Vol. 52, No. 9 October 2009
Barbara Pierce, editor
Daniel B. Frye, associate editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president
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Vol. 52, No. 9 October 2009
What I Wish I Had Learned as a Teen at NFB Youth Slam
by Mary Jo Thorpe-Hartle
My Experience as a Mentor
by Harriet Go
The Demand, the Crisis, the Solution in Education for the Blind
by Edward Bell
The Theory and the Practice: Education for the Blind in the Public School
by Denise M. Robinson
Why Do You Want to Make that Child Blind?
by Carol Castellano
A Second Look at Apple’s VoiceOver
by Steven M. Sawczyn
Carbohydrate Counting and the Exchange List
by Anna Smith
Braille in the Museum
by Geerat J. Vermeij
BLIND, Inc., Goes to the Dogs
by Harry Hogue
Promoting the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar
Braille Readers Are Leaders 2009-2010
by Mary Jo Thorpe-Hartle and Jennifer Dunnam
Harold Snider Dies
by Barbara Pierce
Copyright 2009 by the National Federation of the Blind
As the rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial ended on the final afternoon of the 2009 NFB Youth Slam, high winds that had blown in a torrential thundershower blew it out again, leaving rally participants drenched but still exuberant. The crowd turned away from the Memorial and prepared to march down the length of the Mall to the Capitol. On the way they passed by the Washington Monument. In the photo above, you can see that some marchers are still wearing the light plastic ponchos passed out at the rally. Slam marshals guided the several hundred blind teens and adults along the parade route by tirelessly repeating directions for crossing streets and making turns. By the time marchers had walked the two miles to the Capitol Visitors Center, feet and signs were dry, and the ponchos were ready for the trash receptacles.
by Mary Jo Thorpe-Hartle
From the Editor: Mary Jo Thorpe-Hartle is the newly appointed director of education at the NFB Jernigan Institute. She had major responsibility for planning and executing the 2009 Youth Slam. I was a member of the Slam faculty, and, though I was busy every minute, I discovered after the fact that I had only the haziest notion of the things that went on during that frenetic week if I had not actually been involved in making them happen. Mary Jo, Karen Zakhnini, Amy Phelps, and Mark Riccobono spent the week circulating and solving problems on the spot. I therefore turned to Mary Jo to produce the report of what happened during that amazing week. This is what she says:
I wish that, when I was a teen, there had been exciting programs like the NFB Youth Slam for me to attend. Who knows? Maybe if there had been, I’d be writing to you now about something really fascinating like quantum physics. Even if I never really was cut out to be a scientist, great lessons were available to be learned and experiences to be had from attending such a program if I had been able to do so when I was younger. Instead I now get to live vicariously through the 180 students who did get to participate in this year’s program. I know I’m not alone since many of us wish we’d had such an opportunity. I will do my best to give you a taste of the week, but I would also strongly urge you to visit the blogs and podcasts posted by student participants of the NFB Slam news track at <www.blindscience.org>, because this brief article about the event cannot do it justice.
As many of you know, this year’s NFB Youth Slam was only the second one in our organization’s history. It took place from July 26 to August 1, 2009 on the campus of the University of Maryland, College Park. While holding the program at the University’s main campus presented logistical challenges, it gave students a real taste of what college might be like—walking twenty minutes to your next class, eating in a dining hall, staying up late to hang out with friends, trying new things, and being challenged academically. In total we created eleven science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) content tracks that students attended each day. They were assigned to one of their top three picks. The following is a bit of detail about each track and some of their accomplishments during the week.
Slam Engineers Go Green and Blind Design: These two tracks provided a unique experience for blind youth to work on a design project with the University of Maryland’s School of Architecture. Other lead faculty members in the two tracks included Caroline McInnis-Sailor, a PhD from Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering, and Nathaniel Wales, a blind civil engineer from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The two tracks collaborated to design energy-friendly houses of the future. Pods [three-student groups] from each track were placed on teams and assigned a specific biome or ecosystem where their hypothetical house was located. The engineering track learned about various sources of alternative energy and how to harness them for a particular biome. They made solar cells, built windmills, designed fruit batteries, and constructed water mills, which they incorporated into their team’s house and biome.
Participants in the Blind Design track worked directly with architecture students to create the design and framework of their house. Instructors walked the students through the various processes a beginning architecture student would experience—moving from initial draft drawings to constructing scale models. The track provided great opportunities to incorporate some alternative techniques to combat the visual challenges posed by the field of architecture. For example, students used Wikki Stix and rapid-prototyping devices to replace computer-aided-drawing (CAD) activities. Later in the development process, manipulatives like wooden blocks and dowels cut to various scales and identified by means of different textures or Braille labels were used to help students during the construction process. These manipulatives became more intricate and were transformed into realistic models as the design process neared completion.
Slammin’ in Space: Participants in this track spent the week learning about different space phenomena and preparing for a simulation mission at the Maryland Challenger Center. Activities used hands-on supplements such as tactile phases-of-the-moon charts, which were helpful during the moon mission at the Challenger Center. They also learned about environments on other planets, constellations, invisible light waves, and much more through hands-on activities. Participants also visited the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center to tour the facility and learn about various professions in aeronautics. Instructors included Noreen Grice from the Boston Planetarium and owner of You Can Do Astronomy, LLC; Ben Wentworth, retired science teacher of the blind from Colorado Springs; and Vivian Hoette from the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin.
Slamming out the World’s Water Crisis: Dr. April Hill and PhD candidate Cary Supalo from Penn State University put together this unique twist in chemistry to educate participants about the world water crisis. In addition to learning about the severity of the crisis, track participants performed some of the chemistry-related techniques currently being explored by scientists to remove the harmful materials found in many water supplies--water remediation. This track helped introduce some exciting means for making chemistry labs accessible to blind students. For example, participants used sophisticated software and equipment that can indicate to a blind person whether or not a chemical reaction has taken place or which can make certain pieces of lab equipment independently accessible to the blind.
Slam Talk Back—Creating IM Chatbots: We definitely had some future employees of Google and Yahoo in our midst. In this track students built their own chatbots that talked to them through Instant Messenger during the week. Participants were able to design their chatbots with unique qualities and personalities. Participants returned home with a better understanding of artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and Web programming, along with a personalized chatbot that they can continue to use on their home computers. A team from Access Computing from the University of Washington helped make this exciting track possible again this year.
Slammin’ Sports: Professors from the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health led participants through a series of interactive activities around physical fitness and its science. Students were charged with the tasks of incorporating skills they learned during the week into the design of their own personal fitness regimens and worked as a team to design a game or toy or piece of playground equipment to fit the universal-design guidelines. Participants also heard from blind professionals in related fields such as recreational science, massage therapy, and sports medicine.
CSI Slam: Participants in this class had their work cut out for them when they were charged with the task of using principles of chemistry and other scientific skills to solve a murder case. Until now this popular field has not seemed very blind-friendly. But, through some simple adaptations and a little imagination, we were able to show how many of the chemical tests performed in this field could be made accessible. For example, when determining if a stain sample was blood, students could detect whether a reaction had occurred when a specific chemical was applied by using a color identifier. Additionally, fingerprints lifted from an object could be covered with graphite or black ink, copied onto swell-form paper, and run through a swell-form machine to make them tactilely discernible. We hope to see more interest among blind people in this field over the next few years.
Youth Slam Blind Driver Challenge: Riding on the tail of the organization’s national initiative to create a car that the blind can drive independently, this track pushed participants to think more creatively than ever before. Engineering students from Virginia Tech University’s blind driver challenge team participated in the NFB Youth Slam and led a group of students through what has been the team’s challenge for the past year. Each pod in the track identified a specific problem to solve in making a vehicle accessible. Teams then designed prototypes based on principles of engineering that could potentially address that issue. On Friday track participants test drove the accessible go-cart built this past year by the VT team. A great deal of excitement and media attention were focused on this project that day. Those who are interested in reading some of the newspaper articles about this project should visit the NFB’s Website.
Operation Air Slam: It’s not every day that someone can say he or she launched a scientific balloon, but now fifteen NFB Youth Slam participants can make this claim. These students worked with instructors from the University of Maryland Balloon Science Program and the Maryland Space Grant Consortium. Students learned through hands-on physics experiments and presentations about how and why balloon launching is a valuable asset to scientists who study the atmosphere. Groups put together a cricket sensor and attached this payload to simple party balloons with a tracking device. After the launch students analyzed the data transmitted in Morse code from the sensors before the balloons landed several miles outside of Baltimore City. Participants also visited the space systems and neutral buoyancy labs on campus to tour the unique facilities used by the university’s aerospace engineering department and attended a lecture by a blind employee at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
NFB Slam News: Instead of engaging in a specific set of STEM activities for a part of the day, students in this track spent all their time visiting other tracks and reporting on the various activities. This year participants in this track captured the highlights of the week through podcasts, blogs, written articles, and videography. A number of talented blind sound engineers, writers, and editors assisted the students in this effort, guiding them with their skills of using nonvisual techniques to produce quality media. This track demonstrated to students that one can work in many other professions that require knowledge of the STEM subjects, and it taught students how to exercise their own voices to provide a unique inside look at the week through the eyes of youth.
Slam Robots: In this exciting new track, participants explored robotics in small teams using Lego Mindstorm robots. An instructor from the Rochester Institute of Technology, along with our own Robert Jaquiss of Louisiana, led students through a series of computer programming activities as teams worked toward a final challenge project. Participants learned about robotic movement, navigation, and sensors while programming a solution using creativity and problem-solving skills. At the end of the week each team’s robot participated in a challenge maze to test the teams’ work from the week.
When not participating in track activities, students attended the short sessions offered. Nearly thirty short sessions were peppered throughout the week. The goal wasn’t for every student to participate in everything possible. Rather we wanted to give the students a taste of a lot of things and leave them wanting more. Short sessions crossed over all elements of the STEM curriculum. Staff members from the NFB International Braille and Technology Center (IBTC) fascinated technology lovers with sessions on the history of technology, displaying various pieces of equipment that have evolved over the years. They also introduced students to blindness products helpful to students, such as Braille electronic notetakers, speech and magnification programs, scanning software, and the Victor Reader Stream.
One of the favorites among the short sessions was the shark dissection--a trademark activity of previous NFB science academies. Other sessions included labs on making synthetic collagen, building and testing windmills, studying invisible light rays and examining tactile photos from the Hubble telescope, and learning the chemistry of cooking through making chocolate. Another exciting partnership in this component was the participation of Mike May, cofounder and CEO of Sendero Group and one of the developers of the first accessible GPS for the blind. Mike led a couple of sessions designed like sophisticated scavenger hunts to teach the students how to use this technology.
Addressing blindness issues was also a key part of the week. These activities were as important to the curriculum and the learning experience as the STEM content sessions. Whether a session was a debate or a straight-forward discussion, the topics were advocacy, making positive first impressions as a blind person, cane travel, legislation, and the importance of collective action.
One afternoon and evening we visited the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. The afternoon featured tours of the NFB Jernigan Institute, short sessions on blindness topics, and an exhibit hall staffed by various organizations from around the country. The evening concluded with a fabulous talent show in which students exhibited talents in several performing arts. President Maurer even regaled the group with a rousing a cappella performance of a song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Trial by Jury, which he characterized as the intersection where litigation and opera meet.
What is a youth program without a little fun? This year’s program presented some of the most exciting after-hour socials yet. Evenings were filled with recreational activities like goal ball, judo instruction, and other sport activities, along with dancing until our feet hurt. One evening presenters from the Westminster Astronomical Society of Maryland even hosted a star party, where participants were able to make tactile images of real time photos from the evening’s night sky.
By far the Rec-EX (Recreation Extreme) night was the most popular evening and took some students literally to new heights. If they weren’t jumping by leaps and bounds on the bungee trampoline or flying high on the sticky wall, students could be found sliding down the giant inflated water slide or being tossed around by the mechanical bull. The evening truly had something for everyone. Several participants even got the opportunity to douse some of the NFB’s leaders in the dunk tank.
On Friday the NFB Youth Slam closed its program with a bang. We held an exciting rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall, followed by a program at the brand new visitors center at the U.S. Capitol. Students were bused to the Lincoln Memorial for what was truly a momentous occasion as blind people gathered in front of the reflecting pool at the foot of the Memorial. Hundreds of young blind people with high aspirations for their future were surrounded by dozens of blind mentors and other members of the National Federation of the Blind. Music greeted the crowd with messages of “I have a dream,” “Your story is yet unwritten,” and “They say that the blind cannot do science, and we say, Slam that!” As the group gathered, the wind picked up, and the skies opened, drenching the listening crowd with a downpour. The speakers got as wet as everybody else. NFB First Vice President Dr. Fredric Schroeder and President Marc Maurer inspired the youth to aim high and continue the fight for equality for the blind. Presidential Assistant Kareem Dale commented at the beginning of his abbreviated remarks that he was going to demand hazardous-duty pay, and keynote speaker Ever Lee Hairston laughed at the rain and challenged the cheering crowd with her personal story of freedom dreamed of, demanded, and earned. She even led the crowd in a chorus of “We Shall Overcome.” Enthusiasm prevailed as the crowd outlasted the rain to march the two miles from the Lincoln Memorial to the U.S. Capitol.
When we arrived, we enjoyed a reception at the new Capitol Visitors Center, where participants were addressed by Representative Steny Hoyer, who reiterated the importance of blind people’s belief in themselves and each other. NASA representatives also presented the NFB with the Louis Braille commemorative coins that flew into space on a shuttle mission earlier this summer.
So what did the NFB Youth Slam mean to its participants? This week was more than just an exciting opportunity to meet new people and learn new things. Many of the youth took home a greater sense of pride in themselves as blind people, not to mention that shot in the arm of Federation philosophy that we all know and love. For many of the participants this was a life-changing event, perhaps the first time anyone has really expected more from them and challenged them to expect more from themselves.
For some participants the insight was something simple like exposing them to a new activity or subject they’ve never had the opportunity to explore. For example, one young woman, previously determined to go into a field related to fashion, proclaimed to her mother one evening on the phone that she is now considering marine biology. She participated in the dogfish shark dissection and found that she enjoyed it and may have more interest in biology than she realized. She had never had much exposure to biology or other sciences because of her blindness. But she learned for herself this week that there are more doors to open and fields for her to explore.
The opportunity to participate in the NFB Youth Slam this summer definitely made an impression on each of us who played a role in it. It’s so much bigger than just exposing students to STEM subjects and enabling them to meet other blind youth. We all left feeling a little different from when we arrived. We recently received an email from a parent saying that her daughter came back an entirely different person. She explained that, when she picked her daughter up at the airport, she was shocked as her daughter, who usually uses sighted-guide technique with her parents, walked independently through the airport using her cane. The young girl explained to her mom what an experience it had been for her to be around people who, in her words, “just get it” with respect to blindness. Whether it was empowerment through overcoming a personal challenge or the sheer joy of giving back through service, we all know we will never be the same.We hope that Federationists will follow up with youth and mentors from your states who participated in the NFB Youth Slam. Get to know them and their families and continue to share the Federation’s message with them. Ask them to share with you what they learned from their NFB Youth Slam experience. You won’t be sorry.
by Harriet Go
From the Editor: Harriet Go is an elementary school teacher in Philadelphia and a leader in the NFB of Pennsylvania. She mentored a group of three students who were assigned to report on the 2009 NFB Youth Slam and generate blogs about what they observed. We asked her to set down her reflections on the Slam experience. This is what she wrote:
After a weekend of mentor training at the University of Maryland at College Park, I couldn’t wait to meet my students. I was ready to get the week’s events started. One by one Oleado, Grecia, and Kayla arrived late Sunday afternoon. After getting unpacked and engaging in the initial getting-to-know-you conversations, we sped off to the dining hall for dinner and an evening of ice-breaker activities. The next day began with a rousing and energetic opening session with speakers like NFB President Marc Maurer and Mark Riccobono, executive director of the Jernigan Institute, who encouraged and challenged the youth to do new things beyond their imaginations. Then it was off to the Slam News track. From there I was sucked into a whirlwind of NFB Youth Slam events with my students that would demystify journalism and shatter the beliefs that currently limit the opportunities of blind people.
Because Youth Slam is ultimately for the students and the programs are designed to develop and expose them to various career fields, I knew that my role as a mentor was critical. From the beginning I made it a point to connect with my students, to listen to them, and to do my best so that they would have a great week. I wanted to share the knowledge and experience that have helped me become an independent and confident blind person.
Many of the teachable moments occurred during authentic experiences during the week like learning to navigate the crowded and confusing lines in the dining hall without dropping our trays, finding our way from the dorms to Annapolis Hall without getting lost, discussing our feelings about other people’s attitudes about blindness, and even working on meeting other students in order to sharpen our social skills. However, teaching was only part of my job; as a mentor I was also learning alongside my students. When I first found out that I was going to be mentoring students in the Slam News track, I gulped. I was a little disappointed and quite intimidated. I knew nothing about journalism. Being a science enthusiast, I would have found almost any other track more interesting. I would have loved to explore the planets in our solar system or simulate a rocket launch in the astronomy track, learn about forensics in the CSI group, or help to build a car in the Blind Driver Challenge. But with reassurance from the instructors and the excitement of my students and their confidence in their ability to write, I couldn’t help jumping right in. So Slam News gave me the opportunity to learn about podcasts, blogging (which I knew nothing about), Twitter, and various styles of writing.
Being a mentor provides a great opportunity to participate in Youth Slam and make a positive impact on the lives of young blind students. It is also a chance to learn from them. These students are our future, and they have a lot to offer. I learned about new things and met lots of people, just as they did. It is exciting to see how much my students have grown and are changing in just a few days. It is inspiring, and I am proud of their accomplishments. I know that they can become great journalists and reporters, or successful in whatever other careers they choose.
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).
Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!
by Edward Bell
From the Associate Editor: Dr. Edward Bell, director of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University, delivered the following remarks at the 2009 NFB convention on Wednesday, July 8. We can only hope that his call to action and recruitment plea will help staff positions in blindness education across the country with high-quality teachers and administrators. Here is what he said:
A statement I have always found particularly profound has been ascribed to the renowned geologist and paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould. He said, "I am somehow less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops."
To me the profundity of this quote is in both the painfulness of its truth and the number of generations for which it has been true. It is sad, and its magnitude and scope are beyond our comprehension. It is equally valid for the centuries of blind people who have wasted away in sheltered workshops, institutions, and rocking chairs across the world. Is this merely a true reflection of the best we can hope for the blind?
If dependency is not preordained, then to what can we attribute the 90 percent illiteracy rate and 75 percent unemployment statistic that exists in America's blind community? The problem is multifaceted, but we can exercise some control over at least two aspects of it. First, a large percentage of those who are hired to teach blindness skills do not possess proficiency themselves or the expectation that blind people can achieve real independence. Second, no national standard or benchmark exists that can be used to hold school districts, agencies, and universities accountable for the skill deficiencies of teachers. Although these problems are pervasive, solutions are at hand, and many individuals are working to resolve them.
One of the factors that has contributed to the 10 percent literacy rate of the blind comes from the inconsistency across the country in the preparation of Braille teachers. This problem is systemic because some university programs provide rigorous training in the Braille code while others do not. Some states have stringent certification and licensure requirements for teachers of the blind while others have virtually no standards. Some agencies and schools demand that teachers be highly qualified while others do not. Some teachers are passionate and ensure that their own skills be exceptional, yet others lack this same passion.
The National Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) and others created over the last twenty years the National Literary Braille Competency Test (NLBCT) to address this lack of consistency. Through a partnership with the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB), the NFB, and the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech University, a National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) has been developed and is now available.
The NCLB is a national certification based on the NLS Braille examination that tests the applicant’s proficiency in literary Braille. This certification process serves to identify Braille teachers who are competent in Braille and those who are not. Those who are proficient will become credentialed with the NCLB and will be highly sought after by employers. Those who fail the test will not be demeaned, but they will be assisted in improving their skills to the extent possible. When all is said and done, however, teachers who cannot demonstrate a professional grasp of the Braille code will not be credentialed, and they will find it increasingly difficult to become employed to teach blind people.
Already more than 150 individuals have taken the exam, and slightly more than half of them are now credentialed. This has not only added to their own value as employees, it has also strengthened the entire blindness education field. We intend to continue pushing the NCLB as the national standard for all teachers who work with the blind to promote literacy.
We know that only 10 percent of blind youth read Braille, but we also know that youth who receive appropriate instruction in Braille are as literate as their sighted peers. Similarly we know that youth with significant vision impairments who are not given consistent instruction in Braille fall far behind in literacy skills when compared with their sighted and blind peers who receive consistent training. We are obligated to hold teachers accountable for this fact and to raise nationwide the standard for professional preparation.
The NCLB will go a long way towards helping to address the 90 percent illiteracy rate for blind people. But this is not enough. We need you. We need to identify, train, and hire the next generation of teachers who have the passion, dedication, and proficiency to teach the next generation of blind youth and adults. The problem is not lack of opportunity. Each month I receive phone calls from employers across the country who are desperate to hire cane travel and Braille teachers. I am sad when I have to tell them that I do not have any graduates to offer them. We are not maxed out. We have space at the university. Our classes are typically at half or one quarter of their capacity. Every month we send out a lot of brochures, electronic flyers, and notices on listservs. We do a lot of networking at national conferences and by word of mouth. Yet, despite these efforts, the number of people seeking to enter our programs is dismally low.
Why is this so? Are people afraid of graduate school? Are they afraid of standardized tests, their lackluster transcripts, or the year-and-a-half commitment that it takes? Or is it even deeper than this? Does it partially stem from a deep-seated belief that working with the blind is charity work, unrewarding, and a last resort if other plans don’t work out? I don’t know the answer. I don’t know why we struggle to attract students into our programs while general education programs are over capacity. We offer tuition assistance while many others do not. We offer more one-on-one instruction while in other programs some students are just a number. We hold high standards for students, but we also provide many levels of support. No, I don’t know why attracting people to work in this field is difficult. But I do know that, as the demand continues to grow for people in this profession, the supply continues to dwindle.
Fortunately there are many opportunities for everyone to contribute to this effort. Louisiana Tech University offers master's degrees in O&M and teaching blind students, but we offer much more. We are committed to reversing the statistics for blind youth and adults. In addition to the staff of the Institute on Blindness, we have with us this week the students from the Louisiana Tech programs and more than a decade's worth of our alumni. We are here because change is here, and we want to be a part of that effort.
For more than a decade we have offered a graduate degree in structured-discovery cane travel. Those individuals have earned national orientation and mobility certification (NOMC) and they are working in agencies and schools from coast to coast. This program remains strong and vibrant, and all that we are missing is you. We know the value of preparing people at the graduate level, and we need to get people interested in our programs. Is that you?
Of course not everyone is able to go to graduate school, and we know that it does not take a graduate degree to be a great teacher. The Louisiana Tech program was built on the consumer-driven approach to cane travel, and the NOMC certification was based on the same philosophy. Consequently the certification board has recently formalized the apprenticeship program, and one can now gain the training and certification necessary to teach cane travel. While this program does not supplant academic requirements where they are required for employment, the apprenticeship training and credentials are sufficient to obtain meaningful employment in many agencies.
The teachers of blind students (TBS) program at Louisiana Tech University has been in existence for more than six years, but we have worked to teach Braille to people for much longer than this. The TBS program is a master’s degree, complete with student teaching and certification requirements. In addition Dr. Ryles remains passionate about the importance of Braille, and she has built her program so that parents, family members, and paraprofessionals can gain the same competency in the Braille code. Here again all that we are missing is you.
Because of the inconsistent training nationwide, an entire generation of well-meaning teachers who believe in Braille but who have underdeveloped or eroded Braille skills are in the classroom. As a result we are launching a Braille training program that will refresh the Braille skills of those who have learned previously. The goal of this project is to raise the skill level of teachers enough to succeed at the NCLB examination and, once they are certified, to maintain this proficiency throughout their careers.
Yet another area of great need is on the level of leadership. Irrespective of the qualification of staff, we are all limited by the creativity, commitment, and knowledge of our supervisors. For better or worse this is one area where academic training will make the difference in the field. Many of the brightest and most talented people in work with the blind do not possess college degrees, and many of the most clueless and ineffectual people I know do have college degrees. Inexorably those with the advanced academic degrees secure the management and leadership jobs. We, that is, those who truly understand blindness, need to be in those leadership positions. Yet without the academic degrees we will continue to be at the mercy of the less informed but better credentialed masses. In the most eloquent words of Mahatma Gandhi, “We need to be the change we wish to see in the world.” No one else will do it for us.
As you sit and listen to these speeches, I know that you are troubled by this problem, and I know that you are passionate about reversing this trend. Yet what will we all do next week to address this crisis? We need you--not just the person sitting next to you, but you yourself. We can no longer step aside and assume that others will do the work. We cannot afford to shake our heads at the grim statistics while we sit back passively. We cannot proclaim that this is essential work that must be done now but wait for someone else to do it. We cannot pretend that, because we know the truth about blindness, this belief will result in real change; we cannot because we have the knowledge--the knowledge that the statistics remain unchanged. These statistics tell us that the demand remains high while our classrooms remain empty. Simply believing in the solution is not enough. We must be committed collectively to taking the actions that are necessary to address this problem.
I am not asking you to quit your job tomorrow unless you are unhappy with it or unless my words have moved you to some divine purpose. But how many of you are not working? How many of you would love to teach independence to blind people but are intimidated or concerned about your ability? How many family members, friends, and neighbors do you have who would find this work life changing if only they knew of the difference they could make in the lives of others? The opportunities abound. The need is ever-present. All we need is you.
What will you do tomorrow to help? What responsibility do you have as a person to help rectify this crisis? What collective role do we all share in reversing the dismal statistics? I for one am far less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops. I am equally certain of the truth in this statement for past generations of blind people. What will we do collectively to ensure that this is no longer the fate of future generations? Come and join us to make a difference in the lives of blind children and adults today and for the future.
by Denise M. Robinson
From the Associate Editor: Denise Robinson, PhD, is the coordinator of programming for blind and vision impaired students in the Yakima Valley School Districts of Washington State. Dr. Robinson has cultivated a friendly relationship with Federationists in our Washington affiliate, and she administers the programs under her direction with a progressive educational philosophy emphasizing high expectations, academic competitiveness, and age-appropriate social goals for her students. Dr. Robinson was invited to share her recipe for success and approach to education with delegates attending the national convention on the morning of Wednesday, July 8. Here is what she said:
Good morning. Albert Einstein once said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” With a 74 percent unemployment rate and an 80 percent illiteracy rate among the blind, I would say we need to do different things and have different results in the school's instructional methodology for blind and low-vision students to alleviate these distressing statistics. Some people say the figures are not that high. Okay, is it more acceptable if a 60 percent unemployment and 60 percent illiteracy rate are determined to exist for America's blind students? Is a 40 percent rate in these categories more acceptable? With society screaming at 8.5 to 10 percent unemployment among the sighted right now, how can we say a higher rate is more acceptable for the blind population?
Shouldn’t the statistics for unemployment be the same for blind and sighted people if everyone is taught the same and has the same abilities? Everyone, however, is not taught the same, and the blind consistently lack employment opportunities because of poor instruction and low expectations in today’s schools and society. These statistics have not changed in decades for many reasons: inadequate numbers of teachers in the field; teachers without Braille or technology skills; differing views on teaching Braille and, if Braille is taught, at what age to begin instruction; a focus on using only residual vision; and a myriad of other factors.
Having watched good and bad techniques applied in the blindness education field since the early 1990s in Michigan, where I began my career, I have formed drastic ideas and made changes to the typical instruction for the blind in America, or at least in my neck of the woods. The culmination and success of these ideas came together in a small program I formed when I moved to a school district north of Seattle, Washington, in 1998 as a teacher of the blind. These ideas and successes continued and grew when I became teacher and coordinator of all blind programming in central Washington State at an educational school district overseeing twenty-five school districts. I’m convinced that the components of this program reflect our special education laws, enabling blind children with varying visual acuities to become independent and successful.
In the program that I run, the question is not a matter of print or Braille; it is both. Any child who struggles with seeing information that is close up is taught Braille, access technology, and other blindness skills commensurate with the vision loss, including orientation and mobility. At present not 10 percent but, of the sixty-five students enrolled in our program, 60 percent are learning Braille, technology, print, and other blindness skills. Every skill possible is taught to enable these children to become independent. In addition to this instruction, training classes for all paraprofessionals employed in our program to become Braille- and technology-literate occur weekly. Family nights are set up for families to gain other information about educating their blind children throughout the year. This also gives the families time to meet and talk with each other.
Ideally we get the children as young as possible. I like to call it “coming from the womb.” I go to the child’s home and help the parents learn techniques to work with their child, teaching pre-Braille, pre-cane, and tactile skills. At three years old children in our program begin preschool, and I also work with the staff at the child's first school. Then I can begin formal Braille and technology training, just as the sighted kids are learning their literacy skills. Children this young can usually do fifteen- to twenty-minute lessons five days a week. They can do more if their parents follow through with home-based instruction on weekends. This amount of time may seem short, but you would be amazed at what can be accomplished in fifteen minutes. Ideally I like the families to follow through at home, reinforcing the lessons I teach the child. I encourage them to use real-life lessons too: going for a walk and having their blind child pick up sticks, stones, and leaves along the way; smelling flowers while walking; playing spelling games as they travel; and having the child help cook, clean, and do the daily activities that they must learn in order to survive on their own later in life.
When I am doing lessons with little children, the language I use helps them see how Braille and print relate to one another. When working on a Braille lesson, I ask the child, “How is that spelled on the computer?” When working with a computer screen reader, I ask, “What is the Braille contraction for that word?” Seamless flow occurs between the lessons, and, by the time the children enter kindergarten, they know all their Braille letters, dozens of contractions, all the letters on the keyboard, and a plethora of talking software commands. By the time they enter kindergarten, they are as far along in their literacy skills as their sighted classmates.
This strategy enables blind children to keep up easily with their sighted peers. In this ideal program a paraprofessional is present but not in the room, helping the child do everything or, worse, doing the work for the child. Instead the paraprofessional is adapting the work so that it is ready when needed, allowing the child to have it at the same time as his or her sighted peers. The paraprofessional is with the child only to help integrate Braille and technology lessons throughout the day.
The second part of this ideal program involves children who come into school districts when they are older than three to five. Getting these children started on Braille, technology, and O&M immediately is essential. I do this by integrating actual curriculum from the classroom into the lessons with the children so that, when they get back in class, they are already using the same materials as the rest of the students. The first year can be a huge struggle for students who enter the system later than kindergarten. They are already playing catch-up if they begin after the age of five. By the second year of instruction in Braille, technology, and O&M for these older students, they are flowing along in their learning. They may be at the bottom or the middle of the rest of the reading groups because they are still gaining the Braille and technology knowledge, but by the following year they are caught up.
I have discovered that children learn technology quickly. Within two weeks (less for junior high and older students), blind children in our program can master the whole keyboard and enough talking software commands that they can produce material faster than their sighted peers. Using this combination of Braille and technology training, I have children reach the top of their reading groups and score the highest on their state tests in their grade level. I have to emphasize here that it takes a well-trained paraprofessional adapting all materials before the student needs them and following through on lessons given by the teacher of the blind every day to accomplish this. In addition these paraprofessionals make sure that the regular education teachers are following through with keeping the blind children independent. We emphasize to the classroom teachers that they must apply the same standards and expect the same amount of work and the same level of achievement for the blind or low-vision child as they do for the sighted child.
Paraprofessionals are not allowed to hold the blind child’s hand when walking somewhere with them, nor are paraprofessionals permitted to do their work for them. Students need to be using their canes and doing their own work so that they can learn how to compete and act in the same manner as their sighted peers.
Teaching in this ideal fashion was easier in the one district I previously had north of Seattle, where I taught a small student case load. I was able to see all of my education students every day, and I was quickly able to adapt or modify the program to perfect instruction for each of them; however, when I took a new position as coordinator and teacher over the whole part of Washington State, I had to incorporate new strategies.
Five years ago, in an area that encompassed twenty-five school districts and forty-two children at the time, I was the only teacher of the blind. The paraprofessionals were doing the work for most of these children, and teachers gave the blind students good grades no matter what they turned in. I had students in honors classes who did not know sentence structure. Some of my blind students Brailled from the top left-hand corner of the paper to the bottom right-hand corner of the sheet with only three periods interspersed throughout the page. They read their Braille to the paraprofessional with one hand at fifteen words per minute, and the paraprofessional wrote it out and gave it to the teacher in the paraprofessional’s edited format. These blind students also had only basic math skills. They were getting As in all of their classes. The pity these children were given was stifling and nauseating. I know the regular education teachers thought giving good grades for poorly completed work was love and kindness to these poor, poor blind children. Really this was a death sentence to their futures.
Many of the regular education teachers still do not get this. They think I am cruel when I tell them to grade the students according to their work and expect the same quality of work from them as they do from their sighted peers. These teachers do not think about what will happen when these students graduate and have to compete with people who actually worked for their grades and achieved success. One of the slowest processes is changing people’s minds about the capabilities of these children. It can sometimes be slow and painful, but it’s worth the fight. My whole team works at this daily. Fewer of our teachers now are giving good grades just because the blind child got up in the morning, walked to the class independently, and emailed them a copy of their homework. They actually expect the child to work for the grade given.
Unfortunately we still have some teachers passing students along whether they do work or not. But slowly and surely the attitudes are changing. We’re getting there. Like the persistent drop of water, we will penetrate the Stone-Age thought pattern that the blind need to be pitied and given things whether they work for them or not. We will change the thought pattern of the blind child himself, eliminating his idea that he needs help with everything and replacing it with the idea that, when given the right instruction and tools, he can do it by himself. This is occurring now. The children are gaining confidence in their own abilities.
Five years ago, when I began with so many school districts and so many children, I knew I needed to get paraprofessionals trained as fast as humanly possible. But first I needed to get all the districts onboard supporting this new idea I had about programming. I went to the special education directors meetings and showed them videos from my previous school district north of Seattle of these incredibly independent, fully functioning children at school, successfully competing with their sighted peers. They were amazed and awed at stories of children reading assignments from their Braille books, then turning to their computers and outputting work faster than their sighted peers, of students using different types of technology and tools to achieve their goals, of students scoring at the top both in their classes and on state tests. The special ed directors truly had no idea that blind children could work and be independent. So, when I asked them to release their paraprofessionals during the work day for training, they agreed. When I asked that the paraprofessionals get paid for their training hours, they also agreed. When I asked for the thousands of dollars it would take to order equipment to begin the program, they got onboard. I also assured them that I could not only operate all this equipment, but I could also support and fix it. So they trusted that it would not be ordered and then be put in a closet to collect dust.
During this process, which unfolded over several months, I followed up with personal visits with the directors in the districts, forming bonds that I knew would be important in continuing support for this type of programming. It worked; it worked very well. And they all know they can call me with any question about their student, and I can answer it. Close contact and good communication are essential in building a program like this. Once I got the support, I set up bimonthly training classes in which I taught Braille and technology to twelve people. It took about a year and a half for them to get Braille-certified and only a few months to get them comfortable with the technology and to start outputting the large quantity of work the students needed in their classrooms daily. As you know, getting books on time is sometimes a challenge, but when we had the paraprofessionals adapting all the materials that we could not get, every student had the work in the room when the teacher was going to use it. Now, in situations where the paraprofessionals are learning Braille right along with the students, I can no longer do the ideal of using the classroom curriculum to teach the students Braille. Instead we use a well-known Braille curriculum from the Printing House for the Blind called Patterns. Whenever I come in to teach the student a Braille lesson, the paraprofessional sits right with me and learns right along with the students. The students learn exponentially faster and soon pass the adults. I then continue to have the adult lessons separately because the adults learn so much more slowly.
New Braille classes start every year, and, because I have another Braille-certified person able to teach them, we can now have weekly classes. About ten more people are now ready to take the Braille certification exam. We also have three people we call Braille specialists who have Braille certification, and they can also teach the technology component, but they just do not have a formal college degree in special education. They help implement programming so the students can reach that one-to-one intense instruction time each day for one to two hours and help integrate these skills throughout the day along with all our certified paraprofessionals. So the students are continually using their blind skills. I constantly stress with the paraprofessionals and parents the importance of independence and the necessity of the children doing their own work. They must do their own chores at home. They must walk independently using the cane when going somewhere. More than anything these children are redefining within themselves who they are and what they can do. They too had no idea they could be so successful and independent.
Unfortunately, the later children start Braille, technology, O&M, and daily life skills, the harder it is for them to internalize the idea of independence. They have gained many bad habits and have become accustomed to others doing everything for them. The majority of my students who began this program in high school still only read about seventy words a minute and fight cane use like the plague. All children say they want to be just like everyone else. In the most loving way I try to explain why these skills are so important and what the consequences will be if they do not learn them. Some get it. Many do not because they have started their training so late. A huge majority of those who start late have progressive eye conditions, but at least they know enough Braille that they can get going with it later on when they desperately need it. Of course there are great centers for the blind, where they could gain more training later.
But over and over I have found that the later you start instruction with blind children, the slower they are to learn and accept the skills and to understand the true definition of independence. The earlier children start, the faster they learn and retain it. Even if they stop using certain skills in their high school years because they happen to move to a district where a low-vision child uses large print only, they can still pick it up again later on more quickly and use it. After they graduate and realize they really need the Braille, they can pick it up again much faster than if they had never started at all.
Since I oversee twenty-five school districts, I encounter various scenarios, many of which are not ideal. I have one school district that just does not use their money wisely, so they have budget issues every year, and all of their children suffer. To save money, they are trying to have one paraeducator teach their blind children, but they have agreed to a teacher of the blind to oversee the program. I have another district that rarely gets its paperwork done on time and so has faced lawsuits for not keeping up with the rules and regulations even though the children are getting exceptional service.
The recession has decreased available monies for additional equipment, so we have relied more on donated computers in order to continue instruction so that every child also has a computer in the home. In four short years going on five, our program has made great progress. We will soon have (we are hiring another) four full-time teachers of the blind, two of whom are also certified in orientation and mobility, plus another one that comes in monthly. We have three highly qualified Braille specialists, who are skilled in all areas of blind education but just lack the formal college degree, and ten Braille-certified paraprofessionals and six more ready to take the Braille certification test. Half a dozen parents are also working towards certification, taking the weekly Braille classes. The students have excelled using their newfound skills. Because they use these skills throughout the school day, they have made dramatic improvements. With Braille-certified paras, students’ materials are ready, and they are included in the classroom instruction all day long. Constant integration of these lessons through the day is the key.
So here are the results: With the administrator supporting the ever-increasing and changing requirements to enable blind children to rise to their full potential, with a growing number of teachers who expect their blind students to hand in quality work and receive grades according to their efforts, with parents who have started to dream dreams again about the potential of their children, and with blind students who are independent and realizing their own potential, we are in the process of changing that 70 to 80 percent unemployment and illiteracy rate. We are in the process of changing the world’s idea of what it means to be blind.
by Carol Castellano
From the Associate Editor: Carol Castellano is the president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. She is one of the most eloquent voices today advocating for the right of blind children to grow up independent and competent. She was the final panelist addressing the education needs of blind children on Wednesday morning, July 8. This is what she said:
A four-year-old child has entered preschool. He is highly sensitive to light and glare. His 20/400 vision makes it difficult for him to make out the print on the page in front of him. If he wears his sunglasses so that he can tolerate the indoor light, he can no longer see the page. The school principal demands at an IEP meeting to know exactly how many light bulbs she must remove from the ceiling fixture in order to accommodate the boy’s sensitivity to light. “If it gets too dark in the classroom,” she warns the boy’s mother, “we’ll be out of compliance with state regulations for the rest of the children.” When this little boy walks from place to place in the school, an aide provides a constant flow of verbal information—be careful, there’s a desk in the hallway; slow down, the janitor’s bucket is in our way; watch out, here come the stairs. When he steps outside for recess, he is blinded by the daylight. The aide holds his hand so that he does not fall off a curb or trip over a tree root. There are no Braille and no cane in this child’s life because--he is not blind.
A girl sits in a fourth-grade classroom, an aide by her side. The aide retrieves the child’s books, reads to her, accompanies her in the hallways, and eats lunch with her in the school cafeteria. Why does the aide walk with her and read to her, I ask. The mom explains, “Well, those things are very visual.” There are no Braille and no cane in this child’s life because--she is not blind.
A fourteen-year-old high school freshman is having difficulty navigating the hallways and stairwells of his new school. Someone has suggested placing bright yellow tape at the top of each stairway. Another recommended hiring a full-time aide to keep the boy safe and also to take notes for him since he cannot see the board and can’t really read his own handwriting. The deliberations of the school team and parents are slow and cautious—especially in view of the nervous breakdown the boy had at the beginning of the school year and his subsequent hospitalization for anxiety and depression. There are no Braille and no cane in this boy’s life because--well, you know, he is not blind.
A twenty-four-year-old sits at home angry and depressed. Unable to complete college and not working, he has no goals and doesn’t believe he can accomplish anything. When I mention the possibility of his getting training at one of our centers, his mom immediately stops me. “Oh, no, he doesn’t need that. He hasn’t ever spent time with that kind of person. He doesn’t think of himself as visually impaired.”
These stories are real—only identifying details were changed. When the parents of these children called, they wanted me to understand that their child WAS NOT BLIND.
Frank is a child with albinism, a second grader. He uses the vision he has very well, but his mother recognizes that it might not work for him later when the print becomes smaller and more dense. When she suggested at a school meeting that Frank learn Braille, the teacher of the blind responded, “Oh, I’d hate to do that to him.” She went on to explain to the school staff that Braille is not a quick thing to learn, that poor Frank would have to learn all different grades of Braille and then would have to learn another code for math and even another system for music.
When it came time to discuss mobility, Frank’s mother related how Frank tripped over small rises in the terrain, used his foot as a feeler in unfamiliar places, and had run headlong into a glass sliding door at his aunt’s house. The mom thought Frank should learn how to travel with a cane. The O&M instructor explained that Frank didn’t qualify for cane use and, what’s more, he needed to trip over things so that he would learn to pay more attention.
At the end of the meeting the director of special services contributed her expert opinion—though they’d never had a visually impaired student in their school district before. She’d done her research, she told us, contacting directors in other school districts. “Nobody,” she proclaimed, “was giving Braille to kids who could see.” “And,” she continued, “I found out Frank would read the Braille with his eyes anyway. They’d have to blindfold him to get him to read the Braille with his fingers. I just can’t get that image out of my mind,” she cried, “that poor little boy sitting at a table blindfolded.” Then, turning coldly to the mother, she hissed, “I just don’t understand why you would want to make that child blind.”
In that statement lies the crux of the resistance to providing training in nonvisual skills to children with partial sight. Contrary to the sentiment expressed in a favorite slogan of ours, to most of the general public it’s still bad to be blind. Current research continues to find that the public fears going blind even more than they fear their own death.
So I guess it’s natural—or at least predictable—that, when parents hear from the professionals that their child is not blind, they feel relieved. “Thank goodness she’s got that little bit of vision,” the doctors say. “You’re lucky,” the teachers tell them. “She won’t have to learn Braille.” “He’s got a lot of travel vision. He won’t need a cane.” The child is encouraged to use his remaining vision and is rewarded by making Mom and Dad happy when he is able to see.
Another component of the resistance to teaching nonvisual skills to partially sighted people is the school of thought that holds that truly the needs of the visually impaired are different from those of the blind. One proponent of this thinking is Sam Genensky, the Harvard- and Brown-University-trained mathematician who invented, back in the late 60s, the closed circuit TV. Too frequently, says Dr. Genensky, the visually impaired are given the same services as the fully blind, preventing them from making good use of the sight they have remaining. Why offer the visually impaired only Braille, he says, when many of them could read a book with large enough type? I think we can fairly say that intelligent people of good will fall on both sides of this debate.
A third aspect of the resistance to providing training in nonvisual skills is the way in which most of our teachers of the blind are trained. The approach seems to have grown out of both the idea that visually impaired people really do need different skills and the negative emotional reaction to blindness.
A current textbook, Foundations of Low Vision: Clinical and Functional Perspectives, copyright 1996 and reprinted in 2007, includes the Bill of Rights for Persons with Low Vision. Number four is the right “to develop an identity as a sighted person who has low vision.” The authors are careful to state, however, that “the person for whom the use of vision is not preferred, not desirable, or too stressful must be respected for this choice” and “If a person…feels more comfortable functioning as a person who is blind, that choice should be respected.” What happened to just functioning as a human being?
In arguing against the use of the term “legally blind,” this same book states that by using this term we are blinding people by definition. Legally blind children, the authors tell us, can be “psychologically affected by being considered blind by teachers and relatives.” And—this is my favorite—“To call a person with severe vision loss `legally blind’ is as preposterous as calling a person with a severe illness ‘legally dead.’”
With that kind of attitude underlying the textbooks from which our teachers of the blind are learning their trade, is it any wonder that our students with partial sight are being denied Braille? Research has been done to assess teachers’ attitudes toward Braille. The conclusion was that we can rest easy—teachers love Braille. But the researcher failed to ask the salient question. What about Braille for partially sighted children? It turns out that teachers are strongly in favor of Braille, but only for those for whom they think Braille is appropriate and that would be for those they call “functionally blind.” Now I do understand and believe that no teacher ever got into the business so that she or he could deny a child a good education. The decisions being made in regard to reading medium are made not with evil intent but with seriously misguided thinking.
One particularly insidious element of the training teachers of the blind receive involves what is called the learning media assessment, a process which is meant to determine objectively whether or not a child needs Braille. For the most part the learning media assessment came into existence in direct response to our success in getting the right to Braille into state and federal law.
Many fundamental and serious problems pervade the learning media assessments in use today. I will focus here on just a few. The assessment most commonly used today—and referred to as the Bible and the gold standard—describes itself as objective, deliberate, systematic, documented, structured, careful, data-driven, and evidence-based. Ironically, an assessment can be all of these things and still be wrong.
Bias toward print and the use of vision is evident on almost every page. And, though the assessment claims to be evidence-based, there is absolutely no research to back up either the approach or the conclusions drawn using it. They do indeed collect data, but is it the data on which a decision on reading medium should be based? The approach is to observe the student doing ordinary activities and to note whether the child does them using what they call “the visual channel,” “the tactual channel,” or “the auditory channel.” If you ask me, the whole thing is more like the science fiction channel.
When the observations are complete, the teacher adds up all the Vs and Ts and As and identifies what they call the child’s “preferred sensory channel.” The authors inform us that this is also the channel through which the child receives information “most efficiently.” Then, based on whether the chart has the most Vs, Ts, or As, the child is determined to need print or Braille. Well let me tell you that for the partially sighted child being assessed in this manner, the channel turns out to be visual and the reading medium turns out to be print.
To be fair, I should say that there is a section in the manual called “Benefits of Braille Reading and Writing.” It consists of five bulleted items and is a total of eighty-two words—counting a, an, and the period. In a book of 220 pages, eighty-two words on the benefits of Braille.
It’s a difficult task even to begin enumerating the problems inherent in this approach. But I’ll try. Were there lots of visual channel answers because lots of visual items were presented? Why did the child use a particular channel for a particular task? Did the child look at that picture visually because no tactile picture was offered? Did the child use vision instead of touch because he has always been encouraged to use it and rewarded for using it? Could it have been the only one he was allowed to use? Is the so-called preferred sense necessarily the most efficient? And what’s the definition of efficient, anyway?
And since when do we make serious decisions on our children’s behalf according to their preference? Nah, I don’t want to do that long division; I prefer recess. Mmmm, I don’t think I’ll eat those vegetables; I prefer M&Ms. What is preferred by the child is not necessarily what is best for the child.
Drawing conclusions about whether or not to teach Braille based on an approach so fraught with defects reminds me of the story of the scientist who was researching what happened when you pulled the legs off a bug. He pulled the first leg off and yelled, “Jump!” And the bug jumped. He pulled the next leg off and told the bug to jump, and the bug jumped. The experiment continued with the scientist pulling off the legs and the bug jumping until the scientist pulled off the last leg. “Jump!” he demanded. “Jump!” he said again. But the bug just lay there. “Ah ha!” the scientist concluded. “I have just proved that when you pull all the legs off a bug, the bug becomes—deaf.”
During this convention you’ve been hearing Dr. Maurer and our other speakers bringing a lot of attention to the problems with the education of blind children, and, when we decide to put the might and the money and the mind-power of the National Federation of the Blind toward a problem, you can bet we’ll get results.
Here are just a few of the exciting areas we are working on in addition to our ongoing programs and initiatives:
I am so excited about these initiatives because they have the potential to remedy these very real problems in the field.
When I was preparing for this convention, I was looking for a middle-school-age speaker for our youth panel. I called one of our families in Illinois and asked the mom if her son might like to be on the panel. I told her the speech would have to be written out and that he should practice reading it. “He’d love to,” the mom replied. “But could you just ask him questions instead of his reading? He just started learning Braille [after a two-year battle, I might add] and can’t see to read a speech in print.” So, while the schools ask us “Why do you want to make that child blind?” I’m asking why would anyone want to make a child illiterate and unable even to read a simple speech?Our work and initiatives, ongoing and new, are creating a new reality, one in which claims will be backed up by research; one in which every blind child learns the tools that enable him to keep up with peers and perform to his maximum potential; a reality in which every blind child has the opportunity to be competent, confident, competitive, and empowered. Fellow Federationists, I couldn’t imagine a more meaningful calling in life than to be doing this important work with all of you.
by Steven M. Sawczyn
From the Editor: Last April, when the June issue of the Braille Monitor was in production, I learned that the International Braille and Technology Center (IBTC) staff was preparing a review of VoiceOver, Apple’s accessibility solution for the Mac computer. The article was titled “Ease of Access of the Apple OS 10.5 Leopard Environment with VoiceOver," and I gathered from staff warnings that the piece would be controversial.
I took the warning seriously, but as a distinctly untechnical person, I really had no idea what was about to happen. Listservs filled with condemnations of the article and accusations that I had undoubtedly received pay-offs from Freedom Scientific and GW Micro for publishing the piece. Some of the reaction was so violent that it was hard to take seriously. But other voices were concerned and balanced and persuaded me that we must make a serious effort to take a second look at VoiceOver. It seemed logical to ask someone who uses and likes VoiceOver to report on the product from personal experience.
We settled on Steve Sawczyn of Maine. He teaches access technology, which means that he is quite familiar with the screen readers used on Microsoft computers. But he has chosen to use VoiceOver and a Mac to meet his personal computing needs. When approached, he readily agreed to write something that would allow our readers to understand what he sees as the strengths of VoiceOver. This is what he says:
I read with much concern the article titled “Ease of Access of the Apple OS 10.5 Leopard Environment with VoiceOver" that appeared in the June 2009 Braille Monitor. Although I recognize that, by definition, reviews are subjective, I was surprised at the erroneous information presented in the June article. My purpose in writing this article is both to correct these inaccuracies and to present another point of view.
I have been a blind computer user since the mid-eighties, having cut my teeth on the Apple IIe. Back then accessibility was prevalent in part because of the text-based environment in which most programs operated but mainly because of the hard work performed by a select few with a vision of the way in which computer technology could empower the blind. With the advent of Apple's Macintosh, the landscape changed a bit, focusing more on graphical user interfaces, and for obvious reasons these posed huge challenges in accessibility.
Like everyone else I needed to get things done, and, although I fervently hoped accessibility would come to the Mac, I migrated to a DOS-based PC. Windows eventually came into being and with it the same challenges of providing accessibility in a graphical user interface. In order to aid accessibility efforts, Microsoft eventually released Microsoft Active Accessibility, MSAA. By working with screen-reader and other access providers, Microsoft achieved a level of accessibility in Windows that allowed us to use this mainstream operating system. Meanwhile, back on Apple's Mac platform, accessibility efforts were restricted to the hard work of one company, Alva Access, who developed a screen reader, OutSpoken. Apple did not provide Alva with any sort of accessibility layer with which to work and frankly didn't seem to prioritize accessibility for the blind in any way.
In Maine former Governor King introduced the Maine Learning in Technology Initiative, legislation that provided a portable computer to all seventh- and eighth-grade public school students. His idea was to create an environment that would teach Maine’s students to work with technology in a hands-on way instead of offering theoretical classes. This news excited me because blind students could easily collaborate with their sighted peers so technology would level the playing field. Many vendors were keen to provide Maine with the technology for this program, most notably Apple, who eventually won the bid. I was outraged when I heard this news because now the very governmental program I had hoped would mainstream blind students more effectively would in fact have the opposite effect.
We lobbied, contacted legislators, and held protests. Eventually the state sent a clear signal to Apple that accessibility matters. This did not, however, stop the state from choosing Apple at a time when no access solution existed. Even Alva Access, the company that had tried hard for many years to develop the one and only screen reader for the Mac, had thrown in the towel and ceased all development efforts for the Mac. Apple promised Maine that it was working on something that would provide accessibility for the blind; all we had to do was to be patient just a bit longer. I didn't believe any of this and was therefore surprised when with the advent of Apple's 10.4, Tiger operating system, it introduced VoiceOver. Being a pessimist by nature, I thought that Apple would claim to have met its obligation in providing accessibility for the blind and that nothing further would be forthcoming. With the release of Apple's 10.5, Leopard operating system, I admitted grudgingly that Apple seemed committed to accessibility even though it was the latecomer to the party.
I am self-employed as an assistive technology consultant and trainer and believe it's my job to remain up on any technology that might enable one of my clients to accomplish a task. Such tasks can range from keeping track of a shopping list to working in a corporate environment. Although I provide more training to Windows users, I personally use a Mac and have been doing so since the release of the Leopard operating system reviewed in the June article. Although no system is perfect and the Mac definitely has its shortcomings, I find that the Mac allows me to accomplish necessary tasks with few exceptions.
WE’RE NOT IN WINDOWS ANYMORE
One thing to keep in mind when evaluating the Mac for your own needs is that it is not Windows. There are similarities, but the Mac is its own system with its own unique characteristics and ways of doing things. A blind user switching to the Mac from the Windows environment encounters the same issues as a sighted person making the same switch, mainly that there are different ways of getting things done and different tools to do them. Recognizing that Windows is the predominant operating system today, Apple has done a great job of developing a number of resources for switchers. These include tutorials for accomplishing common tasks, videos demonstrating using the Mac's various tools, and concise manuals illustrating how to perform tasks on the Mac when one is used to performing the task using Windows software. As a former Outlook addict I used virtually all of Outlook's features for one thing or another. So I found these tutorials very helpful. For VoiceOver Apple provides a number of online resources to help users understand how VoiceOver functions in the operating system and within specific applications.
Before we continue, it is important to understand Apple's philosophy concerning accessibility since this defines the way users experience the Mac, the way documentation is created, and the relationship between third-party software and VoiceOver. In a nutshell Apple believes that applications should be developed in a universally accessible way, that is, with accessibility in mind. To help make this happen, Apple has introduced programming guidelines to help developers develop for accessibility. If a program is properly written in Apple's COCOA programming language and if the developer follows all of the standard programming guidelines as set forth by Apple, the application should be accessible without a thought for accessibility. The assumption of course is that developers will use Apple's COCOA language and that they will follow all Apple's guidelines. This is not always the case, so as a result the Mac certainly does have inaccessible applications. Apple's system, however, encourages users to bring accessibility issues directly to developers rather than waiting for VoiceOver to receive an update through which specific application accessibility can be provided. Apple insists that blind users should use their Macs in exactly the same way as their sighted peers do. Although I found this initially confusing, Apple really does mean that, if a sighted user needs to drag and drop an icon, a task normally performed with the mouse, a blind user should do exactly the same thing, albeit without the physical use of the mouse. Apple believes that, if product documentation refers to a blue icon located on the left side of the screen, the blind user should be able to find that blue icon, should know that it's blue, and should understand its position in relation to other objects on the screen. Coming from Windows, I found this quite a bit to take in. After all, Windows solutions generally provide information to the user when needed, and more often than not the information is exactly and only what the user needs at that moment. Using the Mac, I would be expected to understand and operate in a visual environment in almost exactly the same way as every other Mac user. Admittedly, I initially didn't care about the relationship of objects on the screen--I just wanted to get things done. In time, however, I found this approach provided a greater understanding of the application and, more important, the ability to discuss the application in terms others understand.
As for VoiceOver documentation, Apple does not go into detail about the use of specific applications. After all, the assumption is that blind users will use the application the same way as everyone else, so we should read that application documentation and follow the same learning path as everyone else. Specific mention was made in the June article of the lack of documentation for new account creation, etc., in Mail. Because these are not VoiceOver-specific tasks, Apple has apparently concluded that it is not necessary to rehash documentation already present in the Mail application. Yes, the Mail application does contain many pages of help files describing new account creation, a wizard helps you get started, and Apple's Website has tutorials and videos to assist those migrating from Outlook. The resources exist; they're just not VoiceOver resources, so they are not in the VoiceOver documentation. I don’t intend to nit-pick the June article, but I think that the missing-documentation assertion comes down to a lack of understanding of Apple's Accessibility philosophy, which admittedly is very different from that governing access to Windows. Whether you agree with Apple's philosophy or not, understanding it is crucial if you plan to use the Mac successfully.
APPLES AND ORANGES
Many applications are included as part of Apple's Leopard operating system, meaning that, depending on what a user is planning to do, he or she may not have to purchase software beyond that provided by Apple. Specifically, Leopard contains a word processor that offers some advanced formatting, a highly configurable email application, a calendar/task-management application, media player, Web browser, spell-checker, dictionary, other grammar-related tools, chat application, disk/file management applications, and much more. Windows provides many similar tools, but some are missing, including my favorite, the spell checker, which is generally installed with Microsoft Office and is not part of the Windows operating system. Leopard's spell checker works two ways: the user can invoke a dialog that finds misspelled words, presents suggestions--very similar to the way spell-check in Microsoft Office works, or it can provide feedback while typing that a word is misspelled, and it provides a way to see a list of possible correct spellings immediately.
Fortunately for me, the spell-checker works just about anywhere text can be typed, including places you'd expect: TextEdit (the word processor), mail, etc. But it also works in places one might not expect: filling out forms on the Web, in chat, in most third-party applications, etc. Because I often contribute to forums or post items on Facebook, I personally love the ability to spell-check anywhere. The other application worth mentioning is Apple's iCal calendar and task management product. Professionally, I need to keep track of many appointments and meetings weekly, and personally I need to keep track of my two active school-age kids, who are constantly on the move. Using iCal, I manage two calendars while subscribing to a number of others. iCal allows me to see a combined view of all of this, enabling me to make appointments without missing a sporting event I might have promised to attend. I realize that this is nothing new for Outlook users, but the June article suggests that iCal isn't very usable by the blind. Several tips and tricks can make it easier for a blind user to use iCal just as several improve a user's experience with the Outlook calendar. I would love to see iCal's documentation updated to include these suggestions and am hopeful that actively submitting feedback will eventually make this happen.
Many people, me included, use a Mac every day to accomplish all of their computing needs. By providing integrated accessibility, Apple makes it possible for me, as a blind person, to go to the store, buy a Mac, and immediately start using it without first installing additional software. Is there a learning curve? Absolutely yes, but isn't there always when learning to use a new system? As mentioned earlier, the Mac isn't Windows, and, although I'm certainly guilty of making comparisons from time to time, the systems are inherently different, and it's important to keep that in mind. Is the Mac perfect for everyone? Absolutely not. Just like other solutions, the Mac has its share of drawbacks, and whether a system is the right one for you depends on many factors. I work with people in all age groups, and I can assure you that in most cases college students and people in their eighties wish to accomplish very different tasks. I am disturbed that the International Braille and Technology Center is content not to recommend the Mac on the ground of lack of productivity, ignoring the fact that many people are using the Mac productively and that productivity means very different things to different people. I am also concerned that the IBTC decided to review Leopard over a year and a half after its release and shortly before Apple's newest operating system, Snow Leopard, is due to be released. This would be analogous to my conducting a review of Windows Vista, a product that has been available for quite a while.
Although I emphatically disagree with many assertions and claims in the June article, I believe that the issue comes down to a lack of understanding that the Mac concept of accessibility varies greatly from that of Windows. I was also surprised at the shortness of the time given the review team. I know it often takes me a week to learn an entirely new system.
As you review the Mac for yourself, I would urge you to keep a few things in mind. First, and I can't mention this often enough, it's not Windows. Mac Mail isn't Outlook, TextEdit isn't Microsoft Word, and, although I certainly see the value of comparing these products side by side, they're not the same, just as the Icon and Maestro are not the same, the PAC Mate and BrailleNote are not the same, a Windows Mobile phone and its Symbian counterpart are not the same, etc. The other thing to keep in mind as you evaluate the Mac is that resources exist in the form of Webpages, mailing lists, podcasts, reviews, and of course the personal experiences of users who are successfully using a Mac efficiently and productively every day. In addition to Apple's own accessibility page; <www.apple.com/accessibility >, third-party tutorials and information can be found at <www.lioncourt.com>. In addition, I would be happy to speak with anyone about the Mac; I can be contacted by phone at (207) 512-2387 or by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.Apple definitely has a tough road ahead given its late foray into accessibility. However, given its demonstrated commitment thus far, I'm optimistic that the VoiceOver solution will only improve. After all, Leopard heralded many advancements in accessibility over its former operating system, Tiger. It will be interesting to see what its new operating system will bring.
by Anna Smith
From the Editor: Anna Smith, a dietitian and diabetes educator with the Diabetes Management Program at Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville, Indiana, gave an expanded version of the following article as the keynote address at the 2003 annual conference of the Diabetes Action Network at the National Federation of the Blind convention June 30, 2003. A transcription of her speech appeared in the Winter 2004 edition of the Voice of the Diabetic. Its content was updated in June 2009.
I am handing out tennis balls and paper plates to illustrate how you can use these and your hand to identify food portion sizes. But first let's review a bit of background about basic nutrition. Our topic today is carb counting and the diabetes exchange list. Today I will give you sound nutritional information you can use with the diabetes exchange list or, if you do carb counting using other methods, to show you how you can do that. Your body is like a car. In order for that car to go anywhere, it has to have fuel, but we have to fuel our bodies every day, not like a car that you might fill up once a week. The body needs fuel several times a day.
Several things (your lifestyle, how your medications work, and whether you sleep at night or during the day) determine how often and how much you need to eat. We know the energy in our food (measured in calories) comes from three sources: carbohydrates, protein, and fats. The only other place that we get any caloric content at all is alcohol, which is a separate matter.
The carbohydrates are your first main category of nutrients. What is their role? Carbohydrates are your body’s number one fuel base. If someone’s telling you not to eat carbohydrates, please don’t listen. Don’t be an advocate of the Atkins diet. That is not the safest or the healthiest way of meeting your nutritional needs. Carbohydrates play a very important role for us. When we look at how they affect the blood sugars, we can see that carbohydrates in food quickly converts into sugar in your bloodstream.
Two different carbohydrates make up most of the foods we eat. The first is simple carbohydrates--we sometimes call these the sugars. With these we see a very fast conversion to sugar, and all of them have a 100% conversion into glucose in the bloodstream. That isn’t bad, however, because you do need them. Remember, this is your body’s number one nutrient source for fuel.
In planning a diabetic diet, I usually set the carbohydrate level at about 50 percent of your estimated caloric needs. For instance, for someone on a 1,200-calorie-a-day diet with about 50 percent of the calories coming from carbohydrates, I’d plan on about 150 grams of carbohydrates a day.
The other carbohydrates are complex--the ones we sometimes call the starches. You often hear that starch is bad for you, that you should never eat potatoes, bread, etc. But starches, the complex carbohydrates, can actually be part of a well-balanced and nutritious diet.
Here is where we begin to look at the best types of complex carbohydrates, the ones with some fiber coming on board with them. Where do we find fiber? In whole grain cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Beans are a good high-fiber carbohydrate.
Beans can be an economical source of both starch and protein. When we look at the conversion of these high-fiber complex carbohydrates into sugar, we see that they are much slower than those without fiber. This means they break down anywhere from about an hour to an hour and a half after your meal. So that bowl of beans gives a much slower rise in your blood sugar than a bowl of fruit, a piece of candy, or even a piece of white bread. That’s why the complex carbs are the ones we recommend as part of any meal.
What happens if your meal consists of mostly carbohydrates? We know even very complex carbs break down about an hour or an hour and a half after the meal. A typical breakfast for many of us is cereal, fruit, milk, and maybe toast. What category do all of those foods fit in? Carbohydrates. Have you noticed being hungry again an hour or two after that kind of breakfast? The reason that happens is that such a breakfast consists of quick fuel that gives your brain the fuel you need and your body a lot of the essential nutrients that come on board with those carbohydrates. But how long will that fuel stay with you? What happens if your meal is only carbohydrate-based foods?
What would provide longer-lasting fuel that won’t spike the blood sugar? Protein. If we look at the breakdown on protein, we see a much slower conversion of protein to glucose than we do for carbohydrates. The conversion begins thirty to forty-five minutes after you actually begin eating protein. At its peak, in the two-to-four hour range, that protein has only made about a 50% conversion to sugar. That glucose level does not continue to spike the blood sugar; it’s an ongoing fuel source. So to provide more satisfaction in a meal and longer-lasting fuel that does not continue to spike the blood sugar, always add some protein to your meal. Typically breakfast is the meal in which we miss that. Usually lunch and dinner include some protein, just because that’s the way our culture usually eats. So remember, at breakfast it is very important to put some protein on board.
The last nutrient that I want to talk about is fat. Fat often has a very bad rep. You've heard it all: it makes us gain weight and causes clogged arteries, and it’s just not good stuff. Good news about fats is on the horizon. Some good fats should be added to your daily intake of healthy foods. Some of my favorite fats now are nuts and natural peanut butter. I eat olives, I use olive oil, and I love avocados. Those are some of the healthiest fats.
When we look at how fat breaks down and turns into glucose in the bloodstream, we see that it is a very slow-converting nutrient. Fat breaks down over the course of several hours. But when you look at the amount of fat that actually turns into sugar, it’s only about 10 percent. So very little of the fat actually turns into glucose at all. The healthiest fats are nuts, avocados, and olives, and the three best types of oils (those richer in the mono-unsaturated fats) are canola, olive, and peanut oils. Those are the top-of-the-line, absolutely very best kinds of fat. What about nuts? Any kind of nuts. We’ll talk about portion size in just a minute.
Remember, when we’re looking at how fat affects the blood sugar, very little ever actually turns into sugar. So by itself fat does not greatly affect your blood sugar. But it breaks down very slowly, and, if we look at the energy fat provides, one gram of fat provides nine calories, so we get a lot of calories with those grams of fat. The new guidelines for healthier eating actually reflect a benefit of making about 30 percent of your calories be from grams of fat because fats actually give your meal what I call the “satiety factor.” Satiety means satisfaction. So, even if you add a piece of really lean chicken to a meal that already has the correct number of carbs, you may still find that you’re hungry three to four hours later. Ask yourself if that meal had some fat. This is where we get the combination fuel that can give you a five-hour span between meals.
So how do we put this fuel together so you’re getting the immediate energy you need, some protein to give you a little hold-over as well as building and repairing nutrients, and some fat for staying power--the satiety factor to help you last from five to six hours before eating again? The three nutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fats) are your key fuels. When we look at the exchange list, we see that carbohydrates are made up of several food groups: fruits, starches, the low-carb vegetables (the starchy, higher-carbohydrate vegetables are in the starch category), and dairy, which includes milk and yogurt only. Cheese and cottage cheese are not included in dairy because they contain so much protein that they go in the protein group. Cheese and cottage cheese are considered protein-based foods with a little carbohydrate in them.
Most exchange guidelines include another category called other carbohydrates. That’s a group with foods that don’t fit in any of the other categories, like ice cream, angel food cake, jam, jelly, honey, tortilla shells, and tostito chips—even hummus, which has a little protein and some fat, but is mostly complex carbs from the chickpeas used to make it.
These then are the five carbohydrate categories in the Diabetes Exchange List. When you put together a meal plan, generally your dietitian or diabetes educator will give you either a certain number of carbs or, as I sometimes do, a certain number of carbohydrate choices. For instance, on a 1,200-calorie meal plan, you would generally have about three carbohydrate choices per meal. In a 1,500-calorie meal plan, you might have four carbohydrate choices per meal, With an 1,800-calorie meal plan, you might have four to five, depending on whether or not you have planned snacks between meals.
Why is it important to space those carbohydrates out from meal to meal, and not do the Weight Watchers concept, in which it doesn’t matter when you have them as long as you have the same number of points at the end of the day? Why would you not want to do that with your carbohydrate foods? Why would you not want to have them all in dinner? What happens to your blood sugar if you have all your carbohydrates in the evening meal? It’s going to skyrocket, and it will still be high at bedtime and more than likely the next day. Your doctor puts together your medication to accommodate and treat your diabetes. Then we match that with a meal plan to correspond to the way your medication affects the timing of meals and how many carbohydrates you should have at that particular meal.
That’s why it’s important for diabetics (and Weight Watchers wasn't created for people with diabetes) to have more or less constant carbs, where you have a consistent, constant amount of carbs from one meal to the next. For instance, if your educator has told you to have fifty to sixty grams of carbs, or four carb choices per meal, that would mean making some food choices within the carbohydrate category.
Let’s put a breakfast together—I have a few samples of food models here to do some meal planning with. Let’s put together a breakfast with four carb choices and see how we do. Orange juice? Let’s see. I forgot to bring my juice, but I brought an apple--we will consider that the fruit. Which one would be a better choice based on what we said earlier about fiber? Yes, the apple or a whole orange—more fiber than juice. Now comes portion size. Remember the tennis ball I gave you? Hold it in your hand and actually cup your fingers around it. Think about how that feels. That is what we call "an average portion of fresh fruit." That would be one fruit choice or one fruit exchange, a tennis-ball-sized piece of fruit.
One fruit choice generally has about fifteen grams of carbohydrate in it. We said our goal was to have about sixty in this meal, four carb choices. What else could we include in our breakfast? Cereal, yes, how about some oatmeal? "Oatmeal warms the heart"—have you ever heard that? We know that among the complications of diabetes are heart disease and high cholesterol. What do we know about oatmeal? The soluble fiber in oatmeal actually clinically lowers your LDL (bad) cholesterol. So it very much warms the heart, and it helps keep cholesterol down. Now I actually have a one-cup bowl of oatmeal here. One cup of cooked oatmeal would be two carb choices because a half-cup of cooked oatmeal is one carb choice in the starch category. If you eat the whole cup of cooked oatmeal, those carbs also double.
To make oatmeal, start with a half cup of dry oats and add one cup of water. That makes a whole cup of cooked oatmeal. We need one more carb choice since we have three now; how about milk? Or you can have a light or plain yogurt. That would be your choice in the milk category. One cup of light or plain yogurt has about the same carbs, about fifteen, as you would find in an eight-ounce glass of milk. An eight-ounce glass of milk has only about twelve grams of carbs, but in our carb choices we would still call that one carb choice.
So we now have our four carb choices, what are we missing? Protein. Remember I said earlier that nuts are a really good type of fat, but they also have protein in them. When we know we want some good fat in a meal and we also need some protein, cup your hand with those fingers closed, and you have a small handful of nuts. That would give you the equivalent of the protein in one egg or one ounce of meat. So, if you put nuts in your oatmeal or eat them on the side, you have now satisfied your needs for both protein and some of that good fat.
Here is one of my favorite breakfasts: two pieces of whole grain bread toasted—and, by the way, reduced-calorie bread has more fiber than the same amount of whole grain bread, and you get two slices for the same fuel value as one slice of regular bread. Generally a two-slice portion of reduced-calorie bread has about five grams of dietary fiber. So, if you use reduced-calorie bread, it’s a two for one in the starch category. You get two slices for one carb choice. Back to that breakfast. If we toast two pieces of regular whole grain bread, one starch in each slice, we have used two starch choices.
We can spread some natural peanut butter (the kind that lists only peanuts and salt in the ingredients) onto that sandwich and spread a small amount of regular jam or jelly--a teaspoon has five grams of carbohydrates—and make a sandwich.
Regular peanut butter, by the way, like Jif or Skippy or your store brand, has a whole multitude of ingredients, including sugar, but the number-one ingredient that’s not good for you is hydrogenated oil. Those partially or fully hydrogenated oils are what we know now as the worst substance in our fuel system. Congress is asking for more information on products containing those. So I suggest you try to use the natural peanut butter instead. Natural peanut butter is separated when you open the jar (the oil separates from the solids). Here’s the trick--put it in your refrigerator upside down overnight. By the next day it will already have started distributing and mixing. When you take it out and open the jar, stir it with a knife all the way to the bottom. Remember, it has no preservatives. When you take the hydrogenated oil out, it will not stay on your pantry shelf forever like regular peanut butter. Store it in the refrigerator to preserve it. If you want it to spread more easily, set it out a few minutes before you make your sandwich so it can warm, and it will spread much better.
You have to prepare for tasting it by saying "this isn’t my old peanut butter." It’s not going to be as smooth as shortening, and it’s not going to taste sweet. It’s going to taste like ground up, salted peanuts, which is what it is. But I can tell you from my own experience, once you make that switch to natural peanut butter, you will not go back to the other. I buy the store brand, the Kroger’s natural peanut butter--it’s also made by Smucker’s--but the store brand is about a dollar a jar cheaper.
If we put that sandwich together, we now have two carb choices, and we can make the other two be a serving of fruit and a glass of milk. What goes better with a peanut butter sandwich than a glass of milk? That breakfast will stay with you a good five hours. This is one of the main breakfasts I’ve found will stay with me through a morning of teaching without my stomach’s growling. When I’m teaching people about what and how to eat, I don’t need to have my stomach growling in the middle. The fat in the peanut butter is my satiety factor for that meal.
How many calories per gram are there in each of the different nutrients? Carbohydrates and protein both have four calories per gram, and fat, as I mentioned earlier, has nine calories per gram. When you break down a nutrition label and see the serving size, the calories in a serving come from the protein, the carbohydrates, and the fat. There are no other sources of calories in the food. You can actually do the math and multiply the total grams of carbohydrate and protein each by four and the total fat grams by nine. Don’t get bogged down in the percentages of daily calories--you know, the percentage column over to the right side. Just ignore that. Those percentages are based on an arbitrary 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, which is a token number they chose to represent an average American diet.
When we’re looking at carbohydrates, the serving portion is very, very important. Someone may say, “There are only ninety calories in this," but not if what you have on your plate is the whole can rather than the half-cup portion listed as the serving size. If the serving you have on your plate is more or less than the serving size listed on the container, you must do the math. If ninety calories are in a serving and you have three times that serving, your total calories would be 270. If fourteen grams of carbohydrate are in the recommended serving and you doubled your serving, you now have twenty-eight grams of carbohydrates, or, using exchanges, that would be two carb exchanges. Each one of those carb choices in the categories I mentioned is approximately fifteen grams of carbohydrate. So one starch, one fruit, one milk, and with vegetables that actually multiplies. A serving of vegetable like broccoli or green beans or a tossed salad has very small amounts of carbohydrate. Unless you’re eating a whole lot of veggies or salad, don’t even consider the low-carb vegetables in your meal plan. Most people aren’t going to eat more than they can enjoy, and that won’t be a problem for their blood sugar. Also we know those vegetables have a lot of fiber. If we actually look at the glycemic effect of those vegetables on the blood sugar, it’s very low. Even if you snack on baby carrots, you’re not going to get into a problem with your blood sugar. So the low-carb vegetables are freebies.
How many of you have problems with blood pressure? This is important for diabetics to keep under good control. Another reason those low carb vegetables are so beneficial to you is that they actually help give you better blood pressure. The natural potassium, magnesium, and fiber in them are important natural nutrients. This information came from a really good study a few years back called the DASH diet. It stands for the dietary approaches to stopping hypertension. Part of the approach was to eat lots of those vegetables and fruits every day as part of your overall basic meal plan. They recommended five to nine servings a day.
You can’t have all of those five to nine servings in fruit because that would be a whole lot of your carb choices. I generally recommend two to three servings of fruit a day for diabetics. Some people may go as high as three to four, but the fruit category of carbohydrates gets some people in trouble with high blood sugars. Here we also often tend to have problems with portion control. That’s why I gave you the tennis ball today as a reminder of your portion of fruit. The low-carb vegetables are very, very healthy--include a lot of them in your meal plan. With the starchy vegetables watch portions. Make a fist. That fist is the size of a one-cup portion of food. That would also be about the size of a medium baked potato, which is about two starches, so how many carbohydrates in that medium baked potato? Thirty. So we say it’s about thirty carbs or two of your carb choices in the starch category. So potatoes aren’t bad. If you know it's scrubbed well, eat the peel with it because you’re getting some fiber in it.
Your portion of meat, especially at the main meal of the day, is about three ounces. Use the palm of your hand, don't count the fingers, and stop at the wrist. That’s about three ounces of cooked lean meat, fat removed and no skin or bones. In your other meals you can have one to two ounces, which is a much smaller portion. Remember meat has no carbs unless breading or something has been added, so we do not count meats as carb-based foods. Most of the time fats would not be considered carbohydrate food choices. Here is an exception: some people automatically choose fat-free salad dressings, but some of these have a lot of added sugar. The carbohydrates in those fat-free dressings may actually be as high as one of your carb choices. They may have fifteen to sixteen grams of sugar, of total carbohydrates, in perhaps two tablespoons of salad dressing. So beware of those dressings. Even if a dressing is identified as fat-free and sugar-free, look at the label. See if total carbohydrates are listed. Don’t be deceived by words like "sugar-free," "dietetic," or "no sugar added." They are not necessarily carbohydrate-free. The automatic assumption is that, because it’s sugar-free, I can eat all I want. Not true.
Dextrose, corn syrup, and fructose? These are sugars. Fructose is actually fruit sugar in a syrup form. High-fructose corn syrup is one of the more common ingredients you will see. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that is a little different from other forms of sugar. The forms of sugar in a product will generally end in “-ose” like dextrose, sucrose, fructose, maltose, or levulose. There are also some other names like corn syrup and maltodextrin. But when I teach carb counting, I really don’t even have you worry about the detail of where those sugars come from. You simply go to the nutrition facts label and see how many total carbohydrates there are in one serving of food. Don’t even go down to the sugars—look at the total carbohydrates because that is what affects your two-hour blood sugar. That’s why we have a more liberal approach to diabetes meal-planning now, and we even say you could have a teaspoon of honey or something with regular sugar in your meal, if you have counted that as part of the total carbohydrates in your meal. We now know the total carbohydrate in your meal matters—it’s not that you have to avoid all sugars or simple sugars—it is the total carbohydrates. So, when you’re looking at a product, even ice cream, it can be part of your carbohydrates within a meal—in a portion allotted in your guidelines. It’s the total carbohydrates in that meal that makes a difference on what that two-hour blood sugar will look like.
What about the so-called diet foods that have all the fake stuff in them like Olestra? Olestra is a fake fat. It doesn’t absorb as a fat but is supposed to make food taste as if it has fat in it. It hasn’t been very popular because it has the detrimental side-effect in many people of diarrhea. Personally I choose to use baked chips and baked items instead of Olestra fat-free products like the WOW chips. You can use baked chips (and you still count your carbohydrates in them), but they’re baked, without having oils added to them, and some pretty good-tasting items are on the market now. You can use them as part of your carbohydrates in a meal.
What about the sugar alcohols? Sugar alcohols are ingredients many manufacturers use in sugar-free or no-sugar-added foods. They can make this claim legally by simply taking the sucrose out of the product. That opens a can of worms about what that food can contain. Producers often add sugar alcohols as a substitute sweetener. These are still considered a carbohydrate, and the FDA now requires them to be so listed.
Remember that regular carbs have four calories per gram. Sugar alcohols have two calories per gram. If they are present in a food (as part of the sweetening), then manufacturers must now list them under total carbohydrates. The label should say “so many grams of sugar alcohol.” Lots of manufacturers actually list the ingredient: sorbitol, maltolol, zalitol, manitol--hear the “ol” ending in those ingredient names? Those are the sugar alcohols. If they are present, they will show up in the total carbohydrates of that food.
Let me warn you about sugar alcohols if more than five grams are listed in a serving, which is common in sugar-free desserts, sugar-free ice creams, sugar-free cookies, sugar-free syrup. Sometimes you will see as much as twenty-five to twenty-eight grams of sugar alcohol in one serving. Like the Olestra I mentioned earlier, sugar alcohols can have a detrimental side effect. In many folks they cause gas, stomach distension, and diarrhea. So just beware that sugar-free gums and mints have a little carbohydrate in them, but it’s usually only two or three grams in a portion or a serving. It’s not a lot, so it probably won’t affect you unless you eat a whole package at one time. In small amounts they're fine, but, if you’re counting carbs and it’s something that has twenty-five or thirty grams of sugar alcohol, don’t spend your carbs on that food; spend it on a smaller portion of something that tastes better with the real stuff in it. That’s the beauty of counting carbs.
We talked about cereals; what about cereals other than oatmeal? Any time you try out a new cereal, look at the serving size. This is the time to get out the measuring cups and get the feel for the estimated portion size to know what one serving of that cereal would be and how many carbohydrates it would account for because cereals can vary widely, and the number of carbs goes up tremendously when sugar is added. One cup of raisin bran has about forty-three grams of carbohydrates. Not only are there carbohydrates in the whole wheat flakes, the raisins are coated with sugar, so one cup of raisin bran would be three carb choices in that meal. The milk for the cereal would be the fourth carb choice if you are on sixty per meal.
What about sugar substitutes? If you’re baking cookies, what kind of sugar substitute can you use? You can use any cookie recipe if it lists the carbs per serving in the nutritional breakdown. The cookies don’t have to be sugar-free. My favorite sugar substitute is Splenda. It is made from sugar, and it tastes like sugar, but it is a non-nutritive sweetener. You can buy it in large pourable containers and use it measure for measure. It measures exactly like sugar in a recipe. It doesn’t have an aftertaste. You can use Equal or Sweet’n’Low of course, but the taste is not going to be as true, and the baked goods won’t be as tasty. Also cooking sometimes alters these sweeteners; it does not with Splenda. The price of Splenda is coming down, and we’re finding it in more and more products.
How do raisins stack up as a snack? I always caution people with diabetes about how often and what they’re having for snacks. The way your meal plan is structured will determine what snacks can consist of. If you are using insulin but your insulin regimen is only covering the carbohydrates in planned meals, and you’re not on any additional insulin (to reduce excursions), you're probably using a rapid-acting insulin like Novolog or Humalog. Those insulins cover and process what you’re eating anywhere from thirty minutes to about two hours. That’s the in-and-out time of that quick form of insulin. It will cover the carbohydrates in a given meal. But if three hours later you snack on a handful of raisins or other dried fruits, the portion size must be reduced, or you'll blow your control. A quarter cup of raisins has about the same amount of carbohydrates as that tennis-ball-sized piece of fresh fruit--the sugar is still there; you just took out the water. Be very careful about using raisins as snacks unless you have carbohydrate snacks worked into your meal plan. If you use carbohydrates for snacks, you should test your blood sugar two hours after a meal.
If you’re not in the really good recovery zone of under 140 and then you have a carbohydrate snack in two and a half or three hours with a blood sugar 200, what will happen? Your blood sugar will go way up. So snacks can be part of your meal plan, but work with your educator to incorporate appropriate snacks in your meal plan.
What about cashews as a snack? Cashews are wonderful, but remember portion control—a palmful. Any nuts are very good, some are a little higher in the mono-unsaturated fats, some a little higher in the polyunsaturated, but any are good. An excellent study was done in Salt Lake City by the Mormons because of their vegetarian diet. They did a study on the health value of nuts and reported any kind of nuts can be used as part of a healthy meal plan.
What size banana is one carb choice? A small banana or half of a large banana is one fruit choice. A small banana is only five to six inches long. By the time you peel it, you’ve got four to four and a half inches of banana.
What about pizza? This is where I suggest to people that you modify your previous thinking. Pizza is a combination food. It has a lot of carbohydrates from the starch in the crust and from the tomato sauce. With a meat topping you will have a lot of protein but also a lot of fat--lots of fat partnering with those carbs. If pizza is the only thing you have in that meal, your portion will probably be much more than you need in order to satisfy your stomach for quantity of food. What happens to that blood sugar later? It’s going to be high, and people typically report blood sugars are still very high the next morning. Here’s part of the problem with pizza. It’s not just the amount of carbohydrates, but also the amount of fat partnered with them. I said earlier that some fat in the meal is a good idea, but too much fat partnered with the carbs will actually delay the conversion of the carbs to sugar, which keeps the blood sugar higher at the two-hour mark, and those sugars are on for the ride. Those are the ones that get held over until the next morning, and they affect your A1c. So I suggest that you change your thinking about pizza. Always have a nice big salad before you start eating the pizza. Be sure that salad has some light dressing. Better yet, dip your fork into the dressing before spearing a bit of salad so you’re not adding much fat in the dressing. Then up to two pieces of pizza would be your max to keep you in good control.
What about using olive oil and lemon juice as a salad dressing? Is that good? Yes. Lemon juice is a freebie; it’s rich in ascorbic acid, citric acid, so that’s a freebie in the diabetes realm. Use olive oil in very small amounts because one teaspoon of olive oil has five grams of fat. Use a maximum of one tablespoon of olive oil. When you add herbs and spices to olive oil, they enhance the flavor without adding more carbs or fats or anything. Those are free in your meal plan. Use very little salt. Instead use spices, garlic, onion, basil, thyme. All of those kinds of herbs and spices are wonderful for enhancing the flavor--and they do not add any more caloric value. Vinegar is also a freebie.
When you hear statements like, "There's no such thing as a diabetic diet," the experts are saying that diabetics do not eat separate foods; rather a person with diabetes can simply eat healthy meals. A diabetic meal should not be much different from a regular meal. You can make wise substitutions, like choosing fruit instead of the regular dessert or grilled chicken when others get fried chicken. In the broad scope of diabetes meal planning, I always teach people to modify any given meal to make it fit into your meal plan.
One of the other visuals I gave you was a paper plate. The choices in a meal will be a serving of meat, a starch (potato, rice, pasta, whatever), and some sort of brightly colored vegetable--green beans, broccoli, carrots, summer squash, zucchini, or greens. These brightly colored vegetables are generally the nonstarchy ones. I suggest to serve a healthier meal fill about half of that plate with those nonstarchy vegetables. About a fourth of that plate (a fistful) should be starch, and meat should fill the other fourth of the plate. This is the healthiest way of eating--that’s why we say there’s no such thing as a diabetic diet anymore. You're eating the same things nondiabetics are, just in appropriate, balanced moderation.
When people come to me, they think I’m going to give them a diet sheet. The first thing I tell them is, "You are not here to get a diet." I will teach you how to eat more healthily, so don’t call this a diet. Instead you will be eating in the healthiest way for a person with diabetes, and you don’t need special foods to do that. Don’t buy all those sugar-free products. Our goal is healthy eating, so everyone should be broiling and grilling and sautéing in a nonstick skillet using a little olive oil cooking spray, stir frying with lots of vegetables and lean meats, and limiting starchy foods because too many of them gets us in trouble with our blood sugar two hours later. So more vegetables, less of the starch, and round out the meal--assuming you have saved some of your carbohydrate choices for that meal with a small portion of regular dessert. That way you’re not singled out because you have diabetes.Some have even said that, if everybody ate the diabetic diet, nobody would be diabetic. There’s a certain amount of truth to that for people with type 2 diabetes, but you’d also have to consider lifestyle. It really is a partnership between what we eat and how active we are. A sensible diet would be a very good start to preventing diabetes, but in a diabetes prevention program published last year the key element was exercise. Thirty minutes of walking, about two miles, five times a week prevented overt diabetes in the folks who had the genetic predisposition for type 2. They modified their lifestyle, and they ate more healthily, so it was a partnership.
by Geerat J. Vermeij
From the Editor: Dr. Geerat Vermeij is a professor in the Department of Geology at the University of California at Davis. He is a distinguished scientist who has contributed several articles to the Braille Monitor, so an article about a visit to a museum is not the sort of piece that I would expect to receive from him. But he was impressed by what he examined at the Nordiske Museet in Stockholm, and he thought others would enjoy his experience at second hand. In fact, he did what we should all do when we wish to commend an organization for making a successful effort at accessibility, he spread the word and did what he could to raise the expectations of all blind people for genuine access to public places. This is what he writes:
For blind museum visitors the situation is depressingly familiar and predictable. Displays are mostly hidden behind glass, and stern warnings not to touch those few objects that are out in the open all but eliminate the possibility of benefiting from the bounty that the curators and staff of the world's great museums have so lovingly studied, conserved, and selected for the public's enjoyment and edification. Excessive handling does indeed damage objects, and the appeal of paintings and many other treasures is wholly visual. Nevertheless, systematic efforts to make museums friendlier to the blind have on the whole been meager. In my visits to the public parts of museums around the world, the richness of my experience has depended entirely on the willingness of guards to bend the rules or on inside contacts with curators who can literally open doors and unlock cases.
But on a recent visit to Sweden I discovered that it need not be this way. I was in Stockholm in May of this year as an invited speaker at the Darwin Evolution Symposium, one of many scientific celebrations in honor of the bicentennial of Charles Darwin's birth on February 12, 1809. My wife Edith and I had come a day early to adjust to the nine-hour time change and to acquaint ourselves with a new country. Within walking distance of our hotel was the Nordiske Museet, a huge museum founded in 1888 to exhibit artifacts of Swedish culture and tradition. Although not especially close to my interests, the museum came highly recommended, as well it should have been. The staff were welcoming and quickly fitted us out with the wherewithal for a self-guided audio tour, which could be taken in any of five languages, including English. The sounds and narrations were excellent, and plenty of objects were available to examine without the threat of censure.
What really set this great museum apart, however, was the widespread use of Braille labels, illustrations, and text. Throughout the museum clear Braille signs identified objects and accompanied detailed raised illustrations produced on thick plastic stock. The page with the illustration could be lifted up, revealing some twenty lines of Braille text describing the illustration and placing it in the context of the overall display. Here were a bride and groom (a brudpar), dressed in seventeenth-century finery; there, the floor plan of a Stockholm flat from the 1920s; and in another display, household objects of a typical eighteenth-century dwelling, each clearly labeled in Braille. Knowledge of English, Dutch, and German enabled me to decipher substantial parts of the texts, which were all in uncontracted Swedish Braille; and, although my comprehension was far from complete, the written explanations hugely enriched the museum experience. For the first time in my life, I had available some of the material that sighted museum patrons take for granted.
Everything in this museum—the self-guided audio tour, the abundance of touchable objects, and the raised illustrations and Braille text—spoke volumes about the expectation that all visitors, notably including the blind, can profit from the cultural heritage that is so beautifully on display. Moreover, there is the unspoken and welcome assumption that the blind person will use Braille. The availability of Braille transformed a potentially sterile walk through museum galleries into a thrilling journey into Swedish cultural history, but even more it provided a degree of independence and self-discovery. Like print, Braille is an indispensable medium for expanding our horizons and enriching our lives; it educates, informs, and liberates.
The Nordiske Museet model can and should be adopted by museums everywhere. Museums have come to play an increasingly important role in public education as well as in the study and conservation of objects of natural and cultural history. They introduce visitors to new dimensions of our surroundings and our past, and they heighten our awareness of the richness and fragility of nature's bounty. As a Science Trustee at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, I have more than a passing interest in the well-being of museums as institutions of learning. Museums have an obligation to open the doors of inquiry to as large a segment of the public as possible. I am convinced that Braille, together with models, raised illustrations, and real objects wherever feasible, can be incorporated into many museum exhibits.
One reason why Braille is declining is that, unlike ubiquitous print, it is not widely available in public settings. It is therefore viewed by the blind and sighted alike as limited and indeed as a means of segregating the blind from the rest of society. The Nordiske Museet shows us a way of reversing this trend by elevating Braille to its rightful place of public prominence.
Dr. Vermeij can be reached at <email@example.com>.
by Harry Hogue
From the Editor: Last spring we received the following article from the staff of BLIND, Incorporated, the Minnesota affiliate’s adult training center for the blind. It seemed appropriate to squirrel it away till cooler weather. Here it is, beginning with an introduction by BLIND, Inc.’s, assistant director, Dick Davis:
Most people think of Minneapolis, where Blindness: Learning In New Dimensions (BLIND), Inc., is located, as way up north. In fact it’s on the edge of the agricultural southern quarter of the state, barely 100 miles from the Iowa border. But stretching 300 miles farther north to the Canadian border is a different land, a land of small towns, great distances, and wilderness areas populated by deer, bear, moose, and timberwolves (who ignore people).
It’s a beautiful land of forests, glacier-sculpted hills and lakes, and low mountains like the Mesabi Iron Range, where a lot of the nation’s iron ore is mined. It was settled by fur trappers, loggers, and miners, who used canoes, horses, and dogsleds to cover the miles between isolated villages. Those forms of transportation have been replaced by powerboats, SUVs, and snowmobiles, but some of the old ways still linger on.
We at BLIND, Inc., are always seeking over-the-top activities for our students to do that uniquely highlight Minnesota--like dogsledding. Dogsledding is still popular in northern Minnesota, although more as a sport than as a form of transportation (snowmobiles have taken its place). The annual John Beargrease Dogsled Race, which ends in Duluth, brings competitors from all over the country. Minnesota mushers travel north to Alaska to compete in the Iditarod, the famous Alaskan dogsled classic. People we know who’ve tried dogsledding have described it as a rush, so it seemed exactly what we were looking for.
After searching the Internet and making some phone calls, we discovered Krystal Kennels in Grand Rapids, 200 miles north of the Twin Cities. Joe and Robin Oberton, the owners, host a number of school, college, and corporate groups each winter. But would they let blind people drive the sleds? Sure! In fact they’d employed a blind dog handler, who now works in Fairbanks, Alaska. Joe said he’d stand on one runner, the student would stand on the other, and he’d describe the country they were passing through, give instructions, and tell when to turn and when to stop.
In fact he wanted our students involved in the complete experience: harnessing the dogs, holding them (they’re strong) until the sled was ready to go, driving the sleds, and riding as passengers. It sounded like a good deal to us, so off we went to Grand Rapids, arriving at the Sawmill Inn about fifteen minutes before our orientation to dogsledding was to begin. We laughed when we saw the sign posted to the left of the door: “No Hockey Sticks Allowed.” Welcome to Northern Minnesota.
Harry Hogue is a BLIND, Inc., student from Arkansas, a warmer place, where dogsledding is not a local phenomenon. We asked him to write an article for the Monitor, giving his impressions of the trip. This is what he wrote:
If someone were to ask me, “What one thing do you think you will do during your training at BLIND, Incorporated, that will surprise you?” I would never have thought to answer “dogsledding.” Before the experience, like many other people, I really had no concept of what it involved. Only 10 percent of people have ever been dogsledding. All of the students, most of the staff, and the director went along for the fun, and everyone rode in and drove the sled. If the guides were nervous about having twenty-two blind people in control, they didn’t show it. The only accommodation needed or provided was that one of the dog handlers stood behind us on the runners to provide directions and ensure that the dogs didn’t lead any of us into trees, potholes, or snow banks.
Everyone had an incredible time; the only complaint was that it could have lasted longer. Because of the size of our group and the stamina of the dogs, we were outside for approximately three hours. This gave everyone at least one opportunity to ride and one opportunity to drive. Some people rode more than once.
I greatly enjoyed having the opportunity to drive the sled; the feeling of wind on your face is incredible, particularly considering that I had never before driven a vehicle under my own power. Everyone else expressed similar sentiments. Steve Decker, the computer instructor, said it was “an incredible experience!” Laura Oakgrove, Valerie Williams, Tavita Faasuamalie, and Jonathan McClung all agreed that it was “really nice,” “a lot of fun,” “really cool,” and, in Jonathan’s case, “It reminded me of Alaska.”
So what happened before our sled rides? We started the adventure the day before with the drive to Grand Rapids in northern Minnesota, followed by an orientation to dogsledding immediately upon arrival at the hotel. Joe Oberton, the owner, with his wife Robin, of Krystal Kennels, led the orientation with energy and pride. He was enthusiastic about having blind people participate in riding and driving the sleds and showed clear pride in his dogs and their abilities.
At one point during his orientation, he said he was not unfamiliar with blindness. He remarked, in fact, that he had a legally blind dog handler work for him before she moved to Alaska. In addition he had a blind dog as part of the dog teams that we would meet the next day. After the orientation all of us enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant, followed, for most of us, by an enjoyable swim in the indoor pool or a relaxing few minutes in the sauna. This relaxation was important, because, starting at 9:00 a.m. the next morning, we would be on our feet for the majority of the day.
Joe prepared us to meet the dogs by telling us that they would “scream” in eagerness to pull the sleds. It was a cacophony of noise with nearly forty dogs simultaneously vying for our attention. I found the dogs, despite my previous expectations, to be quite friendly.
After meeting the dogs, we followed Joe, Robin, and one of Joe’s assistants to a local snowmobile trail that cut through the woods. While some students helped harness the dogs to prepare the team for the sleds, others discussed who would be first to ride or drive. Though some expressed nervousness initially about driving, once they had ridden, they were eager to try it.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I found driving to be far more enjoyable than riding. It went deeper than a simple sled ride. It was a physical sensation of freedom that represented the fact that, despite blindness, I could do lots of things that I had previously thought impossible. The experience opened possibilities for employment, leisure activities, and so forth that I had never considered possible.
While none of us drove the sleds without a dog handler traveling behind us providing directions, this was the same as it would have been for anyone else. No one, blind or sighted, goes through life without accepting some form of assistance. Sighted people depend on directions in an unfamiliar city; blind people do the same. Sighted people depend on reading print to access materials; blind people depend on Braille.
Attitudes are the overarching determinant of success or failure for any individual in any stage of life. We would have had a different experience in Grand Rapids if Joe and Robin had not expressed their enthusiasm and confidence in blind people and if we had not been willing to find a way to participate in this activity. It is the same at BLIND, Incorporated. When I walk through the door each morning, I expect and receive a feeling of confidence from every instructor here. It is the attitude, “Of course you can. Why wouldn’t you be able to?” This feeling—this attitude—naturally lends itself to success.
If you listen to something long enough, you will start to believe it. BLIND, Incorporated, is a six-to-nine-month adjustment-to-blindness training program for a reason: it takes much less time to acquire the skills of blindness than it does to acquire the positive attitudes that make those skills truly efficient and effective.
If someone hands me a piece of wood and says he or she would like me to make a project, I expect, because of my training, that I can. If someone gives me a recipe and requests that I prepare a meal, I expect, because of my training, that I can do so. If someone gives me directions to a place I have never been and asks me to bring something back, I expect, because of my training, that I can.I do not worry about my performance; I will not worry about other people’s perceptions of me. These days I worry only whether or not I am challenging myself. It seems to me that challenging yourself should be the goal of everyone, anywhere, regardless of life circumstances. As Harry Emerson Fosdick said, “The man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”
From the Associate Editor: As many Monitor readers know, the NFB advocated for the creation of the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar to commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of the inventor of the Braille Code and to raise funds for a national campaign to address the Braille literacy crisis in America. Having achieved this goal with the coin launch last March 26, we must now concentrate on selling all four hundred thousand of these congressionally authorized keepsakes that the U.S. Mint is producing to fund our Braille Readers Are Leaders (BRL) campaign. All coins must be sold before the end of the year.
We are well on our way to meeting this goal, but as we ease into fall, it is critical for every affiliate, division, chapter, and individual member to join our national initiative in earnest to sell the Louis Braille coin. When people purchase one or more of these handsome coins featuring readable Braille, they become part of the solution to the national Braille literacy crisis. Participating in this historic drive to increase Braille literacy in America by simply buying this commemorative coin is a compelling opportunity. Please do your part to help the NFB build a new and better world for blind people everywhere. Call (800) 872-6468 or visit <http://www.usmint.gov> to place your order for the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar.
To help you promote the value and importance of the Braille coin to your friends, family, and neighbors, we reproduce below two documents that talk about the coin, our BRL campaign, and the urgency of our mission. Study the texts of the following email message by President Maurer about our efforts and a brief talking points piece before you go out and market the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar. Here they are:
How Many Children in America Are Not Taught to Read?
The answer is 90 percent if the children are blind. Most Americans are shocked to hear this statistic. And we should be. The blind read and write using Braille, so why is our educational system failing to teach Braille to so many children? Why are these children being denied the opportunities that come with a proper education? What if you could not read and write? Where would you be today?
There are three primary reasons for this educational crisis: (1) there are not enough Braille teachers; (2) some teachers of blind children have not received enough training; and (3) many educators do not think Braille instruction is even necessary.
To bring critically needed attention to this educational crisis, the United States Congress authorized the minting of the 2009 Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar with a portion of the sale of each coin going toward a revolutionary and comprehensive Braille literacy campaign.
Learning to read and write is fundamental to education, which in turn is paramount to full and equal participation in American society. This coin, the first U.S. coin to have proper tactile Braille, symbolizes independence, opportunity, and the potential of blind people to make significant contributions to society when they are taught to read and write using Braille. To learn more, read our report “The Braille Literacy Crisis in America,” or watch our video Making Change with a Dollar.
Please purchase this unique and beautiful coin now and help solve this educational crisis for blind children in America. The law authorizing this 2009 silver dollar requires that any coins not sold by midnight on December 31, 2009, be melted down. Time is of the essence--a 90 percent illiteracy rate is not acceptable, and the opportunity to purchase this coin will soon be gone.
Be part of the solution. Give the gift of literacy. Create new opportunities. Buy the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar today.
KEY TALKING POINTS
1. Braille is equivalent to print.
2. Today only 10% of blind children are learning Braille.
3. The National Federation of the Blind is initiating a campaign to double the number of Braille readers by 2015.
1. The number of school-age children reading Braille will double by 2015.
2. All fifty states will enact legislation requiring special education teachers of blind children to obtain and maintain the National Certification in Literary Braille by 2015.
3. Braille resources will be made more available through online sharing of materials, enhanced production methods, and improved distribution.
4. The American public will learn that blind people have a right to Braille literacy so they can compete and assume a productive role in society.
Order coins to sell today. The uncirculated coin costs $33.90 when ordered from the U.S. Mint; the proof coin costs $41.95. The mint charges $3.95 to ship any number of coins. Make change with a dollar.
by Mary Jo Thorpe-Hartle and Jennifer Dunnam
From the Editor: Each October we report on plans for the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest that begins November 1. We hope that this article will remind parents and teachers to go to the NFB Website and download the entry form for their students. Meet the Blind Month is also an excellent time for all NFB members to spread the word about the contest and the importance of Braille.
The 2009 contest is better than ever, so read carefully what Mary Jo Thorpe-Hartle and Jennifer Dunham have to say. Mary Jo is director of education and Jennifer is manager of Braille programs at the NFB Jernigan Institute. This is what they say:
Braille is creating a lot of buzz this year. The National Federation of the Blind has been working hard to promote Braille literacy through the sale of Louis Braille commemorative coins. As most of you know, coin sale profits will be used to provide more quality programs to promote the use of Braille. One successful Braille literacy program already in action is the Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest. Below you will find an overview of the K-12 contest. This year’s contest has largely the same elements as in previous years, but plans are in the works for some exciting new additions to an already great program--more details later this fall.
This year we are also pleased to announce that, in addition to the contest for students in grades K to twelve, we will hold a contest for Braille-reading adults. Please continue to watch NFB publications and listservs for more details as they unfold on this exciting new endeavor. Adults over eighteen are encouraged to participate. Whether you’re a beginner or have been a Braille reader your whole life, we’ll have a category for you.
The new adult component will mirror much of the original contest. The contests will be two months long, beginning November 1 and ending January 4—Louis Braille's birthday. Get the latest information on all aspects of the contests at <http://www.nfb.org/nfb/NOPBC_Braille_Readers_Are_Leaders.asp>. The information below applies to the original youth contest.
Every participant who registers in advance for the contest will get a special Braille Readers Are Leaders T-shirt. Students who do not register in advance but who get the registration and entry form in by the January 22 deadline will still be eligible for all awards, recognition ribbons, and cash prizes, but they are not guaranteed a T-shirt.
Again this year twelve of the top contestants will win an eight-day, seven-night trip for themselves and a parent (or an adult chaperone) to the 2010 NFB convention in Dallas, Texas. The trip will include transportation, hotel room, and other expenses, beginning with the parents' seminar, and ending on the day after the banquet/adjournment. (No substitution in place of the convention trip.) The winners will also have the opportunity to speak briefly at the NAPUB and NOPBC meetings. We couldn’t think of a better way to reward these bright, competitive young Braille readers from all over the country than to offer them the opportunity to join the excitement, the fun, and the camaraderie of the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled.
Trip not your thing? It's not required that a student compete for the trip to be considered for the other prizes. One offer that has always worked as an incentive in the contest is cash prizes. The top three contestants in each of six categories will win a $50 cash prize. The six categories are grades K-1; 2-3; 4-5; 6-8 (middle school); 9-12 (high school); and most improved (those reading the greatest percentage more pages this year than they did last year). The most improved prizes will be awarded to students not winning another award this year or previously, so more children will have a chance to be recognized, competing against their own personal best.
Every contestant will be automatically considered for an award in his or her age-appropriate grade category. This includes delayed readers and ungraded students. We have found that even students with delays can be competitive in their grade category because we do not put restrictions on the grade level of the materials the contestant reads. For example, we expect that a high school student who reads at a third-grade level will read third-grade-level material or even below for the competition and therefore, with motivation and diligence, could beat out an average or even better than average student who reads at grade level. Students with reading delays may also submit information to be considered for the Jennifer Baker Award, one of three special awards for which qualified students may choose to compete.
Braille Leaders Community Service Award: This award most closely reflects the ultimate mission of the contest. Braille literacy enhances the ability of blind children of all ages to demonstrate leadership through service to others. For example, a blind teen may use Braille to read to lonely residents in a nursing home or use his or her Braille skills to organize and conduct a food drive for a school project. The opportunities for service, if you are literate, are endless. The goal of this award is to encourage contestants who have developed good Braille skills to reach out into the community and use those skills for the good of others.
This award is restricted to students in grades six through twelve. To be considered for this award, the student must read a minimum of 500 pages for the contest and submit a letter of nomination. Up to five students will be selected for this award.
Twin Vision® Awards for Dual Print-and-Braille Readers or Print-to-Braille Readers: Funded by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults, the award is for elementary students who have learned and used both print and Braille from an early age and also for students who were print readers and have switched to, or are in the process of switching to, Braille. No fewer than one student and no more than five will be selected for this award. To nominate a student for this award, a teacher or other individual intimately familiar with that student’s literacy development must write a letter. The student must also participate in the regular competition.
2009 Jennifer Baker Awards: These awards were named after Jennifer Baker, a young woman from Maryland who overcame many severe additional disabilities to become Braille literate and was a frequent national winner in the Braille Readers Are Leaders program. Jennifer was an avid reader who traveled the world in her mind with the help of Amelia Bedelia and other characters from her beloved Braille storybooks. She died of kidney failure shortly before her twenty-first birthday. This award is given in her memory to no fewer than one student and no more than five based on a letter of nomination with information documenting the obstacles the student has overcome to become Braille literate. Examples of those eligible for this award might be students with cognitive or physical disabilities, English-as-a-second-language learners, students with brain injuries, or students who have been otherwise educationally disadvantaged. To nominate a student for this award, a teacher or other individual who is intimately familiar with that student’s literacy development must submit a letter of nomination. The student must also participate in the regular competition.
If you have been counting the number of possible winners, you know that we offer a minimum of eighteen and a maximum of thirty-three cash awards, which means that not every contestant will win a trip. If more than twelve of the winners have elected to compete for the trip, then a run-off Braille essay competition will be conducted. Preference will be given to contestants who have not won a trip in previous years.
by Barbara Pierce
Friday afternoon, June 26, I was shocked to learn that Harold Snider had died that morning of a massive heart attack. In many ways Harold was larger than life. He knew almost everyone in the international blindness field and the political world, or, if he did not know the person, he knew someone who did. The result was that he heard news and could pass it along well before it was public information. This network held the NFB in good stead many, many times.
Back in the days when the National Accreditation Council (NAC) was a force to be reckoned with in the blindness field and we were gathering outside its annual meetings to register consumer dissatisfaction with agency old-boy-network control of our lives, education, and rehabilitation, we forced NAC to permit a consumer observer to attend its official meetings and record the proceedings. Year after year that representative was Harold Snider, weighed down by a formidable array of reel-to-reel tape recorders and microphones so that he could be sure of getting a complete recording. I remember one year being assigned to attend the NAC Saturday night banquet as part of a group of about four people. Happily we were completely ignored by NAC attendees. But I still remember my dismay at the number of snide insults and digs that the speakers aimed at each other. It was nastiness masquerading as humor, and at the end of the evening I left feeling the need of nothing quite so much as a bath. I commented to Harold that I could not imagine how he could stand to do his job year after year if that was the way these people treated their friends and colleagues. His response was that the evening had been nothing out of the ordinary and that observing NAC at work was pretty grim duty, but it had to be done and was something he could do, so he was happy to do it.
Harold’s life as a Federationist stretches back to the 1960s when he was an undergraduate at Georgetown University. His philosophy of independence and personal responsibility and his commitment to the National Federation of the Blind remained at the center of his character through all the years to come. In the mid-1970s he became the Smithsonian Institution’s first blind employee as a handicap program coordinator for the fledgling National Air and Space Museum, where he saw to it that blind visitors had meaningful access to the collection. In 1978 he founded Access for the Handicapped, a District-of-Columbia-based consulting company providing guidance on policy, technology, and resources for people with disabilities. Through his company he worked on projects for people with disabilities in Ecuador and South Korea, and he gathered several blind people and a number of white canes and took them to Zambia, where the group handed out canes and taught as many blind people as they could to travel independently.
Harold was a lifelong member of the Republican Party, and in the late eighties he worked on disability issues for the Republican National Committee. In 1990 President George H. W. Bush appointed him deputy executive director of the National Council on Disability, where he had a hand in drafting the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In the early nineties Harold worked with the NFB to develop and implement NFB NEWSLINE, our nationwide newspapers-by-phone program. He remained an enthusiastic user and supporter of NEWSLINE for the rest of his life.
Internationally Harold was active in the World Blind Union. He traveled widely and spoke compellingly in support of education and independence for blind people around the world. He did consulting with the World Bank, and through the years worked with the United Nations on various projects.
Harold and his second wife Linda were married by Federationist the Rev. Robert Eschbach following the noon recess of the Wednesday, July 6, convention session of the 1994 NFB annual convention. Harold and Linda tirelessly hosted international visitors at conventions and in their Rockville, Maryland, home.Harold served for several years as president of the District of Columbia affiliate, but mostly he was a Federationist who was content quietly to live out his philosophy of blindness as well as he could. Behind the scenes he had a significant impact on the NFB and what we have accomplished. His many friends will miss him deeply, and we extend our sympathy to his wife Linda, former wife Gail, his daughter Ellen, and his son David.
This month’s recipes come from Virginia. Since many Virginia members are transplants from other parts of the nation, they prepare both traditional Virginia and other interesting regional foods.
by Sandy Halverson
Sandy Halverson has been a member of the NFB for thirty-four years in Colorado, Missouri, Alaska, Maryland, and Virginia. Now a medical transcriber, she has wowed us with her skills as the Potomac Chapter recording secretary for several years.
She says: “During the first several years that John and I were married, we lived in Kansas City, Missouri, eight blocks from the Kansas border. At my first employee potluck luncheon, I learned about Kansas dirt. It's fun to make, is great for a crowd, and will be enjoyed by all.
20 ounces Oreo cookies
8 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup sugar
12 ounces Cool Whip
2 3-1/2-ounce boxes vanilla instant pudding
1 cup powdered sugar
3 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Method: Crush cookies to consistency of soil. (A food processor or blender is great for this task.) Place half of the mixture in a deep bowl. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugars, and cream cheese until smooth. In a separate bowl mix milk, vanilla, and vanilla pudding and combine with cream cheese mixture. Fold in the whipped cream and transfer by cupfuls to the bowl with the cookie crumbs. Top with the remaining cookie crumbs and refrigerate so the dirt settles and absorbs the flavors beneath.
Festive Apple Bread
by Gwen Beavers
Gwen Beavers from the Blue Ridge Chapter, a retired medical transcriber for the Medical College of Virginia, has become an entertainer. She and her husband Henderson play clarinet and guitar gigs throughout the Charlottesville area in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Gwen has been an NFB member since 1973.
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 15-ounce jar applesauce
Method: Place brown sugar, butter, and eggs in a large bowl and beat well. Then add the flour and beat in. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into a greased nine-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean. You can make this recipe into a fruit cake by adding one to two cups of candied fruit or cut-up fresh fruit. It freezes well.
Ambrosia Salad (Delicious and low-fat)
by Gwen Beavers
1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks, drained
1 15-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
1 banana, sliced (Add this near serving time.)
1/2 cup seedless grapes
1/2 cup miniature marshmallows
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup flaked coconut, toasted
Method: Combine all fruit but the banana with marshmallows in a medium bowl. Stir yogurt into fruit mixture. Sprinkle with coconut that has been toasted for a few minutes in the oven or for fifteen to twenty seconds in the microwave. Refrigerate overnight.
Pineapple Upside-Down French Toast
by Deborah and Stewart Prost
The next three recipes are from Deborah and Stewart Prost, who live in Norfolk, Virginia. Deborah is a board member of the Tidewater Chapter of the NFB of Virginia. She is also a teacher of blind children in the Chesapeake public school system. Stewart is the president of the Tidewater Chapter. This recipe is taken from the book, The Younger, Thinner You Diet, by Dr. Eric Braverman.
4 large eggs
2/3 cups low fat milk (I have used skim or soy milk.)
1 to 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cumin
4 slices whole wheat or oat bran bread
1 teaspoon safflower oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 round slices fresh pineapple, 1/2 inch thick
Method: In a large bowl combine well the eggs, milk, cinnamon, vanilla, orange zest, nutmeg, and cumin. Soak bread in egg mixture for about one minute. Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat and place two slices of bread in a single layer in skillet. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar over each slice and cook four to five minutes. Flip bread and place a pineapple ring on top of each slice. Sprinkle with more sugar and allow to cook. Flip bread back; cook until sugar is melted and pineapple is warm, about three minutes. Repeat with remaining two slices of bread. Serve immediately. Makes four servings.
Whole Wheat Raspberry Muffins
by Deborah and Stewart Prost
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla in large bowl. Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to egg mixture; blend until dry ingredients are just moistened. Fold in raspberries. Spoon dough into paper-lined or greased muffin tins and bake for fifteen to twenty minutes. Makes eighteen muffins.
Pat Potter's Kahlua Cake
by Deborah and Stewart Prost
1 package devil’s food cake mix
1 3-ounce package French vanilla or chocolate pudding
1 16-ounce container of sour cream
1/2 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup oil
1 12-ounce package chocolate chips
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients, using electric mixer on medium speed for three to five minutes. Pour into well-greased bundt pan and bake for forty-five minutes to an hour. Cake is done when it springs back when lightly pressed with a finger. Toothpick test does not work. Allow to cool slightly in pan before removing to cool completely on a rack.
by Kathy Owen
Kathy Owen has been a member of the NFB for about thirty-seven years. She is now the president of the Blue Ridge Chapter. Retired from the Virginia Industries for the Blind, she now keeps busy with volunteer work for the church, and she still finds time to offer musical programs at local homes for the elderly. She also cooks.
2 cans cream corn
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup evaporated milk
A tablespoon or two butter
Method: Mix flour and salt with sugar. Add 3/4 cups of evaporated milk and the eggs lightly beaten together. Place the corn in greased casserole dish and mix corn and milk mixture together. Dot the top with butter. Bake in oven for forty-five minutes at 350. Test after thirty minutes. Pudding is done when a knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Ball
by Kathy Owen
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 cup green pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
Method: Mix ingredients together and place in a covered container. Chill in refrigerator. Serve with crackers.
Thanksgiving Turkey in a Brown Grocery Bag
by Seville Allen
Seville Allen has been a member of the NFB Virginia since 1974. She has served as president of the Potomac Chapter and as a member of the NFB of Virginia board. She has chaired various ad hoc committees. Now retired, she spends her time working with the NFB and her church and enjoying life.
Seville says she’s been cooking her turkey this way for about twenty years. It comes out moist and often falls off the bones. When she first decided to resume the Thanksgiving dinner tradition of inviting those in the area without families, she was worried about how to cook a turkey since she had never done it. The Washington Post came to the rescue with this recipe.
1 turkey (Size depends on how many are invited for Thanksgiving dinner.)
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Paper grocery bag
Method: Prepare turkey by removing wrapping and washing inside and out. Remove giblets and neck and set aside. Dry the bird and sprinkle salt and pepper in the cavity. Place turkey in paper grocery bag and make sure the entire turkey is covered (You may need a second grocery bag if the turkey is over fourteen pounds). Place bagged turkey in an oven-ready roasting pan, making sure the bag is well-tucked around the bird on all edges of the roasting pan. Bake at 350 for twenty minutes a pound, e.g., bake a ten-pound turkey for two hundred minutes—three hours and twenty minutes.
If you like giblets or giblet gravy, cook those in a small pan using enough lightly salted water to cover the giblets. Cook until tender, use for gravy or a snack before the Thanksgiving dinner.
Three Bean Hot Dish
by Joy Relton
Joy Relton, a thirty-year member of the NFB, is now the president of Virginia’s Greater Springfield Chapter. She has been a guide dog user for thirty years as well. Joy enjoys church activities and is president of her local Toastmasters group. She has worked on the Hill as an advocate for the blind. And, among her other talents, she is an avid karaoke singer.
1 15-ounce can red kidney beans
1 15-ounce can baby (green) lima beans
1 32-ounce can baked beans, vegetarian style
1 to two pounds lean ground beef
1 pound bacon, cooked and cut into small pieces
1 cup catsup
1 cup brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon prepared mustard, any kind
1 medium onion, chopped
Method: Brown ground beef with onions and drain. Set aside. Brown bacon and drain. Drain lima and kidney beans. Combine all ingredients in large ovenproof dish. It works well to use a large casserole dish with a lid so that you can take it from the oven straight to the table. Place in preheated 350 degree oven and heat thoroughly, stirring occasionally. This usually takes about thirty minutes. I've taken this dish to many potlucks and rarely bring any home.
Please note that the lima beans aren't always shelved with the other canned beans in the grocery store, and many employees are not familiar with them. The green ones have a totally different flavor from the other beans, and the different colors make it an attractive dish.
by Mary Ann Kessler
Mary Ann Kessler is a ten-year member of the NFB and leader of the social committee for the Potomac Chapter. She keeps busy studying Braille and piano and working with friends on NFB projects and committees. This dish is great for holidays or anytime. It is especially nice since it requires no cooking.
1 bag fresh cranberries
1 unpeeled orange, quartered and seeds removed
1 cup nuts
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar or equivalent sweetener
Method: In food processor first chop the orange, then add all but a handful of cranberries and process all together with sugar. Then add nuts and the reserved cranberries and chop just a bit more. You can also add a cup of celery and/or a seeded, quartered apple with the orange. Place in a serving dish. Chill before serving.
News from the Federation Family
Attention Braille, Large Print, and Cassette Monitor Readers:
In January 2010 we intend to clean up the Monitor database. If you wish to continue to receive the Braille Monitor in large print or Braille or on cassette, you must notify Marsha Dyer by email (firstname.lastname@example.org), phone (410-659-9314, ext. 2204), or mail (1800 Johnson Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230). Be sure to tell her which format you wish to receive.
Remember that you can receive each issue by email at the beginning of the month by signing up at <www.nfb.org>. Select Publications and then Braille Monitor. There you will see instructions for receiving the email edition. From that page you can also download individual articles or the entire Monitor in text or MP3 format.
The following profile of NFB of Maryland leader Mildred Rivera-Rau is currently posted on the American Bar Association Website.
Lawyer Spotlight, September 2009: Mildred A. Rivera-Rau, Esq.
Blind Latina Employment Lawyer Helps Promote Diversity in the Federal Workforce
With the recent rise of Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court, Mildred A. Rivera-Rau, Esq. has a great deal of which to be proud. Just like Justice Sotomayor, Millie is a Puerto Rican woman with a disability who works for the federal government. There are important differences, however, as Millie makes her impact via the federal government as an award-winning attorney advisor for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Washington, D.C.
Millie was born legally blind with 20/200 vision in both eyes. After spending some of her high school years in Puerto Rico, she attended Cornell University and then the University of Pennsylvania School of Law. Shortly after taking the bar exam in 1990, she was diagnosed with a brain disorder that severely impacts her mood without medication. For the first two years of her career she worked in a large San Francisco law firm, practicing labor and employment law. She was then recruited by the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and worked as a trial attorney in Baltimore for twelve years before being asked to serve as a special assistant to former EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez.
During her career she received awards from the EEOC for work on a class action sexual harassment lawsuit, EEOC disability initiatives, and the Commission's Spanish-language Website, as well as an award from the Maryland affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind for her outstanding volunteer activities with blind youth. Millie recently served a three-year term as a commissioner for the ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law.
Currently Millie leads a team of EEO analysts that review federal agencies' equal employment opportunity programs for compliance and provide technical assistance. She also analyzes statistics regarding workforce composition in gender, race, national origin, and disability status. Basically she and her team make sure that federal entities have the programs and policies in place to ensure a barrier-free workforce. At work she accommodates her disability with a reader and ZoomText, a software program that enlarges text and serves as an audible screen reader. She also is permitted to work from home when necessary.
Becoming an employment lawyer was not a certainty. Before her first encounter with lawyers in a courtroom during college, Millie did not think she could be an attorney. "After watching them litigate, I discovered that lawyers are just regular people doing regular things. I honestly thought, ‘Hey, I can do that!'" she noted, "And the same thing applies to individuals with disabilities: we are just regular people who are capable of doing regular things. Sometimes people have to simply get past personal, preconceived notions to appreciate the opportunities that are out there."
When comparing her two roles at the EEOC, litigation and agency oversight, Millie finds they each have their own unique benefits, whether for her or the diversity movement. "Litigation was more fulfilling for me because I was able to see the result after the proceedings," she stated, "but on the other hand, agency oversight has the ability to affect more people across a broader spectrum." Either way, Millie says she has her dream job.
The Senate of the State of South Carolina issued a certificate honoring Betty and Don Capps on the occasion of their sixtieth wedding anniversary. Here is the text:
On motion of Senator Joel Lourie, Senate District 22, this certificate is presented to Betty and Don Capps in honor and recognition of your 60th wedding anniversary. Your love and commitment to one another is a great example of the beauty and strength of the institution of marriage.
The South Carolina Senate does hereby congratulate you on this momentous celebration and wishes you many more years of happiness together. Given this 21st day of June in the year two thousand nine, Jeffrey Garrett, clerk of the senate.
The NFB of Washington’s Inland Empire Chapter in Spokane reports the following election results: president, Maria Bradford; first vice president, John Croy; second vice president, Dolores Keyzer; recording secretary, Susan Lincoln; corresponding secretary, Gloria Whipple; treasurer, Judy Croy; and board members, Kyle Woodard and Lark Braun.
Donation of a Braille Embosser with Software Needed:
A year-old training center for blind children in Istanbul, Turkey, needs to create Braille materials for its students. Robert Leslie Newman is making this request. Recall my Monitor article in May 2007 titled “Structured Discovery Learning Goes to Turkey,” in which as a member of Blind Corps I participated on a team of Federationists who presented a demonstration project to show how we in the NFB training centers effectively teach blindness skills. We did go back again in 2008 to train the trainers and will be going again in 2010. This request is one outcome of our work in Turkey. That is to say, Parilta, the largest provider of services to blind children in Istanbul, has established a training center for blind children. Several of the staff have been our students. They do not have the funding to purchase their own embosser and embossing software, and we in Blind Corps hope and believe that somewhere in our NFB family someone has a working embosser and software that needs a new home. If you are that person, we would like to talk about making this match with blind kids in Istanbul. Please call the president of Blind Corps, Michael Floyd, (402) 474-9222. Thank you. <http://www.blindcorps.org>
Free to a Good Home:
Rhonda will give several items, sent Free Matter for the Blind. I am prepared to part with the following Braille books: Parables for Today (one volume), Pronouncing Biblical Names (two volumes), and Daily Walk with God (four volumes). Available as a set. If you are interested, contact <Starlyte71@aol.com>.
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.
Cookbook for Sale:
The Kitchen Korner is a wonderful, accessible cookbook by a Newsreel magazine subscriber, Maggie Nettles, who has passed away. In the foreword she says, “This book is done, not just as a Newsreel fundraiser, but as a labor of love.” Special NFB pricing of $20 for all formats: Braille, large print, regular print, four-track cassette, or MP3 or audio CD (two CDs). Payment must be in U.S. funds. We accept checks, money orders, VISA, or MasterCard. To order, call (614) 469-0700 or (888) 723-8737.
Library Materials Needed:
Jyoti Sroat School is an inclusive school under an NGO, Bethany Society, located in Meghalaya State, India. We have about eighty students from first to tenth grade with visual impairments and eighty students with other disabilities or no disabilities. We are currently seeking donations of the following items to enhance our library:
If you are willing to contribute any of these items, please send us a list of the titles of the available books by email to <email@example.com>, or call us from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. IST at (+91) 364-2210-631 (office) or (+91) 9436-119-808.
Braille Chocolate Bars and More:
Sweet Tooth is gearing up for the upcoming season by offering many new items to choose from. Besides Braille chocolate bars, we have added chocolate guide dogs with the Braille saying “Best Friend” or customized with a dog's name; chocolate watches with Braille; and other items that can be customized with Braille. Besides Christmas items, Valentine's Day, Easter, and birthday items can be customized with Braille sayings. Sweet Tooth also has a complete line of chocolate products, including suckers and clusters of various kinds. Over two-hundred-fifty candy molds are available to choose from. Price lists are available in print (regular and large), in Braille, and online.
The Braille chocolate bars come with a choice of sayings, including Happy Birthday, Love You, Have a Nice Day, Thank You, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays. They weigh 4.5 ounces and can be made in milk, dark, or white chocolate. The bars can be made plain at a price of $2.75 each or with nuts, krispi, or crushed peppermint at $3 each. For sugar-free bars add $1 additional per bar. All candy is bagged in cellophane and tied with ribbons.
Shipping and handling is extra, the amount based on each order, and orders are shipped two-day priority U. S. Postal Service with delivery confirmation. To order, contact Sweet Tooth by calling Judy Davis (owner) 32 Vinton Road, Rochester, New York, 14622; phone (585) 544-1853, or by email at <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Payment is by check or money order only, made payable to Judy Davis.
Attention Braille Users:
The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) is looking for Braille readers, teachers, and transcribers to assist with an evaluation of the Nemeth Uniform Braille System (NUBS), an experimental Braille code designed to represent literary, math, and scientific information--combining all three codes into one unified system. Participants will be asked to read a sampler written in NUBS and to respond to questions about their reading experience. (The sampler will be available in both embossed Braille and sim-Braille.) Anyone who reads or writes Braille, no matter what age or amount of experience reading or writing Braille, is welcome to take part in this project. If you are interested in participating, you may request a sampler in one of three ways:
Whichever method you use to request your sampler, please include your name and mailing address and whether you want the sampler in embossed Braille or in sim-Braille. We anticipate that sampler packages will be mailed out for comment in November 2009. Participants will have approximately four weeks to read the sampler and complete the questionnaire. All participants who complete the questionnaire will be informed how to get access to the evaluation report when it is complete. If you are interested in helping with this project or if you have questions, please contact Judy Dixon, BANA chair, at <email@example.com> or (202) 707-0722.
Attention Parents, Teachers, and Braille-Reading Kids:
This autumn we begin large-scale field testing of a new reading media assessment tool that paves the way for the achievement of literacy for blind and visually impaired students. Children, parents, and teachers in schools across the country can try this new assessment and make a positive impact on the educational futures of countless others in this generation and in generations to come.
We are seeking teachers, schools, and school districts that could take part in this next phase of testing. If you have prereaders, children in grades K-12, children with cognitive disabilities, or sighted children with no visual impairment who can participate and would like to help in the development of this national assessment, please contact Jessica Bachicha at the National Center at <firstname.lastname@example.org>, or call her at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2529.
Additional Information on the Treatment of Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy:
Paul Gabias, a former president of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada and a certified independent international wellness home consultant with Nikken, read "Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy" in the June 2009 edition of the Braille Monitor. He is concerned by the article's statement that an uncertain scientific basis exists for the electronic/electromagnetic treatment for the symptoms of diabetic neuropathy developed by Nikken researchers (a Japanese company that provides solutions to wellness in body, mind, family, society, and finances). Paul provides details of promising research results using static and dynamic magnetic stimulation available from Nikken technologies.
He says that Dr. Michael Weintraub, a clinical professor of neurology at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York, reports tests of the efficacy of Nikken's magnetic technologies used to treat diabetic neuropathy in "Static Magnetic Field Therapy for Symptomatic Diabetic Neuropathy: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial" published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, volume 84, issue 5, pages 736-746. According to Paul, Dr. Weintraub has shown significant effects from use of static and dynamic magnetic fields.
Finally he notes that our article refers people to Nikken's world headquarters, but as a direct-sales company Nikken cannot do business directly with potential customers. He invites people interested in additional information about Nikken technologies, products, or business opportunities to contact him directly at (250) 491-7256, email@example.com, or <www.nikken.com/paulgabias>.
Country Christmas CDs Available, Featuring Ray Starr:
It's time to begin planning for Christmas again. Each CD is $12 or two CDs for $20. Make checks payable to Raymond Rokita, 3816 Schlee Street, Lansing, Michigan 48910-4435.
Blind and VI Students Explore the Globe:
“I got to see stars for the first time in my life,” said Kelly, a visually impaired teenager. “Sitting on the rim of the Grand Canyon was the first time in my life where it was dark enough for me to actually see the contrast of the stars. It was magical.”
Kelly was one of ten teenagers, half of them blind or visually impaired, who spent their July on an adventure many wait a lifetime to experience: rafting the Grand Canyon. With the Colorado-based nonprofit Global Explorers (www.globalexplorers.org), this unlikely team spent sixteen days shattering expectations and using adversity to their advantage as they explored science, culture, leadership, and service on the rim and deep within the walls of the magnificent canyon. Global Explorers partnered with the nonprofit Grand Canyon Youth (www.gcyouth.org) and the National Parks Service to provide this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Another team of blind, visually impaired, and sighted teenagers embarked on an equally extraordinary journey of leadership and self-discovery in the Maya Yucatan. “I can’t remember the last time I got to run as fast as I could,” said Eric, a blind participant, as he completed an impromptu race on a long stretch of white sandy beach. The team also encountered science, culture, leadership, and service as they explored ancient Maya ruins, snorkeled in the world’s second-largest great barrier reef, and camped in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Elizabeth, a sighted teammate, said “This experience aided in the discovery of my passions and dreams… I am now on my own path of figuring out what makes me truly alive.”
Developed in partnership with world-renowned blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer, Global Explorers’ nationally-recognized Leading the Way program takes high school and college-age people of all physical abilities on life-changing adventures around the world. Far more than a fun trip, each expedition involves preparatory curriculum prior to travel and a service leadership project post travel.
In the summer of 2010 Global Explorers is returning to the Grand Canyon and Yucatan Peninsula and is accepting applications through November 15, 2009. To apply, to nominate a student, or to learn more, visit www.globalexplorers.org and click Leading the Way, or call (877) 627-1425. Braille and large-print materials are available upon request. Scholarship funds are also available. Leading the Way has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, the Travel Channel, ABC Nightline, and World News Tonight.
When Eric returned home, his father said, “You all have given him something very special: a vision that he can do anything as long as he puts his heart, mind, body, and hard effort into it. `Never will I quit,’ he says now more than ever.”
The Selective Doctor, Inc., is a repair service for all IBM typewriters and Perkins Braillewriters. Located in Baltimore, the service has done work for the Maryland School for the Blind and a number of other organizations in Maryland. They accept Perkins Braillers sent to them from around the country.
The cost to repair a manual Perkins Brailler is $55 for labor (flat rate), plus parts. Because of technical complexity the cost to repair an electric Perkins Brailler is $60 for labor (flat rate), plus parts. The Brailler will be shipped back to you by U.S. mail, Free Matter for the Blind and insured for $400. The cost of this insurance ($5.70) will be added to your invoice. This listed insurance charge may fluctuate due to rate changes by the postal service.
To mail Braillers using the U.S. Postal Service, send your Brailler(s) to the Selective Doctor, P.O. Box 571, Manchester, Maryland 21102. With your Brailler(s) please include your name and organization (if applicable), shipping and billing addresses, telephone number, and a brief description of your Brailler's needs. Should you require additional information, please call (410) 668-1143, or email <firstname.lastname@example.org> or visit our Website at <www.selectivedoctor.com>.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
I have a PAC Mate QX400 with accessories for sale. Comes with a fabric case, one socket P 500 Wi-Fi card, and a couple of memory cards. Includes power cable, computer cable, and USB thumb drive adapter. Asking $1,100 or best offer. You ship. Contact Maureen at (727) 735-0797.
I have a DoubleTalk LT serial speech synthesizer in good condition for sale. Asking $100 or best offer. Call Justin Ekis at (909) 648-8551 or email <email@example.com>.
BookPort reader with executive products leather case, USB cable, flash card, and documentation. Accepts all major file types including BRF, BRL, Daisy 2.X, Daisy 3.X, and DOC Microsoft Word 97 or later. In excellent condition. Asking $200 plus shipping. Contact Hal at (727) 735-0797 or by email at <W1lob@tampabay.rr.com>.
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