the NFB and his agency. Dr. Leddy’s presentation affirmed the strong partnership that has been established and will continue to be forged between the NFB and NSF as our organization continues to promote science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects as viable career opportunities for blind students.
of Freedom Scientific delivered the final presentation of the morning. In a
presentation titled “PAC Mate and Beyond,” Lee Hamilton, the company’s leader,
spoke of the significant investment that Freedom Scientific has made in the
area of Braille products. With considerable pride Dr. Hamilton noted that Freedom
Scientific has manufactured the least expensive Braille display on the market,
selling at $1,395, and has also managed to produce other Braille displays at
almost 40 percent less than competitive products.
Dr. Hamilton then yielded the balance of his time to Jonathan Mosen and Glen Gordon, Freedom Scientific vice presidents. Mr. Mosen said that one element of the Freedom Scientific difference is that blind employees are present in high numbers in the company.
Currently, according to Mr. Mosen, Freedom Scientific employs fifty blind people. Vice President Mosen then reflected that Freedom Scientific’s commitment to quality includes keeping problem issues on the agenda until solutions are found, measuring customer satisfaction, communicating effectively, providing excellent training resources for customers, and innovating relentlessly.
Following this discussion of Freedom Scientific’s corporate philosophy, they unveiled the new PAC Mate Omni. This new PDA features a variety of improvements, including the ability to read PowerPoint presentations and a guarantee that data will not be lost if the unit’s battery goes flat. Much to the delight of current PAC Mate users, Freedom Scientific officials announced that the most any current owner of the PAC Mate would pay to upgrade to the PAC Mate Omni would be $699; those with software and hardware agreements would pay even less. Convention delegates greeted the entire Freedom Scientific presentation with great enthusiasm.
Wednesday afternoon and evening of NFB conventions used to be a relatively quiet tour day, but in the last few years it has morphed into an increasingly busy break-out program time. Tours of Atlanta were available in abundance, but other Federationists could choose from a Social Security seminar, a mentoring workshop, a Meet the Blind Month presentation, recreational activities sponsored by our Sports and Recreation Division, a six-hour Advocacy Skills session, a Randolph-Sheppard reception, a night with the Colorado Center for the Blind, Monte Carlo Night with the National Association of Blind Students, and an Independence Day dance, sponsored by the host affiliate, just to name a few of the attractions on offer.
The first agenda item on Thursday morning proved a pleasant surprise to longtime Federationists. Seventeen-year NFB veteran Ollie Cantos, now special counsel to the assistant attorney general, U. S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, addressed the convention. Mr. Cantos spoke about his career and the influence that the NFB has had on his life. Acknowledging that he used to subscribe to the principle of the hierarchy of sight and that his ability to come to terms with his blindness was made especially difficult because of his Filipino heritage, Mr. Cantos said that his resolve to face his blindness head-on was bolstered by role models and mentors in the NFB. Since his shift in attitude, Mr. Cantos has enjoyed a successful legal career, including jobs with the American Association of People with Disabilities, the U. S. Department of Justice, and a detail assignment as associate director of domestic policy, concentrating on issues of disability in the White House.
Jerrel Lambright, a newly blinded licensed funeral director from Louisiana, then presented the item titled “The Blind Funeral Director.” In colorful and colloquial southern prose, Mr. Lambright related how he had lost his vision to diabetes six years ago, languished in self-pity for four years at home, and finally enrolled as a student at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Having successfully graduated from the Ruston Center in April of this year, Mr. Lambright returned to his life’s work as a funeral director with the Myers Colonial Funeral Home. Laced with plenty of good humor and fun, his remarks included an anecdote of a family that doubted his ability to manage his responsibilities as a funeral director for their deceased loved one. As a result of his competent performance and professional patience, the spokeswoman for the family ultimately changed her tune. When all was said and done, as Mr. Lambright was preparing to leave the graveyard, she admitted that she really did not like him at first and felt as though she was going to be shortchanged with a blind funeral director, but she conceded that he had provided her with excellent service and she asked him if she could call on him again when the time was right. With grace and dignity Mr. Lambright replied that it would be an honor to provide service to her or her family in the future. This story resonated with the convention, serving as a powerful reminder of the NFB’s positive philosophy.
Christopher Stephen, chief executive officer of ReadHowYouWant.com, next presented the item “A World-Wide Library for Blind and Other Print Disabled People: A Proposed Partnership.” Mr. Stephen told the convention that he became interested in reading disabilities as a result of the struggles his sister experienced after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and hearing about the frustrations of the blind dean of the faculty of law at the University of Sydney. He concluded that it was the book and not the reader that needed to be adjusted. An adventuresome entrepreneur by nature, Mr. Stephen founded ReadHowYouWant.com with the goals of making reading easy and enjoyable by delivering reading formats that suit his readers, giving people with reading disabilities access to information at an affordable price as soon as a book is published for the mainstream audience, and making producing in accessible formats desirable and profitable for publishers. It took five years to develop a technology that will allow him to achieve his objective of rapidly producing books in alternative formats at an affordable price for large publishers and individual customers. The technology that he has developed will efficiently and accurately mark up files to XML from a variety of sources, automatically generate different formats from this file, and systematically typeset print formats.
Mr. Stephen reported that his company will serve all DAISY formats, will be able to customize specific format requests in Braille and large print to meet the requirements of the individual user, and will feature a searching and indexing facility. His company has a partnership with Amazon.com. He will be working with them to enable people to order books in their format of choice directly online. ReadHowYouWant.com and the NFB plan to embark on a partnership to create a critical mass of books in alternative formats. Together our goal will be to foment a publishing revolution that will be to the access advantage of blind people everywhere.
The next item on Thursday morning’s agenda was titled “The Randolph-Sheppard Program under Attack.” Moderated by Kevan Worley, president of the National Association of Blind Merchants, this panel also featured Terry Smith, director of Tennessee Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired; and Catriona Macdonald, president, Linchpin Strategies. Together these speakers raised the awareness of our membership about the increasing number and ferocity of the attacks on the Randolph-Sheppard program. President Worley briefly surveyed the recent history of attacks and challenges. As a consequence of this hostile environment, he said that the NFB has entered into a coalition with other like-minded allies to respond to these attacks.
Putting it into perspective, Director Smith reminded the convention that nine months ago the Randolph-Sheppard community faced an unjustifiably scathing report from the U. S. Senate HELP Committee. The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) was closing regional offices, the national Office for the Blind at RSA was being eliminated, the General Accounting Office was looking for problems in the Randolph-Sheppard program, and the Oasis program was threatening the Randolph-Sheppard priority at the state level. In light of these facts, he explained that leaders in the community decided it was time to create another organization solely dedicated to responding to these concerns. All involved came to recognize that our individual efforts could yield better results if combined into one strong and centralized force. The Blind Entrepreneurs’ Alliance (BEA) was thus formed.
Catriona Macdonald, familiar with blindness issues from her part-time work with the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind, was hired by the BEA to represent its interests in Washington, D. C. She explained to the delegates that the challenges to the Randolph-Sheppard program represent a more general attack on categorical services to all blind consumers. She reviewed some of the immediate threats to the Randolph-Sheppard program, including the unfair congressional comparison of salaries from JWOD workers with those of Randolph-Sheppard managers, the Department of Education’s abdication of its responsibility to protect and promote the Randolph-Sheppard program, and threats to Randolph-Sheppard vendors’ gaining access to troop dining contracts. Ms. Macdonald urged delegates in the months ahead to anticipate promulgation of adverse regulations controlling Randolph-Sheppard vendors’ priority under Department of Defense contracts, reports in the fall from various investigative bodies that will coincide with the Defense Committee’s evaluation of its legislation, and the implementation of Oasis legislation that will challenge Randolph-Sheppard rights at the state level.
Despite these dire warnings, President Worley concluded the panel with the announcement that the Colorado Center for the Blind has recently established a Randolph-Sheppard training program. He also urged people to remember that the program remains a strong and viable alternative for employment of blind people. President Worley expressed optimism that our collective efforts would yield positive results. All were urged to respond to the call for help when the time comes.
Strategically placed on our agenda following the dialogue about the Randolph-Sheppard program, Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia’s 11th Congressional District spoke next. Representative Gingrey pledged his support for the legislative programs and priorities of the NFB. He specifically recalled his previous support for the Louis Braille coin legislation and his prospective support for our Social Security linkage bill and adequate funding levels for the NLS digital transition.
Tony Muscarello, senior vice president, U. S. national sales, Cardtronics, delivered the item “Automated Teller Machines the Blind Can Use.” After several years of legal wrangling, the NFB reached a favorable settlement with Cardtronics, the nation’s largest distributor of nonaffiliated ATM machines, which will require that almost all of their equipment be made accessible with voice-guided technology by July 2010. This is a tremendous triumph for the blind of America. The details of the settlement appear elsewhere in this issue.
“Digitizing the Literature of the World for All Who Love Research, Including the Blind” was the next item to be considered on Thursday morning. T.V. Raman, a research scientist with Google, Inc., reported on the efforts to render accessible some of the library that the Google company is digitizing and putting online. While he acknowledged that the steps taken thus far by Google to render its online collection accessible to the blind represents only “step zero,” Dr. Raman did announce that all of the books in the Google public domain collection are now available in a readable text format. He explained that this step is significant simply because of the substantial number of books this involves, several hundred thousand. Additionally Dr. Raman reported that Google has created a user group for accessible services. He urged delegates to use this service to communicate further accessibility requests to Google. Though Google’s progress thus far has been modest, Dr. Raman seemed optimistic about the future of online access to the growing library of books in the Google collection.
the Google presentation, George Kerscher, senior officer, accessible information,
with Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), offered remarks to round
out this panel. He reported to the convention that RFB&D is now 100 percent
digital. Forty hours of content is available to readers on a single compact
disc. The organization currently has thirty-five thousand digital titles available
to RFB&D borrowers. Seven thousand volunteers are producing six thousand
titles a day to add to the RFB&D collection. Finally, Mr. Kerscher reported
that RFB&D has entered into a partnership with Google to lend its titles
to the Google searchable database.
Using the compelling refrain “The power of the blind united in a just cause,” Daniel Goldstein, longtime friend and legal counsel to the NFB, delivered an evocative address to close out the Thursday morning general session summarizing our tradition of advocacy.
Surveying a variety of our legal challenges during the previous twenty-five years, including our suit against America Online and an Alabama custody action on behalf of a blind mother, Mr. Goldstein reminded us that much of our success can be attributed to the collective power of the Federation. Looking ahead, Mr. Goldstein seemed confident that our collective strength would hold us in good stead as we battle for accessibility to products and services in our ever-changing society. According to Mr. Goldstein, one quantifiable result of our quest for accessibility on the Internet is the fact that other organizations are taking notice of their obligations and voluntarily contacting the NFB to inquire about complying with accessible standards. Mr. Goldstein’s remarks inspired the audience and sent us all off to lunch hopeful about the future of accessibility for blind people.
The Thursday afternoon session commenced with what can fairly be called a valedictory address by James Gashel, a widely respected thirty-four-year employee of the NFB, who has served this organization loyally as executive director for strategic initiatives, director of governmental affairs, and chief of the Washington office. Mr. Gashel’s record of legislative accomplishment is impressive, and the assembled crowd expressed its gratitude and love to him through an extended standing ovation at the conclusion of his prepared remarks. The full text of his address appears elsewhere in this issue.
Frank Kurt Cylke, director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, and Michael Montoya, NLS financial officer, offered their annual report this year. Mr. Cylke commended the NFB for our efforts to help secure more funding for the digital transition. Despite the disappointing funding situation, he reported that all was on schedule for the transition.
Michael Montoya announced that the pilot for the downloadable Web site would be expanded in August 2007 to include eligible NLS patrons. Early access to digital books proved quite exciting to many in the crowd. He also noted that, if the transitional funding remained at its current level, it would delay the complete transition to digital services by four years.
Richard Mander, chief executive officer of HumanWare, delivered the next item, “The Book Reader of the Future Available Today.” He began his remarks by announcing that HumanWare had endowed a professorship in adaptive technology at Canterbury University in memory of Russell Smith, the founder of HumanWare, who was killed in a plane crash two years ago. Dr. Mander then turned his attention to addressing the rumors abounding about the new investors for HumanWare. He explained that identifying new investors for the company was a goal he was given by the HumanWare board when he first arrived, in light of the fact that circumstances were changing in the Smith family and for many long-term staff investors. He assured the convention that the new board chairman was committed to preserving blindness as the foundation of the HumanWare business.
Dr. Mander highlighted improvements in customer service in the United States. The establishment of a new toll-free number, the employment of additional technical support staff, the installation of a new phone system, the adoption of a new problem-escalation procedure, and the creation of a new RMA system should all result in improved quality. Dr. Mander coupled this new emphasis on quality with the disclosure of HumanWare’s new vision statement, which reads: “HumanWare provides innovative solutions which empower people to fully participate in society.”
chief executive officer touted the company’s commitment to Braille literacy.
He specifically cited its release of the Oxford English Dictionary, its new
role as distributor for the Mountbatten Brailler, and its development of a Nemeth
Finally, Gilles Pepin, president, Technologies HumanWare in Canada, promoted two new products. Each delegate found on his or her chair a paper simulation of the Victor Reader Stream, the digital reader described earlier in this roundup. He also teased the interested crowd about an accessible popular Blackberry Smart Phone that is being developed and will likely be available in 2008.
NFB First Vice President Fred Schroeder then delivered an address to the convention entitled “A Declaration of Equality.” The full text of this speech appears elsewhere in this issue.
The convention warmly welcomed remarks from Ray Kurzweil on both the history and future of the Kurzweil–National Federation of the Blind Reader. Mr. Kurzweil demonstrated future software for the Reader that will allow one to use an indoor navigation system and enjoy the benefits of object recognition performed by the Reader. These demonstrations vividly illustrated the as yet untapped potential of the Reader.
John Paré, newly appointed executive director for strategic initiatives for the NFB, then delivered the item “An Independent Blind Medical Doctor in the Early Years of the Twentieth Century.” In this presentation Mr. Paré offered further biographical information about Dr. Jacob Bolotin to supplement the data previously provided by President Maurer during the meeting of the board of directors earlier in the week. Born in 1888, Dr. Bolotin had other blind siblings. Their parents were poor immigrants. Dr. Bolotin attended the Illinois School for the Blind. Before launching into his medical career, he spent his early days as a door-to-door salesman of various products, which illustrated his fierce independence. On May 20, 1912, Jacob Bolotin became the first person born blind to become a medical doctor. Further information about his life and story can be found in the biography written by his niece, mentioned earlier in this roundup.
Dr. Mark Stracks next delivered the item “The Blind Doctor Practicing Today.” He offered a reflective talk about the determination and resolve that one must have to achieve personal goals in life. He reported that he had always wanted to be a doctor. Dr. Stracks said, “We do collectively as an organization what the human mind does; we break through fear and bring forth enlightenment. Everything is possible if we only dare to make it a reality.”
Joe Cutter delivered the final item on the day’s agenda, “Have Cane, Will Travel.” This expert in early childhood orientation and mobility offered sage advice to parents of blind children about promoting independent travel skills as soon as possible. In short, Mr. Cutter’s advice was, put a cane in their hands and allow them to experience active, self-initiating independent movement. He closed his remarks by thanking everybody for helping him learn enough about this subject to publish his book, Independent Movement and Travel in Blind Children: A Promotion Model.
The 2007 banquet of the National Federation of the Blind was a festive affair, not only filling the main Marquis Ballroom but requiring the Imperial Ballroom to accommodate six hundred overflow guests. NFB First Vice President Fred Schroeder served as master of ceremonies for the evening. In addition to the homespun NFB songs that make our banquets merry, the crowd was treated this year to a performance from Allen Bailey, a gifted violinist.
President Maurer delivered a banquet address titled “Expanding the Limits: The Uncertainty of Exploration.” He urged us all to embrace the adventure and imagination inherent in personal and organizational exploration. The text of his address appears elsewhere in this issue.
Ramona Walhof was the recipient of the Jacobus tenBroek Award, the highest honor given to a member of the Federation. Ray Kurzweil received our Newel Perry Award, the highest honor given to an external supporter of the Federation. Finally, Donald and Betty Capps and James Gashel and Betsy Zaborowski were awarded special recognition during the banquet for their years of dedicated service to the Federation. A full report of these awards appears elsewhere in this issue.
Finally, Peggy Elliott, NFB scholarship chairman, announced the thirty scholarships awarded by the NFB. Sachin Pavithran of Utah received the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship in the amount of twelve thousand dollars. A full report of the scholarship awards appears elsewhere in this issue.
Friday morning of convention was dedicated to internal organizational business. The financial report, the Washington report, and the Honor Roll Call of States consumed most of the morning session.
Kristen Cox, executive director of workforce services, State of Utah, was introduced to the convention for remarks that she had been scheduled to make earlier in the convention. She shared her perspective on running for the position of lieutenant governor as a blind candidate in the state of Maryland last fall. Her steadfast Federationism enabled Mrs. Cox to participate in this campaign with dignity, grace, and independence.
Friday afternoon was devoted to consideration of the sixteen resolutions forwarded to the Convention floor by the Resolutions Committee. Fifteen of these resolutions were ultimately adopted by the Convention. The full texts of all resolutions passed by the Convention appear elsewhere in this issue.
President Maurer invited the Convention to deliberate on two additional questions this year: whether the convention should be shortened and whether we should invest organizational funds in the development of a car that blind people could drive. After some discussion the sense of the Convention was that the annual convention should not be shortened if at all possible. The Convention also strongly rejected the idea of investing significant organizational resources in developing a car drivable by blind people.
Scott LaBarre, chairman of the Pre-Authorized Check Plan Committee, awarded the PAC Rat to Maryland as the affiliate with the greatest activity during convention. Similarly the NOPBC received the PAC Mule as the division with the greatest level of activity during the convention. Finally, the Indiana affiliate was recognized with the PAC-iderm for being the affiliate to achieve the highest percentage increase on PAC during the convention. Indiana increased its PAC pledge by 69 percent during the week. Earlier in the convention Scott had presented the new Alpaca Award to the NFB of Hawaii for the largest PAC increase by a small state during the months between the 2006 and 2007 conventions. Colorado won the award for large states.
As the convention concluded, most delegates felt a simultaneous sense of emotional rejuvenation and physical exhaustion. Many acquaintances had been renewed, new friends were made, and, most important, our collective Federation spirit had been rekindled for another year. Everyone left the convention hall at 5:00 p.m. on Friday night ready to face our Federation work during the year ahead and promising to return next year for another dose of what keeps us strong—our collective spirit and fellowship in the NFB Convention assembled.
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