_______________________________________________________________________________

Braille Monitor

Vol. 51, No. 1                                                      January 2008

Barbara Pierce, editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president

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

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

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

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

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

        ISSN 0006-8829

____________________________________________________________________

Contents

Vol. 51, No. 1                                                       January 2008

 

Dallas Site of 2008 NFB Convention

The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award

Award Application Form

The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story
reviewed by Deborah Kendrick

A Blind Doctor Practicing Today  
by Mark Stracks

Dallas Calling     
by Elizabeth Campbell

Magnification Software  
by Clara Van Gerven

In Praise of Exploration  
by Fred Wurtzel

Spotlight on Affiliate Action  

A Change in Perspective  
by Rebekah Osborne

Shoveling Snow Blind
by Robert Leslie Newman

A Radical Approach to the Evaluation of Education for the Blind
by Matt Maurer

Surviving Teen Driving: Tips for Blind Parents
by Judy Jones

Ask Miss Whozit

Sixth Annual Meet the Blind Month Campaign  
by Jerry Lazarus

Convention Scholarships Available  
by Allen Harris

Betsy Zaborowski Dies  
by Marc Maurer

Recipes   

Monitor Miniatures  

Copyright 2007 National Federation of the Blind

 

 

Dallas Site of 2008 NFB Convention

The 2008 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Dallas, Texas, June 29-July 5, at the Hilton Anatole Hotel at 2201 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, Texas 75207. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Hilton Anatole staff only. Call (214) 761-7500.

The 2008 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $61 and triples and quads $66 a night, plus a 15 percent sales tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2008. The other 50 percent is not refundable.

Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2008, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.

Guestroom amenities include cable television, coffee pot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and for a charge high-speed Internet access. The Hilton Anatole has six excellent restaurants, twenty-four-hour-a-day room service, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is in downtown Dallas with shuttle service to both the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport and Love Field.

The schedule for the 2008 convention will depart from what many think of as our usual schedule:

Sunday, June 29 Seminar Day
Monday, June 30 Registration Day
Tuesday, July 1 Board Meeting and Division Day
Wednesday, July 2 March for Independence and Opening Session
Thursday, July 3 Tour Day
Friday, July 4 Banquet Day
Saturday, July 5 Business Session

 

The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award

The National Federation of the Blind is pleased to announce the establishment of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Program. The first cash awards will be issued in 2008 at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. This is a new way to recognize individuals and organizations working in the field of blindness that have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on a basis of equality. Named for a pioneering blind physician who practiced in the early twentieth century, these awards are made possible through the generosity of his late nephew and niece. Their bequest, the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust, will allow the National Federation of the Blind to provide direct financial support to people and organizations that are improving the lives of the blind throughout the United States.

Dr. Jacob Bolotin was a blind physician who lived and practiced in Chicago in the early part of the twentieth century. As chronicled in his biography, The Blind Doctor, by Rosalind Perlman, Bolotin fought ignorance and prejudice to gain entrance to medical school and the medical profession. He became one of the most respected physicians in Chicago during his career, which spanned the period from 1912 until his death in 1924. He was particularly known for his expertise on diseases of the heart and lungs. Bolotin used his many public speaking engagements to advocate for the employment of the blind and their full integration into society. Interested in young people in general and blind youth in particular, Dr. Bolotin established the first Boy Scout troop consisting entirely of blind boys and served as its leader.

Jacob Bolotin’s wife Helen had a sister whose husband died suddenly, leaving her to raise a son, Alfred Perlman. The Perlmans moved in with the Bolotins when Alfred was eleven, and for four years (until Jacob Bolotin’s untimely death at the age of thirty-six), “Uncle Jake” became Alfred’s surrogate father. Alfred later married Rosalind, and the couple worked on a book about Dr. Bolotin’s life. After Alfred’s death in 2001, Rosalind dedicated the rest of her life to completing and publishing the book. In her will she left a bequest (the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust) to the Santa Barbara Foundation and the National Federation of the Blind to publish Dr. Bolotin’s biography and establish the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Program. Blue Point Books published The Blind Doctor: The Jacob Bolotin Story in 2007.

Award Description

The National Federation of the Blind will distribute cash awards totaling $100,000 from the income of the Alfred and Rosalind Perlman Trust in 2008. The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee will establish the number of awards and the amount of each, based on its determination of the relative merits of the pool of applicants. Subsequent to the year 2008, the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee will determine the total amount to be distributed based on the trust income received. Each year one or more awards will be presented to individuals and one or more to corporations, organizations, or other entities. Both blind and sighted people may apply. The committee may also accept nominations made by third parties.

Who Should Apply?

Individuals: Only individuals who are over eighteen years of age may apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. Applicants must demonstrate that they have shown substantial initiative and leadership in improving the lives of the blind. Examples of such initiative include but are not limited to developing products or techniques that increase the independence of the blind, directing quality programs or agencies for the blind, or mentoring other blind people. All individual applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have worked on their projects related to the advancement of the blind within the twelve months prior to submitting their applications. Applications by individuals must include at least one letter of recommendation from a person familiar with or directly affected by the work done by that individual to improve the lives of blind people.

Organizations: Organizations may apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award in order to help them further programs, services, techniques, or technology that has assisted and will continue to assist the blind. Organizations applying for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award must be able to demonstrate that their programs or services include substantial participation by blind people as developers, mentors, administrators, or executives, and not merely as clients, consumers, or beneficiaries. For example, an organization operating a program for blind youth might demonstrate that a substantial number of the counselors, teachers, or mentors involved in the program are blind. The organization must be able to demonstrate that it has substantially aided blind people within the twelve months prior to application and that a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award would allow it to build on previous successes. The application must also include a testimonial from at least one blind person who has benefited from the programs or services.

With respect to both individuals and organizations, all award recipients must be domiciled in the United States of America, and their work must primarily benefit the blind of the United States.

Procedures

Application materials will be available in several formats, including posting on the National Federation of the Blind Website (www.nfb.org) no later than December 1 of each year. Applications for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for any given year must be received no later than March 1 by the award committee chairperson. Candidate recipients will be notified no later than April 1 that the committee intends to present them with a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award. All decisions of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee are final. The awards will be presented in July during the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Individuals who are selected to receive an award must appear in person and may not send a representative. Organizations may send an individual representative, preferably their chief executive officer. Recipient candidates must confirm in writing that they will appear in person to accept the award at the National Federation of the Blind annual convention. Failure to make such written confirmation by April 15 will result in forfeiture of the award.

Ineligible Persons

Individuals employed full-time by the National Federation of the Blind may not apply for a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award for work performed within the scope of their employment. Students may not apply for both a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award and a National Federation of the Blind Scholarship in the same year.

 

Award Application Form
2008 Dr. Jacob Bolotin Awards

Sponsored by the Alfred & Rosalind Perlman Trust
Presented by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB)


Applicants must have demonstrated substantial initiative and leadership in improving the lives of the blind. An application for an award may be made either by the applicant directly or by third parties who nominate an applicant.

1. AWARD CATEGORY (choose one)
___ Blind applicant ___ Sighted applicant ___ Organization or group

2. PERSON COMPLETING THIS FORM (choose one)
___ I am applying for an award for myself.
___ I am a representative of an organization which I am nominating for an award.
___ I am a third party nominating an individual or an organization for an award.

3. CONTACT INFORMATION

3(a) For the individual or organization being nominated:
Name of the individual or organization being nominated:


The individual’s or organization’s address, daytime telephone numbers, email address, and Website address:


3(b) For organizations only:
Provide the name of the contact person for the organization, his/her title, daytime telephone number, and email address:

3(c) For a representative of an organization or a third party making a nomination for an individual or an organization:
State your name, title, address, daytime telephone numbers and best time to call, and email address


What is your relationship to the applicant?

4. THE ESSAY
The Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award recognizes individuals and organizations working in the field of blindness that have made outstanding contributions toward achieving the full integration of the blind into society on the basis of equality. In 800 words or less, please answer the questions below about the project, service, or other endeavor of the individual or organization nominated that benefited blind Americans in the past year. Please attach the essay to this application.
4(a) State the name and describe the project.
4(b) What is the individual’s or organization’s role in the project?
4(c) Who benefited from the project?
Without breaking confidentiality, who has benefited, where do they live in the United States, and approximately how many people have benefited?
4(d) What is the timeframe of the project? Give a beginning date, and, if the project has ended, give an ending date.
4(e) What effect has the project had on blind people? Does the project pioneer new ideas or initiatives for the blind?
4(f) Additional information. List other information that the Committee should consider in determining the merits of the nominee.

 

5. LETTER OF RECOMMENDATION
Each application must include at least one letter of recommendation from a person familiar with or directly affected by the work done by the nominee. For each letter of recommendation included with the application, list the person’s name and state, as well as each person’s relationship to the nominee and to the project. Letters of recommendation may be mailed directly to the chairman of the Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee at the address listed below.

6. CERTIFICATION STATEMENT
I certify that the information provided in this application is true and accurate to the best of my knowledge. I understand that excerpts from this application may be used by the National Federation of the Blind for public purposes. The nominee or person accepting the award on behalf of a nominated organization is at least eighteen years of age at the time of application, is domiciled in the United States of America, and, if chosen to receive a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award, will attend the 2008 National Federation of the Blind National Convention in Dallas, Texas, to accept the award. The work of the nominee (either individual or organization) has primarily benefited blind people within the United States of America.

Signature: ____________________________________________________

Printed name: _________________________________________________

Date: ________________________________________________________


The completed application should be mailed to:

Gary Wunder, Chairman
Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award Committee
National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

 

The Blind Doctor:
The Jacob Bolotin Story

by Rosalind Perlman
(reviewed by Deborah Kendrick)

From the Editor: Deborah Kendrick is a leader in the Ohio affiliate and a syndicated columnist. Here is her review of this biography of an extraordinary man and physician:

Give me an ordinary blind person who conducts his or her life in the ordinary ways–go to work, manage a home, ride a bike, or have a family–and I’ll guarantee that at some point he or she has been called “amazing.” So often, in fact, have most of us been told for the simplest of tasks, that we are amazing, remarkable, courageous, determined, and otherwise wonderful that such epithets spark more than a tad of boredom or derision.

The accomplishments detailed in The Blind Doctor: The Story of Jacob Bolotin, however, are not ordinary. In sum or as individual pieces, rather, they represent a life that easily warrants the above selection of adjectives as well as being truly inspirational and maybe even miraculous to boot.

Growing up in Chicago, Rosalind Perlman had heard about the blind doctor, known throughout her city and around the world. When she married Alfred Perlman, she learned much more. Alfred and his mother (Jacob Bolotin’s sister) had lived with the renowned doctor for a significant part of Perlman’s childhood and adolescence. To him the legendary blind doctor was an uncle, a father, a hero. It is thanks to the Perlmans that his story has finally been told and, in reading it, it is hard to know which is more remarkable: the life of Jacob Bolotin or the fact that it has been such hidden history for so long.

If you’ve ever wondered how blind people managed before there were talking computers or Braille notetakers or offices for students with disabilities, Dr. Bolotin’s story will require that you stretch your imagination much, much further than, say, my own memories of schlepping a portable typewriter across campus to take an exam. Jacob Bolotin, who would become the first congenitally blind person to attend medical school and be a licensed physician in this country, was born in 1888. That means, in other words, that he was learning to read in the nineteenth century. It means that he lived in a time before we had programs to teach blind people cane travel, before we had tape recorders or Perkins Braillers or talking books. What he did have was a strong and loving family, a superb intellect, and a cache of perseverance rarely witnessed.

Bolotin’s parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland. Jacob was the seventh child in the family and the third of those seven to be born blind. He and his brother Fred were taken to the state school for the blind in Illinois (interestingly, no mention is made of any education for their blind sister). Perlman characterizes Bolotin as not only an excellent student, but one with extraordinarily heightened senses–reading Braille through three handkerchiefs, for example, and recognizing other people by smell. The real story begins, however, after his valedictorian speech and graduation from the school at age fourteen.

With his own improvised cane travel techniques, Bolotin traveled the network of streetcars throughout Chicago, selling first brushes, and later typewriters. At sixteen he was called into the president’s office to be congratulated for being one of the best typewriter salesmen in the company.

Jacob Bolotin’s journey to becoming a physician is laden with pathos, inspiration, drama, and a few serendipitous events that might well be called miracles. His inventive adaptations for constructing three-dimensional models of the body’s complex systems and his ardent belief in his own ability could serve as inspiration for students today. He had to fight his way into medical school. Upon graduation he had to fight again to take the exam to become a licensed physician. He endured months in an office where no patients came.

His talents were proven during his internship at Frances Willard Hospital in Illinois. A young woman’s illness was misdiagnosed by at least three other physicians–who thought it was psychologically based–when Jacob Bolotin examined her and immediately recognized a serious heart condition.
Perlman writes:

“When Jacob examined the girl, he was stunned to hear the distinct murmur of an obstructed heart valve. Could he be wrong? Slowly he ran his fingers over her chest. Her skin was sweaty and clammy. Again he pressed his ear to her heart and listened intently. There was no doubt. It was not simple neurasthenia, but the dull unmistakable murmur of mitral stenosis. Alarmed, he hurried to the office of his immediate supervisor, Dr. Maxmillian Kuznik, professor of clinical diagnosis.”

His brilliance as a physician, however, was recognized by patients and other physicians long before he took his rightful place in the medical community. Even after working for months as a volunteer physician in a facility for tuberculosis patients, he was not hired by that institution. Patients loved him, and doctors frequently called upon him for consultation, but his blindness was repeatedly waved as an excuse for not paying him for his services.

Eventually, however, Dr. Jacob Bolotin grew to be a renowned heart and lung specialist, not only throughout Chicago, but in places around the world. When he addressed a medical convention as a favor to a friend, his talent for speaking also became legendary. Reading excerpts from his speeches is astonishing. The philosophy and sentiments are in complete accord with the words of leaders in the blindness movement almost a century later. Listen, for instance, to his comments as quoted in the Chicago Tribune, when that newspaper ran a sensational article about the blind man about to become a licensed physician:

“Well, is there anything so remarkable about it? Because a man has no eyes, is it any sign that he hasn’t any brains? That is the trouble with the world and the blind man. All the blind man asks is fair play. Give him an equal chance without prejudice, and he generally manages to hold his own with his more fortunate colleagues.”

Jacob Bolotin died in 1924, at the young age of thirty-six. He seems to have literally worked himself to death--maintaining such a rigorous schedule of seeing patients and giving speeches that his body wore out. Five thousand people came to his funeral--and yet, were it not for a loving nephew and his wife, Alfred and Rosalind Perlman, Dr. Bolotin’s story might well have been lost to us all.

Rosalind Perlman is no literary maven. Nor is she a blindness maven. Little annoyances occur in the narrative that come to the attention of the savvy blind reader. There are references, for instance, to Jacob and his brother “groping” their way to class, Jacob “tapping” his way to his superior’s office, and innumerable references to the appearance of his brown eyes. (Repeatedly the author tells us that, because his eyes are so normal, others believe he can see.)

But these are minor annoyances in the larger story, a remarkable story that everyone should read. Those of us who are blind--particularly when life’s obstacles seem daunting--should read Jacob Bolotin’s story and savor the gift that the Perlmans, who committed themselves to preserving and sharing this inspirational account--have given us.

 

A Blind Doctor Practicing Today

by Mark Stracks

From the Editor: On Thursday afternoon, July 5, NFB convention attendees spent some time learning about overcoming obstacles in the medical profession. First John Paré described the life of Dr. Jacob Bolotin, the first person blind from birth to become a physician, when on May 20, 1912, he was graduated from medical school in Chicago. (A review of his biography, The Blind Doctor, appears elsewhere in this issue.) Then psychiatrist and NFB of Pennsylvania leader Mark Stracks reflected on his successful effort to become a physician in the last quarter of the twentieth century. This is what he said:

Good afternoon. It is both a pleasure and an honor to be here today and stand before a group of people that over the past fifteen years I have come to know as friends and family. A few weeks ago, when I asked Dr. Maurer what he would like me to speak about, he said, “Tell them what it’s like to be a doctor. Tell them how you did it.” Talking with Dr. Maurer that day made me stop to think about the practice of medicine from a more philosophical perspective than I usually take. In the day-to-day practice of medicine, physicians are often focused on the schedule, the problem, the paperwork, and the oversight responsibilities with which we are charged. Often in the day-to-day doing of the thing, we lose sight of the prize and the fire that drives us toward and keeps us focused upon the accomplishment that we seek. It was therefore quite refreshing to think about the practice of medicine in the context to which Dr. Maurer referred, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share some thoughts about this with you today.

There is something wonderful about being in a position to serve others. There is something exceptionally satisfying in the knowledge that one can develop a set of skills that can be put to use in the aiding and comforting of those who are ill or in distress. The opportunities to heal or, more aptly, to help others along the paths of their own healing evoke the combination of awe and humility in the practitioner, and there exists a powerful yet humbling understanding within all physicians that they are the bearers of an ongoing tradition that has spanned millennia.

It’s not your basic nine-to-five job. It is not a path to be taken lightly, but it is a path that has led many a practitioner to amazing experiences. I have always admired the character Sherlock Holmes, brought to life in the pages of literature by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I have always been fascinated by Holmes’s ability to observe and deduce from observation, to bring together seemingly disparate clues and weave them into a tapestry of understanding. He is the quintessential detective. This is what I am called upon to do on a daily basis in the practice of psychiatry.

Psychiatry is concerned with the workings of the mind and the understanding of those things which drive us to be who we are and to do what we do. In training to be a psychiatrist, we are taught to try to understand those patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that might color our work with clients. We are taught to train with a detective lens upon ourselves. It is in this context in recent years that I have started to wonder how I have managed therefore to accomplish some of the things that I have.

We come then to the second part of my charge today, to tell you how I came to be a physician. I truly fit that old cliché that goes, “I’ve always wanted to be a doctor.” I believe that I first understood this when I was about eight years old. During that time I recall observing my father in his practice of orthodontics and the family friends with whom we spent time, many of whom were dentists and physicians. They all seemed to be very special people with wonderful gifts and abilities. They did good and exciting things. They were people who served others and gained satisfaction from their service. Mind you, my eight-year-old analysis was not that complex on a conscious level. I was drawn to what I saw was appealing even though I didn’t completely understand it. And I took inspiration from those I respected. It was an emotional response, not a logical one. This is something that we all must understand about ourselves. Whatever pretense we make of being logical is in fact a learned skill. We are emotional beings, and to the extent that we allow ourselves an undisciplined manner, we will act in emotional ways. I ask you to bear this in mind today because I believe it has a great deal to do with how I was able to become a doctor and, more important, what makes it possible or impossible for an individual to achieve any particular goal to which he or she aspires.

During the time when I began thinking about becoming a doctor, something else was happening in my life. I was beginning to understand the way in which being blind made me different from other people, especially kids my own age. They felt I was different. They certainly acted as if I was different, and they certainly treated me as if I was different. None of them could explain it logically. None of them could cite a text or doctrine, chapter and verse, which laid a reasonable foundation for their claim. They saw, they felt, and they acted; and it hurt. By the time I was twelve, it was clear to me something had changed. Either I was going to pursue my life in the manner I thought I should, which meant that I would work single-mindedly to become a doctor, or something bad was going to happen. I didn’t have the sophistication as a twelve-year-old to know what that bad thing was, but I think it scared me enough that I made a decision to move forward with my dreams despite the ridicule of my peers.

Deciding to be a doctor then necessitated a course of action, and many subsequent decisions had to be made. In my mind at the time, it meant inventing the wheel. I was not aware of any other blind doctors. I was not aware of the National Federation of the Blind, so I proceeded on my own. I certainly had the support of my family and friends, but I often felt alone in my quest. What I have just said may seem complicated, and again what I am relating to you today is the understanding of a seasoned practitioner of medicine and a hardened advocate for independence as a blind person. I didn’t understand what I was experiencing those many years ago; and, even as I pursued my career goals through secondary school, college, medical school, graduate school, residency training, and practice, I didn’t totally understand how it all came together.

The answer comes down to the consideration of a single question: how do we make a decision? How do we decide to succeed? The answer lies in the understanding that our decision-making is heavily influenced by what we feel, often more than what we think. This is not something people like to think about. We like to believe that we make the decision we want to make, and that is that. We should also consider that the atmosphere in which blind people make decisions, the atmosphere projected by family and friends and society in general, is often dominated by fear, fear born largely of ignorance shielded in the cloak of love and caring, but fear none the less.

Fear is one of the primary emotions that we experience, and the only antidotes to fear are knowledge and experience. Neither of these, unfortunately, are we born with, but we can acquire them. And one of the best ways to do so is through the National Federation of the Blind. I can remember being made to feel afraid of being blind when I was a child. It was more the fear of being different and recognizable as different than anything else. Over time this fear turned to anger, and the anger was intense enough to compel me to make a decision that I had no way of knowing would work out for me. I had to believe so strongly and so completely in what I was attempting to do that nothing else mattered. As time went on, the conscious decision to make being a doctor happen seemed to recede into the background. The process continued. It seemed to take on a life of its own.

Even though I couldn’t remember making that initial decision, it had been made, and I did not make another decision that contradicted it. Today I am a doctor. It is that same sense and intensity of belief that brings us together today at this national convention. We are stronger together. We foster belief better together. We fight misperception more effectively together. And together we replace fear with understanding and experience. We do collectively as an organization what a major theory of the mind attempts in practice. We break through fear. We bring forth enlightenment. We are, my friends, at a crossroad within ourselves every day. It is a crossroad between who we are and who we want to be. It is a crossroad that is as easy to navigate as the taking of a single step or as treacherous and impassable as the greatest chasm that exists, if we choose to make it so. This is the divide between what we believe we can be and what we believe that we are. It is the chasm between the potential limitlessness of experience that faith allows us and the finite underachievement to which fear grounds us. It is the measure of the difficulty of making one decision and then another and then another to bridge the gap or be stranded forever on the edge of who or what we could have been.

Amelia Earhart once said, “The most difficult thing to do is to make a decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do.” Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” And the actor Michael J. Fox, when speaking about his experience in battling Parkinson’s disease said the following, “Nobody would choose to have a disease visited upon them. Still, Parkinson’s forced me to make a fundamental life decision. Adopt a siege mentality or embark upon a life journey.” For me becoming and being a doctor has been a wonderful journey. Becoming a doctor was not an accident. For each of us, whatever our dreams or desires, everything is possible if we only dare to make it a reality.

“To be or not to be,” Shakespeare once wrote. “That is the question.” And it continues to be the question placed in front of us this very day. May we as individuals and as an organized movement of the independent blind continue to answer this question with a resounding “We shall be. “we must be.” And no person and no idea will ever stand in our way. [applause]

I would like to thank Dr. Maurer for the opportunity to speak today, and I wish all of us complete success in our pursuits. Thank you.

 

Dallas Calling

by Elizabeth Campbell

From the Editor: Liz Campbell is a leader in the NFB of Texas and a longtime resident of Fort Worth. NFB of Texas President Tommy Craig asked Liz to tell us something about the city we will be visiting during the 2008 convention. This is what she says:

Texans love to brag that everything is bigger and better in the state, and the same can be said of our upcoming convention. It’s not too early to start making your plans, and the Texas affiliate is arranging exciting tours and other activities. Make sure to read future editions of the Braille Monitor for more details.

We will hold our convention at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas, a city rich with history, culture, and entertainment. See future articles for more information about the Anatole. Our hotel is close to fascinating places, such as Victory Plaza, where our March for Independence—Walk for Opportunity will end. Located on the south side of the American Airline Center, home to the Dallas Mavericks and Stars, Victory Plaza has a unique European design. The pavement has a linear design with 137 jets of water creating various water sculptures. Many interesting restaurants are near Victory Plaza, including the House of Blues.

Dallas is also home to the West End and Deep Elum entertainment areas with their eclectic mix of clubs and restaurants. To the west are Fort Worth and Arlington. Fort Worth is the home of cowboy culture with the historic Stockyards District and some of the finest museums in the world, including the Kimbel Art Museum. Arlington, the home of Six Flags over Texas, is also the new home of the Dallas Cowboys. The stadium is currently under construction.

As you can tell, Texas has a lot to offer, and we will be proud to show off our great state in July. So come on down, y’all!
Here are some interesting facts about our state from the Website, <www.tourtexas.com>:

Texas is called the “Lone Star State” because of the state flag's design: a broad vertical blue stripe at left, centered by a single white star, with horizontal bars of white and red on the right. Red means courage, white means liberty, and blue stands for loyalty. The star has five points, one for each letter of the state's name. The word "Texas" comes from a Hasinai Indian word, "Tejas," which means friends or allies.
Texas has 624 miles of coastline running along the Gulf of Mexico and 254 counties. It was the twenty-eighth state to enter the Union, joining the United States on December 29, 1845.

 

Magnification Software

by Clara Van Gerven

As life expectancy in the world goes up, so does the number of people who have age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Globally, for every blind person there are about 3.4 people who have low vision1. Because many people suffering from these diseases begin losing their vision later in life, learning blindness techniques, or even accepting blindness, presents a significant hurdle. At age seventy, eighty, or even ninety, changing the habits of a lifetime is not easy; however, with motivation it is possible for many to make the transition successfully. Seniors facing vision loss, with low vision often turning into blindness over the years, need the benefits of access technology to improve their quality of life.

Because many seniors are unfamiliar with computers and often dislike using them, complex, often Braille-based solutions like notetakers are frequently not an option. Many older people use CCTVs for magnification. These use a camera to show a magnified picture of the image or text under the camera. But users often suffer from eye fatigue as a result. A CCTV does not offer any long-term benefit to people who suffer from degenerative eye diseases. This group, among others, can really benefit from screen-magnification programs for the computer.

Screen magnifiers offer some of the benefits of low-vision products, but they combine these with some of the benefits of blindness technology. All of the major screen magnifiers in the U.S. offer optional speech along with magnification, allowing the consumer to use magnification for navigation and speech for more intensive tasks such as reading blocks of text. Like screen-access software, screen magnifiers allow the user the option of using keyboard shortcuts instead of mouse navigation. Perhaps the most important feature of screen-magnification programs, however, is that their basic functions are very easy to use. The user interface is usually simple and self-explanatory, though the functionality is often sophisticated. Any easy user interface lowers the threshold for those who are not familiar with access technology and are unwilling to invest a lot of time in learning it.

While the speech option in a screen-magnifier package cannot offer the full functions of screen-access software, screen magnifiers allow users to use their vision, when doing so is more efficient, while familiarizing themselves with synthetic speech and keyboard shortcuts, thereby making the transition to nonvisual access technology easier.

Three of the most popular screen magnifiers in the U.S. are ZoomText, MAGic, and SuperNova. The versions I looked at were ZoomText 9.1, MAGic 10.5, and SuperNova 8.01, the most recent releases of each of these products. All testing was done in Windows XP Professional, SP2. ZoomText 9.1 and SuperNova 8.01 also support Vista; MAGic 10.5 does not.

While every new version of a screen magnifier brings new features, it is important to keep in mind that most users are concerned with only a limited number of features: most typically basic magnification, pointer enhancement, color schemes, and speech for reading longer texts. This article focuses on these basic features.

ZoomText is a popular magnification solution, and it is not hard to see why; its straightforward user interface and intuitive controls make it a singularly easy to use piece of software. The drop-down lists of color schemes, styles, pointer and cursor enhancements, and so forth on its controls let users easily switch between preferences in different contexts. The magnification level increases up to 16 times, by 0.25 between 1x and 2x, by 0.5 between 2x and 3x, and by 1x after that. Custom settings are easily saved, either as default or as one of a number, in the File menu.

ZoomText's new dual monitor support will be useful in some professional contexts, but it is unlikely to affect the user experience significantly. It is the strength of ZoomText's basic features that make it such a successful product. The App Reader and Doc Reader functions, which read the text in any application or document while highlighting the word being read, are simple and cater to the speech function the low-vision user is most likely to need and want.

SuperNova, produced by the British company, Dolphin, and popular in Europe, offers significantly broader functionality than the other two magnification programs, including support for refreshable Braille displays and full-featured screen access software. Its interface, however, is significantly more complex and harder to navigate. First-level options, such as the “Additional” button on the interface, display a number of options that are less than intuitive, such as “Lock aspect” or “Show hooked areas,” which the user will have to research before being able to use. That said, the program is very efficient in use once set up--its default setting is to save the settings last used, unlike the two other programs, making it the easy-to-do basic customization one, if the program is being used by only one person. Moreover, it allows the user to choose whether or not to display fractional magnification between 1x and 4x, which makes it faster to switch between settings.

A useful feature of SuperNova is its pen drive version. With the pen drive users are able to use their screen magnifier on any computer by installing an authorization file from the pen drive onto that computer the first time they use it. The flexibility of having truly portable magnification software available will appeal to users who need to work on different computers. However, the consumer will need to consider the security on the computer he or she will be using because a user may not be able to copy files onto a given computer. Like ZoomText’s, MAGic (Freedom Scientific’s user interface) is easy to use, and the speech function in MAGic benefits from having the development of JAWS (the screen-access software from the same company) behind it. When it comes to color scheme changes, this is less obvious than it is in the other two programs, because the user must right-click the control to display the list of options, which may initially lead an inexperienced user to think that he or she can only switch between the normal view and the Freedom Scientific factory settings. If the consumer uses one color scheme only, however, MAGic offers the fastest method of switching back and forth between normal view and the color scheme chosen.

MAGic, ZoomText, and SuperNova all allow users to download a demo of their product, and potential buyers certainly benefit from this option, because small differences are often significant to individual users since needs vary from person to person and often change over time. The screen magnifiers discussed here are all good options; the basic use of these programs is not, all in all, very different. The choice a user makes comes down to personal preference, and the demo downloads are a great tool for consumers to use to work out beforehand which solution is best for them.

Screen magnifiers are an excellent example of a technology that uses aspects of both low-vision and blindness access technology without complicating the product. They are an excellent way for people with low vision to acquaint themselves with the nonvisual methods in a way that is not intimidating and that allows the person to use vision more efficiently.

As mentioned in the presidential report delivered at the NFB convention in 2007, our International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind has a range of low-vision devices for public demonstration. For further information on low-vision technology, contact Clara Van Gerven at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2410, or <cvangerven@nfb.org>.

The contact information and pricing details for the products mentioned above are listed below. Please note that pricing varies according to version.

To purchase MAGic, contact Freedom Scientific, (800) 444-4443 (within the U.S.); <www.freedomscientific.com>.

To purchase SuperNova, contact Dolphin Computer Access Inc., (866) 797-5921; <www.dolphinusa.com>.

To purchase ZoomText, contact Ai Squared, (800) 859-0270; <www.aisquared.com>.

1 See World Health Organization Fact Sheet nr.282 at <http://www.who.int/mediaentre/factsheets/fs282/en>.

 

In Praise of Exploration

by Fred Wurtzel

From the Editor: Fred Wurtzel is president of the NFB of Michigan. He and his brother George, who earned his living for many years as a professional carpenter, grew up playing and exploring like other normal kids, even though they were both blind. All this excellent firsthand experience has given Fred decided ideas about what’s good for blind youngsters. Here are his advice and his explanation of why he makes these recommendations:

I will begin by admitting my lack of formal credentials to write an article on parenting. I have no degree in child development, psychology, or education. I am not a researcher, educator, or bureaucrat in a child protection agency. So why, you ask, would such an uncredentialed person write an article offering advice to parents of blind children?

I have been blind since birth, having been born with retinitis pigmentosa. I am a parent. Mary (also blind) and I have three wonderful children, ages thirty, twenty-six, and eighteen as I write this in 2007. My educational experience includes attendance in a self-contained classroom for visually impaired children, a full-inclusion classroom, and graduation from a residential school for the blind. In addition, I have earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees after attending a number of colleges and universities.

My experience as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Michigan and a founding board member of Opportunities Unlimited for the Blind, a nonprofit that operates Camp Tuhsmeheta, a camp for blind kids, has allowed me to observe a variety of blind kids and their peers in a natural setting. I do not intend to preach to you. We all get too much of that finger-wagging, judgmental stuff. My intention is to pass along thoughts and opinions gathered as a blind adult about things that helped me appreciate a broad range of interests and activities. I hope that some of these will help you provide experiences that will enrich your child’s learning.

My primary suggestion is to help your child spend unstructured and minimally supervised time outdoors each day. Of course you need to keep your child safe. But my observation is that most families would do well to give children more personal space and time to explore independently. The child’s age will dictate the boundaries of your supervision, but I am quite confident that most parents would do well to give their children more freedom, even at very early ages. Practice resisting the temptation to save your child from the smallest bump or collision. Stretch your comfort zone a little by allowing your child to discover new things and new ways to explore. One simple rule of thumb is to allow your blind child at least the same freedom of movement as you do your sighted children at the same age. In my view many parents would benefit all their children by loosening up and encouraging them to go outside to play for a while.

As background reading I recommend Privileged Hands by Dr. Geerat (Gary) Vermeij. Dr. Vermeij is a world-renowned blind scientist. Privileged Hands is his autobiography. Gary’s descriptions of growing up blind in Holland and later in the United States are highly instructive. He talks about the importance of allowing blind children to explore with their hands, ears, noses, and even their tongues, tasting things they encounter. Don’t be too horrified; he has survived intact with little negative effect and a MacArthur Fellows Program Award (generally known as the “genius award”) to his credit. Privileged Hands, as well as his more academic books, is available from Amazon.com and Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic. Privileged Hands was also recorded by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

Backyards are a treasure trove of opportunities to discover what the world is like. They include all kinds of textures, smells, critters, and sounds to enrich any child’s life experience. This exploration cannot start too early. Infants benefit from being outdoors. Certainly toddlers begin to understand the vastness and variety of the outdoors by encountering trees; bushes; grass; weeds; tilled soil; and man-made objects like fences, sheds, lawn sprinklers, garden tools, and so on ad infinitum. Allow yourself to suppress your normal inclination to protect your child enough to let him or her touch rose bushes and find the sharp thorns. Children will not be seriously injured and will learn how to explore carefully, knowing that some things can give them a prick.

Such expeditions are a perfect time for children to practice using their canes to explore the environment. Age is no limit. The very youngest children can learn to use the cane to identify things, experience new textures, and locate objects.

My early childhood included having free run of three acres of mostly unimproved and unmanaged ground. Weeds grew taller than my head. Bugs and worms crawled out of all kinds of places, and flying insects buzzed around me. My father had salvaged piles of used bricks from demolished buildings. I could climb on two giant underground storage tanks. Imagine pounding on the drumlike end of an eight-foot-tall steel tank and hearing the deep reverberations--amazing. My father owned an excavation business, so we had tools and machines around. The more cultivated area around our home included cherry trees; a huge pear tree; a peach tree; and, my favorite, a young walnut tree suitable for climbing by a small boy. I loved climbing trees. I never remember falling, nor did my brother.

My brother, also blind, had his share of scrapes and bruises, but no broken bones or serious injuries. He was a little more rambunctious, so he did get a few stitches but is none the worse for wear today. I am not making the same claim for our parents.

In our teens we had the run of eighty acres near Traverse City in northern Michigan. When we moved to this home, it had an old barn that was falling down from lack of care. My brother and I dismantled the building. We salvaged the barn siding and beams and sold some of it and bartered some for services to remodel the house. Our mother gutted the old farmhouse totally, and we helped, learning a lot about building construction in the process.

A granary leaning from decay was attached to the old barn. One day I was dismantling the building alone when I used my wrecking bar to remove a short brace, maybe six inches long. I was amazed to have the whole building crashed down as soon as I pulled off the board. Fortunately I was at the corner of the building and escaped with only one scratch on my back and a ripped shirt when a board grazed me as I dodged the big crash. This experience was a great life lesson, with many metaphors to be drawn from that insignificant-looking board holding up the whole structure. Since that exciting experience, I have been more conscious of investigating and planning before starting projects. I have a healthy respect for safety precautions in construction areas.

With all the scrap wood available, we built platforms in trees in the woods on the property. We salvaged a trolley mechanism used to move hay inside the barn and mounted it between the platforms in the woods, creating a way to move aerially from one platform to another. With ropes and pulleys we could lift heavy objects up to our platforms. We learned a lot about mechanical advantage, leverage, and compound pulleys and their usefulness in making work easier. Taking time to sit quietly on a platform in the woods brings peace and an awe in the presence of creation not available on television or a computer.

My father and uncles were hunters. I learned about guns, hunting, cleaning game, and the natural environment. We ate wild game and went into the fields and woods with our father on hunting trips. We fished and learned to clean fish. I can remember my mother showing me the bladder from a fish. She explained that the fish used this bladder to increase buoyancy to rise or reduce buoyancy to sink deeper. This concept transferred to swimming, fishing, and understanding how submarines work. I was probably five or six years old when she showed me the fish innards.

I learned about parasites the day my father brought home some fish from Saginaw Bay. The fish were soaking in our sink when worms began emerging from them. We did not eat the fish. My parents told me that the pollution in Saginaw Bay made fish sick. This was another good early object lesson.

My mother was a forager. She would take me along with her and some of my aunts as we gathered wild berries. I can remember five-gallon pails of blueberries and red and black raspberries. Asparagus grew wild along the roads near our house. My mother is gifted with amazing eyesight that can spot asparagus or morel mushrooms growing off the road while driving forty miles an hour. You have not lived till you’ve eaten fresh wild morels sautéed in butter. It doesn’t get better than that.

Bob Burnett was a wonderful science teacher at the Michigan School for the Blind. We studied chemistry and biology. Since these were subjects not ordinarily taught to blind children, we had no up-to-date accessible textbooks. In addition to learning the sciences, we learned how to reproduce books. We had a special copy machine that would enlarge print, and I cannot begin to guess the number of thermoform pages that I made of our Braille textbooks. Yes, we made our own books--another great lesson useful to me the rest of my life.

In science we learned to work with dangerous chemicals such as acid. We dissected specimens. By graduation I was prepared for college science classes. Mr. Burnett took us outside to discover what the things we were learning about looked like in nature. This made science come alive for me. He took us on canoe trips in northern Michigan in every season from New Year’s Day to midsummer. Canoeing or floating on an inner tube allows a blind child to find out what a river is really like. I can remember feeling river bottoms made of solid clay. It was an amazing sensation to feel large, very slippery ridges of clay cut at a diagonal upward toward the riverbank, or alternatively, finding a whirlpool with the river flowing upstream on one side and downstream on the other. Unless I had been in the water, I would not have been likely to understand the complexity and variation of rivers.

I was and remain excited about and interested in all areas of science, though I do not yet fully comprehend quantum mechanics. Don’t let weather be a deterrent. Some of my most pleasant memories are being outside in the rain, standing under the eaves as rainwater streamed off the roof. Living in northern Michigan allowed me to be outside in the coldest, snowiest, and most invigorating weather. To this day I still love walking in a howling blizzard just for the physical stimulation of the experience. Your children will learn to love climate changes if they learn to appreciate them at an early age.

I love swimming. I especially love swimming in swift rivers and in Lake Michigan when the waves are as high as my head. I have water skied in Grand Traverse Bay in early spring just after the ice went out. (I did wear a wet suit jacket.)

Parents have a tremendous influence on the rate of progress that their children make toward first-class citizenship. Creating a routine that includes time outdoors during all seasons and in all weather conditions goes a long way toward developing an interest in our wonderful natural environment. The technology that provides access to the Internet and gives us Braille notetakers is a fabulous tool to express and communicate our knowledge. But such technology will never substitute for opening the door and walking into the backyard to play in the grass, dig in the garden, or climb a tree.

Last summer I was a mentor at the NFB Jernigan Institute’s first Youth Slam. I hope I passed on, even if in a very small way, the gift my parents and Bob Burnet gave me by providing outdoor experiences. The Slam planners integrated structured-discovery learning, a core belief in the abilities and potential of blind kids, and the conviction that the first blind astronaut may already have been born. I hope parents can adopt and instill these beliefs in their blind children. The simple and perhaps courageous act of sending them outside can help them reach this important goal.

Consider a Charitable Gift

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).

Points to Consider When Making a Gift to the National Federation of the Blind

Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB

Your Gift Will Help Us

Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!

 

In the Spotlight: Affiliate Action

From the Editor: The minute veteran Federationists or newer ones for that matter begin gravitating to others like themselves to complain about the young whippersnappers or the old fogies, the chapter or the affiliate is in trouble. In the following article an experienced leader and an energetic newcomer talk about how their affiliate, the NFB of Rhode Island, has worked to make everyone feel welcome and respected. That word “respected” is important. Notice the open-mindedness and respect that flow through both statements. Here they are:


Insights from a Veteran Federationist
by Richard Gaffney

I would like to share with you some insights on leadership that I have gained as a veteran Federationist. I am the president of the Rhode Island affiliate. Rhode Island is a tiny state, and our affiliate is unique in that we have only one chapter, which meets in Providence. Through the early and mid-1990s we recognized that we had problems recruiting new members, especially younger ones. But we persevered and now have a much stronger affiliate.

Ages of our members have ranged from the twenties to the mideighties. With such a broad age range, it can be difficult to meet everyone’s needs and keep their interest. But we are committed to doing this as best we can. Everyone cooperates, listens to different ideas, and then works together to complete projects.

When I joined the NFB thirty-six years ago, I was full of ideas about how to improve our affiliate. Unfortunately, as the years go by, we tend to stagnate in the old ways and reject opportunities to take fresh approaches to our work. One of the most important things I've learned from our young members in Rhode Island is always to be open to the possibility that a new approach might be an improvement on our old ways.

During the course of several years the affiliate gained a number of new young members. As I once did, they had some ideas about new ways of getting the work of the affiliate done. For example, we had always sent the minutes of the previous meeting to members each month by mail. Grace Cabral Pires recommended that we send them out by email for those who wanted it. More and more of our members were getting computers, and many of them preferred to receive information by email. I searched around to find out how this could best be accomplished. Now about half of our membership receive their minutes by email.

Shortly after they joined, Rob Pires and Rui Cabral asked how I felt about creating a Website for the affiliate. Again, I knew nothing about putting something like that together. We discussed what should and should not be placed on the Website, and I then let them take charge of the project. They put together a very good Website with links to both local and national information.

What I enjoy most about our newer members, both young and old, is that they ask questions about the organization. They want to know about the philosophy and purpose of the NFB. They want to know why we feel certain ways about certain issues. They want to know our goals, and they, in turn, suggest ways to help us achieve them.

The other older members and I try to educate the newer ones on the history and philosophy of our organization as their questions arise. Because people had so many questions, we all agreed that we needed to set aside time to discuss these issues in more depth. In the spring of 2005 we held a seminar. We discussed the history of the NFB and spoke in some depth on each of the issues that our organization has worked on in the past sixty-six years. Most of the participants, new and old members alike, were assigned a topic to research and present to the group. I believe it was a good learning experience for all and has made our affiliate much stronger.

Having new, and especially young, members in the NFB of Rhode Island brings a feeling of vitality to the affiliate and to me personally. I feel, however, that my job as president is to channel their ideas so that they remain positive and productive. As older leaders we must take advantage of young people's energy, and we must also teach them how to stay focused on achieving the goals and follow the policies of the organization.

As president of our affiliate, I hope to do my part to help develop the next generation of leaders. It is very reassuring to me to know that, when the time comes for me to leave the presidency, the NFB of Rhode Island is in the hands of good people who will continue our movement into the future.

Insights from a Young Federationist
by Rui Cadral

I first heard about the National Federation of the Blind through a series of public service announcements recorded by Dr. Jernigan in the late eighties and early nineties. Since I was fairly young at the time, the thought of joining a local chapter did not occur to me.

I first joined our Rhode Island affiliate in September of 2000. At my first meeting I learned that the state convention was the next month. I received a crash course on NFB philosophy in a short amount of time. At that first convention Richard Gaffney was elected president of the Rhode Island affiliate. Over the next few months I got to know Richard a bit and began to ask him some questions. He was always willing to talk with me to try to answer all of the questions I had.

As I became more involved in the NFB of Rhode Island, I thought about the fact that our affiliate did not yet have a Website. I asked Richard if he had an interest in establishing a Website. I was a little nervous about asking such a thing. Being the new kid on the block, I didn't want to ruffle any feathers. Much to my surprise and relief, Richard loved the idea. Richard did not know how to go about the details of developing a Website, so he put another younger member and me in charge of this project. In the fall of 2001 we launched our Website, which can be viewed at <www.nfbri.org>.

I have found that the veterans of our affiliate have always been open to new ideas such as new fundraising possibilities or new topics or speakers for state convention. Conversely, these same leaders have taught the newer members that sometimes you should follow the policy, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

In Rhode Island we have a wide age range at our meetings, and everyone is treated with respect. We understand that everyone comes to meetings with experience to offer. The younger members respect the older members because none of the veteran leaders pulls rank and implies that his or her ideas are superior because he or she has been in the Federation longer. It may be a cliché, but I believe this kind of respect for one another is crucial to building and maintaining an active membership.

Richard plays a pivotal role in keeping everyone on the same page. He runs orderly meetings, makes sure everyone is heard, and organizes committees to execute the wishes of the group. Over the years Richard and his wife Kathy have become not only mentors, but people I can call true friends.

 

A Change in Perspective

by Rebekah Osborne

From the Editor: Becky Osborne is rapidly becoming a leader of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. The state agency for the blind sent one area manager and one counselor to attend several days of the NFB’s 2006 convention in Dallas. Some weeks later the counselor contacted me to say that she had a consumer losing sight quickly from retinitis pigmentosa. She lived in a rural part of the state and knew no one else who was dealing with blindness. Could I talk with her and help her get to our state convention. I of course followed through and talked several times with the young mother of three. She agreed that she might benefit from attending our convention. I arranged for her to room with an experienced Federationist who was happy to see that Becky got to the various meetings and activities that could help her.

By the spring she was eager to attend the national convention and applied for assistance from the affiliate to make the trip possible. In our infrequent phone conversations she seemed to be doing well—much better than she had been the previous fall. I was a bit concerned because it did not seem to me that her husband was making the strides that Becky was. He assured me that he wanted her to become independent, but his actions and comments to her did not match his statements to me.

The following article first appeared in the Winter 2007 issue of the Buckeye Bulletin, the publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio. It is Becky’s description of the past year from her perspective. It recounts yet another version of what happens when a person losing vision dares to embrace the transforming philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. Here is Becky’s story in her own words:

Just a little over a year ago I frequently reflected on the ways my life had changed since my diagnosis of retinitis pigmentosa. I often pondered the number of tasks and jobs that I was sure required vision to perform. I concluded that it would be impossible to do most things without vision. I had of course persuaded myself that working as a nurse was no longer an option for me. I was reduced to thinking that I could perform only those jobs that required little or no skill. I wondered how I could even get a job washing dishes because I would not be able to see food left on a dish. My then husband cautioned my children that they must do more cleaning around the house because their mom could not see well enough to clean properly; it was up to them to pick up the slack. In this state of depression and denial, I resigned myself to being helpless and dependent on others. I could muster little objection to their well-meant but often tactless offers of help. When I cleaned a room, he would trail me, pointing out the spots I had missed, telling me that I should let someone else do the cleaning, leaving me less confident each time. Traveling by myself presented a similar problem. I became convinced that I could not travel without assistance, a view eagerly reinforced by my husband.

A year ago I did not own a cane, nor did it occur to me that I needed one. I could not imagine using one because of the embarrassment, questions, and stares my imagination conjured up. I was only thirty years old and could not get past the stereotype that only old people used canes. I was afraid of the embarrassment that a cane would envelop me in if my family saw me using one. I did not want any part of the inevitable pity from family, friends, and strangers. Even after I received my first cane, I had reservations about using it; it seemed silly to me to go through an evaluation for mobility training. Clearly I had too much vision to be blind. Why should I even contemplate acquiring the skills of blindness? As you can see, I was still in denial about my blindness.

That was my situation and state of mind in the early fall of 2006. Little did I know how profoundly my life and attitudes about blindness were about to change. My BSVI counselor began the process by telling me about a convention she had attended in July. She gave me information about an upcoming state convention of the National Federation of the Blind to be held in November. Because I felt so isolated and alone in my rural community, I told her that I would be interested in going to the convention and checking out these peculiar people who did not think blindness was a catastrophe. But as the time got closer, real doubts about being around a bunch of blind folks crept in, even though I had already committed to attending. I thought of the trip as a mini-vacation, away from the kids and my husband. I was more focused on trying to find a cure for my vision loss than accepting it.

The 2006 convention of the NFB of Ohio was a real eye-opener for me. Even though I wasn't sure if I really belonged there at first, my roommate made a statement during one of our many conversations that transformed my thinking and stays with me to this day: “Are you more blind or more sighted?” That one question hit me like a ton of bricks and forced me to face my blindness honestly.

It was not until I attended the NFB convention that I was exposed to people who were dealing with vision loss, just as I was. Many held respectable positions in their communities, and I began to realize that blindness was not the end of the world. Even after the convention the conversations with my roommate continued. She kept pouring NFB philosophy into me, changing the way I viewed blindness. The realization that I no longer wanted to be a victim of blindness but a responsible, functional adult in my family and community filled me with hope and determination. I wanted my children to see their mother, not in despair, but as a fighter, someone who could stand up to the challenge and not back down, despite the obstacles that got in my way. I also wanted them to see their mother as someone to admire for her strengths and courage; I didn’t want them to look at me with pity.

I realized I had allowed myself to become totally dependent on people to take me places because I was not sure enough of myself to travel on my own since my vision had declined rapidly in the past year. I decided after hearing about other blind people who traveled independently that I had something to prove to myself and anyone else who said I couldn't travel alone. So I made arrangements to see an ophthalmologist in Los Angeles that I had been wanting to consult. That trip gave me the courage, strength, and proof that I was no longer bound by the chains of dependency on others for my mobility. I was no longer afraid to travel alone. I realized that my cane was my new best friend; it could take me anywhere I wanted to go; I needn’t be embarrassed by it. Using my cane explained why I could not read a sign or needed verbal directions.

Since I returned home from Atlanta this past summer, my cane goes wherever I do, and I recognize that I am really missing something when I don’t have it. I am not nearly as confident and sure of myself without it; I don't feel comfortable walking with a sighted guide, depending on him or her rather than my cane. My cane gives me information that a guide may not have time or attention to.

Since this summer and with the influence of others in the NFB, I am now taking control of my life, beginning with my home. I am just a normal person who happens to be blind. With proper skills I am becoming a completely functional and competent blind person who wants to raise awareness and educate people in my community about vision loss and break down their barriers and prejudices about blindness. It is important for me to show others that blindness does not have to be a tragedy; it can be simply a nuisance. It is now my quest to find others in the surrounding communities to join me in changing what it means to be blind.

As a result of the changes in my perspective this past year, I am now more accepting of myself; I am learning Braille and using my cane everywhere I go. I am working on getting my nursing license reinstated after letting it lapse because of my lack of confidence in my ability to do the job.

Now I am at work establishing an NFB chapter in the southern end of the state. We sent a mailing to approximately two hundred blind and visually impaired patrons of the Talking Book program within a three-county area. The Regional Library for the Blind assisted us with this project. Since this mailing went out, I have received nine phone calls from people interested in forming a chapter in the Lawrence County area; we have scheduled an informational meeting on January 5, 2008. And as a member of the state Membership Committee, I am looking forward to recruiting others throughout Ohio. My goal is to provide people facing vision loss the opportunity to undergo their own change in perspective.

 

Shoveling Snow Blind

by Robert Leslie Newman

From the Editor: I don’t know anyone who really enjoys shoveling snow, but I have always done it, at least I did until the kids and I pooled our resources to give my husband a snow blower. I can report that it is perfectly possible to shovel snow while carrying a baby in a backpack, but it is easier to do so without the extra weight. It is also possible to clear walks by rolling large balls of snow with small children for a snowman. I never gave the subject of snow removal much thought until I got the following little article from Robert Lesley Newman at the end of last year’s snow season. I then checked around and discovered, as he did, that plenty of blind folks have sidestepped this rite of winter and home maintenance. No one who has been relatively inactive should race to the garage for a shovel when the snow begins to fly. Shoveling is physically demanding work, and we certainly don’t want anyone to have a heart attack or strain a back proving that he or she can clear the snow from the front walk. But if you are in good physical condition and have never tried to shovel snow, here is some advice about how to do it from an expert:

Snow shovel in hand I stepped out my front door. "Brr." It was late afternoon, and the latest winter storm of ten to thirteen inches accumulation was winding down. I had stayed home from work like most of the rest of the city. Digging out after a paralyzing blizzard starts at your front door, and I wanted to get my walks and driveway cleared before the night's falling temperatures hardened the new snow.

"Wow, knee-deep!" The snow always drifted up my front steps. "This is going to be work." I breathed in the frosty air, enjoying the clean taste. "Oh well, it all starts with the first scoop." If the truth be known, I looked forward to the challenge; I was in good physical shape and enjoyed this type of chore, and clearing this snow would chalk up a mark in the responsible-homeowner column.

My first scoop was straight ahead on the top step. Lifting the blade, I began throwing left, over the waist-high bushes. Three more scoops took me down to concrete. Stepping into the cleared space and pivoting left as the blade rasped against the cement, I thought, "Might be able to get this strip in one go." I jammed the blade forward to the grass line, lifted, and pitched. I felt loose snow cascading down onto my feet. "Nope, too much." I began scooping at the right side of my trench. Two red cheeks later the entire width of the walk was clear, and I had to remove my neck scarf to keep from overheating. I repeated this drill along the short walk that ran across the front of the porch to where it met the driveway.

While I scooped and tossed, I was thinking, "Interesting, shoveling snow as a blind guy is one of those activities that usually call forth either amazement or negatives in people's heads." At a recent meeting of blind consumers I took a poll. Out of the five blind homeowners, I was the only one who regularly shoveled. Two were elderly women; one of them had shoveled when she was younger. Two were younger than me; one of the guys had no clue how it could be done, and the fifth guy had shoveled some but had orientation issues about getting lost.

If you are healthy, shoveling blind is just another alternative technique. The shovel is not only a tool for moving stuff, it's also a travel tool. Then there are your feet: just as the shovel tells you tactilely and auditorially about the surface you are clearing, your feet do the same; clear cement is different from cement that is snow-covered, which is different than grass-covered ground. Knowing when the blade is full comes from the weight and amount of resistance that you can feel through the handle. You clear an area by scooping in an overlapping pattern, just as you cover the surface when using a vacuum sweeper or wiping the kitchen table or mopping the floor.

The driveway was next. It is about ten feet wide and fifty feet from curb to garage. So, after a short rest and throwing a few snowballs, I started shoveling across the front of the garage. Here the snow was deeper, above my waist. Facing the length of the drive toward the street, I listened around, taking a read on the auditory landscape, getting oriented. To the left were the distant sounds of a busy street. Across the street and down two houses someone started a snow blower.

Starting at the right grass line, I dug in at the level of my belt buckle, pitched right, continued to cut down into the drift, widening my excavation in order to clear out the snow that slid into my deepening hole. When shoveling the average snowfall, if you viewed the snowy drive as a long ribbon, I would work back and forth across its end. I’d start at the right side, scoop straight ahead, pitch right, take a half step left, scoop, check to the right with my foot for snow that had come off the blade and clear that, then half-step to the left and repeat my actions. At the midpoint of the ribbon width, I would begin pitching left. But today’s job had no pretty choreography. It was just dig and throw, dig and throw. So I kept at it until I detected the slant at the end of the drive as it slopes down to the street. "At last, here’s the turn." I had reached the sidewalk running across the front of my property. After opening my jacket because I was really working up some internal heat, I cleared that walk too.

"All right! I’m finished." Walking back over all that I had cleared, checking for little landslides, I heard footsteps coming from the place the snow blower guy had been working.

"Hi, I'm Daniel, your new neighbor. Hey…" His voice moved from side to side as he looked around. "Good job." Then he added something I had to digest before answering. "If you want, I'd be willing to blow out your drive and walks for the rest of the winter. Interested?"
Daniel, his wife Karen, and my wife Bonnie and I did have coffee and talked. Daniel admitted that his initial offer had come from an element of his upbringing. He had been taught to help the old and the handicapped. He recalled that his first view of me as a neighbor and a blind guy had been back in December, when he spotted me, long white cane in hand, walking around on the roof of my house, merrily putting up Christmas decorations. He had wanted to rush over then, but Karen had stopped him.

The upshot of our finally meeting was our mutual apologies for not having taken the time to say more than "Hi" to one another as we went our separate ways in the neighborhood; Omaha is a friendly city, but sometimes big city ways can prevent us from being as friendly as we would like. And no, I did not take him up on his offer, though we agreed I could keep the option in mind. He also said that he would be open to allowing me to help him on some upcoming project of his own.

 

A Radical Approach to the Evaluation of Education for the Blind

by Matt Maurer

From President Maurer: A few years ago my brother, Dr. Matt Maurer, a professor at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, sent a proposal to the National Federation of the Blind that he be supported in an effort to study education for blind children in the United States. The board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind reviewed the proposal and approved it. He was given a stipend and travel expenses to examine education for blind children. Our then director of education, Mark Riccobono, worked with Professor Maurer during the year that he did his review.

At the 2006 NFB convention Professor Maurer made a presentation about his findings. That presentation seemed to me to express an opinion that education for blind students was better than I thought it was. I thought I heard him say that there was good education for the blind everywhere. I was amazed by this sentiment, and although I love my brother, I wondered if he would be able to make it out of the convention hall without having his eyes scratched out. In the summer of 2007 Professor Maurer submitted a report of his findings to me. When I read the conclusion of the report, I thought it once again expressed the view that education for blind students is better than I think it is.
I expressed disagreement and dissatisfaction with these findings to my brother. We have had much conversation and correspondence since that expression of dissatisfaction.

Professor Maurer has now created a document in response to my objections. I think it is worth reviewing, and I present it here. I still think that my brother believes that education for blind children is better than I believe it to be. Nevertheless, I understand that he holds the view that good exists in education for the blind and that emphasizing this good will improve education for blind children much faster than emphasizing what is negative. Whether I agree with this point of view or not, I recommend reading Professor Maurer’s comments. I have edited them to some degree because he was writing in response to a document that I drafted. I think his thoughts should stand on their own, and I have tried to restate what he said with accuracy.

Both Maurers can say without reservation that there are some things about which we agree wholeheartedly. We believe that top-quality education for blind children is essential. We also believe that the field has much room for improvement. We understand that the Braille literacy rate is extremely low, we understand that the quality of some of the educational experiences for blind children is not equivalent to the quality of education for sighted children, and we have observed that expectations in certain educational programs do not reflect the quality we would hope to be achieved. We also recognize that valuable and innovative efforts are being made in certain places and that these should be supported and recognized. Here is what Professor Matt Maurer wrote:

It was my clearly stated intention from the start to investigate excellent practice in the field of education for the blind. I contended that investigation of the negative aspects of the field had been done and that a focus on the positive had greater potential to produce positive results. I said to school administrators that I was genuine when I said I would be examining excellence. When speaking with each person who gave me access to the students, I made this promise in frank terms, such as, “I will not come into your school and sucker-punch you, telling you I am examining excellence and then looking for the negative.”

My brother [NFB President Marc Maurer] thought that he heard me say that there is excellent education for blind students everywhere. What I actually said was quite different. When speaking to the 2006 convention of the National Federation of the Blind, I said that, when I looked for excellence, I found it everywhere I looked.

There is some important history to share about my becoming involved with this research. As I was preparing to do my research, I heard some quick criticisms from school-based people. This was particularly interesting to me because at the time I had contacts at only the Indiana school, so all those concerns were coming through the grapevine. The field of education of students who are blind is small, and the grapevine is active. The gist of what I heard from two separate sources was that, although I stated that I was intending to examine excellence, what I was really intending was yet another scathing exposé of the negative. A friend at the Indiana school told me of a conversation with someone at another school. His contact expressed the rumor, and my friend countered it, saying he was sure I was not that kind of person. His contact replied that, even if I did not exactly look at the negative, at a minimum I would create a list of “good places” and thus label all others as negative.

As you might imagine, I found these rumors very upsetting, and I immediately started to take action to quell this groundswell of misinformation. I feared that it would completely block my access to information. Who would invite me to their school if they thought I was intending to air all their dirty laundry? I asked those who were hearing those ideas to counter them as they could. Of particular importance was the communication of the superintendent of the Indiana school, Jim Durst. As a respected member of that establishment, he contacted several key members and gave them a this-guy-is-genuine message. I was then invited to the COSB (Council of Schools for the Blind) meeting in Louisville, where I reiterated the message that I was indeed looking at excellent practice. I told the superintendents at that meeting that I would stick to the positive and that I would not publish the locations of the schools I visited. As it turns out, those were sometimes difficult promises to keep, but they were honorable and worthy promises.

In the early stages of this work I also heard a few criticisms from NFB people. The general tenor of these criticisms was that all I intended to do was to placate or congratulate educators, in essence to say nice things about educators. While I think it would be wonderful to say nice things about educators, being one myself, what I really intended to do was to say true things about educators with respect to excellent practice. Further, to suggest that the promise was that I would “not express negative opinions about their work” is to suggest that I might subvert the truth. That was not my intent, and it is not consistent with my life’s work. While I may get the truth wrong from time to time, I am a staunch believer in stating the truth as I see it. I am also a believer in exploring the truth from many angles. Consistent with that belief, during the time I was exploring school practices, I also spent time at the National Center for the Blind and at all three NFB training centers. I wish I could say that I had had the insight to come up with this plan on my own, but the truth is I was following the suggestion of several NFB members whom I respected, including my brother.

Once at the training centers I again bowed to the wisdom of others and, with great trepidation, donned the sleepshades and did the program. I must report that the time I spent at each of these centers was an experience that knocked some of the arrogance out of me and greatly informed the context of the work that I was doing.

I would like to expand what I said about education at the 2006 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. My brother told me that some members in attendance thought they heard me say, “There is good education for the blind everywhere.” My message was a bit different. Here is what I actually said:

 

So, when I looked for excellence in the education of blind youth, what did I find? I am happy to report to this body that I found it. Not every teacher was excellent, but many were. No system was flawless, but each had elements of excellence. I found excellent practices in residential schools, in public school programs, and in itinerant programs. What this tells me is that it is possible for a child to get an excellent education through any of these delivery systems. I want to be clear that I am not saying every child is getting an excellent education, just that any of our current models can deliver an excellent education.

The key idea, and one I admit could have been more clearly and forcefully stated, is that, “If you look for excellence, you can find it.” I believe this message to be both true and helpful. It reinforces the good work that some educators are doing. It also gives parents hope. If parents are in a position to look for good educational opportunities for their children, but not all parents are in that situation, those opportunities can be found. Good teachers, good educators, and good programs are out there.

I believe that all schools can improve, and I believe the most significant area of improvement is in their philosophy about blindness. I further believe that the only place they can expect to get what they need in that arena is through the NFB. I stated that view at the 2006 convention. The text from my speech, which I hope was delivered verbatim, but which may have been ad-libbed a bit, is:

So, if a clear picture of the true capacity of the blind is the most important component of helping good teachers become great, how might we change that? How can we improve the situation? I believe the only way is through an association with the NFB. There is no other place or organization in this country that can better illustrate the true capacity of the blind than the NFB. If we want dramatic improvements in the educational system, it falls to us. Components of the answer are in the Jernigan Institute and the educational efforts there. The three training centers are clearly powerful examples that must become part of the solution. But above all I believe it is important that the state organizations, meaning you out there—the successful blind—become more involved. And to do that, we need to be mindful of our relationship with our state’s educators.

 

While Dr. Marc Maurer suggests that I state in my report that good education for the blind can be found everywhere, I reiterate that what I actually state is that, if you look for it, you can find it. When I looked for excellence in places where I was likely to find it, I did. I looked carefully, informed with as much data as I could muster, much of it gathered from members of the NFB. When I looked in this way, I found excellence in every place I looked.

I will agree that the ideas in the report are consistently positive. That is merely the result of my resolve to maintain a focus on excellent practice and to avoid the distraction of expounding on the negatives of the field. It would have been easy to take a negative path. Given the amount of time I spent in various educational programs, acknowledging the level of access I was allowed, I could easily write much about the negative. That was not what I had agreed to do. My report, to the best of my ability, sticks to the point of looking at excellence.

My last thought is about future programs that I have discussed with President Maurer. I have suggested a national program that is politically neutral. What I mean by that phrase is that the program would not be formally affiliated with the NFB or any other organization, most notably the ACB. While there is some suggestion from my brother that this idea illustrates my weak beliefs in the philosophy of the NFB, that is most certainly not the case. Instead it illustrates how seriously I take the charge of an educator. I believe it is of critical importance that educators provide their students with unbiased information and allow them to make decisions. It is our duty to guide those decisions but not to usurp them. We have all seen this done badly, particularly in the education of children who are blind. A word that is often used by Federationists to describe educators is “custodial.” Many educators strive to give students their opinions rather than to allow students to form their own. We know the severe damage this can do to developing minds. I do not wish to compound these problems any further. If a student wishes to ask my personal opinion on the subject, I will share that freely. I am a member of the NFB, and I believe deeply in the central values and beliefs of the organization.

 

Surviving Teen Driving: Tips for Blind Parents

by Judy Jones

From the Editor: Judy and Chris Jones are leaders in the NFB of Washington. They are also the parents of two daughters, who now drive. They have gathered valuable experience in surviving the dreaded process of transforming teenagers from fantasy-obsessed car dreamers to responsible car drivers. The only wisdom I can contribute to Judy’s lively and sensible advice is the discovery our family made that broken white canes stuck into water- or sand-filled milk jugs make great markers in a parking lot when a learner is trying to master parking. Here is Judy’s advice:

Most of you are probably more knowledgeable about cars than I was, or still am, for that matter. My husband, who is also blind, owned a car when he was single for the convenience of ride-sharing. But what I knew about cars when we started on our driving education adventure, I dredged up from information gleaned from conversations with my parents twenty to thirty years ago. Of course I've been a passenger in many cars, but that doesn't count, especially if you don't pay much attention to the car or the road and trust the driver.

Although we're relatively new to living with driving teens, we want to share what has helped us so far. From the time our eldest announced she wanted to drive a Barbie Jeep when she grew up and our youngest declared she wanted to drive a pink sparkle Barbie car, we knew it was only a matter of time before we'd need to deal with the intricacies of helping our sighted children safely navigate roads and highways along with all the decisions: safest vehicle, car insurance, automatic or stick, and the details of maintenance. At our national conventions I drank in advice and information provided by other blind parents.

As the girls got older, Jada wanted a "big diesel, gas-guzzling, manly beast." Never mind that gas-guzzling also meant dollar-guzzling. With D-Day (driving-day) around the corner, every "tight" car or truck they saw was still "the one-and-only!" They had to come to the eventual realization, however, that what they thought they wanted and what they would have to agree to months later were very different.
So how and when did we start this process?

1. Not everyone is ready to drive at age sixteen. When the sighted public meets blind parents with sighted kids of driving age, they assume this will be our transportation answer from now on. Not so fast! It's not fair to put that kind of pressure on kids, even if they're itching to drive. Not everyone is ready to handle that level of responsibility by the magical birthday. Don't cave in to public pressure. Our eldest, Jada, started driving at age eighteen, and our youngest started several months ago, at age sixteen.

2. Educate yourself in order to educate your kids. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Get over the clueless feeling by informing yourself. Your kids and their safety are worth it.

A. Get a copy of the current driver's manual from your Department of Motor Vehicles and go over it well in advance. In our state the DMV has a Website you can access that includes a practice written test.

B. Also check for any simulated computer driving games for preteens.

C. Find out about driving schools in your area that will work for you and your teen. As your teen is studying for his or her permit, brush up on state driving laws again in case they have changed since you did your initial check.

3. Talk to your kids when you see them showing an interest in driving, and keep a sense of humor through the whole process. This doesn't mean making them memorize the driver's manual when they're five, but for us it meant talking together about some of the details of driver etiquette and rules of the road. Sighted parents can show their kids through example. They can ride around with a teen who has his/her permit, coaching and helping. Since we can't legally do that, we had to come up with other ways to help.

4. Ask friends and family to ride along to coach. We scheduled driving rides with them, offering to pay for gas and making sure it was quite all right for our novice to use their vehicle. We ran into no snags. You can also pay for extra drives through your local driving school while your child is attending.

5. Choose a car. This felt overwhelming to me since I was so clueless about cars. I started by finding an insurance company with the most reasonable rates that would work for us. We ended up with the company that insures our home, and we'd already established a relationship with the agent. So I didn't feel too bad admitting how ignorant I was and what information I wanted. I learned that non-sports, four-door cars are cheaper to insure. The insurance company encouraged us to call in as we found prospective vehicles to check the rates. Having no other driver in the family, we were going to face higher rates than a family with a vehicle already.

Based on our findings, we went car shopping and ended up with--well--a Jetta GT--not exactly a family car, but oh, so cute. And--well, because the price was right, the car in such great shape, and our daughter was in love with it, it became ours. At least it's a four-door. In the buying process we talked with everyone we knew who drove and arrived at a general consensus, and a trusted friend who knew about cars test-drove it for us. Our daughter named it Velma, and now volunteer adult drivers could ride along in our car, the one Jada would use to take the actual test.

6. If you've never believed in the power of prayer before, start now. I warned both daughters that I would probably be more strict than usual because this driving thing was new territory for me, so they had better have patience. I told Jada to tell her driving instructor that if he felt comfortable riding with her with his eyes closed, she was good to go. Seriously, both girls are very good drivers and are patient with me. I still say, "Drive carefully," in inclement weather and ask questions like, "Have you got your wallet, your license, your cell phone?" Then I turn around and say something like, "Don't talk on your cell while you're driving."

Riding in a car driven for the first time by one of our babies was a real rush for me. Of course I warned them about driving too fast and using the three-second rule. Especially with our youngest we had conversations like:

"Mom, you don't have to grip the door handle."

"I'm not gripping, Honey; I just have my arm there."

"Yeah, right, sure!" she laughs skeptically. Well, in my defense, it doesn't help when they say things like, "Mom, you only think I'm driving too fast because the car's so low to the ground," or "Mom, you're used to riding buses; they don't turn corners like a car. The best one was, "Dad likes my stereo turned up full blast for the bass," or the real kicker, "Dad doesn't think this is too fast."

I finally won this good-natured verbal sparring match when I said, "Don't give me that, I can hear the pitch of that engine, even over your stereo, and if it goes any higher, you've had it!" Another winning strategy is to take them to Starbucks, so you can say, "Honey, you’re jiggling my coffee, and it'll get all over your upholstery."

My husband is wonderfully understanding about showing up for church in a black Jetta girl car with Roxy stickers plastered in the back window and Hawaiian print seat covers. After all, these are his girls, and he's proud they're so competent.

7. Finally, even though you now have a licensed driver in the family, don't lose your independence. Still take those inconvenient buses when you need or want to. Working around each other's schedules and traveling together is normal with families, but becoming a prisoner to someone else's schedule compromises your independence. Enjoy the convenience a car can afford, but keep your perspective and stay independent. Your children may drive a car, but you are still the parent in charge.

Jada has now moved out, has been employed in the pizza business, and just got her first grown-up office job. Sadie is starting work at the Tacoma zoo and now drives Vivian, a ’97 black Jetta GT that could be Velma's twin. We see our girls growing, thriving, bit by bit becoming more independent of us, yet I feel I'm the one who's really grown and learned a lot, helping our girls through this special phase in each of their lives. Onward and upward for all of us, including Velma and Vivian.

 

Ask Miss Whozit

From the Editor: From time to time Miss Whozit answers reader questions about etiquette and good manners, particularly as they involve blindness. If you would like to pose a question to Miss Whozit, you can send it to the attention of Barbara Pierce, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or email me at <bpierce@nfb.org>. I will pass the questions along. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. Here are the most recent letters Miss Whozit has received:

Dear Miss Whozit,

As you know, the email age is upon us. The NFB has many enjoyable and informative listservs. Could you talk about email etiquette? I have read posts from people who have been downright rude to others. Other folks apparently enjoy gossiping about people on the lists as though they were talking in the privacy of their own living rooms. This spoils my enjoyment of the listserv experience, and I can’t believe that it is acceptable behavior. What do you think?

Civility Online

Dear Civility,

Miss Whozit could not agree more with you. Rudeness, insults, verbal attacks, and incivility have no more place in Internet posts of any kind than they have in face-to-face discussion. Of course some hot-headed people indulge in such comments in person, but many more exhibit this provocative and tactless behavior when they can hide behind the anonymity of a first name or email identity. I trust that I need not point out that ladies and gentlemen never stoop to insults and verbal attacks just because no one knows exactly who they are. In the same way courtesy and good etiquette demand that one refrain from discussing or gossiping about other people in any public setting, virtual or real. The test is simple: if you would not make the comment to the person’s face, don’t make it in an email post.

As long as our current topic is email, Miss Whozit would like to start the new year with her own small rant about general email etiquette. There is no right or wrong way to send an email message, but many users have slid into inconsiderate habits that are annoying enough to constitute discourtesy to those who read, or try to read, their posts. Here are a few tips that, if adopted by everyone, would markedly raise the level of civility and efficiency in all email exchanges. If you follow them, those to whom you send messages will bless you, and, who knows, they may even reform their ways. This list is drawn from the summer 2006 edition of the Buckeye Bulletin, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of Ohio.

Be sure that your subject line accurately reflects the content of your message. This is especially important if you are sending messages to a mailing list. If you are really going to talk about your dog, you don't want the subject of your message to be "my favorite screen reader."
And while we are on the subject of writing messages to a listserv, be very careful to answer personal or individual questions or requests off-list. Few things are more discouraging than downloading seventy-five messages, only to find that sixty of them are from other listserv members responding to an invitation to participate in some off-list program or opportunity. Everyone on the list does not need to know that Joe wants the demo tape. Take note of the address of the person making the offer and write a separate email message to that person only. Also please take mercy on other list readers and stifle your impulse to respond to the entire list with the news that you agree with what Jean has said or by thanking John for his views. If you must respond, do it off list.

If you are sending an attachment, please indicate that fact. You may do this in the subject line, the body of your message, or both. If the recipient does not know to look for an attachment, a blind person may delete the message without ever noticing the attachment. Don't send an attachment unless it is necessary to do so. You must send an attachment if you want to send a word-processed file, a database file, a program, or a picture. But some email programs do not permit the user to receive attachments. If this is the case, the sender can do nothing about it.

Sign your name at the end of the message. This does not have to be done with a closing such as “Sincerely.” Just put your name at the end to signify that you have completed the message.

Many email programs permit a writer to scroll through a received message and make inserted comments. This is convenient for the sender because it ensures that the writer will not forget to comment on any part of the message or forget to answer a question. If you decide to engage in this form of response, however, remember that a blind reader of your message will have to reread his or her entire message, looking for your insertions. Making sure that you do not forget to respond to anything in the original message may be important enough to justify this inconvenience to the reader, but understand that this is what you are demanding of him or her.

When forwarding a message, it is courteous to everyone to delete the headers. Unless there is a reason for doing so, it is not necessary to show the origin of a message. Often the message is a great joke or good story that has already been forwarded to many people. By the time the recipient of your message struggles through all of the headers listing everyone that every sender has sent the message to, he or she has usually lost interest in or appreciation for the content of the message. Instead, copy the story or joke to your clipboard and exit the message entirely. Then you can open a new message to the group of your friends to whom you want to pass the information. Drop the text into the edit field from the clipboard. Everyone who gets to read the message without digging through pages of names and email addresses will bless you, and the recipients of your message will not have access to the email addresses of everyone who received the message before you did.

In the same spirit, if you can place the names of the people to whom you are sending a message in the blind carbon copy (bcc) field, you will protect the identity of your friends and business colleagues. It will also spare the next generation of readers from having to scroll down through your list of recipients, assuming that your recipients decide to pass along your words of wisdom or humor without copying the text to a new message.

My final note is addressed, as far as I know, to AOL users only. When the rest of us forward a message, the recipient can open the message and immediately read what has been forwarded. But if the message is from an AOL user, for some reason our email providers receive the entire forwarded message as an attachment. If, Heaven forbid, the message passes through the hands of several AOL users, the final reader must dig down through layer after layer of attachments, opening each and passing through to the message within. The solution is simple. If the AOL user highlights the text he or she wishes to pass along to other people, it can be copied to the clipboard and dropped into an entirely new message in the edit field. Your readers will receive your message and go straight to the text you want them to see without minutes of extra effort.

As I have already said, there are no hard and fast rules for sending email. Just think of these tips as good manners. They are not laws, but using them makes life more pleasant for everyone. Your coworkers and friends will enjoy receiving the email you send them a lot more if you employ these tips.

Note: Miss Whozit would no doubt be delighted to know that National Braille Press (www.NBP.org) has just published a new book titled, “SEND: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home.” It is available for $19.95 in Braille, or as a CD ROM Portabook or Portabook download.

Dear Miss Whozit,

With today's social conventions, I am never sure when it is appropriate to shake a person's hand. As a twenty-one-year-old college student, I do not wish to appear rude by not shaking hands with someone older than me. At the same time, it is generally considered inappropriate to shake hands with other students. However, during introductions, other students have sometimes said to me, "I'm trying to shake your hand," or "I have my hand out for you." I find it embarrassing when I do not shake someone's hand when it is expected, but it is equally embarrassing to extend my hand into space and have to pull it back. As a general rule I was taught that you shake professors' hands and those of other people who are older than you, e.g., friends’ parents or people of importance like the mayor, president, etc. Can you advise me about how best to deal with such situations so that I do not embarrass myself? I would like to conduct myself in a way that is socially acceptable. Because of this anxiety, social situations make me uncomfortable.

Embarrassed

Dear Embarrassed,

Shaking hands is one of those rituals of social interaction that can leave one feeling insecure. Good for you, however, for caring about conducting it properly. The culture of your campus community will dictate whether or not students shake hands when introduced to other students. Since you are all more or less equals, you would not be perceived as inappropriate when extending your hand for a handshake, unless students never shake hands with other students. Since you say that sometimes students call attention to the fact that they are trying to shake hands with you, I conclude that students on your campus do shake hands, at least occasionally. If you are going to extend your hand, do it with the clear intention of shaking hands. Sometimes blind people tentatively extend a hand a bit, hoping that, if it is not taken, no one will notice that they had offered to shake. It is far better to be clear about your intention. If the other person is sighted, he or she will take your hand or risk snubbing you, which is a social gaff in itself. Another blind person may need the prompt that you have sometimes received: “Here’s my hand.” That statement may feel a bit awkward, but the situation is under your control, and you will appear confident and in charge.

Now comes the general question of the etiquette of who initiates the handshake when the two parties are not equal in rank. These rules were more rigidly enforced years ago. Generally the older person or a woman decides whether to shake hands or to nod and smile. In these egalitarian times it is pretty safe to rise if you have been sitting when the introduction is beginning and extend your hand. If your intention by a warm smile and extended hand is to shake briefly, thereby acknowledging the new acquaintance, the other person will follow suit unless his or her hands are full. This is one situation in which it is helpful to have a dog or white cane conspicuously at hand. Offering to shake hands with someone who does not have a free hand with which to shake requires an explanation if it is not to be misconstrued as inattention or peculiarity.

The way you shake hands is important to making a good impression. The dead-fish handshake really does communicate weakness and ineffectiveness. On the other hand, gripping the other person’s hand so hard that you inflict pain is overbearing and just plain rude. If your hands are naturally clammy, wipe your hand along your slacks to dry it before extending it. If you anticipate that you may be shaking hands, at a reception, for example, you might consider investing in a small hand warmer to keep in your pocket. That will keep your hand warm enough not to be unpleasant. Clasp the other person’s hand firmly, but do not squeeze. Move your hand up and down two or three inches three to six times, and then release the other person’s hand. While you are shaking, look at the other person, smile warmly, and pay attention to his or her name. Use it again soon in the brief conversation. This will help you commit it to memory and demonstrate that you were paying attention.

If you adopt these little rules and apply them, you will soon find that shaking hands is not an ordeal and that any number of little variations can take place without your needing to feel that you bungled the interaction.

 

Sixth Annual Meet the Blind Month Campaign

by Jerry Lazarus

From the Editor: Here is Jerry Lazarus's report on Meet the Blind Month, October 2007:

Was there ever any doubt? In the sixth year of Meet the Blind Month (MTBM) we have once again increased the number of events held around the country. More than 350 events took place in October 2007, making this the most active year to date by our chapters and affiliates. For a complete list of 2007 Meet the Blind Month events go to our Website at <www.nfb.org/nfb/Meet_the_blind_month_-Events_2007.asp>.

The Meet the Blind Month campaign, one of many projects conceived by Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, which was first launched in 2002 to be conducted during the month of October, is a coordinated nationwide project designed to provide opportunities for NFB members to reach out in their communities. Various activities are planned at numerous retail establishments, health fairs, libraries, senior centers, schools, and community events and with local civic groups to let our neighbors know the facts about blindness and the NFB, ensuring that the public continues to learn more about our movement.

Early planning by affiliate and chapter presidents, along with President Maurer’s providing organizers with free Braille alphabet cards, NFB literature, and Kernel books again, increased the number of events and energized our chapters to seek new ways to broadcast our message. Standing-room-only attendance at the Meet the Blind Month seminar during our national convention in Atlanta confirmed the interest of our members in finding ways to share our message with the public. Many of the attendees came to the seminar to let some of the newcomers know what had worked best the previous year. Others were asked to attend by their affiliate leaders so that a designated person could help direct the MTBM planning.

Presenters of our Braille Is Beautiful video kit program at their local schools provide a disability awareness curriculum for elementary and middle school students. Jake and the Secret Code, the children’s video version, provides an easy and interesting method for demonstrating the importance of Braille and the way blind people read and write. NFB Braille alphabet cards are provided to the students, and after viewing the video presentation, they have a better understanding of the importance of the Braille code. Follow-up discussion provides an opportunity for the students to learn about blindness in an atmosphere where questions are encouraged.

Wal-Mart continues to be one of our most popular venues for affiliates’ literature distribution and fundraising activities. This year affiliates using Wal-Mart included, among others, Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Washington state.

Other retail and restaurant venues this year included Applebee’s restaurant, Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Boscov’s department store (Friends Helping Friends Day), Giant Foods, K-Mart, Macy’s (Shop for a Cause), Safeway food store, Walgreens drugstore, and Wendy’s restaurant. This expansion and use of varied types of establishments increases opportunities and broadens our approach to reach the public with our message.

White Cane Walks (including White Cane Safety Day street crossings), Braille Is Beautiful demonstrations in schools and to service clubs, use of public libraries, participation at community events, Meet the Blind Month proclamations issued by public officials, radio and TV interviews, newspaper articles, and literature tables at shopping malls are just some of the ways our members have reached out.

Delores Reisinger, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, must be commended for her outstanding Meet the Blind Month efforts with events that included meet-and-greet activities at a supermarket, restaurant, senior center, shopping mall, and community college. Between these events, she organized Braille Is Beautiful demonstrations on four separate occasions, and finally during a city council session, Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran presented a White Cane Safety Day Proclamation.

In addition to all this activity in Cedar Rapids, other Iowa organizers, including Peggy Chong, Darrel Kirby, and Lane Stewart, put together a multitude of other events to expose the public to our philosophy. The state’s biggest success for Meet the Blind Month came on October 14th, when Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) reopened Sunday bus service for the first time in nearly forty years. NFBI president Michael Barber suggested the 14th, the day before White Cane Safety Day, for the service to begin again. DART took his suggestion and invited him to speak during the ribbon cutting prior to the buses’ rolling out. Congratulations to all Iowans who participated, and thank you for the extra effort.

Florida was also active this year with organizer Sherri “Florida Mom” Brun working with a number of blindness groups to schedule a big White Cane Awareness Day event (October 15) that included crossing the very busy intersections at Orange Avenue and Michigan Street in Orlando. Three TV stations and a newspaper covered the event. Commissioners and the police presented the Orange County and City of Orlando proclamations. The commissioners each crossed the street under blindfolds with the assistance of instructors, while the Orange County community traffic safety team handed out citations and taught the public about the White Cane Law.

A number of our members had newspaper articles, radio interviews, and television appearances during October. One article, written in the Myrtle Beach Sun News, featuring Parnell Diggs, South Carolina state affiliate president, was published in the December issue of the Braille Monitor. That article really sums up the attitude and flavor of what Meet the Blind Month is all about.

During our 2007 Meet the Blind Month, chapters and affiliates developed, planned, and executed both new and traditional events. The members, chapters, and affiliates listed only begin to recognize those who participated in the many events. We congratulate and thank all who were involved and look forward to hearing about the types of activities your chapter will hold in October 2008.

 

Convention Scholarships Available

by Allen Harris

From the Editor: Allen Harris chairs the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund Committee. He has an important announcement for those who would like to attend this year's national convention but find themselves short of funds. This is what he says:

The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund is looking for individuals who can use some financial assistance to attend our national convention in Dallas, Texas. In 2008 our convention will begin on Sunday, June 29, and run through Saturday, July 5. This is one day off from the typical convention week. However, each year we manage to figure out the pattern even when the days change.

Who is eligible to receive a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship?

If you are a member of the National Federation of the Blind, you are eligible to apply. However, preference will be given to first-time convention attendees. The scholarship selection committee is able to make an occasional exception, but first-time convention participants are the target group.

What do I have to do to apply for a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship?

You must do the following and are responsible for these application requirements:

1. Find out who your state NFB president is and get him or her to write a letter of recommendation for you, or you may have a chapter president or other officer write a letter of recommendation, but we must have a letter from a Federation leader who is familiar with you.

2. You must write a letter to the Kenneth Jernigan Fund Committee expressing the reasons why you want a scholarship. Describe your participation in the Federation and what you think you would get and give to the convention. Please send all information to Allen Harris, 524 4th Street 502B, Des Moines, Iowa 50309, or email the information to <allen.harris@dwx.com>.

3. You must register for and attend the entire convention, including the banquet.

How do I get my Scholarship funds?

You will get cash at the convention. The times and locations will be listed in the notice you receive if you are a scholarship winner. The committee is not able to provide funds before the convention, so work with your chapter and state affiliate to assist by advancing funds you can pay back when you receive your scholarship.

When will I know if I have been selected as a Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship winner?
The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 1, but you must do several things to be prepared to attend if you are chosen:

1. You must make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel your reservation.

2. You will receive a letter with the convention details which should answer many of your questions. It is also helpful to find a mentor from your chapter or affiliate to act as a friend and advisor during the convention. Although you will not know officially whether or not you have been selected until early May, you must make plans to attend and then adjust your plans accordingly.

This past summer in Atlanta the Jernigan Fund scholarship committee awarded fifty-six Kenneth Jernigan Scholarships. The average grant was $500. You can include in your letter to the committee any extenuating circumstances which the committee may choose to take into consideration. Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention and join several thousand other blind Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world.

If you have questions or need additional information, call Allen Harris at (515) 274-2256 or email him at <allen.harris@dwx.com>. You may also email Joy Harris at <joy.harris@dwx.com>. We look forward to seeing you in Dallas and enjoying convention with you and all of our fellow Federationists.

 

Betsy Zaborowski Dies

by Marc Maurer

On November 29, 2007, Betsy Zaborowski, "Dr. Z," died after a nine-month struggle with cancer. Until recently she had served as the executive director for the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute. She enjoyed the distinction of being the first executive director for this institute, a structure and a program intended to expand the influence of the National Federation of the Blind and increase opportunities for blind people. Dr. Zaborowski's background in the National Federation of the Blind and her extraordinary intelligence helped her to recognize the necessity of conducting the work of the institute from the point of view of the blind of the nation organized within the National Federation of the Blind. Research institutes pursue complex theoretical subjects reasonably frequently. Many of them do not ground the work they do in the experiences of individuals who are the subject of the study they conduct. Dr. Zaborowski knew that what she was intended to accomplish was research that would change lives. Therefore she incorporated the feelings, the dreams, and the daily experience of the blind in the research she directed.

I first met Dr. Zaborowski, I believe, in 1984 at the convention of the National Federation of the Blind. She was working in the field of psychology, an area of endeavor that she found fascinating. By 1996 Dr. Zaborowski had become a full-time employee of the National Federation of the Blind. She brought to us a restless energy that stimulated a constant effort to create new programs and inspire plans for new direction in the Federation. Hers was a restless spirit but a joyous one. Where she was, there also were new development, energy, a thriving introspection, and demand for excellence.

Dr. Zaborowski gave meaning to what a research and training institute on blindness can be when it is operated by the blind themselves. Her legacy will carry us well into the twenty-first century and will inspire us for the foreseeable future.

The Baltimore Sun printed an obituary about Betsy on November 30 that said:

Betsy A. Zaborowski
The former executive director of an innovative institute helped blind people pursue independent lives.

by Frederick N. Rasmussen

Betsy A. Zaborowski, who had been diagnosed with retinal blastoma at a young age and later became blind, devoted her entire life to fighting the notion that blindness is a tragedy.

Dr. Zaborowski, former executive director of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, died early yesterday of cancer at her Denver home. The former Ednor Gardens resident, who had moved to Colorado only this week, was fifty-eight. It was Dr. Zaborowski's wish that she return to the new Denver home that she and her husband had purchased last month, and on Tuesday she left Baltimore for the last time aboard an air ambulance. She had served as executive director of the innovative institute, the first of its type in the nation, which provided education, employment, and adaptive technology for the blind, from 2003 until this year, when she stepped down because of failing health.

At her death Dr. Zaborowski was a senior adviser to the NFB. "Dr. Betsy Zaborowski's service to the blind of the nation was extraordinary," Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind, said in a statement released yesterday. "As the first director of the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, she materially increased opportunities for blind youth and blind adults for at least the next generation," he said. "She was an extraordinary leader, and she had a warm heart."

"Betsy's work and accomplishment represent the spirit and imaginative approach she brought to changing lives in a positive way," said Mark Riccobono, who succeeded Dr. Zaborowski as director of the Jernigan Institute in July. "She was brilliant at thinking of what the next big thing was going to be and how we could put the pieces together, and then she used her leadership skills to make it happen," he said. "She was a dynamic lady who got things done, and I always marveled how she used her Midwestern people skills to that end."

Mr. Riccobono praised the "vigorous attitude" that she brought to whatever she was doing. "However, there was always a balance in her life between work and play, and she could do both extremely well. She achieved a lot but always recommended that there be a balance, and people were to have fun," he said.

Dr. Zaborowski was born October 7, 1949, and raised in Thorp, Wisconsin, where she graduated from high school. "She was three years old when diagnosed with retinal blastoma and was treated at the University of Chicago Medical Center. It's a very rare cancer, and most children diagnosed with it don't survive, but Betsy did," said her husband of eighteen years, James Gashel, vice president of marketing for K-NFB Reading Technology, Inc., and former executive director for strategic initiatives for the NFB. "She grew up and functioned as a blind person," he said.

Dr. Zaborowski held a bachelor's and master's degree in educational counseling from the University of Wisconsin in Menomonie, and earned her doctorate in psychology from the University of Denver in 1985. From 1970 to 1976, Dr. Zaborowski worked as a junior and senior high school guidance counselor on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In 1976 she moved to Colorado, where she was a mental health and university-based counselor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 1980 she worked in the field of health psychology for Kaiser Permanente in Denver, while studying for her doctorate.

After moving to Baltimore in 1987, Dr. Zaborowski, a clinical psychologist, established a private practice specializing in women's issues. She also was an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Continuing Studies, where she taught a graduate education counseling course. She also frequently lectured at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Kennedy Krieger Institute. In 1995 Dr. Zaborowski joined the NFB as director of special programs, a position she held until 2003, when she was named executive director of the Jernigan Institute.

"She was an incredible leader and mentor for all blind Americans and especially for me personally," said John Paré, current director for strategic initiatives for the NFB. "She was internationally known and even spoke at a United Nations meeting in New York on behalf of the blind concerning Website accessibility. She has traveled all over the world on behalf of the blind," he said. "She was very energetic and vibrant. You'd be sitting in a chair one moment listening to her, and the next you'd be on your feet because of her ideas and energy," he said.

In 1998 she was selected one of Maryland's Top 100 Women and again in 2000, by the Daily Record. In 2004 Smart Woman magazine featured her on its cover, and the next year Smart CEO featured her as one of twenty-five admired Maryland leaders. Then-Governor Parris N. Glendening appointed her to the Maryland Information Technology Board, and she later was the first chairwoman of the Mayor's Commission on Disabilities. She also served two terms on the Baltimore City Women's Commission.

Dr. Zaborowski was an avid gardener and entertainer. "She had the best flower garden in the 1300 block of East 36th Street," her husband said. "And she loved to throw what she called her `Polish Christmas Party.’ She loved the Polish side of her family and would have eighty or a hundred people over for a holiday party."

Dr. Zaborowski had been a longtime communicant of SS. Philip and James Roman Catholic Church on North Charles Street. "Betsy would like to be remembered for three things," Mr. Gashel said. "That she was Polish, a Roman Catholic, and a Packers fan."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow at St. Therese Roman Catholic Church in Aurora, Colorado. Also surviving are a stepson, Eric Gashel of Ruston, Louisiana; two stepdaughters, Andrea Beasley of Littleton, Colorado, and Valerie Costanza of Keller, Texas; and two grandchildren.

Jim Gashel, Betsy’s husband, sent a brief reflection to Dr. Zaborowski's email list on the morning that she died. It says:


Memories of Betsy from James Gashel

How do you say goodbye to someone you love as much as life itself?

This morning, November 29, at approximately 2:30 a.m. mountain time, Betsy Zaborowski left this life after a nine-month battle with a rare form of cancer. The Colorado sky was clear, and the moon was shining in the window near her bed. God called Betsy as she went to live with the angels. Her struggle on earth is over.

Betsy's final wish was granted on November 27 when she was flown by air ambulance from Baltimore, Maryland, to Denver, Colorado, where she lived in her new home for two days. She picked the house on a trip to Denver in October. Living in a new home, back in Colorado, was her goal, which she accomplished in true Betsy Zaborowski style.

Although Betsy will no longer be with us here on earth, the power of her spirit and the contributions of her life will last forever. Funeral arrangements are pending at Saint Therese Catholic Church in Aurora, Colorado. Her family requests memorial contributions to be made to the National Federation of the Blind Imagination Fund. Written memories of Betsy Zaborowski’s life and work may be sent by mail, fax, or email to the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore, Maryland, at the addresses given below.

National Federation of the Blind
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Fax (410) 659-5129
Email <DrZMemories@nfb.org>

 

Recipes

The recipes this month have been contributed by members of the National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire.

Note from the Editor: One of the recipes in the November issue was Honey Orange Oatmeal Bread, contributed by Nancy Oltman. A few days ago, when I pulled up the recipe to make the bread for my family, I discovered that the method never mentions when to incorporate the half cup of honey. I checked with Nancy, who says that it should be warmed with the water and butter, both of which are mentioned in the instructions. Nancy is correct, by the way: this recipe is delicious. It didn’t stay around long enough for us to discover whether or not it is particularly good toasted; perhaps we will discover the answer with the next loaf.


Barbecued Pork Chops

by Lucille Lynch

Lucille Lynch has been the treasurer of the NFB of New Hampshire for more than seventeen years. She has been married for forty-eight years and has three children and two grandchildren. The NFB has always been a big part of her life since her father, Edward “Eddie” Vachon, was almost a charter member of the NFB of New Hampshire. She learned through him how important the NFB is to many people.

Ingredients:
6 pork chops
1 tablespoon oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 8-ounce cans tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Method: In a large skillet with a tight lid, brown chops in oil over medium heat for five minutes on each side. Pour off fat. Sprinkle celery, brown sugar, lemon juice, and dry mustard over chops. Pour tomato sauce over all and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer over low heat for one hour until chops are tender.


Auntin's Apple Squares

by Bette Ann Coy

Bette Ann Liljestrand Coy is a widow and the mother of three grown children and ten grandchildren, who call her “Mormor.” All other children in the family call her “Auntin.” She is of Swedish, English, Scottish, and Indian heritage and lives in the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire. She loves to bake and create gifts for family and friends. She reports that the National Federation of the Blind has a special spot in her heart because her late husband and her great-grandfather were both blind. She is treasurer of the North Country Chapter.

Ingredients:
1 cup cooking oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
3/4 cups sliced apples
1 cup chopped nuts and/or raisins (optional)

Method: Combine all ingredients and mix well. Spread batter on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for fifty minutes. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.


Homemade Corned Beef Hash with Eggs

by Guilbert Vickery

Gil Vickery is a consumer advocate who has been involved for many years in the areas of accessibility, legislative outcomes, and the right-thing-to-do attitude. Gil is currently first vice president of the NFB of New Hampshire, and copresident of the North Country Chapter. As a consultant Gil works to promote access to information, equal access for all, opportunities for employment, and participation for everyone. Gil has started a business of his own called Techlink NH. He works to enhance training to provide individuals, employers, and communities an education for understanding of employment opportunities and the use of assistive technology for the blind. He lives in Littleton with his wife Drucilla, daughter Katelyn, and of course guide dog Xaney.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 to 3 cups finely chopped leftover corned beef
3 to 4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 to 6 eggs (optional)

Method: Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until tender, about five minutes. Add the remaining ingredients, except eggs, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook covered for forty-five minutes, stirring occasionally. Break the eggs into wells you have made in the hash and cook, covered, an additional ten to fifteen minutes, until the eggs are cooked to the degree you prefer. Serve immediately. Serves four to six.


Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

by Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson is the recently elected president of the New Hampshire affiliate. A mother of two and a grandmother of two more, she loves cooking, especially when it comes to experimenting with new recipes of all kinds. This is one of her all-time favorites.

Ingredients:
1 lemon cake mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup oil
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 cup cream sherry
4 eggs
3 tablespoons poppy seeds

Method: Using an electric mixer at low speed, mix all ingredients except poppy seeds till well blended. Pour into a lightly greased and floured bundt pan and sprinkle the poppy seeds on top. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for an hour. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake. Cool slightly on rack before removing from pan to cool completely on the rack.

Maple Baked Apple Chicken
by Marie Johnson

If you’re looking for something different to do with chicken, here is a wonderful New Hampshire choice.

Ingredients:
4 small boneless skinless chicken breast halves
1/2 cup sliced onions
2 red cooking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup maple-flavored or pancake syrup
1/3 cup Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing

Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray large, ovenproof, nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Heat on medium-high and add chicken; cook three minutes on each side or until lightly browned. Arrange in baking dish, cover with onions, and surround with apple slices. Mix syrup and Italian dressing and pour over chicken. Bake twenty to twenty-five minutes or until chicken is cooked through (165 degrees F). Spoon syrup mixture over chicken just before serving.


Savory Beef and Onion Stew

by Julie Clark

Julie Clark is a member of the board of directors of the New Hampshire affiliate and has just received an award for being one of our very best volunteers.

Ingredients:
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup butter or margarine
2 cups beef stock
3 bay leaves
5 whole cloves
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 pound leftover cold sliced meat, preferably beef
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Method: Brown the onions and flour in the butter in a saucepan. Gradually add stock, stirring constantly. Add bay leaves and cloves and simmer covered for five minutes. Dice the sliced meat. Add the vinegar and diced meat and simmer for another hour. Mix the cornstarch with a little cold water and stir to remove all lumps. Gradually add this mixture to the stew to thicken the sauce. Simmer for five minutes, stirring continuously. Season to taste with a little pepper and Worcestershire sauce. Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes.

 

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

Wedding Bells:

Charles “Chaz” Cheadle, son of John and Barbara Cheadle, NFB staff members and longtime Federation leaders, married Emily May Nugent of Fort Montgomery, New York, on Saturday, October 27, 2007. Although rain prevented the ceremony from taking place outside on the shores of the Hudson River as originally planned, family and friends still made it a festive occasion as they gathered for the ceremony in the nearby home of Emily’s parents, Ed and Patricia Nugent. Chaz’s brother, the Reverend John E. (Cheadle) Rich of Cincinnati, Ohio, officiated. The couple met in the spring of 2006 when they both served as crew members on the ship, the Mystic Whaler. Chaz had been hired as the cook for a crew of fifteen, and Emily was serving as one of the ship’s educators for the environmental programs the ship offered to elementary school children as it sailed up and down the Hudson. The couple lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Emily just finished two years as an AmeriCorps volunteer, and Chaz commutes to Washington, D.C., where he works as the director of academic programming for the Capitol Area Living Classrooms Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides environmental educational programming in natural settings. Congratulations to all the Cheadles.

Elected:

The National Federation of the Blind of New Hampshire conducted elections at its November 9, 2007, convention. The following officers and board members were elected: Marie Johnson, president; Gil Vickery, first vice president; Judy Leavitt, second vice president; Ed Meskys, secretary; Lucille Lynch, treasurer; and board members Julie Clark, Wayne Harvey, Donald Little, John Parker, and Stephen Yerardi.

In Memoriam:

With deep regret we must report the death on November 9, 2007, of Bryan McGeorge from complications of diabetes. Bryan was the only living son of NFB leaders Diane and Ray McGeorge of Colorado. Diane and Ray have expressed their heartfelt gratitude for the love and support extended to them by members of the Federation family during these recent sad weeks. Our deep sympathy goes out to the McGeorges.

Elected:

On November 4, 2007, the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa at its convention in Des Moines, elected four new members to the NFB of Iowa board. They are April Enderton, Deb Kelly, Laine Steward, and Patti Westphal. At the banquet the night before, three charters were presented to the presidents of two new chapters and the president of the newly formed parents of blind children division.

NOPBC Anniversary Committee Needs Your Help:

We are proud to announce that the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children will be celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary at the 2008 NFB national convention in Dallas. As we plan for this event, we are trying to contact families, professionals, NFB members, and others who have participated in the organization for their memories and stories about the ways the NOPBC affected them. We are also seeking photographs of parents and children from past NFB conventions for a picture board.

Can you help us? If you have been involved in past NOPBC convention programs or in your state division of the parents of blind children organization, we would like to talk to you about your experiences. Please contact Julie Hunter by email <jhunter@cocenter.org>, or by phone at (800) 401-4632, ext. 216. Leave a message, and your call will be returned.

Elected:
At its November 2007 meeting, the Fairfax County Chapter of the NFB of Virginia held its elections. The officers elected were John Bailey, president; Cathy Schroeder, vice president; Carrie Schroeder, treasurer; Carolyn Ranker, secretary; and Halla Cooper and Annette Carr board members.

The year 2008 will be the tenth one of the chapter’s existence. Members report that they have nothing to look back on but success powered by belief in themselves and the potential inherent in everyone. This is the chapter that keeps raising the bar on what can be done by blind people who believe in themselves.

In Memoriam:

Many of us were shocked to learn that we had lost a dear friend, colleague, and fellow Federationist, when Rosemary Lerdahl died suddenly of a heart attack on November 29, 2007. In her long career working with the blind, Rosemary's gentle, caring spirit touched many lives and helped countless blind people come to terms with their blindness and develop greater independence. Rosemary gained her empathy from her personal experience with blindness--she was born blind, but had much of her vision restored by surgery in her midteens. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, she began working at Nebraska Services for the Visually Impaired (NSVI). Rosemary learned about the Federation and embraced its philosophy when the new director of NSVI, Dr. James Nyman, a Federationist, sent his staff to Iowa in the midseventies to learn about the innovative blindness training Dr. Kenneth Jernigan had developed in that state.

From that time on Rosemary was a staunch Federationist, and the NFB's philosophy shaped her beliefs about blindness and the abilities of blind people. The Nebraska state agency adopted the Iowa approach to blindness training and rehabilitation, and Rosemary played her part in this transformation. She worked in the agency in various capacities and was director of the Orientation and Adjustment Center from 1984 to1988.

Rosemary left Nebraska when Dr. Jernigan invited her to join the National Center staff in Baltimore. She worked as the assistant director for the Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program from 1988 to 1992. In late 1992 Dr. Jernigan encouraged Rosemary to apply for the position of director of the rehabilitation program at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland (BISM) with the hope that she would be able to improve services at that organization. She was hired, and her leadership transformed the BISM rehabilitation program. During her first year she reshaped the adult rehabilitation program into an NFB-style training program similar to the one she had directed in Nebraska. One of the ways she exposed her staff and students to the NFB approach to blindness was to bring everyone to the NFB's national convention every year. Under Rosemary's direction the BISM programs soon began to expand to include services to blind children and youth as well as senior citizens who were experiencing severe vision loss.

Rosemary believed that a key to creating a successful rehabilitation experience for blind people, aside from teaching them to develop competent blindness skills, is to enable each person to develop a "gut-level belief that it's okay to be blind." This conviction informed not only Rosemary's work but also her personal relationships with blind people. She dedicated herself to improving the lives of blind people.
We can all find inspiration and encouragement in the way she helped so many overcome fear and learn the skills that lead to self-confidence and success. Her advocacy and influence in the blindness field will be sorely missed.

Rosemary had a keen wit combined with a great sense of humor. She loved to laugh—especially at her own jokes and at her many stories about growing up on the family farm in Nebraska. One of her favorite stories was about her uncle, who was a crop duster by trade. But on the weekends his job was delivering the local newspaper to the many rural homesteads by tossing the newspapers out of his crop duster plane. Rosemary said sometimes the newspaper would end up in the pigsty or on the roof or in the bushes—she never knew just where it would land. When she heard the sound of her uncle’s plane, it was her job to search for the paper, in the pigsty or not.

Rosemary loved sparkly jewelry, getting manicures and pedicures, a good glass of wine with friends, watching every Nebraska college football game every season, and eating vegetarian food. She was an enthusiastic companion who was always ready and willing to go places and try new things. Rose (as some of her friends called her) was truly that rare person who made time to listen and offered sound, logical advice with a bit of humor thrown in for good measure. A better friend could not be found.

Rosemary is survived by her daughter Angela Lerdahl and her nephew Kyle Brinckerhoff. She will be mourned by her family and by many friends and colleagues across the country.


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.


Maps of Canada and the United States Now Available:

Maps of Canada and the United States is a single volume of seventy-five pages, including twenty-eight maps. It falls roughly into three sections: four thematic maps (major cities, land forms, elevation, and climate) of Canada and the U.S.; six maps of Canada, including enlarged maps of the Maritime Provinces and the Great Lakes Region; and eighteen maps of the U.S. and its territories, including four thematic maps (elevation, rivers, mountains, and economy), maps of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.
Maps of the states and provinces combine mountains, rivers, and cities on the same map. The maps are much more detailed than those in our Atlas of North and South America. Experience with tactile materials is recommended.

Maps are generally labeled with key letters that are identified in Brailled key pages that precede each map. Five of the maps appear on facing pages, and six appear on foldout pages. Maps were created originally by hand in metal foil; the thermoform copies are sharp and clear.

Maps of Canada and the United States is bound with cardboard covers and a multi-ring binder. Cost is $20; shipping is by free mail if eligible. Please send check or purchase order to the Princeton Braillists, 76 Leabrook Lane, Princeton, New Jersey 08540. Credit card and fax service are not available. Please allow four weeks for delivery. A number of other atlases and maps are also available. For further information visit the Website: <mysite.verizon.net/resvqbxe/princetonbraillists/> or call (215) 357-7715 or (609) 924-5207.

Braille Instruction:

Braille tutoring available in contracted and uncontracted Braille by telephone, email, or in person. Instruction in the use of the slate and stylus, Braille laptops, and Perkins Braillers can be included. Instructor charges $5 an hour. Clients should contact Edward Zolotarevsky: email <eddyz69@aol.com> or telephone (908) 470-1533.

Cancer Resource Available:

I have a copy of A Helping Hand: The Resource Guide for People with Cancer. I will be more than happy to give you necessary information regarding treatment of cancer, support groups, organizations that assist children with cancer, etc. I am a volunteer for the R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation. Only cancer survivors can volunteer. I can give you contact information. I prefer large print or audio tape requests. Please speak clearly. If you send your request in Braille, someone can read it to me. Your request will be kept in strict confidence. Send your request to Karen C. Mahone-Smith, 4433 7th Avenue, Sacramento, California 95820.

Computers for $100:

Computers are once again available to blind people for $100. Join your friends in using a refurbished computer, 600 MHz or faster. Use your Talking Book playback machine to listen to an eight-audio-cassette step-by-step tutorial from Bryan Hartgen on how to use Windows and Window-Eyes. It includes using email and reading Webpages. The computer comes with a CD drive, sound card, speakers, 56K dial-up modem, and demo copy of Window-Eyes. A demo copy of the ZoomTech screen-enlargement program is provided, and a fifty-page tutorial will help the low-vision person learn or review how to use the mouse to operate the computer. If it works for you, a full copy of ZoomTech can be sent. Keep track of your tax and insurance files. Write letters and email to your friends and family. Keep your own recipes and family genealogy records. An email service, Juno, and a shareware screen enlargement program are provided. Contact Bob Langford at Texas Center for the Physically Impaired, 11330 Quail Run, Dallas, Texas 75238; (214) 340-6328 during CST business hours. His email address is <Robert.Langford@NTPCUG.org>.

New Generation of Audio-Described Museum Tours Available:

Antenna Audio, the global leader in audio and multimedia interpretation, announces a comprehensive audio tour installation at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Texas. The tours, which feature the voices of George Bush, Barbara Bush, and Doro Bush, will be available in English and Spanish, as well as in American Sign Language through a multimedia guide. Additionally, an audio-descriptive version of the tour will be available for visitors who are blind or partially sighted.

The tours were launched in mid-November as part of an extensive restoration project headed by Universal Exhibits in California to enhance the exhibits, attract more visitors, and better describe the President’s historic impact and commitment to public service. Funding for the $8.3 million renovation was provided by the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation.

"We are committed to providing high-quality, accessible programs to our visitors," said Warren Finch, director of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. "The sign language guide being created by Antenna Audio and delivered on their XP-vision™ multimedia player will empower our visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing to immerse themselves in a self-guided, interpretive tour." The audio-described tour is available on the same device.

"The George Bush Presidential Library Foundation should be commended for its vision to offer a suite of accessible tours to its visitors," said Sarah Dines, managing director--Americas, Antenna Audio. "We are pleased that they chose to take advantage of our audio-descriptive and sign language guide capabilities." The XP-vision™ features a touch-screen interface and displays images, videos, and captioning in addition to audio. It was released to critical acclaim in Europe earlier this year and more recently at the Walker Art Center for the Frida Kahlo exhibition, which opened in late October. The new handheld device and the associated software Content Assembly Tool, or CAT™, comprise the first hardware and software platform purpose-designed to deliver interactive audiovisual experiences to mobile museum visitors.

New Music Website:
If you want to learn to play a musical instrument, go to <www.musicfortheblind.com>. This is Bill Brown’s new Website dedicated to beginner music courses just for the visually impaired. At the site you will find courses on CD and cassette for piano, guitar, banjo, sax, ukulele, violin, flute, and more. If you already play an instrument, there are over six hundred song lessons taught in the same all-audio format as the beginner courses. Come to <www.musicfortheblind.com> and see just how easy it is to learn to play your favorite musical instrument. You can also call Bill Brown at Valdosta Music and Publishing, (888) 778-1828.


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:
I have the following items for sale: Everest Interpoint Printer with original packaging. Asking $2,500. PowerBraille 40 in original packaging. Asking $2,000. Together both can be purchased for $4,000. Contact Dr. Bradley Kadel, home phone (910) 213-5225; cell (910) 988-1850; or email <bkadel@earthlink.net>.

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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