_______________________________________________________________________________

Braille Monitor

Vol. 51, No. 5                                                     May 2008

Barbara Pierce, editor

Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by

The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president

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

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

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

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

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

        ISSN 0006-8829

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Contents


Vol. 51, No. 5                                                       May 2008

 

Dallas Site of 2008 NFB Convention

Lead Photos  

Report from the Trenches 
by Barbara Pierce

Living a Miracle Every Day        
by Barbara Pierce and Daniel B. Frye

More Than You Might Have Imagined
A Survey of Secondary LCB Programs    
by Daniel B. Frye and Barbara Pierce

Professionalizing Federation Practices
A Review of University Programs Complementing the LCB    
by Daniel B. Frye and Barbara Pierce

A Quick Introduction to the Hilton Anatole Hotel   
by Mary Ellen Jernigan

The KnfbReader Mobile: An Individual Perspective    
by Michael D. Barber

Structured Discovery Learning Goes to Turkey    
by Robert Leslie Newman

Skills of Blind People Can Prove Lifesaving     
by Ken Silberman

Spotlight on Affiliate Action     

His Vision Is for Others
Loss of Sight Fired up Anil Lewis's Drive to Serve    
by Jennifer Sutcliffe

Employer Bias Thwarts Many Blind Workers   
by David Crary

CCB Students Go to the Prom    
by Lorinda Riddle

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.

 

 

Ruston, Louisiana, is filled with southern charm. Its streets are graced by wrought iron lampposts supporting five globes in a style reminiscent of old New Orleans. Its homes and public buildings are historic, many with gabled roofs, wraparound porches, columns, and white picket fences.

 

Report from the Trenches

by Barbara Pierce


In October of 1985 the first of the adult training centers operated by National Federation of the Blind affiliates opened for business in Ruston, Louisiana. During the next three years two more would open, one in Denver, Colorado, and the other in Minneapolis, Minnesota. During these past twenty-three years we have heard repeatedly from the center directors and many students and graduates of these programs at national and state conventions. Often their remarks have made their way into the pages of the Braille Monitor. Newspapers have reported on the centers’ extraordinary accomplishments, and we have frequently reprinted those articles. But we have never set out to report firsthand on these centers’ programs based on Monitor staff members’ spending time actually observing their operations.
This is about to change. During the coming year Dan Frye of the national staff; Sylvia Cooley, a photographer; and I are going to report on the three NFB center programs after spending several days at each one. We begin with a report in this issue on the Louisiana Center for the Blind.

We plan to report as accurately as we can on what we observe. We will not make comparisons that suggest we think one program is superior to another. We may find it useful to point out differences between programs, but we will leave it to readers to determine which program would best meet their needs and interests. Of course we will find differences among them; it would be silly and pointless to suggest that the three centers are identical. Their differences lend character and distinctiveness to each program.

We will not even try to use the same organizing principles for our three reports. We trust that the photos will help those who can appreciate them and will provide insight into the personality of the individual programs. Our hope is that, when we have completed this project, anyone considering NFB center training will be able to read the articles carefully and make a more informed decision about which one would best meet his or her needs and interests.

In this issue we are reporting on our trip to the Louisiana Center for the Blind. We intended to arrive early in the evening of March 4, but because of thunderstorms in Atlanta, we did not arrive in Ruston until 2:30 in the morning of Wednesday, March 5. We said good-bye to the center staff and students on Friday afternoon, March 7. We hope that you enjoy reading about our visit as much as we enjoyed making it.

 

Living a Miracle Every Day


by Barbara Pierce and Daniel B. Frye

Our travel plans for our visit to the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) were fine in theory: do a half day’s work in our offices in Oberlin and Baltimore, leave for the airport in the early afternoon, meet in Atlanta by six, and arrive in Monroe, Louisiana, at 7:30 that evening in time to pick up our rental car and drive to Ruston for a good night’s sleep before walking to the center with the students Wednesday morning. The problems began in Atlanta, which is the transfer point for Monroe from most cities in the United States, including Cleveland and Baltimore. Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport closed for about a half hour that afternoon, but the back-ups that delay caused took the rest of the day to untangle. Both our flights were hours late, so we were relieved to learn when we landed that the flight to Monroe had been postponed almost two hours as well. We rendezvoused in the gate area of the Monroe flight, Barbara and Sylvia from Ohio and Dan from Maryland.

As the hours crept by, Sylvia, Barbara’s secretary and for this project both photographer and driver, decided to check on the rental car she had ordered for pick-up in Monroe. She was told quite casually that because of the storm they had no more cars at the airport; we were out of luck. So Dan swung into action, and within five minutes he had rented a car from Avis and had a promise from the staff person in Monroe that he would wait till our flight arrived, even though it was due to land a little while after the desk was scheduled to close. In the end we did not take off till after midnight Eastern time and did not land in Monroe until nearly one a.m. Central. As we waited to deplane, we speculated about whether or not Avis would still be open, and, if it was closed, how we would get to Ruston. We decided on a taxi, no matter the price rather than disturbing any of the Louisiana Center folks.

At that point the woman standing in the aisle in front of us turned around and said that she was going to the far side of Ruston. She asked if we were going to LCB and offered all three of us and our luggage a ride. She explained that she has volunteered as a reader at the center and that everyone in Ruston loves the LCB folks. This exchange made it clear, if we had had any doubt, that we had arrived in a small southern town.

We were glad to receive this spontaneous testimonial to the standing of the LCB in the community, and we were deeply grateful for the offer of a ride. We explained that we felt obligated to use the rental car if the Avis man had stayed open for us. She agreed to wait to be sure that we had been taken care of. After a bit of a struggle, we got our car and bid farewell to our very own Good Samaritan. Ruston is located about forty minutes from Monroe, so it was almost 2:30 in the morning before we picked up the key to the apartment designated for our use from Janette Woodard, the apartment manager, who had been waiting patiently for us for many hours. We walked into a warm, beautifully appointed four-bedroom apartment with a fully equipped kitchen. Sylvia and Barbara claimed the upstairs bedrooms and baths while Dan moved into one of the downstairs bedrooms. We agreed that, having driven from Monroe in the middle of the night, Syl should sleep in a bit and bring the car to the center midmorning, but Dan and Barbara, who are well used to going without sleep and even meals when Federation work is to be done, got up in time to have breakfast from the provisions specially laid in for their use and then join the students at 7:45 for the walk to the center. Janette assured us that we were welcome to get a ride from Jerry Darnell (JD), who stops at the apartments each morning to pick up brand new students or those with medical reasons for riding. But we were there to observe the LCB experience, so we slipped out the door and crossed the street, hoping that we would find some students to show us the way to the center. We need not have worried. Several had gathered, and Aisha, who is fairly close to graduating from the program, took the lead on the way to the center, describing what we were passing and how to tell which streets we were crossing.

The day at LCB begins for everyone with a brief gathering at 8:00 in the second-floor library. Miss Neita (Ghrigsby), the office manager, calls roll, and center director Pam Allen makes announcements. She then rings the indoor freedom bell if there are any landmark accomplishments to be celebrated. For example, while we were there the bell was rung for one student who was leaving after some weeks of intensive training and for two students who had ordered airline tickets online for the first time. Other staff members and students can also make announcements. Then, after listening to the word of the day with definition, the fact of the day, and the thought for the day, everyone scatters to his or her assigned work.

The day is divided into four two-hour blocks and a one-hour lunch period: 8:10-10:00, 10:10-noon, lunch till one, 1:00-3:00, and 3:00-5:00. Each student has an individual schedule and is responsible for being at each class at the correct time. Students who are tempted to skip classes or tend to be tardy find their small monthly stipends docked. This rule adds a real-world inducement to developing habits of punctuality and organization. The system seems to work well. Braille and computers/keyboarding share one two-hour block of time; travel, shop and home maintenance, and home ec and daily living skills each get two hours a day. Twice a week everyone gathers for seminar—a time when the group wrestles with the basic, sometimes painful issues of blindness. Remedial coursework, college preparation, and job readiness classes are worked in as appropriate. Students often complete their shop and home ec projects early, which allows them to devote that time to the classes requiring extra effort. We were impressed at how dedicated students were to getting where they needed to be on time and settling right down to work. We never observed students standing around or wasting time.

The first order of business for us was a tour of the entire facility. Our guide was a student who had been at the center since January. She was quite knowledgeable, but every instructor was also happy to answer questions, and students seemed pleased to demonstrate what they were doing. It is obvious that lots of visitors tour the center. The best way to communicate what we found at the Louisiana Center for the Blind is to describe the various classes we observed. The resulting report may seem excessively anecdotal, but our clear impression is that what we observed during these three days was reflective of the ongoing activity at the LCB week in and week out.

Braille Class: Jerry Whittle, the Braille teacher, sits at a long table in a fairly small room on the second floor. An Arkansas black whetstone and lots of Braille documents litter the table in front of him. Students use the whetstone to sharpen styluses. Stacked and shelved around the room are volumes and volumes of Braille that the center has acquired over the years. Jerry, like all the instructors, is a sort of juggler. His students come and go. They drop in with questions and problems. At any given moment he may be timing the reading speed of a student or two, assigning a couple of people the task of writing out a list of things that make them mad or musicians they admire or foods they do not care for—anything that provides a topic to write about. The object is to give them practice writing with a slate and stylus. He might also be dictating one-line sentences from memory to a student to determine how rapidly he or she takes dictation with a slate.

Through it all Jerry remains calm and organized. Sometimes students read aloud; other times they are asked to read silently. We did not actually observe him teaching the Braille code to anyone, but as he came across interesting signs, he pointed out unusual configurations and illustrations of rare rules. He was matter-of-fact and accurate in pointing out errors made, but encouraging as he sent people back to work. Once a week Jerry conducts a college preparation class for those getting ready to enroll in courses at Louisiana Tech University. He may use the time to discuss study techniques or to deliver an impromptu lecture on something like the literary masterpieces of William Faulkner, expecting the students to take detailed notes with slate and stylus, of course. Students who raise their Braille reading speed to over 300 words a minute or who meet some other impressive personal Braille-connected goal receive a whittle stick, a wonderful walking stick that Jerry has smoothed and whittled into a unique token of his esteem. His wife Merilynn, who is something of an expert in gems and stones, sets a decorative stone in the top of each one.

Industrial Arts and Home Maintenance: The wood-working shop now occupies space in a building across a quiet side street beside the main building. This is Jerry Darnell’s kingdom. Working with JD is James Mays, who graduated himself from the center several years ago. Before his blindness James held a job that required him to measure metal parts with extreme accuracy and build his own machines. Now he teaches LCB students to measure wood and operate the shop equipment safely, and together they design student projects.

JD and James do all the teaching in the shop rather than depending on more advanced students to show new ones the ropes. The curriculum requires that each student complete two important projects: creating grid blocks and making a number of Braille blocks. They keep working on these projects until they have mastered the accurate measuring (within a thirty-second of an inch) and operation of the router, sander, saws of various types, and other wood-working equipment that the students’ final projects will require.

Central to accurate measuring for LCB students is the click rule, a clever gadget about a foot long. Extensions to the rule allow one to measure larger distances, but half of the basic foot-long rule is divided into sixteenth-inch lengths with a mechanism that makes an audible and tactile click at each division and stops unless intentionally pushed further. With practice a blind person can measure distances to a thirty-second of an inch accuracy.

In addition to observing students working on grid blocks and Braille blocks, we examined and admired a number of final student projects. One was a two-inch-thick red oak front door, made to grace a home in New Orleans which was destroyed by Katrina, before its three-hundred-pound bulk could be hung. Now it awaits hanging at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. Another magnificent project presented to the center is a seven-foot grandfather clock that stands in the entryway of the center’s main building. Most students take their mantle clocks, jewelry chests, tables, shoe organizers, or other projects home with them as a permanent remembrance of what they have accomplished.

Attached to the woodshop is a small area where students master home-maintenance skills like repairing toilets, opening a sink trap to retrieve objects that went down the drain, dealing with a breaker box, and other such useful skills. Barbara asked JD if he teaches students to change a washer in a water tap. His response was typical of the attitude of the staff: “Not usually. Students can often problem-solve their way through such tasks by the time we are finished with them, but, if a student wants to learn how to do a specific task, I will be glad to teach the skill.”

Home Ec and Home Management: On the center’s second floor are two kitchens across the hall from each other. One has a dining room behind it. This area is where some of the most spectacularly enjoyable and down-to-earth of the center’s activities take place. One morning while we were there, in Merilynn Whittle’s kitchen one student was learning to make pancakes under Kelly Womack’s supervision. He had a bit of trouble at the beginning flipping the pancakes in the pan halfway through the cooking process, but he had no trouble at all sitting down to enjoy the fruits of his labors. Another student was assembling a carrot cake using a recipe recorded on cassette tape. A third student was doing the final preparation of his meal for eight, which he served in the dining room at noon. He had made the dessert (grasshopper pie) the day before. This morning he was making cheese and garlic biscuits, chicken cordon bleu, corn on the cob, and tossed salad.

Across the hall in Jeff Pearcy’s kitchen a student was mastering the intricacies of bread baking, and another was preparing to make ice cream in a portable ice cream freezer.

The first day of our visit we were lucky enough to be invited to Pete’s meal for forty. This is every student’s final cooking project, and Pete was justifiably proud of the results. He served two variations of Hungarian goulash along with a big tossed salad, jalapeno cornbread, and brownies for dessert. These large buffet lunches serve as training for more than the cook. Many blind people have never been expected to serve themselves from a buffet table. So a staff member, in this case Kelly, stationed herself on the back side of the buffet line. She was there to identify items and provide advice about pouring salad dressing, juggling a salad bowl and a paper plate, and transferring a serving of anything from the pot to a plate.

Her advice was so appropriate and was delivered so calmly and quietly that the students obviously found it easy to take and benefit from. Sometimes students try making excuses to avoid the dreaded buffet line: I don’t care for that dish; I’m not hungry. The staff never forces students to eat a meal if they don’t wish to, but, if they themselves don’t choose to eat they must go through the line and gather a meal for one of the staff members who is busy doing something else. By the time we got to the buffet table, it was clear that several spilling accidents had occurred, but no one was perturbed. Barbara asked who had the job of washing the floor. The answer was immediate. Students who needed practice washing dishes might be assigned to help with the cleanup of the mountain of dishes required to prepare a delicious meal like this one, but washing the floor would be Pete’s job.

Cooking is hardly the only activity that goes on in the kitchens. One afternoon Jeff worked with several male students on tying neckties. Another day Merilynn Whittle was directing a student who was learning to put a belt back on a vacuum cleaner. At the same time she was supervising a student who was practicing handwriting since everyone should be able to form all the print letters and write his or her signature. Several students were working hard with computer programs drilling them in math facts. Pam Allen laughed wryly as she explained that many rehabilitation professionals dismiss the results of the NFB adult training centers. Their explanation is that our centers take only the cream of the rehabilitation crop—those students who would do well no matter how demanding or undemanding the training center was and get on with their lives after returning home. We observed some obviously bright LCB students who were clearly already successful, but we met and talked with many others who are dealing with multiple disabilities and deficits. The realities they were coping with were not about to slow them down. All the students held high expectations for themselves and for each other. They were clearly prepared to support and cheer each other. They were helpful and constructive with one another but resisted the temptation to provide inappropriate assistance or information. Everyone with whom we spoke understood that high expectations for themselves and everyone else are the order of every day at an NFB training center.

Computer training/keyboarding: Directly beneath the kitchens—not an ideal location when plumbing problems occur—are the computer labs. Josh Boudreaux and Jewel Ardoin preside over activity in these rooms. With their calm advice and suggestions students practice keyboarding skills and search for information on the Internet, order products, do research, exchange email, create PowerPoint presentations, and master the finer points of word processing. Just sitting there listening provided us with some tips on formatting documents. The staff had already acquired a knfbReader Mobile, which they were learning to use.

This brings us to cane travel, perhaps the most spectacular element of NFB center training. Students get two hours a day of structured-discovery travel training. Frequently, (but only after the instructor is sure the student is ready) students receive instructions to go out on travel routes by themselves. The three travel instructors are currently Arlene Hill, Roland Allen, and Darick Williamson, who also teaches at Louisiana Tech. They are very careful to give a full description of the route and to have the student repeat the directions and answer questions about it to demonstrate their mastery of the assignment. However, often the instructor goes out with the student. On our first day Arleen was getting ready to walk back to the student apartments with a new student. She was preparing him for the day soon when he will make the trip in the morning on his own. The day we left, seven or eight students and some of the travel instructors were headed for Monroe in a freak snow storm to work on bus travel—Ruston does not have any city buses.

Late Wednesday afternoon we trailed Adam on a two-mile travel route with Roland Allen. It was anything but a stroll in the park. We of course had no idea where we were going, so we couldn’t have cheated by helping Adam even if we had wanted to. Roland left to run an errand for us during part of this route. Adam went too far before making a turn. When Roland found us, he asked several pointed questions, and when Adam had formulated a theory about where he might have gone wrong, he led us back the way we had come to check out his theory and get back on track. When we returned to Roland’s office, teacher and student sat down together to have Adam analyze what had gone well and where he had let his insecurities lead him into errors. Throughout this exercise Roland was quiet, positive, and affirming. Adam must have left the center that afternoon feeling good about his performance and about what he had taught Barbara and Dan about demanding travel training.

We have already mentioned that students show remarkable initiative in doing their work. One student took justifiable pride in telling us the story of a morning when he forgot something he needed during the first class. He had reached the center before he remembered what he had done. He immediately turned around and raced back to his apartment, grabbed the item, and trotted back the half mile to the center. He had missed the announcements, but he was on time for class. In our three-day visit we never heard an excuse. Instructors are friendly and accessible, but they don’t waste time, and they structure their classes so that students don’t have to waste their time waiting for attention.

Ruston is a town of somewhat over twenty-one thousand with an additional ten- to eleven-thousand students at Louisiana Tech University. The townspeople are friendly and might be tempted to undermine the center’s efforts to teach its travel students to be independent and to figure out the best course of action when they are uncertain what to do, except that, throughout LCB’s twenty-three years of existence, the staff has worked steadily to be a good corporate citizen and to educate the community about what and how the students are learning. The result is that LCB students are welcome as customers in community businesses. Moreover, residents watch with interest and pride as they see students hone their skills through the months of their programs. They have been known to comment to staff members on what they have observed, and one suspects that they now educate each other about when to intervene—when a student might be in real danger—and when to stand back and let students gather the necessary data to resolve their problems.

There are clearly disadvantages in having the center located in small-town America: no buses or rapid transit easily at hand, an absence of truly complex traffic patterns, no mobs of shoppers or sports fans to negotiate. Yet the LCB staff has found ways to introduce such challenges to the students. Besides many benefits accrue from living and working in a quaint and lovely community comprised of friendly people. In a small town thirty students constitute something of a market force. Cashiers automatically count out change by identifying the bills. Most things are in walking distance. Students really can become part of community life.

To spend a few days in Ruston and at the Louisiana Center for the Blind is to want to return, perhaps in another season to appreciate the community in another mood. While we were there, the baskets hanging from lampposts were filled with blooming pansies. When the temperature rises in a few weeks, what flowers will replace them? Later this spring Ruston will conduct a peach festival. Navigating the booths, displays, and hoards of visitors will provide new challenges for the students. The Louisiana Center has made a place for itself in Ruston. Students and staff have mastered the art of southern hospitality. On the day we said good-bye, students and staff members repeatedly stopped us to invite us to return and to assure us how much they had enjoyed the seminar we had conducted the preceding afternoon. As we tried to find the words to thank Pam Allen for the hospitality we had received, she responded by saying that she was only grateful that we had had an opportunity to glimpse the miracle that they watch unfold every day. We understood exactly what she was talking about.

 

More Than You Might Have Imagined
A Survey of Secondary LCB Programs


by Daniel B. Frye and Barbara Pierce

If the comprehensive adult rehabilitation program and the activities of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University were the only initiatives that the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) administered, most people would agree that they constituted a full array of service delivery options for any single agency to manage. These, however, do not represent the LCB’s sole offerings. In addition to its core services, the LCB runs several seasonal, periodic, and ad hoc specialty programs for infants and toddlers, youth, those seeking employment, and seniors.

Recognizing that healthy and fundamentally sound attitudes about blindness are best formed early—well in advance of the inevitable influences of negative public opinion and low expectations about limited vision—the LCB established its Early Steps Infant and Toddlers Program. Staffed by consultants who espouse the progressive philosophy about blindness promoted at the LCB and who possess expert knowledge about early childhood development and pediatric orientation and mobility (O&M), this cadre of outreach specialists helps parents cope with their children’s vision impairments and helps them learn that blindness does not have to limit opportunities. Through basic education about blindness, early O&M instruction, and facilitated interaction with parents of other blind children and blind adults at state and national seminars and meetings, the LCB Early Steps consultants work to remove the initial mystery, misconception, and misery that parents often feel when they first learn that their child is blind. They are also available to make presentations on blindness to organizations and government entities throughout Louisiana.

The LCB consultants--Sandy Dunnam, vision consultant, and Roxann Buller, O&M instructor in the school systems of several Louisiana parishes--have capitalized on their significant professional experience and cultivated positive working relationships with the state’s public schools over the years. Their early intervention in the lives of families with blind children—from the rural depths of Louisiana to the urban inner cities of New Orleans and other metropolitan areas—allow Louisiana’s blind children to begin school and growing up generally as well-adjusted blind people.

Eric Guillory, a young blind leader in Louisiana whose résumé includes a professional background in Braille literacy, adaptive technology, and special education advocacy stemming from his recent successful work as a high-profile statewide consultant with the Louisiana School for the Blind, now directs youth programs for the LCB. These include free consulting services on Braille, adaptive technology, and special education law to public schools throughout Louisiana; advocacy support to parents of blind children; and the Buddy Program and the Summer Training and Employment Project (STEP) summer program for blind youth.

Capitalizing on his network of public school contacts throughout the state, Guillory introduced the full scope of the LCB school consulting program in the following letter:

As some of you know, I became employed as director of Youth Services with the Louisiana Center for the Blind in May 2007. I am happy to report that in this capacity I stand ready to assist your agency or school district with a variety of issues and challenges including instruction in the implementation and utilization of assistive technology, Braille literacy concerns, activities of daily living, transition planning, and in-servicing or training in other skills of blindness areas. We offer training both on-site (in your locale) and on the LCB campus in Ruston.

The Louisiana Center for the Blind’s Youth Services Department is committed to providing outreach, training, and advocacy assistance for students, their families, and the professionals who serve them. Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or wish me to provide training or technical assistance to your school or agency. I look forward to working collaboratively with you to ensure that a high degree of quality services is made available to Louisiana’s blind students and their families.

Since 1989 the LCB’s Buddy Program has combined hard work and challenging recreational activities to provide blind students in grades four through eight a rewarding four-week summer experience that participants long cherish. In addition to learning the alternative techniques of blindness, students enjoy activities like waterskiing, camping, bowling, roller-skating, and horseback riding.

Because of a lack of positive role models and society’s negative stereotypes about blindness, many blind children have misconceptions about themselves. Unlike other summer programs for blind children, the Buddy Program is directed and staffed by competent blind adults. Cane travel classes instill independence and self-confidence. Mastering Braille enables the blind child to compete equally with sighted peers in the classroom and provides a solid background in spelling and other grammatical skills. Computer literacy classes expose a blind child to available adaptive equipment. Classes in daily living skills promote equal participation by summer participants in age-appropriate household duties such as cooking, shopping, and cleaning. In short, involvement in the Buddy Program helps blind children realize that not blindness but the negative attitudes and misconceptions about blindness can prevent their reaching their potential.

Since 1990 the STEP program has introduced blind teenagers to positive blind role models and provided participants with summer work experience. Students learn alternative techniques in blindness and then work fifteen to twenty hours a week at a local business earning minimum wage. This eight-week summer program is open to high school students seeking to build their blindness skills and enhance their résumés through work. In addition to taking classes in Braille, adaptive technology, cane travel, and independent living skills, program participants attend seminars on job-readiness, interviewing skills, and résumé writing. STEP participants also get to attend the annual NFB national convention, exposing them to a week-long conference where adult blind role models grapple with contemporary issues of blindness. The combination of work experience, intensive instruction in blindness skills, and fun-filled activities such as swimming and adventuresome field trips fosters self-confidence and increased independence in these blind teenagers.

LCB’s Career Center reflects the center’s commitment to helping graduates of its comprehensive adult training course identify and find personally rewarding employment consistent with their skills and abilities. The Career Services staff believe that blind people should not be relegated to jobs generally thought to be especially well suited for blind people.

In order to achieve this goal, the Career Center program enables graduates of the six-to-nine month comprehensive adult rehabilitation program to return to the LCB for concentrated instruction in one or more classes in which additional training will enable them to retain or secure a particular job. For example, graduates of the LCB rehabilitation program from the late eighties and early nineties have recently returned to get updated adaptive technology instruction since Windows-based programs did not exist during their original training. In addition to a customized blindness skills program, participants in the Career Center program may also receive career counseling, including one-on-one instruction in résumé writing, job interviewing, and principles of general job-readiness. While not regularly used or needed by center alumni, the LCB Career Center program does provide for flexible training solutions to support the long-term interests of those who do require additional training to find or keep a job.

The Techniques for Living Confidently (TLC) seniors program at the LCB is an initiative especially targeting legally blind people age fifty-five and above. Aware that age-related blindness affects the lives of a growing number of seniors, the LCB has created a program to help newly blind seniors fully participate in the social and spiritual lives of their communities by teaching them the alternative techniques of blindness that allow them to resume normal life. Wendy Ortego, TLC coordinator, along with several other TLC consultants and LCB faculty as needed, host concentrated week-long senior retreats three or four times a year, in which participating seniors are taught to cope with vision loss, master basic skills of independent living, and learn introductory techniques of cane travel. Recently spouses, adult children, or close friends have been invited to attend these retreats with the blind senior to observe what is being taught and to learn how to be supportive and constructive once they return home. TLC participants also undergo a low-vision assessment to determine what other simple techniques or technologies might help them live comfortably and adjust to their blindness. The NFB philosophy shared during these busy training sessions powerfully resonates with the participating seniors, enabling them to return to their homes and communities full of optimism and prepared to live confidently and more independently.

The programs described here appeal to one degree or another to blind people at every stage in life. The common element that they share is the simple but profound philosophy about blindness that characterizes and animates every undertaking at the LCB. From children to adults to seniors, the can-do message of the LCB—as articulated through the fifty-eight-year history of the NFB—shines through. For further information about any LCB program, visit its Website at <www.lcb-ruston.com> or call (800) 234-4166.

 

Professionalizing Federation Practices
A Review of University Programs Complementing the LCB


by Daniel B. Frye and Barbara Pierce

In 1997 Joanne Wilson, former executive director of the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB), entered into a new and ambitious partnership with Louisiana Tech University to establish a master’s-level program for training orientation and mobility (O&M) instructors. Different from conventional university programs, this degree was established and designed to train O&M instructors using consumer-developed theories of structured discovery and immersion in nonvisual techniques. The presence of one of America’s finest orientation and adjustment centers for blind adults and a receptive university in the same small town, Ruston, Louisiana, has proven a fortunate coincidence, one which has benefited hundreds of blind people across the country for the last eleven years.

During our March visit to Ruston, Dr. Edward Bell, director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness (PDRIB, also known as the Institute on Blindness) at Louisiana Tech, described the three primary motivations for originally creating a university program dedicated to consumer-developed methodologies. He explained that the Federation has always known how to teach travel effectively, but our effort to persuade the staff of existing university programs to incorporate our practices was unsuccessful. Moreover, conventional O&M professionals tended to trivialize the NFB approach to teaching travel. Finally, the growing trend of education and rehabilitation providers to require master’s-level credentials for employment made it necessary that such a pioneering program be started in order to guarantee that O&M professionals espousing a consumer-oriented philosophy could work in the field competitively.

So, motivated by a compelling need and financed by funds from several establishment grants, the first O&M master’s students commenced their studies at Louisiana Tech University in 1997. The collaborative relationship between the LCB and the Louisiana Tech O&M program in particular is clearly enriching for both entities. From the program’s inception, Louisiana Tech students have received academic instruction at the university while getting practical travel instruction and hands-on acquisition of blindness skills at the LCB. Students earning their master of arts in educational psychology with a concentration in orientation and mobility at Louisiana Tech are required to undergo four-hundred hours of immersion blindness training as a prerequisite to beginning their academic coursework. This instruction is usually delivered at the LCB; in fact many master’s students actually complete the comprehensive six-to-nine-month adult program at LCB before beginning their academic studies. The Louisiana Tech program, in turn, supplements the teaching cadre and other cutting-edge resources from which students at the LCB regularly benefit.

In 2001 the blindness-specific program at Louisiana Tech was expanded with the inauguration of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness that continues to offer an innovative graduate O&M curriculum but also broadens its focus to include a course of study for teachers of blind students and conducts meaningful research in the blindness arena. Today the PDRIB is a collaborative effort between Louisiana Tech and the LCB to fulfill two primary missions: preparing professionals to work in rehabilitation and education (equipped with innovative knowledge about blindness) and conducting research that clarifies and deepens understanding about blindness and the best practices for promoting education, employment, and independence for blind people. In carrying out these missions, the Institute on Blindness engages in three primary activities: administration of graduate programs, continuing education and service to the university and community, and research and publication of scholarly works on blindness rehabilitation and education.

Five people staff the PDRIB. Dr. Edward Bell directs the Institute on Blindness and is primarily responsible for teaching the O&M master’s students. Darick Williamson is an O&M instructor with primary responsibility for hands-on travel instruction to the master’s-level cane travel students. Dr. Ruby Ryles is the principal professor for students enrolled in the two master’s programs for teaching blind students. Amber Holladay, technical research assistant, and Regina Eddy, administrative assistant, round out the PDRIB team. The Institute on Blindness operates on an annual budget of approximately five hundred thousand dollars.

The Institute administers three graduate degree programs: a master of arts in educational psychology with a concentration in orientation and mobility, a master of arts in teaching with a certification in teaching blind students, and a master of science in curriculum and instruction with a cognate in teaching blind students. These programs prepare professionals to educate and rehabilitate blind children and adults. Since the Institute on Blindness was established, forty-seven students have enrolled in its degree programs. Thirty-eight have successfully graduated, a success rate of 80 percent.

Of the thirty-eight successful graduates from the O&M and teacher training programs, thirty have finished with a graduate degree in teaching orientation and mobility. Twenty-eight of these have received National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) through the National Blindness Professional Certification Board. Today all but one of these certified instructors is employed in the O&M field. Two of them have obtained doctoral degrees, and two others are currently enrolled in post-graduate studies. To date eight students have graduated from the teacher of blind students graduate degree programs. These four-year-old education programs have recently undergone a significant redesign to meet higher standards adopted in Louisiana and to promote further nationwide certification and acceptance of these credentials.

The master of arts in educational psychology with a concentration in orientation and mobility is a forty-five credit-hour degree program. During our visit to Ruston we sat in on the first class of the quarter, in which students were beginning a course in advanced O&M. While the class was intimate and informal, the syllabus (provided in Braille to those who wanted it) suggested that the students faced a rigorous and concentrated ten-week quarter filled with hands-on teaching opportunities, lectures, seminar discussions, writing assignments, speaking engagements, and academic research.

The two masters’ programs for teachers of blind students offered through the PDRIB are designed to accommodate the wide range of experience that candidates for these programs bring with them. The master of science in curriculum and instruction requires that candidates have an undergraduate degree in education. The master of arts in teaching degree is an initial certification track that welcomes students with diverse undergraduate backgrounds. Both are forty-eight credit-hour degree programs with an intense focus on Braille reading and Braille literacy. Each degree requires that successful graduates fluently read Braille at a minimum rate of seventy words per minute. Both degrees offer nationwide certification in teaching blind students.

The PDRIB has just entered into a statewide consortium to deliver educational opportunities in the areas of low-incidence disabilities. Specifically the University of New Orleans, the Human Development Center at LSU, and the PDRIB at Louisiana Tech University are forming a partnership to deliver certification to teachers in the areas of visual impairments, deaf education, significant disabilities, and autism.
Under contract with the Louisiana Department of Education, the consortium will deliver high-quality professional development to teacher candidates across the state and region. Through this three million dollar venture, the PDRIB is poised to become the leader in the delivery of professional development and training to teachers of the blind across the state and region.

In continuing education and community service, PDRIB leaders are preparing to unveil a new paraprofessional certificate in cane travel for interested paraprofessionals, advocates, and parents of blind children. This certificate curriculum, to be offered through the good offices of Louisiana Tech University’s continuing education program, will equip participants with enough knowledge about cane travel that they can informally teach some O&M skills to their students or children and gain enhanced credibility because of their familiarity with orientation and mobility in the Individual Education Program (IEP) process. The short certificate program will consist of four modules: lectures on cane travel basics, twenty-five hours of cane travel instruction using nonvisual techniques, a fifteen-hour observation apprenticeship under the direct supervision of an NOMC-endorsed travel instructor, and a fifteen-hour instructional internship under the direct supervision of an NOMC-endorsed travel teacher. This initiative, coupled with educational conferences and seminars at which Institute on Blindness staff participate and present, represents just a sample of the community education efforts undertaken by PDRIB staff.

The Critical Concerns in Blindness book series is probably the best known component of the research and publication work of the PDRIB. This eight-book collection reduces to writing a consumer-influenced perspective for professionals and others. Additional books for this series are slated for release soon. The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped will eventually produce all of the books in this series. The titles of the eight books currently published in the Critical Concerns in Blindness series follow:

• Ferguson, R. (2001). We Know Who We Are: A History of the Blind in Challenging Educational and Socially Constructed Policies. A Study in Policy Archaeology. San Francisco: Caddo Gap Press.
• Omvig, J. H. (2002). Freedom for the Blind: The Secret Is Empowerment. Fayetteville, AR: University of Arkansas Press.
• Castellano, C. (2005). Making It Work: Educating the Blind/Visually Impaired Student in the Regular School. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
• Omvig, J. H. (2005). The Blindness Revolution: Jernigan in His Own Words. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
• Vaughan, C. E., and J. H. Omvig (2005). Education and Rehabilitation for Empowerment. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
• Kinash, S. (2006). Seeing Beyond Blindness. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
• Cutter, J. (2007). Independent Movement and Travel in Blind Children: A Promotion Model. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.
• Ferguson, R. (2007). The Blind Need Not Apply: A History of Overcoming Prejudice in the Orientation and Mobility Profession. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.

Staff of the PDRIB are also engaged in several research projects to improve opportunities for and gather information about blindness. Prominent among these is a project evaluating the impact of mentoring on blind youth across the country and a data analysis of the benefits to program participants stemming from the 2007 NFB Youth Slam. Additionally PDRIB researchers are helping to coordinate a comprehensive shift in the program model at the Ho`opono rehabilitation training center in Hawaii.

In addition to these accomplishments, the PDRIB is beginning discussions with the Social Sciences Research Laboratory at the University of Louisiana at Monroe to develop a research and development corridor across the northern portion of the state. The proposed research park at Louisiana Tech University will serve as the nucleus for this project, which will bring a multidisciplinary approach to addressing challenges in the state of Louisiana. The PDRIB will play a role in directing education and rehabilitation programs, increasing the employability of disabled people in the state, and promoting a universal design approach to research and development activities across the state.
The future directions of the PDRIB are as unlimited as the imaginations of its leadership. Dialogue about creating blindness adaptations to supplement graduate programs at other universities throughout the country, adding new blindness-related graduate programs at Louisiana Tech itself, and delving into other blindness-oriented research projects are just a few of the ideas that the staff may pursue in the months and years to come. The foregoing demonstrates, however, that the PDRIB already is a dynamic and professionally respected entity both in Louisiana and across the nation. Without question the work of the PDRIB and its relationship with the LCB add an innovative and intellectually stimulating dimension to the uniquely Ruston rehabilitation experience fashioned by LCB leaders. For further information about the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University, its graduate programs, and admission criteria, call (318) 257-4554 or visit its newly designed Website at <www.pdrib.com>.

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
• Will my gift serve to advance the mission of the NFB?
• Am I giving the most appropriate asset?
• Have I selected the best way to make my gift?
• Have I considered the tax consequences of my gift?
• Have I sought counsel from a competent advisor?
• Have I talked to the planned giving officer about my gift?

Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB
• Helping the NFB fulfill its mission
• Receiving income tax savings through a charitable deduction
• Making capital gain tax savings on contribution of some appreciated gifts
• Providing retained payments for the life of a donor or other beneficiaries
• Eliminating federal estate tax in certain situations
• Reducing estate settlement cost

Your Gift Will Help Us
• Make the study of science and math a real possibility for blind children
• Provide hope for seniors losing vision
• Promote state and chapter programs and provide information that will educate blind people
• Advance technology helpful to the blind
• Create a state-of-the-art library on blindness
• Train and inspire professionals working with the blind
• Provide critical information to parents of blind children
• Mentor blind people trying to find jobs
Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!

 

A Quick Introduction to the Hilton Anatole Hotel


by Mary Ellen Jernigan

From the Editor: Those who have never attended a national convention often express qualms at the prospect of walking into a completely unfamiliar hotel in which they will have to travel efficiently enough for a week to get to the meetings and seminars on time, locate and use restaurants, and find their own guest rooms and those of friends. As those who attended the 2006 convention can attest, the Hilton Anatole is a spectacularly beautiful and very large facility. Those of us who have attended national conventions before and lived to tell the tale have learned that one can do several things to help master the floor plan.

Taking a few minutes to absorb the sort of information that appears in the following article can be very helpful. It was prepared two years ago and is being reprinted again this year because reading it is perhaps the most constructive step one can take. If you simply read through it once quickly, however, you are likely to feel like taking two aspirin and going to bed. Instead I suggest that, like me, those interested in shortening the learning curve at the hotel this summer read slowly and attentively through the article, memorizing the facts about where various meeting rooms and restaurants can be found and building a rough mental map of the facility or refreshing the one constructed two years ago, based on this information. Good luck with this exercise, and have fun at the convention. By the end of the week we will all know where we are going and even how to get there efficiently.

The Hilton Anatole consists of two main sections—the Atrium and the Tower. The Atrium section is further divided into Atrium I and Atrium II. At the lobby and mezzanine levels Atrium I, Atrium II, and the Tower are connected so that you can walk from Atrium I at the far east end of the hotel through Atrium II and into the Tower at the far west end of the hotel as if it were one building.

At levels above the mezzanine, Atrium I and Atrium II are contiguous with each other but not with the Tower—that is, to reach the sleeping rooms, you must use either the Atrium elevators or the Tower elevators, depending on which section your room is located in. The Tower sleeping room elevators do not stop at the mezzanine level. The Atrium sleeping room elevators stop at the mezzanine level, and you can reach the mezzanine level meeting rooms above the Atrium I lobby, the Atrium II lobby, and the Tower lobby. However, a flight of six or eight steps links the Atrium II mezzanine and the Tower mezzanine. If these steps are a problem, you can take a separate, single elevator that goes from the Tower lobby to the Tower mezzanine level. This elevator is located just west of the business center in the Tower lobby. At the west end of the Tower mezzanine is a stairway that leads to the Tower lobby. When you come down this stairway, you are facing east, and the Chantilly Ballroom is slightly ahead and on your right.

Atrium I is the farthest-east section of the hotel and sits slightly south of Atrium II. Think of the entire hotel as a high-top tennis shoe lying on its side with the sole running along the north side, the toe pointing west, and the open top to the south. The right angle formed where the back of the shoe meets the sole in the hotel’s architecture is actually cut on the diagonal so that, when entering the hotel on that diagonal, you are facing southwest. Atrium I is much shorter in its north-south dimension than are Atrium II and the Tower on the east-west axis. After you step into the main entrance, a left turn takes you towards the check-in desk and Atrium I. A right turn takes you towards Atrium II. Continuing west through Atrium II leads you to the Tower lobby.

If you stand with your back to the check-in desk, you are facing west. Atrium I is on your left, and Atrium II is slightly to your right and straight ahead. The Atrium elevators and stairway and escalators to the mezzanine-level meeting rooms are located across from the Atrium front desk and main entrance in the general area where the two Atria join.

The lobby level of Atrium I and Atrium II contains many meeting rooms, shops, restaurants, bars, and the Grand Ballroom, which is located on the south side of Atrium II. The Khmer Pavilion is located roughly above the Grand Ballroom.

The Atrium II lobby joins the Tower lobby just beyond the west end of the Grand Ballroom foyer. At this juncture you find a small fountain and a few steps going down, followed by a short walkway and then a few steps going up again. If these steps are a problem, a wheelchair corridor bypass can be accessed from the west end of the Grand Ballroom foyer. A number of areas in the hotel have a few steps, which at first glance would seem to make parts of the facility inaccessible, but they all appear to have work-arounds of some sort.
The Terrace Restaurant (open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week) is located on the west wall of Atrium I. The Common Ground self-service café; La Esquina Cantina and Tequila Bar (described as Mexican cantina food with South-of-the-Border soul) are located in Atrium II. The Rathskeller Sports Bar and Restaurant and the Gossip Bar are located in the Tower lobby. The five-star Nana Restaurant is located on the twenty-seventh floor of the Tower.

The board meeting and convention general sessions will be held in the Chantilly Ballroom, located in the Tower lobby. Exhibits will be in the Khmer Pavilion. The NFB Independence Market and literature will be located in the Grand Ballroom. Breakout meeting rooms are located in all three lobbies and on the mezzanine level. An exit at the west end of the Tower lobby leads to the beautifully landscaped seven-acre Anatole sculpture park containing outdoor walking and jogging trails.

Now that you have reached the end of this article, go back to the beginning and read it again. It really will make more sense the second time through. When you get to the Hilton Anatole, you will be glad you did.

 

The KnfbReader Mobile:
An Individual Perspective


by Michael D. Barber

From the Editor: Michael Barber is president of the NFB of Iowa. He is also a technology specialist who works at the Iowa Department for the Blind. He has been using the new knfbReader Mobile. Here is his report:

It is late Thursday evening, and I have just checked into my motel room in a small Iowa town. After I get my computer set up (always a high priority), I start looking around for printed material I know exists in this room. For instance, I want to know what TV channels are available. I search to the left of the TV, and there it is--a letter-sized sheet of paper.

From my pocket I take my Nokia N82 cell phone and turn it on by pressing a button on the top of the phone. Soon I hear the familiar Nokia music sounds letting me know the phone is active. Then I press a button just to the left and a bit above the five-way scroll box on the phone. I hear a message that says, "Hello. I am the knfbReader Mobile."

Yes, that's right, reading software is now available in a small cell phone. Ray Kurzweil, the world-acclaimed inventor, promised us six years ago that by 2008 we would enjoy reading portability we could put in our shirt pockets, and now it's here. It's the knfbReader Mobile, and it does fit in my shirt pocket.

This is amazing to me considering where all this began. You see, I remember the very first reading machine back in 1976. That machine took up two tables and cost about $50,000. It was Ray Kurzweil who invented that machine as a result of a conversation he had on an airplane with a blind person who told him that, although he could accomplish many tasks independently, it would be nice if he could read printed material on his own. Back in those days we were impressed with a machine that could scan and read back to us a letter, a memo, or even a book. Even then Mr. Kurzweil was promising reading portability within the next twenty-five years.

Years went by, and many of us will remember the Arkenstone and Arkenclone machines, the VERA, and other systems that helped us to read the printed page. But none of these was portable. We first saw portability as a reality in 2005 with the advent of the Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader. This was comprised of a standard PDA with a digital camera attached to it. With this device we could read our mail, office memos, printed receipts, and later U.S. currency. Portable as this was, it was still too bulky to put into a pocket comfortably.

But now we have a truly portable reading device combined with a cell phone. With the addition of screen-reading software such as Mobile Speaks or Talks, it is now possible to access the other functions of the phone, including making and receiving phone calls and managing personal information such as names and phone numbers of contacts and appointments in the calendar. The phone also offers an accessible GPS program, an Adobe PDF reading program, a voice recorder, a music player, and much more. Wonderful as it is, this particular phone, the Nokia N82, offers access to AT&T or T-Mobile only. It will not work with Verizon, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, or other non-GSM networks.

The Nokia N82 is about the size of a Milky Way candy bar, and unlike too many other cell phones, its keypad is very easy to feel. The buttons have just the right amount of space between them and are raised enough so that they can be located easily by touch. And the phone has two gigabytes of memory. (For those of you who may not be techno geeks like me, that's a whale of a lot of memory.) Above the keypad is a square box, which is called the five-way scroll box. This box contains up, down, left, right, and enter buttons. To the left of the box is a button that activates different functions, depending on what area of the button you press. Pressing the top of this square button will activate the knfbReader Mobile. Pressing the very small button on the extreme left edge of the phone will activate the phone's Send feature. Pressing the bottom edge of the button will bring up the phone's main menu. To the right of the five-way scroll box is the End Call button, the top edge of which can be pressed to exit the knfbReader Mobile. If you turn the phone around so that the back of it is facing you, you'll find a slide switch that moves from left to right. When this switch is moved to the left, the camera lens is closed; when it's moved to the right, the lens is open, and you can take a picture.

Back in my motel room I position the cell phone over the page and about a foot above it. My finger moves to the bottom edge of the five-way scroll box, and I gently press it. knfbReader Mobile announces, "Taking picture," followed by the sound of a camera snapping a picture. This is followed by some fifteen seconds in which I hear periodic beeps while the image is being processed. Then I hear the various channels available to me. My curiosity leads me to other printed material in the room, and I learn that, if I had forgotten my toothpaste, toothbrush, or shaving cream, all I would have to do is to call the front desk to get help. Most important, though, I can tell which package of coffee is not decaffeinated. Additionally, I am able to use the reader to read the dialing instructions on the room phone just above its keypad.

But that's not all this device is capable of. I recently visited an ATM machine and withdrew $50. I had three bills. I knew that one was a ten-dollar bill, but which one? All I had to do was to position the reader above the bill and press the zero key on the keypad. A picture was taken, and the bill was recognized as the ten I was looking for. And, by pressing the pound key followed by the zero, I could tell whether I was looking at the back or front of the bill and which direction it was facing.

You can customize the reader by changing the many user settings available to you. For example, by pressing the number 7 key on the keypad, you can enter the audio settings and change the rate, pitch, and volume of the speech as well as changing to any installed voice. If you have some vision, you can adjust the size of the print on the screen by pressing the number 9 key and choosing between small, medium, and large. There is also a setting here for turning the display off.

Thus far I've been able to read my personal mail (including bills, junk mail, etc.), some catalogs, pages in a phone book, memos, receipts, and business cards. As noted earlier, I've also been able to scan and recognize various denominations of bills. Additionally, I was visiting a financial institution very recently where I was waiting for my wife to fill out a document. In front of me on the counter was a stack of printed material. I almost forgot and asked my wife what they were, but then I remembered I had my knfbReader Mobile with me and found that it was a personal survey a person could take to see if he or she was ready for retirement.

I have been impressed with the clarity of speech from this little device as well as the accuracy of the optical character recognition. As with any scanning and reading software, you do not always get 100 percent accuracy, but in many instances it's very close. Reading catalogs or magazines with a lot of colored text can sometimes be a challenge and may slow down the recognition process.

So how does this device compare with Kurzweil 1000 and OpenBook, the two desktop solutions that are in wide use today? The most obvious comparison is that you can scan and read documents with all three systems. You can also scan and recognize currency with all three systems. All three systems will let you save your scanned document, but both OpenBook and Kurzweil 1000 allow you to save your document in many different file formats. The huge difference is portability. With both Kurzweil and OpenBook, you must have both a computer and scanner, and neither of these is truly portable. With the knfbReader Mobile, you have a system that truly can be carried in a pocket.

As I think about the future of this device, I would like to see the following:

• A few more available file formats for saving documents; right now there is only one.
• The ability to send a file to yourself or someone else by email.
• The ability to use a Braille display so those who are deaf-blind can enjoy reading portability.

All in all, this is an excellent piece of technology and will prove to be very useful to me both at home and at work. It will be very useful for the person attending conferences or seminars where there may be handouts. It would also be useful for the college student who goes to a class where the instructor distributes handouts that must be read immediately. I do not recommend using the knfbReader Mobile to recognize money handed back to you while you're at the head of a long checkout line at a department store or supermarket; the task of scanning each bill is still time consuming.

Finally, I found that the excellent audio tutorial, narrated by James Gashel, was very easy to follow and had me up and running in no time at all. Everything you need to know about the reader to get you started scanning documents or recognizing currency is delivered in very clear terms.

You can obtain more information about the knfbReader Mobile, including where to buy, directly from knfbReader Technologies. The Web address is <http://www.knfbreader.com/products-mobile.php>. The phone number to call is (877) 547-1500. The knfbReader Mobile sells for $2,195. This price includes the reading software and the Nokia N82 phone but not a calling plan or the Talks or Mobile Speak software.

 

Structured Discovery Learning Goes to Turkey


by Robert Leslie Newman

From the Editor: When we stop to think about it, we all recognize that, much as we yearn to provide substantial assistance to blind people around the world, the National Federation of the Blind’s primary responsibility must be to work to help blind people in this country reach their full potential as blind people and members of their communities. We can occasionally do something to help a blind individual in another nation, but mostly we must content ourselves to work through the World Blind Union to help blind people internationally.

That of course must not discourage individual blind people and groups from reaching out a helping hand to those in other countries who have seen our philosophy in action and long to put it into practice in their own communities. The following article describes such an effort made by six blind and sighted people, all of them Federationists, who set out to demonstrate what the structured-discovery approach to blindness training could accomplish when taught intensively in the developing world. The group spent from October 12 to November 7, 2007, in Turkey. Only time will tell how much institutional difference they made, but it is pretty clear that twenty-six Turkish citizens will never be the same, and the same might be said for six Americans. Here is the story of their visit as culled from Robert Leslie Newman’s diary:

"Merhaba" (Turkish for "hello") greeted the six members of the Blind Corps team upon our arrival at the Istanbul national airport. We were the guests of Beyazey, an Istanbul-based consumer group of blind people and the Istanbul Municipality, our sponsors in a joint demonstration project called "Futures in Blindness," bringing structured discovery learning to the blind of Turkey. The impetus for our invitation came from the recognition that, within the Turkish population of seventy million, approximately seven-hundred-fifty thousand have a severe vision loss, and of these 85 percent of working-age people are unemployed. In Turkey rehabilitation services for the blind are in many respects neither well organized nor up to date. Mostly the blind of Turkey wish to make a positive change in this situation. The Blind Corps team, with more than one hundred years of experience in blindness rehabilitation among us, were honored to be asked and delighted to demonstrate what we know to be the best method for bringing independence to the blind.

Blind Corps (BC) is an all-volunteer group of professionals in the field of work with the blind. We formed this nonprofit in November of 2005 with the purpose of addressing the rehabilitation needs of blind people in developing countries. The team for the Turkey project was made up of six members who individually had a range of ten to thirty-four years of professional experience in the blindness field; all were active members of the NFB. The members were Michael Floyd, BC president, blind, currently a drug and alcohol counselor, and a former travel instructor; Fatos Floyd, BC vice president, blind, a Turk and former resident of Istanbul, and currently the director of the Nebraska Center for the Blind (NCBVI); Connie Daly, BC secretary/treasurer, sighted, and a district supervisor for NCBVI; Nancy Flearl, BC board member, sighted, and a district supervisor for NCBVI; Robert Leslie Newman, BC board member, blind, and a vocational rehabilitation counselor for NCBVI; and Buna Dahal, BC member, blind, and a trainer and motivational speaker in the blindness field. (Originally we had planned to have an eight-member team, including another general teacher and a computer specialist.)

We left the United States on October 12, leaving our homes at approximately 11:30 a.m., and arriving in Istanbul at noon on the 13th. We stayed in the Istanbul area for twenty-five days, arriving home on November 7. Jetting eight thousand miles plus and crossing eight time zones to the east to spend time living and working with people of a different culture was, to say the least, exciting. For every member of the BC team this would be the first experience in presenting a training program outside our own borders when a majority of us did not speak the language. Fatos was born and raised in Istanbul. Fatos's husband Mike is a native of Oklahoma and speaks broken Turkish. He has been to Turkey several times. Nancy and Connie had spent nearly three weeks in Turkey in 2005 as Fatos's guest. I had visited Istanbul for one day in 1985 as part of a cruise originating in Athens, Greece. This was Buna's first trip to Turkey.

The training ran from October 16 to October 30. The site was a campus donated by the Istanbul Municipality called Florya Ozurluler Kampi, Ciroz for short. It is a fifteen-acre camp designed to serve the disabled and is located within the Istanbul city limits along the shore of the Sea of Marmara. All participants lived in the camp's fifty cabins, and classes were held in other camp buildings, including an Internet café with eight computers and a large cafeteria, where our meals were prepared and served. We used the campus's sidewalks and internal streets for cane travel training. In addition we used a nearby neighborhood and the extensive sidewalk system that extended south of the camp to and along the seashore.

On Tuesday, October 16, we started with twenty-four students. Throughout the next two weeks new students trickled in, until at the close of the training on Tuesday, October 30, we had worked with a total of thirty-six individuals. At the beginning of any training program it is customary to ascertain the expectations of your students, so in the beginning seminar we asked each person to tell what he or she hoped to gain from this experience. To our surprise many spoke of needing to learn specific skills: computer, Braille, cooking, sewing, independent travel, a new method of teaching, confidence, and more. Their desires were no different from those we hear from our students in the U.S. At our closing ceremony we gave out twenty-six certificates to students who had been with the training for nearly its full two-week period.

The students who came for “Futures in Blindness" were a mix of blind people and professionals in the field of blindness (some of these service providers were sighted, and some were blind). Their ages ranged from the teens through the fifties. Some were college students, most were unemployed, and approximately a third were service providers. Most were from the Istanbul area, but a few had traveled up to eighteen hours on a bus. Several were quite accomplished in their blindness skills, but most had had little or no blindness training. They all proved to have one thing in common: their openness and eagerness to learn.

It is important to note that in setting up and presenting our two-week training center, though we created a mini, short-term training program like those found in Nebraska and several other U.S. states and at the three NFB centers, our need to pack in a range of skill and topic areas meant that some classes were conducted and built on over several days and others were necessarily presented only once. Yet the parallels between the Istanbul center and those in the U.S. were easy to see: the philosophy of high expectations, the core of basic classes, teaching students to problem-solve as a blind person, and allowing them to learn that blindness need not be a barrier to living a normal life. Herein also lay the fundamental reason for the demonstration project, what our Turkish sponsors wished to see in "Futures in Blindness," structured discovery learning in action.

This is not to say that there weren't major differences between our training center in Turkey and our center in Nebraska, for two were worthy of mention. First was the language barrier. Only one of us on the BC team spoke fluent Turkish and one a form of survival Turkish. Four of us needed translators (which we did not always have when we needed them). Five of the students had some English; one was pretty good, but the others had only basic survival English or just Turkish. Three of our students were members of the European Volunteer Service from Germany, Holland, and France. Though they spoke good English, they were beginners in Turkish. As an instructor I found not having the full power of communication an interesting and sometimes taxing challenge. I was forced to think and plan how to simplify my delivery of a question or a new concept. Not only did I have to find basic terminology, but it had to be an English word that my student knew, yet a term that captured the thread of the concept being taught. So I too had to pick up a word or phrase of their language in order to further our communication. And always we made use of demonstration and much pantomime.

The second major difference arose from the fact that Turkey is a Muslim country. People of any faith range from the very devout to the liberal. Eight of our women students were covered and respectfully refused to work with male BC instructors. "Covered" means they were of a strict sect and were covered from head to foot, their hands and faces being the only body parts visible to the public. They wore scarves to cover their hair, long skirts to their feet, and sleeves that came to the wrists. Over this first layer they wore ankle-length coats. The rule was that they could not be touched by a man other than someone in their own family.

An average day's training schedule looked like this: (Turkey uses the twenty-four-hour clock.)

8:00 to 9:00—Breakfast: cheeses, olives, raw vegetables, maybe a boiled egg or fresh fruit or a slice of salami, and always fresh bread. ("Ekmek" is Turkish for "bread.") At all meals the drink options were chi and fresh juices. ("Chi" is Turkish for "tea.")
9:30 to 10:00—Group meeting to talk about the day's schedule.
10:00 to 12:00—Training; some days a two-hour class, some days two one-hour classes.
12:00 to 13:00—Lunch: rice; soup; a stew, sometimes vegetarian, sometimes with small bits of meat; raw or cooked vegetables; yogurt; bread; and sometimes dessert.
13:30 to 16:00—Training; some days a two-and-a-half-hour class, some days two one-hour-and-fifteen-minute classes.
16:00 to 16:30—Tea time: a break from work for chi or juice and a light snack of fruit or something sweet.
16:30 to 18:30—Seminar: a group meeting to discuss personal accomplishments and to explore a philosophical issue of blindness.
19:00 to 20:00—Dinner: rice, cooked vegetables, yogurt, a meat or vegetable stew or casserole, and dessert. (The food was good at the camp and excellent elsewhere.)
20:00 to 22:00—Most evenings we sat around in the cafeteria visiting, learning one another's languages or working further on cane travel or making music. The Turkish people love to sing, and many students played the darbuka, a Turkish drum held under the arm and played with the hands. Some students played a stringed instrument called the baglama.
22:00 to 22:30—Last snack of the day: chi or juice and fruit or sweets.

The classes or skill areas offered were as follows:

"Bastogne” is Turkish for cane. Cane travel class was a major skill area held every day and enjoyed by all. We had brought a large box of canes, and we had more than enough to give a long white cane and a sleepshade to each student. The skills we taught were basic two-point technique, pencil grip, traveling in a residential area, placing the cane in a vehicle, handling a flight of stairs, finding an address, carrying a food tray, keeping one’s place in line, finding a dropped item, locating door handles, using a compass and cardinal directions, and more. We taught the initial cane skills on the grounds of the camp, but for more advanced travel we left the campus and explored the extensive network of seaside walkways to a sports exercise area, a tea shop, a restaurant, and a nearby neighborhood grocery store. We also boarded a city bus and worked out all the techniques and awarenesses for bus travel. Additionally we covered cane maintenance, including replacing a tip and keeping the cane clean and repaired. Finally we covered cane etiquette: making sure it isn't in others’ space, stowing it safely, etc. ("Sa" is Turkish for "right," and "soul" is "left.")

Students were excited to get new and adequate canes; some had come with canes, and some had not. The ones they had were short and mostly folding. We were excited to watch the acceptance and dedication this group of students put into learning this skill. We saw them out between classes, sleepshades on, practicing alone or in small groups. Sometimes at 10:30 at night they would still be at it.

Braille was another key class for most students. It was held on several days. In this class too we presented each student with a Braille slate and stylus. To those who were not already Braille readers, we introduced the alphabet, both reading and writing it. Yes, Turkish Braille has some differences from the English alphabet; it differs by nine letters. The Turkish alphabet lacks the letters q, w, and x, but it has six additional characters not found in ours; the C with a tail, G with accent, I without a dot, O with two dots, U with two dots, and S with a tail.

One critical deficiency in Braille literacy we identified in Turkey is that there is no organized system of teaching the Braille code for advanced math. As a result blind people are not able to enter careers requiring the reading and writing of advanced math. In fact some college graduates aspiring to become certified to teach are not able to pass the math section of the national teacher certification examination and so cannot reach their goal.

Computer was another important class for most students and was repeated on several days. Some students came with good computer skills, and some had none. This class was a challenge indeed to the Blind Corps staff for a couple of reasons. First, we had intended to bring a computer expert with us; however that fell through. Second, the version of Windows that we found on all the machines was Turkish (we had been told this would not be the case), and the kicker was that the keyboard was set up for the Turkish alphabet. (Imagine producing an at sign by striking the letter Q plus the right Alt key.) Though all staff were good daily users of the computer, only one of us was a Turkish speaker, so we were handicapped in our teaching unless we had a translator sitting beside us. Our solution was to use the advanced Turkish student to aid in teaching computer to the less experienced.

The skills addressed depended on the individual’s previous knowledge and experience. Some skill sets were basic keyboarding, basic Windows, word processing, email, Internet search, and more.

Cooking was another popular class held several times. Along with traditional cooking, we also offered a section on outdoor grilling (a task normally carried out by men in Turkey; however, we had women doing it too).

We found that most women had quite a lot of experience with cooking, though most were very appreciative of learning new alternatives. The skills taught were basic peeling, cutting, dicing, pouring, grating, frying, baking, cleanup, and more. The dishes we had them cook were Turkish potato salad, a cake, and zucchini pancakes. Afterwards we all sampled each of the dishes and even shared them with the cooks at the camp.

In grilling, the initial task was to assemble the grill itself, after which they learned to arrange and start the charcoal and achieve the right bed of hot coals. Next came the placement and monitoring of the items being grilled. One day we grilled Turkish meatballs. Another day it was chicken. Interestingly, cooking in Turkey is generally not done using written recipes. This includes measurements, meaning they use the dash, pinch, or handful method.

Sewing was another hit with everyone. It was held only twice. The first skill we covered was the threading of a needle; we showed them three methods. The self-threading needles were the favorite. The next task was to sew on a button. The final project was to assemble and sew together a cloth holder/dispenser for plastic grocery bags.

Home maintenance was also a favorite class of both men and women, but we had time to hold it only once. The skills we covered were plugging electric cords into outlets, changing light bulbs, hammering nails, and measuring and cutting lumber.

Techniques of daily living was another popular class, held only once. We divided this one up into two sections. First we discussed and demonstrated a variety of medical techniques and equipment, e.g., methods of filling a syringe, checking blood sugar levels, using a talking thermometer and a talking blood pressure cuff, methods of labeling medicines, techniques of administering medications to children, and more.

We also covered other home- and school-related techniques and equipment such as methods of creating raised-line drawings, methods of teaching handwriting, electronic notetakers (PAC Mate and BrailleNote), using an audible liquid level indicator, modifying dials with raised markings, labeling clothing and canned goods or other items in the kitchen, and more.

Good grooming and applying cosmetics was yet another popular class held only once. We divided it into grooming for men and makeup and personal hygiene for women. In both areas we discussed and tried out a range of alternative techniques and equipment. In grooming we covered hair care, brushing teeth, shaving, personal hygiene, nail care, polishing shoes, picking out clothing, labeling clothing, checking for wrinkles and spots, and more.

Dating naturally came up as a topic. In Turkey it is customary to see blind men marrying sighted women, yet it is not common to see blind women marrying sighted men. It is rare to see two blind people marrying. In the women’s class we covered hair care, including styling; nail care, including polishing; application of makeup; labeling makeup and clothing; personal hygiene; and more.

It is exciting and satisfying to report that during the two weeks of training many students were visited by spouses, siblings, parents, and their own children. In fact, in some cases guests stayed the day, visiting classes and events and even spending the night. On many occasions these guests commented on the improvements they had witnessed and said that they would now be expecting more of their loved ones.

The media visited the training program. Within the first two days a local newspaper came, took pictures, and interviewed participants. A copy of this article can be found on the Blind Corps Website?<http://www.blindcorps.org>. And, what was even more exciting, a national governmental newspaper and film team shot footage and interviewed students and staff. They made a documentary of their material that was shown on Turkish national television during the week of November 19. (We plan to stream it on the Blind Corps Website in the near future.)

I mentioned earlier that we had two major sponsors, but the rest of the story is that the majority of the training materials and equipment used during classes was purchased by BC using many generous donations by supporters here in the U.S. and in Turkey. A listing of these individuals can be found on the BC Website. At the end of the training it was all left in Turkey. That is to say it was all given to students or to Beyazey or Parilta, a nonprofit providing services to blind children.

It is important to tell more of the story surrounding the unemployment of the blind in Turkey. Above I said it is 85 percent. Even so, many of the blind people who work do so through a national law that requires a company to hire a percentage of disabled workers or be penalized up to three times the annual salary of a worker. Some companies get a willing blind person to accept the money and just stay home. After a blind person puts in fifteen years of employment, he or she can retire with full Social-Security-like benefits. This is quite common. I met several people who asked how we in the U.S. handle retirement and whether blind citizens receive any governmental support.

Here are some interesting facts and observations that I wrote into my personal journal. In Turkey, before you enter someone's home, you take off your shoes. The curbs are about eighteen inches high to prevent people from parking their cars on the sidewalks. Also the pedestrian does not have the right of way; in the U.S. cars must watch out for people on foot; in Turkey pedestrians must watch out for the cars. You know you are in Istanbul when most cell phone ringtones around you are Middle Eastern tunes. If you hear a group of people having fun and laughing, you cannot tell where in the world you are. The city limits of Istanbul span areas on both the European and Asian continents. The population of Istanbul is something like thirteen million people, that is, people who are actually registered. The actual figure is more than likely fifteen million plus if the nonregistered inhabitants are included.

The windows of homes and businesses generally have no screens. There are few dogs in Turkey; they are viewed as unclean animals. You do see a lot of cats. If you call a cat, you do not say, "Here Kitty, Kitty," you say, "Pss, pss, pss."

After the conclusion of training, Wednesday, October 31, we spent the day cleaning up and organizing for the trip back on November 7, the following week. We relaxed and did some sightseeing and shopping on November 1 and 2. On the first we went shopping in the great covered bazaar. On the second we took a trip to where the Bosporus meets the lower end of the Black Sea.

The next three days we made visits to several local Istanbul providers of services to the blind, where we held open discussions with staff and consumers.

On Saturday the 3rd, we spent the day with the staff and consumers of Parilta, the nonprofit that provides services to blind children. The morning was a discussion with a large group of parents of blind children, the blind children themselves, their sighted siblings, and agency staff. Afterwards they provided us lunch.

In the afternoon we received a tour of their facility and were asked to work with a classroom of children. On the spot we devised an instructional game in which each child was challenged to find a dropped piece of candy by listening to the object being dropped, kneeling down and laying the white cane flat on the floor, and sweeping in an organized pattern until the candy was found. One commitment we made to this group was to provide an assortment of kid-sized canes.

Another highlight of this visit was being reunited with a couple of our former students. One, a blind college graduate, was a volunteer working three to four days a week. Getting to and from work takes her three hours one way.

On Sunday, November 4, we visited a district nonprofit in the morning where we split up and individually held topical discussions with members of the host staff. I covered the state of services in the U.S. and how we can bring about changes. Mike handled cane travel. Fatos covered the blind in math and science. Nancy dealt with social skills. And Connie covered employment issues. (Buna had returned to the States by this time to honor a prior business commitment.)

In the afternoon we visited one of our major sponsors, Beyazey. We began with lunch and a tour of their offices. We then led a large group of consumers and staff in a discussion of empowering the blind. Here too we met a couple more former students.
On Monday, the 5th, we started the day by visiting a school for learning disabled students, where again one of our former students works. The students in this school range in age from eighteen to thirty-five. They are taught some academics, but mostly arts and crafts like music, painting, weaving, and jewelry making.

Then we visited the headquarters of all government services for the disabled of Istanbul with eighteen offices throughout the Istanbul area. This office alone takes in one hundred applications a day on average. There too we were served tea and sweets.

Our midafternoon appointment was at a library that records talking books and offers computer instruction. Here too we were served lunch, after which we conducted a large group discussion with staff and consumers; the topic was differences we see between the blind of the U.S. and Turkey.

Our evening appointment was a farewell dinner with staff and board members of Beyazey. The company was great, the food was wonderful, but the setting was also remarkable. The restaurant is called the Malta Kosku. “Kosku” is Turkish for a palace built during the Ottoman Turkish era. Though a lavish mansion, it was built to serve as a prison for one of the Ottoman Turks. It stands on several acres of land and has its own forest. It is two stories tall with very high domed ceilings displaying beautiful murals. It has indoor marble fountains, and the entire structure is very ornate.

"Teshekkurler" is the Turkish word for "thank you." After dinner we were graciously thanked for our efforts. It is rewarding to know that they want us to return next year. They will be speaking with the governor's office in Nebraska to explore the possibility of developing a formal relationship with the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Beyazey presented Blind Corps with a very special plaque in a combination of black and clear crystal. The plaque is a blackboard supported by three clear crystal legs on each side, with a ledge, eraser, and piece of chalk (also in clear crystal) beneath the blackboard. The logos of both Beyazey and Blind Corps appear on the blackboard, as does text that looks as if it has been written on the board. It reads "Lesson: Rehabilitation Subject: Futures in Blindness." In addition each member of the BC team was presented with a Turkish tea set.

Tuesday, November 6, was our final packing day. Wednesday we left our cabins at 6:30 a.m., and I walked into my home in Omaha at 9:45 p.m.; add on the eight-hour difference in time, and you get the actual travel time.

Next steps: the Blind Corps staff will provide some additional support by Skype and email. We will also gather further donations in order to send additional canes and cane tips. An in-country manufacturer for canes is being sought, but for now the U.S. is the best source for them.

This was a very rewarding experience, and I'd do it again. The Turkish people are very friendly, generous, and appreciative. Like us they are eager to improve the lives of the blind.

 

Skills of Blind People Can Prove Lifesaving


by Ken Silberman

From the Editor: The following article is excerpted from the World Disasters Report for 2007 prepared by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The entire report is available online at <http://www.ifrc.org/publicat/wdr2007/summaries.asp>. It can be downloaded in plain text from the original PDF for the convenience of blind readers.

Ken Silberman is an engineer, lawyer, and longtime member of the National Federation of the Blind. When he first applied for an NFB scholarship, he already had an impressive history of activities to his credit—things like scuba diving and work with the volunteer fire department. So it is no surprise that he has gone on to become a trained community emergency response team member. This is what he says:

In the fall of 2005 I saw an article in the local newspaper talking about an upcoming meeting to organize a community emergency response team (CERT). The article said that everyone was welcome and that there were no age or physical requirements. So I went because I was interested in learning disaster skills that would help me and my neighbors. We were told that the purpose of a CERT team is to give citizens the basic training necessary to provide emergency services in the first seventy-two hours of a disaster when professional responders and high-tech equipment will be en route but unavailable. I signed up. The twenty-hour course was held at the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute. It was taught by retired and active emergency medical services (EMS) personnel and covered basic training in disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search-and-rescue operations, CERT organization, and disaster psychology and terrorism. It concluded with a disaster simulation.

The instructors were nervous about having me in the course but did let me participate. I was able to download the textbook from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Website in accessible Microsoft Word files. I had classmates and home readers help me with other handouts when they were not redundant to the book and not accessible. The hands-on exercises also went well. Because we were trained to complement each others' skills as teammates, I simply used my white cane or sighted assistance as appropriate. Conversely, my sighted colleagues relied on me in poor visibility situations. Blindness skills proved invaluable in the search-and-rescue phase of the training when we had to traverse a pitch-black, multi-story maze and apartment, looking for victims. There was a lot of panic due to disorientation. However, it was business as usual for me. So I ended up leading the operation. The instructors and students accepted me completely after that.

As for the equipment, the students had to work with the basics. The first-aid kits consisted of just bandages, compresses, and the like. So there was no instrumentation to read. Real blood would be sticky and warm and would be discernible through gloves. The fire extinguishers were simply point and shoot. I put out the test-stand fire by pointing at the forward base of the heat and sweeping the jet back and forth while moving it toward the back of the fire. In a real fire the extinguisher will either work or not work. The gauge is really for maintenance. Shutting off utilities was easy. Circuit breakers and gas and water valves were easy to feel.

During the advanced Metro Rail [underground] training, my cane skills saved the day again. I had no trouble and used sighted assistance near the power rail. Blindness skills were critical during a fire simulation in a rail carriage. I was able to cut right through the smoke, grab the emergency kit from under the seat, and direct people to the door at the end of the car. The transit police were very supportive after that. As a result of all of this training, I was elected as the deputy coordinator of the Greenbelt-CERT in November 2006. I hope that my experience will expand the discussion of disabilities and disaster preparedness to go beyond caring for disabled persons, to making them service providers. This will prevent responders from diverting their attention from victims to people with disabilities who are quite capable of taking care of themselves. Second, a pool of talented and capable disabled folks are likely to be either not used or underused. In a real disaster all hands will be needed on deck.

 

 

In the Spotlight Affiliate Action

From the Editor: Joyce Scanlan is a veteran at convention planning. In some ways she only scratches the surface in the following discussion of planning an effective state convention. Your affiliate may do things differently, but this article will give you a new appreciation of what goes into conducting a successful convention, and you may find some helpful ideas. This is what she says:

As president of the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota from May 1973 to November 2007, thirty-four and a half years, I was responsible for organizing eighty-four state conventions. You are probably wondering why so many. Most state affiliates have only one convention each year. Minnesota chooses to be different. Our state organization came into being in 1920, twenty years before the national movement was established, and throughout all of our existence, except for the seven years between 1973 and 1980, when we had quarterly conventions, Minnesota members have traditionally met twice each year. In case you’re wondering why we had quarterly meetings during this brief period, let me explain.

After the 1970 annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind was held in Minneapolis, a wave of eager new members joined the state affiliate. The average age of the existing membership was well over fifty, and the longtime members could be gently characterized as hard-lined, opinionated, strong-willed, and deeply committed to the affiliate home and center for the blind, which they had owned and operated for fifty years. All activities of the organization focused on the home. In the bylaws of the organization was the statement, “Local chapters may be organized anywhere in the state, except in the counties of Hennepin [Minneapolis] and Ramsey [St. Paul].” The rationale was that every activity of the organization in these two counties should emphasize the home and center for the blind. (The home was located on the border of the two counties.) This meant that we couldn’t have local chapters in the largest metro area of the state, where most of the members lived. If we couldn’t have local chapters, perhaps we should have statewide conventions four times a year to allow members to get together more frequently. In 1973 the bylaws were amended accordingly. The home was closed and the property sold in 1980, after which the bylaws were again amended to allow chapters to be organized anywhere in the state and conventions to be held twice each year. Sometimes determined people find the wherewithal to resolve a difficult problem standing in the way of progress. We didn’t have sufficient votes to press for local chapters, so we compromised by proposing that we have more statewide conventions to help the new members learn about the organization, thus resolving the matter. It’s true that the newer Federationists also had a high level of determination.

A national convention can certainly be a great source of inspiration to a new Federationist. Familiar terms such as “life-changing,” “energizing,” and “inspirational” are often used to characterize the feeling one has after attending such a national gathering. Yet only a very small percentage of our national membership is actually able to experience the thrill of a national convention. This means that state conventions throughout the country become the means by which more members are reached and the best source for reaching the vast majority of local members.

I have always believed that a state convention must be planned to inspire, inform, energize, and expand and raise the expectations of everyone present. Bringing Federationists together for a state convention means tackling current issues of concern to blind citizens, making decisions on necessary collective actions to be taken, participating in activities to help and support those in attendance to grow philosophically in the movement by renewing old friendships and meeting new people, and at the end of the weekend going home with a profound sense of accomplishment, happiness, and satisfaction to the point of utter exhaustion. I want to hear members leaving a convention talk about the warm atmosphere throughout the convention, the great philosophy of blindness permeating all activities, their new goals to be more active in the organization, and the fun they’ve had being together for the weekend. I want them to be utterly overwhelmed with enthusiasm. Then I know that the convention has been a success.

Although I have served as national representative at many state conventions and have learned much from being involved in and observing conventions of fellow Federationists throughout the country, my most extensive contact, of course, has been in Minnesota; so that will obviously be my primary reference in discussing state conventions.

How do we begin planning a state convention guaranteed to achieve the positive results we seek? Of course the state president has ultimate responsibility for preparing the convention agenda; however, I always solicit chapter members’ ideas and suggestions for items they wish to have on the program. I am convinced that in the Federation our members are our greatest asset. We can count on their diversity of opinion and broad-based life experiences to guide us in selecting issues and making decisions in all aspects of our work. What issues should we address? Should we have a central theme for this convention? We don’t always have a central theme; yet often a theme gives more specific focus and cohesion to the items we cover. Here are just a few of our lofty slogans: “Success is born of hopes achieved and dreams realized”; “Moving forward to independence, equality, and self-sufficiency”; “Opportunities to participate”; and “Believe in yourself and in those with whom you associate.”

Let’s begin with the typical schedule for a weekend National Federation of the Blind state convention. Most states begin activities on Friday, in the morning, afternoon, or evening. Registration of all convention attendees is very important so that names, addresses, preferred reading mode, and membership dues of everyone present can be obtained. Numerous options are available for Friday program items: seminars on important topics such as dealing with discrimination, independent travel skills, demonstration of the accessible voting machine or the Power Showdown game, recruiting and retaining members, helpful techniques for seeking employment, or anything on technology. As Federationists gather at the hotel, they might have several possibilities from which to choose something that will capture their interest. Students and parents divisions and resolutions committee meetings can also be squeezed in during this first day.

The host chapter can be in charge of Friday evening hospitality. This must be a joyous occasion with light snacks and a cash bar and perhaps additional entertainment. Many new, enthusiastic Federationists plead for doing away with hospitality; yet such activities bring people together in a less formal setting in which they can be light-hearted and sociable. We Federationists are entitled to our less serious moments. Besides, many new acquaintances and friendships begin because of fine hospitality.

Speakers invited to a convention must provide significant information or inspiration or hold a position associated with a service-delivery system related to blindness or be a public official who may be helpful in resolving some current problem. In other words, our topic is blindness and the way our organization can best understand and promote the independence and progress toward full participation in society of all blind people.

Saturday is a time of serious business with presentations and discussion on troubling concerns of the day. One can include any number of matters that will stir people’s interest and attention. Over the years Minnesota’s agendas have addressed many, many topics: Federationists serving as representatives on agency boards and relevant community entities; reports from our regional library and state agency for the blind; accessible pedestrian signals; truncated domes and curb cuts; struggles with airlines; problems with local transportation; current advocacy cases; newly employed blind people; reports from our Federation adult training center in Minnesota; resolutions presented for consideration; needed improvements in special education for blind children; “quiet” or “silent” zones, where pedestrians and vehicles all move around in the same right-of-ways; hybrid cars and the problems they present; advocacy cases facing blind people as they seek rehabilitation services; legislation requiring our attention; a report from our national office; and on and on. The issues we present and follow with discussion usually take place all day Saturday during our morning and afternoon sessions. The national rep presents the national report, which is of central importance. I strongly recommend that it be scheduled early in the convention agenda so that it does not get short-changed if you fall behind. If possible this report should get at least forty-five minutes, and an hour is better. Be sure to notify the national rep of any other duties that you are counting on him or her to carry out during the weekend.

The banquet, the high point of a state convention, usually takes place on Saturday evening. Federationists gather in very dressy, sometimes even formal attire and in festive spirits. While some argue for less formality without a head table, others declare that it is fitting for a Federation convention to include a dignified event and the formality of having officers and perhaps board members, the national representative, and special guests seated at a head table. The banquet is a time for special awards, contest winners, or announcements of scholarship recipients. The address by the national rep is the supreme event, designed to inspire the audience and leave everyone revved up for the rest of the convention and on into the future.

Many affiliates have door prizes and special fundraisers or auctions at conventions, sometimes during the banquet. In Minnesota our bake auction goes on throughout Saturday, including the banquet, and Sunday morning and brings in about $3,000 in bids for treasured baked items prepared by members. We must be careful that neither door prizes nor the bake auction restricts or interferes with the truly relevant and most meaningful purpose of our convention—coming together to consider vital issues affecting the lives of our blind brothers and sisters. Immediately following the banquet is another social hour with music, karaoke, dancing, friendly visiting, games—just some activity to continue the high spirit resulting from the banquet.

The Sunday morning session frequently includes organizational business—resolutions, committee reports, financial matters and minutes, elections, etc. Most conventions adjourn about noon. These activities are the heart and soul of any state convention, the serious and the fun parts that stimulate blind people to join the ranks of the Federation and pour their energy and talent into our common efforts and keep coming back until the work is done.

Of course there are some very practical aspects of planning a convention: deciding on a convenient date and preferred location, an affordable hotel, and other necessary details. Some may regard resolving such matters as requiring more skill or knowledge. Such matters as these may be settled by receiving bids from chapters to host the convention or regularly rotating among the available chapters, depending on the size and organizational strength of the affiliate. Minnesota has five local chapters, one large Metro area and four smaller chapters scattered across the state. With two conventions a year, we try to hold one in the Metro area and then rotate among the others so that every chapter has an opportunity to host a state convention. Occasionally our conventions have been held in a social room of a church, an available community center, or at our own Federation Center in Minneapolis; however, the vast majority of our gatherings take place in hotels. Recommendations for specific local hotels may be solicited, but it is essential that only one person—probably the state president or an experienced convention coordinator--have responsibility for negotiating the contract and serving as the primary contact person for making specific arrangements with the hotel. (Dealing with several Federationists with suggestions and instructions about how arrangements should be made can be extremely confusing to hotel staffs, leading to mixed messages and ultimate errors or problems.)

Read the hotel contract carefully and be sure you thoroughly understand it as soon as possible to avoid later problems. I mention this because hotel staff can change very quickly, and a new person may have a very different interpretation of the contract language. Just one little tip based upon an unfortunate experience I had when we signed a contract very early—more than a year prior to the scheduled convention—then the hotel was sold, maybe more than once. By the time our convention arrived, the new owners claimed they knew nothing about our contract. So much for planning well in advance. On the other hand, waiting till the last minute can make you a captive of high costs and limited date choice.

Hotels vary in their methods of working with conventions. Occasionally the responsible Federationist working with the hotel deals with one person throughout the entire process; however, while dealing with one person is usually more efficient, sometimes we must work with several different staff people: one responsible for sleeping rooms, another dealing with catering, etc. The degree of complexity and effort needed will depend on how the contract reads: how specific the setups and room assignments are, whether arrangements must be finalized close to the event, whether one is dealing with only a hotel or also with a convention center, etc. I once found myself dealing with five different entities: the hotel, its sleeping room reservationist, its catering, a convention center’s setup person, and two contracted food service companies. Needless to say, I was concerned about the prospect of coordinating all of these separate outfits. Surprisingly, everything worked out perfectly, and we had an outstanding convention.

If you intend to make arrangements for the hotel to bill the affiliate for some of the costs, be sure to fill out the direct billing forms well before the convention. The hotel staff will want to check with your previous convention hotels to be sure you pay your bills on time. Completing this part of the paperwork takes time and attention to detail.

The person working most directly with the hotel during the convention needs to know the exact room setups for all breakouts and convention sessions and banquet: theater or classroom style; extra tables for Federation literature and door prizes; the size and configuration of the head table, podium location, and primary and extra table mikes as well as a floor mike for membership participation. How many breakout rooms will be needed? Don’t forget the setup for the banquet: round or rectangular tables, a large-enough head table on a dais or not, with podium and mike, etc. What will the menu be? Will salads and dessert be preset? Will the organization provide flowers for the head table or centerpieces for the tables? Do we need audio-visual equipment, a phone jack, or power strips during any session?

Hotel staffs are usually competent in handling convention setups; however, the best approach is to have as much specificity as possible in the contract. One hotel staff person has firsthand knowledge of the terms of the contract but may not be present on the actual weekend of the convention, and a different staff person will be assigned responsibility for managing the details. Know who that person is. Also, since the affiliate president will probably be occupied chairing the convention sessions and attending to organizational matters, it is helpful to appoint another Federationist to monitor the work of the hotel staff to make certain all arrangements are properly carried out. This person should have copies of all convention documents.

Then, after the convention is history, following up with the hotel is a good idea. Carefully review the bill to make sure all charges are accurate before the treasurer pays it. Since you may choose to do further business with that hotel, and in fairness to the hotel, let your hotel contact know your assessment of the hotel’s performance. Did the hotel staff comply with all obligations as outlined in the contract? If everything ran smoothly, everyone will be pleased; if it did not, it is best to figure out what you could have done to ensure better service.
Don’t forget the follow-up with the Federation work covered at the convention. Resolutions that passed must be acted upon. These are our policies, and all be-it-resolved sections in adopted resolutions must be carried out.

I also strongly recommend that the state president and other affiliate leaders be astute in following up with members about their reactions to the convention, its accomplishments, and its friendliness and welcome of new people. Did they feel that their voices were heard? Never shy away from hearing what members have to say. Also be sure to keep everyone involved in the Federation’s work—all members, especially new people, who may not have figured out yet where they fit in. Help them join in the group effort to change what it means to be blind. Communication with members leads to satisfaction among Federationists and makes possible a successful and cohesive affiliate, capable of going forth to conquer the world.

 

His Vision Is for Others
Loss of Sight Fired up Anil Lewis's Drive to Serve

by Jennifer Sutcliffe

From the Editor: The following article appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on February 28, 2008. Anil Lewis is president of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia and a member of the NFB board of directors. He is also one of the most sought-after national representatives for state conventions. This article explains why. Here it is:

Over one weekend Anil Lewis's world turned dark. Lewis was well on his way to a bachelor's degree in business administration from Georgia State University. He was ready to hit the ground running in the business world.

But Lewis was born with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease and the leading genetic cause of blindness. In November 1989 Lewis went blind in a few days. "All of a sudden doors that had been open to me slammed shut," said Lewis, forty-three, of Gresham Park in southeast Atlanta. "It was scary—for the moment."

In the year after he became legally blind, capable only of perceiving light, Lewis learned to read Braille, use electronic resources, and walk with a white cane. He listened to the woman in disability services at Georgia State who told him he didn't have to quit school. He finished his undergraduate degree and earned a master's degree in public policy.

Now, as president of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia, Lewis is opening those doors for others. This month the Community Leadership Association, a national organization of state and local community groups, gave him its Distinguished Leadership Award. "He has a deep understanding of human nature, and he really does care about building a better community," said Sara Fountain, executive director of Leadership DeKalb, who nominated him for the award.

Lewis joined the National Federation of the Blind in 1992. What drew him was its fight for a bill to ensure Braille instruction in public school, he said. Since he became president of the Federation's Georgia affiliate in 2002, the Atlanta native has successfully pushed legislation through the Georgia General Assembly. One bill made more than two hundred newspapers available by phone. The Federation's NFB-NEWSLINE® program was implemented in 2006. Another bill he advocated as part of a national effort would help K-12 schools provide textbooks for blind students. It passed in 2004.

He came to Fountain's attention in 2003 when he entered the ten-month leadership program that trains leaders in DeKalb County. The first challenge for his class of about fifty was a team-building outdoor ropes course that involved climbing on logs and other obstacles. Fountain said, "He got right in there and did something that would be difficult for a sighted person."

That determination carries over into his work, Fountain said. "He spent over two years lobbying for [NEWSLINE], and he never took the credit for that," she said. "He will give the credit to others, always." Not taking the credit is part of Lewis's philosophy. Societal prejudices against the blind make it difficult for them to be self-reliant, Lewis said. "[The prejudice] stems from a lack of exposure to blind people," Lewis said. "People adopt a caretaker mentality. If you're blind, you're either seen as a Stevie Wonder or an invalid. There's no in-between."
When he still had his eyesight, Lewis said he was just as guilty of that mentality. Both his older brother Rafael and sister Patrice became legally blind at an early age from retinitis pigmentosa. Only his younger sister Dominick went unaffected. Lewis was close to his brother Rafael and helped him through his schooling. But he considered him unable to live on his own.

"I used to think that I'd need to take care of him someday, that he couldn't be self-sufficient," Lewis said. While Lewis went through the Atlanta and DeKalb public school systems without any trouble, his brother struggled. The paternalistic attitude that many took toward Rafael was his downfall, Lewis said. In school he was initially labeled as educably mentally retarded—as was Lewis, because the school figured it ran in the family. "That's what they'd do back then, especially with young black men," Lewis said. "They thought he couldn't read, but he couldn't see. He grew up in a time when services weren't being provided."

It wasn't until he was about fifteen years old that he was diagnosed as legally blind at Grady Memorial Hospital. The resources he was denied, such as Braille and electronic textbooks, are mandatory under the K-12 law that was passed. "We're not demanding anything out of the ordinary," Lewis said. "You wouldn't send your child to school without his textbooks."

Lewis is now pushing for legislation that would require textbook companies to provide electronic versions of their texts to postsecondary schools that request them. He's also turning attention to working-age blind people, 70 percent of whom are unemployed, according to recent statistics. Many are placed needlessly in assisted-living homes, Lewis said.

Instead, qualified professionals can teach them to be independent, Lewis said. The National Federation of the Blind is planning a new Center for the Visually Impaired that would provide all the resources the blind need to succeed. Atlanta is one potential site of the center, which would be run by blind people, and is set to open in 2011. "There are blind people who are doctors and lawyers," Lewis said. "Blindness is just a characteristic. Our goal is not to be special; our goal is to be normal."

TIMELINE

1989: Lewis goes blind at age twenty-five.
1992: Lewis joins National Federation of the Blind (NFB). He becomes a local leader in the fight for a bill to ensure Braille instruction in public schools.
1997: The "Braille provision" is added to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, making Braille instruction mandatory for students who need it.
2000: Lewis becomes president of the Atlanta Metropolitan Chapter of NFB.
2001-2002: Lewis works with Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox to make Georgia the first state in which all blind residents can cast an independent private vote.
2002: Lewis becomes president of the Georgia affiliate of NFB.
2003: Lewis is named to NFB's national board of directors. Lobbying begins locally and nationally for a bill requiring textbook publishers to provide electronic versions of textbooks used by blind students in K-12 and postsecondary schools.
2004: Georgia General Assembly passes the bill for K-12 schools. Lobbying continues for a postsecondary bill. Lobbying begins in Georgia for a program that would give the blind access to more than two hundred media outlets read over the phone.
2005: Georgia General Assembly passes the Georgia Audible Universal Information Access Service bill.
2006: NFB wins bid to provide the service. Its NEWSLINE service is implemented by the Public Service Commission.

 

Employer Bias Thwarts Many Blind Workers


by David Crary

From the Editor: The following Associated Press story appeared March 16, 2008, in a number of newspapers around the country. Suddenly the topic of employment for blind people was of broad, if fleeting, interest. The reason was the swearing in as governor of David Paterson, who had been the legally blind lieutenant governor of New York. Here is the story:

Technology and training have improved to the point that blind people can adeptly perform a dazzling array of jobs--soon to include the governorship of New York. The biggest obstacle still in their way, advocates say, is the negative attitude of many employers.
The most recent available statistics suggest that only about 30 percent of working-age blind people have jobs. That figure was calculated more than ten years ago, but the major groups lobbying on behalf of blind Americans believe it remains accurate despite numerous technological advances. "Most people don't know a blind person, so they assume that blind people are not capable of doing most jobs when in fact that's not true," said Chris Danielsen, spokesman for the National Federation of the Blind.

Exhibit A, for the moment, is David Paterson, the legally blind lieutenant governor of New York from Harlem who will be sworn in Monday as governor, replacing scandal-tarnished Eliot Spitzer. However, blind people hold all sorts of jobs these days--judge, fitness trainer, TV show host, registered nurse, lawyer, and so on.

"Unfortunately we're still living in an age of misperceptions of what blind people can do," said Carl Augusto, president of the American Foundation for the Blind. "We're hoping that an employer considering hiring a blind person will say that, if David Paterson can be governor and be legally blind, maybe this applicant who is blind can be a good computer programmer."

There are an estimated ten million visually impaired people in the United States, including about 1.3 million who are legally blind, according to Augusto's foundation. The foundation says legal blindness is generally described as visual acuity of 20-200 or less in the better eye, with a corrective lens. Paterson has enough sight in his right eye to walk unaided, recognize people at conversational distance, and read if the text is close to his face.

In theory those people are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which among its many provisions requires employers to give fair consideration and treatment to visually impaired employees and job applicants. But Augusto said employers routinely turn down blind applicants without incurring legal sanction. "The ADA is a wonderful law, but many employers find a way not to seriously consider blind people," he said. "They look at themselves and then say, `I can't imagine how a blind person can be a computer programmer. They can't possibly do it.'"

Advocacy groups work persistently to change such attitudes, with employer education programs and public appearances by successful blind people to discuss their capabilities. One component of such campaigns is to raise awareness of the ever-evolving technology that helps blind people handle more types of jobs--including software that reads aloud information on a computer screen and scanners that can convert printed material into Braille or an accessible electronic format.

"The assisted technology has made the playing field as level as it's ever been for blind people," said Kirk Adams, president of Seattle's Lighthouse for the Blind, a nonprofit agency that provides job help. "There are fewer and fewer jobs a blind person can't do." Adams, forty-six, said being blind seemed a hindrance when he first began postcollege job hunting, but he was hired as a securities broker and later served in various nonprofit fundraising jobs before moving to the Lighthouse, which has 190 blind people on its payroll.

One problem he notes is the difficulty many young blind people face in getting short-term or part-time work during high school and college. "There's a real divergence with sighted kids," Adams said. "It's very typical that a blind kid at sixteen or eighteen is not having success finding that first employment--we see a lot of frustration around that age because employers may not be thinking about making those short-term jobs accessible."

The American Foundation for the Blind says its latest research indicates that, once young blind people complete top-notch training and education programs, they attain an employment rate not much lower than sighted people. But Augusto said the overall portion of blind people with jobs remains low because many older workers who lose vision in middle age drop out of the workforce rather than undergo retraining.

"You get a bunch of people in their fifties who all of a sudden are visually impaired--they can't drive anymore, they'll get Social Security benefits and maybe disability insurance," Augusto said. "They say, `The heck with it, we're not going back to work. We don't want to go through the rehabilitation training--it's too hard.'"

Kevan Worley, a blind Coloradan, runs a company that provides thousands of meals a day to Army troops at Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. About 70 percent of his two hundred employees are blind or otherwise disabled. "There are still stereotypes of blind people," he said. "When employers, educators, even parents of blind kids have those stereotypes and low expectations, many are being kept down and out."

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which tracks workplace discrimination cases covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, says 455 such complaints were filed last year by visually impaired workers--the highest number since 1995. "If someone's blind, there's a huge stigma to overcome and all kinds of myths and fears in the employer community," EEOC spokesman David Grinberg said. "The fact is that in the twenty-first century workplace people who are blind are just as able to do a job as anyone else--they just need to be given a chance," he said. "They know the deck is stacked against them. They work harder than others, and they end up being more effective workers."

 

CCB Students Go to the Prom


by Lorinda Riddle

From the Editor: May is prom month across the country, including the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB). The following little photo essay is reprinted from the Spring 2007 NFB of Colorado Newsletter.

Colorado Center students are always busy. They have classes at the center in technology, travel, Braille, home management, and industrial arts. When not in class they head out to the mountains for rock climbing, fishing trips, and camping and canoeing activities. But sometimes girls (and boys) just want to have fun. So center student Erin Scala decided to organize a prom night, complete with meal, prom photos, and dancing to the sounds of a DJ.

The CCB student body formed a prom committee. Student body members Pete Treyo, Aaron Prince, and Richard Mouriquand purchased food, hired a DJ, and lined up a photographer. Center students Aviance Gardner, Booth Calder, and Anna Roberts helped to create a party atmosphere with decorations of streamers, balloons, and other festive decorations.

 

Recipes


The recipes this month were submitted by members of the NFB of North Carolina.

Peach Cobbler
by Muriel Brown

Muriel Brown is from Charlotte. She has been the president of the NFB of Mecklenburg County for several years. Muriel, her husband Win, and his guide dog Baker live in a co-op, one of only two in the state of North Carolina.

Ingredients:
1 stick margarine
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1 large can peaches, drained

Method: In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, melt margarine. In a bowl mix self-rising flour, sugar, and milk until smooth. Pour over margarine. Place drained peaches on top. Do not mix. Bake in a 375-degree oven for forty-five minutes.

Italian Beef and Olives
by Muriel Brown

Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds stewing beef
1 small onion, chopped
12 stuffed green olives
1 eight-ounce can tomato sauce
1 clove garlic, chopped
A pinch of pepper

Method: Combine all ingredients and place in a covered bakeware dish. Bake in a 325-degree oven for three hours before serving.

Carrot Salad
by Muriel Brown

Ingredients:
1 pound carrots, grated
1 can crushed pineapple
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1 can angel-flake coconut
1 cup raisins, softened in hot water and drained
Mayonnaise

Method: Mix all ingredients in a bowl, sprinkle with salt, and add mayonnaise until preferred consistency and flavor.

Broccoli Casserole
by Muriel Brown

Ingredients:
1 16-ounce bag frozen broccoli, cooked
1 10 1/2-ounce can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 stick butter
2 cups sharp cheese, grated

Method: Place all ingredients in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, reserving one cup of the cheese to sprinkle on top. Bake at 350 degrees for forty-five minutes.

Spiced Pecans
by Win Brown

Ingredients:
1 egg white, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups pecan halves

Method: Combine all ingredients except pecans and mix well. Toss the pecan halves in the egg white mixture to coat all nuts evenly. Arrange coated pecans on a well-greased baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees until nuts are completely dry. This will take a couple of hours. Stir nuts occasionally. Allow to cool and refrigerate in a tightly closed container. Dishes of these nuts make delicious nibbles before or after dinner.

Lemon Chess Pie
by Pat McClean

Pat McClean is one of our newest members. She just joined the Mecklenburg County Chapter.

Ingredients:
1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pastry pie shell
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
4 unbeaten eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed is better than reconstituted)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/4 cup milk

Method: Toss the sugar, flour, and cornmeal together. Beat in eggs one at a time. Then beat in milk, melted butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest and blend well. You can use an electric mixer or wooden spoon or whisk for this job. Pour custard into pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for thirty-five to forty-five minutes. Pie is done when golden brown or when toothpick or knife inserted in center comes out clean.

 

Monitor Miniatures



News from the Federation Family

Attention Affiliate Presidents and Those Interested in Public Relations:
The NFB public relations committee and the PR staff at the National Center for the Blind invite affiliate presidents or their designated representatives, as well as others interested in learning about working effectively with the media, to attend a special meeting of the public relations committee. This meeting will include a comprehensive seminar entitled “Grow Your Affiliate through Effective Messaging,” conducted by Chris Danielsen and Jessica Freeh of the public relations office at NFB headquarters in Baltimore. The seminar will cover topics such as locating press contacts in your state or community, drafting a press release, pitching story ideas to the media, and developing relationships with reporters and editors. An effective public relations strategy can help state affiliates and local chapters to raise funds, recruit new members, and educate the general public about blindness. It doesn’t take a public relations professional to carry out such a strategy, just knowledge of the tools and techniques needed to implement it. Come to this special seminar and learn how your affiliate can get its message to the media.

Those who participate in this seminar will be added to an email list to receive NFB press releases, media advisories, and tips from the NCB public relations staff. In order to begin to compile the email list and determine how many people to expect at the seminar, we are asking all state presidents to send us the name and email address of the person who handles media relations for your affiliate. Please send this information to Jessica Freeh at the National Center for the Blind by email at <jfreeh@nfb.org>, or call her at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2348. If you have any questions about the seminar, call Chris Danielsen at the National Center for the Blind at extension 2330, or email him at <cdanielsen@nfb.org>.

Resolutions for Convention:
Here is a message from Sharon Maneki, who chairs the NFB resolutions committee:

Do you think we should change a government policy, take a stand concerning an agency for the blind, or create new regulations? If you do, consider writing a resolution. At the 2008 national convention the resolutions committee meeting will be held on Monday, June 30. The committee will debate and discuss resolutions on a wide variety of subjects. If the convention passes them, these resolutions will become the policy statements of the organization.

To ensure that your resolution will be considered by the committee, please send it to President Maurer or to me by June 15, two weeks before the committee meeting. If you miss this deadline, you must get three members of the committee to sponsor your resolution and then get it to the chairman before the meeting begins. I will be pleased to accept resolutions by email, <nfbmd@earthlink.net>; fax, (410) 715-9597; or snail mail, 9013 Nelson Way, Columbia, Maryland 21045.

Braille Book Flea Market:
The Braille Book Flea Market to be held at our national convention in Dallas this summer is looking for your gently used Braille books. Cookbooks, Twin Vision® books, handmade books, and other Braille material appropriate for children are greatly needed. Please send your Braille contributions to Dan Tinklepaugh, Dallas Customer Counter, 10155 Monroe Drive, Dallas, Texas 75229

Available Now:
What Are We Going to Wear? You’ve heard the adages before: “Dress for success”; “Maximize your message”; “Put your best foot forward.” They are more than just tired old clichés; they are time-tested truths. The appropriate attire can boost your confidence and show the world that you are part of an important team. Imagine the impact your chapter or affiliate can make at educational events, public meetings, and fundraisers if all your members and supporters are attired in new, sharp, high-quality garments.

We can help you obtain shirts that will assist you in making that very positive impression. Each short-sleeved golf shirt is stitched on the upper left chest with the National Federation of the Blind logo, including Whozit depicted in full color. These shirts can be customized to include the name of your state affiliate at no extra charge. Select a color unique to your affiliate or chapter, and really stand out in the crowd at state and national conventions. What an immediate and graphic reminder of the exciting opportunity we have to be proud members of the largest and most dynamic consumer organization of the blind in the world!

Ordering is easy. Each chapter submits a prepaid order for shirts for its membership. Shirts will be shipped to the ordering chapter in about three weeks. Shirts are available in adult sizes small to XXXL. We can process orders for twelve or more shirts, and your cost is an amazingly low $16 per shirt for sizes small to XL and $19.00 for XXL and XXXL, plus shipping. Available shirt colors are white, black, ash, California teal, heather gray, ivy, kelly, maroon, natural, navy, red, and royal. Order right away to ensure that you have the shirts before our 2008 national convention in Dallas from June 29 to July 5.

Those interested in more information should have a representative contact East Hillsborough Chapter board member DJ Hackney at <donnajhackney@aol.com> or at (863) 853-7776. Orders may also be placed and paid for online at <www.blind411.org/Golf.html>. Interested in button-up shirts, caps, or tote bags? Ask for a quote on those too.

Attention Colorado Center for the Blind Alumni:
The Colorado Center for the Blind will hold its twentieth anniversary celebration and reunion weekend September 19 through 21, 2008. If you attended training or worked at the center, we need your name and contact information. All alumni, family, former staff members, and friends are invited to join us for a wonderful weekend celebration.

The anniversary celebration will take place on Saturday evening, September 20, at the Colorado Center in Littleton, Colorado. Ticket prices have not yet been determined. The reunion breakfast, which will also be held at the center’s Littleton facility, will take place on Sunday, September 21. This is a free event for all alumni. Overnight accommodations (at reasonable rates) with a local hotel are being planned. Rooms should be available as early as Friday, September 19, with a Sunday afternoon checkout.

For more information about any of the anniversary celebration and reunion weekend events, contact Lorinda Riddle at (303) 778-1130, ext. 236, or email <lriddle@cocenter.org>.

Elected:
On March 1, 2008, the Kankakee Heartland Chapter of the NFB of Illinois elected the following officers: Bill Isaacs, president; Frank Einfeldt, vice president; Carol Kwaak, secretary; Ruth Isaacs, treasurer; and Raymond Kwaak, board member.


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.


OSSB Reunion:
Friday the 13th brings dread to some people, and those affected by this fear usually behave very cautiously. Well, this need not be the case with the fifty-eighth biannual alumni reunion at the Ohio State School for the Blind. This eagerly anticipated event will take place Friday, June 13 through Sunday, June 15. The cost, the same as 2006, is $60, which covers two nights lodging, six meals, and $10 dues. This reunion will be the last time we will experience the campus in its current state because it will be significantly remodeled before the next reunion. Deadline for registering is May 23. If you have any questions, please call Paul Dressell at (513) 481-7662 or email him at <pmd@pobox.com>.

Braille Patterns Transcribed:
Linda Hurlock will Braille any knitting or crocheting pattern that you want. Send the pattern and enough Braille paper to Linda Z. Hurlock, 636 1/2 North Davis, Helena, Montana 59601.

Brailler Repair:
The Selective Doctor, Inc., is a repair service for all IBM typewriters and Perkins Braillewriters. Located in Baltimore, the service has done work for the Maryland School for the Blind and a number of other organizations in Maryland. They accept Perkins Braillers sent to them from around the country.

The cost to repair a manual Perkins Brailler is $55 for labor (flat rate), plus parts. Because of technical complexity the cost to repair an electric Perkins Brailler is $60 for labor (flat rate), plus parts. The Brailler will be shipped back to you by U.S. mail, Free Matter for the Blind and insured for $400. The cost of this insurance ($5.50) will be added to your invoice. This listed insurance charge may fluctuate due to rate changes by the postal service.

To mail Braillers using the U.S. Postal Service, send your Brailler(s) to the Selective Doctor, P.O. Box 28432, Baltimore, Maryland 21234-8432. If you care to use UPS or Federal Express, please send Braillers to the Selective Doctor, 3014 Linwood Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21234-5821. With your Brailler(s) please include your name and (if applicable) organization, shipping and billing addresses, telephone number, and a brief description of your Brailler's needs. Should you require additional information, please call (410) 668-1143, or email <braillerrepair@yahoo.com>.

Seeking Nominations:
Imagine the impact your innovation could have on providing increased access to blind people around the world. We invite you to apply for the Louis Braille Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation. The prize will be awarded to an individual or group who contribute to innovation in the field of tactile literacy for blind people. The prize can be granted for a new educational method, a new tactile literacy product, or a new technological advance. In any of these areas the innovation must demonstrate some aspect of tactile literacy. Tactile literacy refers to any product, method, or service that has the effect of increasing access to information through the sense of touch. The $20,000 prize is provided through support from the Gibney Family Foundation and National Braille Press.

The deadline to be considered for the 2008 prize is June 15. For more information about the Touch of Genius Prize and previous winners, visit <www.touchofgeniusprize.org>. If you have questions, contact Stephanie King at (617) 266-6160, ext. 47 or <GeniusPrize@nbp.org>.

Notice from NLS:
Two additional devices can now be used to read downloadable audio materials from the National Library Service (NLS).

The LevelStar Icon is a portable device for the visually impaired that provides access to all of your contacts, documents, and media on the go. Icon, with its 40 GB hard drive, can store thousands of documents and audio files. Icon users are now able to download NLS books directly, using the Icon's powerful Web browser and its wireless connection, and play and navigate them using Icon's Bookshelf. To learn more about the Icon and its support for NLS content, visit <www.levelstar.com>, call (800) 315-2305, or send email to <info@levelstar.com>.

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.'s Braille+ Mobile Manager is a handheld, accessible tool that combines entertainment and productivity in one device small enough to fit easily into a pocket or purse. With its large hard drive the Braille+ stores dozens of books at a time, and with its built-in Web browser the user can download and read any of the NLS DTB collection without having to use a computer at all. For complete information about the Braille+, go to <www.aph.org/tech/pda_info.htm>.

Current owners of these devices are just a free software upgrade away from adding the ability to download and read NLS talking books and magazines. Remember, to authorize any new device for download, just go to the download site's home page, choose "Update my settings," and then choose "Add a new player."

A Pocketful of Sound:
A Quick-Start and Buyer's Guide to Accessible Book and Music Players by Anna Dresner in Braille and PortaBook, $14. Have you ever wished you could carry a whole library of CDs or audiobooks with you to college, on your commute, or on vacation? It's now possible to do just that in a device that fits in your pocket. But there are so many choices it can be hard to know which one of these cute little gadgets you should buy.

A Pocketful of Sound will help you decide. Author Anna Dresner describes and compares many of the most accessible players, including the Zen Stone; iPods; players running Rockbox; the Olympus DS-30, DS-40, and DS-50; the Victor Stream; the Icon; and many others. She uses the same checklist for each product, so you can quickly compare their features. You'll learn how to get the most out of your player with detailed descriptions, basic instructions for use, and tips for power users. Anna has given each of these products a good workout and shares her personal opinions on each in a Would-I-Use-It section.

Also included are brief sections on the media-playing capabilities of notetakers and cell phones, information about how players organize music, links to tutorials and other resources, and sources for downloading music and books. So whether you already own a player or are considering your first one, this book will help you rock and read the way you want to. Check out the table of contents: <http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/POCKET.html>.

Tour to Bermuda:
American Star Travel offers a luxurious seven-day cruise from Boston to Bermuda October 5 to 12, 2008, for blind and visually impaired travelers. Passengers can have an orientation to the Norwegian Cruise Lines Ship, the Dream, upon arrival and assistance embarking and disembarking if desired. The ship offers fine accommodations and the newest innovations at sea, including freestyle cruising with no required activities. All elevators and cabins are marked in Braille and large print. A limited number of cabins have accommodations for people using wheelchairs. People with hearing impairments are also welcome. These accommodations are first come, first served. Guide dogs are welcome.

Six restaurants, from Italian to French and everything between; a lively casino; galleria duty-free shopping; and ten bars and lounges mean there’s always something to keep you entertained. There are also plenty of ways to stay active afloat with a jogging and walking track, two pools, and a modern fitness center open twenty-four hours a day. A variety of daily activities led by cruise staff and port and shopping lectures and shore excursions are available. If we have enough people in our group, American Star Travel will host a party on the first day to welcome you and to introduce group members to each other.

For more information or to book the seven-day Boston to Bermuda cruise, call American Star Travel at (508) 815-4327. Fares start at $689 + tax for inside cabins. Airline bookings can be made if needed. All cabin rates are per person, based on double occupancy; triple cabins are available by request. Union members will receive a 5 percent discount. The last day to book this trip is June 3, 2008.


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:
One PAC Mate BX420 with twenty-cell Braille display. This PAC Mate from Freedom Scientific runs firmware version 4.1 and is easily upgraded to the newest version known as the PAC Mate Omni. This device is used but is in excellent working condition. I will include one carrying case, one Ethernet adapter cable with flash adapter to fit the PAC Mate, and one PAC Mate power charger.
I am asking $3,000 or best offer. Will negotiate shipping. Please call with questions (678) 206-6154 or email <Strother_r@bellsouth.net>.

Kurzweil-National Federation of the Blind Reader for Sale:
WKLV has a brand-new, unused Reader Classic for sale. Still in the box. Asking $2,300. Contact Tara Keesling at (800) 526-3937, ext. 135.

Hoping to Buy:
William Loy wants to buy a serial parallel converter cable for his Braille 'n Speak 2000. If you can help, call him at (301) 233-8043.

For Sale:
Power Braille 40 with power cables and owner’s manual. Asking $1,500 or best offer. If interested, contact Kerry Stein at (800) 533-3846 weekdays and (205) 967-4901 evenings and weekends.


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