Braille Monitor                                                    April 2008

(back) (contents)

 

Monitor Miniatures

News from the Federation Family

2008-2009 Conference Stipend:

The Science and Engineering Division of the National Federation of the Blind (SENFB), is pleased to announce its first annual conference stipend, which will be awarded to a blind student enrolled in a science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) field of study at the senior-undergraduate or graduate level. This stipend, in an amount not to exceed $1,000, will be based on the applicant's need and the availability of other funding sources. It is being awarded as an incentive for a qualified blind or visually impaired student to attend a professional research conference to gain the valuable experience these conferences provide to promising students. This stipend is intended for conferences to be held in the 2008-2009 academic year.

Who is eligible? Any blind or visually impaired senior-undergraduate or graduate student enrolled in a STEM field of study at an accredited institution of higher learning may apply for this stipend. Your coursework or research experience should be at a sufficiently advanced level to permit you to benefit from attending and participating in a professional research conference in your field of study.

What are the stipend requirements? This is a reimbursement stipend. After attending the specified conference, the selected recipient must submit proof of conference attendance, including appropriate receipts, and a written report to John Miller (between 200 and 500 words) describing the recipient's conference participation, experiences gained, and lessons learned. Upon receipt of these items, the SENFB will mail a check made out to the recipient that can be used to defray the expenses listed in the application.

What can you use the stipend for? You may use this stipend to pay for expenses incurred while attending a conference in your field of study. Such expenses include conference fees, travel to the conference, lodging, and meals.

What is the deadline? All applications for this stipend must be in John Miller's possession by May 31, 2008.

How do you apply? Each application must consist of the following three items:

1. A personal phone call of introduction by the applicant to John Miller, (858) 527-1727 home or (858) 967-2666 cell. In this phone call you should be prepared to discuss your particular academic interest, your educational background, your career goals, and the adaptive techniques of blindness you use to compete on terms of equality with your sighted peers.

2. A letter from the applicant to the selection committee requesting the stipend. This letter should include your name, mailing address, telephone number, and email address; the title of the conference you wish to attend, the sponsoring organization, and the conference dates and location; the conference activities in which you plan to participate; a discussion of the experience you expect to gain by attending the conference; the total cost of attending the conference (conference fees, housing expenses, meals, and transportation); and the portion of conference expenses that you will pay out of pocket or that is being funded by other means.

3. A letter of recommendation from a faculty or research advisor in your field of study. This letter should include the author's familiarity with your academic and research work, an assessment of your potential for future research work, and a statement of what you can expect to gain by attending this conference. Letters of application, conference documentation, and conference report must be mailed to John Miller, 10955 Deering Street, San Diego, California 92126.

When will the recipient be announced? The recipient of the 2008 conference stipend will be announced at the annual meeting of the SENFB, which will be held at the 2008 NFB convention in Dallas, Texas, June 29 to July 5. For more information call John Miller, president, NFB Science and Engineering Division, (858) 527-1727 home or (858) 967-2666 cell.

New Summer Program to Empower Blind Teens:
The National Federation of the Blind announced February 26 that it will hold the first-ever Teen Empowerment Academy at NFB headquarters. This is the newest program in a series of initiatives striving to increase the educational, social, and vocational opportunities for blind youth.

The eight-week residential training program, led by blind instructors and occurring from June 15 to August 9, 2008, is designed to help blind and visually impaired teens develop the blindness and job-readiness skills necessary for success. The first part of the program will focus on helping teens develop their blindness skills. Highly qualified blind role models will teach courses in Braille, technology, mobility, and daily living skills. During the second part of the program students will enter the working world at a level suitable for teens. Each student will work fifteen to twenty hours a week earning minimum wage. With the support of mentors students will also be responsible for residential tasks like preparing meals, maintaining a clean living environment, and doing their own laundry. Additionally, students will participate in various recreational and challenge activities.

Contact Rosy Carranza at (410) 659-9314, extension 2283, or email her at <rcarranza@nfb.org> for additional information. Those interested should visit <www.nfb.org> to download an application.

Independence Market Corner:
We would like to draw your attention to two new items available from the NFB's Independence Market. The popular Victor Reader Stream can now be purchased from the Independence Market. This versatile handheld book reading machine can play not only MP3 files but also the new digital Talking Books from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, audio books from RFB&D, and audible DAISY text files from Bookshare, as well as HTML and ASCII text files. The reader is loaded with features such as various quick navigation functions, bookmark insertion options, and recording capability. The books and music are stored on secure digital (SD) cards. The Victor Reader Stream is a must for students and book and music lovers on the go. The Stream costs $344 plus shipping and handling—a one-gig card is supplied with the Victor Reader Stream if purchased through the Independence Market.

The NFB recently released a new publication: Guide for Local and State Leaders by Ramona Walhof. Written from the point of view of a longtime leader and former NFB officer, this small book assists new leaders to take full advantage of resources in a complex national movement. It addresses structure and activities of local chapters, state affiliates, and the national organization from fund raising to public education. Each chapter and state affiliate would benefit from having access to the information contained in this guide. Copies are available through the Independence Market in print and Braille as well as on two-track and four-track cassette for $10 each plus shipping and handling.

For further information or to place an order for these or other items, contact the Independence Market by phone at (410) 659-9314, extension 2216, or by email at <IndependenceMarket@nfb.org>.

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.

Seedlings Braille Books for Children:

We would like to announce that we have just added thirty new Braille books to our catalog of over 860 titles for children ages zero to fourteen. The new books range from Butterfly Kisses by Sandra Magsamen, a print-Braille-and-picture book for toddlers that comes with a finger puppet, to The Million Dollar Putt by Dan Gutman, a book for eight to twelve-year-olds about Bogie, who is blind, who is competing for a million dollar prize in a golf tournament.

For more information and a complete listing go to <www.seedlings.org> or call (800) 777-8552 to request a catalog (available in print or in Braille). And don’t forget to enter to win one free Braille book a year from Seedlings through the Anna’s Book Angel Project. For more information and to register online, go to <http:// www.seedlings.org/bkangel.php>. Seedlings is a nonprofit organization. All books are sold for a fraction of the production cost, so donations are always needed and appreciated.

Economic Stimulus Package Information:
The following information comes from the Internal Revenue Service Website that gives the latest update on the economic stimulus package signed into law on February 14. Note that the IRS emphasizes that the stimulus payments will not count toward or negatively affect any other income-based government benefits, such as Social Security benefits, food stamps, and other programs. In order to qualify, an individual must have at least $3,000 of qualifying income, which can include Title II benefits but not SSI.

Facts about the 2008 Stimulus Payments
Starting in May, the Treasury will begin sending economic stimulus payments to more than 130 million individuals. The stimulus payments will go out through the late spring and summer. The vast majority of Americans who qualify for an economic stimulus payment will not have to do anything other than file their 2007 individual income tax return to receive their payment this year. They will not have to complete applications, file any extra forms, or call the Internal Revenue Service to request the payment, which is automatic. The IRS will determine eligibility, calculate the amount, and issue the payment. Stimulus payments will be direct deposited for taxpayers selecting that option when filing their 2007 tax returns. Taxpayers who have already filed with direct deposit won't need to do anything else to receive the stimulus payment. For taxpayers who haven't filed their 2007 returns yet, the IRS reminds them that direct deposit is the fastest way to get both regular refunds and stimulus payments.

Basic Eligibility: The IRS will use the 2007 tax return to determine eligibility and calculate the basic amount of the payment. In most cases the payment will equal the amount of tax liability on the return with a maximum amount of $600 for individuals ($1,200 for taxpayers who file a joint return) and a minimum of $300 for individuals ($600 for taxpayers who file a joint return). Even those who have little or no tax liability may qualify for a minimum payment of $300 ($600 if filing a joint return) if their tax return reflects $3,000 or more in qualifying income. For the purpose of the stimulus payments, qualifying income consists of earned income such as wages and net self-employment income as well as Social Security or certain Railroad Retirement benefits and veterans’ disability compensation, pension, or survivors’ benefits received from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007. However, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) does not count as qualifying income for the stimulus payment. Low-income workers who have earned income above $3,000 but do not have a regular filing requirement must file a 2007 tax return to receive the minimum stimulus payment. Similarly, Social Security recipients, certain railroad retirees, and those who receive the veterans’ benefits mentioned above must file a 2007 return in order to notify the IRS of their qualifying income. The IRS emphasizes that people with no filing requirement who turn in a tax return to qualify for the economic stimulus payment will not get a tax bill. People in this category will not owe money because of the stimulus payment.

Additional Payments for Parents and Others with Qualifying Children: Parents and anyone else eligible for a stimulus payment will also receive an additional $300 for each qualifying child. To qualify, a child must be eligible under the Child Tax Credit and have a valid Social Security Number.

Limitation: To be eligible for a stimulus payment, taxpayers must have valid Social Security Numbers. Anyone who does not have a valid Social Security Number, including those who file using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN), or any other identification number issued by the IRS, is not eligible for this payment. Both individuals listed on a married filing jointly return must have valid Social Security Numbers to qualify for a stimulus payment. Eligibility for the stimulus payment is subject to maximum income limits. The payment, including the basic amount and the amount for qualifying children, will be reduced by 5 percent of the amount of income in excess of $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for those with a Married Filing Jointly filing status. Individuals who pay no tax and who have less than $3,000 of qualifying income will not be eligible for the stimulus payment.
Most taxpayers will receive two notices from the IRS. The first general notice from the IRS will explain the stimulus payment program. The second notice will confirm the recipients’ eligibility, the payment amount, and the approximate timetable for the payment. Taxpayers will need to save this notice to assist them when they prepare their 2008 tax return next year. Anyone who moves after filing the 2007 tax return should notify the IRS by filing Form 8822, Change of Address, and also notify the post office.

The IRS emphasizes that stimulus payments will not count toward or negatively affect any other income-based government benefits, such as Social Security benefits, food stamps, and other programs. For more information go to <http://www.irs.gov/irs/article/0,,id=177937,00.html>.

AbilityOne Honors Ollie Cantos:
Ollie CantosThe JWOD program is now the AbilityOne program. Its chair is Andy Houghton, and James Omvig is its vice chair. (This is the first time ever that two disabled people have led the committee.)

When Olegario (Ollie) Cantos was working for the Domestic Policy Council, one of his duties was to write the annual progress report on the President's Freedom Initiative for the Disabled. For the first time in the history of that report, Ollie included information about employment under the AbilityOne program. As a result the President's Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled brought Ollie to Chicago for its November 2007 meeting (held in conjunction with the annual training conference of National Industries for the Blind) to recognize him for his support of the program.

As chair, Andy Houghton made the following presentation: “The Committee wants to recognize a special effort made on behalf of the AbilityOne program. Ollie [pronounced “Ohlie"] Cantos, would you please join me? Mr. Cantos currently serves as special counsel to the assistant attorney general, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice. He recently returned to this position after serving as the White House domestic policy council associate director on disability. While serving in his position at the White House, Mr. Cantos made a special effort to reach out to the AbilityOne program, and he ensured that the accomplishments of AbilityOne participating agency employees were recognized in the president's 2007 New Freedom Initiative Progress Report. Until Mr. Cantos took the initiative to recognize the achievements of programs administered by smaller federal agencies like the Committee for Purchase, the significant impact of the AbilityOne program had not been highlighted for the widespread audience that reads this report. As someone who has been both a consumer of services for people who are blind and now a respected leader in the Bush administration who works unceasingly on a variety of issues on behalf of all Americans with disabilities, Mr. Cantos has shown by his actions that he is committed to work with us as we build new horizons for AbilityOne in the twenty-first century.

“Mr. Cantos, the Committee is pleased to recognize you for your much appreciated support by presenting you with one of our numbered, special edition gold coins. Thank you.”

Appointed:
Monthian Buntan, president of the Thailand Association of the Blind and at one time a member of the NFB of Minnesota, was recently appointed as a senator in Thailand. Seventy-five members of the country’s senate are appointed by a selection committee in order to ensure diversity. Mr. Buntan was selected as a representative of the disability community. Congratulations to Monthian Buntan and to the nation of Thailand.

A Brief Report:
When as a student Sabriye Tenberken set out to learn the Tibetan language, she had to invent a Braille alphabet. She went on to establish the first school for blind children in Tibet. She called it Braille without Borders. Today it is described on the organization’s Website as “a small international development organization which aims to create training programs and Braille book printing houses for blind and visually impaired people.” The organization’s name reflects the international character and scope of its work and, more important, symbolizes its philosophical view that no arbitrary limits need restrict the lives and opportunities of blind people. With the goal of enhancing the literacy of the blind community internationally, the Braille without Borders school in Tibet administers a variety of programs throughout Asia to benefit blind people.

The Braille Monitor has periodically reported on the work of Braille without Borders since November 2003. Now its most recent annual report is available online.

Here are some highlights from the 2007 annual report:

• The Braille without Borders operating agreement with all appropriate authorities was extended in September 2007 for another five years, guaranteeing that it will be able to continue its work into the immediate future.
• Gyendsen, a Braille without Borders first-generation student, is profiled as one of eight recipients of the Ikeda ICT 2007 scholarship, allowing him to travel to Malaysia and Japan for computer and other academic studies.
• Braille without Borders has established a partnership with the Chinese Disabled Persons’ Federation. Five students and a teacher from the school have visited Beijing for a five-month medical massage course.
• The Braille without Borders instructional staff has established an innovative story-writing competition.
• German instruction for some students has been added to this year’s curriculum.
• Advocacy efforts to get several Braille without Borders blind students admitted to the government-sponsored middle school have been successful.
• The vocational training programs associated with the school’s farm have been updated. Information on the newly constructed bio-bakery as a work training facility for students is featured.
• Finally, the organization has established the International Institute for Social Entrepreneurs, a creative and wide-ranging program for blind people ages eighteen and above, described in some detail.
For further information on these and other Braille without Borders Initiatives, visit the Website at <www.braillewithoutborders.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:

Pac Mate BX420. Comes with twenty-cell detachable Braille display, clock, stopwatch, calendar, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, and Pocket Internet Explorer. You can use a compact flash card and an Internet wireless card. Comes with carrying case, all cables, manuals on CD-ROM, and a quick-start guide in Braille. Has a good help system. Asking $2,500. Call Annamarie (870) 365-8477.



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.

(back) (contents)