Vol. 51, No. 6 June 2008
Barbara Pierce, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president
1800 Johnson Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
telephone: (410) 659-9314
email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website address: http://www.nfb.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 email@example.com.
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:
THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 51, No. 6 June 2008
Dallas Site of 2008 NFB Convention
What Will Become of Continuing Education Programs?
by Fredric K. Schroeder
A Tale of Bravery, Wisdom, and Faith
by Eileen Rivera Ley
The Victor Reader Stream
More Than an iPod for the Blind
by Curtis Chong
Swimming in the Zone
A Mile in My Backyard
by Robert Leslie Newman
Swimming in the Lanes
By James Fetter
Living and Working in Our Corner of the World
by Judy Jones
Jim Gibbons Leaves National Industries for the Blind
by James H. Omvig
Burglar Loses Fight with Blind Man
by Mike Celizic
The Cribbage Game
by Barbara Loos
Spotlight on Affiliate Action
The Big Bang Theory
by Alan R. Downing
Ask Miss Whozit
Debra Bonde of Seedlings Books Honored
Dr. Floyd Matson Dies
by Marc Maurer
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
by Fredric K. Schroeder
From the Editor: From time to time Dr. Fred Schroeder, former commissioner of the United States Rehabilitation Services Administration and first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind, publishes commentaries that he calls Policy Notes. In these he offers analysis and perspective on issues of concern to blind people and others with disabilities. Most recently he addressed a plan by the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to dismantle its system of continuing education programs. At first blush this may appear to have little to do with the day-to-day provision of services by state rehabilitation agencies. Yet, as Dr. Schroeder points out, the plan to restructure RSA's continuing education programs is simply the latest in a long series of ill-conceived, poorly planned, and even more poorly executed changes in the administration of the federal agency charged with leading the nation's vocational rehabilitation program.
On January 29, 2008, RSA published a notice of proposed priority concerning its intent to restructure programs that provide continuing education and technical assistance to state vocational rehabilitation agencies. At present RSA funds twenty-one continuing education programs throughout the country. The notice of proposed priority describes a plan to consolidate the twenty-one programs into ten regional centers. As the name implies, the idea behind a notice of proposed priority is that, before a federal agency makes significant changes in the administration of its programs, the agency must describe the change it wishes to make and must offer the public an opportunity to comment before plans are finalized. Even though the notice of proposed priority invited comments through February 28, 2008, more than a week before the close of the comment period, on February 20, RSA issued an information memorandum advising the current network of continuing education programs that their funding would end this year in anticipation of the creation of the new Technical Assistance and Continuing Education Centers. So much for public comment. Before any review or analysis of public comments, indeed before the comment period even closed, RSA publicly announced its intention to move ahead with its plan. However, RSA failed to consider one small detail.
While the new Technical Assistance and Continuing Education Centers are scheduled to begin on October 1, 2008, funding for many of the current continuing education programs ends on June 30, 2008. This means that long-established programs will summarily close at the end of June, laying off staff and disrupting support to state rehabilitation agencies before the new continuing Technical Assistance and Continuing Education Centers are funded. As of early May 2008 RSA was still investigating whether it could provide funding to enable current programs to continue operating through the end of September.
A comedy of errors? Less a comedy than a tragedy. As Dr. Schroeder
points out, in 2005 RSA closed its regional offices and fired nearly half of
its staff, including many of its most experienced employees. Today it has neither
the interest nor capacity to provide real leadership to the only federally funded
program offering employment-related training and assistance to blind people
and others with disabilities. RSA now seems determined to replicate its irresponsible
destruction of its internal capacity by dismantling the current system of continuing
education programs in America. Blind people deserve better, and the shameful
conduct of the Rehabilitation Services Administration cannot be tolerated. RSA's
actions must be exposed and denounced. This is precisely what Dr. Schroeder
does in the following commentary:
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Volume V, No. 1
Issue: The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) recently published a notice outlining its plan to restructure RSA's network of regional continuing education programs. What will this mean for continuing education support for state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and community rehabilitation programs (CRP)?
Response: On January 29, 2008, the Rehabilitation Services Administration published a notice of proposed priority (NPP) in the Federal Register. The NPP announces RSA's intent to replace its regional rehabilitation continuing education programs (RRCEPs) with ten technical assistance and continuing education (TACE) centers.
The background section of the proposed priority states in part:
To address the need for technical assistance and continuing education, RSA seeks to revise the structure of the RRCEP. Rather than supporting two types of regional centers as has been done under the current RRCEP model--those serving state VR agencies, CILS, and CAPs and those serving CRPs--RSA seeks to fund ten regional technical assistance and continuing education centers to provide technical assistance and continuing education for both employees of state VR agencies and all agency partners, (e.g., CILs, CAPs and CRPs).
On its face this looks like a move to streamline the system, consolidating functions and increasing coordination. The model itself is not a bad one, a centralized technical assistance and continuing education center in each region serving the full range of partners in the vocational rehabilitation system. The problem lies, not in what is said, but in what is left unsaid.
Why replace the name, “regional rehabilitation continuing education programs,” with the name, “technical assistance and continuing education centers”? In my reading of the NPP the reason seems clear: the change is intended to compensate for RSA's lack of ability to meet its responsibility to provide technical assistance, particularly to state VR agencies. In 2005, when the RSA regional offices were closed and nearly half of RSA's staff were eliminated, Department of Education leadership claimed that under its new centralized structure RSA would be able to provide better and more responsive technical assistance than it had in the past. In response to an overwhelming number of complaints objecting to the closure of the regional offices, the Department developed a list of talking points for staff to use in answering constituent letters. These contained vague assurances to the effect that technical assistance would be strengthened under the new system. For example, if an individual wrote expressing the concern that migrant programs would be left out, unable to obtain needed technical assistance, the talking points document instructed RSA staff to respond that migrant programs would not only maintain the level of assistance they previously received but would receive better, more responsive assistance than in the past.
The document contained the same assurance for all its programs. Tribal VR programs, services for blind and deaf individuals--all were told that the new system would increase RSA's ability to provide technical assistance, not lessen it. The new RSA would be all things to all people, better, faster, more responsive. Of course there was no way to prove otherwise, so the dismantling of the regional offices proceeded; and as was predicted, the reality bears little resemblance to the promise.
The loss of the regional offices has been devastating. It now appears that RSA is on track to compound one folly with yet another. Today RSA has virtually no capacity to provide meaningful technical assistance to state VR agencies. The NPP appears to be an attempt to fill this void by diverting funds from the continuing education program to replace the technical assistance function RSA is no longer able to provide.
The language of the NPP makes clear RSA's intent. For example, paragraph 1 reads in part that the new TACE center will: "Establish, in consultation with RSA, an annual work plan ...." The TACE center does not consult with the state VR agency, the Client Assistance Program, independent living centers, tribal VR programs, or any other community partners, only RSA. And what will the TACE center's work plan describe? According to the NPP, "... activities that the center will conduct to assist State VR agencies to accomplish the goals identified in their VR state plans and to achieve other performance and compliance goals identified by RSA's monitoring reports."
Paragraph 2 of the NPP goes on to discuss the process for conducting a needs assessment. It reads in part: "Conduct an annual needs assessment to identify technical assistance and continuing education needs of state VR agencies and agency partners...." While the language mentions "agency partners," the NPP continues by saying: "Each center must base its annual needs assessment on a thorough review of VR state plans, on-site monitoring reports, and annual review reports issued by RSA...."
If it is not already clear that the RSA envisions the new TACE centers to be its technical assistance (TA) arm, focusing exclusively, or nearly so, on the TA needs of state VR agencies as determined by RSA, paragraph four of the NPP goes on to require that the TACE center must "Participate as an observer in RSA's triennial monitoring of state VR agencies in its region by attending, at a minimum, each state VR agency's monitoring exit conference in order to gain a thorough understanding of each state VR agency's technical assistance and continuing education needs."
Of course RSA will claim that it does not intend to dismantle the RRCEPs. Yet the NPP makes clear that RSA sees the new TACE centers as merely an extension of RSA and its monitoring function. Technical assistance and, for that matter, continuing education are determined by deficiencies in state agency performance identified by RSA through its monitoring.
There is more in the NPP that raises concern. Paragraph 3 states that the Department of Education intends to publish a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend 34 CFR 385.40 that would change the requirements concerning the composition of training project advisory committees. "The NPRM would add a requirement that an applicant include individuals who are knowledgeable about the special needs of individuals with disabilities from diverse groups, including minority groups. The purpose of this change would be to more clearly reflect the intent of the Department that project advisory committees include individuals who are familiar with the needs of individuals with disabilities from diverse groups, rather than individuals who are just members of such groups." What a condescending statement! The NPP suggests that minority individuals are today merely token members of advisory committees, offering nothing of substance. This gratuitous statement is made without a reference to any data supporting such a claim. Instead of minority people representing the perspective of minority individuals, RSA proposes to replace them with "individuals who are familiar with the needs of individuals with disabilities from diverse groups."
In summary, the NPP proposes replacing the present system of regional rehabilitation continuing education programs with a network of technical assistance and continuing education centers. This is more than a name change. From my reading of the NPP, it appears clear that the plan is to find a way to compensate for the loss of RSA's ten regional offices and the commensurate loss of sixty-five of its most knowledgeable and experienced staff. It also appears clear that the plan is to focus technical assistance on addressing the needs of state VR agencies, ignoring the fact that VR functions as an integrated system of partner programs in the states. Finally, it seems clear that technical assistance needs will no longer be jointly determined but will be exclusively driven by RSA monitoring findings. Certainly RSA will call foul, saying that I have misread the NPP and its intent. Perhaps so. I hope I am wrong; however, advocates did not misread the consequences of closing the regional offices more than two years ago, and I am afraid that we have not misjudged the consequences of RSA's reorganization of its continuing education program.
by Eileen Rivera Ley
From the Editor: This tribute to Edwin and Magdalena Rivera was written by their oldest daughter, longtime NFB leader Eileen Rivera Ley. It is a moving salute to parents who got it right. We publish this brief essay at the time of year when we honor mothers and fathers, as a tribute to all parents who have raised disabled children with respect and high expectations. Here it is:
Days after Mother’s Day, 1967, my parents, Edwin and Magdalena Rivera, lovingly corralled us into our humble living room at 26 Siebert Place in Rochester, New York, for our first-ever family meeting. There were five of us children then. Edwin was almost six years old. I was four, Sandra three, Mildred two, and curly-topped Caroline was only sixteen months old.
“We have something very important to tell you all,” I remember them saying. “God loves our family very much. We are so very special to Him.” Mom continued, “That is why, out of all the families in the whole wide world, He chose ours for this most special blessing. He has sent us a very special present--a little angel of our very own. Her name is Suzanne.”
The Rivera children sat in awe at this incredible decree. Never did we sense the enormity of the responsibility at hand. Nor did we sense the tremendous worry our parents most certainly carried in their hearts.
They were going against all medical advice, bringing Suzanne home instead of institutionalizing her. After- all, this medically fragile child was expected to live only a few months.
We children on the other hand felt as if we had just won a million dollars. God had chosen us. He chose us for this incredibly important job of caring for this very special sister! We reverently gathered around as our mom placed this delicate and fragile five- pound bundle into our well-worn, seemingly gigantic baby crib.
In the following days and years we welcomed baby Susie into our home and hearts. We cooed to her, sang to her, did everything we could to make her giggle.
The fact that Suzanne was born into a family that already had two other blind sisters, Mildred and me, was never lamented. According to our parents, it was really no big deal. Blindness was our only struggle, and what was blindness compared to the serious disabling conditions Suzie faced?
As they taught us to cherish Suzanne, our wise parents held Mildred and me to the same standards as our sighted siblings. We had to do well at school, even though we could not see our books or read the board. They insisted we try rollerskating, sledding, and bike riding. (I never did get the bike riding, but Mildred did.
We were assigned our fair share of chores as well, just like every other Puerto Rican child was expected to do back then. Visitors to the Rivera home were sure to find us cleaning the kitchen, raking leaves, babysitting, baking cookies, delivering newspapers, vacuuming stairs, or doing laundry. There was no time for pity or petty excuses in this happy, hectic home.
Best of all, our parents encouraged us to share in caring for our special little Suzie, who by age ten weighed only eighteen pounds. We lovingly rocked her, bottle-fed her, bathed her, and changed her tiny diapers. We dressed her in most darling, doll-sized clothes. She never learned to talk or walk. Never once were words like “profoundly mentally retarded,” “severely deformed,” and “blind,” ever uttered in our home. To us, she was simply the most adorable, and angelic gift Mom, Pop, and God intended her to be.
In welcoming our dainty little sister into our lives, our wise parents taught us determination, teamwork, gentleness, resourcefulness, personal sacrifice, and unconditional love. They taught Mildred and me to keep our blindness in perspective. To Suzanne, (who incidentally celebrates her forty-firsst birthday this spring), but even more to our incredibly brave, wise, and faith-filled parents, we are forever grateful.
From the Editor: I was only one of many folks who slapped down a credit card at last summer’s convention in order to be one of the first to have the Victor Reader Stream when it shipped in late summer. It is safe to say that those sleek little boxes and the competitive equipment from other manufacturers that has have appeared in the months since have brought about a revolution in the day-to-day lives of many blind people in the United States. They have probably had a profound impact on people in other countries as well, but immediate personal access to the National Library Service’s Talking Book collection and one’s NFB-NEWSLINE favorites list of newspapers at any hour of the day or night has given NLS borrowers our first chance to wander through a public library as well as our first chance to build a personal collection of books. It has also meant that with a few minutes’ work one can grab the paper to read on a plane, train, or bus. All this experience has meant a heady few months for blind readers across the country.
Curtis Chong is president of the NFB in Computer Science. He is as excited about the increased access to books that the Victor Reader Stream represents, but he is also an experienced and knowledgeable user of technology generally. When he uses a piece of electronic equipment, he explores all of its features and pushes it to its limits. He has now written an article reporting on his experience as a user of the Victor Reader Stream. This is what he says:
The Victor Reader Stream (sometimes called the VR Stream or simply the Stream) is a handheld, highly versatile audio book reader, music player, and digital audio recorder. Developed and sold by HumanWare, a leader in technology for the blind, the VR Stream has, since its release in the summer of 2007, found its way into the hands of thousands of blind people throughout the country and around the world. There is something about the VR Stream that grabs your attention (if not your wallet), and its retail price of $329 is low enough for a lot of people to buy with their own money.
What you just read is what you would expect to get from a person who is writing a thorough review of a product or who is putting together a marketing presentation. That is not what I am trying to do here. What I am hoping to do through this article is to pass along my personal experience with the VR Stream, to tell you what I find exciting about it, and to suggest some improvements I would like to see in the product.
The VR Stream itself is a handheld unit approximately 4.5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide, and slightly over three quarters of an inch thick. It might fit in a suit coat pocket, but not comfortably in a jeans pocket. The VR Stream is powered by a rechargeable (and easily replaceable) battery that will run for about fifteen hours on a full charge. It has a small built-in speaker which I find helpful to check the status of the unit. However, for listening to books, music, etc., an external speaker or a pair of good headphones works much better. The VR Stream also has an SD (secure digital) card slot, a built-in microphone, and jacks to connect external speakers or microphones. Every book or song that you hear on the VR Stream is stored on an SD card, available at any local electronics store. The larger the SD card's capacity, the more information you can carry with you on your VR Stream.
A very important thing you should know about the VR Stream is that, if you do not have ready access to a computer and a fast connection to the Internet (DSL running at 1.5 megabits per second will do), the VR Stream will not be of any real value to you because it cannot connect directly to the Internet; without such a connection you will not be able to access the wealth of digital books and other material there. The computer is essential as the repository of digital books, music, and other audio material that you can copy to the VR Stream using the familiar Windows Explorer program.
My first acquaintance with the VR Stream began when I decided to use it as an MP3 music player. I was thrilled that I could simply copy my MP3 music files directly from my computer into the Stream without having to use any proprietary software. For me this was a vast improvement over the iPod Shuffle, which was my first attempt to get into the digital music world. While I could operate the physical iPod Shuffle just fine because it did not have a display, the software that I had to use to move my music from the computer (iTunes) simply did not work with my screen-reading program. The idea behind the VR Stream's music player is that each album is stored in a folder and each song is saved as an MP3 file. You copy each folder of songs from your computer to the VR Stream, and you tell the Stream which album you want to play. Folders and files are sorted alphabetically by name, and by default the VR Stream plays everything in file name order. Music can also be played randomly. You can move fairly quickly to specific albums or songs with a few simple commands, and, while the music is playing, it is easy to move back and forth between songs. The audio quality is decent--especially if you have a good set of headphones or speakers.
I have used the VR Stream's audio recorder for lectures and meetings, and I have found that the quality of the audio is quite acceptable. It does not matter to me that the recording is not in stereo; what matters is that I can hear everyone in the room, and the VR Stream does an excellent job in this regard. I also appreciate that during a meeting I can pause the recording during breaks without losing my place. Of course, if you want to listen to recordings on your computer, you will need to convert them into the standard wave file format using the freely- available and easily -installed Stream Companion software. The VR Stream provides a way to record quick messages: simply press and hold down the record button. However, every time a recording is started, it tells you that recording has started, and I find this verbal prompting somewhat excessive for my purposes. Consequently, I am more likely to use the VR Stream as a recorder for lectures and meetings as opposed to short messages. I tried using the VR Stream to read books stored as text files, including NEWSLINE files. I was not as happy with its performance in this area. I am apparently not as tolerant as other people of the words built-in speech synthesizer mispronounces. Here are a few examples:
The word "pPotatoes" is pronounced "podda toes." The apostrophe in the word "don't" is ignored, and the VR Stream says "don tee." "Movies" is pronounced "moe vees." In any event, I am not willing to tolerate these mispronunciations, so I simply do not use the VR Stream to read electronic books or newspapers that are stored as text files.
The most exciting aspect of the VR Stream is its ability to read digital audio books--books that have been narrated by a human being. The VR Stream provides a rich set of commands to jump around within a properly marked-up digital audio book. For example, in a magazine it is a simple matter to skip an article that you don't want to read. In a book from RFB&D you can go to a specific page or chapter. Everything that you can listen to with the VR Stream--even music--can be speeded up or slowed down, and unlike what you get with an audiocassette recorder with variable-speed capability, there is no change in the pitch of the audio presentation--that is, no more readers with high voices that sound like they have been breathing helium. The VR Stream does have a sleep timer that can be set for as long as an hour, but you have to remember to turn it on. If you don't, the VR Stream will read your audio book all night if you fall asleep, and it can be quite a job finding the place where you last remember reading. The VR Stream also has a bookmark feature, which allows you to save bookmarks in anything you are reading or hearing. Even if you remove the SD card, the bookmarks are saved on the VR Stream, and it is a simple matter to jump to a specific book mark.
I have used the VR Stream to read digital Talking Books and magazines from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped of the Library of Congress (NLS), Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic (RFB&D), and Audible.com (a commercial supplier of downloadable audio books). With regard to NLS digital Talking Books, the VR Stream was, for a time, the only commercially available machine you could buy to read these books. I commend the decision by NLS to open up its digital Talking Book collection to eligible patrons at about the same time the VR Stream hit the market. Today well over ten thousand 10,000 digital Talking Books are in this collection. There is nothing like being able to download a book and have it available right when you want it. I no longer have to wait several days for the book I want to read to arrive in the mail.
In order to read digital Talking Books from the National Library Service, you need to obtain a user ID, a password, and a user authorization key for your VR Stream. These are fairly easy to get if you are an active patron of your state's library for the blind. However, you won't find the necessary Webpage by going to the NLS homepage. You have to direct your browser to http://www.nlstalkingbooks.org/dtb. From there simply select the Application Instructions link and follow the prompts.
In order to read the digital audio books available from RFB&D, you will need to purchase a user authorization key from that agency, which costs $20 plus $6.50 for shipping and handling. A key is most easily obtained by contacting RFB&D Member Services by phone. The number to call is (800) 221-4792. When I ordered my key from RFB&D, I was told that, although I could download my key through the RFB&D Website, RFB&D had to mail me a physical CD with the instructions on how to retrieve it. Preparing and shipping the CD are what cost $6.50.
If you buy audio books from Audible.com, it is easy to activate the VR Stream. Simply download and install the latest version of the Audible Manager software, and you can activate the VR Stream through the menus of the program. You will need to connect the VR Stream to your computer to do this. As far as I know, the VR Stream is the only system that allows books from Audible.com to be speeded up and slowed down in real time--that is, as you are reading them.
Here are some things I personally find quite exciting about the VR Stream:
1. I can carry and listen to lots of digital audio books in one small unit.
2. I can get digital audio books when I want them--no more waiting days for a book to arrive in the mail.
3. I can listen to my favorite songs anywhere I go, and, if I want to, I can play them in a random order.
4. I can record meetings and lectures, and I have hours and hours of recording time available to me--or at least as much time as I can get out of the battery.
5. The battery is both rechargeable and replaceable. If the battery dies, I can replace it with a fully-charged spare, available from HumanWare for approximately $30.
6. I can set book marks that will not disappear when I remove the SD card.
7. I can speed up anything that is being played--even books from Audible.com.
Here are some things that I wish could be improved:
1. It would be nice for the music player to be able to restrict randomization to individual albums. Today the entire collection of music is randomized.
2. The text-to-speech capability could be improved. I would like to be able to read text e-books using a better speech synthesizer than Nuance Vocalizer. I would be pleased with Eloquence--the synthesizer used with JAWS for Windows--but I recognize that the synthesizer one prefers is a highly personal and subjective decision.
3. The VR Stream should be able to read books coded as formatted Braille (BRF) files. This feature is currently not available.
4. The VR Stream should be able to play WMA- (Windows Media Audio) formatted files. It cannot play these files today.
5. Bass and treble controls should be available for all forms of playback.
Today these controls are available only with the music player.
As I said at the beginning of this article, there is something about the VR Stream that grabs your attention. I don't know what it is, but I do know that, despite the improvements I wish it had, I really do appreciate and enjoy the VR Stream as a versatile and highly useful device for reading audio books and playing music, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone.
by Robert Leslie Newman
From the Editor: Summer is here, and many blind people would be interested
in getting exercise in the pool if they had access and know-how. Two articles
in this issue should offer encouragement to those who love the water. The first
is by Robert Leslie Newman, who is one of our most dedicated advocates for exercise.
This is what he says:
Swimming has always been one of my favorite physical activities. As a kid I saw it as fun and physically refreshing on a hot day and a time to be with my friends. Now that I am older, less than a year away from completing my sixth decade, though I still love swimming for those early reasons, I realize that swimming fulfills an additional set of personal needs. In this article I intend to explore how a blind person swims independently and how this exercise benefits me physically and mentally and boosts my self-confidence. Finally, I will describe how this exercise can get you into the zone.
I am lucky to be at a stage of life and career in which my wife and I have been able to make one of our dreams come true: to have our own backyard swimming pool. It is an aboveground oval pool measuring twelve feet by twenty-four feet and is four feet deep. Its sides are steel, its thick plastic liner is aqua blue, and it has an electric pump and filtering system. We had a deck built that wraps around both ends and one long side and joins an existing deck--house to pool without getting your feet dirty.
Swimming as a totally blind person demands the same basic travel skills as traveling on dry land: a combination of hearing, touch, and common sense. As I describe my personal technique, note that, just as not all blind travelers use basic travel skills in the same way, each blind swimmer finds his or her own style of making it work. When swimming on the surface, my preference is always to have my ears out of the water so I can use my hearing to keep oriented; this would also help to avoid collisions with other swimmers. In this ears-up style I am able, not only to keep track of where I am relative to the length and width of the pool, but more important, to detect where the side walls are, helping me avoid running into them and, when swimming laps, to know precisely where they are in order to stay within touching distance of them.
This hearing the walls, detecting where they are, is more than just listening for the sound of splashing water as it encounters the pool’s sides and hearing background sounds coming over the top of the wall. This ability is more a result of the very real phenomenon that many blind people speak of as “blind sonar” or echolocation (before it was better understood, it was called “facial vision”). When I am asked to explain this “detecting the walls,” I usually explain that objects make their presence known both by the quality of their echo feedback, which can be either highly reflective or sound absorbing, and also by the pressure that their mass projects, which we usually feel on the face. Once you detect it, you can use the amount of pressure to judge your distance and angle from the object--in this case the pool wall. (Sailors speak of sailing on a moonless and starless night and feeling the loom of a nearby towering rock or an on-coming island.)
Swimming as exercise is one of my new enthusiasms. I love physical exercise. At every stage of my life I have found time for it. I presently do some sort of exercise six days a week: lifting weights, running, and muscle crunches. Now I mix in swimming during the warm months. Not only does swimming tax your respiratory and circulatory systems, it also involves all your muscles and is a low-impact activity. I love the feeling I have after a good workout in the water, overall fatigue yet a sense of accomplishment for having given my body a good workout. Knowing I am better inside and out gives me a glow of virtue. Like most people I pride myself on knowing that I am taking good care of my body, my health, and my general appearance.
If I don't watch it, I can get bored when I swim. So, as part of pool maintenance, I make a game of finding leaves and other debris that have fallen in the water. This is not just walking around feeling for stuff with my toes, I'm on a hunt. I make it a test of how quickly I can get to the bottom and conduct a search over a reasonably large area. I really get to work on my ability to hold a breath.
I have also made up several great underwater games. I drop and lie prone on the floor of the pool. As I sink, I expel all the air in my lungs, eliminating buoyancy. The object is to sink and not have to fight to stay on the bottom. With some of my body touching the spongy plastic flooring and stretched out with arms extended, I propel myself by finger and toe movements only. The object is to see how far and fast I can go.
Another favorite underwater game is to visualize myself as a bird in flight; the medium in which I am propelling myself, a body of water, is not very different from a bird flying through the air. The real thrill that comes with this second exercise is planning and executing course changes, sometimes radical ones; this is as close to soaring as we humans can get. If I am swimming in a straight line, I perform a tilting sharp right or left turn or do a figure eight. The resulting position of my body is much like a bird’s motion during a banking turn. You can really surprise yourself by coming up from the bottom on a steep angle as fast as you can and pop out of the water. This is called broaching when a whale does it.
My favorite swimming exercise is distance swimming, and I love to watch people’s reaction when I say, “I swam a mile in my backyard.” This is of course an aerobic activity intended to work on the respiratory, circulatory, and musculature systems. The equation calculating a mile of swimming goes like this--a mile, 5,280 feet, divided by the perimeter of my pool, 56.5 feet, equals about ninety-three laps. Because I am swimming just inside the pool’s wall, using good old blind sonar to keep within touching distance of the side at all times, I add five laps to bring the distance traveled of about fifty-four feet a lap up to 5,292 feet. On average I make one circuit every thirty-five seconds, so one mile takes about fifty-seven minutes to complete.
I have been asked how I track when I have completed a full circuit of the pool. I first thought that I would just keep track of the two turns and the two straight-aways and raise my count that way. But, when you get into long-distance swimming and hit the zone that I will speak of in the next paragraphs, your mind begins floating free. You focus on thoughts that do not lend themselves to counting turns and straight-aways or the shifting of the sun or the sound of the neighbor’s lawnmower. So I increase my lap count by one each time I come abreast of the sound of the skimmer box, a cut-out hole in the pool’s wall at the waterline that serves as an overflow port and allows floating debris to be skimmed off the surface.
Swimming a mile is not something I do every day; I don’t always have the time to devote to it. Yet on average in the summer I do it two to three times a week. I am going to describe swimming a mile because of what happens, not only the physical glow and healthy fatigue, but, even more intriguing, achieving the zone, the mental state that comes as my body adjusts to the strong and continuous physical strain.
Starting a long swim, I am excited to begin but nervous that I may not make it. I plunge in, either pushing off the ladder or diving off the deck, not touching bottom then or when I finish. Until I hoist myself out again onto the hard, dry planks of the deck, water will be my only medium. My swims have pretty much developed a pattern of both physical and mental stages: the warm-up, the struggle, the second wind and the zone, then the hard work, and the final push to the finish.
I warm up during the first ten or so laps, stretching muscles and joints, working the breathing, finding the right stroke, slowly building up speed. A modified breast stroke works best for me. Visualize my head up, ears and nose out of the water, my back and shoulders rhythmically bobbing above and below the surface of the water, my body rocking as I first stretch out, legs kicking back while simultaneously my arms reach ahead. Then my body contracts as my arms stroke back and my legs come forward. This quick one-two action is repeated again and again. I call this swimming style my sea gallop.
I first feel fatigue somewhere in the twenties. I just push through this feeling and refuse to give in. Sometimes, to boost my willpower, I give myself a fantasy goal, visualizing that I am swimming away from the mainland toward an island a mile offshore.
Somewhere in the thirties I reach and pass through a physical barrier and settle into my most economical stroke. I have my second wind and find that pushing my speed up to about two-thirds of my best is a pace that I can hold for the next twenty to thirty laps. It is here that I am no longer giving full attention to what my body is doing. I experience a separation of physical and mental awareness. I have reached the zone. My body is working on something like autopilot, where I am fully aware of all that it is doing and I am in full control, but I suddenly find my thoughts expanding, sometimes cascading. When I focus on one thought, the images come fast and full, and I find that I can take them places that I ordinarily would not be capable of--working out problems in relationships, building story-lines for articles such as this one, examining the secrets of life, and more. During this period I have the hardest time keeping track of laps. When in doubt of the count, I always repeat the lap.
The later fifties and early sixties can be a time to slow down and shift the strain from one set of muscles to another, giving parts of my body a rest. Then in the later sixties and lower seventies I can again push on strong, up to about two-thirds power, and I'm again in the zone. By the later mid eighties and nineties I am again swimming at about one-third speed, working at it to stay steady and concentrating on having a good finish.
At this writing my longest distance has been two miles. My goal for this summer is five miles. I have run five miles many times in the past, and swimming them will indeed be a challenge. (The zone in running is called “runner’s high.”) But challenge in life is what we all need, and as blind people in this day and age, when others often doubt our abilities, we need to be ready to tackle any and all challenges that come our way. Success with a physical challenge can be one way of building belief and confidence in ourselves and can help us to meet and overcome life’s challenges.
by James Fetter
From the Editor: Several months ago we realized that exciting things were happening for blind people in the world of competitive swimming at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. James Fetter, an NFB member, was a graduate student in political science. He had narrowly missed the cut for the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney, Australia, and was still a dedicated and serious swimmer. We came across an online article describing an invention to help blind swimmers and any others who had trouble seeing line markers or the end of the pool. Because Annie Sawicki, a Notre Dame swimming coach had interested colleagues in trying to invent a solution to this swimming problem, we turned to James Fetter to ask him for a brief article describing this equipment. Here is his explanation followed by the online article from USA Swimming:
As with many inventions, the device now known as AdaptTap or Touch Tap arose out of a certain amount of necessity. Annie Sawicki, the coach of the Masters Swim Team at Notre Dame, found herself coaching at first two and then an increasing number of blind swimmers, several of whom had competed at the elite level in the past. The first two blind Masters swimmers, both students at Notre Dame who had chosen to attend the school for reasons not related to swimming, were internationally ranked against other blind swimmers. Ashley Nashleanas, a Notre Dame undergrad and science major, had competed in the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece, and had some interest in trying out for the 2008 team in Beijing. After my near miss for the Paralympics in Australia, I saw Masters swimming as an opportunity to stay in shape and to leave open the possibility of again competing at the elite level at some point in the future, perhaps in the 2012 Paralympics to be held in London. Needless to say, both of us practiced at a high level of intensity and thus needed a reliable means of determining when we had arrived at the walls at the ends of the pool.
Sawicki soon discovered that the traditional method of alerting blind swimmers that they were approaching the wall, a method called “tapping,” in which a sighted person stands at each end of the pool holding a pole with a tennis ball attached to one end and hits the swimmer on the head or body when it is time to turn, had its drawbacks. Finding enough reliable people willing to tap during each swim practice, often without much or any financial compensation, was difficult, to say the least. This led Sawicki to wonder whether the human tapper could be replaced by a device of some sort that would not be subject to human error, expect to be paid, or have scheduling conflicts.
In the fall of 2006 she approached several engineers at Notre Dame with the concept, and, after several false starts and a failed attempt to develop an electronic device, a group of engineers in industrial design came up with the AdaptTap system, a series of flexible plastic rods with balls on one end and brackets on the other that attach to a standard lane line.
The device serves two purposes: to keep the swimmer in the middle of the lane and, most important, to alert him or her of the approaching wall, allowing space and time for a safe and legal turn without sighted assistance. Shorter rods attached at regular intervals to both lane lines do the former, and longer rods forming a gate of sorts near each end of the pool do the latter. Since each rod is flexible and can be attached wherever the swimmer sees fit, the device does not impede the swimmer’s progress. If a blind swimmer is required to share a lane with several other swimmers, only the rods at either end of the pool would be attached, which would prevent interference with the other swimmers in the lane.
Designing the device was only half the battle, however. Finding a company willing to manufacture it in the absence of the assurance of a large market was a major challenge, as was rounding up a representative cross -section of blind swimmers willing and able to test the prototype of the device that was constructed by the engineering team out of whatever spare plastic they could find.
Like a pit -bull Sawicki refused to let go of the project, and her persistence eventually paid off. In April of this year the device was actually patented, and Kiefer, a large aquatics company based in Chicago, agreed to manufacture the device. Adolph Kiefer, founder of the company, is now ninety and uses a wheelchair. He is personally committed to helping people with disabilities to stay active. If all goes according to plan, the AdaptTap system should soon be on the market and available to all blind swimmers, whether they be elite Paralympians who want the flexibility that comes with training independently or beginners and fitness swimmers who would prefer not to collide with the lane lines or the wall.
On February 22, 2008, USA Swimming, an online publication,
carried a story about the effort at Notre Dame to improve practice and competition
for blind swimmers. Meantime, because some of the swimmers in the Notre Dame
program were members of the NFB, Annie Sawicki came to Baltimore to describe
the AdaptTap system to NFB officials. Unable to commit funding resources to
the program, they offered encouragement and contacts to Ms. Sawicki and her
colleagues, as reported above. T, they have now solved many of the production
problems and plan to be at the convention in Dallas to demonstrate the device
and work with blind swimmers and would-be swimmers. (See the announcement
about their plans for convention in the Federation Family section of Monitor
Miniatures.) Here is the article about this exciting new invention that appeared
in USA Swimming on February 22, 2008:
Finding Their Way–Sightless Swimmers at Notre Dame Hope to Advance Their Sport
by Diane Krieger Spivak
When Notre Dame Irish aquatics coach Annie Sawicki found herself with ten visually impaired swimmers in her masters swim program, she quickly found out what they already knew. Swimming blind presents its own set of problems. Drifting to the sides of the lane and not knowing when you get to the wall are the most challenging.
Sawicki found that there was nothing on the market to guide blind swimmers in the pool, so two- and -a -half years ago she started working on a device that would keep the swimmers on track, as well as enable them to know when to turn. “At practice they were hitting their heads,” Sawicki said. “Some of them were used to their home clubs, where their parents would tap for them.” A tapper stands at the end of the pool holding a pole with a tennis ball attached and taps a blind swimmer on the head or shoulder when he or she nears the wall.
After a series of electronic devices failed, Sawicki was referred to Prof. Paul Down, of the university’s Industrial Design Department, who enlisted his graduate students to help solve the problem. The result, which has a provisional patent and could be ready for production in a few months, is the AdaptTap, a navigation system for visually impaired swimmers. Sawicki, who coaches masters Paralympic swimmers, says her swimmers helped in the design process, putting different versions to the test. Even the sighted industrial design students who work on the product blindfolded themselves, jumped in the pool, and tried it out.
One of Sawicki’s swimmers and Notre Dame student Ashley Nashleanas, a record holder who swam at the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens, is featured in a video clip demonstrating the AdaptTap on the Irish Masters Website. “It’s a very simple tactile device that works on the principle of curb feelers,” said Down, who says the device does for blind swimmers what a backstroke flag does for backstrokers. The lane gate system features floating touchpoints with sponge-type balls on the ends that extend out from the lane lines to guide the swimmer.
The design team is working with the National Federation of the Blind and will present the AdaptTap at the Federation’s national convention this summer. “Right now we’re sourcing the most cost-effective way to get a system together that would be reliable,” Down said. “We have concepts in mind for how it could be made commercially, but it requires injection-molded parts. Down says the design team is currently looking for funding and for companies to manufacture the device.
PhD candidate James Fetter, who narrowly missed the 2000 Parlaympics in Sydney as a high school senior, is one of Sawicki’s masters swimmers. “I think the device has a lot of potential, especially at the end of the lane. It gives an indication where to turn, which definitely makes it easier than in previous years trying to get tappers at practice, which you really need at a competitive level,” Fetter said. “The problem when you’re going full speed, you’re thinking about hitting the wall. I think it’s definitely a good training tool that will help me swim on my own whenever I feel like it.”
Lori Miller, thirty-two, a 1997 Notre Dame alum who bicycled in Sydney in 2000, connected with Irish Masters last year after she decided to do triathlons. “I’ve swum with the device, I’ve tested it, and I love it,” said Miller, who’s been blind since age two. “Now that I know something like that exists, it’s really hard to jump in the pool to do laps without it,” she said. “It provides orientation throughout the whole lap so I’m not moving back and forth. I can instantly make adjustments to get back to the middle. “It eliminates the guesswork,” Miller said. “No more jammed hands and fingers, bumping your head, no more counting strokes and backing off at the end because you know you’re getting close to the wall but you’re not quite sure. The device takes care of all that. It just takes all the limitations off, and I’m for being as independent as possible. With the device I’m able to concentrate on swimming faster again.”
Down believes the device has the potential to help even fully sighted swimmers with contacts or eyeglasses, those affected by chlorination, backstrokers, or even any swimmer since the eyes go in and out of the water while swimming. Sawicki hopes the device can help other college swimmers so they don’t have to start at ground zero like we did. “Not every blind swimmer is going to be a Jessica Long or go to the Paralympics,” Sawicki said. “We want to reach out to everyone in the country who is blind who is going to use swimming as fitness. If the product fits the bill and can help elite swimmers go faster for training purposes, that’s fantastic.”
by Judy Jones
From the Editor: Judy Jones is one of the thousands of blind Americans who live and work in their communities, changing attitudes and expectations about blindness and blind people every day. She is also a leader in the NFB of Washington. In the following article she reflects on the importance of remaining engaged and living life to the fullest. This is what she says:
When I read articles about the accomplishments of blind men and women around the world, I often wonder what is left to write about. My father was in the air force for thirty years, and my parents made sure I participated fully in their lives while developing lifeskills of my own. All good parents, to the best of their ability, would do the same for their child, but to hear my parents talk, blindness was not a barrier to overcome as much as it was just one more area of adaptation to life. After all, living in a military family means making do with what you have wherever you happen to be stationed.
I've lived overseas, attended various schools, graduated from college with a teaching degree, taught school, married, and am raising children and running a small business. Exciting, yes; fulfilling, definitely; but not particularly remarkable. Thousands of other blind people are doing the same thing, and I am sure many are climbing higher and faster on life's ladder, are more financially successful, are shouldering more burdens, and have accomplished more. What part of my life or bit of wisdom can I contribute that hasn't been articulated hundreds of times already?
Then I realized it's this—to remind all of us in our own corners of the world to be encouraged. We are all making contributions, whether we recognize it or not. It's up to us whether those contributions are positive or negative. Every day we create impressions in others of how blind people live, work, and communicate with the rest of society. Every time we interact with children or young people we are shaping the tomorrow in which we and the next generation of blind people will live.
I believe that first impressions are lasting. When I was a young teen, my mother told me of an encounter she had had with one of our neighbors. This woman had a daughter who had recently married and become pregnant. She had also learned that the baby might be born with a disability. The daughter told her mom she wouldn't worry about the baby if it were blind since she knew our family and knew that her blind baby would grow up to have a full life.
I was surprised that this young woman had been so observant.
She was about ten years older than I, and not someone I saw very much since
she lived away from her parents' home. I've wondered sometimes now what she
is telling others about her impressions of blind people whenever the subject
arises in conversation. Has she gone on to influence others unconsciously
with her positive attitude?
What influences do we have on our corner of the world? In the NFB we say that with proper training and opportunity blind people can and do participate equally with their sighted counterparts. That's great! Very straightforward if you've received effective training in daily living skills, cane travel, adaptive equipment, etc. But what if you haven't? Maybe you grew up in an area where there were few services for the blind or families were not sure where to get help or were working too hard making ends meet to have time for anything but preparing for the next day.
All of us are vulnerable to one degree or another; we are inadequate
in some areas; we have weaknesses. The point is to work steadily on improving
skills, strengthen weaknesses (sometimes one at a time), and realize that,
sighted or blind, all people have vulnerable moments.
I remember one particularly trying day when I was a new chapter president. We were to have a chapter board meeting in our home. I was watching a neighbor’s kids that summer day as well. Not bad, a manageable set of responsibilities until that afternoon when I discovered a water bed leak. All housework came to a screeching halt while I hunted madly for the patch and glue. The leak was growing bigger and faster, seemingly by the second. By now I discovered it was squirting water near the underside of the mattress, not the top, where it would be easy to fix. No towels, duct tape, or patch would fix it. I remembered to yank out the plug of the bed heater and pop out the window screen, for that was the only fast way to attach the hose to pump out the bed. By this time the kids were excited at the possibilities an open ground-floor window and a waterhose might have. The dogs were running back and forth barking at the kids. I told them window access and waterpower were out, but some could make sure water was pumping out, while others could make sure the hose was attached to the bed. There was a lot of running back and forth to check each other's work.
Later that afternoon, as board members arrived, they found me
whisking folded laundry off the couch. The laundry room had been taken over
by wet rugs, wet blankets, and wet kids. One of our members was newly blind
and newly married to a woman I had never met and, as far as I knew, might
never have been around blind people before. What must she have been thinking
about the chaos? I was self-conscious. I don't remember whether we even got
dinner that night, but none of us have starved, so something must have happened.
Situations not of your choosing can leave you feeling vulnerable. But these things happen to everyone. It's okay. Everyone, sighted or blind, sometimes feels like the odd man out. Fortunately we can take control over more situations, and it's important to do so.
As a new homemaker I remember feeling very self-conscious walking into a hardware store to ask for help with a home repair project. What if they want to ask the blindness questions? What if they won't help me because they think blind people can't learn to do home repairs? That first incident happened almost twenty years ago, and my fears were groundless. I've received nothing but encouraging help, and some of the techniques I've adopted are those thought up by sighted clerks in home repair stores.
I hope that in the future, if one of those helpful employees should become blind or have a relative who is blind, he or she will remember a blind customer, maybe more than one, who once asked for help and got the job done. If blind people can repair things, could they perhaps do other tasks too?
Every day I work with other mothers in my daughters' classrooms,
with school and church administrators, and with other business people. The
recipe for acceptance is an initial dash of assertiveness plus kindness, added
to drive, innovation, and a generous dose of friendliness. Our job of educating
the public will seem much easier, and we will continue to make positive contributions
in our corner of the world.
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!
by James H. Omvig
From the Editor: Jim Omvig is vice chairman of the President's Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, the federal agency that oversees the AbilityOne Program, which directs federal contracts to National Industries for the Blind agencies among others. Jim is also a longtime Federation leader who has just retired to Arizona for the second time. Here is an announcement in which he knew we would be interested:
Many in the blind community are not aware that a blind man named Jim Gibbons is the very first blind person ever to head National Industries for the Blind (NIB), the nonprofit agency that coordinates the purchase by the federal government of goods and services offered by what were formerly referred to as sheltered workshops for the blind. Jim was appointed CEO by the NIB board in 1998. (See my article about the profound changes in the NIB system over the past few years, “It's Not Your Grandfather's NIB Any More,” in the February 2007 Braille Monitor.)
Just consider: Congress adopted the original Wagner-O’Day Act (requiring that the federal government purchase certain goods from sheltered workshops for the blind) in 1938. That same year National Industries for the Blind was established to serve as the link between the federal government and the workshops, yet it took sixty years for the NIB board to conclude that a qualified blind person could be NIB CEO and then actually to do something about it.
I know nothing about earlier NIB board search committees, but at an annual NIB meeting a year or two ago Sharon and I met a distinguished gentleman from New York City by the name of Abram (Abe) Claude Jr. He is the managing director of Gilbert Tweed Associates, Inc., and he was on the 1998 search committee. He told Sharon and me that, once the 1998 committee got the idea that NIB should be run by a blind person (it was probably Abe's idea), this new thought prevailed, and the committee refused to stop until it did in fact find a qualified blind candidate. That candidate turned out to be Jim Gibbons, who had come out of the rough-and-tumble of the private business sector.
In February of 2008 Jim announced that he is moving on. Beginning in March, he became president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International, located in Rockville, Maryland. So Jim headed NIB for almost ten years. It is fitting for us to review what was accomplished on his watch. NIB now has a nationwide policy that all blind workers be paid at least the federal minimum wage unless these employees have profound multiple disabilities. Most NIB agencies now provide blind workers with the same benefits as those available to management. And most NIB-associated agencies are now modern manufacturing facilities that use up-to-date machinery and equipment.
These changes are significant, but to me some of the management changes have much more long-term potential. During the last ten years NIB has set up four management training programs: a two-year Fellowship for Business Leadership; an eighteen-month management training program developed and delivered for NIB by the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, called the Business Management Training Program; a Leadership at All Levels Program; and a new distance-learning program inaugurated in 2006 to offer additional learning and self-improvement opportunities for blind production employees. At the time of this writing, more and more blind people are moving up into supervisory and management positions. And, of the eighty-seven NIB-associated agencies, ten are now headed by blind people. I believe this is a record.
No one would argue that Jim Gibbons made all of these positive changes on his own, but it is also fair to say that his vision of the capabilities of the blind and his leadership were key factors. We wish Jim well in his new venture, and we urge the NIB board of directors to continue its policy of steady improvement in the wages, benefits, and working conditions for individual blind workers in the program. Much progress has been made in recent years, and the momentum must continue.
by Mike Celizic
From the Editor: We in the NFB frequently assure each
other that with appropriate training and opportunity blind people can compete
on terms of equality with our sighted neighbors. On April 24, 2008, the
Today Show on NBC television carried a startling story that illustrates
this contention in an unusual way. Here is the transcript of that story. It
speaks for itself:
The next time Allan Kieta thinks there might be an intruder in his home, he's not going to rush blindly into a fight for his life. The forty-nine-year-old Indianapolis husband and father of two meant that literally when he said it Thursday on Today. Kieta really is blind, but that didn't stop him from subduing a would-be burglar twenty-four years his junior with wrestling moves learned more than thirty years ago.
The battle took place Monday and lasted from thirty to forty minutes. Kieta wasn't even supposed to be home, but he decided to take a day off from work and sleep in. When his pet poodle started barking hysterically, he got out of bed, and, instead of calling 911 on the phone or listening to try to determine who was in the house, he opened the bedroom door and went into the hall--and straight into an intruder. "He attacked me--as soon as I ran into him, it was like a war started," Kieta told Today's Matt Lauer in New York. "It was like mayhem for the first few seconds till I was able to get him down. Then things started calming down a little bit."
Some thirty-two years ago Kieta had been a champion wrestler in high school, and his father was a Marine who taught his son some tricks of the trade. Since he couldn't see to trade punches with the intruder, Kieta said he knew he had to use his wrestling skills to get the fight onto the floor, where blindness would not be a great handicap.
"In wrestling you have to get control of him, and by doing that either you have to go forward or you have to turn," Kieta said. "We were in the hallway, so there wasn't any way to circle him. So I basically came straight at him until I could get hold of him and pull him down, and I was on top of him."
Kieta acted as if it weren't that big a deal. Once he got the intruder, later identified as Alvaro Castro, twenty-five, on the ground, he was able to control him. In doing so, he remembered a trick his father had told him about and lifted Castro up by his belt, which forced his upper body down.
The battle went from the hallway through the laundry room and into the kitchen. During the life-or-death struggle, Kieta kept asking the intruder why he broke into his house. "He said, `I was looking for my cat.' I said, `Your cat? You're in my house!'"
Castro also said he was looking for Kieta's daughter, eighteen-year-old Alexandra; he also has a sixteen-year-old son, Allan III. Kieta later learned that Castro had worked with a crew on their yard three years earlier and had befriended Alexandra and Allan. Kieta figures that Castro thought no one would be home on a Monday morning and the house would be an easy touch.
Once in the kitchen, Kieta dragged Castro to the stove and grabbed a large chef's knife. "I love to cook, and it's sitting right beside the stove to the right," he told Lauer. "The kind of odd thing was, only one knife was left--it was a big one. All the others were in the dishwasher. It was really easy to find it. It was the only one there sticking out of the wooden block."
He held the knife to Castro's throat and went for the telephone. With his right arm wrapped around Castro's neck and near total exhaustion, it took Kieta about twenty tries to dial 911 with his left hand. He was so frustrated and Castro was so terrified that he offered to dial 911 himself. "He said, `Please, let me dial it. Please don't kill me,'” Kieta said. But he finally got the three digits right and told the operator his situation.
The 911 tape records him saying, "I have an intruder, and right now I have him with a knife."
"Is he trying to fight with you right now?" the operator asked.
"No, I got the knife to his neck," Kieta replied with remarkable calm. Police rushed to the home and arrested Castro. Kieta said his jaw was sore the next day from a few punches Castro got in, but otherwise he feels fine. But, he added, the next time his dog starts barking wildly, he's not going to rush into another fight.
"I probably should have been a little more cautious,"
he said. "Like maybe not just open the door and charge down the hallway."
Lauer asked Alexandra if she was impressed by what her father had done. "It's kind of surprising he struggled that long," she said, then added: "But he's pretty beast-like." She meant it as a compliment.
by Barbara Loos
From the Editor: Barbara Loos is a frequent contributor to these pages and a longtime Federation leader. In the following simple story she demonstrates the way in which we often work together to bring hope to those who need it:
I have always been fascinated by networking. As an AmeriCorps member, my web of partnerships is flourishing. Here is an example.
My job in AmeriCorps with the National Federation of the Blind of Nebraska (NFBN) includes teaching blind senior citizens to use the computer with speech output. On one occasion, while I was working with an eighty-five-year-old gentleman, he got a call from a man at the Nebraska Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (NCBVI), our state’s agency for the blind. My student had been in touch with the Commission after returning from receiving a computer and initial training from Heinz Veterans Hospital in Chicago. In the course of the conversation my student and the man from the Commission discussed a talking computerized version of cribbage that Ian Humphreys, a retired programmer from Australia, had created as part of his Blind-Gamers series. The man from NCBVI said he would email it to both my student and me. On a previous visit he had tried unsuccessfully to install it on my student’s computer and then asked if I would try. I did, but to no avail.
My student has more than a passing interest in cribbage. As a sighted person he was a champion player and has inspired many others to compete in the game. Although he is losing his sight from macular degeneration, his enthusiasm for life is palpable, and I left that day determined to give him a shot at Blind-Gamers Cribbage.
One of the best things for my job has been the NFBN’s purchase of a laptop computer that I can take to my various work sites. After my initial visit to the gentleman mentioned above, I not only received the game from the man at NCBVI, but I installed it on the laptop from a USB drive onto which I had copied the files. After reading the directions, I tried the game a couple of times, losing badly to my computerized opponent.
On the next visit to my cribbage-playing friend, after answering his questions on other subjects, I asked him if he wanted to try the game. He greeted the opportunity with his customary gusto. Since his own computer is a desktop, I connected a standard keyboard to the laptop using a USB cable so he wouldn’t need to learn different key commands. I gave him directions for entering the game and for initiating play. Then I stood by and watched a pro at work. The fact that the cards showed in rapid succession caused him momentary confusion when he read them using the left and right arrow keys, but after the second or third round he seemed only slightly bothered when the first card’s identity was repeated after all had been named initially. The computer won the first two rounds, as I remember it, but by the end of the third my student was gaining ground. Although I found the quaint expressions like “One for his nob” and “Two for his heels” amusing, my student was clearly more interested in overtaking his virtual foe. As his score mounted, he did chuckle upon hearing the rhyme “Twenty-three, eight's a spree” just before he selected an eight with the up arrow and pressed Enter to play it, scoring thirty-one.
When his score topped 100, he rubbed his hands in gleeful anticipation.
And then it happened. Instead of the computerized laughter and “Bad luck.
I won the game” that I had been accustomed to hearing, applause and congratulations
issued from the computer.
My favorite memory of that event will always be my student’s exuberant “Aha!” upon completion of the game. I’m glad I am part of the network of AmeriCorps, NFBN, NCBVI, and Ian Humphreys, all of whom partnered to make that aha moment for a blind Nebraskan possible. I know that this experience, added to similar successes, will eventually equal my student’s understanding that it is respectable to be blind. That will help him win, not only in the game of cribbage, but also in the game of life.
How to Share the Federation Message with Other Blind
Most of us are active in the Federation today because NFB members reached out to us, befriended us, answered our questions, or said just the thing that made us want to be a part of the organization. Though we often yearn to reach out to other blind people, we sometimes find it difficult to know just what to say to someone who has reservations about the organization or even about blindness itself. Below are some of the reservations we frequently hear expressed and various suggestions for ways to respond to them as we extend our hands to other blind people. Not all of the responses to a question or reservation will be appropriate for you or for a specific situation. Become familiar with all these ideas. Soon you will find yourself able to answer questions in words that come from your own heart and experience.
1. What does the NFB do?
• Our goal is to achieve full integration of blind people into all aspects of society. We work to make this happen through public education, legislation, programs for children, mentorship, scholarships for students, senior outreach, professional groups, and much more.
• We are the civil rights movement of blind people.
• We are a nationwide group of blind people who come together to provide support, encouragement, and practical advice for one another.
2. I’m not a joiner.
• I know what you mean; I have never considered myself a joiner either. But the NFB helped me personally, and that’s what brought me into the organization.
• Our organization has room for all levels of involvement. You can join a listserv or come to an occasional meeting if that’s all you can do.
• By virtue of being blind, you are already part of a group. As group members we want to work together to see that all blind people have the chance to live their lives with dignity.
3. I don’t like politics, and I’m not political.
• You can do many things in the organization, and you don’t have to participate in every activity. Holding an office is not the only way to get involved in the organization.
• The NFB doesn’t affiliate with political parties. We work only for the passage of legislation that will expand opportunities for blind people.
4. I’m not really blind.
• Most people in the NFB are not totally blind; you'll fit right in.
• Our focus is not on how much vision you do or don’t have. We focus on helping blind people figure out ways to get things done.
• We encourage people to use every tool that will help them get the job done as efficiently and easily as possible, whether it is a magnifier, a screen reader, a CCTV, or a cane.
5. The NFB is radical.
• In the NFB we believe that blind people can lead fulfilling, productive lives. Does this sound radical?
• Because of society’s negative attitudes about blindness, many people think believing that blindness isn't a tragedy is radical, but we are working together to change society's attitudes about blindness so that someday our belief in the capabilities of blind people won’t be considered all that radical.
6. The NFB opposes guide dogs.
• We are not opposed to guide dogs. We believe that blind people have the right to use the tools that work best for them.
• Many of our national leaders and members are guide dog users.
• We even have a guide dog division so that you can meet other guide dog users.
• We have filed many lawsuits to protect the rights of guide dog users.
• All blind people are welcome in our organization.
7. The NFB opposes audible traffic signals.
• We are not opposed to audible traffic signals where they are necessary; we just believe that blind people should be able to travel anywhere without feeling limited to crossing only those streets with audible signals.
• You don’t have to agree with every policy of the organization. If you want to improve the lives of blind people, you belong with us.
8. I can’t get to meetings.
• We want you to be a part of us, and we will be happy to help figure something out.
• If no meeting is close to you, start attending a meeting a little farther away. Often members of a chapter help to get someone to the meeting by finding a driver or asking another member to help the new person get there.
• You can also get involved through listservs. The NFB has a number of email lists in which you can talk to people and exchange ideas.
9. How do I join?
• Local chapter meetings.
• State conventions.
• National convention and Washington Seminar.
• Reading the Braille Monitor.
• Spending time on our state and national Websites.
Other Useful Tips
• Recruitment is an all-the-time, everywhere commitment. Don't let blind people or their family members pass you by.
• Make sure you get their contact information so that you can follow up.
• Try to become a friend.
• Listen to their concerns about blindness and go out of your way to help them.
• Don't scare them away by coming on too strong. Remember, you probably wouldn't appreciate a stranger telling you that you are doing everything in your life wrong.
• Find out their interests and introduce them to other Federationists who share those interests.
• Don't get bogged down trying to explain the nuances of our philosophy. Remember that coming to terms with blindness is a slow process.
• Go out of your way to make them feel welcome in the organization.
Remember that bringing in new members is another way of saying, be a friend. Help where you can; listen to concerns; offer your friendship. We have received this gift from others; recruiting is a good way of passing along the gift.
by Alan R. Downing
From the Editor: Alan Downing grew up in the Greater Boston area and attended the Perkins School until ninth grade, when he transferred to his local high school. That was a good thing, he comments, since Perkins could never have prepared him for college and his career. He graduated from MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1972 with a degree in aerospace engineering and a minor in computer science. He completed his degree in three years with a straight A average. He worked for a NASA subcontractor during his second and third years at MIT and for a short time after graduation. He then worked for Honeywell as a software engineer for twelve years. Honeywell transferred him from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1975. He has been an Arizonan ever since. He is now retired from aerospace engineering and fills his days with automotive work, restoring vehicles of all kinds.
Alan sent the following article to the Braille Monitor,
and, while I was personally horrified at the content, it was so funny and
full of irrepressible energy and zest for life and new experience that I had
no choice but to share this entertaining man and his story with Monitor readers.
Now meet Alan Downing:
So there I was, minding my own business, swilling down beer last July when my Snapon Tool sales rep, Erick Gano, who is also one of my best friends, called me on the phone.
He asked, “What are you doing on Labor Day weekend?”
I replied, “Nothing that I can think of at the moment. Why?”
He said, “Good, because I entered you in a demolition derby on September 2.” He continued, “Are you game?”
I replied, “Hell yes!”
The demolition derby would be held in Flagstaff, Arizona, as part of the annual Coconino County fair. It would be held on Sunday afternoon of Labor Day weekend, following the main derby and would be for blind drivers only. (By way of background, I lost my sight to bilateral glaucoma at the age of three and was fifty-six at the time of these events. I live in Phoenix, Arizona.) The drivers would wear helmets connected to radios, and each would be directed by a spotter in the pits. Each spotter would have a radio and headset tuned to a dedicated frequency matching that of the driver’s radio. Erick would be my spotter. Several friends wondered if he was actually trying to get me killed so that he could get his hands on my 150-grand plus worth of Snapon tools to resell. They were just kidding I think!
The fellow in Flagstaff who has organized this event for several years called me three or four days later to fill me in on the specifics. I asked about the communication arrangements. He explained that he thought that he could borrow helmets from sighted derby participants from the earlier main events. He also claimed that some guy or other from a local radio shop knew how to connect the helmets to radios, which he would also (he hoped) provide, and was supposed to be there. I told him not to worry about my gear because I'd take care of it myself. I suggested that he just worry about the other entrants’ needs. I didn't like the sound of what he was saying and figured this might be an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage over the other drivers. If I had a well-performing communication package, and they didn’t, that could be a real plus for me.
To determine what my helmet communication options were, I called my friend Kay Sedgwick, who owns Performance Radios in Acton, California. Kay sells and services racing radios and also modifies helmets for NASCAR drivers so that they can communicate with their pit crews. Basically she installs a miniature noise-cancelling boom mike in the helmet along with various jacks to hook up to ear pieces and to the radio as well as to a push-to-talk button Velcroed to the steering wheel for easy access. The radio in turn sits in a hardened aluminum and heavily padded case, which is securely attached to the car’s roll cage.
Not wishing this caper to get overly expensive, I had decided that I wouldn’t buy a NASCAR helmet because they cost several thousand dollars apiece. I figured that a motorcycle helmet would be considerably cheaper, perhaps in the neighborhood of $200, and work just as well and therefore represent a more rational option. So I asked Kay if she knew anything about modifying motorcycle helmets to accomplish the same purpose. She indicated that she had modified only a few motorcycle helmets over the years and that they had all been Arai models. Arai is a maker of high-end motorcycle helmets that I had never heard of. I knew of Bell and Simpson helmets, which have been around since before dirt. One compelling feature of Arai helmets is that they have easily removable snap-in internal padding that facilitates easy installation of the boom mike and jacks. Many manufacturers incorporate glued-in padding, which is much harder to work with.
After speaking with Kay about the situation, I called around Phoenix and located a motorcycle shop that carried the Arai line. I asked about pricing and availability, and they wanted to know what kind of motorcycle I owned and what kind of riding I normally did. I told them that I didn't own one or ride.
Naturally they asked me, “What the hell do you want an expensive motorcycle helmet for.”
I replied, “You wouldn't believe me if I told you!”
So over to the motorcycle shop I went, where I met a very knowledgeable salesperson named Ashley to help me with my helmet selection. When she heard my tale, she exclaimed, “Awesome, I want to go there too!”
Ashley sold me a fancy Arai carbon fiber and Kevlar model with a clear, full-face shield for $800 plus tax. Just for good measure, I also picked up a dark-smoked shield at a bargain $60 as a backup. (When I was a kid, a decent motorcycle didn’t cost $800.)
Next my friend Ken van Leer and I took the helmet over to Acton to have Kay modify it and to make ear molds for my custom ear pieces. The ear pieces, which were actually produced from the molds by a hearing aid outfit in Florida, along with the necessary wiring harness and connectors cost another grand or so. I then bought two Motorola HT-1250 UHF walkie-talkies on the Internet for a cool $1500 plus shipping. To program Motorola radios of this type it is necessary to have a programming cable to connect the radio to a computer and the software to program it. The frequency channels that the radio uses, along with many other parameters, must be programmed. The radio cannot operate without being setup and programmed first. The cable and programming software cost about $450.
Finally, Erick, his wife Kristi, their dogs and kids, and I went off to Flagstaff the Friday of Labor Day weekend. About thirty miles south of Flagstaff we hit a humongous mountain lion on I-17. Did I mention that the demolition derby was sponsored by the Lions Club of Flagstaff? We were going about seventy mph in Erick’s pickup at the time. We were also towing a forty-foot-long triple axle toy-hauler full of beer, dirt bikes, quads, and a Jeep. After the poor lion exited from under the back of the toy hauler, the whole undercarriage of the truck and trailer was covered with blood, guts, and yellow fur. I suppose I should have considered this incident a bad omen and simply gone home before something untoward happened. The lion’s journey under the rig broke the drain handle and valve off the trailer’s black water tank, rendering the crapper inoperable. We wasted an hour waiting for DPS (state police) to come take a report.
Five hours after departing Phoenix, mostly due to unspeakable holiday weekend traffic, we arrived in Flagstaff. The usual travel time between the two cities is about two hours. I got a really nice hotel room for the three-day weekend at Little America that cost another $600, not including food and beer. I should add in fairness that they gave me a $30 discount for being a member of AAA. I told myself that all of our efforts were about to pay off. I figured that we were now on a roll. Wrong!
On the day of the event I was given a real beater, a 1974 Olds
Cutlass. The jalopy had a dead battery and wouldn't idle because the red-hot
engine had seized up multiple times during several earlier heats. I was instructed
simply to keep my right foot planted on the floor full time so that I wouldn’t
have to worry about the car stalling. Stalling would have meant the end of
the game because of the dead battery.
With a flashy Snapon T-shirt on my back, my gold-plated helmet on my head, fireproof gloves on my hands, and the radio all hooked up and tested, off I went at full throttle with a Snapon guy (not Erick) still sitting on the beater’s hood, which I didn't immediately realize. He was on the hood in the first place because he had assisted me with buckling in and hooking up the various cables.
After repeated screams, they got my attention over the communication link. I threw the beast into neutral to allow him to jump off before I killed him. I hit the brakes, but the pedal joined the gas pedal on the floor--no brakes! He escaped with mere seconds to spare. Though I didn’t know it at the time, the crowd thought that it was a real hoot to have the poor guy about to be squashed like a bug. I understand that they were sorely disappointed when he actually bailed.
Off I went again--hell’s bells--and immediately hit the first guy’s car head on. Since the factory seat belt wasn't sufficient for this kind of activity, I was thrown forward, hit my chest on the steering wheel, and knocked the wind out of myself. Somehow I got back into the action again and hit the next car head on at full throttle. Sadly I don’t remember anything much about the second impact or what immediately followed.
I don’t know how much time elapsed, but I woke up with the paramedics trying to pull me out of the car through the windshield. At the ER, a chest X-ray was taken. After examining the film, the ER doctor came in to tell me to prepare myself to undergo immediate aorta repair surgery. Something apparently looked like a tear on the film to him and to the on-duty radiologist. The doctor also indicated that it would be necessary to perform a high-resolution CT scan immediately to get a better view of things before surgery. The problem was that I am highly allergic to iodine-based contrast dyes of the type used in CT scans. When I raised the matter with him, he calmly said, “That is too bad, but we need to do it anyway; this is serious business.”
We settled on a plan of attack to prepare me for the scan with
a cocktail of six or seven drugs to limit any eventual allergic reaction.
After they administered the magic cocktail by IV, I was wheeled into the X-ray
room. The ER staff, which included a nurse and several technicians, also joined
the party so that they could respond quickly with the crash cart if I went
into shock from the dye.
It turned out that my aorta wasn't damaged after all. I had only torn ligaments and tissues as well as cracked ribs. Not bad in the grand scheme of things, I suppose. The doctor said, “Don't ever do this again, but, if you must, please let me know so that I can be there to see it.”
I told him that I could have used him at the track this time around as it was. He also advised me to go to a skate board shop before my next attempt and buy a chest protector and wrist guards.
I said to him, “Don't you have to be high on drugs to go to such stores?”
He chuckled, “Any blind guy that enters a demolition derby must already be high on drugs. So what’s the difference?” He definitely had a point.
It took about four months for my chest to get back to near normal. Originally I couldn’t even roll over in bed or breathe without excruciating pain. And that was with heavy doses of pain meds. What makes guys do crazy things like this anyway? At least the total cost didn’t get out of hand. Right!
Now I have perhaps $4,000 invested in a nice helmet and related communications equipment for the next time I try. Funny thing is that this whole adventure sounded much more appealing back in July than it did by mid-September.
I intend to enter another derby at some point in the not-too-distant
future. However, when I eventually do, we will build the car ourselves and
incorporate an appropriate racing harness that will keep me in the seat. A
chest protector and wrist-guards are also musts. You can bet that the car
will have a new battery from my good friends at Interstate Battery, as well
as a motor that will idle and properly operating brakes. The helmet and associated
communications gear worked perfectly, so I won’t have to worry about that
aspect of the plan. I’m thinking that Ashley will want to participate. We
have kept in contact since she sold me the helmet. She is very supportive
of my interest in doing this sort of thing again. Done right, it could be
a real blast.
From the Editor: From time to time Miss Whozit answers reader questions about etiquette and good manners, particularly as they involve blindness. If you would like to pose a question to Miss Whozit, you can send it to the attention of Barbara Pierce, 1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or email me at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. I will pass the questions along. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. Here are the most recent letters Miss Whozit has received:
Dear Miss Whozit,
With the upcoming national convention drawing near, I wish to bring up a topic that has bothered me for a long time. In the past, whenever I have gone to blindness functions, I notice blind people placing their folding or telescoping canes on the table in front of them. Sometimes I have even seen collapsible canes remain on the table while a meal is being served. I find such behavior exceedingly rude because cane tips are dirty. I compare this habit with placing one’s shoes on the table. I mostly use a straight cane, so I rarely face the problem of where to stow a collapsed cane. I try to place my cane under the table. If it sticks out too much so that someone could trip over the end, I lay it along a wall, prop it in a corner, or wedge it alongside me as I would in a booth. Whenever I do use a collapsible cane, I place it either on the seat beside me, under my chair, or on the floor under the table, where it won’t bother anyone. I never place it on a table, even if no meal will take place. I wish other cane users would do the same thing.
Is this a legitimate concern, or am I making too big a deal out of nothing?
Dear Mr. Courteous,
Miss Whozit agrees heartily with you. She agrees so completely that, even though the questions this month are very brief, she is going ahead with an abreviated column in the hope that our colleagues attending the convention will take note and moderate their behavior accordingly.
Miss Whozit does not wish to be indelicate, but a moment’s reflection on the
number of restroom floors, filthy sidewalks, and sewage-contaminated puddles
the average cane tip traverses should persuade anyone that it does not belong
on a table where ladies and gentlemen are conducting any activity.
Dear Miss Whozit,
I hope that this question is not too sensitive for your column. I will make it brief. I have several blind male friends who, when being guided by a woman, use that offered assistance as an opportunity to--shall we say--check out her physical attributes. They think they are being subtle, but I believe that most people who offer to lend us an arm know which bumps and brushes are accidental and which are not.
What do you think?
Dear Mr. Respectful,
Of course sighted women recognize when blind men are taking advantage of close quarters in a crowded elevator, bus, or waiting room or when they are being guided, just as blind women can tell when sighted men intentionally grab them inappropriately ostensibly to guide them. All women, blind and sighted, should object immediately and overtly to such inappropriate touching. I fear that sighted women who do not take offense simply feel sorry for a man so deprived of social experience as to resort to such behavior. I also suspect that many women accosted in this way conclude that all blind men are likely to suffer from wandering hands and therefore stay away from situations in which they might be asked to guide someone. That is a high price for all blind men to pay. Do your friends and all of us a favor by trying to persuade them that immature groping to achieve a moment of physical gratification makes them appear both rude and silly and gives blind men a bad name.
From the Editor: April Enderton is president of the Des Moines Chapter of the NFB of Iowa. She recently sent the following note and Associated Press story:
This article came over the AP wire on April 16, 2008, and I thought it would be of great interest to Monitor readers. It features Debra Bonde, founder and director of Seedlings Braille Books for Children and a true champion of Braille literacy.
I discovered Seedlings about three years ago. I was telling an acquaintance that my two-year-old daughter Alyssa Joy and I loved sharing books, but we were limited on the books we could read because I need books in Braille. She got hold of a catalog from Seedlings Braille Books for Children. To my delight the books were affordable, and there were hundreds of books from which to choose. A few months ago I happened to mention to Debra that Alyssa Joy's copy of Ten Little Ladybugs had gone missing. We had searched high and low for days, I said, but we were unable to locate the book. A couple of days later we received a brand new copy in the mail, compliments of Seedlings. When I wrote to Debra to thank her, she said that she couldn't bear the thought of my little girl being without her book.
In February I went to Alyssa Joy's kindergarten class to celebrate
her sixth birthday and talk to the children about blindness. The highlight of
my presentation was my reading Birthday Monsters by Sandra Boynton,
a Seedlings book.
Last Fall Debra Bonde and Seedlings received an award from Mannington Mills Flooring, Stand on a Better World. The contest allowed people to vote online for the candidate of their choice. I did my best to spread the word, and, much to my delight, Debra Bonde was proclaimed the winner. Debra was honored in a ceremony and presented with a check for $10,000, which will be used for Brailling more books. I hope you will agree that this article is Monitor material.
We certainly do. We have excerpted it below to include only the general
material and the story of Debra Bonde’s family’s experience. Here it is:
Grieving Mothers Create Living Tributes to Their Children
by Hillary Rhodes
The first Mother's Day after a drunk driver killed Debra Bonde's nineteen-year-old daughter was particularly difficult, for obvious reasons. Worse, the holiday fell that year on Anna Bonde's birthday--the first one she didn't get to celebrate. Since then Bonde has found solace--and distraction--in the work she does running a nonprofit organization helping other children.
For women who have had to endure the death of a child, channeling grief into good works, community service, or acts of charity, particularly for children, can help manage the agony of mourning. Helping others can be an effective way for grieving mothers to cope with their pain, says clinical psychologist and grief expert Therese Rando, based in Warwick, Rhode Island. "It's a human reaction that, if we can help others when we've been through adversity, that tends to help us," says Rando, author of Grieving: How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies. Turning around and helping the community can give meaning to a terrible event, memorialize the person who died, and offer relief from the powerlessness parents might have felt to prevent the death of their child, Rando says. "It allows them to move from a position of being a victim of this terrible loss to being empowered to do something for someone else," she says.
Anna Bonde was an actress, a dancer, a poet, and an A-student. She and four college friends were hit by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the Interstate near Springfield, Illinois, in the wee hours of St. Patrick's Day 2001. They were on their way to New Orleans for spring break, switching drivers every two hours, drinking only coffee and soda, and wearing their seatbelts. Three of the five were killed, and the drunk driver is serving a ten-year sentence.
Mother's Day, birthdays, and other holidays are "tinged with sadness," says Bonde, who recalls the wrenching moment when a policeman came to her door and said that Anna had "expired."
"It's always there," Bonde says. "It's always there under the
surface. But you learn to manage it better as the years go by. ... If I can
just get busy helping other kids, then pretty soon, I'm OK." Debra J. Bonde
is director of Seedlings Braille Books for Children, (800) 777-8552; <www.seedlings.org>.
"Placing a book in a child's hands is like planting a seed."
by Marc Maurer
On April 7, 2008, Dr. Floyd Matson died. He had suffered a stroke in December of 2006, and his health had deteriorated from that time until his death.
Dr. Matson, Floyd, or Mat (as he was often known) was born in Hawaii on August 31, 1921. During his working life he was most often a professor at the University of Hawaii and at the University of California at Berkeley. However, he also served in the army and worked as a reporter for a number of years. Dr. Matson met Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, the founder and first president of the National Federation of the Blind, in 1947 or 48. He was a student at the University of California at Berkeley who served as an assistant to Professor tenBroek. Working with Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Matson participated in writing Prejudice, War, and the Constitution, a book that described the internment of the Japanese in camps in the United States during World War II. In this book Drs. tenBroek and Matson argue that the internment of the Japanese violates constitutional principles. The Supreme Court declared that the restriction of freedom of Japanese-born individuals in the United States was permissible under the Constitution. However, the authors of Prejudice, War, and the Constitution believed that it could never have happened except during the time of war and that even during wartime the actions taken on U.S. soil to restrict freedom of individuals twisted the logic of constitutional argument. During the 1980s, a reparations bill was passed by the Congress to give detainees a payment in reparation for restricted freedom during World War II. Much of the basis for this reparation payment came from the book written by Dr. tenBroek, Dr. Matson, and Edward Barnhart.
During the 1960s Dr. Matson became for a time the assistant editor of the Braille Monitor. No matter where he was working, at the University of California or the University of Hawaii, he continued his work with Dr. tenBroek doing research and writing about programs and activities of importance to the National Federation of the Blind. I met Dr. Matson in the fall of 1969. He was then a leader of our affiliate in Hawaii, and he was doing research regarding social programs affecting the blind. This research and study complemented his writings in the humanities that were always a part of his work as a professor at the University of Hawaii.
Dr. Matson served as a primary leader of the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii, and for many years he was the treasurer of our affiliate. In 2005 the National Federation of the Blind of Hawaii honored Dr. Matson as a "treasure of Hawaii" for all of his outstanding efforts to support the blind in that state and throughout the nation.
During the 1950s Dr. Matson assisted with the preparation of testimony to be offered in Congress on the right of the blind to organize. Governmental and private agencies had been taking reprisals against blind people who joined the National Federation of the Blind. Officials in these agencies believed that blind people should not have the effrontery ("the immortal crust") to demand that they had the right to speak on their own behalf and to organize for collective action. Sometimes Dr. Matson would speak of the congressional hearing rooms with the suits from the agencies on one side and the blind with their canes and dogs on the other. The image of the suits against the canes focused and guided Dr. Matson's work throughout his lifetime. He always attempted to bring recognition to the dispossessed--to assist those seeking independence.
Dr. Floyd Matson was a big man but also a very gentle one. He had a great sense of humor, and he loved to write. His books and articles are filled with references to historical documents, literary compositions, and theories of society. For more than thirty years he taught American Studies, which meant that he knew the literature and the popular culture of our country. One of the methods for presenting popular culture was the study of American movies and moviemaking. In the early days, when Dr. Matson was in California, he met John Wayne over one of the Thanksgiving weekends. In his classes he taught about the impact of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Leonardo DiCaprio on American thought.
Dr. Matson wrote more than a dozen books--most of them directed toward the development of social philosophy and politics. Two of his volumes are Walking Alone and Marching Together: A History of the Organized Blind Movement in the United States, 1940-1990 and Blind Justice: Jacobus tenBroek and the Vision of Equality.
Dr. Matson's witty, self-deprecating, incisive thought is a part of the history,
the literature, and the research of the National Federation of the Blind. The
organized blind movement and prospects for blind people could not have developed
as far as they have without him. He will be a part of the spirit of our movement
and our effort to achieve freedom until all blind people are recognized for
the valuable people we are. Whether they recognize it or not, all blind people
are indebted to Floyd Matson. Those of us who knew and loved him will deeply
This month’s recipes are from members of the National Federation of
the Blind of North Dakota.
Greek Baked Fish
by Jennelle Bichler
Jennelle Bichler is president of the NFB of North Dakota. She is the single parent of three wonderful kids and one dog. She always looks for easy and healthy foods for her family, so she asked each child to pick a favorite. Here they are:
4 pieces of aluminum foil
4 orange roughy filets, rinsed and patted dry
12 tomato slices (1/4-inch thick)
8 pitted black olives
4 teaspoons melted butter
4 teaspoons crumbled feta cheese
4 teaspoons lemon juice
4 sprigs fresh dill
4 fresh basil leaves
Method: Cut pieces of foil large enough to hold fish with enough extra space to bring edges together to seal fish completely. Spray center of foil with cooking spray; place each fish filet on greased section of a foil square. Fold any thin section of fish under to make filet an even thickness. On each fish filet, place three tomato slices and two sliced olives; drizzle each with one teaspoon butter and sprinkle evenly with one teaspoon cheese and one teaspoon lemon juice; and top with one sprig dill and one basil leaf. Bring sides of foil up and fold edges together to seal; close foil ends tightly. Place foil pouches seam-side up on baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for ten to twenty minutes or until fish flakes with fork. Open top of foil to serve.
Fusilli with Herbed Ricotta and Grape Tomatoes
by Jennelle Bichler
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese (plus additional cheese to pass)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, packed and chopped
12 ounces fusilli or corkscrew pasta
1 pint grape tomatoes (2 cups)
Method: On high heat large covered saucepot of salted water to boiling. Meanwhile, in small bowl combine ricotta, oregano, 1/4 cup Romano, and half of basil. Add pasta to boiling water and cook as label directs, adding tomatoes when three minutes of cooking time remain. Reserving a fourth cup of the pasta cooking water, drain pasta and tomatoes; return to pot. Add reserved cooking water to ricotta mixture and stir into pasta and tomatoes. Toss with remaining basil. Serve with additional cheese if you like.
Fruit Ice Cream
by Jennelle Bichler
1 1/4 cup frozen mixed fruit
1/2 cup all natural plain yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
Method: Mix all ingredients in a food processer until well blended and serve Immediately. Serves four.
by Jennelle Bichler
20 white flour fajita tortillas
1 can enchilada sauce
1 can diced green chilies
1 can chopped olives
1 1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
4 cups cheddar and Monterey jack cheese halved
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. In a large bowl combine sour cream, chilies, olives, roasted red peppers, half the mixed cheeses, and chicken or eggs. On each tortilla place a small amount of enchilada sauce and about a tablespoon of sour cream mixture (more if desired). Then fold over each tortilla shell to seal and place in the greased baking pan. When baking pan is full, pour remaining sauce over the enchiladas. If you like more sauce, use another can. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for twenty-five to thirty minutes or until cheese is bubbly and enchiladas are heated through. Let dish stand for five to ten minutes before serving.
Pernil (Roast Pork)
by Maria Vazquez
Maria Vazquez is vice president of the National Federation of the Blind of North Dakota. The following recipes are some of her favorites.
1 8- to10-pound pernil (pork shoulder)
1 large head garlic
Adobo to taste (Adobo is an all-purpose seasoning by Goya found in many grocery stores.)
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed oregano
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sit down and peel all the garlic while watching a little of your novela (soap opera). Rinse the pernil with cold water and sprinkle with adobo to taste. For a better flavor season the roast the night before. Make slits (about 1 inch wide) with a knife so that you can fill them with the paste you are about to make. Using your pilón (a mortar and pestle), mash the garlic to a paste and add the oregano and pepper. When these are well mixed, add the olive oil and stir to make a paste. Now it is ready. Place about 1 teaspoon of the paste in each slit in the pernil. Cover the bottom of a baking pan with aluminum foil and place the pernil on top. Cover the pernil well with aluminum foil to keep the meat juicy. Uncover the roast for the last fifteen to twenty minutes on a high setting for some crunchy chicharrón (skin). Bake for four to five hours at 350 degrees. (The time depends on your oven. Check it in three and a half hours.) Sit down and relax.
by Maria Vazquez
2 teaspoons canola oil
2 ounces diced lean cured ham (jamón de cocinar)
1 29-ounce can pinto beans
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 packet sazón
2 tablespoons sofrito (see recipe)
7 pimiento-stuffed olives
1 teaspoon alcaparrado (capers)
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tomato sauce can of water
Method: Place the oil in a deep saucepan, turn the heat to medium, and add the jamón. Add the sofrito and sauté. After three minutes add the tomato sauce, sazon, olives, and alcaparrado. Stir for two minutes. Add the beans, potatoes, and water and stir. Turn heat to medium high and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and turn heat to low. Cook for twenty minutes, and fua, they are ready. Serve with arroz con salchichas or rice. Do not forget the tostones. You can substitute any of the following: black beans, red kidney beans, pigeon peas, small red beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, pink beans, or chick peas. When adding the water, begin with about a quarter of the water in the tomato sauce can and shake so that you empty all the sauce left in the can. After a few shakes fill can to the top with water. The potatoes not only add flavor to the beans, but also thicken the sauce.
by Maria Vazquez
1 large onion
1 large pimiento del pais or bell pepper
1 medium head garlic
1 bunch cilantro
12 ajies dulces (Hard to find, so you may skip.)
6 leaves recao (eryngium) (Also hard to find, so you may skip.)
1 small jar Pimientos Morrones--roasted red peppers
1/4 cup olives (The olive most used in Puerto Rico is the manzanilla, which is a pitted green olive stuffed with pimiento.)
1 tablespoon capers
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon crushed oregano
1/2 cup olive oil
Method: Wash, peel, seed, and coarsely chop the vegetables. Place in a blender with spices and olive oil, and puree. Store in a covered glass jar in the refrigerator for later use. You can also freeze it in ice-cube trays and store the frozen cubes in a freezer bag. This recipe fills two large ice-cube trays. Use about two cubes for enough rice or soup to serve a family.
News from the Federation Family
PAC-ing for Convention:
Scott LaBarre is chairman of the NFB’s PAC (pre-authorized check) plan committee. He says: At the national board meeting in the fall of 1974, E.U. Parker came up with the idea of what we first called the Bank Draft Pledge System to help finance the Federation. Later terminology changed to the Pre-Authorized Check (PAC) Plan. This has come to be an ever-more important part of financing the movement. I estimate that we have raised more than $10,000,000 over the years through the PAC Plan.
For those who do not know, the PAC Plan allows members, affiliates, chapters, and others to give a regular and automatic donation to the Federation every month. All we need is identification information about a checking or savings account that permits external withdrawals that we can track with an account number and the corresponding bank’s routing number. Because of the costs associated with operating the program, the minimum donation is $5 a month, but there is no ceiling.
As long as we are packing and PAC-ing for convention, I thought readers might appreciate some perspective on where we are in the PAC program. The figures that I am reporting are current as of April 30, 2008. Currently, monthly PAC contributions would yield the Federation $357,168.48 annually. Presently we have 1,143 PAC members. Last year at this time the same annualized total was $359,022 with 1,116 members.
Allow me to speculate for a moment. If PAC members would increase their pledge by just $5 a month on average, we would raise an additional $68,580.00 for the Federation. If we could double the number of members on PAC to 2,286, with an average new pledge of $5 a month, we would raise another $68,580. So instead of $357,168.48 a year, we could raise $494,328.48 for the important work we do. The key is getting new PAC members to start with modest pledges and getting ongoing members to increase slightly.
I also want to remind folks that affiliates, chapters, and divisions can get on the PAC Plan as long as the entity has a trackable bank account. In fact, many Federation entities are on the Plan, but the number represents a very small minority of our affiliates, chapters, and divisions. Our PAC Plan is essentially our internal fundraising program, targeted primarily at our own members. The Imagination Fund, mail campaigns, and other fundraisers are aimed at the community at large.
At this year’s convention we will make a large push to grow our PAC program. In recent years we have been able to collect enough pledges at convention to raise our annualized totals to about $380,000 during the convention. Followup after convention and state conventions typically results in a few months in which annualized totals reach the $375,000 level. The trends also indicate that the annualized totals fall in advance of convention to about the current level of $357,000 to approximately $360,000. Our major focus this year will be to secure a lot of new members on PAC and make greater efforts to retain the ones we already have.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we will once again be conducting a host of contests at this year’s convention. First, we will hold a drawing for $150 for those who initiate a new pledge on PAC during the convention and another $150 drawing for those who increase their monthly pledge during the convention. The state affiliate that has the most members either increasing their pledge or starting a new one will be awarded a trophy called the PAC Rat. Likewise, the division with the most members who increase or start a new pledge will be awarded a trophy called the PAC Mule. On the morning of July 1, 2008, at the national board meeting, we will award the PAChyderm and alPACa trophies to the large and small affiliates that, on a percentage basis, have increased their monthly totals the most. At the moment Colorado and Puerto Rico should be anticipating good things. However, competition is stiff, and who knows what will happen at the finish line?
What should you PAC for convention? If you want to start a new PAC pledge, please bring a voided check. That is the easiest way to start the Plan. Otherwise, please bring us the number of the account from which you want funds withdrawn and your bank’s ABA routing number. You can get that number by calling your bank or by looking at one of your checks or deposit slips.
If anyone has questions about the PAC program, wants to sign up or increase,
or get a copy of the PAC form electronically or otherwise, please email me at
<email@example.com>. A current comprehensive list of states and their
pledged amounts and other information is below this paragraph. Most finally,
I will take a point of personal privilege and call upon Fred Schroeder, president
of the NFB of Virginia, to observe the relative standings of Colorado and Virginia.
National Federation of the Blind
PAC Report - States Ranked by Pledge
Rank; state; amount pledged; number of pledges
1. Maryland; $4,177.00; 120
2. Colorado; $2,497.00; 58
3. Virginia; $2,201.50; 71
4. Minnesota; $1,594.50; 32
5. California; $1,487.50; 72
6. Iowa; $1,435.50; 45
7. Louisiana; $1,341.00; 53
8. Missouri; $1,187.50; 36
9. South Carolina; $994.50; 69
10. Nebraska; $862.00; 37
11. New York; $862.00; 26
12. Ohio; $815.50; 31
13. Arizona; $779.00; 33
14. Texas; $712.00; 37
15. Idaho; $620.00; 19
16. Florida; $605.50; 30
17. Washington; $576.50
18. Utah; $558.00; 27
19. Michigan; $454.50; 17
20. Mississippi; $431.00; 19
21. Puerto Rico; $360.00; 2
22. Kentucky; $360.00; 16
23. North Carolina; $340.00; 22
24. Tennessee; $331.00; 13
25. Illinois; $302.00; 15
26. New Jersey; $288.00; 21
27. District of Columbia; $280.00; 5
28. Alabama; $267.00; 12
29. Georgia; $251.00; 16
30. Pennsylvania; $248.00; 16
31. Kansas; $230.00; 9
32. New Mexico; $230.00; 15
33. Oregon; $227.00; 17
34. Connecticut; $217.50; 14
35. Massachusetts; $215.00; 11
36. Wisconsin; $200.00; 10
37. Indiana; $200.00; 10
38. Montana; $190.00; 7
39. Hawaii; $142.00; 7
40. Delaware; $125.00; 6
41. Alaska; $100.00; 1
42. Oklahoma; $95.00; 5
43. South Dakota; $90.50; 8
44. Arkansas; $85.00; 4
45. Rhode Island; $57.00; 3
46. West Virginia; $45.00; 5
47. New Hampshire; $27.50; 3
48. Wyoming; $20.00; 3
49. Maine; $10.00; 2
50. North Dakota; $7.50; 1
51. Nevada; $5.00; 1
Attention Cruise Lovers:
The National Federation of the Blind of Colorado (NFBCO) invites you to set sail with us on the Carnival Cruise Lines for a weeklong pleasure-packed cruise through the Mexican Riviera. The cruise departs from Los Angeles March 1, 2009, and returns March 8. Have fun with NFB friends and family and help raise money for the NFB of Colorado.
We will cruise from Long Beach, California, through the Mexican Riviera with stops in Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, and Cabo San Lucas. Our journey will be aboard Carnival’s Pride. Prices range from $704 for inside cabins to $1,424 for junior suites. Prices are per person based on double occupancy. Remember these prices include taxes, fees, and gratuities. Optional insurance and shore excursions are available. A payment plan can also be established if you are interested. For every cabin the NFBCO books, we receive a substantial contribution from Carnival.
Carnival is great for singles and for families too. Moms and dads can steal
a little time away by leaving their kids with Camp Carnival. There is much to
choose from on board the Pride. In addition to the ship’s sixteen bars and lounges,
several dining options, and four swimming pools, you can participate in one
of many shore excursions or explore the destinations on your own. All cruise
information will be available in alternative formats, and we are planning events
especially for Federation members, their families, and friends.
Secure your spot on this great NFBCO cruise with a minimum deposit of $50 per person. Space is limited, so sign up as soon as possible. Let’s get ready for fun! For questions or to book a cabin, contact Anahit LaBarre with ETravel Unlimited at (720) 334-3652 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Showcase of Talent:
Adrienne Snow reports that tickets for the July 2 Showcase of Talent will be available at the Performing Arts Division table in the exhibit hall. Purchasing tickets early will improve the efficiency of the operation Wednesday evening.
Dwight Sayer, president of the National Association of Blind Veterans, (NABV), invites all vets to the meeting of the NFB’s newest division, from 3 to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1, at the NFB’s national convention. Dues will be payable at the meeting. Consult the agenda for the meeting room. For more information about the division or the meeting, go to <nabv.org>.
The National Federation of the Blind of Florida is pleased to announce the establishment of its Martin County Chapter in Stuart, formed on Saturday, April 12, 2008. Elected officers are president, Mark Tardif; vice president, Peter Rusillo; secretary, Marian Maat; treasurer, Richard Prince; and transportation board member, Jody Ianuzzi. They will meet on the first Friday of the month at 5:30 p.m. They are planning interesting meetings, good food, and fellowship.
The NFB of New Mexico held elections on April 13, 2008. The following officers were elected: president, Christine Hall; first vice president, Ray Marshall; second vice president, Larry Hayes; secretary, Tonia Trapp; treasurer, Kathy Byrd; and board members, Monica Martinez, Al Carter, and Vickie Buchignani.
A Tip for NFB-NEWSLINE Users:
Rich Kelly, an NFB-NEWSLINE subscriber in northern Iowa, writes as follows:
Here's a tip for NEWSLINE subscribers with Alltel cellular service. Activate your MyCircle feature and add your NFB-NEWSLINE local number to your circle. This will allow you to use your cell phone to access all NEWSLINE features without using up those precious minutes on your calling plan. This will save you and NFB-NEWSLINE money at the same time since calls to MyCircle numbers are free from the home calling area, and calls to a toll number do not generate a fee for NFB-NEWSLINE.
Even if you don’t live in an area with a local number for accessing NEWSLINE
or don’t use Alltel as your cell phone service, you can save yourself and NEWSLINE
money by using NEWSLINE weekends and evenings.
Specialty Pins Available:
What better way to promote your division or special interest group than with a handmade lapel pin? Diane Filipe of the NFB of Colorado’s Greeley Chapter is making pins for the following divisions, interest groups, and chapters: the Diabetes Action Network, Krafters Korner, the NFB of Texas Austin Chapter, and the National Association of Blind Veterans.
She would love to make one for your group too. You pick the shape and glaze
color. Braille on the pin is optional. They are perfect on a collar or lapel,
as a tie tac or even on your ID badge at convention. The pins sell for $2 with
half going to the Diabetes Action Network and half for pin production. For more
information contact Diane at <email@example.com>.
Swimming and Spinning at the NFB Convention:
Irish Masters/Paralympic Sports Team will be hosting a swimming and bicycle spinning event on Monday, June 30. Two thirty-minute swimming sessions will take place from 2 to 2:30 and from 3 to 3:30 at the indoor swimming pool at the Hilton Anatole. Space will be limited, so sign up soon with Annie Sawicki at (574) 876-9467 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Make sure you pack your bathing suit and sports gear for the many sports and recreation activities during convention.
Private swim lessons will be available from Sunday, June 29, through Thursday,
July 3, at $10 each for ages two to ninety-nine. Irish Masters Swimming has
recently invented three swim devices for sensory-impaired athletes to use to
train in a straight line in the swimming pool or on the track. The product can
be viewed at <www.adapttap.com> or elsewhere in this issue. More information
on the product will be available during the NFB convention.
Braille-Reading Volunteers Needed:
NFB First Vice President Fred Schroeder writes as follows: I am interested in gathering information about reading speed using contracted and uncontracted Braille. I am looking for volunteers to participate in a brief reading test at our national convention this summer in Dallas. Specifically I am looking for good Braille readers, people who are able to read aloud fluently. The test will take approximately thirty minutes to administer. If you are willing to participate, please contact me at <email@example.com>.
Peggy Chong writes as follows: On Tuesday, April 29, and Wednesday, April 30, two new chapters were born in Iowa. Tuesday night twenty-eight people from the Council Bluffs area gathered at the Pizza King for dinner to establish the Southwest Chapter of the NFB of Iowa. Elected were Susan Blodget, president; Chris Steinback, vice president; Lettie Hansen, secretary/treasurer; and Adrian VerBruggie and John Shelton, board members.
The Greater Mason City Chapter was formed the next day at the Bonanza Steakhouse, where twenty-six interested blind people and their families came to form the latest new chapter. Sam Foust was elected president; Eugene Kleinow, vice president; Laura Foust, secretary; Pat Kleinow, treasurer; and Wayne Vath and Robert Kennedy, board members.
We put together an organizing team in March to help strengthen our current
chapters and build new ones. The team included Mike Barber, president; Joy Harris,
secretary; Curtis Chong, treasurer; and Priscilla McKinley, Larry Povinelli,
and Peggy Chong. Jill Clausen also joined the team to assist with the meetings.
Ron Gardner, president of the NFB of Utah, came to help us pull it all together
the last week in April.
First the team visited the Waterloo Chapter to bring together current chapter members and potential new Federation members. That day the Waterloo Chapter gained ten new members. Now that all this work has taken place, the next step is to ensure that all these new members get involved in the activities of the state and national movement. The NFB of Iowa has formed three new chapters since the beginning of the year. We are proud to be growing here in Iowa.
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.
National Braille Press Names Brian A. MacDonald President:
On April 8, 2008, National Braille Press’s board of trustees named Brian A. MacDonald as the company’s new president. MacDonald has been successful in operations, sales, marketing, and donor development in the not-for-profit world.
Mr. MacDonald holds an MBA in marketing and finance from Boston College and an undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Vermont and was most recently chief operating officer of New Hampshire Audubon, where he helped lead a major restructuring that included strategic planning, change management, and improved revenue generation. He also has significant experience in planned giving, business development, and building corporate partnerships. Prior to Audubon, he was the senior director of sales and revenue for over twenty years at New England Aquarium, where he managed business development, operations, sales, marketing, and international tourism for its business units. He formed and managed strategic alliances and partnerships to advance revenue and promote the aquarium’s mission.
His significant volunteer work has included four years as Essex County director
of the Massachusetts Special Olympics, where he led operations, corporate development,
training and regional/state competition. He founded the Northeast Whale Watching
Association, authored an economic impact study, and testified before Congress
on the reauthorization of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“After thirty-two years Bill Raeder has stepped down for a well-deserved retirement from president of this venerable Boston-based institution. Under Mr. Raeder NBP recently inaugurated a major strategic initiative to expand our offerings and to accelerate our outreach and advocacy programs. We want to emphasize the `national’ in National Braille Press. Our historical success has always included a fiscally responsible budget and the solid leadership to carry it out. Brian MacDonald has the important skills and background to apply sound business practices, and he brings advanced marketing skills and, most important, an authentic inner passion that soon will be felt within the blind community,” said Paul V. McLaughlin, chair of the board of trustees.
Mr. MacDonald added, “To be chosen to lead National Braille Press is a most
welcome joy and privilege for me and my family. Because my grandmother reads
Braille, I have a strong personal interest in its advancement. I realize there
are challenges, especially in succeeding such a great leader as Bill Raeder.
It is hoped that my leadership of the strategic plan for the future will continue
to complement Bill’s vision of strengthening programs and building capacity
while remembering NBP’s wonderful past.”
Pen Friend Wanted:
I am a blind naturalized U.S. citizen now living in Brazil. I would very much like to make contact with members of the NFB in the United States and abroad to chat, learn, and discuss ideas on various subjects, including music (composing and performance), radio shows, and chatting (or learning to) in languages such as English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. My MSN is <firstname.lastname@example.org> and skype contact is superlove7. I would like to receive an email prior to adding if at all possible. My email address is <email@example.com>. I am also on Orkut. My profile link is <http://www.orkut.com/Profile.aspx?uid=6392789380886731330>.
USABA to Host 2008 National Sports Festival:
The United States Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) announces the 2008 National Sports Festival and Championships, to be held in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in conjunction with the State Games of the West. The Sports Festival, held at Colorado College July 22-25, will culminate with blind and visually impaired athletes integrating and competing in the Inaugural 2008 State Games of the West, hosted by the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation, July 25-27 and the 2008 Pike's Peak Swim League Last Chance Meet hosted by USABA and the Pike's Peak Swim League on July 26. The State Games of the West will include more than eight thousand sighted athletes competing in thirty-one sports. USABA athletes will compete in these games alongside these sighted athletes. We are also pleased to announce we're finalizing details on a swimming event to be conducted at the conclusion of the sports festival.
“The USABA Sports Festival provides blind and visually impaired athletes from all over the United States a unique opportunity to train and compete alongside their peers,” said USABA Executive Director Mark Lucas. “USABA coaching staff and Paralympic athletes provide participants the opportunity to hone their own athletic skills, empowering them to take the game to a higher level in their local community-based programs."
USABA athletes ages twelve and older will have the opportunity to learn and refine their abilities in various sports clinics instructed by USABA national coaches at the Sports Festival. Participants will experience a variety of sports adapted for athletes who are blind or visually impaired, including judo, powerlifting, swimming, track and field, wrestling, a 5K run/walk, and goalball (a team sport designed for those who are blind and visually impaired).
We are also proud to announce the opportunity for U.S. military and U.S. honorably discharged military veterans who incurred a service-connected vision loss to compete in these events.
Applications for the Sports Festival, the State Games of the West, and the
Pike's Peak Swim League Last Chance Meet are available at <www.usaba.org>.
Choice Magazine Listening Goes Digital:
Choice Magazine Listening, an icon to decades of blind and visually disabled readers, is one of the latest additions to the digital download pilot program sponsored by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, part of the Library of Congress. Founded more than forty-five years ago and endowed through the Lucerna Fund, CML presents eight hours of the best current magazine writing, free of charge, six times a year. The unabridged short stories, essays, poetry, and interviews are chosen from approximately a hundred periodicals and literary journals such as the Smithsonian, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Paris Review, and Business Week. They are read by talented actors at the studios of the American Foundation for the Blind.
“In addition to our four-track cassettes, we wanted to make Choice Magazine Listening available to a new generation of Internet users,” explained Sondra Mochson, CML Editor. The partnership with NLS provides not only a secure Website but an expanding readership of registered participants with documented print-related disabilities.
CML is among the 10,000 titles available for download in the pilot program as the NLS prepares for the transition to digital materials, which is expected to take several years. In the meantime CML appears to be a hit with NLS patrons participating in the program: in January it was the most frequently downloaded title. Details about participating in the NLS download pilot project can be obtained from local state libraries for the blind and physically handicapped.
Choice Magazine Listening continues to be available on four-track
cassette. Information about a free subscription and player is available on the
CML Website <www.choicemagazinelistening.org>or by calling, toll-free,
Recreational Opportunities in Vermont for Folks with Disabilities
Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports is a nonprofit organization providing recreational opportunities for people with disabilities. We have a number of locations for summer adaptive programs throughout Vermont, located at Stoughton Pond in Springfield, Kent Pond in Rutland, and the Lake Champlain Sailing Center in Burlington. We provide opportunities to clients with a wide array of disabilities ranging from cognitive to physical disabilities. Our adaptive techniques and equipment accommodate the needs of each client. Summer programs are offered seven days a week starting in June of 2008. The summer programs provide activities in sailing, canoeing, kayaking, cycling, horseback riding, hiking, and rock climbing. Group and private outings are available, and scholarships are offered.
For more information on our programs, contact for southern Vermont Programs: Donna Stanley (802) 353-7584, <firstname.lastname@example.org>; for northern Vermont programs: Maggie Burke (802) 343-1193, <email@example.com>.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.