Vol. 50, No. 9 October 2007
Barbara Pierce, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
Federation of the Blind
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 50, No. 9 October 2007
It’s a Grand Slam
by Daniel B. Frye
The Justice of Access
by Daniel Goldstein
Braille Instruction for
by James Omvig
Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
2007 Braille Pals Program
Being Blind and Being Fit
Are Compatible Characteristics
by Robert Leslie Newman
Curves for All, a Testimonial
by Seville Allen
On Advocacy: A New Paradigm
and Personal Reflection
by Gary Wunder
A U.S. Diplomat with an
Extraordinary Global View
by Marc Lacey with Prior Beharry
Healthy and Unhealthy Views of Disability
Ask Miss Whozit
Copyright 2007 National Federation of the Blind
by Daniel B. Frye
Never before has anyone expected a group of blind students to launch fifty experimental rockets. Could reasonable adults ask aspiring blind engineers to design model bridges able to hold an average adult? How about blind would-be scientists conducting complex chemistry experiments, monitoring climate patterns through instruments on weather balloons, studying the mysteries of wind energy, inventing solutions for indoor navigation technologies, or exploring the deep reaches of space?
The first-ever Youth Slam, sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University, Whiting School of Engineering, and other partners, provided a rich scientific and personal experience for youth. The event was the 2007 science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) leadership academy for blind high school-aged students. From July 30 to August 4, 2007, 180 blind youth along with 84 mentors and volunteers, the vast majority of whom were blind, active members of the NFB, traveled from all corners of the country to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore to participate in a week-long educational program offering access on an unparalleled scale to STEM-related subjects for aspiring blind students. In addition to doing its part to shatter the barriers regularly confronting blind youth who want to enter the STEM professions, the powerful message that the 2007 Youth Slam conveyed to all was that blind people can live self-confident, independent, successful lives. This transformative spirit motivated students to tackle complex academic projects and to master everyday tasks like navigating a university campus, carrying a tray in a crowded cafeteria, and helping a friend resolve a personal problem.
opening day students had a rollicking time checking into the Charles Commons
dormitory, getting acquainted with their blind mentors, and unpacking their
bags in anticipation of an exciting week of learning. By Monday evening all
were assembled in the dormitory banquet hall for the opening ceremonies of the
2007 Youth Slam. Mark Riccobono, executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute,
addressed the boisterous audience, urging the students to pursue their most
ambitious, even unimagined dreams. Mr. Riccobono introduced the evening’s keynote
speaker, Michael Hingson, who described his harrowing escape from the World
Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Hingson explained that his reliance on solid
blindness skills and his calm determination to survive enabled him to lead his
staff to safety. He said that blindness was not an obstacle in his life and
tasked the Youth Slam students to take the steps to ensure that blindness would
not be an obstacle in theirs.
Midway through the evening Betsy Zaborowski, senior advisor to the NFB Jernigan Institute and the one who first conceived the idea of bringing together the largest number of blind youth in America to explore STEM possibilities, spoke movingly about the essence of this campaign. She said in part:
This is the largest gathering of blind students in history. Do you realize that you will be in an historic gathering? We want you to learn about science and other careers to whet your whistle, but we also want you to learn about blindness. We are going to give a lot to you this week. After the Youth Slam is over, I hope you’ll go back to your homes and spread the word about positive attitudes toward blindness to your friends and families.
Experienced blind mentors served as counselors and role models for youth participants while they worked on activities meant to stretch their imaginations, build confidence, and increase science literacy. The students were separated into nine tracks for different types of science. The featured scientific disciplines included rocketry, astronomy, engineering, chemistry, wind energy, weather balloon studies, chatbot design, scientific inventions, and science journalism. Each student worked within his or her assigned track every day but also attended short classroom sessions on blindness-related issues. Included were seminars on defining blindness, advocacy, leadership, independent travel, the blind and the law, and first impressions. On Wednesday afternoon Youth Slam students and mentors visited the National Center for the Blind, where they toured our facilities, including the International Braille and Technology Center. An extensive exhibition of STEM-related vendors was also set up in Members Hall for all to see and enjoy.
Youth Slam organizers found giants, both blind and sighted, to present in the fields of study featured throughout the week. Among others Dr. Geerat Vermeij, distinguished professor of geology at the University of California, Davis, and Dr. Dave Wohlers, professor of chemistry at Truman State University, taught classes or facilitated dialogue with Youth Slam students. Representatives attended from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, the UPS Foundation, the American Honda Foundation, and the NEC Foundation of America.
While Youth Slam students and their mentors spent six hours a day in intensive and interactive formal instruction, time was set aside each evening for fun and challenge recreation such as rock climbing, kick ball, swimming, and weight lifting. An impressive showcase of talent was held on Thursday evening in which students and mentors performed for their peers.
in the Baltimore Sun on August 14, 2007, represents the tone and positive
message about blindness and science that characterized the press coverage of
this event. The text of this article follows:
Blind Youths Seek a Future in Science;
Camp Inspires Students toward Careers Once beyond Reach
by Chris Emery
Dave Wohlers leaned against the cold laboratory bench, gripping a white cane. He listened as the three blind girls across the bench struggled with their experiment.
"Oh, I dropped the wire," one girl said.
"I'll get it," replied another. Her stool screeched across the tile floor of the Johns Hopkins University chemistry lab as she climbed down to grope for the wire.
The girls were building an electrolytic cell, a power source of the sort that might one day fuel ultra-green cars. Such technical projects are difficult, even for students with good eyes. But Wohlers showed no pity for the twenty or so blind students under his tutelage that morning. His role as an instructor was to guide and inspire--not to coddle. The experiment was part of Youth Slam 2007, a science camp sponsored this month by the Baltimore-based National Federation of the Blind that attracted about two hundred blind students from around the country. It grew out of a larger initiative by the Jernigan Institute, an NFB program launched in 2004 to foster a culture of self-sufficiency in the blind community. Blind children are being pushed to pursue careers that even the most optimistic once thought beyond their grasp. "The big thing is to inspire them to do more than they previously thought possible," said Mark Riccobono, executive director of the institute.
Bolstering the initiative are new electronic devices that act as a blind person's eyes by turning visual information into sound or Braille text. IPod-sized translators can take photos of printed documents and read them out loud. Portable computers known as "notetakers" can store reams of information--novels, scientific data, and personal reminders--then reproduce it instantly as lines of Braille. And talking instruments can tell blind scientists the color, temperature, and weight of chemical compounds.
NFB officials say the combination of technology and hands-on lab experience will boost blind students' confidence. Wohlers hopes that will help them overcome hurdles similar to those that nearly kept him out of science. "If you can feed the thinking by doing it physically," he said, "somehow you have a recognition that `I can do this.'" Such surety was hard won for Wohlers, who was completely blind by age eight, the result of a genetic condition that caused cancerous tumors to form on his retinas.
He first developed a keen interest in chemistry while attending a school for the blind in Vinton, Iowa. "I loved the competition in the classroom," he recalled. "And I loved the idea of synthesizing something new that nobody had made before." Aptitude tests also showed he might make a good scientist. But Wohlers had never heard of a blind chemist and neither, it seemed, had anyone else. Back then "blind scientist" sounded like a virtual impossibility. When his high school guidance counselor told him it was too bad he couldn't go into chemistry, Wohlers didn't think to ask why he couldn't. "I just didn't know anybody who did that," he said. "If you were good, you were a teacher. If you were specially good, maybe you were a lawyer. Otherwise, you were a piano tuner or broom maker, or some other manufacturing job."
In 1970 he entered the University of Iowa as an economics and business major, thinking it was a practical field for a blind man. He soon discovered he had made a mistake. "I just couldn't stand reading that stuff, and I couldn't motivate myself," he said. "I realized that maybe I wasn't following my bliss."
After failing an economics exam, he switched to a double major in chemistry and mathematics despite his misgivings about science as a career. "There were no guarantees I could do the lab work," he said. "We didn't even have microcomputers then. I just had faith that someday there would be a solution, that the technology would catch up."
Other students acted as Wohlers's eyes in the laboratory. They handled the chemicals, mixed the various reagents, and measured the products. Wolhers was the brains behind the operation, telling the volunteers what to do at each step. He learned a lesson about science that would carry him through his career: The lead scientist doesn't have to do the laboratory grunt work. "It quickly became very apparent that chemistry is a cerebral sport," he said, "and not hand-to-hand combat."
Wolhers decided he would need to be the boss--managing the ideas, people, and data, while delegating the bench work to sighted assistants. He could be intellectually immersed in the work, if not physically connected to research. But not everyone was convinced a blind man could do science. Wolhers discovered this when he applied to the graduate program at Iowa State University's chemistry department. Iowa State was the professional home of Henry Gilman, a pioneering organic chemist who had gone blind in 1947, about a third of the way through his career. Known as a stern taskmaster who demanded much of his graduate assistants, Gilman published more than five hundred papers after losing his sight. In 1977 he was awarded the Priestley Medal, the American Chemical Society's highest honor.
that precedent, Iowa State turned down Wohlers's application. "They wrote
me back a rejection letter saying they didn't think people who are blind can
do chemistry," he said. "The recruitment committee must not have known
Henry was on their faculty."
The chemistry department at Kansas State University saw things differently and accepted him into their graduate program. Wohlers's graduate research focused on inorganic synthesis and photochemistry, the study of how light alters a substance's chemical properties. As in his days as an undergraduate science major, he directed the intellectual orchestra while assistants played the laboratory instruments. "It took longer, no question," he said, "and I didn't produce as much work as the next guy, but I did enough to get the job done for a Ph.D." He parlayed his doctorate into a faculty position in the chemistry department at Truman State University in Missouri, where he still teaches.
"I'm not the first blind chemist, and I'm not the only blind chemist," said Wohlers, fifty-five, "but I'm one of the few blind chemists." He hopes programs such as the Youth Slam will help increase those numbers by raising blind students' expectations for themselves and giving them hands-on lab experience.
The students in the Johns Hopkins lab that muggy morning were working mostly on their own to construct the fuel cells. The three girls across the bench from him were making steady progress despite their early difficulties. Two were high school students, both seventeen and considering science careers. Courtney Lee, from Seattle, wanted to be a chemist, and Colleen McBride, from Madison, New Jersey, thought she would make a good biologist, or maybe a doctor. The third member of the group was Heather Oklak, twenty, a blind business major at Indiana University, who volunteered to act as the younger girls' mentor.
They found the dropped wiring and combined it with a battery and saltwater solution to simulate the storage of energy in a hydrogen fuel cell car. "It's going to smell like chlorine, and it's going to bubble," said Oklak as they applied electric current to the salt water.
"Oh, yeah, it's working," McBride said. "It smells like a pool!"
"It's sodium chloride," Lee said, "so that makes sense."
After a minute of charging their fuel cell, they hooked it up to a talking voltmeter, a device that measures the energy stored in the cell.
"Zero point zero nine four," the machine said in a computer voice.
"What'd it say—0.049?" McBride asked.
"No, I think it was 0.480," Lee replied.
farther away now, Wohlers remained silent, letting the young scientists learn
their lessons the hard way.
the way the Baltimore Sun described Youth Slam 2007. It culminated
on Friday afternoon in an inspiring Youth March for Independence, with students,
mentors, and program administrators walking a one-mile route from Baltimore’s
Inner Harbor to the NFB’s national headquarters. Once all had arrived and settled
into the west side of Members Hall, Youth Slam students took charge of the closing
ceremonies, giving voice to their feelings about the week’s programming with
touching stories about rejuvenated hope and increased optimism about the future.
A sumptuous meal prepared by the NFB’s staff and a dance capped the farewell
Further information about Youth Slam activities and happenings can be found at <http://www.blindscience.org>, where the Youth Slam news track posted videos, blogs, and reports that chronicled items of note throughout the week. Visit this Website for additional details.
In reflecting on the overall impact of the Youth Slam, Amy Phelps, an NFB staff member and principal organizer of logistics for the event, offered her perspective in an email message to friends. Here is what she said:
This is a great example of what the Jernigan Institute is all about and why we work so hard to support the work of the National Federation of the Blind. Through this week we changed the lives of nearly two hundred blind youth and all the people who will come into contact with them. It was an amazing week.
We watched kids who didn't even know they could carry their lunch trays independently building rockets with NASA engineers, building invention prototypes that they came up with, developing alternative fuel cells, building better windmills, building bridges that they had designed to scale that would hold an adult--to name just a few things. Stop to think about how their lives have been forever changed. Kids who are often told you can't do something because you are blind were told you can do anything, and being blind doesn't really matter. We are going to show you the alternative techniques to get things done, and it happened. These blind youth were mentored and taught by blind people who are out there doing things and living life. This is what the National Federation of the Blind is all about. We are changing what it means to be blind.
the Editor: Dan Goldstein is a partner in the law firm of Brown, Goldstein
and Levy, LLP. He is tough, smart, and tenacious when it comes to fighting
for the rights of blind people. He has been associated with the NFB for
a number of years now, and he often comes to our conventions eager to identify
folks who can help with one lawsuit or another. This year he actually addressed
the convention on Thursday morning, July 5. This is what he said:
My good friends and fellow Federationists, it’s a great pleasure to talk to you this morning. I want you to imagine for a minute that a new product is announced today. Well, actually, that doesn’t take any imagination at all. Probably a new product has been announced today, or later today. They come along now more than one a day. So let me try this again. Imagine that this product will change the lives of everyday Americans. Well, you see, that’s not very hard to imagine either. We’ve got personal computers, cell phones, ATMs, the Internet, all these things that have happened in our lifetime that have indeed changed our lives. Maybe this one is a little tougher: imagine that the product that will change the lives of everyday Americans is visually based but was also designed in such a way that it is accessible to all everyday Americans, including the blind, on the very day that the product goes to market. [applause]
That’s a little harder to imagine, but I want to stretch your imaginations a little bit further, and I want you to imagine a day when each and every new product is accessible from the first day that it is sold. I imagine that will happen, because the NFB will make it happen, because it is just and right. Now there are lots of different pieces to that puzzle. There are pieces like you heard yesterday from GW Micro, and I was struck to hear one of the speakers say that Window-Eyes could use Vista on the very day it was introduced to the public. And it comes from other sources like what we heard from Chris Stephen today and from Dr. Raman. It was extraordinary to hear, although it was certainly put in very understated terms, Dr. Raman. It was extraordinary to hear that as of two days ago hundreds of thousands of public domain books are accessible online for the very first time.
But there is another piece to the puzzle, one that I have been involved in, and I want to tell you what I know about that part. About nine years ago, in the waning years of the last century, Dr. Maurer called me into his office. “See here,” he said. “There are too many products out there that are useful that the blind can’t use. Some of the products we used to be able to use, but now the controls are digital, and we can’t use those anymore, either. We’re going backwards. The people inventing these products could make them accessible to the blind, but they aren’t thinking about us, and then later it’s too expensive to change the product and make it accessible.”
“That’s terrible,” I said.
“Go fix it,” Dr. Maurer said.
“Today?” I asked.
“Well, get started today. What you need to do is go sue some of these folks with inaccessible technology, and, if they’re big companies and if you’re noisy about it, then other folks will sit up and take notice, and soon enough they’ll start making things accessible on their own, and you can close your office and go fishing.”
“Why don’t we start off small until we get the hang of it?” I said.
There was a pause, and then Dr. Maurer said, “Good idea. Go sue America Online, and get them to make AOL accessible.”
“That’s small?” I said.
“Well I was going to say Microsoft, but you asked me to start off small.”
So I walked out of Dr. Maurer’s office, and I was thinking, my firm is ten lawyers. I don’t have a six-hundred-lawyer law firm, and AOL can buy all the six-hundred-lawyer law firms it wants. How on earth am I going to sue AOL and win? Of course I was asking the wrong question. How was the NFB going to sue America Online? And that isn’t much of a question; there is power in the Federation. There is power in the blind united in a just cause. I mean, when you think about it, you almost have to feel sorry for AOL going up against the NFB. AOL never had a chance.
Now why do I say, it’s the power of the blind acting together? I’m going to give you two examples. Long before we started doing technology-access cases, Dr. Maurer called me one day and told me about a blind grandmother in Dothan, Alabama. The State had taken away custody of her grandchildren because the State said a single blind woman couldn’t be a competent custodian. I flew down to Dothan with Chris Cox, Anil Lewis, and Mike Jones. The State of Alabama’s lawyers backpedaled faster than circus performers. I would be a proud fool to tell you I won that case. It was the presence of competent blind parents to show the lie in what Alabama was saying that won that case. It was the power of the blind united in a just cause that made it possible for Chris, Anil, and Mike to be there in the first place.
Two days ago I talked with a mother of a blind ninth grader who was denied adequate Braille training. Dr. Maurer mentioned this young lady in his presidential report. The school district had hired high-priced lawyers, and the mother told me she thought it was the school district’s intention to out-spend her so she would have to give up. But she had the NFB. She has the power of the blind united in a just cause, so she has more resources than that school district can imagine.
And the same has been true of our access cases. The list of victories that the NFB has had against giant companies has gotten long, and each year you hear about them in the presidential report. Voice-guided ATM agreements with Diebold; Chevy Chase Bank; First National Bank; and now, as we’ll talk about in a minute, Cardtronics. Accessible voting machines in Volusia County, Florida, and Maryland. I’m not going to repeat all of them because you’ve heard them, and I want to talk to you about what the future holds.
Last year in Dallas I got up at the board meeting and at many state caucuses and told you that Cardtronics was raising a question in the courts as to whether blind people would use these ATMs if they were voice guided, and I asked for your help. And did you ever answer the call! We set up a table there in Dallas outside the main hall, three of us, and the line snaked on and on from 8:00 in the morning until 7:00 at night. We never had a moment to get out of our chairs, so many of you came and talked with us. Then you went home and tested those machines and gave us affidavits. Then some of you even became class representatives and had to give depositions. And what was the result of your efforts? Because of what you did, as you heard today, Cardtronics, the largest deployer of ATMs in the world, is here today, our newest friend, with a groundbreaking agreement that will make some 17,000 ATMs accessible by the end of this calendar year and their fleet of 30,000 accessible by 2010. [applause] As Dr. Maurer mentioned in his presidential report, Cardtronics is reimbursing the NFB for attorneys’ fees to the tune of $900,000. I’m going to hazard a wild guess that Dr. Maurer can find a good use for that.
As all of you know, the NFB has sued Target to make Target.com accessible to the blind. And Target said to the judge, “The NFB has to prove that blind people have tried and failed to use our Website.” And we put a call out to you, and you responded in huge numbers with sworn testimony. Then Target said, “Yes, judge, but, okay, they’ve shown that, but they can’t prove that the inaccessibility of the Website has affected the way they shop at the actual Target stores.” And the judge gave us thirty days to submit more affidavits on that point. We put out a call in a hurry, and more than forty of you came forth and gave us affidavits, and then ten of you submitted to questioning under oath to depositions. And Target doesn’t know it yet, but just being one of the largest retailers in the world, just having capitalization in the billions of dollars, just having revenues in the billions of dollars is small potatoes when they are up against the power of blind people united in a just cause.
Dr. Maurer’s vision of nine years ago to sue so that someday we don’t have to sue, so that someday companies will act on their own--that is beginning to come true. Two weeks ago I got an email from an academic named Jonathon Frank. I’d never heard of him. But he sent me a study he had just completed and submitted for publication. And in that study he wanted to see if our lawsuit against Target had affected the behavior of other retailers’ Websites. Had they gotten the message and cleaned up their act on their own? So what he did, he tested the home pages of thirty-one large retailers, both as they existed (because there’s a way to get that on the Internet) in February 2006 before we filed suit, and as they existed last month in June, to see how accessible and how useable these sites were. Before we sued Target, 55 percent of these Website home pages complied with accessibility guidelines. After we sued Target, 73 percent did. [applause] In February 2006 just over half the Websites were useable. Last month three quarters. Now the article went on to identify which sites had changed for the better and which ones for the worse. So to those companies that haven’t gotten better, we know where you are and how to find you.
is coming because we are getting the word out to the business community
that the blind are here, that we’re not going away, that we won’t be overlooked,
and that it’s good business to seek our trade. Blind people can spend money
just as well as sighted people.
The blind are entitled to access, and they are entitled to it when the sighted get technology, not ten years later, or five years later, or even six months later. And that day is not yet here, but it’s closer than it was because of the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind.
Here are some signs of change on the horizon. Amazon has signed a joint technology agreement with the NFB. By the end of this calendar year it will be more than what you’ve been able to do up to now, which is to put in the name of the CD you already knew you wanted, and search to buy it. You’re going to get to use the whole site like everybody else. And they have pledged not just accessibility, but equivalent usability. It should be as friendly a site to you as it is to the sighted. We didn’t sue Amazon. We didn’t threaten to sue Amazon. Amazon contacted the NFB and said, “We need to talk.”
And Dr. Maurer said, “We sure do.”
You heard this morning from Dr. Raman. We’ve never sued Google. We’ve never threatened Google. It’s not even a good idea to think about suing Google. But we sat down and talked with Google, and we told them that in digitizing the world’s books it was doing something that was not only important for the sighted, but would be revolutionary for the blind, increasing by at least 1000 percent the books that are accessible to the blind today. So we talked about it, and, as Dr. Raman just said, they’re taking step zero on a long journey, but it’s a step in the right direction. I predict to you that, with the power of the NFB, the power of the blind united in a just cause combined with the genius and know-how of Google, many more doors will be opened that have long been closed.
battle isn’t over. Much technology is still not blind-friendly. So what
does the future hold? Well the tide is changing on Websites, but there’s
more to be done. Some job employment Websites are terrible. Maybe you know
of one and want to do something about it. Together we can. We can change
it and make it accessible. Many Websites associated with education, the
ability to talk to fellow students and professors, are inaccessible. Talk
to us about that because together we can do something about that. We can
Kiosks--I won’t stand here and tell you that we can do something about kiosks at an airport right away, but kiosks are springing up all over the place elsewhere, and we can do something about that. When we’re done, accessible kiosks will be the default standard; the airlines won’t have any other kind to buy and put in the airports. It may not be easy, but together we can do it. Point-of-sale machines and self-checkout machines--there’s no reason that those can’t be accessible. Together we can do something about it. Together we can change it. Accessible instructions and information for medications so that you know what’s in that pill bottle, when to take it, and what the complications are--it’s time that was accessible, and together we can do something about it. Together we can change it.
practical answers are there to make the technology used by the sighted accessible
to the blind. Ours is a just cause, and together we will be so effective
in what we do that the day will come when I will stand up and say, “Imagine
that a new product was announced today that will change the lives of everyday
Americans, that’s visually based, but was accessible and usable by the blind
from the day it was put up for sale.” And you’ll say, “Yeah, big deal. It
happens every day.” And Dr. Maurer will hand me a fishing pole. That day
will come. [applause] And it will come because of the power and the purpose
of the Federation, because of the blind united in a just cause.
That was my speech, but indulge me for one personal statement. I am immensely honored to be part of this fight. I think my wife and children are proud that I’m part of this fight, and I cannot thank you enough for the opportunity. Thank you.
Making a charitable gift can be one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
to Consider When Making a Gift to the National Federation of the Blind
· Will my gift serve to advance the mission of the NFB?
· Am I giving the most appropriate asset?
· Have I selected the best way to make my gift?
· Have I considered the tax consequences of my gift?
· Have I sought counsel from a competent advisor?
· Have I talked to the planned giving officer about my gift?
of Making a Gift to the NFB
· Helping the NFB fulfill its mission
· Receiving income tax savings through a charitable deduction
· Making capital gains tax savings on contribution of some appreciated gifts
· Providing retained payments for the life of a donor or other beneficiaries
· Eliminating federal estate tax in certain situations
· Reducing estate settlement cost
Will Help Us
· Make the study of science and math a real possibility for blind children
· Provide hope for seniors losing vision
· Promote state and chapter programs and provide information that will educate blind people
· Advance technology helpful to the blind
· Create a state-of-the-art library on blindness
· Train and inspire professionals working with the blind
· Provide critical information to parents of blind children
· Mentor blind people trying to find jobs
Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!
From the Editor: Braille literacy is important every day of the year, but in the fall, when the new school year is beginning and the Braille Readers Are Leaders contest gets underway, it seems particularly fitting to remind ourselves and one another how vital strong Braille skills are to the education of blind children and the success of blind adults. A couple of years ago members of the NFB discovered Rachael West and her twins, Imilie and Jackson. Imilie was blind, and Rachael was determined to see that the education she received was just as good as Jackson’s. With the encouragement and support of NFB members, Rachael is achieving her goal, one victory at a time.
With the twins entering first grade this fall, Rachael set out to ensure that Imilie would receive sufficient Braille instruction in her classroom. The school started by agreeing to provide an hour a week of Braille to Imilie. No parent of a sighted child in her right mind would settle for that amount of print-reading instruction, so Rachael was not willing to agree to that amount for Imilie. She turned to Jim Omvig for advice and support. Here is the letter he sent her:
July 29, 2007
Amy sent me a copy of your email about Braille instruction for Imilie, and I understand and agree with your concern. This is a critical time in Imilie's educational experience and development of life skills, including fundamental literacy. The fact is that blind or low-vision children who learn to read and write using Braille in the early, formative years are always more competent, fluent, and literate than those who learn the skills later in life, and Imilie should have the opportunity, inspiration, and encouragement now to become the best she can be for the rest of her life.
I wish you well in working with the school district, and I hope the district personnel understand the vital importance of true literacy for a blind person--Imilie is being prepared right now for adulthood. Remember, Imilie is not just learning Braille. She is learning to read and write (becoming literate) using Braille. There is a vast difference.
The philosophical answer to the question of Braille instruction for blind children is this: in the perfect school system Braille would be taught, stressed, and practiced to, for, and by blind children--including those with some residual vision--for the same amount of time during every school day that print is taught, stressed, and practiced to, for, and by sighted children every school day. In other words, the learning opportunities truly to become literate should be exactly the same for Imilie as a blind child as they are for sighted children in the district.
The reality, however, is that, in addition to the actual reading classes that they have, sighted children also see and are exposed to print throughout the entire day in all that they do outside of reading class, so they get actual, meaningful practice and learning toward true literacy that is not thought of by anyone as reading class. At least in the beginning Imilie can't realistically get exactly this same amount of practice and exposure, since she is not completely skilled in Braille yet. But the school district needs to do all that it possibly can (what the reasonable person would do) to equalize this deficiency.
Therefore, to get on the road to equality, Imilie should have at least one hour of actual Braille instruction each school day (she should also do independent practice at home during evenings and on weekends). Sometimes, you or your mom can read together with her using Twin Vision® (print-Braille) books so you can observe her actual accuracy and competence. Then, as her Braille skill improves and she masters it, her materials for her other classes (things that are provided in print by the school district for sighted children) should begin routinely to be made available in Braille. Eventually all of the other class materials provided by the school to sighted kids in print should be made available to Imilie in Braille, and she should also be required to turn in certain of her schoolwork assignments in Braille.
Then too, both you and the school district can do something a little more subtle. You can place Braille labels around in places Imilie is likely to touch with her hands or fingers so that, like sighted children who encounter print everywhere, she will encounter and feel Braille frequently when it is not thought of at all as a class or as study. Braille should become a natural part of life and as normal communication for her.
as she develops and grows, Imilie should be encouraged to do as much pleasure
reading as possible using Braille books. Through reading Braille books, she
will become completely fluent, but she will also learn vocabulary, spelling,
punctuation, and paragraph structure, etc. In her early years don't let her
get into the habit of pleasure reading using tapes or computers. Give her
fun kids’ books to read. The more she practices her Braille, the more fluent
and literate she will become. After she is truly literate, then who cares
whether she reads using tape or computers? It will make no difference then,
since she will already have become literate by mastering Braille.
I assume you know you can borrow all the Braille books you want for pleasure reading from your state library for the blind. But remember, we of the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults also give Braille books free to blind children so that they may have and keep their personal collections of books just as sighted children do.
I am delighted to learn from your note that Imilie's eye doctor is with you on the question of Braille instruction. The more allies you can get, the better. You might want to give him or her a copy of this email so that there is a complete understanding of the critical importance concerning good Braille instruction and real literacy for the blind or low-vision youngster.
In fact, in the hope you do share this email with your eye doctor or with other parents, let me offer an additional piece of my thinking (based on forty-seven years of experience) concerning literacy and children who have some loss of vision. If the child who has some vision loss can read regular-sized print--whatever size is age-appropriate at the time--at a competitive reading speed for a sustained period of time without tiring or developing discomfort, headaches, or other distress, and if there is no evidence that the vision loss is caused by a medical condition that can be expected to result in future deterioration of vision--then by all means learn and use print and forget about Braille.
On the other hand, if all of the conditions of the test I have laid out are not met, then see that the child learns and uses Braille, although it is also appropriate to learn print and use it whenever it is truly efficient or when no Braille is available. In my own case, the backward blindness professionals at my school for the blind thought it was perfectly appropriate for me to read and function using print (and to avoid learning Braille) when I could read only large--very large--print at about ten or fifteen words a minute for no more than fifteen minutes at a time before tiring and quitting, even though everybody knew I'd be totally blind one day from retinitis pigmentosa. This is not the ability to read normal print at a competitive pace for a sustained period of time I'm talking about.
this has become much more than I had intended to write when I began, but I
decided it is important to give you all the information I can at this critical
time in Imilie's life. Greet Imilie, Jackson, and your mom from Sharon and
me, and good luck in getting other parents in Mississippi to become concerned
about true literacy for their blind or low-vision children. We'll be in touch
Rachael, who has been elected president of the Mississippi affiliate’s parent division, reported a few days later that she had taken Jim’s letter and some other NFB literature about Braille literacy to her meeting with school officials. The result of this discussion was that Imilie will be given an hour of instruction in Braille every day. She will also be doing all of her math with the Braillewriter and abacus and her Braille teacher right there to supervise, which means that she will be getting a total of two hours of Braille instruction each day. All of this will take place in the classroom, so that her Braille teacher can convert what the class is doing in print into Braille for Imilie to use. Mark up one victory in the ongoing battle for good Braille instruction. With luck perhaps Imilie will be ready for the Braille Readers Are Leaders program by November.
o Win a trip to the 2008 NFB Convention
o T-shirts for every participant
o More surprises
o Contest now two months, not three
o Begins (as it always has) on November 1, 2007
o Ends in 2008 on Louis Braille’s birth date: January 4
o Advance registration now available
o Faster turnaround of certificates and ribbons for contestants that register early
o New categories
o Redesigned reading journal
o More guidance about electronic books read with refreshable Braille
o Detailed list of acceptable reading materials
Information and forms are available online at: http://nfb.org/nfb/NOPBC_Braille_Readers_Are_Leaders.asp
may be requested by email, mail, telephone, or fax from:
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
Phone: (410) 659-9314, extensions 2360 or 2361
Fax: (410) 659-5129
love books and reading begins at home long before your child or student starts
formal reading instruction. That’s true for all kids, and it is just as true
and important for blind and visually impaired children--including those with
delays or additional disabilities.
Here’s a program that gently encourages--and rewards--parents who spend time reading daily with their blind or visually impaired child. It’s called Braille Reading Pals. The program starts November 1 and ends December 31, 2007. We are in the process of taking registrations for the program now so we can mail out the Braille Reading Pals packets in October. The packet contains literature about literacy and Braille, a free print/Braille storybook, a reading journal with instructions, and a free Beanie Baby reading “pal” to use in the program.
We have been doing this program for a number of years. This year we want to add something new. We would like, with your help, to evaluate our program so that we can see if it is making a difference and make it better in the years to come. You can choose to participate in the program but not the evaluation if you wish. Participation in the evaluation study will have no effect on the contact you have with the Braille Reading Pals program or the NFB.
While a prize will be given to those families who complete the program, you will not be paid for the study portion. Information from this study may be presented at meetings or published in professional journals. This information will not include your name or information that can be easily traced back to you.
Please note that we send one packet per child. We have a limited number of packets but, when possible, we do consider special requests, so please explain your situation, and we will do our best to accommodate. For more details about the program, see <http://www.nfb.org/nfb/NOPBC_BRL_Reading_Pals.asp>.
please fill out and mail, fax, telephone, or email the following registration/information/consent
Dates to Remember
Registration: September 1 to November 1, 2007
Program: November 1 through December 31, 2007
Journal due: January 18, 2008
prizes: A tactile children’s book
A Braille Valentine’s Day greeting card
A Braille bookmark
Prizes will be shipped within three business days of receipt of the Reading Pals Journal. Journals are to be mailed, faxed, or emailed to the same place the registration forms are sent.
Reading Pals Registration Form
Mail: Braille Reading Pals, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, MD 21230
Fax: (410) 659-5129
Note: The registration information may be emailed, but the consent form must be mailed or faxed.
[ ] I wish to register for the 2007 Braille Reading Pals program. I understand this is a pre-Braille literacy program for blind and visually impaired prereaders (babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and older children who are not yet independent readers).
Please send me ___Braille Reading Pals program packets to [ ] school/work address [ ] home address.
[ ] Parent [ ] Teacher [ ] Librarian [ ] Other
State __________________________ Zip _______________
Child’s name (first and last) ____________________________________
Birth date _________________
[ ] Male [ ] Female
Child’s name (first and last) ____________________________________
Birth date _________________
[ ] Male [ ] Female
Child’s name (first and last) ____________________________________
Birth date _________________
[ ] Male [ ] Female
The best way
to contact me is by (provide at least one of the below):
Note: If you
are a teacher or other professional, you must provide the following signed consent
form from the parent of each child participating in the program. (Please print
out additional consent forms if necessary, or we will send them to parents with
the registration packets.)
[ ] I give permission to the Braille Reading Pals, the National Federation of the Blind, and other Braille Reading Pals Partners to use the information obtained in this program, logs, and telephone interviews, to evaluate the Braille Reading Pals program. I am not giving up any of my legal rights by signing this form.
[ ] I want to participate in the program with my family but not in the evaluation study.
of parent _________________________________________
Printed name of parent _____________________________
by Robert Leslie Newman
From the Editor: I used to laugh as heartily as the next person at the oft-quoted comment that every time I feel the impulse to exercise, I lie down until the fit passes. But the more I read about the absolute necessity of daily exercise to good health and reasonable quality of life, the more unfunny I find this attitude. Moreover, I used to be able to take off unwanted pounds by simply consuming fewer calories. But no more! Metabolism slow-down has set in, and, if I want to lose weight, I now have to couple eating less with increased exercise.
isn’t easy for most blind people to run out and join a gym or jump in the car
to get to fitness classes. Buying a video in order to take up yoga or find out
if Pilates is the answer requires endless explanation and interpretation at
the very least. So what is a blind person to do? Some of us have solved the
problem and are committed to our exercise programs. Robert Leslie Newman, a
rehabilitation counselor, president of the NFB Writers Division, and an active
member of the NFB of Nebraska, is one of these. He offers his thoughts about
the importance of exercise and a detailed description of his personal program
in the following article. This is what he says:
How did my lifelong habit of exercise get started anyway? I think the charitable would say it began because I wanted to improve my self-esteem; the less charitable would say it was vanity and the teenage impulse toward manly competition. To tell the truth, many of my friends and I believed that big muscles--looking like a weight lifter--were the way to look cool. I am fifty-eight years old and totally blind. I do not look like a weight lifter, but I am physically fit, and I like to talk about it. Exercise and a reasonable diet have been an important and ongoing part of my life since I began working out in my teens. I am basically still the same weight and measurements as I was when I graduated from high school.
I have a threefold purpose for writing this article. First, I believe we need to address the serious health issue of too much weight and too little muscle tone in the nation and in our community because we can bring about a positive change. To that end, this is my story, my personal exercise regimen, and a description of its positive influence upon my life. Second, it is my contribution in bringing focus to an already recognized problem in the blindness community: too many blind people are overweight and out of shape. And, third, I believe that looking and feeling good does affect our personal adjustment to blindness and does positively influence others’ reactions to us. So yes, changing what it means to be blind in part does come from the way we look and feel.
Being blind and being fit truly are compatible characteristics, but fitness is even less common in the blind community today than it is in the general population. I believe the underlying cause is society’s misinformation and misunderstanding about blindness. Most societies have a negative view of blindness, one that manifests itself in lowered expectations and therefore makes fewer demands and provides fewer opportunities for the person who is born blind or becomes blind later in life.
In ignorance and protectiveness parents of blind children are likely to limit their active pursuits and keep them indoors, not allowing them to master playground equipment, not enrolling them in organized sports, and not expecting them to do normal household chores. This problem is exacerbated by the general tendency of public schools to have lower expectations of blind students and hence low program accessibility in physical education classes and intramural or extramural sports for blind students. By the time young blind people are making most of their own choices, their lives are already programmed to be sedentary. Not surprisingly they choose to engage in nonphysically active pursuits like watching television, listening to music, working on the computer, and reading. This fear of and lack of practice in moving, together with society’s encouragement of inactive pursuits, can affect newly blind adults as well. This impulse toward sluggishness is compounded for blind people by the undemanding philosophy underlying the services of the average blindness rehabilitation agency.
I have no doubt that my parents, teachers, and friends helped develop my interest in fitness. My mother never let me sit around the house, my father encouraged my interest in sports, and my teachers expected me to participate in activities with my peers, both when I was sighted and after I became blind.
In the summer of 1964, when I was fifteen, I became totally blind as a result of a car accident. My local school did not believe that they could deal with a blind student, so I was enrolled in the state school for the blind in Nebraska. I was a fairly typical teen in that I was not particularly athletic. I attended gym class and followed through with whatever the physical education teacher asked of us. I did participate in wrestling and track. I was lucky that my parents were not the overprotective type; they knew nothing about blindness, but they knew about kids. They expected a normal kid to play actively, which meant not being sedentary. They thought it was reasonable for me to do sports and go out with friends. Moreover, the educators at the residential school for the blind expected blind kids to experience the normal range of curriculum, so they designed classes to accommodate the unique characteristics of the blind learner.
Taking care of one’s health through activity and diet is appropriate for everyone at any age, but if you resemble the inactive blind person I’ve been talking about, how do you get started? Let’s start with what you eat.
Significant Influences and Supports
What should you do first to get active? After decades of exercising and observing other people's fitness programs, I know that what works for one person does not necessarily work for the next. Yet in general we are more similar than different, and almost everyone can find a balance between diet and exercise that will work. Exceptions to this rule exist but are very rare. However, before you try seriously pushing yourself, recognize your starting point and begin slowly.
When I look at myself in my mirror (my ten fingers), I know that what I see is not just the result of exercise, but of diet as well. So before we talk about exercise, we have to consider the consumption and burning of calories because the balance between the two is what a person has to achieve. Body shape and fitness are the result of balancing what goes in your mouth and the amount of physical activity necessary to burn off what you have eaten so that you only add to the parts of your body that you need to and do not add weight where it is not wanted.
I have never been on a diet. Yet in another sense I am always on a diet. I call it a reasonable diet, one that keeps me in the input-output balance that I have found over the years works for me. In short, I like to eat; I eat anything I want, but in moderation. Mostly I stay away from classic desserts like cake and pie with all the sugar and flour, carbohydrates that turn into fat for storage in the body. I eat them rarely. My normal after-dinner treat is a piece of fruit or, if I really need a sugar boost, one piece of candy.
I also stay away from eating between meals. I try to eat my largest meal at midday since after supper there are fewer hours in which to burn off calories before bed. The beauty of this system is that, when you choose to pig out at a party or picnic, you can do it, knowing that the next day you will go back to your normal habit of being reasonable with your diet. Finally, remember that being in shape and fit is more than just having a trim figure. Fitness results from the process of getting in shape, and it means having more toned-up musculature and stronger circulatory and respiratory systems.
Now for the
exercise part of my fitness program. First is aerobics, the running I do for
my heart and circulatory system. Second is weight lifting for maintaining muscle
mass and a defined look in my physique and also the exercises I do for fat burning
Here is the Robert Leslie Newman exercise regimen. This is what my personal weekly routine looks like:
Aerobic exercise or running--upon rising and after orange juice and coffee Monday through Friday, I run for twenty minutes, which I figure is at least two miles. I run in my basement on a trampoline that is about three feet in diameter. This is a $25 item that can be found in either sporting goods stores or fitness catalogues. I like this spring-action device, not only because it takes a lot of the joint stress out of running, but because I can conveniently run on it all year round, no matter the weather. It takes the same commitment as running outdoors in that you must run at a pace that elevates your heart rate and sustain the elevation for a reasonable amount of time. While running, I listen to a local radio station. This provides an audible landmark so I don’t get disoriented, and it gives me my first fix of world and local news and weather forecasts for the day.
is an evening activity, one that allows me to spend time with my wife. I do
it in the family room. Bonnie and I watch some of the TV programs we like. She
is a second-grade teacher, and, while I exercise, she busies herself with school-related
Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday evenings I work on my upper body. I do not use really heavy weights. When I was younger and going for bulk, I used much heavier poundage. Now I go for muscle tone and definition. I begin by warming up by stretching and an exercise that works better for me than push-ups or sit-ups. It is what I call roll-outs. Visualize an eight-inch wheel with a one-foot rod through the center as an axle, with handgrips on either end of the rod. I get down on my knees with the wheel grasped between my two hands. I place the rim of the wheel on the floor in front of me, and, with my weight bridging from my knees to the wheel, I roll out straight and then roll back up to my knees. Then I repeat it one hundred times. This works all the muscles from the knees on up and develops core strength. Only the lower legs touch the floor at any time. I had to work my way up to the full roll-out and this significant number of reps.
For the lifting part of this workout, I start with a barbell, a four-foot steel bar with cast-iron collars, which weighs twenty-five pounds. Then I add two five-pound weights and two one-and-a-quarter-pound weights. The total weight is thirty-seven and a half pounds. When you begin, you want to use enough weight so that the first set feels too light for you. The second set feels more challenging, and the third set is hard. In fact, at first you may not be able to finish the last set. When doing all three sets loses its challenge, you are ready to add more weight. You can decide when you are ready to stabilize the weight. Once you hold steady, you will stop building muscle mass and just increase muscle tone and definition.
I begin with what are called military presses, which build up the shoulder muscles. I kneel on the floor, starting with the bar just below my chin, at shoulder height, each hand gripping the bar in front of its shoulder. I then press the bar straight up as high as I can and then lower it back to shoulder level. I do five sets of thirty repetitions, with a minute of recovery after each set. The first fifteen reps are done with the bar in front of my chin and the second fifteen are done behind my head. I always rest for one minute between sets when working out.
Next I do triceps extensions to build up the muscles on the back side of the upper arms. I lie flat on my back with my hands close together at the center of the bar and extended straight above my head on the floor. I begin by keeping my arms straight; I raise them to the vertical. I then bend my arms at the elbow, bringing the bar down to touch my nose, then I straighten my arms again so that the bar is being pressed toward the ceiling. The bar does not return to the floor above my head until the end of the set. Be careful when lowering the bar; it is easy to strike your nose if you are moving too fast. I do four sets of thirty repetitions.
Next I do curls, which build up the biceps, the muscles on the front side of the upper arm. I stand with my arms straight down in front of me, hands shoulder-width apart, palms up. The bar is horizontal in my hands and touching the tops of my thighs. Bending my elbows, I raise the bar to my chest and then lower again. I do four sets of twenty repetitions.
The next exercise is done with five-pound hand weights. I call it butterflies; it builds the shoulders. With one in each hand, arms straight down at my sides, I raise them simultaneously out to the sides and over my head until the weights touch; then I lower them until they again touch behind me at the small of my back. I do four sets of twenty-five.
Next I do what I call armpit raises (which build shoulders and arms). I use eight-pound weights. Starting with my arms straight down at my sides, I lift both arms in unison, bending my elbows and bringing the weights straight up into my armpits. I then raise my shoulders as high as I can and then lower them and the weights back to the original position. I do four sets of forty reps.
I then do another exercise like curls (building both the biceps and triceps, the front and back sides of the upper arms). With an eight-pounder in each hand and arms straight down at my sides, I simultaneously bend one arm, raising that weight to touch the shoulder, and lift the other arm to the back and up as far as I can reach. I do four sets of sixty reps.
The final exercise I call swings (building the shoulders). I lie on the floor flat on my back, arms straight down at my sides. With an eight-pounder in each hand, keeping my arms straight at all times, I lift both weights from the floor and swing my arms up and over to touch them to the floor above my head. Then I swing them back down to the floor in the starting position. I do four sets of thirty reps.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights I work my lower body: thighs, calves, and ankles. I have worked up to using the barbell on my shoulders with eighty-seven and a half pounds, just over half my total body weight. I do five sets of thirty squats and five sets of thirty toe-raises. Holding the barbell over my shoulders, I squat down as far as I can and then stand up again. For toe-raises I stand holding the barbell in the same position with the balls of my feet on a two-inch pad. I then raise myself as far as I can onto my toes then lower my heels to the floor before raising up to stand on the balls of my feet again. I do thirty squats and thirty toe-raises as a set before putting down the barbell for my minute of recovery.
You will notice that my schedule has me alternating upper-body and lower-body work-outs. This is necessary. In a good workout you tear down muscle fiber, and when it recovers, it is just that much stronger. But the process takes two days, thus the alternation of upper and lower-body exercise.
The final type of exercise is one I make time to do every day. I perform it while seated in a chair. I do it when and wherever I can. It is simply many, many crunches of the buttocks, stomach, and side muscles. This entire in-seat routine can be done anywhere: at home, at work, in the car. Never again will I just sit through a boring meeting, fighting off sleep. I tense up those muscles one group at a time, again and again, until it hurts, working to burn off fat. Practice doing these reps without undue motion and without making faces.
Contract and release the buttocks muscles on one side over and over, until the muscles burn. Hold the contraction as long as possible the final time before moving on to the next set. To exercise the side muscles, imagine lifting one hip to try to touch the shoulder on that side. To exercise the abdominals, contract the muscles necessary to lift your knees to your chest and then release them. The chief value of these five exercises is in the multiple contractions and releases, which build strength and control. The side benefit is that they remind you what it feels like to have these muscles tucked up tight, which is the way they should be whenever you are standing or sitting straight. Good posture requires that all the core muscle groups be strong and do the job they are supposed to.
I assure you that I do not spend all evening watching TV and exercising. The upper-body routine takes a little over an hour, and the lower-body routine takes about a half hour. I have found time to do some version of this routine for decades now, and I always will. If I lose a night because of a social engagement or a meeting, I don’t worry about it. I am faithful enough that a lost workout doesn’t matter much.
How does being in shape fit into the concept of changing what it means to be blind? In brief it's this: The person who gets in shape and maintains fitness looks better and feels better, which gives one a boost to the morale and the self-confidence. With all the presumptions of incompetence and helplessness that every blind person experiences every day, who among us couldn’t benefit from this sense of achievement and a boost in morale? More generally, blindness places us at a social disadvantage, at least in the eyes of many other people. Yet being fit, moving well and looking strong and controlled, is a social advantage, whereas being flabby and paunchy is a definite detractor. I am not talking about chiseled features or prettiness, but rather looking trim and fit for your body type. More and more studies report that people who look good get hired more often than those who have let themselves go. So what are you waiting for? You have nothing to lose but unwanted inches.
From the Editor: I have been a member of Curves for just over three years. Despite a very busy life, which includes a fair amount of traveling for work and family, I have just received my T-shirt for having completed 400 workouts. You can tell from this that I agree with Seville Allen that Curves is a great place for women of all ages to exercise.
The workout consists of twenty-four minutes of exercising on a series of machines with recovery stations between them. The machines are designed to exercise different muscle groups. You jog or do various dance steps on the recovery stations. Music is playing, and a recorded voice track instructs women to move to the next station every thirty seconds. The number of machines varies depending on the size of the space and the profitability of the franchise. I have seen teenagers at Curves, and I know women in their eighties still exercising. The faster you do the repeats, the more demanding a workout you get. When you have exercised for twenty-four minutes, you step to the side and do a series of stretches for six minutes. This means that you can be out the door in just over a half hour.
I can say from experience that it is easier to remain disciplined by coming at least three times a week if you work out with a friend. Both my daughter and I do better at getting to Curves when the other is going to be there than we do when for any reason we have to go alone. I certainly have found the Curves staff and patrons as easy going and accepting of a blind member as Seville has. Seville lives in northern Virginia and is a longtime leader of the NFB of Virginia. She wrote the following article for her local Curves newsletter. It first appeared in Monologues, Winter 2007, Volume 9. This is what she says:
I had read about Curves two years ago and encouraged friends to go. They joined Curves, but I didn't. In fact, a friend (Cathy Schroeder) in Vienna, Virginia, was the first woman to tell me of Curves and how it works. I listened to my friend, but from her description I decided that the Curves routine was for sissies, those who only wanted to brag about participating in a gym program; after all, isn't that politically correct?
In September I decided for sure I needed to exercise and lose a little weight because I wasn't doing it at home. I looked on the Internet and saw that there was a Curves just two blocks from my home. I mustered my courage and walked into the Curves facility at Virginia Square. Holly, a smiling young woman, greeted me and took my details for an eventual contract. I returned two days later for Jennifer to show me the equipment. When we finished, with a big smile in her voice Jennifer said, "Welcome to Curves!" The rest is history.
I've been coming to Curves for five months now. I feel much better about myself, and my energy level is higher. I keep coming because I feel welcome and encouraged to exercise. One more thing I will add to this is that I am blind, and, while that isn't significant to me, I find that being blind often excludes me from community activities. Not from Curves! In fact, I invited some of my blind colleagues to join me, and they are now also members at Virginia Square.
by Gary Wunder
From the Editor: On Wednesday, July 4, the NFB Department on Affiliate Action sponsored a workshop on advocacy at the national convention. Gary Wunder, NFB secretary and member of the Scholarship Committee, was invited to wrap up that workshop. Because of his scholarship responsibilities, he raced into the workshop at the last moment to make his presentation. This is what he said:
I want to begin this evening by apologizing. Normally I have to do that at the end of my speeches anyway, so we'll just get it out of the way right now. Seriously, this is a different kind of speech for me because I make it a practice to participate fully in seminars and conferences where I'm honored with the opportunity to speak, and this participation gives me a sense of the audience which I'm just not able to have here tonight. I mean no disrespect by showing up here at such a late hour and hope you will forgive anything I say which simply repeats what has been said earlier.
When I was in high school, I had a most eccentric English teacher, who stressed how important it was to capture information and inspiration when they came your way. Inspiration and information were precious gifts, and if you let them slip by, you might never recapture what had once been yours for the taking. All of this was embodied in one sentence, which was repeated every single day of the school year: “It only goes by once.”
I tell you this story because, when Dan called for the name of my presentation, I was at work and was struck by the inspiration which resulted in this title. The call complete, I went back to work coding a program, and three weeks later, when I saw the agenda, there was this impressive presentation title with my name beside it. I remembered the letter asking if I would present, remembered the phone call to confirm it, but couldn't think for the life of me what new paradigm I had had in mind.
When first I came to the Federation, I couldn't believe what a ruckus some blind people were making. I was sixteen years old. Discrimination was a word I had heard quite a lot but always on television in the context of minority groups who were demanding more from America as the first-class citizens they intended to be. Never had I heard a blind person use the word to describe something in his own life—never, that is, until I started receiving the Braille Monitor. At first what I read was too distant from my life to have meaning--I understood the words, admired the writing, but really wondered whether these highly articulate people had reasonable concerns or were simply playing for a little recognition, some power, and of course some money.
Eventually my involvement with the Federation brought me to meetings with leaders I had kept emotionally at arm’s length. All of a sudden they were more than voices on a sixteen-RPM record, celebrities like those I watched on television but never hoped to meet. These were real people, good people, and I realized their cause was not cynical or self-serving. Coming to that realization wasn't easy, for to admit they articulated genuine concerns meant changing some fundamental beliefs about the world and the place of the blind in it. Never had I, a young white male, thought of myself as a member of a minority. “Oppressed”--now there was a word I related to--poor immigrants used to pick crops and then sent back home. The closest I ever came to feeling oppressed was when, on a Saturday morning, Dad would say we were going to work cleaning up the yard or shoveling out the barn.
My conversion to the mindset of the Federation didn't rely solely on the charm of our leaders and their ability to persuade, for as I got older and moved from the protective environment of home and family, I too began to encounter discrimination based on a fundamental misunderstanding of blindness and the power agencies for the blind could exert. I couldn't really be an advocate until I could find in other people's stories some part of my own life experience. I'm convinced you can't really be an advocate until you have personally felt the sting of an unreasonable no, the rejection of a perfectly rational argument with a dismissive "So what," and have learned first-hand that the issue is power--power someone has that you do not.
All of this background is to say that, as I became a bit more seasoned in the Federation, I began to look forward to my monthly Braille Monitor and would seek out stories in which competent blind men and women were defended by their blind brothers and sisters with a reasonableness and persistence that made me both angry and proud--angry at the pig-headed people who thought more of their traditions and policies than they did of human beings, and proud I could be a part of an organization with the commitment, the resources, and the sophistication to defend their rights.
was my youth or the way things were thirty-five years ago, I can't say, but
for a good long while everything in these battles was good vs. evil; enlightenment
vs. ignorance; intelligence vs. stupidity. In those days, or at least in my
memory of them, our magazine was filled with case after case in which blind
people were routinely and unashamedly denied their rights. Based solely on blindness,
capable women and men were denied the right to rent apartments, to be accompanied
by their guide dogs, to buy life insurance, to ride buses without an attendant,
to be admitted to law school though they had the grades and test scores to qualify
for admission, to take certain state and federal exams to qualify for employment,
to rent motor vehicles that others would drive--the list seemed almost endless.
So, as I moved up the ladder of leadership, I yearned for just these kinds of cases. I wouldn't say I was looking for a fight, but my ears certainly perked up when I heard words like “denied,” “forbidden,” and “charged extra.”
Two things have happened since my early days. One is that I've come to realize there really are two sides to every story, even if I'm very committed to one of those sides. The second is that the world doesn't stay the same, and people learn from their mistakes.
Discrimination today is in many cases more subtle than it once was. The outrageous statements we used to get routinely from those who were surprised anyone would object to the denial of a blind person have vanished as publicity about the ADA has made it clear there are some questions one can't ask and things one can't say if she wants to be on the side of legal safety and political correctness. Seldom do we argue about whether a door is closed to us. Now the issue is, to what degree is what we find behind those doors usable by blind people and to what degree are we or some agency responsible for the improvements needed to make it truly accessible.
I'm going to share a few stories that taught me more than I used to know when reading my Monitor and cheering for the home team. I'll preface this by saying I've been blessed to have been a part of many successes in advocacy, most of which are documented by the annual report I write each year for the NFB of Missouri. What I want to focus on for just a few minutes here are cases that were real learning experiences for me and that taught me to safeguard the reputation of the Federation, to make sure I had all the facts, and to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that the people for whom we advocate really are on board and are a part of the process we undertake.
One of the first cases to come my way as a new state president involved an angry guide dog user who had been denied access in renting an apartment. Given that we had just passed the Model White Cane Law after an eight-year fight, I was more than willing to take on the landlord, establish some case law, and recruit for the Federation a new member who would appreciate our willingness to come to his assistance.
The first thing I did was listen. I encouraged him to tell me his story when he was piqued and at times when he was more relaxed. Then I asked questions to ensure I understood what had happened, when it happened, and all he could recall that had been said. Next I wrote down the events as I understood them and read them back to him for approval. I must have done a pretty good job of capturing them because, when I finished my recitation, he was just about as angry as he had been on the day he was denied.
I told him we now needed a strategy. Since the landlord wouldn't bargain, I thought we needed publicity. "Expose him!" he said. Actually what he said was, "Expose the old--expletive deleted." So I did what I had learned from The Media and the Message, a publication of the Public Relations Committee of the NFB. I wrote a release and distributed it to radio, television, and newspapers in his area. The response was overwhelming--reporters and editors were interested--"Legal challenge will soon determine whether new law for the blind and their dog guides has teeth"; "Keep out sign extended to the blind"; "Landlord says second floor too risky for the sightless." I was elated--he was not. When he was contacted for interviews and one of the TV stations offered to send out their Action investigative reporter, anger at the landlord turned to anger at the NFB and its foolish young president. His standard line soon became that this had all been blown out of proportion; that he really didn't care if one landlord refused him admission because he could always find another place to live; that he had just been letting off steam and had never wanted this kind of publicity; and, as everybody knows, the NFB is a radical, militant group always looking for a fight.
Lessons learned: Don't assume someone complaining to you will stand firm when it comes time to tell people who can make a difference; most of us are eager to complain, but when a complaint threatens really to rock the boat, a different level of commitment is required, and it is our job to see beforehand that this commitment is there. After long experience I've learned to start by giving people who want our help an assignment. Hopefully that assignment has something to do with furthering resolution of their dispute--send me the paperwork; write things out chronologically so I can better understand them; get me the CEO of the company we might take action against. In making an assignment, I have to assess the competence of the person on the other end of the phone--a developmentally challenged person may not be able to write out a time line, so for her the assignment may be to sign and return a release form I send. Never mind that we really have no release form and don't need one. The assignment is just to see some follow-through. I can't make the task so hard that the person seeking help needs an advocate to get an advocate, but for me the important measure is that I see initiative that goes beyond complaining and indicates a tangible willingness to work at resolution.
Now I move to a case involving a very capable young lady who wanted to be licensed to do day care. Some of you will think I'm talking about Carol Coulter, but don't get ahead of me, for this is not her story. I spent hours on the phone with this young woman, becoming ever more convinced that anyone who would deny her what she sought was an absolute idiot. She was a successful mother; already ran an unlicensed day care facility with happy customers; had good social skills; and was unquestionably bright, attractive, well dressed, and motivated. I wanted to ride the big white horse for this woman, to see her house full of children, and to have her license from the State of Missouri on the wall. So, after gathering all the facts I needed, I went off angrily and self-righteously to confront the bureaucrats in our state capitol, only to learn that my blind friend was not being denied a license on the basis of blindness but because her husband was the subject of an active investigation into charges of child molestation.
Wooh--jump back, Jack. I had talked with my blind friend so frequently that I knew everything there was to know about her case--everything, that is, that she wanted me to know, everything she thought I needed to know, everything except information that might explain why she wasn't getting a license. Was her husband guilty of molesting a child? I suppose I'll never know. Was she smart enough to recognize what I would be encouraged to hear and what would put me off? You bet she was! Her response when I asked her why she didn't communicate something so important was, "Well, it's just nonsense. My husband wouldn't hurt a fly," which might have been true, but interestingly, when the couple divorced several years later, the charge was again repeated, and this time by my friend seeking to end her marriage.
Lessons learned: Be careful when you think your client walks on water or your opponent is dumber than dirt. Proceed with passion and conviction, but leave the wrath of righteous indignation to God. Always remember that, when people come for help, they're engaged in selling their case and asking you to buy it with our reputation, our resourcefulness, and our money--be open to offering all of these, but guard them diligently.
If I have really recaptured the new paradigm I so dreamily envisioned when coming up with this presentation's title, it is that advocacy is usually more about seeing people get what they need than defending them against outright denials and unwavering prejudice. Being a good advocate is traveling the harder road and demanding self-reflection and honesty from the people we help. If your spelling is poor because you didn't learn Braille, my job is to move you beyond that story to the place where you become a better speller and learn to read. My job is to say that your story must be told for the benefit of generations to come, that we will use it in shaping public policy and programs, but that it must not be the stopping place where all your thwarted aspirations are explained and your identity as victim is forever enshrined.
Being a modern day advocate means swimming upstream against the prevailing mentality that I will be served, that the system is responsible for my troubles, and that the system is responsible for fixing them. If a change in the system is required, we must work to bring it about, but in the meantime our job is to solve that problem with the person we're helping and let him or her move on to other challenges and successes.
If we are going to say the hard things that sometimes need saying and practice what is commonly known as tough love, we have to start by evidencing that love in all our Federation interactions. The man we help has to know that our commitment to him goes beyond the specifics of his issue. If we encourage him to learn, he has to know we will be there to teach. If we encourage a woman to improve her blindness skills, she must have the faith that we'll be there to see that she gets the training. She must understand at a gut level that she is more than a case, more than a deadline for filing, and more than a possible article in the Monitor. We need to know her favorite stories and see how they make her the person she is. Her current struggle is one small part of who she is, and we're not in this just to win her case but to win her heart and soul to join in a cause larger than herself. Part of our goal in advocacy is to develop our replacements. We work for her, but we also work in the belief that those who are today's receivers will be tomorrow's givers.
When you find the gems who need and want our help, give them your all. You can't promise outcomes, but you can promise the best of everything we have to give. Being the advocate sets you up to be the hero or the heel, and which you will be depends, not on whether we win or lose, but on whether you keep the promises you have made.
My last thought on advocacy, or at least the last one I can fit into this presentation, is that being an advocate is a tremendous honor and gives us the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people we have pledged ourselves to serve. It can create lifelong bonds of trust and friendship and can be the foundation on which many more lives are changed for the better. At its best, advocacy is a tangible way to make Federation philosophy more than words on a page. It is the way we demonstrate the transformative power of challenge and belief and a living, breathing testament to the love we have for others who are blind.
by Marc Lacey with Prior Beharry
From the Editor: One of the more memorable battles that NFB members have fought was the one to win the right for blind people to serve overseas in the United States Foreign Service. An NFB leader, Rami Rabby, who had served as president of the NFB of Illinois and secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, was interested in joining the Foreign Service and was formidably equipped to serve his adopted country in that capacity. But the State Department had other ideas. The discussions were difficult, and our efforts to educate department bureaucrats culminated in a congressional hearing that dozens if not hundreds of us attended. The result was a victory that changed the lives and prospects of a handful of blind Americans who wish to work for the Department of State in other countries. More broadly, it removed a general barrier for all blind people.
It hardly seems possible to those of us who remember the original fight that Rami Rabby is now retiring from the Foreign Service. On July 7, 2007, the New York Times carried a story about Rami’s career. Here it is:
As chief of the political section at the American Embassy here for the last two years, Avraham Rabby has had the job of surveying Trinidad's political landscape for Washington. The fact that he has not actually seen the Caribbean island--or any of the places on five continents where he has been posted--has not stymied him.
"I necessarily listen more than a sighted person would," he said. "If I'm walking along a street, I can tell there is a building next to me because of the echoes of my feet or my cane. A blind person sees the world differently from a sighted person. Our impressions are no less valid."
Mr. Rabby, who lost his sight at the age of eight because of detached retinas, is the State Department's first blind diplomat. It is an achievement he fought for in the 1980s, passing three written entrance exams and two oral exercises along the way. But even then the State Department barred him from the diplomatic corps.
"You don't ask a blind person to drive a bus or be a bank teller," George S. Vest, who was the personnel director for the Foreign Service, explained in a 1988 interview. "There are jobs which are dangerous or unsuitable for them. And in the Foreign Service we're full of jobs like that."
contended that diplomats, blind ones included, had to be able to work anywhere
in the world and to work with confidential documents without any outside aid.
In addition, State Department officials said diplomats had to be able to pick
up on nonverbal cues, such as winks or nods, which can sometimes have more meaning
than the words being uttered. But Mr. Rabby illustrated another essential quality
of diplomats: perseverance. "No international treaty has ever been decided
on the basis of a wink or a nod," he retorted, after hiring a lawyer and
challenging the State Department's policy, which dated from the eighteenth century.
Aiding Mr. Rabby's effort was a federal law barring the government from disqualifying prospective employees because of disabilities. Eventually, after the news media and Congress found out about his case, the State Department reversed course. The new policy would consider disabled diplomats on a case-by-case basis. Mr. Rabby became case No. 1.
In 1990 he was off to London, where he was posted at the embassy there as a junior political officer. He moved next to Pretoria, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela had just been freed from prison and where Mr. Rabby witnessed the country's first free elections. "It was one of the most stimulating experiences in my life," he said, noting that he was one of the embassy's election observers.
"People ask me how I can assess a political rally if I can't see it," he said. "I tell them that I listen to the crowd and to the speakers. You can sense what is going on."
He spent time in Washington at the State Department's Bureau of Human Rights and in postings in Lima and New Delhi. During a stint at the United States Mission to the United Nations, he helped write resolutions dealing with literacy, global health, and the rights of the disabled.
His final posting--he retired at the end of June at the mandatory retirement age of sixty-five--was to Port of Spain, where he became an expert in Trinidad's political system, which has long been divided between parties, one predominantly Afro-Trinidadian and one Indo-Trinidadian. When journalists descended on Trinidad recently in search of information on the suspected plot to set off a bomb at a fuel line at Kennedy International Airport that was traced back to this Caribbean island, he became one of the officials to talk to.
"A diplomat does a lot of writing, a lot of reading, a lot of thinking, a lot of talking and has to attend a lot of meetings," he said. Thanks to technological advances and a full-time assistant, Mr. Rabby could do all of those things too. He wrote his cables to Washington using a machine that wrote in Braille. He then read them back to his assistant, Rhonda Singh, who typed them up. He also had a computer with a speech program that allowed him to listen to his email messages. As for tracking news developments, Ms. Singh, an American citizen who lives in Trinidad, read him the local papers. "I was basically his eyes," she said.
Born in Israel,
Mr. Rabby, who is known as Rami, was sent to live with an aunt in England at
the age of ten because his parents believed there were better schools for the
blind there. A Hebrew speaker, he quickly mastered English at Worcester College
for Blind Boys.
"I remember the headmaster used to go out and speak to groups about the school, and he used to say that we teach our boys to stand on their own two feet and, if necessary, to step on yours too," Mr. Rabby recalled. He went off to Oxford, where he studied French and Spanish. Finding a job after college proved a challenge. "Time and time again I met recruiters who felt that a blind person could not work in management," he said in the British accent that he has never lost. Eventually he joined Ford Motor Company in Britain, where he worked in human resources. After about a year he moved to the United States and earned an M.B.A. at the University of Chicago.
After graduation in 1969 he sought out a management training program but had few offers after "dozens and dozens, if not hundreds" of interviews. He finally landed a job with a management consulting firm, Hewitt Associates, and later moved to Citibank. He also spent time as an independent consultant, writing a number of employment guides, including one giving advice to blind job seekers.
"One of my problems in my working life, after a few years I get a bit tired of what I am doing, and I want to change," said Mr. Rabby, who became an American citizen in 1980. It was while living in New York that he decided to make the jump into international relations, a longtime interest. The State Department's regular rotations of its diplomats proved a perfect fit. His fight to join the Foreign Service has helped others along the way. There are now four blind Foreign Service officers stationed around the globe, the State Department said, among about 170 disabled Foreign Service employees overseas.
Mr. Rabby said blind Foreign Service officers had recently been restricted from adjudicating visa applications because of their inability to verify photographs and signatures of applications. Mr. Rabby, who attributes the decision to the increased restrictions after the September 11 attacks, said he did visa work at the start of his career in London with the assistance of a reader, who verified documents for him. He asked the questions and assessed the responses.
"The State Department is not yet completely on the side of the angels," he said. A State Department official disputed that there was a policy in place restricting the assignments of blind diplomats. Decisions on assigning personnel, the official said, are made on a case-by-case basis in accordance with the law.
Even before Mr. Rabby headed out into the world as a diplomat, he was already testifying before Congress on his quest for the job. He said back then that he did not want to be put in a pigeonhole as a blind diplomat. "Blind people are as different from one another as sighted people," he told members of the House Foreign Affairs and Civil Service Committees in 1989. "There is no such thing as a category labeled ‘blind.'"
From the Editor: Those of us who think and write about disability are well aware of the variety of views held by Americans about this complex subject. The following column first appeared in the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday, July 15, 2007. Its author, Deborah Kendrick, is a member of the NFB of Ohio board of directors. The column was inspired by her recent experience and a piece of hate-filled mail that she received. Here it is:
I received an email a few weeks ago that made me shake my head and press the Delete key, but it hasn't quite been erased from my consciousness. I was OK with the part that called me a lousy writer and traitor to my country. (Well, not okay in the sense that I agreed, but everyone is entitled to an opinion.) And I was only mildly annoyed by the inaccurate grammar and politically incorrect (we no longer say “handicapped”) language. No, the part of that letter that I found troubling was the writer's claim that she knew people with disabilities and that they weren't anything like those I write about.
The implication was that real people with disabilities aren't ordinary people with a range of competencies and another range of additional challenges, but that they are instead a group apart, a group of, um, "the handicapped."
Hearing from readers who think I'm off-base or clueless comes with the territory. If everyone agreed with me, I'd be bored and probably unemployed. But to hear from someone who claims to be a professional, interacting on a regular basis with children and adults with disabilities, who believes that a portrayal of people with disabilities as positive, powerful, or competent is a fiction--well, it is more than a reminder that there is still much work to be done.
Two vital principles bear repeating:
* People with disabilities are probably the most diverse minority, representing not only an enormous variety of mental and physical disabilities, but also every segment of our population. In other words, there are some who are extraordinary achievers, some who are slackers, and some at every increment between the two extremes.
* If you or those around you believe you'll fail, you probably will. All good teachers know that high expectations are more likely to motivate students to set and achieve higher goals.
I wish the malcontent who sent that letter could have witnessed just two small slices of reality I've enjoyed in just the last two weeks. On July 3 in Atlanta, a thousand blind people participated in the National Federation of the Blind's first 5K March for Independence. Rep. John Lewis, D-GA, who worked alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., led the march and inspired the crowd with a rousing, impassioned speech connecting the 1960s’ civil-rights effort for blacks with today's claiming of rights for people with disabilities. Participants included lawyers, teachers, business owners, scientists, mathematicians, and doctors--all of them blind. There were also retirees, factory workers, students, and people without jobs.
Just a few days later I had the privilege of speaking to about one hundred people at a conference in Cincinnati. Their focus was on self-advocacy, speaking for themselves, and claiming equality. To me they were warm, welcoming, and delightful. They laughed at my jokes, after all, and were glad that I had come. Some were in wheelchairs. Some had difficulty speaking. Most of them had developmental and/or intellectual disabilities. That means there probably wasn't a Ph.D. in the house, but I know enough to know that any assumptions about any group are usually wrongheaded notions.
Whether employed or living independently, in school or living with others, every person in that group felt empowered and was moving to the next level of dignity and independence.
About 54 million
Americans have disabilities, and no two of those people are alike. Happily,
the number who believe in themselves and in their capabilities is growing. The
rest of the population--those who do not have disabilities--can pull their weight
by dropping antiquated stereotypes--and the accompanying disparaging language--and
believe in that equality and dignity too.
Deborah Kendrick is a Cincinnati writer and advocate for people with disabilities. <email@example.com>
Now here is NFB First Vice President Fred Schroeder’s note to Deborah after reading this column:
I just saw your article, and it touched a chord in me. One of the greatest frustrations in trying to make fundamental change in the rehabilitation system is the denial that change is needed. As with the person who wrote you, some say that we have a skewed or unrealistic view of disability, that what we say about blindness is false and dismisses the real experience of the majority of blind people. The insistence that blindness is overwhelmingly disabling reflects the very problem we are trying to address. It is the lack of belief in a better future and the withdrawal from hope that is the true disability.
conducted training for a group of rehabilitation professionals. As I left the
room at the end of the day, I heard one of the participants say to another,
"This would have been good training in the early '80s." The implication
was that they had heard all this before and that it had no serious relevance
in their day-to-day work. Even those professionals who say they have high expectations
for blind people mostly don't believe it. For them it is something polite to
say but not something real.
After experiences like yours and mine, it is easy to become frustrated and easier still to become angry, but in this case I mostly felt a deep sadness. When people become blind, they look to the system of professionals for answers. When the answer comes back, "Your life is over," what more is the person to do?
The good news
is that you do make a difference. I have followed your work for many years and
know that you have touched countless lives with a message of dignity and opportunity
for blind people. Some of this comes from your ability to articulate your message
in a clear and powerful way, and some is the outgrowth of who you are as an
individual. You are one of the most natural and giving people I know. Your life
reflects the truth of your words, and no one can change that, lessen it, or
write it off. Keep writing, keep speaking, and most of all keep being who you
From the Editor: From time to time Miss Whozit answers reader questions about etiquette and good manners, particularly as they involve blindness. If you would like to pose a question to Miss Whozit, you can send it to the attention of Barbara Pierce, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or email me at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. I will pass the questions along. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. Here are the most recent letters Miss Whozit has received:
Dear Miss Whozit,
In the May issue you quoted a dog guide user who pointed out that lots of cane users let their canes get so scuffed and scratched that they are unsightly. I am totally blind, and I must admit that I have never given this problem a thought. I want to know what you think of this criticism. I can’t afford to replace my cane every time I nick the finish; who can?
Battered and Bothered
Dear Battered and Bothered,
This is one of those questions that is easier to answer in general than it is in a specific case. I don’t believe my correspondent would expect people to replace their canes at the first sign of wear and tear. After all, the white cane is supposed to come into contact with objects so that the user can avoid them. Nicks and scratches occur to all working instruments, so a useful white cane will inevitably collect the evidence of its working life. The Independence Market still has some solid Fiberglass canes for sale, which do not seem to acquire the unsightly black marks as easily as hollow Fiberglass and carbon fiber canes do. Using one of these canes may slow down the inevitable aging process, but canes that crack or otherwise break after a year or two of frequent use may well be candidates for retirement.
Yet I have known blind people who take fierce pride in the length of time they can keep using the same cane. Sometimes they even wrap duct tape around a shattered section, to keep it going as long as possible. I have heard people brag about how scruffy their canes look. I gather that you do not fall into this crowd. They probably brag as well about their twenty-five-year-old hiking boots, their dining room tables made from broken doors, and the stacks of books holding up their bookcases.
Any cane user
who actually uses the cane to travel scratches and nicks it. You should wipe
it down periodically with household cleaner to keep it as clean as possible,
but when the finish obviously begins to peel and feel rough, it is time to ask
a trusted friend if the cane should be retired, at least for dress occasions.
Until then, take satisfaction in the knowledge that every scuff and scratch
represents an abrasion that you did not receive.
Dear Miss Whozit,
I facilitate several support groups. We frequently read your column because it provides good information and stimulates discussion. We have two questions that we would like you to address:
1. In a group
setting, how do you handle the situation when you respond to a compliment then
realize it was not directed at you?
2. What is the best way to compliment a person's appearance if you cannot see him or her?
You have raised two questions with no easy answers. Mistakes do happen in social situations, particularly when a number of people are in the room; everyone, sighted or blind, occasionally acknowledges a compliment intended for someone else. That’s why it behooves blind people to be slow to presume that we are being addressed. It’s a good idea to encourage friends and acquaintances to get used to beginning a comment by saying our names when they are speaking to us in a group of people. When in doubt, you can always say, “Were you speaking to me?” After you have done that a few or a few dozen times, people will begin to realize that it is courteous to give you a sporting chance of knowing who is being addressed.
This said, you will still occasionally endure the slight embarrassment of assuming that you were being addressed when you were not. You may feel a bit foolish, but someone once said that the only person who can make a fool of you is you yourself. If you carry off one of these awkward little moments with a deprecating laugh, a brief apology, and a change of subject, no one will think twice about it.
to your second question is clearer: don’t try. A color blind man may get away
with complimenting a woman on the color of her dress as long as no one in the
group knows that he is color blind. A visual compliment given by a blind person
who cannot see what is being discussed is nothing short of hypocrisy, and the
proffered compliment may well be inaccurate or obviously untrue. A lady or gentleman
only pays compliments that he or she believes to be true. Otherwise such people
maintain a discreet silence on the subject. As a blind person, you can pass
along compliments from others: “My daughter commented on how lovely your earrings
are.” If you have a bit of sight, you might risk a visual compliment if you
are sure it won’t backfire. “I like that purse” may seem safe unless you happen
to be looking at the woman’s hat lying in her lap. Miss Whozit prefers finding
unusual compliments to pay—calling attention to things that most people wouldn’t
consciously recognize: Did you know that your smile lights up your voice and
makes me smile with you? You have the most infectious laugh. People will prize
such compliments because they are unusual, and since they probably assume that
you are naturally insightful because everyone is convinced that blind people
are unusually sensitive and perceptive, they will be particularly flattered.
It is far more sensible to take a bit of undeserved credit for your perspicacity
than to be written off as insincere for making statements that you can’t possibly
know to be true.
Dear Miss Whozit,
is always telling me to stand up straight, keep my head up, and not slouch.
I don’t see why it matters. I stand the way I stand, and I sit so that I am
comfortable. If I put my head up, I am afraid that I am going to walk into something.
Besides, it’s hard to remember to think about what my body is doing. Is this
stuff really important? I think people should accept me for myself and not judge
me because of the way I stand. That is just stupid. I told Mom that I would
ask you what you think, but I have to say that I’m not promising that I will
do what you say if I don’t like it.
Happy the Way I Am
I am pleased to hear that you are satisfied with your way of slouching and slinking through the world. Pretty soon no one else will care what you do. Maybe you can then spend the rest of your life as a recluse, talking with other people on the phone or on the Internet. There, does honesty of that make you feel better?
On the other hand, if you want to find and keep a good job, make friends, and command respect from the people with whom you come into contact, I recommend that you begin taking your mother’s advice seriously. Of course it feels strange to you to stand and sit straight; anything we are not used to doing feels odd at first. If you form the habit of standing with your head up and your shoulders back and if you keep your spine straight when you are seated, doing that will soon feel natural.
Why should you bother? Because you will look and act more commanding and in control of the situation if you are sitting or standing as tall as possible. Your clothes will look and hang much better. When your internal organs are not being squashed and your various muscles are being required to do the job they are supposed to, you will actually be healthier and stronger, and you will look more poised and graceful when you move.
Since you are still arguing with your mother about this subject, I presume that you are a young person. If you were older, she would probably have given up by now, figuring that she had failed you by not persuading you to adopt good posture when you were young. So I am confident that you still have time to change your ways. Perhaps you have heard it said of some people that they have “presence.” This is a nebulous term that is difficult for blind people to appreciate fully. A large component of it is good posture and personal focus that emanate from people who control and command their personal space. For a blind person to do so, it is important for his or her cane or guide dog harness to be long enough so that using it does not require the person to hunch forward or list to the left. If you intend to live and succeed in the world, I urge you to stand tall and get used to it. Ask the advice of an athlete or dancer of your acquaintance to try to show you how to move your entire body so that it works together the way it was created to. And ask your mother and other family members and friends to remind you quietly when you forget and fall back into your old slouching ways.
Perhaps the most important single part of all this is keeping your head up but not thrown back. A blind person cannot hope to command attention while looking down, refusing to face the person being addressed. If you have your cane out working in front of you, you will not walk into walls or doors. But it is important not to throw your head back so far that it looks to others as if you are looking down your nose at them. Getting the angle right is a matter of having accurate feedback from people who care enough to provide it when asked to do so.
I do hope that you will decide to devote the necessary time and attention to improve your posture. For the rest of your life you will be glad you did.
month’s recipes are from members of the Montana affiliate.
Crockpot Beef Stroganoff
by Dar Aldrich
Dar Aldrich moved to Billings three years ago when she married affiliate board member Jim Aldrich. Since that time she's held a number of offices in the Yellowstone Chapter. She likes to knit, stay in touch with friends, and read autobiographies. She started cooking at a young age and worked for a year in a small-town restaurant after high school. Now she tends toward simple recipes, and this is a tasty example.
2 pounds stew meat
1 can French onion soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 cans of mushroom halves, undrained
1 pound noodles, any shape
1 8-ounce carton sour cream
Method: Combine first four ingredients and cook in crockpot on high for four hours. If you wish, add the uncooked noodles with the other things so that they cook with the meat. Or you can add the noodles, cooked according to package directions and drained, and sour cream at the end and heat through.
Cranberry Pumpkin Bread
by Dan Burke
Dan Burke is president of the Montana affiliate and a member of the NFB board of directors. He works at the University of Montana's Disability Services for Students in Missoula and enjoys the outdoors, puttering around “his ramshackle house,” and reading poetry. This is a holiday favorite that he concocted himself and shares only with family and the closest of friends.
1 cup salad oil
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons maple or vanilla extract
1 pound can (2 cups cooked) pumpkin
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (or another 1/2 cup flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon each of any combination of three of the following: grated nutmeg, ground cloves, ground cinnamon, ground allspice, or ground cardamom
1 cup nuts, finely chopped (optional)
2 cups (half a bag) fresh cranberries (You can substitute frozen or dried cranberries.)
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-by-5-inch baking pans. Stir together flour, wheat germ, baking soda, salt, baking powder, spices, and nuts until thoroughly blended. Set aside. In a second bowl beat eggs until frothy; add oil, sugars, and maple or vanilla extract. Continue beating until mixture is thick and foamy. Add pumpkin and beat to incorporate. Gently stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture, just until blended. Then fold in cranberries. Spoon batter evenly into two pans. Bake for one hour or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in center.
by Cindy Letcher
Cindy Letcher serves on the Montana board and has just moved to Missoula. She hails from the wild northwest corner of Montana and enjoys walking, hiking, swimming, camping, and spending time with family and friends. She graduated from BLIND, Inc., in Minnesota in August. These are two of the recipes she put together as part of her training program.
2 cups cake or all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place rack in center position in oven. Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk eggs. Add sugar to eggs, whisking vigorously for thirty seconds. Add melted butter by thirds, whisking in each addition. Add half the sour cream and milk and whisk. Add remainder of both and whisk well. Then pour wet ingredients into the dry. Mix gently with rubber spatula until just combined.
Divide batter among twelve buttered muffin cups or using paper liners in the muffin tins. Bake about eighteen minutes, until muffins are light golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for five minutes, then on rack for five minutes. Serve warm.
Broccoli Cauliflower Salad
by Cindy Letcher
1 bunch broccoli (florets only)
1/2 head cauliflower, cut in bite-size pieces
10 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
2/3 cup green grapes
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
1 cup Miracle Whip
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
Method: In large bowl combine broccoli, cauliflower, bacon, grapes, onions, and sunflower seeds. In small bowl combine Miracle Whip, sugar, and vinegar, mixing well. Pour dressing over salad and toss. Refrigerate for up to eight hours. Best if used soon after mixing to maintain crispness.
by Beth Underwood
Beth Underwood lives in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana and is an officer in the Missoula Chapter. She is founder and director of Camp Eureka. A teacher by profession, she currently serves as education director of the Montana Conservation Science Institute. She enjoys hiking and backpacking with her husband Jack. She grew up on a farm in Michigan. This recipe is about fifty years old and comes from the kitchen of Wilma Hoover in Michigan, who loves to cook and create wholesome, delicious dishes.
2 cups sifted flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups packed brown sugar
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup nuts, chopped
1 cup raisins
1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
Powdered milk, wheat germ, or nutritional yeast for added health benefits, optional
Method: Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat together oil and sugar. Alternately beat in flour mixture and eggs. Blend together until smooth. Fold in grated carrots, chopped nuts, raisins, and undrained crushed pineapple. At this point you may also add powdered milk, wheat germ, or nutritional yeast.
Pour batter into a greased and floured ten-inch tube pan. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for one hour and twenty-five minutes. Cool upright in pan on a rack. Remove from pan, slice in half or thirds horizontally, and spread one of the following icings on the top cut surfaces. Reassemble cake and frost top and sides.
Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
8 ounces cream cheese
About a pound powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Method: Cream together all ingredients, using enough sugar to make mixture a good spreading consistency.
Ingredients for Orange Glaze:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
Method: Combine sugar, corn starch, and salt and mix well. Add juices and stir to dissolve completely. Add butter and zest. Cook slowly, stirring constantly, until mixture is thick. Cool completely before frosting cake layers, top, and sides.
Sloppy Joes–Easy and Delicious
by Beth Underwood
1 pound ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, crushed (or garlic powder to taste)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup catsup
1 rib celery with leaves, optional
Method: Brown the ground beef and drain any fat. Add remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until vegetables are done and mixture is of desired consistency for serving on buns.
from the Federation Family
received the following press release from the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation
Shelton Appointed New Commissioner for State Disability Agency
Steve Shelton of Edmond was recently appointed to the Commission for Rehabilitation Services by Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Lance Cargill. The Commission is the governing board for the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), which serves over 180,000 Oklahomans with disabilities each year through vocational rehabilitation, employment, and educational programs as well as the determination of medical eligibility for disability benefits.
An information technology professional with thirty years experience in the banking industry, Shelton has not allowed blindness caused by retinitis pigmentosa to prevent him from reaching his career objectives. After spending his childhood in Tulsa, Shelton graduated from East Central University in Ada with a bachelor of science degree in mathematics. He and his wife Barbara returned to Tulsa, where he began his career as a computer programmer. In 1985 Shelton accepted a job transfer and moved his wife and three sons to the Oklahoma City area. His family currently resides in Edmond.
Now a senior computer systems analyst and programmer with Fidelity National Information Services, Commissioner Shelton has devoted countless hours and resources to help people with disabilities achieve their full potential and improve their quality of life. “As a former client I know how critical DRS’s assistance is to thousands of Oklahomans with disabilities,” Commissioner Shelton said. “We have finite resources, so our funding must be equitably spent to meet the needs of Oklahomans with different disabilities.”
Shelton was elected to four terms as president of the Oklahoma affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. He served eleven years on that national organization’s scholarship committee, which awarded over $1 million to deserving students with visual disabilities. The new commissioner completed two appointments to the Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council, volunteered with Boy Scout Troop #479, and currently serves as a deacon at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond.
Shelton’s experience as a former client and his success in the business world
bring a unique perspective to the leadership of the agency,” Oklahoma Department
of Rehabilitation Services Director Linda Parker said. “We have worked well
with him for many years through advisory councils and consumer organizations,
where his insight into disability issues, positive attitude, and analytical
approach are appreciated and respected.”
6, 2007, the Springfield Chapter of the NFB of Massachusetts held its elections
for the 2007-08 board. Elected were Bob Baran, president; Kristina Constant,
vice president; Basil Maurice, treasurer; Heather Doray, secretary; Bill Braese
and Ryan Scott, board members; Janice Frost, trustee; and Horace Edwards,
Sergeant at arms.
Whozit Slate Cases for Sale:
Support the Sligo Creek Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland and get your unique handmade NFB Whozit slate cases. They are hand-stitched plastic canvas, with the letters “NFB” and the Whozit on the front. The backs can be done in plaid, diamonds, diagonal stripes, or a dot pattern. All Whozits are given a white cane whether or not they are sketched in black or white. Support the NFB and get your own slate case for only $15. You have many colors to choose from.
information contact Terry Powers at <email@example.com> or call (301)
496-8584, eastern time, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. To order write in Braille,
please, to 18120 Chalet Drive, Apartment 103, Germantown, Maryland 20874.
Be sure to include contact information. Thank you for your order.
It is with great sadness that we report the death of Larry McKeever on the evening of September 4, 2007. His wife Mariam and his stepdaughters were with him at the hospice facility where he had been living for some weeks.
Beginning in the midsixties, Larry worked for a time for the Iowa Commission for the Blind, where among other duties he oversaw technical production in the library, including literature recording. After he left the commission, he and Mariam opened Des Moines’ first recording studio and talent agency in 1968. That same year he became the voice of the Braille Monitor, and he continued recording the Monitor and our national conventions until the late eighties, when the NFB established its own recording studio in Baltimore.
For many years, beginning in 1973, the McKeevers owned and operated Charlie’s Showplace, a dinner theater, in Des Moines, Iowa, in addition to producing audio advertising spots and doing other professional recording business. For a time Larry even recorded some books for the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.
a consummate professional in his field and was devoted to the National Federation
of the Blind. He generously offered his talents to the organization through
the years. When he was not able to relocate to Baltimore to run the NFB recording
studio, he helped to set it up anyway and trained one of his actors, Jim Shelby,
who became the first NFB employee to read our material and run the studio.
During other transition periods he also stepped in to read the Monitor and
help hire talent. Until the 2006 convention Larry continued to attend conventions
and assist first Dr. Jernigan and then Mrs. Jernigan in her suite. He also
read several state newsletters, and, until he was unable to continue doing
so early this spring, he was fast, efficient, and accurate in his reading.
All those who knew Larry will miss his resonant voice and infectious laugh.
He was a good friend and a loyal Federationist, and we will miss him deeply.
Attention Those Interested in Establishing a New Crafters Division:
Be part of this new division and help make it interesting and useful to others who want to enjoy the crafts you love. Only you can create the treasures your family and friends can pass on as keepsakes.
This division will be a place where you can find other folks interested in a variety of crafting skills and a place to share your knowledge and experience in working with others, sharing your creative ideas, and learning how to do something new. Whether you are newly visually impaired and want to know if you can still crochet, you would like to learn how to quilt, you want to find another visually impaired person who uses a knitting machine, you do wonderful woodworking creations and want to know where you can sell your items, or you would like to wholesale your hand-crafted items and need contacts to have people display your creations at trade shows, this division will be a great resource.
Joyce Kane at <Blindhands@aol.com>. Include your full name, state, email
address, the crafts you do, and crafts you would like to learn. Be sure to
mention whether you will be coming to the 2008 convention in Dallas. If you
have questions, call Joyce at (203) 378-8928, weekends or evenings up to 10:00
p.m. eastern time.
Sadly we must report the unexpected death on July 7, 2007, of Dan Ryles, oldest child of Dr. Ruby and Dwayne Ryles. Dan was living and working in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the time of his sudden illness and death. Dan’s blindness was the impetus for Ruby’s passionate commitment to the education of blind children. With his mother’s support Dan became a strong advocate for and dedicated user of Braille. Many of us felt that we knew Dan and the entire Ryles family through Kernel Book stories like “Mean like my Mom” and Ruby’s articles in Future Reflections.
is establishing a memorial scholarship fund in Dan’s memory. Not all the details
have yet been worked out, but contributions to the Dan Ryles Braille Literacy
Scholarship Fund can be sent to the Louisiana Center for the Blind, c/o Dan
Ryles Memorial, 101 South Trenton Street, Ruston, Louisiana 71270. For further
information call LCB at (318) 251-2891.
We all join the Ryles family in grieving the loss of this wonderful and courageous young man.
NFB Lions Roar:
The NFB Lions, an informal group, invites all members of the National Federation of the Blind who are members of a local Lions or Leo Club to join the email list that has been established to exchange ideas and share projects you have been involved with in your Club. The purpose of our group is to coordinate efforts of NFB members with Lions nationally. Our first goal is to get to know each other. Our second goal is to try to send similar signals to the various Lions Clubs about the NFB and perhaps identify some projects that are bigger than one club or district.
To join the mailing list, send a blank message to <firstname.lastname@example.org>. In the subject field write the word "subscribe" without the quotation marks. You can also join the mailing list by going to <http://www.nfbnet.org> and looking for the NFB-Lions mailing list. You will then be sent to a page with a form to be completed; when you have done this, click on the Submit button. You will be sent a confirming message when you have completed the process successfully.
If you have
questions about the NFB Lions, you may contact either of the co-chairs of
this group, Lion Milton Ota, (808) 734-0612 home, (808) 295-2528 cell, email
<email@example.com>; or Lion Ramona Walhof, (208) 343-1377, or email
for a unique and inexpensive gift for those you want to remember this holiday
season? It could be the butcher, the baker, or this year even the candlestick
maker. The Cincinnati Chapter still has our widely acclaimed Louis Braille
key-ring medallions for sale at $5 each. One side includes Louis Braille's
name in Braille along with the year of his birth; the other side shows fingers
reading Braille with a print inscription, "Braille opens doors."
Checks or money orders should be sent to Paul Dressell, 2714 Ruberg Avenue,
Cincinnati, Ohio 45211-8118. Email enquiries to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
We are deeply
sorry to report the death of Dean Stanzel of Kansas on June 21. Susie Stanzel,
the president of the NFB of Kansas for many years, and Dean were married for
thirty-two years until his death after a long illness. Dean was a devoted
husband and father. He faithfully worked in convention registration and at
the PAC table, beginning when President Maurer chaired the PAC Committee.
Dean was a dedicated Federationist who believed that, whenever possible, blind
people should take charge of whatever needed to be done, so he was loath to
assume leadership. It took thirty years to persuade him to accept election
to an NFB of Kansas board position, but once elected, he served faithfully.
Dean will be deeply missed. We extend heartfelt condolences to Susie and their
Tupperware Catalogs and Fundraising Brochures in Alternative Formats Available:
NFB of Kentucky
leader Tonia Boyd-Gatton is a blind Tupperware consultant in Louisville who
offers free Tupperware catalogs and fundraising brochures on cassette and
in Braille. Regardless of where you live in the U.S., she will mail the catalog
to you, submit your order, and have your products shipped directly to you.
She can also help you and your local chapter or division with a Tupperware
fundraiser, in which your organization will earn 40 percent of sales and will
not lose any money. If you'd like to request a catalog in print, in Braille,
or on cassette or if you would like to learn more about this fundraising opportunity,
please contact her by phone at (502) 594-2810 or by email at <email@example.com>.
You can also shop on her Website: <www.my.tupperware.com/tonton>.
First Call for Washington Seminar:
Circle the dates of the 2008 Washington Seminar, Monday, January 28, to Thursday, January 31. Once again this year we will be headquartered at the Holiday Inn Capitol, 550 C Street SW. The great gathering in will take place at 5:00 p.m. Monday, and we will conduct briefings Tuesday and Wednesday evenings to share information and ask questions. As usual, several divisions will undoubtedly conduct meetings and seminars in conjunction with the Washington Seminar, but we do not yet have the details of these.
We do have
the information for making room reservations. The room rate for one to four
in a room is $144 a night plus 14.5 percent tax. Reservations should be made
before December 27 with Diane McGeorge, who is again in charge of seminar
arrangements. You can reach her by calling (303) 778-1130, ext. 219. You can
also make reservations by mailing her at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or
Lisa Bonderson at <email@example.com>. If you wish to make arrangements
for any group activity at the hotel during the Washington Seminar, email Lisa
for a copy of the form you must complete and submit by December 27. Consult
the NFB Website and later issues of the Braille Monitor for further
seminar details as the fall unfolds.
Are We There Yet?
Joyce Green, treasurer of the NFB of Oregon, recently sent the following little meditation:
This morning I was walking through my neighborhood on my way to church. I had passed one house and was in front of the next one when a father and his son (perhaps ten years old) exited the first house. The little boy caught sight of me and asked his father, “What is that on the lady’s head?” I awaited the father’s answer, hoping I had not been the target of a passing pigeon.
The father replied, “She is wearing a rain bonnet to keep her hair dry.”
Yes, it was a rainy day, and though it was not raining at the moment, the tree branches, saturated from a very recent downpour, drooped much lower than usual, forcing me to double over to creep beneath them.
boy had chosen not to focus on my white cane, which is the usual curiosity-arousing
object, but rather on my rain bonnet, which was perhaps new to him. My heart
swelled with hope and gratitude, knowing that, like children in the back seat
of a car anxious to arrive at their destination, we as blind people are inching
our way toward our destination of equality in today’s society.
7, 2007, NFB of New York member and parent division leader Christine Faltz
and Gary Grassman were married in Port Jefferson Station, New York. The bride’s
eleven-year-old daughter, Samantha Flax, served as maid of honor, and her
eight-year-old son, Braden Flax escorted his mother down the aisle. Christine
is a licensed New York attorney and certified English language arts teacher
who currently teaches pregnant and parenting teens in the New York City Department
of Education’s Alternative Programs and High Schools District. Congratulations
to the entire family.
sadness we report the sudden death of Mary Anne Parks, one of the promising
young leaders in the NFB of Georgia. Mary Anne was a 2006 NFB scholarship
winner, a member of the Georgia board of directors, and secretary of the NFB
Performing Arts Division. She was working on a master’s in public policy and
was part of an AmeriCorps team when she was killed in an automobile accident
on August 25. She was a generous mentor in several programs and a warm friend
to many. Her loss will be deeply felt by many, many people.
Hymns Plus Volume 2 Now Available:
Dr. J. Webster Smith is first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. His new CD, entitled “Hymns Plus, Volume 2,” is now available featuring 13 songs, including "Precious Lord," "Lord I Want to Be a Christian," "Yes, God Is Real," and "Peace in the Valley." These are just a few of the thirteen vocal selections and one instrumental arrangement of "Go Tell It on the Mountain." The CD also includes four oratorical pieces highlighted by "The Art of Storytelling" and "The Ultimate Love Letter." Fans of J.W.’s previous work will be interested to know that he considers these eighty minutes of inspiration and contemplation to be the best work he has yet done.
sells for $10, including shipping and handling, and can be ordered by sending
Dr. Smith a money order at Lasher Hall, 43 West Union, Athens, Ohio 45701.
No personal checks please.
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.
Need a Webmaster?
in need of a Website or a Webmaster to create it? I use the Macromedia program
Dreamweaver. For samples of my work go to <http://www.angelfire.com/electronic2/accessible/>
or <http://dolphinpress.biz>. For rates and information contact Christine
at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. When you contact me, please mention how
you learned about my service.
We are sorry
to report the death of Ralph Sanders, who was active at one time in the National
Federation of the Blind and served as its president from 1977 to 1978. We
have no details about his death except that his body was discovered on Wednesday,
July 18, 2007, in Las Vegas, Nevada, where he was living. Although Ralph Sanders
ceased to be a member of the Federation in the 1980s, and although he sometimes
expressed the view after he left the organization that the Federation did
not represent the blind well, he did make valuable contributions to the organization
in the period of his early participation. Ralph Sanders was often forceful
and energetic. Unfortunately he did not steadfastly maintain the purposes
he had espoused early in his career in work with the blind. He became controversial
almost everywhere he went, and in the midst of this controversiality he lost
the joy that he had once known. Because of the good that he did, we remember
him, and we regret his death.
Help Make Cell Phones and Other Wireless Technologies More Usable and Useful:
Engineering Research Center for Wireless Technology (Wireless RERC) invites
you to take part in its survey of user needs. The purpose of the survey is
to learn about how people with disabilities use cell phones and other wireless
products. This information is used to help wireless companies understand how
to make their products easier to use for people of all ages and abilities.
You can take the survey online at <www.wirelessrerc.org>. To request a print copy of the survey or to complete it over the phone, please contact Lynne Broderick, 2020 Peachtree Road, NW, Atlanta, Georgia 30309; voice (404) 367-1348; toll-free (800) 582-6360; email <email@example.com>.
Sleep Study Participants Needed:
Are you totally blind and searching for an extraordinary experience? Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston is currently evaluating the way light and behavior influence sleep and wakefulness under real-world and laboratory conditions in totally blind men and women. The research study consists of living in our sleep lab for twenty-one or thirty-four days across two visits. You will also be asked to collect information while living at home before and after each visit. The results of the research study may help to develop potential therapies to treat sleep-wake disturbances related to jetlag, shift-work, and visual impairment.
be eligible to participate in this study if you are totally blind and between
the ages of eighteen and seventy, have no light perception, and take no prescription
medications. We will cover all travel expenses for Boston and non-Boston residents.
Individuals who participate in the study could earn up to $9,300. For more
information contact Joe or Lisa at (888) 828-4294. You can also email Joe
Full-Page Slate Available:
Future Aids: the Braille Superstore has produced the first-ever full-page Braille-writing slate for use with standard North American letter-sized paper. It lets you Braille twenty-five lines with twenty-eight characters per line on a sheet of 8.5-by-11-inch Braille paper. (When using our new, full-sized slate to take notes, you no longer have to move the slate down the page every four lines.) Our full-page slate is made of durable plastic, has Braille line numbers embossed down the right side, and comes with a stylus. To order yours for $19.95, call (800) 987-1231, or visit <www.braillebookstore.com>.
Perkins Braillewriter Repair:
is a factory-trained and qualified Perkins Braillewriter repair person. He
uses only factory parts, and his turnaround time for most repairs is three
to five days. A cleaning and basic repair is $65, which does not include return
shipping. He also buys broken or unwanted Perkins Braillers, and he has an
extensive inventory of Perkins Braillers for sale, including standard, jumbo,
and electric, starting at $325. Please call for more information: (718) 749-3774.
2008 CTEVH Conference Ready to Go:
annual CTEVH Conference will be here before you know it. The upcoming conference
will be held at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott from February 28 to March
2. The Ready To Go theme encompasses the spirit of this year’s conference,
which will aim to provide attendees with the tools and motivation they need
to hit the ground running in 2008. At the conference you will learn about
the latest trends in software and new federal procedures; hear about the latest
research; explore topics of interest to administrators, related professionals,
and parents; and learn about the latest teaching methods and tools. If you’re
ready to explore the dozens of workshops available and meet other professionals
and volunteers who share the goal of improving the education of students with
visual impairments, then the 2008 CTEVH Conference is for you. Registration
packets will be mailed by November 1, or you can register online at <www.ctevh.org/conference.htm>
after January 17. To receive additional information or to request a registration
packet, please call Christy Cutting, conference registrar, at (702) 293-7625
or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The Blind and Visually Impaired Voter’s Guide to Voting:
and Visually Impaired Voter’s Guide to Voting has been prepared as part of
the NFB’s nonvisual election technology project. The guide explains why it
is important for blind citizens to vote and how to register to vote. It is
available as a Word, text, Duxbury, or audio file on the NFB Website, www.nfb.org,
by typing “Blind Voter’s Guide” in the Search box. Funding for the nonvisual
election technology project has been provided by the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services through a Help America Vote Act (HAVA) grant. For additional
information please contact Lou Ann Blake, HAVA project manager, by telephone
at (410) 659-9314, extension 2221, or by email at <email@example.com>.
Senior Site, New AFB Website:
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 the number of Americans with vision loss and to help the 6.5 million Americans over sixty-five currently experiencing age-related vision loss, the American Foundation for the Blind has created a 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 losing vision.
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.
rest of the AFB Website, 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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
News from Braille Institute:
Sign-ups begin in October for the 2008 Braille ChallengeTM preliminary round. Registration forms will be available beginning October 15, 2007, either online at <www.braillechallenge.org> or by calling (800) BRAILLE. With more and more schools and agencies across the United States and Canada participating each year, the Braille Challenge has grown into a truly national effort to highlight the importance of Braille literacy. Now in its seventh year, the Challenge continues to bring students, teachers, families, and entire communities together to celebrate this essential skill.
By last March more than 325 contestants from thirty-two states and six Canadian provinces had taken the Challenge. Past finalists earned a three-day trip to Los Angeles last June, where they vied for top honors, savings bonds, and adaptive technology prizes provided by Freedom Scientific. This year’s preliminary contest period will run from January 1 to March 7, 2008, and is open to all Braille readers from first grade through high school. Preliminary contest packets must be ordered by December 14, 2007, and completed contests returned to Braille Institute by March 7, 2008. The final round will be held once again in Los Angeles, on June 28, 2008.
The Braille Challenge program was developed by Braille Institute of America in Los Angeles to motivate school-age blind children to continue their study of Braille. It’s not only fun, it also raises awareness about the importance of Braille skills to a blind student’s academic success and future employability. Contestants are divided into five age groups and asked to complete a series of exercises demonstrating their proficiency in Braille reading and writing, reading speed and comprehension, spelling, proofreading, and use of tactile graphics.
The use of standard materials for this contest will help researchers examine the development of literacy skills for students who are highly effective Braille users. Individual teachers and agency administrators who choose to host their own full-day Braille Challenge event will be given detailed instructions on how to proctor the contest, and Braille Institute will provide all the necessary support, including an instructional handbook, templates to create marketing materials, and the Brailled contest forms themselves. Once the contests are completed, they will be scored by volunteer transcribers and proofreaders from guilds and agencies across the country, and all scores will be tallied and ranked to determine the top sixty finalists eligible to advance to the final round in Los Angeles.
seventeen schools and blind service agencies from across the U.S. and Canada
independently hosted their own preliminary Braille Challenge events. Groups
of as many as forty blind or visually impaired students gathered to test their
Braille skills at preliminary contests held in Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa,
Idaho, Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas, Utah, Washington, Georgia, North Carolina,
Nebraska, Tennessee, Northern and Southern California, and Alberta, Canada.
Several preliminary events for 2008 are already scheduled; for more information
on dates and other details, check our Website. For more information on the
Braille Challenge, call (800) BRAILLE or visit our Website at <www.braillechallenge.org>.
Parents are also welcome to contact us for information on how their children
can participate in this exciting event.
Resources for Blind and Visually Impaired Students Available:
Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, has a variety of resources available to help blind and visually impaired students fund their education beyond high school.
Funding Education Beyond High School: Audio Highlights
Formerly called the Student Aid Audio Guide, this new audio release introduces students to resources such as Websites and both Braille and print publications that will help them decide what to study, what school is right for them, what to look for—and look out for—in financing their education, what career choices to make, and much more.
Audio Highlights also provides information on nonfederal sources of aid. Students can listen to Audio Highlights online at <www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov/audio>. Audio Highlights is available on compact disc. For more information, students can call our Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) toll-free at (800) 433-3243.
The following Federal Student Aid print publications are available in Braille and may be ordered by calling the FSAIC:
Students use the FAFSA to apply for the Department’s federal student aid programs. Although the Braille FAFSA cannot be submitted, students may use it as a guide when they apply on paper, or they can use the Braille FAFSA on the Web Worksheet as a guide when they apply online at <www.fafsa.ed.gov>.
This publication is a comprehensive and user-friendly resource that can be used at every stage of the student’s financial aid lifecycle. The guide describes the three major types of federal student aid available—grants, loans, and work-study—and explains how to apply for them. The guide also includes sources of nonfederal aid. The guide is available online at <www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov/guide>.
Bookmark contains the new Federal Student Aid Gateway Web address: <www.FederalStudentAid.ed.gov>.
Students can use this site to find information on applying for aid and locating
information about their federal student loan history. The bookmark also contains
our toll-free FSAIC number: (800) 433-3243. Students can call that number
if they have general questions about federal student aid or would like to
order publications. TTY users can call (800) 730-8913.
Verbal Imaging and Touch Tours Available:
Museum of Art, a cultural and educational institution dedicated to the art
of the Himalayas, is now offering verbal imaging and touch tours for partially
sighted and blind audiences. Free with museum admission, tours are one hour
in length and take visitors on a journey that weaves together the culture,
history, religion, and arts of the Himalayas. Group and individual tours offered.
Please book two weeks in advance by calling Emilie Dufour for reservations
at (212) 620-5000, ext. 345, or email at <email@example.com>.
Participants Needed for Research Study:
For the past ten years Rami Burstein, Ph.D., associate professor, vice chairman for research, Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, has been studying the pathophysiology of migraine headache and the different ways to treat it. In the course of his work with migraine patients, he became interested in photophobia (eye discomfort in bright light), perhaps the most common symptom associated with these debilitating headaches. Recently his team has discovered the neural network that enables light to make the pain worse, a puzzle no one understands. To examine the validity of their findings in human subjects, they first studied photophobia in blind patients who suffer from migraine. They are now extending the scope of their studies to include photophobia in blind individuals who are not migraine patients and migraine patients who are blind and are not photophobic. In addition, the study is also including individuals with albinism who are and are not migraine patients to determine if they differ. This should help us understand the network of neurons that mediate photophobia better. In the long run a drug may be developed that will specifically block photophobia.
Dr. Burstein would like to interview people between the ages of eighteen and sixty-five who meet any of these criteria:
and either are or are not migraine patients;
-Are blind and photophobic and either are or are not migraine patients;
-Are blind migraine patients but are not photophobic.
Questions to be asked include: Define light sensitivity. Do you experience abnormal visual intolerance to light, or is pain induced by exposure to light? Which light frequency, e.g., blue, red, yellow, green, is most disturbing, and what light intensity, etc.? The interview should take from thirty to sixty minutes.
interview Dr. Burstein would like to spend time with individuals in the Boston
area, if possible, for further study. They will be treated with the utmost
dignity and respect, which is the standard at Harvard Medical School. If you’re
interested in participating in the research study, please contact Dr. Burstein
at phone (617) 667-0806 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Braille Candy Bars Available for the Holidays:
Sweet Tooth sells a unique item--Braille chocolate bars with a choice of sayings including Happy Birthday, Have a Nice Day, Love You, Thank You, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays. The bars weigh four and a half ounces and can be made in milk, dark, or white chocolate and plain or with nuts, Rice Krispies, or peppermint flavoring (usually at the holidays). The bars cost $2.50 each for plain and $2.75 for nuts, Krispie, or peppermint. They are bagged in cellophane and tied with ribbons. All orders are made fresh for each customer. Orders are sent two-day priority by U.S. Postal Service. Shipping is extra.
order is made up, the customer will be notified of the exact total cost. Because
postage is based on the weight of the package and the distance shipped, the
rates vary. Payment is by check or money order only. Make these payable to
Judy Davis. As the owner and operator of Sweet Tooth, she oversees all orders.
Please allow five to seven days for an order to be processed and mailed. Contact
Sweet Tooth by calling or emailing Judy Davis, 32 Vinton Road, Rochester,
New York 14622; (585) 544-1853; <email@example.com>.
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.
Hoping to Buy:
is looking for a unique four-track Aiwa Walkman that was modified in California
by a blind technician. It records, plays four-track cassette tapes, has a
variable-speed rheostat, and has AM/FM stereo as well as pause and fast-forward
and reverse. Call him at (706) 375-9500, or (206) 478-5744. You can also email
32-cell display. Two years old and in great condition. Comes with all necessary
cords, earphones, and battery. Asking $4,200. There is a little wiggle room
on negotiating price. If interested, phone (612) 822-6991, or send an email
King James Translation of the Bible in Braille Available:
Richard Sammons has been an NFB member for many years, first in Texas and then in Minnesota, where he organized a chapter in Alexandria a few years ago. He is moving into assisted living and needs to downsize. He has the King James Version of the Bible in Braille to give to someone who would appreciate and use it.
If interested, contact Debra Shea, Douglas County Public Health, 725 Elm Street, Suite 1200, Alexandria, Minnesota 56308; phone (320) 762-2974; email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
The State Department Song
Tune: “Yankee Doodle”
Words by Paul and Mary Ellen Gabias
1. The State
Department keeps us out. They say that we’re not able.
They won’t let our readers in to read their secret cables.
State Department, let us in. We want to serve our nation.
We will fight until we win ‘cause we’re the Federation.
say that we can’t go abroad. They say we’ll be in danger.
They tell us we’ll be attacked by every foreign stranger.
3. The blind
have traveled far and wide to every state and nation.
We can serve in every post and every foreign station.
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.