Braille Monitor                                                     December 2007

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News from the Federation Family

Time to Register for the March for Independence:

We will be marching for independence, walking for opportunity on July 2 in Dallas. The route is set. We welcome and appreciate your ideas about building a program.

Let’s get every chapter and chapter member on board. Why not make this Imagination Fund drive a priority project for your chapter? Learn about how to build teams for fun, camaraderie, and fundraising effectiveness. We have now started a quest for our first million-dollar Imagination Fund campaign. If you haven’t reregistered on our March for Independence Website, don’t wait--register today.

Chapters should register all members. As a result of our last Imagination Fund campaign, we were able to award thirty-two Imagination Fund grants this fall totaling over $145,000 to help with state and local projects. Moreover, dollars raised through the Imagination Fund helped support our successful 2007 Youth Slam.

Start now. Find neighbors, friends, and family members who will invest in the work we do in the National Federation of the Blind. We have established an incentive contest to encourage early registration and fundraising for the 2008 March for Independence--The Walk for Opportunity. A drawing for two Victor Reader Streams, the new commercially available digital Talking Book reader from HumanWare (developed with the NFB’s assistance), and three dinners for two at an upscale Washington restaurant will be conducted during the Washington Seminar in late January 2008. Federationists who have registered for the March and secured at least one contribution by Friday, January 4, 2008, will be eligible for the drawing.

For questions, or to get help with registration and building personal pages, call Kevan Worley at (866) 543-6808. Imagine raising one million dollars, which means a half million to support innovative programs at the Jernigan Institute, a quarter of a million split equally among our fifty-two affiliates, and a quarter million available for special project grants to our states and divisions. With your help we can do it.

Elected:
The NFB of California held elections for four board positions at its annual convention, which took place October 25 to 28, 2007. The following four board members were reelected: Juliet Cody, Geraldine Croom, Jason Holloway, and Diane Starin.

Last 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 conduct meetings and seminars in conjunction with the Washington Seminar, but we may not yet have the complete list of these. This is what we now know about division plans. The National Association of Blind Students will conduct its usual day-long seminar on Sunday, January 27 with a reception and auction in the evening. On Monday the National Association of Blind Merchants is planning a workshop on building a better business. Also on Monday the National Blindness Professional Certification Board will conduct a workshop on orientation and mobility from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Finally, Kevan Worley says that three hour-long training sessions for March for Independence participants will take place at various times in our headquarters hotel.

Here is 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 emailing her at <rmcgeorge@comcast.net> or Lisa Bonderson at <lbonderson@cocenter.org>. 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.

Once again Affiliate Action and Governmental Affairs will partner to present a seminar for first timers, though all are encouraged and welcomed to attend. The seminar takes place Monday afternoon with a review of the issues we are taking to the Hill and an opportunity to practice presentations through role-play. Jim McCarthy pledges that fact sheets will be available online at least two weeks before Washington seminar, and he urges attendees to study them and come with their questions to the Monday afternoon seminar. We look forward to seeing you on Monday, January 28, ready to advocate for the legislative priorities of blind Americans.

Elected:
The Kalamazoo Chapter of the NFB of Michigan just held elections, and the following officers were elected president, J.J. Meddaugh; vice president, Jackie Hosey; secretary, Matt McCubbin; treasurer, Tim Paulding; and board members Corda Moss, Leanne Merren, and Faith Meadows.

Performing Arts Division CD Available:
The Performing Arts Division is proud to announce the release of its first-ever compilation CD, titled Sound In Sight–Volume 1.
Eighteen songs, performed by blind artists, were selected through an open-submission process and carefully reviewed by the Division’s board of directors. Highlights of the genre-spanning collection include Nashville-based songwriter JP Williams’s “Tongue Tied,” Brooklyn folk-pop stylist Brooke Fox’s “Cinematic,” Pennsylvania folk-rock songwriter Donna Hill’s “The Edge of the Line,” and hip-hop duo Got Kemistry’s “Let Me See You Move.”

“This album is full of talent from across the nation. With great vocals combined with a wide variety of music, there is something for everyone,” said Dennis Holston, president of the Performing Arts Division.

The album was unveiled at the Division’s general membership meeting as part of the National Federation of the Blind’s national convention. The compilation is now available for purchase. Visit <www.padnfb.org> for more information. Plans for digital download will be announced shortly.

Performing Arts Division President Dennis Holston recently appointed Seria Chatters (Florida) to fill an unexpired term on the division board. Ms. Chatters is one half of the hip-hop music group Got Kemistry and has a song on the 2007 Sound in Sight album released by the division. She has a long history in music as well as acting, and she also works as a school guidance counselor. She brings skill to the division’s leadership.

President Holston also appointed Mindy Jacobsen (New York) to finish Mary Anne Parks’s term following Mary Anne’s tragic and untimely death in late August from injuries sustained in an automobile accident (see the obituary in the October 2007 issue of the Braille Monitor). Division leaders are grateful to have Mindy’s experience and talent on the board, but they report that they will miss Mary Anne’s eagerness to assist with anything that needed to be done and most of all her intelligent and cheerful countenance.

Elected:
The Michigan Association of Blind Students just elected the following officers: president, Matt McCubbin; vice president, J.J. Meddaugh; secretary, Chelsea Henrizi; treasurer, Michael Torrez; and board members Tim Paulding and Jackie Hosey.

Elected:
The National Federation of the Blind of Michigan has elected its 2007-2009 board. At-large board members elected were Dave Robinson, Jackie Hosey, Tim Paulding, and Donna Posont.

In Brief

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


Bookshare.org Receives Five-Year, $32 Million Grant From U.S. Department of Education:
The U.S. Department of Education has awarded Benetech’s Bookshare.org project $32 million over five years to expand the availability of accessible electronic books and the software for reading those books. Bookshare.org is the world’s largest accessible library of scanned books and periodicals. Working with state and local education agencies, schools, teachers, and students, Bookshare.org will give all K-12, postsecondary, and graduate students in the United States with qualifying print disabilities access to this library without charge.

The funding for this project was authorized under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and was awarded by the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) of the U.S. Department of Education. According to OSEP, the purpose of the award is to provide free educational materials, including textbooks in accessible media, for use by students with visual impairments and other print disabilities in elementary and secondary schools and in postsecondary and graduate schools.

The award will allow Benetech to add more than 100,000 new educational books to the existing Bookshare.org collection of over 34,000 titles. Bookshare.org will coordinate with state education agencies, schools, and publishers to deliver the best quality content possible and lower costs to help meet their shared obligation to serve every qualified disabled student in the nation. The project expects to make extensive use of textbook files provided by publishers in the recently mandated National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), to create high quality student-ready materials in digital audio, large print, or Braille.

“We are going to reach out to every student, every family with a disabled student, and every school in the U.S. to offer them a chance to join the Bookshare.org community for free and transform the practice of making books accessible,” said Benetech CEO Jim Fruchterman. “We expect to deliver millions of books to students through this new program over the next five years using our cost-effective online production and delivery systems.”

Bookshare.org is an online community that allows people with print disabilities legally to download books and periodicals to be read as Braille, large print, or synthetic speech. Those with print disabilities include the blind and those with low vision, severe dyslexia, or a mobility impairment that prevents them from reading a traditional printed book.

Braille text on a sterling or gold electroplate over sterling disk with a Braille message of your choiceKim Christiansen Designs Still Doing Business:
Kim Christiansen of Christiansen Designs created the world’s first line of Braille jewelry in 1989. One of his pieces has been placed in the permanent collection of the American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

He now has studios in England and the United States and divides his time working and shipping from both locations. Kim has informed us that his communications and Website have been down because of changes made necessary by enormous amounts of spam email. Some people have concluded that he is no longer in business, but he certainly is. He has begun to focus on his line of personalized pendants and cuff bracelets. Kim has received awards for the creative way he uses Braille and has done much to make the general public aware of its beauty. He has named his line of Braille Jewelry "Secrets" because so many people have told him that they love placing private thoughts on their pieces. To learn more about Kim's work, visit <www.christiansendesigns.com>. There you will find contact and ordering information using PayPal. You can also reach him at <kimc38@gmail.com>, where you can place an order by credit card or check. He can also return a call to get the credit card number if you don't feel comfortable sending it in an email. He reports that he has never had security problems with credit card numbers. His cell number is (802) 738-3846.

Target in the Crosshairs:
On Tuesday, October 2, 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel issued two significant rulings in the NFB Website accessibility lawsuit against the Target Corporation. First the court honored our request to certify this case as a class action for injunctive relief under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on behalf of blind Internet users throughout the country. The court also granted our motion to certify a California subclass for both injunctive relief and statutory minimum damages. Second, the court held that California law, broader in its scope than the Federal ADA, requires that Websites such as Target.com be accessible.
Our lawsuit charged that Target had failed and refused to make its Website accessible to the blind and therefore violated the ADA as well as two California civil rights statutes: the California Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Disabled Persons Act. In rendering its decisions, the court denied Target’s request for summary judgment, a petition that a decision favorable to their interest be made on a strictly legal basis without further hearing.

Both NFB President Marc Maurer and our cadre of lawyers hailed these preliminary victories as successes that bode well for a positive resolution to this dispute. President Maurer said, “This is a tremendous step forward for blind people throughout the country who for too long have been denied equal access to the Internet economy. All e-commerce businesses should take note of this decision and immediately take steps to open their doors to the blind.” Dan Goldstein, longtime friend and attorney for the NFB, observed, “The blind of America seek only the same rights and opportunities as others take for granted. This case should be a wake-up call to businesses that their services must be accessible to all.”

Readers of the Braille Monitor should stay tuned for further developments in this precedent-setting case. Judge Patel’s recent rulings give us cause for considerable optimism about securing a successful outcome for all blind Americans. The more liberal access standards adopted by California legislators promise to benefit all Website users across the country, because Internet pages never cater to a particular state audience alone. Access is our goal. Access we shall have.

Braille Fortune Cookies Available:

Lucky Touch Fortune Cookie Company is a student-operated business specializing in special-order Braille and large-print fortune cookies. The company can customize your order to fit your event, whether it's a birthday, anniversary, convention, holiday, wedding, etc. Place your order by phone. If items are in stock, allow two weeks from the receipt of payment. Customized orders require a week longer. Contact California School for the Blind Parents and Friends Association, 500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont, California 94536; phone (510) 794-3800, fax (510) 794-3993; email <ssung@csb-cde.ca.gov> or <jlesner@csb-cde.ca.gov>. Cash, check, and money orders accepted. Make checks payable to CSB Parents and Friends Association.

New Free Service for the Blind:
ReadThisToMe is a free reading service, powered by volunteers and Internet collaboration. It allows blind and low-vision people to have printed documents read to them over the phone. All the blind person needs is a phone line and a fax machine (no computer is required). Here's how it works. The blind person faxes the document to be read to the ReadThisToMe toll-free fax number, (877) 333-8848. The first page of the fax must be a cover page that includes the client's first name and call-back (voice) phone number. The document itself can be just about anything: a handwritten letter, a bill, a label from a can of food, a multipage magazine article--just about anything that can be faxed. Then one of ReadThisToMe's volunteer readers will call the client back and read the document aloud.

The service is available throughout the United States and is absolutely free, though donations and business sponsorships are accepted. More information is available at <www.ReadThisToMe.org>. You can also listen to a recorded message describing how to use the service by calling (877) 333-8847.

Frank Kurt CylkeFrank Kurt Cylke Honored:
Frank Kurt Cylke, director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Library of Congress, received the 2006 Golden Cassette Award for Library Partnership from the Los Angeles-based Braille Institute of America Library Services Inc. In an open house at its headquarters on October 16, 2007, the Braille Institute recognized Cylke “for his leadership and vision in providing digital books and machines to the blind, visually, physically, and reading-disabled communities.” Cylke has led NLS through the research and development of the Digital Talking-Book System since 1990. Scheduled to launch in 2008, the digitally recorded books and listening devices are much anticipated in the blind community.

Cylke was appointed director of the NLS in 1973. He guided NLS through the transition from phonographs and discs to a cassette-based system in the 1970s. He has overseen growth of the program’s readership, with the number of patrons now reaching 750,000 and circulation increasing from 11 million items in 1978 to 26.3 million items in 2006. The program’s influence has expanded globally, affecting organizations such as the International Federation on Aging, the International Federation of Library Associations, and the World Blind Union.

Monitor Mart

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

For Sale:

Closed Circuit TV, Model NM1, NC-1, with 17-inch black and white monitor. It was manufactured in 1999. Asking $1,600 or best offer. Contact Argenys Caba at (732) 697-9112 or email <mlindholm@cpofnj.org>.


NFB Pledge

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

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