Braille Monitor                                                    January 2008

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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:

On October 1, with Louisiana Center for the Blind students and teachers looking on, NFB of Louisiana President Pam Allen accepted a proclamation designating October as Meet the Blind Month from Ruston Mayor Dan Hollingsworth. Photo provided by Nick Todaro, Ruston Daily LeaderWas 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.

Proudly wearing her NFB March for Independence medallion, Dolores Reisinger demonstrates the Braille code to six-year-old Alexa Martin using a Braille alphabet card during one of her many MTBM outings. This one was at Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.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.

Commissioner Fernandez reads aloud the Orange County White Cane Safety Day proclamation that she presented to the blindness groups represented at the demonstration. In the foreground is a close-up of the back of a T-shirt that reads, “STOP! IT’S THE LAW, Central Florida–A White Cane Community.”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.

On October 15, White Cane Safety Day, Sherri Brun of Orlando, Florida, helped organize a street-crossing event, in which County Commissioners Fernandez and Stewart (under sleepshades) were safely escorted across a busy intersection, learning firsthand the importance of orientation skills.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.

On October 18 NFB of New Mexico President Art Schreiber addressed several hundred low-vision seniors at the 6th annual Possibilities Fair for Seniors, held in the Members Hall at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore.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.

Sadie Page, 101, is introduced as the oldest attendee at the Possibilities Fair for Seniors.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.

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