Braille Monitor

Vol. 51, No. 3                                                      March 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
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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. 3                                                       March 2008

 

Dallas Site of 2008 NFB Convention

Lead Photos

Touring Texas
by Tommy Craig

The 2008 Washington Seminar
by Barbara Pierce

Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans:
Priorities for the 110th Congress, Second Session

Enhancing Pedestrian Safety:
Ensuring the Blind Can Continue to Travel Safely And Independently

Preserving Talking Books
For the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Increasing the Earnings Limit:
A Common Sense Work Incentive for Blind Social Security Beneficiaries

Celebrating a Life of Imagination, Inspiration, and Influence:
Remembering Betsy Zaborowski
by Daniel B. Frye

Remarks about the Problems Caused by Quiet Cars
by Gary Wunder

Songs Inspired by the Quiet Car Crisis

Jacobus tenBroek: Letters to Berkeley
by Lou Ann Blake

Attitude Is Everything
by Barbara Loos

Leveling the Playing Field for Students with Disabilities
by Jim Fruchterman

A Child's View of Blindness
by Judy Jones

Identity Theft and You Update
by Jim Babb

Convention Scholarships Available
by Allen Harris

Recipes

Monitor Miniatures

 

Copyright 2008 by the 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

 

2008 National Convention Preregistration Form

Please register online at <www.nfb.org> or print legibly on this form or provide all the requested information and mail to the address below.
Registrant Name ___________________________________________________
Address _________________________________________________________
City ____________________________________________________________
State ___________________________________ Zip ____________________
Phone __________________________________________________________

___ I will pick up my registration packet at convention.
___ The following person will pick up my registration packet:
Pickup Name ______________________________________
Please register only one person per registration form.
One check or money order may cover multiple registrations.
Check or money order (sorry, no credit cards) must be enclosed with registration form(s).

Number of preregistrations x $15 = ____________
Prepurchased banquet tickets x $35 = ____________
Total ______________

All preconvention registration and banquet sales are final (no refunds).
Mail to: National Federation of the Blind
Attn: Convention Registration
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, MD 21230
Registrations must be postmarked by May 31, 2008.

 

 

Touring Texas

by Tommy Craig

From the Editor: Tommy Craig is president of the NFB of Texas. He has been working with a tour operator to organize interesting tours during our national convention. Here is the information you will need to make your tour reservations:

As everyone knows, things are bigger and of course better in Texas. During the 2008 national convention in Dallas the members of the NFB of Texas would like you to have a chance to sample a little bit of what Texas has to offer. In order to do this we have arranged a number of tours to suit everyone’s interest. As you will see, there are a number of tour choices. If you see one you like, please make your reservations early. The deadline for tour reservations is June 13. If there isn’t enough interest in a particular tour, it will be dropped, and your money will be refunded. So if you see something you like, make sure you get those reservations in early so your tour doesn’t get canceled.

As you can see, there’s a lot to choose from. All tours will take place on Thursday afternoon, July 3, except for the comedy club tour, which is scheduled for Saturday night, July 5.

Tour 1. Dallas Highlights Tour and JFK Museum
1:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.

Tour members will leave for a Dallas Highlights Tour featuring sights such as the Old Red Courthouse, Dealey Plaza, the Grassy Knoll, and the JFK assassination site, the JFK Memorial, a tour of the Sixth Floor Museum (explores the life and legacy of John F. Kennedy), West End Historic District, Dallas City Hall, Pioneer Plaza (forty bronze longhorns), Arts District, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Hall, McKinney Avenue, homes in Highland Park, and much more.

Tour includes:

Cost: $41.50 a person

Tour 2. Fort Worth Stockyards and Shopping
2:30 p.m.–9:30 p.m.

Tour members will board the Trinity Rail Express double-decker train and leave for Fort Worth, affectionately known as Cowtown. You will be wowed with Fort Worth’s lively cowboy and cowgirl heritage and culture on a guided city tour featuring sights such as the Water Gardens, Sundance Square, the commanding angels gracing the grand new multi-million-dollar Bass Performance Hall, the cultural district, and a tour through Billy Bob’s of Texas (the world’s largest honky tonk).

The group will experience a cattle drive of longhorns that parade right down Exchange Boulevard. The tour will conclude in the historic Stockyards, where you will have time to browse the western shops or belly up to the bar on saddle bar stools and dine on your own. All participants will receive a souvenir Fort Worth bandana.

Tour includes:

Cost: $42.50 a person

Tour 3. Wine Tasting and Tour of Grapevine’s Old Town Main Street
1:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.

On this tour enjoy tasting the wines of Texas at two of Grapevine’s finest wineries. Afterwards tour members will uncover the delights of distinctive shops offering antiques and collectibles in Old Town Grapevine on a guided tour.

Tour includes:

Cost : $72 a person

Tour 4. Six Flags over Texas Amusement Park
1:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.

Six Flags over Texas--it’s playtime and the ultimate family or group experience. With over one hundred rides, shows, and adventures, the entertainment capital of Texas has something to appeal to all.

Tour includes:

Cost: $57.50 a person

Tour 5. The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde Tour
1:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.

Uncover the lives of those famous outlaw lovers from Dallas, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. This action-packed adventure includes stops in West Dallas, Oak Cliff, Dallas, and (now modern) ambush highways of Irving. See the last remaining building in Dallas where Bonnie worked as a young, porcelain-skinned waitress. See where Clyde was hustled away daily by the law and the location of an attempted ambush of Bonnie and Clyde at Esters Road and Highway 183. Participants will also visit a safe house where a gunfight broke out between Clyde Barrow and six officers in 1933, the site of the Barrow’s Star Service station as well as the graves of both Bonnie and Clyde. The tour is led by the author of several Bonnie and Clyde books.

Tour includes:

Cost: $35 a person

Tour 6. Museum of Nature and Science and Women’s Museum Tours
1:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.

The Museum of Nature and Science is one of the most compelling, perhaps unique, museums in the Southwest. It features interactive and educational experiences with hands-on exhibits and an IMAX. Group will learn about dinosaurs, fossils, gems and minerals, dental gallery, a lagoon nature walk, and hands-on physics.

Next, located in Fair Park, is yet another one of the Southwest’s best museums, the Women’s Museum, which focuses on the accomplishments of women in history. There are several interactive exhibits for guests to enjoy.

Tour includes:

Cost: $45 a person

Tour 7. Saturday Night, July 5, 2008, Comedy Club and Dinner
7:00 p.m.–10:00 p.m.

Laughter is the best medicine for the soul. You’ll enjoy a delicious dinner with all of the trimmings and then be entertained by the best comedians in Dallas. It’s good clean fun, or so we are told.

Tour includes:

Cost: $71 a person

As you can see, there are a lot of things to do in Dallas. So make your plans now to join us for the best convention ever.

 

Tour Registration Form:

Name: _________________________________________________________

Address: _________________________________________________________

City, State, Zip: _________________________________________________________

Phone: (H)___________________ (Cell) ___________________ (Fax) ___________________

Tour Name
Number of Attendees
Cost per Person
Total Cost
Tour 1. Dallas Highlights and JFK Museum   $ 41.50 $__________
Tour 2. Fort Worth Stockyards and Shopping   $ 42.50 $__________
Tour 3. Wine Tasting and Tour of Grapevine   $ 72.00 $__________
Tour 4. Six Flags Over Texas Amusement Park   $ 57.50 $__________
Tour 5.The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde   $ 35.00 $__________
Tour 6. Museum of Nature and Science and Women’s Museum   $ 45.00 $__________

Tour 7. Saturday, July 5
Comedy Club and Dinner

  $ 71.00 $__________
Prices include all taxes and gratuities where meals are served.    

Total for Tours

$__________

Make checks payable and remit payment to:

All In One Tour Services
145 World Trade Center
P. O. Box 421461
Dallas, Texas 75342
Attention: Alice Riggins

Questions or to register by phone:
(800) 756-1233 toll-free USA
(214) 698-0332 phone
(214) 698-0302 fax

Email <alltours@swbell.net>
Website: <www.allinonetourservices.com>
Final payment must be received by June 13, 2008.

 

 

The 2008 Washington Seminar

by Barbara Pierce

In years to come we may well look back on the 2008 Washington Seminar with particular nostalgia, for it was both exciting and powerfully moving. Many of us are especially fond of the Holiday Inn Capitol because of the simplicity of its layout and its proximity to Capitol Hill. We managed somehow yet again to squeeze hundreds of Federationists into the meeting rooms, and we were happy to discover that additional fast-food restaurants have sprung up in the area.

Sunday, January 27, and Monday the 28th were overflowing with meetings and seminars. Here is at least a partial list, actually beginning on Saturday, January 26:

The Governmental Affairs and Affiliate Action Departments collaborated to present the 2008 legislative seminar, including advice on making effective presentations, mastering the facts of the legislative agenda, and presenting our position and arguments effectively.
A weekend agenda with such diverse offerings would naturally attract hundreds of people, but at the heart of this one and dominating everyone’s thoughts was the Sunday afternoon memorial celebration of the life of Dr. Betsy Zaborowski, the executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute from its opening to last summer. A full report of this event appears elsewhere in this issue.

On Monday morning at ten a.m. we called a press conference to make an electrifying announcement. Everyone attending the Washington Seminar was invited, though members of the press were up front. Columbia—the largest meeting room in the hotel—was crowded when President Maurer and Ray Kurzweil stepped forward to unveil the knfbReader Mobile. The Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader, introduced to great acclaim less than two years ago, has now been replaced by its powerful software loaded into a cell phone with a digital camera. Compact as the original K-NFB Reader was, this is truly a reader that will fit into a shirt pocket.

Jim Gashel demonstrated this amazing technology to an incredulous audience. The controls have been simplified and speeded up. The camera can take photos closer to the page than sixteen inches. The speech is as clear as in the larger unit, and the currency identifier is very accurate.

The cell phone required by this reading software is a Nokia N82, which retails for somewhat under $600 if you shop carefully. Jim Gashel assured the audience that both the Talks and MobileSpeak software programs make this cell phone quite accessible. It can accept or send calls even while the Reader is operating. Users can also purchase a global positioning system that works well with both access programs. The cost of the Reader software is $1,595, a significant reduction in price from the original KNFB Reader, even adding in the cost of the cell phone.

The knfbReader Mobile went on sale February 15. To find the vendor nearest you, go to <www.knfbreader.com> for a complete list. Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader users will find generous terms for upgrading to the knfbReader Mobile.

The five p.m. briefing was, as usual, standing room only, even though many Federationists went straight to the overflow room to hear the proceedings relayed to them through the public address system. Well over five hundred people attended the great gathering-in meeting. Lord Colin Low of Dalston, CEO of the Royal National Institute of Blind People in the United Kingdom, came to Washington this year to observe our efforts to educate the Congress. During the briefing he addressed the crowd in his usual charmingly understated way.

President Maurer announced that fifty of the fifty-two affiliates were present this year. Before Jim McCarthy and Jesse Hartle discussed this year’s legislative issues with the group, Congressman Edward Markey, representing the seventh district of Massachusetts, stopped by to encourage us in our efforts to deal effectively with quiet cars and described his efforts to increase video description on television programming. He called special attention to the need to voice the print crawls across the bottom of the TV screen.

Our legislative agenda this year included three items of pressing importance: building Congressional support for legislation to require the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to formulate regulations insuring that hybrid and electric vehicles can be heard in traffic; restoring the lost funding from last year and protecting the full $19.1 million needed this year and in the three successive years to complete the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped’s transition from cassette books to digital media and provide the equipment needed to play them; and passage of H.R. 3834 and S. 2559, raising the earnings limit for blind Social Security Disability Insurance recipients ultimately to that of working retirees who have not yet reached full retirement age. The full text of the legislative agenda and the three fact sheets appears elsewhere in this issue. Please note that the Senate bill number does not appear in the fact sheet because Senators Chris Dodd and John McCain only introduced the bill on Friday, January 25.

Federationists fanned out across Capitol Hill Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday to discuss these issues with every member of the House and Senate and their staffs. When the Nevada delegation met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed, the senator came into the room talking about having heard that morning about a reading machine the size of a cell phone. He was sure that his blind constituents would be interested to hear about this new invention. When he stopped for breath, NFB Executive Director for Strategic Initiatives John Paré stepped forward and showed Senator Reed the only knfbReader Mobile in Washington that day. He then successfully demonstrated its features, much to the senator’s delight. That may have been our most dramatic encounter on Capitol Hill January 29 to 31, but important contacts were made and conversations held in offices all over the Hill.

Now that we have returned home from Washington, the hard work begins. We must follow up with the staffers responsible for the issues we discussed. We must urge members of Congress to sign on as cosponsors to H.R. 3834 and S. 2559 and to introduce the quiet car legislation we need. We must keep the pressure on the Appropriations Committee in the House to protect the funding for the transition to digital playback machines and books. The strength of the relationships we forge with our legislators and their staffs in the weeks and months ahead will determine our success on Capitol Hill during this election year. We have made a start; now the work begins.

 

 

Legislative Agenda of Blind Americans:
Priorities for the 110th Congress, Second Session

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) is the voice of the nation's blind. We present the collective views of blind people throughout society. All of our leaders and the vast majority of our members are blind, but anyone can participate in our movement. Every year approximately 75,000 Americans become blind, and there are an estimated 1.3 million blind people in the United States. The social and economic consequences of blindness affect not only blind people, but also our families, our friends, and our coworkers.

Three legislative initiatives demand the immediate attention of the 110th Congress in its second session. These urgent action items include:

1. We urge Congress to ensure the safety of the blind and other pedestrians by passing legislation requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to adopt regulations establishing a minimum sound level standard for all new automobiles sold in the United States. The regulations need not prescribe the method automobile manufacturers must use to achieve the minimum sound standard, but the standard should have the following characteristics:

2. We urge Congress to fully fund the program of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress to convert the analog cassette collection of Talking Books to a digital format and to procure the equipment to play the digital Talking Books. Failure to provide this funding will result in the disruption of library service to all blind Americans, creating a devastating set of circumstances preventing the blind from equal opportunity for literacy.

Congress should fully fund the digital Talking Book project by allocating $19.1 million for this purpose in fiscal year 2009, as well as restoring the $6.6 million left out of the fiscal year 2008 request. This appropriation of $25.7 million will allow the NLS to remain on course for a successful conversion to ensure that blind users of the Talking Book program do not find themselves without access to books and magazines.

3. We urge Congress to amend Title II of the Social Security Act to mandate a schedule of increases in the level of earnings allowed for blind individuals before applying a work penalty, as follows:

For more information about these priorities, please consult the attached fact sheets.

Other priorities that offer opportunities for legislative action in the second session of Congress include:

For more information on any of these priorities, please contact James McCarthy or Jesse Hartle of the National Federation of the Blind, or visit us online at <www.nfb.org>.

Blind Americans need your help to achieve our goals of economic security, increased opportunity, and full integration into American society on a basis of equality. Enactment of these legislative proposals will represent important steps toward reaching these goals. We need the help and support of each member of Congress. Our success benefits not only us, but the whole of America as well.

 

 

Enhancing Pedestrian Safety:
Ensuring the Blind Can Continue to Travel Safely And Independently

Purpose: To require gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles and other vehicles using silent power sources to emit a minimum level of sound which can alert blind people and other pedestrians to their presence.

Background:
Until recently independent travel for the blind has been a relatively simple matter, once a blind person has been trained in travel techniques and has learned to use a white cane or to travel with a guide dog. Blind people listen to the sounds of automobile engines to determine the direction, speed, and pattern of traffic. Sounds from traffic tell blind pedestrians how many vehicles are near them and how fast they are moving; whether the vehicles are accelerating or decelerating; and whether the vehicles are traveling toward, away from, or parallel to them. With all of this information, blind people can accurately determine when it is safe to proceed into an intersection or across a driveway or parking lot. The information obtained from listening to traffic sounds allows blind people to travel with complete confidence and without assistance. Over the past few years, however, vehicles that are completely silent in certain modes of operation have come on the market, and more such vehicles are expected to be produced in the near future. These vehicles are designed to produce lower emissions in order to protect the environment from harmful pollutants, but the vehicles do not need to be silent in order to achieve the intended positive environmental effects. Currently the most popular of these vehicles are gasoline-electric hybrids (which alternate between running on a gasoline engine and on battery power), although a few electric automobiles are already on America’s roads and new all-electric models are planned. The blind of America do not oppose the proliferation of vehicles intended to reduce damage to the environment, but these vehicles must meet a minimum sound standard for safety.

Need for Congressional Action: The silence of gasoline-electric hybrid cars poses an immediate and growing threat to the safety of blind and other pedestrians and jeopardizes the ability of blind people to travel independently. In order to address this threat, these vehicles must emit a sound detectable by the human ear. Not only will such a sound allow the blind to continue to travel in safety, but it will also protect cyclists, runners, other pedestrians, and small children, all of whom rely on the sounds of traffic to varying degrees.

The National Federation of the Blind has been concerned about the proliferation of silent vehicles for several years. Thus far, however, our concerns have not been heeded. Automobile manufacturers view the silence of their vehicles as a marketing advantage, and federal regulators have indicated that, in the absence of statistics on injuries or deaths caused by hybrid vehicles, nothing can be done. No one disputes that pedestrians cannot hear these vehicles (even their manufacturers concede this fact), and we believe it is preferable that the problem be addressed before the inevitable avalanche of tragedies involving blind people, cyclists, and children shocks the nation.

Proposed Legislation: Legislation requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to establish and promulgate a national standard for a minimum sound to be emitted by all new automobiles sold in the United States, based on appropriate scientific research and consultation with blind Americans and other affected groups, is urgently needed. This national minimum sound standard should have the following characteristics:

The standard need not prescribe the apparatus, technology, or method to be used by vehicle manufacturers to achieve the required minimum sound level. This approach will encourage manufacturers to use innovative and cost-effective techniques to achieve the minimum sound standard.

The addition of components that will emit a minimum sound discernible to blind people and other pedestrians will not adversely affect the environmental benefits of gasoline-electric hybrids and other automobiles running on alternate power sources, nor need the sound be loud enough to contribute to noise pollution. Automobiles that operate in complete silence, however, endanger the safety of everyone; silent operation should be seen as a design flaw similar to the lack of seat belts or air bags.
Requested Action: Please support blind Americans by sponsoring or cosponsoring legislation authorizing the U.S. Department of Transportation to establish and promulgate regulations specifying a minimum sound standard for all new automobiles sold in the United States.

 

 

Preserving Talking Books
For the Blind and Physically Handicapped

Purpose: To prevent devastating disruption in the distribution of books and magazines by the Talking Book program of the Library of Congress.

Background: In 1931 Congress passed the Pratt-Smoot Act, which authorized the distribution of books to blind and physically handicapped people in the United States through what is now known as the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS). Talking Books began to be produced in 1934 and were originally recorded on phonograph records; cassette books were produced beginning in 1971. Today recorded books and the equipment to play them are distributed through a network of cooperating libraries throughout the country. Books on all subjects and representing all literary genres, as well as a selection of popular magazines, are available to NLS patrons. From its inception the Talking Books program has used the most cost-effective technology that is accessible by its users and protects the rights of copyright holders. The program is universally praised for the quality of the Talking Books and for its efficient distribution to patrons across the country. The Talking Book service is the single most effective and popular program serving blind Americans, for whom it is often the only source of reading material.

Currently the service uses analog cassette tapes recorded at half speed to prevent copyright infringement, but cassette technology is now obsolete. Realizing that the days of the cassette tape were numbered, NLS developed a plan to transition from analog to digital technology. A digital Talking Book player was designed that can be used by patrons of all ages, abilities, and physical limitations, and digital flash cartridges have been developed to store the books. Just as NLS is about to put the digital transition plan into effect, however, Congress has withdrawn critically needed funds from the project, placing the Talking Book program in peril. Without the restoration of full funding to the program, NLS will not be able to deliver digital Talking Books and players to its patrons in accordance with the schedule originally planned.

The last analog cassette machine to play the specially formatted tapes was manufactured over a year ago, leaving NLS with only a very limited supply of new and refurbished players to serve its patrons who are still using the cassettes. Parts for these players are no longer available, and the machines are maintained primarily by volunteers. As these cassette machines reach the end of their useful life, and with the distribution of digital books and equipment slowed by the lack of funding, many NLS patrons will see their library service come to an abrupt halt.

Need for Congressional Action: The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped determined that it would take $76,400,000 to complete the conversion from analog cassettes to a digital format. Their goal was to obtain this funding over four fiscal years, $19.1 million per year, in order to ensure that the conversion project was completed before analog cassettes became completely obsolete and unavailable. In its fiscal year 2008 budget request, the Library of Congress asked for the first of these $19.1 million installments to begin the digital conversion. Because of budget concerns, the Legislative Branch subcommittees in both the House and the Senate did not provide the needed funds to keep this project on the four-year conversion schedule established by the NLS. Both House and Senate included only $12.5 million for this project, leaving $6.6 million unfunded.

Congress should fully fund the digital Talking Book project by allocating $19.1 million for this purpose in fiscal year 2009, as well as restoring the $6.6 million left out of the fiscal year 2008 request. This appropriation of $25.7 million will allow the NLS to remain on course for a successful conversion to ensure that blind users of the Talking Book program do not find themselves without access to books and magazines.

Requested Action: Please support blind Americans by voting for an appropriation of $25.7 million in fiscal year 2009 for the Library of Congress Talking Book program.

 

 

Increasing the Earnings Limit:
A Common Sense Work Incentive for Blind Social Security Beneficiaries

Legislation: H.R. 3834, the Blind Persons Earnings Fairness Act of 2007 introduced by Congressman John Lewis.

Purpose: To amend Title II of the Social Security Act by mandating five annual increases in the level of earnings allowed for blind individuals before applying a work penalty.

Background: By increasing the Social Security earnings limit in 1996, Congress gave seniors a powerful incentive to work. Advocates stressed that seniors would continue to work, earn, and pay taxes because they could do so with no fear of losing income from Social Security.

The need for a higher earnings limit for the blind is much more compelling because of an all-or-nothing penalty for exceeding the limit. Nevertheless, the earnings limit for blind individuals has not been increased beyond the annual rate of wage growth, though historically this limit was tied to the applicable limit for seniors. In 2008 the earnings limit applicable to seniors in the year they reach Full Retirement Age (FRA) is $36,120. This limit is adjusted annually. For blind individuals gross earnings exceeding $1,570 monthly ($18,840 annually) cause complete loss of benefits until attainment of FRA.

Existing Law: Like "retirement age," "blindness" is specifically defined in the Social Security Act and can be readily determined. By contrast, evaluating "disability" is far more subjective. Although blindness is specifically defined, not all blind people receive monthly benefits. Only those not working or whose work earnings are below an annually adjusted statutory earnings limit are eligible. Personal wealth derived from all sources other than work is subject to no penalty at all. However, income in excess of the earnings limit generated from work results in a complete loss of cash benefits for blind beneficiaries. Recognizing the negative impact of the earnings limit on seniors, Congress changed the law in 1996 and later entirely eliminated their earnings limit. The situation confronting blind people today is identical to that seniors faced before 1996.

Examples: For the blind who find employment, earnings almost never replace lost benefits once taxes and work expenses are paid. Therefore few beneficiaries can truly afford to attempt significant work, and those who do often sacrifice income and the security of a monthly check. The following examples illustrate the penalty for working.

Need for Legislation: Steadily increasing the earnings limit for blind people over five years, thereby linking it to the limit applicable in the year of FRA, will allow blind people to work without facing an overwhelming financial penalty for their effort. This would provide more than 100,000 blind beneficiaries with an effective work incentive. In 2008 a blind individual’s earnings cannot exceed a rigid monthly limit of $1,570. Earnings over this threshold lead to immediate withdrawal of the total sum paid to a primary beneficiary and all dependents following completion of a trial work period. The economic risk occurring to a blind head of household negates any possible economic benefit.

An increase in the earnings limit would be cost-beneficial. With an estimated 74 percent unemployment rate, an overwhelming majority of working-age blind people are already beneficiaries. With this meaningful work incentive proposal, many would also become taxpayers. The chance to work, earn, and pay taxes is a constructive and valid goal for senior citizens and blind Americans alike.

Requested Action: Congress should enact annual increases in the statutory earnings limit for blind individuals over five years, ultimately linking it to that applicable to individuals in the year they attain full retirement age as follows:

Please support blind Americans by cosponsoring the Blind Persons Earnings Fairness Act of 2007, H.R. 3834.
Senators, please support companion legislation when introduced.

 

 

Celebrating a Life of Imagination, Inspiration, and Influence:
Remembering Betsy Zaborowski

Hundreds of Federationists and other friends conducted a memorial celebration in honor of Betsy Zaborowski, late executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute, on Sunday, January 27, 2008, in Members Hall of the Jernigan Institute. Over six hundred of Betsy’s friends, family members, and admirers, many of whom were on the East Coast in anticipation of the 2008 Washington Seminar, assembled to pay tribute to her life and legacy. Kevan Worley, chairman of the NFB Imagination Fund, served as master of ceremonies. His humor and heartfelt emotion recalled Betsy’s contributions and captured her spirit. The crowd laughed and cheered as Kevan sprinkled his introductions of the speakers with a few newly learned Polish words in honor of Betsy’s heritage.

An arrangement of burgundy lillies, white pompoms, and pink and white dogwood covered the front of the podium. A large screen accommodated long-distance viewing of the speakers, and guests sat at tables throughout the room. Each table setting included a memorial program featuring highlights of Betsy’s life and a blue and white Imagination pin.

Following the moving two-hour program, guests celebrated Betsy’s life accomplishments and our memories of her over a catered feast featuring Polish sausages, pirogues, potatoes, and others of Betsy’s favorite Polish dishes. As people mingled and reminisced about Betsy’s spirit and determination, many stepped across the hall to visit the newly dedicated Betsy Zaborowski Conference Room (formerly the Jernigan Institute Conference Room) to see the newly commissioned charcoal portrait of Betsy, drawn by Ashleigh Meusel, that dominates the west wall of the room. According to NFB Executive Director for Operations Mary Ellen Jernigan, this rendering “captures a vigorous, charming, challenging, and joyous Betsy.”

The memorial celebration program offered a variety of perspectives from personal friends and professional colleagues, representing the many facets of Betsy’s life. Without reprinting word for word the remarks of each presenter, an article like this cannot do justice to the depth of feeling, profound respect, poignant remembrances, and funny anecdotes offered by the speakers in their effort to recall and reclaim the essence of Betsy’s fully lived life as they had known her. Collectively, though, the presentations paid tribute to an accomplished professional, visionary administrator, hard-hitting blindness and gender advocate, politically and civically engaged activist, and compassionate friend and spouse. Together the speakers evoked the image of a one-of-a-kind woman whose life has influenced thousands and helped to revolutionize opportunities for blind people across America.

Father William Murphy of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Betsy’s spiritual advisor and friend for seven years, began the program with a blessing. Mark Riccobono, newly appointed executive director of the Jernigan Institute, spoke of the professional mentoring that Betsy had provided him, and he promised to work hard to continue the legacy she left us, motivated by her perseverance and unquenchable spirit. Mark then introduced an NFB-produced video that chronicled Betsy’s professional career, emphasizing in particular her influence on the development of the Jernigan Institute.

Describing Betsy’s strength and love of professional networking, Barbara Perrier-Dreyer, president of Connections Academy, spoke of their friendship and mutual involvement in Network 2000, a circle of businesswomen working and living in Baltimore. Barbara explained that, when Betsy learned that Barbara too had cancer, she sent her one of her collection of hats along with a note urging her to be strong and admonishing that “Chemo’s not for sissies.” Floraine Applefeld, a long-time friend of Betsy's, joined Barbara in offering her heart-felt condolences at Betsy's death.

Two international dignitaries then came to the podium to remember Betsy’s border-transcending contributions to the blindness community. Penny Hartin, chief executive officer of the World Blind Union (WBU), said that Betsy exemplified the WBU slogan adopted from Kenneth Jernigan and the NFB, “changing what it means to be blind,” and she extended condolences on behalf of WBU President William Roland and the one hundred and fifty million blind people represented by the organization. Lord Colin Low of Dalston, chairman of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, next charmed the gathering by observing that a strong correlation between the type of cancer Betsy had and superior intelligence seems to exist. On a more somber note Lord Low spoke of Betsy’s personal qualities, love of philosophy and academics, memorable style, and passion for her work. Lord Low concluded by saying that Betsy would always be remembered and regarded as “a treasure in the pantheon of Federation greats.”

Raymond Kurzweil, cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer of knfb Reading Technology, Incorporated, characterized Betsy as a woman of warmth, wit, compassion, sense of purpose, and imagination. Mr. Kurzweil mentioned the knfb Reading Technology, Incorporated, joint venture with the NFB during his remarks, but only to announce that the slated Monday, January 28, 2008, unveiling of the knfbReader Mobile reading unit would be dedicated to Betsy’s honor and memory.

NFB President Marc Maurer next offered a touching eulogy of Betsy, reflecting on her professional competence, tough-minded spirit, and visionary outlook, each in evidence starting when she first joined the staff of the Federation and assumed the roles first of director of special programs and then executive director of the Jernigan Institute. President Maurer concluded his remarks by urging everybody to “imagine Betsy Zaborowski.”

A testament to Betsy’s reputation and the esteem in which she was held was made clear by the fact that both Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski offered sincere tributes to Betsy’s devotion to public policy that advanced opportunities for America’s blind community.

As the program drew to a close, Jessica Bachicha, an NFB scholarship winner, leader in the student division, and graduate student in vocal performance at the New England Conservatory of Music, deeply moved the audience with her performance of “On Eagles’ Wings,” one of Betsy’s favorite songs. Curtis Chong of Des Moines, Iowa, accompanied Jessica on the piano.

James Gashel, Betsy’s spouse of eighteen years, was the final speaker of the day. The memorial celebration program characterized Mr. Gashel as Betsy’s soul mate, a leader and member of the NFB since 1965, and the vice president of marketing for knfb Reading Technology, Incorporated. Jim spoke fervently of his love for Betsy, the void that her absence has left in his life, and his affectionate memories of her sassy style and commanding personality. In personal tribute to Betsy, Jim introduced a second video—one that he had personally compiled and produced—that featured a series of personal photographs of the two of them living a fun-filled life. Pictures of their wide-ranging travels, their skiing adventures, and their families flashed across a monitor, accompanied by the popular song “You Raise Me Up.” This montage was a fitting benediction to Betsy’s memorial celebration—an event in equal measure full of laughter, love, and loss.

What follows is the biographical sketch and statement about Betsy Zaborowski taken from the program of her memorial celebration. It summarizes who she was and what she achieved. Here it is:

Dr. Betsy A. Zaborowski was the first executive director of the NFB Jernigan Institute. It was her imagination, leadership, and dynamic personality that turned a dream, a one-of-a-kind research and training institute developed and directed by blind people, into reality—a reality that presents a future full of opportunities and previously unimagined accomplishments.

Dr. Zaborowski first became a member of the NFB in 1979. She served the organization in a number of volunteer leadership roles including treasurer of the Colorado affiliate and president of the NFB Human Services Division. She joined the NFB staff in 1995 as director of special programs. Her work in that position focused on building a bridge between the community and the blind. She brought energy and vision to this role, and she built new programs harnessing the collective experience of the blind.

With tireless dedication she took on the leadership of a twenty-million-dollar capital campaign to build a new one-hundred-and-seventy-thousand-square foot facility adjacent to the National Center for the Blind. More than a building, this research and training institute was a dream, a hope for the future, the next innovation in the progress the blind have been making for ourselves since we organized in 1940 to establish the NFB.

In 2001 her leadership, along with the parallel leadership of her partner and husband James Gashel, was honored when the couple was presented with the Jacobus tenBroek Award, the NFB’s highest national recognition of exemplary service. With her leadership in the capital campaign and her imagination in crafting the early vision for the Institute, it was only fitting that on December 1, 2003, the NFB named Dr. Zaborowski as the first executive director of the Jernigan Institute. For three and one-half years Dr. Zaborowski built the Institute by establishing outstanding programs and partnerships that had not been previously imagined.

During the eight years prior to joining the staff of the NFB, she worked as a clinical psychologist in Baltimore. Along with a successful private practice, she taught in the School of Continuing Studies graduate education counseling program at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and lectured at the JHU School of Medicine and the Kennedy Krieger Institute. Before her move from Colorado to Baltimore in 1987, she practiced in the field of health psychology for Kaiser Permanente, served as a mental health and university-based counselor, and worked for six years as a grade six to twelve guidance counselor.

Dr. Zaborowski received her doctorate in psychology from the University of Denver and her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin, Menomonie. As a psychologist she served on and chaired the American Psychological Association’s Committee on Disability Issues in Psychology, and she was chair of the Women’s Committee and delegate-at-large for the Maryland Psychological Association (MPA) executive council.

In 1997 the Governor of Maryland appointed Dr. Zaborowski to the Maryland Information Technology Board. She was the first chair of the Mayor’s Commission on Disabilities and was appointed to two terms on the Baltimore City Women’s Commission. She also served for several years on the Governor’s Advisory Board on People with Disabilities and consulted for numerous organizations and companies in areas such as time management, stress management, sexual harassment, leadership skills, and disability issues.

The Daily Record chose Dr. Zaborowski as one of Maryland’s top one hundred women in 1998 and 2000. In 2003 she was recognized again with this award and was among a select group of previous honorees inducted into the Circle of Excellence of Maryland’s Top One Hundred Women. In 2004 Smart Woman Magazine featured her on its cover, and in 2005 Smart CEO Magazine featured Dr. Zaborowski as one of twenty-five admired Maryland leaders.

A native of Wisconsin, Betsy had a boundless love of life that included pride in her Polish heritage and unwavering support for the Green Bay Packers. Deeply religious, Dr. Zaborowski was a member of the Catholic Church. In addition to her active professional life, she enjoyed skiing and the camaraderie of a good soiree. Top among her favorites was hosting the Polish Christmas party at her home in Baltimore.
On November 29, 2007, Dr. Z, as she was affectionately known, lost a nine-month battle with cancer. Yet her spirit, determination, vision, and faith in the work of the blind are evidenced by the Institute’s accomplishments today and those of the future.

 

 

Remarks about the Problems Caused by Quiet Cars

by Gary Wunder

From the Editor: Gary Wunder is the secretary of the National Federation of the Blind and vice chair of the NFB’s Committee for Automobile and Pedestrian Safety. On January 24, 2008, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he addressed a technical subgroup of the World Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulations–Working Party 29 of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. The entire Working Party 29 will meet this month in Geneva, Switzerland. This is what he said:

On behalf of the National Federation of the Blind, our nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, I want to thank you for this opportunity to address an issue critical to blind pedestrians. Who are blind people? The totally blind, who like me see nothing at all; people who see at twenty feet what you see with the same clarity at two hundred; and people who may see well straight ahead but have little or no peripheral vision. The National Federation of the Blind is composed of volunteer members who have any of these visual acuities, and we welcome and have sighted members who share in making lives better for blind people.

A cornerstone of our philosophy is that we ask from society only what we need, take as much responsibility for ourselves as we can, and learn through training how to do as blind people what others do with sight. How do blind people travel? Canes or dogs tell us about obstacles, steps, curbs, drop-offs, and open manholes. For navigating traffic, we use our ears; we know audibly whether vehicles are stationary or moving, their direction and speed, and whether they are speeding up or slowing down. Using the movement of parallel and perpendicular traffic, we can determine the color of traffic lights and when it is safe for us to cross.

All of these cues rely on a minimal level of sound--not noise but usable audible information. If the sound is too loud, the noise of other vehicles is masked; if too low, vehicles become invisible to us. Most of the sound we depend on comes from vehicles moving at less than twenty MPH, and at this speed it is very likely most hybrid vehicles will be in the electric or silent mode.

For pedestrians, and particularly blind pedestrians, this is a life and death issue, physically and spiritually. No hype or spin is intended in this bold statement. If good blind travelers can't get needed information from our ears, then there are no good blind travelers. The physical threat is that we end up on the wrong side of a car bumper. The spiritual threat is that reasonable people will consider it no longer safe to travel independently, so, instead of becoming working, contributing members in the world, we will become prisoners without the need of an electronic shackle.

Mobility is necessary for almost everything we do: go to school or work, go on a walk to relieve stress, enjoy the spring, take our children to the park, or go to visit their school. What we need, and what all pedestrians need, is for vehicles to have some level of audibility. The mantra that cars must be made quieter must at some point give way to a new paradigm--that cars must be quiet, but be sufficiently audible that pedestrians are warned of their presence. Consider from a visual perspective how attractive the world would be if vehicles were invisible, then consider the catastrophe if this were achievable.

We don't have our hearts set on one acceptable sound, but we do suggest that current automobiles make a noise which is recognizable by all pedestrians. No car has to sound like a souped up fifty-five Chevy with pipes to help the blind, but neither should it sound as quiet as a coasting bicycle. In all phases of operation, including times when the vehicles are at a full stop, vehicles should be required to emit an omni-directional sound with similar spectral characteristics to those of a modern internal combustion engine. The sound should vary in a way that indicates whether the vehicle is idling, maintaining a constant speed, accelerating, or decelerating.

It is important that we decide on one standard sound applied across the board. We do not want cars whose sounds vary as much as the ringers one can buy for a cell phone. A vehicle needs to sound like a vehicle, and that sound needs to communicate the presence of an object which outweighs a pedestrian by at least twenty to one.

Some have argued that pedestrians, and especially blind pedestrians, should carry a device to indicate the presence of a hybrid or electric vehicle and tell us when it is safe to cross the street. At some time in the future this may be a viable option, but currently it is as impractical as you surrendering the driving of your car to a computer. When that day comes, I'll join you in the driver's seat, but until then we must both rely on the senses we have and on the best computer we know for making complicated life-saving decisions--the computer which sits atop our shoulders.

The National Federation of the Blind shares the goal of keeping cars affordable, living in a cleaner environment, reducing noise pollution, curbing our use of oil, and reducing the pollution that is generated by automobiles and other vehicles. What we are asking is readily achievable both technologically and economically. It is the right thing to do, not only for blind people, but for all who would travel safely on foot, be they young children on their way to school, senior citizens on their way to the store, or people like you and me on our way to a meeting to decide how to ensure future safe travel for all pedestrians.

 

 

 

Songs Inspired by the Quiet Car Crisis

From the Editor: In recent months at least two Federationists have been inspired to commit to paper the frustration felt by blind pedestrians facing hybrid and electric cars. Sandy Halverson is a Federation leader in Virginia. She frequently leads the singing of Federation songs at national gatherings. Mary Ellen Gabias now lives in Canada, but she is also a deeply committed Federationist. Those reading the recorded edition will be listening to these songs. The first was sung by a group of young people from Virginia who visited the National Center last fall. The second is sung by Tom Bickford, who was accompanied by Chris Danielsen on the piano.


The Quiet Car Song
(To the tune of “Found a Peanut”)
Written by Sandy Halverson


I was walking down the sidewalk
Thinking of what I would eat
When I got up to the restaurant
And the friends I was to meet.

I was so close I could smell it.
Didn't have to go that far
When my life was quickly altered
By that sneaky quiet car.

I approached my destination
When my cane broke at my feet.
Never heard the car approaching--
I was lying in the street.

Heard the siren of the ambulance
As it carried me away.
Lost my hunger in the ER.
Guess we'll meet another day.

The Hybrid Car Song
(To the tune of “Surrey with the Fringe on Top”)
Written by Mary Ellen Gabias
© 2007 by the National Federation of the Blind


Kids and dogs won’t know when to scurry.
Silent death arrives in a hurry.
All who walk have reason to worry
'Bout the hybrid car.

We all want to stop the polluting,
Save a lot of gas while commuting.
If they made sound there'd be no disputing
With the hybrid car.

Saving the planet we all hold dear,
Nobody wants to destroy it.
Please make cars pedestrians can hear
'Cause we want to be 'round to enjoy it.

We don’t need a noisy vrum-vrumming,
Just a simple audible humming,
So that we can know when you're coming
In a hybrid car.
Then we all can walk with safety on the street
Without fear that we will accident’lly meet
A hybrid car.


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!

 

 

Jacobus tenBroek: Letters to Berkeley

by Lou Ann Blake

From the Editor: Periodically Lou Ann Blake, research specialist in the Jacobus tenBroek Library in the Jernigan Institute, gathers interesting material from the tenBroek papers and offers it to us. Here is her latest collection of snippets from letters that shed light on the young Jacobus tenBroek, his personal struggles, and his whimsical sense of humor:

Upon completion of the course work for his doctorate in the science of jurisprudence from Boalt Hall Law School at the University of California at Berkeley in 1939, Jacobus tenBroek, with his wife Hazel, embarked on a journey in search of a university teaching position that took him to Harvard Law School and the University of Chicago Law School before returning to his beloved alma mater in 1942. During this three-year hiatus he wrote frequent letters to his Berkeley mentors, Dr. Charles Aikin, professor of political science, and Dr. Gerry Marsh, chairman of the public speaking department. These letters are full of observations and commentary about his work at the two law schools, life in Cambridge and Chicago, and his desire to return to California. They also reveal Dr. tenBroek’s sense of humor, joy of life, and dogged determination to obtain a permanent university teaching position.

The letters upon which this article is based are part of the accumulated papers of Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, founder and president of the National Federation of the Blind from 1940 to 1961 and from 1966 until his death in 1968. As part of the collection of the Jacobus tenBroek Library in the NFB Jernigan Institute, the tenBroek papers are a significant source of information about the early history of and the people behind the development and growth of the NFB and the blind civil rights movement.

Letters from Harvard

While Dr. tenBroek was still a law school student at Boalt Hall, he wrote five articles analyzing the use of extrinsic aids by the United States Supreme Court in constitutional construction. These articles were published in the California Law Review in 1938 and 1939. The originality of the legal analysis contained in these articles earned Dr. tenBroek a Brandeis Research Fellowship at Harvard Law School from September 1939 to July 1940. During this time he continued his research on extrinsic aids and took additional classes. In an October 12, 1939, letter to Gerry Marsh, Dr. tenBroek wrote from Harvard:

There is now no doubt that my articles were what got me the Brandeis Research Fellowship. I had a talk with Dean Landis . . . and he evidenced considerable knowledge as to their content.

Things are now proceeding quite smoothly at the law school. The Dean has spotted me and is giving me a hell of a work out in his seminar. As a matter of fact the burden of the whole seminar is practically being carried by another Californian and myself. Naturally I am glad of this because the Dean is the man who is really in a position to do something for me if I can make him enough of a believer to take affirmative action.

After being around here for this short time, I have tentatively concluded that Harvard is not what it is cracked up to be; at least its preponderance as a law school is undeserved. There are plenty of mediocre boys here although along with them there is a larger number of first rate students.

By October 26, 1939, Dr. tenBroek was already missing California, as evidenced by the following excerpt from a letter to Charles Aikin in which he also describes Harvard’s renowned Constitutional Law Professor Thomas Reed Powell:

Thanks for your note. It set my mind at rest both by its promise of a letter and by re-awakening me to the fact that Cal is still in existence. You have no idea how remote in space and time Cal U. now seems to me.

T.R. Powell is quite the eccentric old devil if ever there was one. He is crotchety and crusty and absolutely indifferent to and uninterested in his students. He has quite a reputation for boozing. He likes nothing more than to shock the staid Harvardians with frequent classroom bursts of blasphemy. Yet Powell really has the stuff. On some days his analysis are [sic] nothing short of brilliant, and on other days he doddles along as if he had been drunk the night before, which he probably was.

Late in 1939 Dr. tenBroek and Hazel took a trip to New York City to visit her relatives, do some sightseeing, and meet with Professor Edward Corwin at Princeton University Law School. Dr. tenBroek’s December 21, 1939, letter to Dr. Marsh and his wife Estelle describes how he responded to an invitation to lunch from Professor Corwin:

One of the things I had in mind in going to New York was to see E.S. Corwin at Princeton. He is one of the big boys in the field of constitutional law, and I had an entree to him by reason of the fact that he had read and favorably commented upon my [extrinsic aids] articles. Before going to New York I wrote him a letter telling him that I would be in New York and asking for an appointment. After a few days of silence . . ., I received a wire inviting me to lunch. This created a dilemma of no mean proportions—did Corwin know I was married, and did he know I was blind? If neither, which seemed to me likely, I thought that he would probably be somewhat embarrassed as to what to do with a blind man at lunch. On the other hand, would this embarrassment to him be so great as the embarrassment to me by taking Hazel along? We resolved this dilemma by wiring that my wife and I would be happy to accept.

Practically all of Dr. tenBroek’s letters to both of his mentors discussed his search for a permanent teaching position at a university. This search began only a few months after his arrival at Harvard when, as described in a January 12, 1940, letter to Charles Aikin, Dr. tenBroek had a candid discussion with Dean Landis to solicit his support and to make the dean aware of the stereotypical attitudes about blindness that must be overcome:

I just had a talk with the Dean. I told him that I was in the market for a teaching job and asked him bluntly what his attitude was re recommending a blind man. He said he would have no hesitancy whatsoever about recommending me. He gave plenty of evidence of being thoroughly satisfied with my work. He had no notion whatsoever about the difficulties involved, and I thought I had better set him straight on that score. He wanted to know if there were people at Cal who would be willing to affirmatively assert that my teaching experience there demonstrated that I could teach. He questioned me rather closely as to my method of handling a class, but his questions carried no implementation of doubt. He assured me that he would do all that he could and that he would press my case on its merits. He didn’t seem at all convinced that the going would be as rough as I indicated, but I think a little experience with the problem will only stir him to greater activity.

The early start of Dr. tenBroek’s job search was required by the fact that the Brandeis Fellowship was for only one year. In a January 25, 1940, letter Dr. tenBroek wrote: “This being January, the annually recurring search for somebody who is willing and able to support me during the following academic year must be begun. Renewals here are almost never granted, and people aren’t exactly rushing to give me a job.” However, the rare renewal was granted as he triumphantly proclaimed in a letter to Dr. Marsh dated March 15, 1940:

[T]he god professors have promised to replenish the supply of manna. The fellowship renewal was on even more favorable terms than last year’s grant, although it was a hundred dollars less since the expense of traveling from the West Coast is not involved this time.

This would seem to mean another year of Bostonian provincialism. Barring further unexpected events, return to Berkeley is out. However, my acceptance of the renewal doesn’t mean that I’m still not looking for a job or that I would be unable to take one at any time that it was available, or that I would not return to Berkeley for less money on a relatively more permanent arrangement.

Also included in the March 15, 1940, letter to Dr. Marsh is the first of many humorous commentaries by Dr. tenBroek about the winter weather he endured during his three-year absence from Berkeley:

The deposit of the St. Valentine’s Day blizzard is still very much with us and has even been increased by later snows. Boston has paid a million dollars for snow removal, which is a misapplication of term. It should be snow redistribution; all they seem to do is take it out of one place you want to walk and put it on another, which is also where you want to walk. At least the stage where I had to pack the short-legged Hazel through the deeper drifts is passed. In the middle of the day the temperature gets above freezing and melts some of the snow. Most of the drains are clogged up, and the water stands on the sidewalk until it freezes over again at night. It will be a fine thing when the spring comes again and a man can once more walk upright without sliding on his tail. By the way, last November I invested in an overcoat, a hat, and a pair of gloves. I have worn all of these every damn day since.

Dr. tenBroek’s letters also discuss specific instances in which stereotypes about blindness affected his job search. When Charles Aiken revealed that Thomas Reed Powell had expressed the opinion to officials at Boalt Hall Law School that Dr. tenBroek could teach political science but could not teach law, he responded in a March 28, 1940, letter to Dr. Aikin:

His is a familiar reaction among those who have been brought to believe that a blind man can [not] do anything. The steps in the process take an inevitable pattern: Initially blindness is regarded as a completely disabling defect; gradually the notion penetrates to some that it is only partially disabling, and in this stage the view always is that the something which a blind man can do is different from the particular something that the believer does.

While his letters make no mention of the fact, it is likely that Dr. tenBroek took steps to enlighten Professor Powell further, for history indicates that Powell’s attitude about Dr. tenBroek’s ability to teach law changed. This is evidenced by the fact that, with the backing of Professor Powell, Dr. tenBroek received an offer for the position of tutorial fellow from the University of Chicago Law School. His June 11, 1940, letter to Gerry Marsh announces with both relief and trepidation Dr. tenBroek’s acceptance of the offer and describes a “wet” Boston spring:

The might of mighty Harvard has at last cracked through. I have been offered and have accepted a job at the University of Chicago Law School. It pays $1800; it is a half-time job and only lasts for one year. Notwithstanding, it is a job, and the sensation of having it offered was certainly novel, not to say startling. The job consists in supervising the research of the first- and second-year-law men. It involves no classroom teaching except as acts of providence and professional impropriety create occasions for an emergency substitute. This was the fifth and the least of the jobs for which Harvard has pushed me, which indicates the extent of the difficulties and causes me to warn you that after next year I shall probably be pressing you to place me upon your departmental charity list.

I have heard that in some parts of the world the sap begins to run in the spring. I can now testify that Cambridge is not one of those parts of the world. It has been muggy and sunless with scarcely a handful of clear days in the last two-and-a-half months. Sap may run somewhere under those conditions, but it certainly isn’t in human beings in this godawful country. In fact the reaction is quite the converse. All the boys about the law school complain about general lassitude and mental and physical inertia.

The lack of springtime rejuvination [sic] has not been attended with a recent lack of rejuvinating [sic] fluids. It is perhaps not a strange thing that the common element among these diverse grads is a common taste for good scotch. I haven’t yet run across anybody who is willing to buy or even drink anything like cheap liquor or anything less than a damn good grade of scotch. A wild Irishman from South Dakota and an Iowan who has been teaching law in Washington University, together with the Dean’s secretary, have made common cause with me upon frequent occasions lately. First of all, of course, there was the occasion of the orals, the Iowan and I both took them. Then there was the occasion of our Administrative Law exam. Then there was that created by the Iowan having obtained a new job at West Virginia. And then just the occasion. So on and more of it. In more than a meteorological sense it is turning out to be a wet spring.

Letters From the University of Chicago

Dr. and Mrs. tenBroek moved to Chicago in July 1940 to begin his position as a tutorial fellow at the University of Chicago Law School. In a September 7, 1940, letter to Estelle and Gerry Marsh, Dr. tenBroek described their first days in Chicago, his new workplace, and the receipt of his SJD from Berkeley:

Well here we are in Chicago and after many trials and tribulations are finally settled both in our office and living quarters. Our office accommodations here are meagre [sic] after the luxury Harvard squandered on us. After walking for a day and a half, we finally found a satisfactory apartment that was within our price range. In the course of all that exploration we found only three apartments below $45 that had a private bath. Bathing seems to be a Western custom that has only partly penetrated to the Midwest and hasn’t got through to New England at all.

The first-year students, in addition to their regular courses, are required to do research. For this purpose they are divided into groups numbering from seven to ten and allocated to tutorial fellows and interested faculty members. After the initial assignment, the job apparently consists in suggesting and requiring revisions until a comparatively creditable piece of work is presented.

The members of the faculty and everybody else, except the Dean’s secretary, around the law school are extremely friendly, and we are treated very much as if we were in full status on the staff. After ten months of New England frigidity we had forgotten that Westerners were like that.

Before leaving Cambridge, I was given notice that I passed my S.J.D. orals, that I received A’s on the written exams, and that the University of California had conferred upon me the degree of Doctor of the Science of Jurisprudence. If you ever doubted my sanity, this should be the final evidence as to the error of my ways; that upon the completion of my Harvard thesis, I shall be twice a doctor.

Once he was settled in Chicago, it did not take long for Dr. tenBroek’s letters to reflect the reality that his position at the University of Chicago was only temporary and that the need, once again, to take up the search for a permanent teaching position was upon him. Dr. tenBroek’s November 4, 1940, letter to Gerry Marsh, head of the public speaking department at Berkeley, is direct:

Bluntly put, the question is this: Will you give me a job in the Public Speaking Department next year?

When I talked to you about this matter a year and a half ago, I got the impression that your opinion was mildly negative but not conclusive. Since that time a lot of hay has been pitched and a lot of barns cleaned. To date the great god professors of Harvard have pitched me for not less than eight openings. Except for my present, temporary, part-time position at Chicago, their failure was as complete as the reason for it was evident. Moreover, I can scarcely expect their affirmative interest to continue indefinitely: every time they urge my claims, they are losing an appointment that might otherwise be obtained for a Harvard man. With little chance of a renewal at Chicago, and with little hope of breaking in elsewhere, the time has come to test the availability of other alternatives.

You will find me at twenty-nine a man of moderation, given to considerable abdominal distention and full of confidence, that, by training and inclination, I am better equipped than the average to handle any of the analytical courses in your department.

This is the squeeze Gerry; put it to me straight!

In spite of the almost constant pressure to find a more permanent position, the letters that Dr. tenBroek wrote to both Charles Aikin and Gerry Marsh while he was at the University of Chicago reveal that he very much enjoyed his work and the intellectual environment at the law school. They also reveal that he was continuing to cope with winter weather with as much good humor as a transplanted Californian could muster. The following excerpt from a December 24, 1940, letter to Estelle and Gerry Marsh is typical:

So it hasn’t been much colder here than it was in Cambridge. But the fact that we have to walk a mile to school makes a considerable difference in our opinions about the weather. In hilly Cambridge I went through a whole winter keeping the posterior portions of my anatomy above the ground. In perfectly flat Chicago I have already sprawled full length upon the ice once, and the year is just beginning. In this country a man spends half his time putting on and taking off excess clothing that is designed to keep a man dry and warm but doesn’t seem to do much of either. Practically every day I wear a scarf, overcoat, rubbers, a hat, gloves and sometimes even earmuffs and wish I either had a nose muff or no nose.

I am getting a considerable kick out of my work at the University of Chicago. [W]e are given complete faculty status with a rank comparable to instructor in the academic departments. But in fact we are what at Cal would be called glorified readers with the power of making assignments. For the most part I spend my time digging up research problems and reading and analyzing what the students do with them. This is not unpleasant work with the brighter students, but it gets to be awfully tedious with some of them.

A later letter to Gerry Marsh about life at the University of Chicago stated:

Compared with Harvard, this place has been a wormless apple. As against Harvard’s formalism, there is here a stimulating intellectual flexibility and freedom; and, as against Harvard’s abusive indifference, a wonderful friendliness. They have even treated us tutorial fellows as if we weren’t flunkies. Picked up and flopped down in a decent climate, this U. of C. would be a place for an old man to live out his years without vegetating—and almost without vegetation. Another U. of C. that I know of would not require this physical transposition.

In January 1941, with no permanent position in sight, Dr. tenBroek’s thoughts, once again, became preoccupied with the question of his employment for the following academic year. However, as Dr. tenBroek notes, with a touch of humor, in the following excerpt from a January 15, 1941, letter to Dr. Aikin, this annual occurrence was starting to become routine:

Just now there is a considerable disturbance among the tutorial fellows. [Dean] Katz returned from a visit to New York to report that Carnegie is in a disinheriting mood--Carnegie supplied the dough for two of the five tutors this year. Moreover, it is apparently a question whether the money will be forthcoming from the university to maintain all of the other three. You can see from the foregoing that I am now going through a repetition of my experience last year at this time. It discourages me much less this year. It may be that in the course of another decade at it, I will become completely immune.

Dr. tenBroek’s life at the University of Chicago was not focused entirely on his work as a tutor and the search for a permanent teaching position. His letters from Chicago indicate that law school faculty members frequently invited him to social events such as faculty dinners. One such notable occasion occurred, as described by Dr. tenBroek in a February 9, 1941, letter to Charles Aikin, when Thomas Reed Powell, Dr. tenBroek’s constitutional law professor at Harvard, came to town:

Thomas Reed Powell was in town last week to deliver a lecture for the Walgreen Foundation on “Conscience and the Constitution.” The Dean arranged a dinner for him to which he invited me, to the exclusion of some other regular members of the faculty. The Dean has also told me that reports about my work have indicated that it is “highly satisfactory” although in terms of renewal that undoubtedly doesn’t mean very much and may even be a way of saying no. T.R.P. went out of his way to be cordial to me. He also went out of his way to insult everybody else, to the great annoyance of the judges and theological people present and to the great resentment of the law faculty. From the Master’s point of view it must have been a very successful evening.

While he was at the University of Chicago, Dr. tenBroek, along with his mentor Dr. Newel Perry and seventeen blind men and women from seven states, laid the foundation for a national blind civil rights movement by founding the National Federation of the Blind in November 1940. Soon thereafter carrying out the business of the NFB became a topic of discussion in Dr. tenBroek’s letters from Chicago. As president of the first nationwide democratic organization of blind people, Dr. tenBroek recounted duties in a March 18, 1941, letter to Charles Aikin that included traveling to Washington, D.C., to meet with government leaders and express opposition to government actions that adversely affected blind people:

I have been in Washington for the past week and a half pulling the legs of Congressmen and insulting the administrators. Spring vacation plus a little time off for good behavior have permitted me to be away from the law school for this length of time, and the treasury of the National Federation of the Blind has permitted me to get this far away. As you might guess, I am down here concerning the ruling of the Social Security Board which will result in a withdrawal of the Federal contribution from California’s plan for aid to the blind and also aid to the aged.

By April 1941 the recruitment of young American men to fight World War II was starting to have an impact on enrollment at the University of Chicago Law School. As a result, the tenure of the law school tutorial fellows, as noted by Dr. tenBroek in an April 15, 1941, letter to Charles Aikin, became even more uncertain:

The state of confusion here with respect to tutorial fellows is continuing, if anything, in an intensified form. Even now conscription and the war are raising hob with the enrollment and it is expected that next year the beginning class will be considerably less than half of its normal size. Of course this will mean a proportionate cut in the number of tutorial fellows.

In spite of the increasing impact of World War II on enrollment, the University of Chicago awarded Dr. tenBroek a renewal of his tutorial fellowship for the 1941-1942 academic year. The renewal included additional teaching duties when he became a lecturer in English constitutional history. With little hope of a second renewal, Dr. tenBroek, in a November 30, 1941, letter to Gerry Marsh, makes a bold suggestion on the way materials he prepared for teaching this class could be incorporated into a public speaking class:

Uncle Sam took less of the Law School boys than expected—an overall drop of 18 percent--but the freshman class if [sic] smaller by about one-third. The Dean put me on again as tutor and as a temporary stop-gap in English Constitutional History. He has made it painfully clear that the policy against renewing tutorial contracts will not again be breached. I’m getting a considerable boot out of the English History: in this place I am not regarded as queer because I teach it up-side-down, that is, moving backwards from the present; but the reverse procedure has made it necessary to prepare special materials. I am sending you a copy of these. You are under no obligation to be interested in the content, but you may wish to weigh them. The idea has occurred to me that a collection of this type of the great English political documents which were delivered as speeches might be a proper subject of interest and even action of public speaking teachers.

As the American war effort continued to accelerate into 1942, the continuing decline in student enrollment and the resulting relaxation of academic standards affected faculty morale at the University of Chicago Law School. Dr. tenBroek wrote to Charles Aikin on February 4, 1942:

The morale of the faculty has degenerated considerably. War changes--reducing the length of time required to graduate from law school, granting degrees to students having a half-a-year to go, numerous special arrangements and exemptions, and the recent Hutchins plan to grant a bachelor’s degree after two normal years of college--have been accomplished only after numerous hot faculty meetings and have been accompanied by growing faculty personality problems.

In mid-February 1942, however, the somber tone of Dr. tenBroek’s letters to his mentors had changed as, once again, he was offered the rare opportunity of a second renewal of his fellowship. In a February 19, 1942, letter to Dr. Aikin he announced:

The law school faculty has just voted to keep me on for another year at the same salary, $2500 and with the same status, tutorial fellow and lecturer in English history. The Dean renewed his warning that I should expect my connection with the University of Chicago to be terminated at the end of next year. This time however, he did it with two significant qualifications: One was that this would be the case unless the war ended and enrollment returned to normal; the other was implicit in a comment that the ideal solution of my problem would be a joint law school and political science job and that he was doing his best to persuade the poli. sci. people.

The efforts of Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Aikin, and Dr. Marsh to secure Dr. tenBroek a permanent teaching position at Berkeley began to bear fruit in late winter of 1942. As indicated by Dr. tenBroek in his March 3, 1942, letter to Charles Aikin, discussions were underway regarding a position in either Berkeley’s public speaking department or the political science department:

An instructorship in public speaking sounds good to me--good, at least, as against a tenure here which surely must end in a year if the war keeps going. I am relatively satisfied in my own mind that but for the dropping enrollment I would have been given a regular faculty position, but I can scarcely gamble on the war ending in time to do me much good here. My notion is that it would be well for you to push full steam ahead on the public speaking angle. If it turns out that you can’t swing a full-time deal in poli. sci., the possibility of part time in both departments might then be more easily workable; and if even that proves impossible, long range shifts in the poli. sci. department might gradually be turned to my advantage.

The discussions about a permanent position for Dr. tenBroek in the Berkeley public speaking department became more specific with a hastily handwritten note postmarked March 20, 1942, from Gerry Marsh to Dr. tenBroek. The note inquires if Dr. tenBroek would be interested in a possible opening in 1943 in the public speaking department at $2,000 per year to teach Intercollegiate Debate (2 credits), Use of the Library (3 credits), History of British and American Public Address (3 credits), and Speech 1A-1B (3 credits). A draft of the reply from Dr. tenBroek states, “I am not only interested but anxious” and ends in a more playful tone with, “I think the whole thing is a scheme by which you will avoid pangs of conscience when you take my money at poker.”

On April 13, 1942, Dr. tenBroek wrote to Gerry Marsh:

Wired an acceptance to [Dean] Deutch and will follow up with a confirming letter. The [University of Chicago] law school was so shocked by the thought that somebody else might want me that they immediately set about trying to cook up a deal here. I had given a few lectures in the College in the Social Science Survey course for Lawes, who is on leave. The people in the College have since been angling to get me tied up with the course. At one time they were on the verge of offering me about $3,000, but in the end the College administration withdrew altogether. The Law School, however, stuck with its offer of a more or less indefinite continuation of my present salary and status.

This was great sport while it lasted! I pulled the cow’s tail for all it was worth, not expecting and in the end not receiving anything remotely resembling milk, and always realizing that a cow’s tail is dangerously close to other parts of the anatomy which yield products entirely not as sustaining and probably not as savory, although as to the latter--query.

With his return to Berkeley only awaiting confirmation from university officials, Dr. tenBroek wrote his final letter to Charles Aikin from Chicago on April 30, 1942. The letter is full of anticipation for the tenBroeks' return to Berkeley and ends with the hope that the transportation of troops headed for battle does not interfere with their travel plans:

I have heard nothing from Cal as yet. The last thing I had was Gerry’s note, which I received considerably over a month ago. I have assumed from your silence that the matter moved through the committee without any hitches, and I infer from your inquiry appended to Ogg’s last letter that the committee made its report to the president some time ago.

Hazel and I are still laying on the line for the Doctor’s. My gastritis is gradually getting better, but last Friday the dental surgeon got hold of me for the second time in a month and a half to chisel out an impacted wisdom tooth. Hazel is undergoing a series of treatments allegedly designed to cure her migraines. I don’t know what we’re going to do when we return to Cal and have to lay out real money for this sort of thing.

Yesterday and today we have had our first warm spell of the season, and as usual when the temperature and humidity begin to rise, Hazel and I are brushing up on our plans to return to Berkeley. I hope civilian travel doesn’t get choked off just about the time we’re ready to jump on the train.

Three months later Dr. tenBroek described the return trip to Berkeley in an August 5, 1942, letter as follows:

We have finally landed back in Berkeley! [N]either we nor the town seems to have changed much. We had a pretty hectic trip out, what with trying to catch trains that don’t give a hang about schedules and what with trying to find seats after you catch them. We spent eight days with my sister Lill, who is stationed at the Fitzsimmons Hospital near Denver. She had every minute planned and a sufficient number of drinking partners assembled. These latter were all army officers, and my experience with them has caused me to amend my previously held conviction that there are no drinkers like those of the Harvard Law School faculty.

With his new job as an instructor in the public speaking department during the 1942-1943 academic year, Dr. tenBroek had returned home to the University of California, Berkeley, and his search for a permanent university teaching position was over. He would go on to become a full professor in 1953 and was chairman of the public speaking department from 1955 to 1961. Dr. tenBroek moved to the Berkeley political science department in 1961 and remained there as professor until his death on March 27, 1968.

 

 

Attitude Is Everything

by Barbara Loos

From the Editor: Barbara Loos is a longtime leader of the National Federation of the Blind. Happily for us, she frequently commits her common-sense reflections to paper and shares them with Monitor readers. Here is one such essay:

As an AmeriCorps member working for the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska, one of my assignments has been mentoring blind youth. On June 29, 2007, two mentees who had never before flown anywhere boarded a plane with my husband and me to attend the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind in Atlanta. Though we had briefed them about some of the things that occasionally happen to blind people in air travel, there’s nothing like firsthand experience to bring a point home.

In the air all went well on all four legs of our journey. On the ground in Chicago, however, there was an incident that I believe made a lasting impression on both mentees, but especially on the one to whom it happened. There are multiple ways for blind folks to get from one gate to another in airports. I prefer walking either with an airline official or on my own, asking directions from time to time to verify my progress. On this occasion we had chosen to be accompanied by someone from the airline. Apparently one person felt overwhelmed by four blind people traveling together because she said over her radio in our hearing that she didn’t know how anyone expected her to “handle four of them at once.” We assured her that, if she walked in front of us and let us know whenever she turned, we would be fine.

As often happens, she ignored our suggestion. But since we had a plane to catch and not a lot of time in which to negotiate, we agreed to set out with two escorts. Before long one of the young people was lagging behind. One of our assistants dropped back and began coaxing her to ride in a wheelchair. I wanted to intercede, knowing how frustrating such experiences can be. But I concentrated instead on reminding myself that the whole purpose of this trip was to give my mentee real-life experience and opportunities to grow. I heard her protest a little and then yield. When we came to an elevator, the three of us were told there wasn’t room for us to board with the wheelchair. I began to question the wisdom of my decision not to intervene. Did she realize that I knew what was happening, or did she feel abandoned? Was she wishing she hadn’t come? What would she say to her mother?

When we were reunited at the gate, she was indignant. She told us that she had let the woman know that she wanted to walk, but she had been bodily turned and pressed to sit in the wheelchair. “It wasn’t the chair itself,” she said, noting that it’s perfectly respectable to use a wheelchair when actually necessary. It was the manhandling, the being disregarded, and treated as though she had no right to choose, that had bothered her. And when the elevator door had closed and we weren’t there, she had become concerned, saying, “I can’t hear my group,” and then asking, “Where is my group?” She received no response from her self-appointed caretaker.

She had known we wouldn’t abandon her and knew we would soon be back together, but she had felt embarrassed and humiliated. Could she have avoided the experience? What could she do to keep such a thing from happening again? Why had it happened only to her and not to us?

Her questions were urgent, probing, and familiar. Hugging her, I said that I was sorry things like that happen to any of us. I assured her that the National Federation of the Blind exists partly to give us strategies for developing the confidence within ourselves to change what it means to be blind in positive ways so that we can rid our society of the misconceptions about blindness that lead to such treatment. As I talked, my mind raced through incidents, big and small, from my thirty-three years of flying. I know very well both the shame of succumbing to intimidation tactics and the indignation of being written up as a non-cooperative passenger for refusing to do so. “Lack of experience,” I ultimately said in response to her questions, “made you vulnerable this time. If you use this incident as a stepping stone, you won’t be caught off guard as easily next time.”

After a week of deliberating about blindness issues, marching for independence, and sharing fellowship with one another, we boarded an airplane on July 7 for the last two legs of our journey. In Chicago we again found ourselves hurrying to make our connection. Again my mentee began to fall behind the group. Not wanting to cap our productive week with a repeat of our experience the week before, I turned and urged, “Step it up, please.” I listened with immense satisfaction to the confident tap-tap of her cane as she moved up beside and then in front of me.

She was obviously as determined as I to end our trip better than it had begun. I believe the key to the difference can be summed up in a phrase I often hear my husband say: “Attitude is everything.” And when it’s positive, as hers is, even the sky need not be the limit.

 

 

Leveling the Playing Field for Students with Disabilities

by Jim Fruchterman

From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the Fall 2007 Blind Citizen, a publication of the National Federation of the Blind of California. Jim Fruchterman is president and CEO of Benetech Initiatives, located in Palo Alto, California. His company is the parent of Bookshare, a service widely used by Federationists. In this article he describes Bookshare’s services and his plans for the continuing development of the Bookshare program.

In a classroom somewhere in California today, a blind student is telling a teacher that he or she cannot fulfill a reading assignment already completed by sighted classmates. This is not because students are failing to apply themselves. It is because a book assigned to the class is not available in a format that the student can read, or the assistive technology needed to read that book is too expensive. Despite the best efforts of the teacher, the class moves forward, and the disabled student falls behind.

This struggle to provide accessible books to disabled students and ensure that they receive a first-rate education is taking place in schools throughout the U.S. Organizations that serve the disabled estimate that two million students in the United States require alternative formats for print materials. While policy makers have expanded their efforts to provide high-quality education for disabled students, there is still a profound lack of accessible educational materials, including textbooks. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 and the reforms mandated in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA) required educators to accommodate disabled students with accessible materials and assistive technologies. Despite mandated standardized file formats and central repositories for accessible materials, publishers have been slow to provide accessible files. System inefficiencies, continued laborious duplication of effort, and the high cost of assistive technologies have all made it difficult for educators to provide books for disabled students.

We feel a real urgency to help get books into the hands of disabled students and their teachers here in the U.S. and around the world. It is estimated that only five percent of printed materials worldwide are produced in formats that are accessible to those who cannot read a traditional book. If students with print disabilities cannot access books at the same time as their peers in the same classroom, how can they have confidence in their ability to succeed fully in school and in the workplace?

Accessible content and assistive technology are also needed to support educational services beyond elementary and secondary schools. The U.S. Department of Education estimated in 2005 that over the past fifteen years the number of students with disabilities who are continuing their education through postsecondary schools has doubled. Disabled students in medical training, law school, and other professional degree programs need up-to-date textbooks to compete with their sighted classmates.

As an engineer I have always believed that technology could be used efficiently to provide accessible books to disabled students. Benetech, the nonprofit technology company that I founded, set out to prove this could be done. In 2002 Benetech launched the Bookshare.org service that is now the largest online digital library of accessible books in the United States. Bookshare.org began as a subscription-based library built by its users, including people who are blind or have low vision, dyslexia, or a mobility impairment that prevents them from reading a traditional book.

There is a special provision in U.S. copyright law that explicitly gives qualified nonprofit organizations such as Benetech the right to distribute copyrighted materials in a specialized format for use by print-disabled people, without requiring permission. To meet the requirements of copyright law and agreements with publishers and authors, Bookshare.org users must provide proof of a print disability such as blindness, low vision, a reading disability, or a mobility impairment that makes it difficult or impossible to read standard print. Over the past five years Bookshare.org has evolved into a worldwide online community that lets people with these print disabilities scan books and exchange them legally through the Website. These electronic books can be accessed through Braille, large print, or synthesized voice technology. You can think of Bookshare.org as Amazon.com meets Napster meets Talking Books for the Blind--but legal!

The collection of books in the Bookshare.org library has been shaped primarily by members and volunteers who submit books they have scanned. Among the titles are bestselling popular books including all of the current New York Times bestseller list and the Harry Potter series. Bookshare.org currently offers more than 35,000 books, magazines, and newspapers available 24/7 in the DAISY (Digital Audio Information System) and BRF digital Braille formats. Bookshare.org now serves approximately 12,000 members. Our members have historically read an average of twenty-one books a year from our service. Due to the commitment of about 1,000 volunteers around the U.S. and a few paid staffers, more than 5,700 new digital books were published on Bookshare.org in 2006. Over 150 newspapers and magazines are also available daily through Bookshare.org in partnership with the National Federation of the Blind through its NFB-NEWSLINE® service.

Subscribers are permitted to use Bookshare.org books for their own personal use. The service uses Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology and contractual agreements with members to maximize personal access to books and minimize abuse of this privilege. Bookshare.org-copyrighted books are not available to the non-print-disabled public. You can, however, search for a Bookshare.org title without being a Bookshare.org member. The Bookshare.org library also offers public domain books available to anyone in the world, with or without a disability.

While Bookshare.org is reaching a growing number of qualified users, we know that barriers still exist for providing books to disabled students and the teachers and schools that serve them. When accessible educational materials are available, they are often very expensive for schools to provide. For example, the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired spends over $250,000 on accessible books each year, yet school administrators report that they are still unable to fulfill their students’ education needs completely.

These problems are compounded by the cost of specialized assistive technology that makes it difficult for students to access what little accessible material exists. Disabled students from low-income families are doubly disadvantaged since they are far less likely to access technologies that their better-off peers take for granted. The Bookshare.org service costs each subscriber a modest $25 sign-up fee plus $50 annually for an unlimited number of books. We provide free assistive technology tools to access these books. To help make the service affordable, we’ve received funding from strategic partners and donors including Adobe Systems, Inc., the NEC Foundation of America, the Microsoft Corporation, the Skoll Foundations, the Omidyar Network, and the Bernard A. Newcomb Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

After years of financing Bookshare.org on a shoestring with grants and subscription fees, we were delighted to have the federal government step in last year to make the service even more accessible. In October of 2007 the U.S. Department of Education awarded Benetech a $32 million, five-year contract to expand the Bookshare.org collection and provide each U.S. student with a print disability free access to the service. I believe that this funding is an unprecedented opportunity quickly and economically to ramp up the number of accessible books for disabled students. There is no reason that disabled students in the U.S. should have any less access to books than their sighted classmates, and Bookshare.org is showing that technology can level the academic playing field.

Back when I was an engineering student in college, I realized that I could develop a reading machine using a font-independent character-recognition system. At that time pattern recognition systems were being used to guide smart bombs. It occurred to me that we could use this technology instead to help create accessible books. Benetech’s predecessor nonprofit organization, Arkenstone, which was founded in 1989, produced tens of thousands of affordable reading machines that used PCs, scanners, and other off-the-shelf technology. Unfortunately, users of the Arkenstone reading machines had to scan the same book over and over. Bookshare.org, which is a direct outgrowth of Arkenstone, allows Arkenstone users and others to share scanned books legally so everyone can benefit. Bookshare.org was created to stop the labor-intensive duplication of work that occurs when people need to scan the same title over and over again. Our motto is: scan once, share many.

Benetech has also developed a technical conversion process that transforms scanned book files into the worldwide DAISY/NISO digital Talking Book standard and the digital Braille (BRF) format. The DAISY/NISO standard allows the distribution of digital books with powerful indexing and bookmarking features. This allows print-disabled readers to navigate quickly from one part of a book to another.
For the past five years Bookshare.org has shown that efficient technology makes it possible for those who serve disabled students to complement and partner with each other to provide accessible books. Bookshare.org’s existing technology infrastructure allows us to expand our collection and services while keeping costs down for students and educators. Bookshare.org’s accessible books in the DAISY format can be read in a standard Web browser. This allows students with PC- or Mac-based assistive technology to read Bookshare.org books with the same tools they use to browse Web pages with their screen reader, screen magnifier, dyslexia reading software, or Braille display.

Bookshare.org provides its subscribers with free dedicated DAISY book reader software that has built-in accessibility features that allow the user to read books aloud without other assistive technology. The service also makes it simple to use assistive technology that can convert Bookshare.org files into forms best suited to an individual student’s particular needs, including large print, Braille, synthesized speech, CD, DVD, or MP3 digital audio. Braille readers enjoy using Bookshare.org with a portable Braille display because it makes Braille much more practical. For example, a portable Braille reader can easily hold one thousand digital books from Bookshare.org, putting an entire Braille library into a small portable device. Bookshare.org books can also be ordered in embossed Braille by members or nonmembers, through our partnership with the Braille Institute.

The Bookshare.org for Education project supported by the U.S. Department of Education award also provides each teacher of disabled students or educational agency staff member with a free Bookshare.org account that allows him or her to search the catalog of immediately available titles. Teachers can also download desired books, request that new educational content be added to the library, and register students for individual Bookshare.org accounts. These individual student accounts are like an unlimited library card for accessible books for postsecondary students and authorized K-12 students. Disabled students need access to the world of books, and we are determined to provide this opportunity.

Of course it is important for publishers to make sure their texts are available to disabled students. Benetech has expanded its partnerships with publishers by accepting books directly in digital formats that we convert to DAISY. This is the fastest way to grow the Bookshare.org collection significantly and improve the quality of its books. Benetech has now established agreements with a number of publishers, including the leading technology book publisher, O’Reilly Media, and Scholastic. We are continuing to pursue these direct relationships with publishers for digital content acquisition. To the extent possible, we expect to use books provided by publishers in the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS) format, and convert these into DAISY digital talking book and digital Braille formats. Thanks to a recent federal law, Bookshare.org is working to make K-12 textbooks accessible to all students with print disabilities in the United States.

Benetech expects to add more than 100,000 educational books to its collection in the next five years and deliver millions of books free to disabled students. We are currently adding 150 to 200 new books each week to our online library. Benetech is working with publishers, authors, and technology companies such as Adobe, Microsoft, and Google to gain access to digital content and to encourage them to make their products accessible to the print-disabled.

Currently only those residing in the United States may access the entire Bookshare.org collection. My dream is continually to expand the Bookshare.org library to serve readers around the world. Bookshare.org now has permission to distribute roughly 3,000 copyrighted titles to people with print disabilities worldwide and offers texts in both English and Spanish. Publishers and authors have voluntarily made their books available for international Bookshare.org members.

No disabled student in the U.S. or anywhere else around the world should receive a second-rate education because he or she lacks accessible books. Benetech will keep working to help make sure that accessible books and the technology to read them are available to everyone.

 

 

A Child's View of Blindness

by Judy Jones

From the Editor: Judy Jones and her husband Chris are leaders in the NFB of Washington. They have raised their two daughters to share the NFB’s philosophy about blindness. In the article that follows, Judy tells the story of an early example of the benefits of this healthy attitude about blindness. This is what she says:

My husband Chris and I are both blind, and, when our eldest daughter was three years old, an incident occurred that gave both of us an interesting perspective we have shared with many since then. One evening we had a couple over for dinner who are longtime friends and who are both sighted. After dinner, as I headed toward the kitchen, our daughter, noticing this couple had arrived dogless, pointed out this fact to me in a whisper. I explained that they didn't need to use guide dogs the way Mommy and Daddy did. "Then where are their canes?" she asked, thinking that must be their travel solution. I again explained that, like her, they didn't use white canes. "Then how do they get around?" she asked. She was honestly curious.

It was then that I realized she saw our tools for mobility as a means of independence. We had always taken her everywhere--shopping, parties, church, kid activities, etc. She knew that, while kids didn't need to use dogs or canes, adults had better have either one or the other to round out their independence.

This was our first indication that she never has viewed blindness as a hindrance to our lifestyle or activities. This happened some years ago now, and she and her younger sister continue to get all the questions we get. Peers want to know if it's really true they have blind parents and how we accomplish the daily tasks of life. The girls are always quick to tell kids that Chris works for a well-known technical college in our area and that I have a small Braille transcribing service. The reaction is, "Cool!" Both girls get tired of the same questions from new acquaintances, but realize, as we do, that it's all part of the ongoing public education blind people must engage in every day.

We are all grateful to the National Federation of the Blind for the way it has supported and upheld us. Through the years the Federation spirit and philosophy have rubbed off on our daughters and helped in building their self-worth. They too believe in security, equality, and opportunity for themselves as young women. They speak out when they think something is unfair or wrong and believe in working to make a positive difference in every situation they face.

 

Identity Theft and You Update

by Jim Babb

From the Editor: Jim Babb is a leader of the NFB of New Mexico. He has also become something of an expert on credit protection for the average citizen. This is his latest advice:

Since I wrote the October 2006 Monitor article on identity theft, a lot has happened, both good and bad. The pace of identity theft has vastly increased, and the estimated number of victims a year in the U.S. is about 15,000,000. You have heard the news: MasterCard, Bank of America, TJ Maxx, your university, or your health care provider has lost your personal information, or it was stolen. Mine was lost/stolen from two places I used to work. I was offered a one-year protection program, but what about the rest of my life? The information is out there for future use by criminals. As blind people we are probably more vulnerable to thieves raiding our mailboxes for credit card offers, our print orders for personal checks, etc. The thieves establish new cards, checks, ID cards, etc with a new address. Then they spend thousands of dollars on services and products at your expense. Another form of this practice is called “shoulder surfing,” peeking over your shoulder at check-out or even using a camera phone to take a photo of your credit card or check. The thief then orders expensive items online in your name but using his or her address.

As I mentioned in the previous article, trying to reinstate your good name and credit can be a nightmare and a job you don’t want. This job doesn’t pay; in fact it will cost you or your bank on average $6,000.

Now for the good news: For the last several years Congress has tried to pass ID-theft and credit-protection legislation. They have failed because of intense lobbying by the business community and the three major credit bureaus. The business community doesn’t want any legislation that would choke off instant credit, fearing that impulse buying would decline. The three major credit bureaus make big money on trading your personal information to banks and other businesses, who in turn use this information to make new credit offers to you. Since Congress would not pass national identity theft and credit protection laws, the states began to do it. In fact about thirty states have enacted various forms of a credit-freeze system.

Recently the three major credit bureaus, seeing the handwriting on the wall, have partially capitulated. They now allow credit freeze in all fifty states. This is more convenient for them than dealing with fifty different freeze programs.

Although all U.S. residents can now freeze their credit with all three bureaus, the process is not easy. Remember they would prefer that you not do it because they make money by selling your information. Here is what you need to do: The cost is $10 per bureau. The total to freeze all three credit reports would be $30. Each bureau also charges $10 each time you want to unfreeze (thaw) your records to apply for new credit.

Full instructions for requesting your credit freeze are available at <www.transunion.com>, <www.experian.com>, and <www.equifax.com>. Follow these instructions exactly. Don’t leave anything out. You will be sending three separate letters with copies of personal information such as your state identification card, your Social Security card, a recent utility bill, etc. Take these three mailings to the post office to mail along with a check for $10 to each bureau. I suggest using certified mail, return receipt requested. For a one-time charge of $30, nobody can take out new credit in your name. If you wish to establish a new credit line, you will need to pay from $10 to $30 to thaw your credit freeze temporarily.

The credit-freeze process is the single most effective way to stop identity theft. Widely advertised identity protection services, such as Trusted ID and Life Lock, cost up to $150 a year and are far less effective than the credit freeze.

 

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.

 

Recipes

This month’s recipes come from members of the National Federation of the Blind of New Mexico.

Dump Cake

by Elise Haley

Elise Haley is a retired teacher who taught in Texas and New Jersey before moving to Alamogordo, New Mexico. She taught seventh-grade math for twenty-five years. Then she started working part-time at New Mexico State University at Alamogordo, where she tutored in the Math Learning Center and taught some of the developmental math classes. While working there, she tutored several vision-impaired students. She and her husband currently try to provide transportation when the local transit system is not available.

Ingredients:
1 box cake mix (yellow works best, but white is all right.)
1 can pie filling (cherry is particularly tasty)
1 can chopped pineapple
Chocolate chips, shredded coconut, or chopped pecans (optional)
1 or 2 sticks of butter (optional)

Method: Drain the pineapple and reserve the juice. Dump the pie filling into a glass 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Then combine the drained pineapple with the pie filling. If you wish to add chocolate chips, coconut, or pecans, this is the time to dump them in. Then sprinkle the dry cake mix over the fruit. Pour the reserved pineapple juice over the cake mix. Older versions of this recipe call for pouring melted butter over the cake mix. Some of us discovered that using fruit juice instead of butter works well. Bake at 350 degrees until the cake mix feels solid. Depending on the amount of fruit, this will take thirty-five to forty-five minutes. If you still feel dry spots in the cake mix, drizzle water over them.

Other fruits from fresh apricots to apple pie filling work fairly well. If you use fresh apricots, you will need some additional sweetening to keep the cake from being too tart. This cake can be served warm or chilled. Do not use a dark juice such as grape on the top. It makes the surface look dark, so some people may think it is burned.

Oat Scones

by Jim Babb

Jim Babb has now lived in New Mexico for the past seven years after retiring from the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission. Jim really isn't retired; he does lots of volunteer work. He is president of the Friends of the New Mexico Library for the Blind, is a board member of the New Mexico Goodwill, is second vice president of the Albuquerque Chapter, and is a board member of the New Mexico affiliate.

Ingredients:
2/3 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned Quaker oats (or 1 1/4 cups quick Quaker oats)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins or currants

Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl combine all dry ingredients. Combine butter, milk, and egg and add them to the dry ingredients; mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in raisins. Shape dough to form ball; pat out on lightly floured surface to form an eight-inch circle. Cut into eight wedges. Transfer to a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for twelve to fifteen minutes or until scones are light golden brown. Serve with butter and preserves or honey as desired.

Fat-Free Chocolate Truffles

by Veronica Smith

Veronica Smith is a volunteer in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. She volunteers several times a week in the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School reading program. In addition she makes presentations on blindness at other elementary schools. She is also learning a lot about eating wisely at Weight Watchers. She reports that last year she lost fifty-one pounds and now feels great.

Ingredients:
1 8-ounce package fat-free cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method: Cream together all ingredients except two tablespoons cocoa powder. Sprinkle the remaining two tablespoons of cocoa on a sheet of wax paper. Form twenty-four balls of candy from the cream cheese mixture and roll them one at a time in the powdered cocoa. Place on a cookie sheet and refrigerate overnight. Transfer to store in an air-tight container. If you are counting calories, you should know that these scrumptious little treats are only fifty calories each.

Strawberry Bread

by Nancy Burns

Nancy Burns, immediate past president of the NFB of California, recently moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. She spent most of her life in California and served six years as the affiliate president. She has always enjoyed baking, and now that she is retired, she has more time to be creative in the kitchen. This is an original bread recipe.

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups strawberries, chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon strawberry flavoring

Method: Combine oil, sugar, and eggs. Then add flavoring and chopped strawberries. Combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Add this mixture and chopped nuts to sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly. Pour batter into a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for fifty-five to sixty minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on rack and enjoy with a cup of coffee.

Fudge Brownies with an Attitude

by Don Burns

After serving as legislative representative for the National Federation of the Blind of California, Don retired in late 2006. Don and his wife Nancy moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where Don spends the summer months working in his garden.

Ingredients:
1 box of your favorite fudge brownie mix
1 tablespoon red chili powder (or more if your taste buds desire)
1 scoop of vanilla ice cream

Method: Prepare brownies according to package directions, but add chili powder to dry mixture at the beginning. Bake brownies as directed and cool on rack. Place a scoop of ice cream on top of warm brownie and enjoy.

 

Monitor Miniatures


News from the Federation Family

Ground-Breaking Program for Elementary Students from NFB Jernigan Institute:
The Jernigan Institute is pleased to announce the latest addition to its Science Academy—the 2008 NFB Junior Science Academy. This program, the first NFB Science Academy for elementary students and their parents, will be held July 23 to 27, 2008, in Baltimore, Maryland, at the National Center. The program will accept thirty participants in grades three through six, or ages eight to twelve, and one parent or guardian for each.

Modeled after the NFB’s previous successful Science Academies for teens, this four-day session will expose blind and low-vision children to the excitement of science in real-life applications. The students will learn that science can be fun through hands-on instruction, field trips, and interactive activities as they learn about how different aspects of the environment work together to create the world around them. In addition to sparking their interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects, the program aims to teach students how alternative techniques can help make STEM subjects accessible and more engaging. Workshops for parents of blind children will take place in conjunction with the children’s activities for the adults accompanying their children. The Education Department is also looking for blind adults over eighteen who are interested in serving as mentors to help facilitate the children’s activities.

Interested families or blind adults who would like to serve as mentors can learn more about the program and submit an application online at <www.blindscience.org>. Applications are due by March 31, 2008. For more information, contact Mary Jo Thorpe, education programs specialist at the Jernigan Institute at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2407, or at <mthorpe@nfb.org>.

The Braille Book Flea Market Is Coming:
Donate your gently used but no longer needed Braille books to the 2008 Braille Book Flea Market sponsored by the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children and the National Association to Promote the Use of Braille. Books should be in good condition. Cookbooks, Twin-Vision® books and books suitable for children are badly needed. Last year, even though we had many generous donations of books, we were almost out of books after the first hour of the flea market. Blind children hunger for books to have by their beds at home like their siblings.

In a few months we will have an address in Dallas where you can send the Braille books you wish to donate. Begin searching through the boxes in your basement and spare room and get your books ready for shipping. If you have any questions, contact Peggy Chong at (515) 277-1288, or email her at <peggychong@earthlink.net>. Look for a Braille Book Flea Market update in the Braille Monitor very soon.

Elected:
The Inland Empire Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington recently held elections for 2008. The results are as follows: Maria Bradford, president; Paul Whipple, first vice president; Dolorous Keyser, second vice president; Judy Croy, treasurer; John Croy secretary; Susan Lincoln, card secretary; Gloria Whipple, corresponding secretary; and board members Jeanne Whipple and Cody Christianson.

In Memoriam:
With profound sadness Carl Jacobsen, president of the NFB of New York, wrote to report the death of Wayne Rivera, a personal friend and a Federationist, which he comments is, of course, a fine combination. He passed along a warm recollection of Wayne by Christine Faltz Grassman:

Wayne joined the Federation in 1994. He contributed to the construction of our Jernigan Institute and has given significant resources to our organization as well as to agencies and schools for the blind in the Dominican Republic, the birthplace of his wife Mary. Wayne was a very successful vendor in the Randolph-Sheppard program in New York for more than a dozen years. He was an active member of the state Vendors Committee.

Wayne will be remembered by family, friends, and acquaintances as a man who did not mince words. While this was not always appreciated, it was definitely respected and often admired. Wayne also had a delightful sense of humor. My two children, who met Wayne only once, delight in the telling and retelling of Wayne Rivera tales, particularly those regarding would-be shoplifters at Wayne’s facilities. Wayne Rivera is deeply mourned and will be sorely missed.

Elected:
At its January meeting the Seattle Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Washington held elections. Results are as follows: Kris Lawrence, president; Rita Szantay, first vice president; Kay Burrows, second vice president; Andrea Travis, secretary; Doug Johnson, treasurer; and Mike Mello and Bo Donahoe, board members.

Elected:
The Omaha Chapter of the NFB of Nebraska just held elections, and the following officers were elected: president, Darrell Walla; first vice president, Bob Burns; second vice president, Hank Vetter; treasurer, Amy Sweigard; secretary, Sandra Boone; and board members, Sandy Alvarado, Al Boone, Lonnie Merritt, and Atty Svendsen.

In Memoriam:
We are deeply sorry to report the death on January 27, 2008, of John Parker, a longtime leader of the NFB of New Hampshire. John frequently served as president of the Lakes Region Chapter and for six years as president of the New Hampshire affiliate. When his health permitted, he was also a frequent participant in the Washington Seminar. He served on the New Hampshire Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired Advisory Committee and the Governor’s Commission on Disability. John was engaged, energetic, and dogged in doing what he knew to be right for blind people.

He was recovering from surgery for cancer when he suffered a fatal heart attack. During a hospital visit from NFB of New Hampshire President Marie Johnson shortly before his death, he complained that his surgery would prevent him from taking part in the Washington Seminar this year. Otherwise he was in good spirits. John Parker and his kind are the bedrock of the Federation, and he will be deeply missed.

New Chapter:
The NFB of Iowa got off to a great start in 2008 with the formation of its newest chapter, in Burlington, Iowa, a medium-sized town in the southeastern part of the state. At its first meeting the group adopted a constitution and elected officers. The new chapter president is Miranda Brown, who is very ambitious. Jerry Jackson, her vice president, is also eager to get the chapter moving. Eight members joined the chapter in January.

In just two weeks the chapter has accomplished a lot. They have set times and places for their meetings, they continue to contact potential new members, but their biggest effort has been the public education they have conducted before and after the organizational meeting. In late January both Miranda and Jerry were interviewed by the local paper, and the story ran on February 2. Jerry and Miranda are working hard to spread the NFB message. Congratulations to this new chapter.


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.


Attention Alumni of the New York State School for the Blind:
The Alumni Association of the New York State School for the Blind will hold its annual reunion at the Holiday Inn in Batavia, New York, from June 6 through June 8, 2008. Rooms will be available on Thursday, June 5, and an extra excursion on Sunday afternoon may be run, if there is sufficient interest. Room rates are $70 per night for regular rooms and $90 per night for suites. Reservations made before May 1 will not include room tax.

There is a grant of $200 available to one person who has never attended the reunion or who has not attended in many years and who has economic need. This grant must be applied for by April 1, 2008. To get a reading of the entire weekend schedule, including detailed costs, contact information for people in charge of various activities, the $200 grant, or more information about activities and meals, phone Tim Hendel at (256) 650-5212. To pay your dues or make other payments, phone Sukosh Fearon at (315) 363-4460.

Anthology Available:
Behind Our Eyes: Stories, Poems and Essays by Writers with Disabilities is an anthology showcasing work by twenty-seven disabled authors, many of whom are blind. This hopeful, funny, and educational book bridges the gap between the way society sees people with disabilities and the way disabled people really live. It also explores longings, struggles, and triumphs we all have in common. The book’s eight sections range from advice to medical professionals to travel dos and don'ts, to writing tips, to nature haiku, to a talking snake and a world where blindness is the norm. Reviews and portions of the book are available online. Google the Behind Our Eyes disabilities book for more information. Behind Our Eyes is available from Amazon; iUniverse; major bookstores; and, for the print-impaired, Bookshare in text or DAISY format. A recorded version of Behind Our Eyes is also planned.

New Tactile Astronomy Book Available:
At a January 14, 2008, ceremony at the National Federation of the Blind, NASA unveiled a new book that brings majestic images taken by its great observatories to the fingertips of the blind. Touch the Invisible Sky is a sixty-page book with color images of nebulae, stars, galaxies, and some of the telescopes that captured the original pictures. Each image is embossed with lines, dots, and other textures. These raised patterns translate colors, shapes, and other intricate details of the cosmic objects, allowing visually impaired people to experience them. Braille and large-print descriptions accompany each of the book's twenty-eight photographs, making the book's design accessible to readers of all visual abilities.

The book contains spectacular images from the Hubble Space Telescope, Chandra X-ray Observatory, Spitzer Space Telescope, and powerful ground-based telescopes. The celestial objects are presented as they appear through visible-light telescopes and different spectral regions invisible to the naked eye, from radio to infrared, visible, ultraviolet and X-ray light.

The book introduces the concept of light and the spectrum and explains the way the different observatories complement each others' findings. Readers take a cosmic journey beginning with images of the sun, and travel out into the galaxy to visit relics of exploding and dying stars, as well as the Whirlpool galaxy and colliding Antennae galaxies.

Touch the Invisible Sky was written by astronomy educator and accessibility specialist Noreen Grice of You Can Do Astronomy LLC and the Museum of Science, Boston, with authors Simon Steel, an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Doris Daou, an astronomer at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "About 10 million visually impaired people live in the United States," Grice said. "I hope this book will be a unique resource for people who are sighted or blind to understand better the part of the universe that is invisible to all of us."

The book will be available to the public through a wide variety of sources, including NASA libraries, the National Federation of the Blind, Library of Congress repositories, schools for the blind, libraries, museums, science centers, and Ozone Publishing. "We wanted to show that the beauty and complexity of the universe go far beyond what we can see with our eyes!" Daou said.

"The study of the universe is a detective story, a cosmic 'CSI,' where clues to the inner workings of the universe are revealed by the amazing technology of modern telescopes," Steel said. "This book invites everyone to join in the quest to unlock the secrets of the cosmos."

"One of the greatest challenges faced by blind students who are interested in scientific study is that certain kinds of information are not available to them in a nonvisual form," said Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind. "Books like this one are an invaluable resource because they allow the blind access to information that is normally presented through visual observation and media. Given access to this information, blind students can study and compete in scientific fields as well as their sighted peers."

The prototype for this book was funded by an education grant from the Chandra mission, and production was a collaborative effort by the NASA space science missions, which provided the images, and other agency sources.

New Service Available:
Access News is a service provided by the Sacramento Society for the Blind in conjunction with the California Braille and Talking Book Library. Find information and resources by dialing one easy number: (800) 665-4667. Browse national weekly and monthly publications, enjoy our growing entertainment sections, and hold important business meetings with colleagues across the country using our teleconferencing center. Signing up is free and easy. For more information about Access News or to sign up for this free service, contact Joseph Hamilton, (916) 732-4010.

Humanware Reorganizes Its Operations:
We recently received the following press release:

HumanWare, the leading provider of information-access products for blind, visually impaired, and learning-disabled customers, announced today that it would be reorganizing its activities. HumanWare is integrating its research and development, marketing, and production operations under a single line of responsibility for each department. Sales activities are also integrated under three new geographical regions: the Americas, Europe (including the Middle East and Africa), and Australasia.

Three new vice presidents for marketing, research and development, and operations have been appointed and will be responsible for both New Zealand and Canadian activities. The business managers for the United States, Europe, and Australia business divisions will see their responsibilities extended into new geographical markets. This reorganization results from the appointment of Mr. Gilles Pepin as the new CEO of the HumanWare Group in November 2007. His objective is to build a strong management structure to support HumanWare's growth in its activities in the visually impaired segment and across new markets.

"We are creating a stronger, more efficient and more dynamic operational structure to better support our existing customers and products, but also to introduce new initiatives such as enhanced customer focus, superior product quality, and a wider range of product solutions," Pepin said. "To achieve this, we need to streamline our operations and better integrate our activities, some of which are overextended across the globe."

HumanWare expects to reap major benefits for its customers as a result of this reorganization, such as reduced product development cycle, lower product costs, and higher product quality. HumanWare will keep introducing new exciting products in 2008 following several major product introductions in 2007, including Victor Reader Stream, ClassMate Reader, myReader 2, and a math tutorial for the BrailleNote, mPower.

Brailler Repair:
Knick Johnson, owner of Brailler Depot, says the following:

The Brailler Depot is the country’s premier facility for the repair of Perkins Braillers. We have over a decade of experience in repairing Braillers. In-house stock parts allow for a quick turnaround time. Phone (973) 272-7667, email <info@braillerdepot.com>, Website <www.braillerdepot.com>.

Blind Children in Need of Adoptive Homes:
Family Finders is a nonprofit adoption agency that helps blind and visually impaired orphans find families. We also have significant financial aid available. Without any obligation, people can ask for more information about these children by contacting <Familyfinders@wacap.org>.

W. Five-and-a-half-year-old girl from Asia. She is at a boarding school for the blind. This happy, responsive little girl enjoys special attention from a nanny on nights and weekends. She is blind and follows sounds, conversations, and directions attentively. She is described as very clever; she attends classes for blind children and receives speech therapy. We would love to share her information with interested families. Reference number 2275. No adoption fees. Her country wants couples to have been married for at least two years and to be between twenty-five and forty-five years of age. There's a strong preference for families with no more than three children already in their home.

R. Five-and-a-half-year-old boy from Asia. The affectionate nickname for this boy translates as “elephant.” He has been in orphanage care all his life. His caregivers say he focuses well on tasks and conversations and can feed and dress himself. A family with good resources for educating a blind child will bring out the best in this attentive little gentleman. Reference number 2272. No adoption fees. His country is looking for couples to have been married for at least two years and to be between twenty-five and forty-five years of age. There's a strong preference for families with no more than three children already in their home.

R. One-and-a-half-year-old girl from Asia is a doll-like beauty born without sight. She also has some deafness, but we do not know the extent. This attractive baby girl is ready to be scooped up and cherished today. Call the Family Finders team to learn the story of this dear infant. Reference number 2330. Her country is looking for adoptive couples who have been married at least three years. Single applicants, families with many children, and couples up to age fifty can also apply.

T. Four-and-a-half-year-old boy. T from Asia is happy to play on his own, although he has many playmates at his orphanage. He has been blind since birth. Cosmetic surgery is planned for one of his eyes to help this little guy feel better and look even more handsome. Ask us for a copy of T’s complete file to read. Adoption fees have already been paid by a donor. Reference number 2264. To adopt from this child’s country, couples must have been married at least three years. Single applicants, families with many children, and couples up to age fifty can also apply.

If you don’t fit these countries’ requirements, ask us about other countries you are eligible for. For faster service, include your full name and regular mailing address to fulfill eligibility rules. Adoption fees, application fees, and post-placement fees have already been paid by a generous donor. A no-interest loan of $4,500 is available for expenses, and you may be eligible for $10,000 adoption federal tax credit.

Educational Essentials for the Blind?a High School Diploma:
Chuck Young is president of the well-known Hadley School for the Blind, which offers a number of educational programs including many correspondence courses for blind learners. Here Chuck provides information about a program that will be of interest to many:

Obtaining an education in our society is key to success as an adult?for the blind and the sighted alike, yet our nation’s dropout rate is approximately 27 percent. Unfortunately, due to the often low expectations of educators and inaccessible curricula, many blind students are among those dropping out without the basic high school diploma.

Do you know a blind person who wants a second chance to graduate from high school? Do you know someone who would like to complete a high school education using a self-paced program and earn a high school diploma while studying from home? The Hadley School for the Blind provides such an accredited program. Hadley will help students identify a free, customized program leading to graduation and will support each student individually with an accessible curriculum. Our teachers are available through toll-free numbers, mail, and email. Students who receive such personalized instruction are more likely to succeed, resulting in a great boost in self-esteem.

Hadley rewards successful graduates with a trip to the Chicago area to participate in our high school graduation ceremony, or students can consider transferring Hadley credits to their local high school for graduation. This flexibility holds opportunity for those choosing home schooling to receive support from Hadley, as well. Each year I witness the pride of our graduates as they receive their well-deserved diplomas and note the growth in self-worth that results. Hadley has many successful former students, such as Dr. James Nyman of Nebraska, who used Hadley courses to graduate from high school before continuing to excel at several universities. Joe Cordova, director of the Hawaii Vocational Rehabilitation and Services for the Blind, took our accessible course in science to ensure that he graduated with his high school class. These are only two of thousands of Hadley high school success stories.

Contact the Hadley School for the Blind for more details and learn how someone you know can get a second chance to earn a high school diploma. Visit <www.hadley.edu> or call (800) 323-4238.

BlindSight Opens in U.S.:
BlindSight is the movie about Erik Weihenmayer and Sabiye Tenberken's climb with six blind Tibetan teenagers to 21,500 feet on a peak on the north face of Mt. Everest. Once vilified, spat on, and considered possessed by evil spirits, these young people stood higher than any other group of the blind in history. They returned to their villages as heroes, able to make a difference in the lives of their people. The teens were all students at the school Tenberken founded, Braille without Borders. As a result of her dedicated teaching and her tireless advocacy for her students, they have learned to read, write, and speak three or more languages, and they are mastering trades. The 104 minutes of this unforgettable video-described film trace the challenge these young people faced and the transformation they have experienced as a result.

BlindSight has been the audience choice at the two largest film festivals in the world, Los Angeles and Berlin, and was shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination. It is being released to U.S. theaters in March with premiere events organized around the country. It was released in Japan with the participation of the Imperial Family at the Tokyo premiere and recently in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, and Belgium. The Australian opening was in February in conjunction with Erik's mini-BlindSight climb down under with blind and sighted teenagers. The U.K. premiere will be later this year with the likely participation of the royal family.

The U.S. premieres take place in New York on March 4; Washington, D.C., on March 5; Boston on March 10; Denver on March 13; and Phoenix on March 19. <www.blindsightthemovie.com> has much more information about the movie.

Jobs Available:
Envision has immediate openings in manufacturing, retail sales, printing, and administration in Kansas and throughout the United States. If you haven't worked in a while, we can help you with job skills training. And through education assistance you can create new opportunities and realize greater independence.

At Envision we focus on ability, not disability. We know that people who are blind or low vision can make a positive contribution. At our facilities they do it every day. And our business has grown with this talented workforce. Today we're the largest employer of blind and low-vision workers in Kansas.

Envision employees enjoy some of the best benefits in the industry. You'll earn competitive pay plus health and dental benefits, paid vacation, personal time off, a retirement plan, and even life insurance. If you're moving in order to accept a job at Envision, you may qualify for relocation assistance. We can help you get settled in your new life with personal assistance to secure suitable housing, transportation, necessary social services, and independent living needs. Employees can also take advantage of our vision rehabilitation services, including assistive technology, resource referrals, and other services.

Envision is a Kansas-based private, not-for-profit agency. Revenue from the sale of our manufactured products and our base service stores helps fund vision rehabilitation services for people who are blind or low vision. It's a good feeling knowing that your work helps others become more independent. To learn more, visit our Website at <www.envisionus.com> or email Mark Benson at <goodjobs@envisionus.com>. You can also call toll-free (888) 425-7072 or fax (316) 267-4312.

WGBH DVDs Available:
WGBH Boston Video helps aspiring athletes through the training process for the world famous Boston Marathon with a new DVD entitled Marathon Challenge. Audiences will learn that, with enough preparation, inner strength, and unyielding dedication, the average person can build up the stamina and physical conditioning to conquer twenty-six miles. The video-described DVD of Marathon Challenge became available for $19.95 on February 12, 2008.

Every year thousands of athletes from across the globe flock to Boston to run the city’s marathon, known worldwide as the ultimate test of stamina and endurance. But how do you run twenty-six miles if you have trouble making it around the block? With good coaching, discipline, and lots of group support, as NOVA shows when it follows thirteen sedentary people through a nine-month regimen designed to prepare them for the grueling Boston Marathon.

Filled with personal drama and featuring the inspirational Uta Pippig, the first woman to win three consecutive Boston Marathons, Marathon Challenge also takes viewers on a scientific adventure inside the human body. What happens to our muscles and hearts when couch potatoes become endurance runners? And what are the hidden risks? NOVA’s behind-the-scenes portrait of the trials, tribulations, and joys of marathon training reaches a climax at the 2007 Boston Marathon. Here our thirteen rookie athletes put all their hopes and hard work to the final test, experiencing hidden rewards and floods of emotion at the finish line.

To order any DVD or VHS release from WGBH Boston Video, including Marathon Challenge, call (800) 949-8670 or visit <shop.wgbh.org>.

Since its launch WGBH Boston Video has released many critically acclaimed public television programs on DVD and video, including Yoga for the Rest of Us, Walking the Bible, Emmy Award-winning The Miracle of Life, as well as bestsellers, including The Elegant Universe (NOVA), Jane Eyre (Masterpiece Theatre), The French Chef with Julia Child, Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy, Evolution, and Africans in America. Recent releases include the Rx for Survival series, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (Mystery!), Origins (NOVA), Degrassi Junior High, Peep and the Big Wide World, Between the Lions, and Postcards from Buster.

Tactile Diagrams Available:
VIEW International Foundation (VIEW) is pleased to make available a large number of tactile diagrams developed for use by college students. Initially this collection will be available on CDs only. Schools may purchase all or part of the collection, depending on their needs. To use the files in this collection, a school must have the free Adobe Acrobat Reader® and a means for printing on and processing capsule paper. Schools and individuals can download Adobe Reader® with the following link: <http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html>.

The complete collection includes 11,280 files on ten CDs and sells for $259. Each individual CD sells for $59. These prices include shipping and handling.

The CDs are designed to run as a CD-based product, and no installation is needed. To use these diagrams, they must be printed on capsule paper, which is then processed with a machine that activates the paper, producing a raised image. The list below shows the CDs available and the number of images on each CD.
CD 1 Aeronautics and Astronautics—Fluid Sciences, 1,056 files
CD 2 Aeronautics and Astronautics—Fluid and Thermal Sciences, 749 files
CD 3 Aeronautics and Astronautics Control Systems, Flow Charts, Graphs, and Unix Systems, 1,443 files
CD 4 Aeronautics and Astronautics—Structures, 1,308 files
CD 5 Biochemistry, Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth, and Atmospheric Science, 977 files
CD 6 Graphs and Shapes—Part One, 945 files
CD 7 Graphs and Shapes—Part Two, 718 files
CD 8 Mathematics and Statistics, 1,428 files
CD 9 Physics, 1,222 files
CD 10 Economics, Languages, Life Sciences, Physical Education, and Psychology, 1,465 files

For more information visit <http://www.viewinternational.org/diagrams.htm>. If you have questions or comments, contact VIEW International Foundation, 230 Peach Tree Drive, West Monroe, Louisiana 71291-8653; phone (318) 396-1853; email <ttsinfo@earthlink.net>. Please start the subject line with the words "tactile diagrams.” The Web page is <http://www.viewinternational.org>.


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:
Victor Player, Model 800CP. Plays MP3 CDs as well as DAISY and traditional audio CD's. Asking $100 plus shipping. Contact Hal by phone at (727) 735-0797 or email <w1lob@tampabay.rr.com>.

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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