Braille Monitor                                                    June 2009

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News from the Federation Family

New Baby:

Sachin Pavithran, winner of the Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship in 2007 and a leader of the NFB of Utah, reports with joy that Maya Anne was born on March 23, 2009, at 5:44 p.m. She weighed 6.1 pounds and was 19 inches long. Both Maya and her parents are doing well. Congratulations to the Pavithrans.


The Chicago Chapter of the NFB of Illinois conducted elections on April 11, 2009. The results were as follows: president, David Meyer; first vice president, Patti Chang; second vice president, Carmen Dennis; secretary, Debbie Stein; treasurer, Steve Hastalis; and board members, Mary Grunwald, Howard Wilson, Debbie Pittman, and Jemal Powell.

Planting Seeds:

None of us knows for certain what impact we have on the lives of the people with whom we come into contact. It is well to remember that we are teaching people about blindness every day, sowing seeds of understanding and high expectation when we conduct our lives and do our jobs without fanfare or fuss. We recently received an email from Andrea (Andi) McGraw Hunt. Some years ago she was Allen Schaefer’s student during grade school. She is not the first of Allen’s former students to make a special point of describing his impact on his band members. He was clearly a memorable teacher. Allen has been gone for well over a year, but obviously his influence lives on. Here is the email we received:

I am writing after reading your February 2008 obituary for Allen Schaefer, whose name on a whim I decided to Google this afternoon. I had recalled him recently to friends over lunch at Augustana College this past January while visiting with my band on a three-day concert-lecture gig. While sitting with teachers from the college's music program, I described this grade school band teacher I had who had all his band scores transcribed into Braille and conducted us with one hand while reading the score with the other. He knew exactly what each instrument was playing at any moment and could really rehearse us at each class. He also taught private instrumental lessons (he could play every instrument--had the lesson books transcribed in Braille too) and also taught the school chorus. The Augustana faculty were astounded--how did he do that? Is it possible? I told them that it worked somehow. His wife Ruth accompanied us on piano for the solo and ensemble competitions as well as in chorus rehearsals, and I gather she also did much of the transcribing of his Braille scores. I heard him say something once about being state president of the National Federation of the Blind, and one day he handed out cards with the alphabet in Braille. But to us kids who saw him every day it was completely normal that he was blind, and, to be honest, we really saw him as a kind of geeky guy with an out-of-date sense of fashion.

In high school I moved away from that very small town in Illinois and went on to study music therapy at college. I'm now a music therapist and working on my doctoral dissertation in the field. I still sing and play flute with my band, and we play around Philadelphia and small colleges in different parts of the country. Mr. Schaefer's teaching gave me a strong foundation in enjoying music and of enjoying being with others in music that I have wanted to share with people all my life. I was very sad to hear of his passing in your obituary but also amazed that I must have somehow sensed his presence that January day over lunch at Augustana, his alma mater.

I want everyone to know just how far-reaching his teaching has been and how grateful I am for all that he taught me. Thank you for sharing more of his story so that I could understand even more how accomplished a man he was. To his wife Ruth, my condolences and my sincere thanks for all she has done as well to support him. My memories of them both are warm and joyful.

Note: Ruth died in January of 2005, and Allen died in December of 2007. Let us all hope that we can have as profound an impact on the lives and attitudes of our friends and colleagues as Allen Schaefer had.

New Chapter:

On April 18, 2009, the NFB of Greater Toledo was established. The officers of the new chapter are president, Eric Burghardt; vice president, Colleen Roth; secretary, Ann Pacelli; treasurer, Marilee Medlen; and board member, Hannah Furney. The Ohio affiliate is delighted to have a chapter again in Toledo, and we are expecting great things from this energetic group.

Attention Braille Readers Attending the NFB National Convention in Detroit:

In response to consumer requests, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA), is conducting an evaluation of the Nemeth Uniform Braille System (NUBS), an experimental code designed to include literary, math, and scientific information, combining all three codes into one unified system. As an initial phase of this evaluation, BANA is recruiting interested Braille readers attending the National Federation of the Blind convention from July 3 to 5, 2009. We are looking for a broad range of casual and professional Braille users of various ages and different levels of Braille-reading experience.

At the convention those selected will take part in sessions examining the experimental code. Some will be assigned a group task and others a half-hour individual task. Those not selected for the convention tasks are welcome to participate in a later survey. If you are interested in being considered as a participant in this phase, please send a message to <>. You will be asked to fill out a simple demographic questionnaire that will help BANA determine into which group you fall. From all of the responses received BANA will create participant groups of similar size.

In Brief

Notices and information in this section may be of interest to Monitor readers. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the information; we have edited only for space and clarity.

QMB and SLMB Amounts for 2009:

The Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB) and Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary programs are two federal programs that pay some health care premiums and other expenses for those who qualify. The Social Security facts article that appears in the Monitor in December discusses both programs, and you should reread it to determine exactly what each covers. The income limits for these programs are based on a percentage of the federal poverty level, which is always adjusted after the December article has been published.

The QMB program is available to those with income less than 100% of the federal poverty level, which for a single person in 2009 everywhere but Alaska and Hawaii is $902.50 a month. In Alaska the amount is $1,127.50, and in Hawaii it is $1,038.33 a month.

The SLMB program is available to those with income greater than 100% but less than 120% of the federal poverty level. In all states other than Alaska and Hawaii this is $1,083 a month in 2009. In Alaska the amount is $1,353, and in Hawaii it is 1,246 a month.

Braille Certification Testing at Convention:

Testing for the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) will be conducted July 4 and 5 at the 2009 NFB convention in Detroit, Michigan. This is a five-year professional certification. The cost is $250. For updates and application deadlines or to apply online, go to <>. For additional information visit the NBPCB Website at <>, or contact Louise Walch, NBPCB coordinator, at (318) 257-4554 or at <>.

NFB Pledge

I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.

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