Vol. 53, No. 1 January 2010
Daniel B. Frye, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president
200 East Wells Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
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National Federation of the Blind
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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 53, No. 1 January 2010
Dallas Site of 2010 NFB Convention
Monitoring Our History
A Generation at the Editor’s Desk
by Barbara Pierce
Reflections on the Contributions of an Editor: Barbara Pierce
by Marc Maurer
Saluting the Editor
The History of the Monitor
by Hazel tenBroek
Completes Circle for Former Child Beggar
by Kevin Simpson
Announcing the Intel Reader
by Lindsay Paul
Initial Thoughts on the Intel Reader
by Gary Wunder
Representing the City of Chicago
by Patti Chang
Looking Good without Looking
A Guide to Personal Style for the Visually Impaired
by Linda Zani
My Fifty-Year Love Affair with the Internal Combustion Engine
by Marcus Simmons
Remarks by Louis Braille
by Robert Leslie Newman
Working to Empower Blind Students
to Participate Fully and Independently in Science Classrooms and Laboratories
by Cary A. Supalo
Ringing a BELL for Braille Literacy
by Natalie Shaheen
A New Number
"Average Glucose" Will Soon Be a Key Part of Your Diabetes Tool Kit
by Katie Bunker
Featured Book in the Jacobus tenBroek Library
by Ed Morman
Talking about Texas
by Angela Wolf
Convention Scholarships Available
by Allen Harris
Copyright 2009 by the National Federation of the Blind
In 2009 the NFB commissioned Denver artist Ann Cunningham to create a hands-on, accessible mural in honor of Louis Braille’s two hundredth birthday and our national Braille Readers are Leaders (BRL) campaign. Ms. Cunningham came to NFB headquarters in November 2009 to affix the final pieces to the tactile mural. When the Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollar was officially released at a ceremony held at the NFB Jernigan Institute on March 26, guests in attendance were kept in suspense about the message and design of this mystery artwork. As panels have been added to this forty-segment work, the artist's creative imagination has expressed the spirit of Louis Braille, our BRL campaign, and the infinite possibilities that universal literacy will bring to the lives of blind people. The completed artwork is now on permanent display in the Jacobus tenBroek Library at the NFB Jernigan Institute.
Choosing various symbols to represent knowledge, Ann made the entire 8.5-by-2.5-foot horizontal mural out of fired-tile giant puzzle pieces. In the mural from left to right the viewer can see and touch a full-color bust of a blue-suited Louis Braille facing right; six Louis Braille Bicentennial Silver Dollars forming a Braille cell (the dot one and three coins Braille-side up and the other four portrait-side up, creating the Braille contraction for the word "knowledge"; a young boy, dressed in a red T-shirt, brown pants, and beige tennis shoes, sitting on the ground, using both hands to read a Braille book in his lap, a long white cane resting against his right shoulder. On the book pages appears the word "is" in giant Braille characters. Arching over the boy, seven white stars create the Big Dipper. To the right of the boy three giant Braille cells spell “power.” At the right side a red and white rocket with Whozit painted on its lowest section rides its long contrail, nosecone pointed at the large North Star.
In the top right puzzle piece, high above everything, its silver body and gold solar wings vivid against the dark blue, the Hubble Telescope floats. From bottom left to top right, the background colors change from the soft greens and blues of Earth to the darkest blues and purples of outer space, with the boy at the changing point.
The 2010 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will take place in Dallas, Texas, July 3-8, at the Hilton Anatole Hotel at 2201 Stemmons Freeway, Dallas, Texas 75207. Make your room reservation as soon as possible with the Hilton Anatole staff. Call (214) 761-7500 only.
The 2010 room rates are singles, doubles, and twins $62 and triples and quads $67 a night, plus a 15 percent sales tax. The hotel is accepting reservations now. A $60-per-room deposit is required to make a reservation. Fifty percent of the deposit will be refunded if notice is given to the hotel of a reservation cancellation before June 1, 2010. The other 50 percent is not refundable.
Rooms will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations may be made before June 1, 2010, assuming that rooms are still available. After that time the hotel will not hold our block of rooms for the convention. In other words, you should get your reservation in soon.
Guestroom amenities include cable television, coffeepot, iron and ironing board, hair dryer, and high-speed Internet access. The Hilton Anatole has several excellent restaurants, twenty-four-hour-a-day room service, first-rate meeting space, and other top-notch facilities. It is near downtown Dallas with shuttle service to both the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport and Love Field.
The schedule for the 2010 convention will follow that of last year:
Saturday, July 3 Seminar Day
Sunday, July 4 Registration Day
Monday, July 5 Board Meeting and Division Day
Tuesday, July 6 Opening Session
Wednesday, July 7 Business Session
Thursday, July 8 Banquet Day and Adjournment
by Barbara Pierce
As I sit down to write this retrospective of my years as associate editor and then editor of the Braille Monitor, it is three days short of the twenty-first anniversary of my first day on the job. That was Monday, October 31, 1988, and I spent a good deal of energy that day trying to convince myself, Dr. Jernigan, and everybody else that I was up to the challenge of learning how to edit a magazine. The fact that the magazine in question was the most important one in the world to me rendered me especially incredulous.
Before asking me to leave my position as assistant director of the Oberlin College Alumni Association, Dr. Jernigan had asked me to write two full-fledged reports on national conventions (1987 and 1988) and one investigative reporting exposé on the Associated Services for the Blind in Philadelphia. In hindsight I can see that he was attempting to decide whether I was teachable. I presume it is now safe to say that he concluded I was.
In the early years Dr. Jernigan tended to give me the assignments that would take time to research and write. When I recall these projects, they were chiefly about schools for the blind—though we by no means always went to print with the stories we received tips about. Sometimes our sources were questionable or we found that we could not get information from at least two sources. This is not the complete list of stories about schools in the early years, but here are the most painful stories I wrote: “The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind: A Dangerous Place for Children,” March 1989; “Of Chandeliers and Shoddy Practice in Alabama,” February 1990; “More Hanky-Panky at the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind,” June 1993; “The Fall of Richard Umsted,” “The Pattern and Practice of Abuse,” “Food for Thought but not for Consumption at the ISVI,” and “Beyond the Fall: Aftershocks and Signs of Promise,” all in the May 1995 issue; and “Of Ostriches and the Temptations of Power: The Story of the New Mexico School for the Visually Handicapped,” October 1996. All these were stories that gave me nightmares and made me doubt the fundamental decency of some people who go into work with the blind. I had understood before beginning these disheartening and distressing stories that the NAC seal of good practice was more accurately an indicator of unreliability, but the fact that all of these schools were at the time of these scandals members in good standing of the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving Persons with Blindness and Visual Impairment (NAC) and that NAC categorically refused to look into the allegations we brought to public attention convinced me that NAC would have to be made irrelevant in the blindness field if blind people as a group were ever to prosper.
Through the years we have published lots of articles about NAC. They have certainly had an effect on the so-called accrediting body, but it continues to stagger on, providing a fig leaf of respectability to mostly tiny local agencies looking for accreditation on the cheap and lacking all understanding or appreciation of what NAC is and, more important, what it is not. One of the more entertaining NAC articles followed our picketing of a NAC meeting in Chicago. The title captures the highlight of the event: “Grant Mack and a Chicago Paddy Wagon,” January 1991. Grant Mack was an ACB past president and NAC leader as well as being at the time chairman of the board of National Industries for the Blind. He was carried off by the cops after he attacked a Federationist and damaged his recording equipment. That issue also included several other articles about NAC, including one of the most famous, “NAC, NIB, and TANSTAAFL,” by Peggy Pinder. For those who have not read the work of Robert Heinlein, TANSTAAFL stands for “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Those wondering about NAC and the organized blind’s historical effort to rid the field of its unhealthy influence might do well to begin by reading the January 1991 Braille Monitor. Here are some other memorable NAC articles published by the Monitor in the last fifteen years, all written by Peggy Pinder Elliott: “NAC at 25,” April 1991; “NAC and Water Spouts,” October 1996; “Bang and Giggle,” December 1999; “Davy Jones Locker,” March 2002; and “NAC in Isolation,” February 2003.
As I was putting the convention issue to bed in 1995, Dr. Jernigan mentioned to me that he had decided that we needed to devote an entire issue to the questions and issues arising from the use of guide dogs. This turned into the most controversial Monitor issue in my years of editorship. Dr. Jernigan wanted it clear that publishing this discussion had been his decision, so he announced at the beginning of the October 1995 issue that he was reassuming the editorship for this one issue. I have no desire to open old wounds. I recognize that many guide dog users did feel abandoned by the organization they loved despite many protestations by writers that the NFB had always defended and would always defend the right of blind people to choose dogs as their primary mobility aid. I think that some things needed to be said and thought about, but I am very glad that for the most part the old wounds have healed.
My most hair-raising experience while editing the Monitor was being sued by Mary Ann and Tom Sember for two articles published in the March and July 1992 issues. The case dragged on for four years, but I don’t remember in which year I was deposed for eight hours. I do remember that it was in August and that it was an exhausting experience. Mr. Sember was a counselor in the Pittsburgh office of the Bureau for Blindness and Visual Services, and Mrs. Sember was a dealer selling technology products made by TeleSensory, Inc. Strangely enough, until our articles exposed the situation, almost no products sold by TeleSensory’s competitors were bought by counselors in the Pittsburgh office. After our articles appeared, other manufacturers began to get a piece of the action. That in itself is a pretty strong indication that fairness and client choice were not popular concepts in the Pittsburgh office of the Pennsylvania agency serving the blind.
The Sembers sued us for $100,000, claiming libel and defamation of character. Eventually their case was dismissed on summary judgment, and the decision was upheld in both the appeals court and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Tom Sember was reported to have told a friend that he had an eye on an island that he planned to buy with the money we would be forced to pay him. In November of 1997 we published “He Can’t Buy an Island: Total Victory in the Sember Case.” I was deeply grateful that the courts vindicated the Braille Monitor and my reporting. I had known all along that we had done no more than to tell the truth, but one can never be sure what will happen when a case goes to trial.
In a completely different vein, during the nineties the National Center for the Blind hosted four U.S./Canada Conferences on Technology for the Blind. The proceedings for all the conferences were published in the Braille Monitors of January 1992, 1994, 1997, and 2000. These were demanding publications to assemble since I am far from sophisticated in my understanding of technology. On the other hand, I kept reminding myself that, if I could edit the papers so that I could understand what the speakers were saying and the questions they were answering, our readers had a better chance of doing so as well.
One of the most frustrating topics of Monitor coverage since the nineties has been the lengthy dispute between Independent Living Aids and Maxi-Aids. We devoted the entire March 1998 issue to the conflict between the two blindness-product mail order houses. In articles in the December 2001, January 2002, and July 2002, issues we reported on Maxi-Aids’s successful effort to purchase Perkins Braillers through an Israeli front that sent the Braillers to South Africa, where they were shipped back to the United States. The reduced cost of the equipment was subsidized by a Hilton Foundation grant to sell Braillers in the developing world for the use of blind children. Elliot Zaretski, the owner of Maxi-Aids, sold them instead in the United States, undercutting his competition and making lots of money, but doing nothing for the poor children around the world, who should have benefited from the Hilton Foundation grant. Through the years we did other stories about Maxi-Aids, but these were the most compelling.
In 2000 and 2001 we devoted a good number of pages to the activities of Erik Weihenmayer, the amazing blind mountain climber who finally summited Mt. Everest on May 25, 2001. The Monitor story that recounted the final stage of the adventure was “Weihenmayer Reaches the Top,” which appeared in the July 2001 issue. I wasn’t at Base Camp, but I was linked by email and satellite phone to the climbers and helped to keep them in touch with the thousands of people around the world who were following their adventure. President Maurer assigned me to work with the team, the PR firm marketing the climb, and those working on the Website. In my memory I can’t separate the various components of that responsibility. I only know that the relief I felt when I learned that nineteen members of the team had made it to the top and had all returned to the highest camp in safety, was like nothing I have ever felt before or since.
In December 2003 we first reported on the Pennsylvania state government’s effort to rid itself of the most effective director of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services the state had ever had, Christine Boone. It was a shocking story of mediocrity prepared to go to any lengths to rid itself of excellence. In January of 2006 it was gratifying to publish “Victory in the First Round of the Christine Boone Case.” As often happens in such struggles, blind Pennsylvanians never got Christine Boone back, but at least the officials who fired her were finally made to pay for their perfidy.
Perhaps my most satisfying series of stories in recent years has been the descriptions of the three NFB adult training centers that Dan Frye and I did in 2008 and 2009: Louisiana Center for the Blind, May 2008; Colorado Center for the Blind, October 2008; and BLIND, Incorporated, February 2009. We traveled to each center and spent several days participating in center activities, observing the program, and talking with the students and faculty. We came away with a profound respect for what the centers are accomplishing and the depth of the commitment to excellence of the staffs and affiliates.
With one major exception the foregoing are the stories and issues that come to mind when I cast my mind back over the past twenty-one years of reporting and editing. That exception is the January/February 1999 issue, which was the obituary issue for my beloved friend and mentor, Kenneth Jernigan. Preparing that issue was simply the hardest editorial work I have ever done. In part that is because I wanted it to capture the essence of the man, and nothing that anyone could have written could have done him justice. For me, as for many others of my generation, he represented the best in us. He embodied our highest ideals, our most determined and principled positions. He was my friend and the blind person whose good opinion has meant the most to me. He taught me to think politically and to write with clarity. I wanted that issue to represent all of that. I am certain that I fell short of my goal, but I also know that reading that issue will give anyone who did not know the man the best understanding of who he was and what he stood for.
In the April 1993 issue of the Braille Monitor Dr. Jernigan announced that he was stepping aside from the editorship and handing the magazine over to me. I had been editing it in all but name for more than a year, but the time had come to make clear that the transition had occurred.
Now the time has come for another transition. In my turn I am stepping aside and inviting Dan Frye to take my place as Monitor editor. I will continue to write and edit when I can be of use, but the day-to-day responsibility for decision-making and editing ceases to me mine. The Monitor is too important for us to make this transition lightly. Dan has been learning and growing in this work for almost two years. His political judgments are much sounder than mine were when I began. His commitment to our goals of honest reporting, accurate information, high interest, and true inspiration is deep and sincere. I am sure that he will do an excellent job and carry on the Monitor’s tradition of excellence as one “who advises, warns, or cautions,” as the July 1957 All-Story Magazine defined the role of a monitor. The generations change, but the role of the Braille Monitor endures.
by Marc Maurer
With this issue of the Braille Monitor, a transition in the editorial duties takes place. Barbara Pierce ceases her work as editor of the Monitor; Daniel Frye assumes this task.
This change in leadership is a cause for reflection. When I thought about this alteration, I remembered that I had first read a copy of the Monitor in 1969. The magazine was being produced in Braille, but I received my copy on record because I wanted to hear the voices associated with the events of the National Federation of the Blind—especially the grand tones of our president, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan.
Perry Sundquist was the editor, and Hazel tenBroek, the widow of our founding president, Jacobus tenBroek, was the assistant editor. I attended my first convention of the National Federation of the Blind in the summer of 1969. Following the Presidential Report, we heard from Mrs. tenBroek about matters dealing with progress in the Braille Monitor. She reported to the convention every year until her retirement.
Mrs. tenBroek and Perry Sundquist did their work from California, but the next editor, Don McConnell, carried out his responsibilities from our office in Washington, DC. When he ceased performing editorial duties, President Jernigan became the editor on a temporary basis, which lasted for more than a decade. In 1993 Barbara Pierce assumed full editorial control of the Braille Monitor, and she has held this position continually since that time. She has been the editor for seventeen years, and she worked on the magazine prior to her editorship for another five years. No other person has performed as long, created more copy, covered more subjects, or written as much as Barbara Pierce.
The Braille Monitor magazine began publication in 1957. At the end of 1960, its production was interrupted by events in the Federation’s civil war. The magazine was continued beginning in 1964, and it has remained in publication since that time.
As I mentioned earlier, I first encountered the Braille Monitor in 1969. It seemed to me that it was being produced by eminent human beings who possessed the traits of wisdom, diplomatic experience, and a dedication to building a better and more exciting society—especially for the blind. Within a few months of my becoming aware of the publication, I had the good fortune of meeting its editors. I was young; they were not. I was new to the thought processes of independence and equality; they accepted these as an essential part of reality. I was inexperienced; they were skilled in the craft of presenting and promoting new ideas. I admired these editors and listened to them with respect—almost with awe.
The philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind startled me. As I became better acquainted with it, I was startled less often but inspired just as much. Most of the time I learned the philosophy from the pages of the Braille Monitor. The Monitor remains a source of inspiration for me. The editor of the Monitor is responsible for maintaining the standard which makes the thoughts inspiring and the ideas a source of reflection and strength. Barbara Pierce has done in an exemplary fashion all that we have asked of her.
In the spring of 1998, I sat with Dr. Jernigan in his sick room. He had contracted cancer, which had been diagnosed in late 1997. We spoke about the future of the Federation, and one of the topics of our conversation was the editing of the Braille Monitor. As it happened, I had a draft of one edition of the Monitor in my hands that had been produced for me in Braille. The topic of the issue was the scurrilous behavior of the principals of the Maxi-Aids Company. The people directing Maxi-Aids had lied, stolen, and engaged in other sharp practices in an attempt to drive competitors out of business or to secure advantageous relationships for themselves. Barbara Pierce had written the hard-hitting article that contained the facts, and she had done the research to back up the statements describing what the principals of Maxi-Aids had done. Dr. Jernigan asked me what I thought about the report, and I responded that I thought it was good. It reflected well on the history of the Monitor and the purpose for its publication. The grand tradition of speaking the truth and not pulling our punches continued in those vital pages.
During the decade of the 1980s, conflict between the National Federation of the Blind and a number of agencies for the blind was constant. The conflict continued in the early part of the 1990s, but changes in the field of work for the blind were occurring with rapidity. One of the most notable of these changes is that the recognition of blind people as necessary elements in creating the objectives in programming for the blind and in evaluating their effectiveness became recognized in a great many of the agencies serving the blind. The Braille Monitor helped in depicting the change and stimulating it.Sometimes the pages of the Braille Monitor make me laugh; sometimes they cause me to ponder what might be true if a proposition contained in them becomes real; sometimes they give me reason for a feeling of admiration; and sometimes they make me reflect in astonishment. The Monitor gives me information, but it also offers food for thought, and an affirmation of our determination to be free. These are the things it was established to do. I am delighted that Barbara Pierce has given of herself for the longest period that anybody has served as editor of the Braille Monitor. She has placed her stamp on the history of the organized blind movement. Her work has changed the meaning of blindness in the United States and throughout the world.
From the Editor: Barbara Pierce's more than twenty-one years of service as associate editor and editor of the Braille Monitor deserves more recognition than can be adequately given in the finite confines of this brief piece. In order to appreciate fully the volume of work and degree of devotion that she has offered (for the benefit of the general public, our membership, and our organizational record), you would have to review the more than two hundred issues and thirteen thousand pages of our magazine that have been published under her direction in the last two decades. More than this you would have to consider the variety of subjects covered and the degree of detailed knowledge that she had to accumulate before committing to print an article in these pages. Mostly, though, you would have to know the character of the woman--her meticulous attention to every detail and the abiding love and loyalty to our movement that has motivated her year-round unflagging labors--in order to assess her contribution fairly.
As I assume the editorship of the Braille Monitor, I want to acknowledge publicly the invaluable role that Barbara has played in preparing me for this incredible and humbling responsibility. She has been more than a professional colleague conscientiously imparting her technical expertise, management strategies, and political experience. She has offered me essential counsel about the traditional practices of our magazine, yet she has wisely urged me to find my own editorial voice and style. Most important, Barbara has been a supportive mentor and caring friend. I am especially grateful for her personal warmth and calm confidence in me. These qualities have helped to quiet the occasional doubts and fears that I have known during this transition. If I am equal to maintaining the standard of excellence that Barbara has set for the Braille Monitor, it will be in large part a testament to her influence and effort. I look forward to her guidance and help in the months and years to come. The Braille Monitor will be richer for her continued involvement.
We print below the reflections of several others who wanted to join me in recognizing the shape and substance that Barbara's editorial efforts have had on the magazine and the lives of its readers. These comments represent only a sample of the voices of those who together wanted to say thank you to Barbara for her years of dedicated service. Here they are:
Writing a tribute to Barbara Pierce is one of the hardest assignments I've ever undertaken, but one where the honor I feel at being asked is unparalleled. When I think of Barbara, I think of the beauty which can be found in balance. What other word can convey the blending of intelligence and confidence that peacefully coexist with modesty and kindness in this wonderful human being, a soul who possesses the firmness to know the right thing to do and the compassion to understand when we often fall short of doing it?
When I look back over Barbara's editing of the Braille Monitor, I realize my favorite contributions are not her fair but tough investigative articles or her superb convention roundups. They are outstanding, but what I most appreciate and marvel at are her introductions. In those brief pieces are found not only the smooth transitions from one article to the next, but the setting of the stage to put what is to come in historical perspective, to show how it relates to the movement and our current challenges, and to hint at the things the article will help us learn. Many of these contributions are so well crafted that even the author of the article must sometimes say, "Wow, I never quite thought of it like that," or "Yes, that's what I've been saying all along."
Like many others I have been helped to shine in these pages, not only because I took the time to try writing something, but because someone saw a glimpse of what might be, and made it what I could not. Thanks so much for making the Braille Monitor a publication second to none in its interesting articles, grammatical correctness, and the balance necessary in the primary vehicle for communicating the hopes, dreams, obstacles, and successes of blind people in America.
When I was a sophomore in college in Ohio, I found out about a seminar for blind college students. The timing was perfect. I was ready to meet some competent and confident blind adults who could assist me as I navigated through college and beyond. Fortunately for me the seminar introduced me to Barbara Pierce along with leaders in the NFB of Ohio and the National Association of Blind Students. Little did I know that that seminar would mark the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
It was a tremendous turning point for me because it exposed me to the philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind. From the moment we met, I was impressed by Barbara. Her intelligence, grace, patience, and leadership were inspiring. I had many questions about the NFB, and she talked patiently with me throughout the year following the seminar. She connected me with Joanne Wilson and the Louisiana Center for the Blind. She served (and still serves) as a role model for me in many ways, both personally and professionally.
I began reading the Braille Monitor after attending the seminar. The publication introduced me to many important topics and helped me develop a true understanding of the issues we face as blind people. I came to realize the importance and the influence of this publication. Through her writings Barbara has helped many of us understand more thoroughly our mission and philosophy.
Her kindness, compassion, fierce determination, and advocacy have shaped many lives. I salute Barbara for her outstanding work. I thank her for her selflessness, her dedication, and her example. It is an honor and privilege to call her my friend and colleague.
Barbara always has words to express well what needs to be said. She is sensible, level-headed, and reaches out to people who need compassion and moral support. She has sparkle and imagination.
by Hazel tenBroek
From the Editor: The following recollection has been adapted from an article published in the October 1990 issue of Slate and Style, the publication of the Writers Division of the National Federation of the Blind. Hazel tenBroek, the first first lady of the National Federation of the Blind, addressed the Writers Division at that golden anniversary national convention. Her remarks were later transcribed. These are her memories of the early days of communication and publication in the Federation:
General confusion in the ranks is not unusual. When Mr. Stevens [Tom Stevens, then president of the Writers Division] called me some weeks ago, he asked me to talk about the development of the Monitor. When I looked at the agenda, it said, "Writing in the NFB." As I thought about it, there isn't much difference.
I'm minded of the time my husband was teaching. He taught in the speech department at the time, but he always taught Public Law, no matter where the course was located. The students asked him if he could teach an extracurricular course in labor law. He had to have it approved by the curriculum committee, so he put in for a course called "Judicial Rhetoric." They got their course in labor law. There are always ways to do these things.
Without carbon paper the NFB would never have made it. Without the telephone we wouldn't have arrived either. The big mistake we made with the Monitor, as with all magazines, was not to have acquired stock in the paper company and the telephone system in the beginning. Our first means of wide communication was the U.S. Post Office, which carried the flow of letters and all those carbon copies because at the beginning typewriters and carbon paper were all we had to communicate with. There weren't too many typewriters that could make more than five copies, so that meant a lot of repetition.
The letters went back and forth, and looking back at some of those carbons is wonderful, because my husband would say, "Can you read it? Mail it. Never mind corrections." During 1940-41 we sent lots of letters to interested persons. There were statements to Congress and legislative bodies about bills we wished introduced or seeking assistance to have them adopted. There were legislative proposals and analyses, legislative summaries, and of course a convention report. But one couldn't produce more than five carbons on the Royal.
On May 17, 1941, the NFB purchased its first A.B. Dick mimeograph, used, of course. We paid the sum of $64.97. We also purchased many reams of paper, stencils, and ink. The model was hand-operated. Motors came later. But I'll have to put in a little aside here. At that time we lived in Chicago, in a one-room apartment with a Murphy bed. Pretty soon the couch had to be moved into the space where the Murphy bed folded out because the walls were stacked with reams of paper. We also had a card table on which we did our collating. The summer heat in an unairconditioned 1941 apartment was ferocious. Friends--whoever came in was given a towel to drape around his head or neck—were handed a stack of sheets to collate, to say nothing of stuffing. We rarely had enough postage, but we managed.
In 1942 we produced forty-one items containing 103 pages. Mind you, my husband was teaching a full schedule at the Law School in Chicago at the time. In 1949 it was approximately 148. By 1955 it was forty-five bulletins produced in both Braille and print. One year I recall we sent out sixty-four bulletins, using that mimeograph, about every subject connected with the organization.
The need for additional means of getting out the word was obvious. Dr. Perry came to our rescue. In a letter dated April 12, 1941, Dr. Perry wrote in part, "The American Brotherhood for the Blind board is still meditating on my proposition that it publish a small, special magazine to be called `Legislation for the Blind.' I'm trying to devote a few pages in each issue of the All-Story Magazine to legislation just to keep up the interest."
The members who received print copies of the river of bulletins were asking for them in Braille. Our treasury was not up to having them produced by the professional houses, but someone had seen an English machine that would fit in the office, and by a magic vacuuming process it would produce Braille on plastic sheets from a paper master. Machines of almost any kind in publishing are not cheap. We needed to raise funds.
At the 1954 convention the very best barker and auctioneer, straight out of Tennessee, none other than Kenneth Jernigan, took over the podium and raised $1,095 in pledges, which in 1954 was a huge sum of money. The Brailler was delivered in good time and was promptly put to work. In fact, it produced Braille so sharp that it became painful to read because of the drag produced by static build-up on one's fingers. So we tried spraying the sheets with silicone. You can imagine what this did to collating. In addition, every time the frame came down on the sheet and the vacuum-forming unit began to run, one could watch the electricity register sprint around the meter. It was 1500 volts at a time, I guess, and it really spun the needle.
The All-Story Magazine, meanwhile, was doing what it could to keep Braille readers informed of current activities, especially on the legislative front. At the 1953 convention Resolution 3-15 resolved that each of the affiliates establish a policy of making a regular yearly contribution for the support of the All -Story Magazine and suggested the sum of $200 as a proper goal. In 1955 a resolution was adopted which authorized the Federation fundraiser to raise funds for the American Brotherhood for the purpose of enlarging the All-Story Braille Magazine to publish it monthly, to enlarge and improve the legislative section, to make it more national, and to employ a full-time editor.
In July 1957 came the announcement that the All-Story Magazine had a new name and a new editor. The Braille Monitor was on the scene. Why "Monitor"? The explanation went thus: "According to the dictionary a monitor is a person who advises, warns, and cautions. A Braille monitor is one who carries on that function for the blind. This is the pledge of the editors of this magazine," they wrote. As I recall, the Braille edition was published for a few years by APH and was shifted to Clovernook (because they offered us a much better price), where it remained until I retired.
Our civil war brought drastic changes. I keep thinking somehow of sibling rivalries, which started as you know with Cain and Abel and have come down to us since then. Somehow the civil war took me back to that, but it did bring us a lot of changes. The NFB lost its fundraisers and its ability to continue publication of the Monitor. In 1961 the American Brotherhood again came to the rescue. Under its aegis a new name, the Blind American, and a new editor, Floyd Matson, filled the gap. By 1964 the NFB had recovered sufficiently to resume publishing the Braille Monitor in inkprint and in Braille. It again became a monthly. During the interim the ABB had run short of funds, and the publication had been reduced to a quarterly. In 1964 Dr. tenBroek became acting editor, and Floyd Matson was retained as assistant editor. This arrangement held until Dr. tenBroek's death in 1968.
In May 1968 Dr. Jernigan appointed Perry Sunquist as editor of the Monitor and me as assistant editor. We three had a mostly harmonious relationship. When Perry complained that too many of his selections were being vetoed, Dr. Jernigan wrote to him to the effect that, if Perry had his way, the Monitor would consist of personal interest stories; that, if Dr. Jernigan had his way, the articles would all be urging us on to action; and that, if I had my way, the articles would all be dull legal analyses; but that, by mixing the three, a pretty good product resulted.
When Perry and I retired at the end of 1976, Don McConnell became editor. The more recent history does not need rehearsing here. The editors are doing such a splendid job that we can hope that their labors in the Federation vineyards continue to yield such a vintage product.
Changes in production came along with growth. The old hand-run mimeograph had acquired a motor along about 1950. That is also the [time] that the NFB acquired its first electric typewriter, a standard IBM. We were still sending our strings of carbons, and that machine doubled the output. A copy machine was still in the offing. The mimeograph could not keep up with the needs of the NFB for production. The NFB invested in its first A.B. Dick Press. The press printed from plates, so the NFB acquired a Xerox plate maker, state-of-the-art when it was purchased. It consisted of three pieces: a huge special camera, an electrostatic inker, and an oven. The plate was put in a rocker and rotated so that the ink powder would adhere to the photo and then put into the oven, which annealed the ink to the plate. We used that press for a number of years. One could also make copies of a sort this way.
In 1955 the NFB traded the 1950 IBM for three IBM Executives (machines, that is). The improvement in the appearance of the Monitor was remarkable. The proportional spacing meant more words to the page with consequent savings in paper. With an ever-increasing workload, having three meant that more than one typist could work on a manuscript at one time. Meanwhile we had given up hand collating from racks and gone to an A.B. Dick rotary. It was still hand-work, but much faster, and it eliminated all the walking. We used to have hand racks scattered around several long tables, and people marched and marched and marched around, collating the Monitor. Also, in the early days any of my friends who came in usually brought her children along, so, while we chatted, we collated. Nobody wasted any time.
In 1968 the NFB entered the computer age and acquired a couple of IBM MDSTs. Eventually we had four of them, along with the proper backup equipment. In the early 70s, the publication office was updated by a larger press, a fantastic Belgian Collator, and a great plate-maker. In time, the workload grew too large to keep in-house, and the Monitor had to go commercial. The mailing list went through its growing pains too, from paper labels to stencils and then an IBM card reader and keypunching to full computer runs. Each step was accompanied by its own problems, and we all learned. It did take us awhile to teach the computer people to drop out our lists in fifty ways and to adjust to the fact that blind people must be the most mobile group in the population.
The office was in the ideal neighborhood to find the kind of personnel we needed. Students who needed part-time work were abundant. Graduate students who needed work or a break from studies were at hand. Secretaries usually came from the ranks of wives whose husbands were in graduate school. But the minor genius, our printer for thirteen years, we stole from the Department of Agriculture. The academic and intellectual levels were high. A university town has obvious advantages.
Communication is the lifeblood of any organization. The spark that gives it life is usually located in the president's office. The NFB had chapters, states, and the national office, and the heart that keeps everything moving and keeps information circulating is the publications office. Without communication, however crude and simple, the organization would wither away. We are all familiar with the tremendous influence the Monitor has, not only in the lives of our members, but throughout the professional and legislative organizations of those who deal with problems of the blind. State publications serve much the same role in their territories. The local newsletter should play a more significant part on the personal level. This is what brings a sense of personal belonging. The names mentioned in local or affiliate newsletters are those of neighbors and acquaintances and of course fellow members. Belonging is a very important and strong concept in all our lives. Perhaps the only name on the chapter newsletter is the person to whom it is addressed. But that's pretty important. We receive a newsletter because we are a member. We belong.
I wish the Writers Division could help the correspondence committee [now the newsletter publications committee] in accentuating the importance of the chapter newsletter. In Sacramento we have a monthly newsletter. It's one large-print sheet. It tells people how to get to the meeting place, which buses to take, that kind of thing. It tells what activities are going on, tells if there is going to be a national or a state convention, and ends up with trivia. We do get some flak about trivia from people who think we shouldn't waste paper doing it, but it has a purpose: to teach new members something about the history. You know what they say about history. If you don't know it, you're condemned to repeat it.
by Kevin Simpson
From the Editor: Braille Monitor readers will remember the story that we printed in November 2009 about Ethan Johnston's harrowing childhood in Ethiopia and his liberating escape to the United States. The following article, reprinted from the October 22, 2009, edition of the Denver Post, brings the rest of this story up to date. Of course the final chapters in Mr. Johnston's life have yet to be written, but you can be sure that the continued influence of the National Federation of the Blind will help to shape what promises to be a bright future. Here is the second segment of this two-part series from the Denver Post:
A jubilant Esubalew Johnston, surrounded by family and villagers in Ethiopia, throws his hand in the air. But shortly after his return to the U.S., he felt overwhelmed by the pressure to succeed and help his family. After sixteen years, the young man returned to a vaguely familiar place whose features he now absorbed almost entirely by sound and smell. In the teeming bustle of Addis Ababa, capital city of Ethiopia, his traveling companions filled in the visual gaps. Esubalew "Ethan" Johnston, blinded as a child by kidnappers who wanted to make him a more pathetic beggar, returned this past summer at age twenty-two to his native land—and ultimately to the remote village where his mother had long feared him dead.
In Addis Ababa, Esubalew (is-soo-BAH-low) brushed up against the child beggars who, years ago, could have been him. "When blind people would come to beg at our taxi, I was like, 'Wow, I used to be that person,'" he said. "For me to be giving them money, after being in their position years ago, was hard to believe."
Esubalew's journey from six-year-old beggar to a third-year student at the University of Colorado yearning to reconnect with his Ethiopian roots was chronicled last spring in the Denver Post. This summer, Esubalew finally made the trip. He flew from Colorado to Addis Ababa, then north to Gonder. Hours of driving—much of it over gravel roads and recently harvested farm fields—took him within a mile or so of his native village, Inesa. From there he and his travel companions proceeded on foot.
Children appeared seemingly out of nowhere and merged with Esubalew and his entourage. Karla Reerslev, who arranged the trip in conjunction with her nonprofit World of Good Inc., looked into the distance. Atop a hill were massed perhaps two hundred or three hundred people. That's when she realized. Despite spotty communication in advance of Esubalew's journey, they'd known he was coming--hugs, kisses, and tears.
The villagers swarmed down the hill, led by a man blowing a brass horn, while others clapped. For Esubalew, who can make out only faint contrasts of light and dark, the scene seemed almost dreamlike.
Esubalew Johnston was kidnapped and blinded at age six, left on the street to beg, then adopted by a U.S. family.
He remembers noise, singing, and laughing, "like a migration of birds." He could discern the figure of a woman making her way through the crowd, "weaving in and out, like a running back trying to find her way to the end zone." She leaped and pulled him down to her level, where she hugged him, kissed him, and cried. It was his mother, Yitashu.
"I cried, too, but it was happy tears," Esubalew said. "She was just bawling—all those sixteen years thinking I'd been dead. She said that every funeral she went to, she cried harder, for me."
Villagers slaughtered goats and pulled out Ethiopian beer. They danced and partied for three days as Esubalew met or became reacquainted with relatives. "I forgot the culture," Esubalew said. Yitashu asked whether he remembered what she looked like. He didn't, not really, but he found her voice familiar. So she sang. And while Esubalew couldn't comprehend the words, he'd hear his name and realize she was singing about him as other relatives and villagers danced around him. "I never thought it would be that big of a crowd or excitement," he said. "I forgot the culture, basically."
During one visit to an uncle's house, Esubalew's relatives asked him to recount the saga of how he'd landed in America after leaving Inesa. Zach Herries, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who captured the scene, found it one of the most memorable of the trip. "I guess they'd never heard the complete story of his history, so when he told them his version of the story, it was pretty emotional," Herries said. "It was really hard for them."
Esubalew began with the day he left the village with the men who would take him to Addis Ababa. When he got to the part where they blinded him, his relatives wanted to hear no more. Yitashu had thought her son's blindness resulted from an accident while playing with his sister. "Stop, stop," they said. "This is a terrible story."
Esubalew reassured them. "Wait," he said. "It's okay, we're getting to a good part, which is coming to America." He told them of his adoption by a family in Missouri, going to school, playing sports, and learning to adapt to his blindness. He told them of moving to Colorado and the happiness he'd found in America.
Their reunion lasted six days before Esubalew headed off to visit other places on behalf of Door of Hope, a nonprofit that aids the blind in the region. At one point, close to the time he was to leave, Esubalew asked his mother what he could do for her. Nothing, she told him. It was enough simply to be with him again. But a relative urged her to not hold back. So she told him she would like a house not so far from town, so Esubalew's half-brother, Tomtim, could easily walk to school. She also asked for some arable land and a milking cow. He could give her all this for about $1,200. He had some money and left it with a trusted friend to make the arrangements.
In the midst of the reunion, he realized once again how fortunate he'd been to be adopted into a life of opportunity, and he vowed to work harder to make the most of his good fortune. And yet, shortly after his return, the memory of his journey, coupled with the pressure he felt to succeed and help his family, overwhelmed him. He sank into depression. But just days ago, he spoke by telephone to the police inspector who'd helped find his family. He assured Esubalew that his mother was doing fine and that the purchase of a house and a cow was proceeding as planned.
The news settled Esubalew down. He has refocused on his education—he's seeking a communications degree—and envisions a future that includes radio work, motivational speaking, and opening some Ethiopian restaurants, including two in a native country he has only recently rediscovered. "But that," he said, "is a long ways away."
A Long Journey
Esubalew Johnston's journey to Ethiopia closed the loop on an improbable story of horror, serendipity, and reunion. His childhood ended abruptly around age six, when his mother allowed some men to take him from his remote home to the faraway capital, Addis Ababa—supposedly to attend school. But just days later, in a scene that echoed the movie Slumdog Millionaire, his captors held him down and blinded him with sticks and chemicals to make him a better beggar.
Workers at a school for the blind found him on the streets and rescued him. Ultimately an American family in Missouri adopted him and got him medical treatment that salvaged shadowy remnants of his vision. He came to Colorado to learn life skills at the Colorado Center for the Blind in Littleton.
Soon afterward, he enrolled at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Still, he wanted to reconnect to his past. Workers for an American nonprofit organization used their Ethiopian channels to locate his home village of Inesa. It wasn't easy to find. But Esubalew remembered that after the men had taken him from his mother's home, they'd stopped for the night in a town called Motta. Friends and contacts found a police inspector who lives in the region. He knew of Inesa and found Esubalew's mother.
by Lindsay Paul
From the Editor: Lindsay Paul, senior associate with Burson Marsteller Healthcare Practice, the public relations firm managing the release of the Intel Reader®, has asked us to print the following announcement. Here it is:
Intel recently announced the launch of the Intel Reader, a mobile handheld device designed to help people gain more freedom and independence, enjoy greater flexibility, and increase productivity by providing convenient and versatile access to a variety of printed materials.
The Intel Reader, which is about the size of a paperback book, converts printed text to digital text, and then reads it aloud to the user. Its unique design combines a high-resolution camera with the power of an Intel® Atom™ processor, allowing users to point, shoot, and listen to printed text. The Intel Reader will be available in the United States through select resellers, including CTL, Don Johnston Incorporated, GTSI, Howard Technology Solutions, and HumanWare.
When the Intel Reader is used together with the Intel® Portable Capture Station, large amounts of text, such as a chapter or an entire book, can be easily gathered for reading later. Users will have convenient and flexible access to a variety of printed materials, helping to increase their freedom and improve their productivity and efficiency at school, work, and home.
“The National Federation of the Blind is pleased that Intel has recognized the need for products that address the reading needs of people who are blind or have difficulty reading print for other reasons. It is encouraging that innovative companies continue to drive the advancement of reading technology, as this continued innovation will enhance access to the printed word for all Americans,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind.
The Intel Reader can store and play back a wide choice of content, including MP3, DAISY books, and even text transferred from a PC. It can also be used to generate audio versions of printed materials, such as MP3s that play on most digital music players or computers. Users can play back content with lifelike voices, selecting gender, pitch, and speed to suit their personal preferences.
“The Intel Digital Health Group’s expertise is in finding innovative technology solutions to improve quality of life,” said Louis Burns, vice president and general manager of Intel’s Digital Health Group. “We are proud to offer the Intel Reader as a tool for people who have trouble reading standard print so they can more easily access important information such as reading a job offer letter or even the menu at a restaurant." For more information about the Intel Reader, visit <www.reader.intel.com>.
by Gary Wunder
From the Editor: Almost everyone agrees that Intel's involvement in bringing its resources to the blindness field is a welcome addition, potentially enhancing our easy access to the printed word. Because we want to encourage continued innovation in access technology, we have included the Intel announcement about its new technology in this issue of the Braille Monitor.
Several technology-savvy members of the National Federation of the Blind have participated in early testing of the Intel Reader, and their initial assessment is that the Intel product may fall short of the contribution we want from such technology. Gary Wunder, secretary of the National Federation of the Blind, president of our Missouri affiliate, and a technology professional in his own right, has been an early tester for the Intel Reader. In correspondence he has forwarded to Intel and HumanWare, Gary has acknowledged the potential usefulness of this device in the lives of blind people while pointing out several fundamental shortcomings that he believes must be resolved before the Intel Reader will be equipped to take its place with the best access technology on the market. We reprint below excerpts from Gary's communications with Intel and HumanWare. These reflections are by no means complete or formal reviews of the product, but they do signal concern about the ability of the Intel Reader to perform competitively at its current stage of development. The first piece was sent to officials at Intel, and the second was sent to staff at HumanWare. Some of Gary's observations in the messages are duplicative, but each has enough unique perspective for us to reprint them both. Here is what he says:
Memo to Intel
For me print-to-speech technology has opened many doors, but the most important has been to the public library and books. I'm glad to read an incoming letter, a work memo, or an agenda prepared too late to come to me in an accessible form, but books, because of their length, are not conveniently or economically handled by the human readers I employ or the pocket-size reader I carry.
My enthusiasm for the Intel Reader, which I will refer to as “reader,” was that it could shoot a book faster than I could scan it and it seemed to offer the possibility of handling everything from the smallest paperback to the largest textbook. This is not so, of course, for the typical eight-and-a-half-by-eleven-inch flatbed scanner.
The bottom line for measuring the success of any print-to-speech system is accuracy. Especially is this true for books. I cannot submit to Bookshare a book of lesser quality than I could deliver with a scanner and justify my submission by saying it took me less time to prepare. The same is true of books provided to students whether in the public schools or by disability offices in colleges and universities. The University of Missouri scans its textbooks by removing the book's binding, running the pages through a high-speed scanner and a commercial OCR package, and then rebinding or discarding the book. Improved speed over this approach cannot be achieved by the reader, and in any event students will grade the performance of the service provider based on the material and not how long it took the provider to prepare it.
Currently the reader market for the blind consists of pocket-sized machines to PC-based scanner systems. Some of us who are fortunate enough to have two systems use our scanners for books or large documents and our portable readers for on-the-go reading. For this reader to succeed in the group having two devices, it must perform as well as the scanner-PC systems or become small enough to fit in a shirt pocket and provide multiple functions as now happens with the knfbReader, which is also a cell phone providing access to voice, text messaging, and email. If the reader is excellent, it may capture the market and reduce significantly the demand for both of the systems mentioned above. For wonderful accuracy and speed, I might sacrifice the convenience of my shirt pocket. If the unit is as accurate as my scanner and PC system, I might well regain some of my physical desktop and reduce the maintenance cost I pay for all of it.
I initially looked at this machine in the same way many families look at motor vehicles. There are days when we want a fancy sports car for fun and to show off to our friends, and there are days when we want a truck to bring home the new furniture we've purchased. If we can't afford both, we settle for something in between--the family car, which may be a station wagon, a minivan, or a SUV. It will be classy enough to take into areas where trucks are not allowed and functional enough that we can use it for limited hauling. The most important function it will serve is daily getting us to and from work and taking our family where we need to go. Beyond this somewhat flawed analogy, we still get back to the question of what place the reader has in the market. If this isn't the smallest and isn't the most accurate, it may prove to be too big to displace the cell-phone reader and too slow and inaccurate to replace desktop systems.
In my week of work with it, it cannot best the accuracy of desktop systems and does no better than the knfbReader where accuracy is concerned. The knfbReader is quicker to tell me whether I captured all of the text in my shot and faster to tell me if a page is blank--a matter of tremendous significance to a blind person who may have the page wrong side up. With the Intel Reader I can shoot faster, but, in delivering the first and subsequent pages of information, it is slower than both.
It is important to differentiate between the feedback you will get from experienced users who have seen and heavily used current technology versus what you will get from someone who has never had the pleasure of a machine reading any printed document to him. To the person with no reader experience, anything which causes what appears to be a blank piece of paper to speak is miraculous. I observed this in watching testers of the knfbReader, who confidently asserted that this was the fastest, most accurate reading machine ever made for the blind. This was indeed their strongly held opinion, but it was not an informed opinion, and knowledgeable purchasers of blindness technology will in the end make up their minds about the relative merits of products based primarily on accuracy.
Given this machine's speed of image acquisition, it could be a major player if recognition were improved. If accuracy cannot be made to exceed the cell phone devices and match the scanner PC systems, it is hard for me to see a market. There is a lot of merit in the idea of a portable device for on-the-go reading and a docking station for large document reading. The question is whether this technology can marry the advantages of both by delivering a quality audio presentation from print.
I am honored to have been a part of the group chosen to test this machine, and, while I would not purchase it at this point, there are many things I admire about it, and I hope enough development occurs that it will live up to the potential which seems to exist in a quality capture station, a good processor, and all of the thought which has gone into a well-designed unit.
Memo to HumanWare
This unit is exciting because it employs the concept of a portable reader that can be made into a real workhorse when paired with the capture station. It is comfortable to hold, its buttons are very discernible, and the layout of the unit is logical and easy to understand. Its battery life is good, and its recharge time quite acceptable. Capturing images is easy using it as a handheld unit and most especially using the capture station. Regardless of how unscientific or provable the term, the machine is just cool.
All of this being true, the bottom line for me is that, in its current stage of development, this reader fills no niche in my life. My needs focus on reading the mail; reading work documents handed out too late to be scanned before meetings; and, my true joy, going to the library to get books I would not otherwise be able to read. This unit cannot replace the reading device I carry in my pocket. It is faster to shoot multiple pages but not faster to recognize or read the captured material. Although its camera and processor should make it more accurate than my knfbReader, I do not find it so. The reader cannot replace the K1000 on my desk because it is far less accurate. When it comes to books, accuracy is far more important than is the speed in acquiring an image. With the utmost respect and absolutely no sarcasm intended, I have to say that, even if this unit were given as a reward for testing, in good conscience I'd have to send it back because I don't know where I'd use it.
None of what I've said has anything to do with my hope for what the reader can become, my appreciation for the design concept of a portable unit coupled with a text-capture station, and the power and flexibility of the processor being used. Neither does it mean I am unwilling to help in ongoing testing so that the resulting unit is so fast and accurate that it is worth the extra size to carry around, and its speed of image acquisition and accuracy let me free up some of my physical desktop and avoid the yearly maintenance cost of updating other print-to-speech programs.
I see all kinds of potential, but most of it at this point is theoretical. This unit simply is not comparable to other commercially available OCR products both in and outside the blindness field, and I hope Intel and HumanWare realize that blind people with existing technology will not replace or supplement what they have with this unit. Further, blind people who have not yet enjoyed the blessing of turning print into the spoken word deserve much better recognition than you can offer here.
Intel must first bring better OCR to the product. When taking a shot, blind people should know rather quickly whether the page appears to be blank, whether it appears text is cut off, and what part of the page is missing. If possible, the engine should provide an assessment of the confidence level the engine has assigned to the page. The latter suggestion may be beyond the capability of the processor, but certainly the first two are not. Optionally the orientation of the page should also be announced because sometimes I'm trying to arrange papers for the review of others, and they demand more from me than sheets that are upside down.
It would be desirable if the unit could shoot pages while reading previously processed material. Stated differently, I'd like to be listening to a book while I continue to photograph it. If processor speed will not allow for this parallel activity, the unit should at least provide the feedback about each page listed above.
As important as these features are to the unit, the central issue is still accuracy, and, unless we have it, all the bells and whistles I might suggest still won't sell or serve the competitive blind person who wants and needs to read print. The last sentence is the most important one I wish to convey in this note. I just talked with a staff member at Intel who has looked at my images and resulting text and says she believes the reader is being used properly and the quality is simply what the unit, in conjunction with the capture station, can now produce.
Last, and certainly most subjective, is the issue of the text-to-speech being used. My perspective is that there are some very responsive engines such as Eloquence, DoubleTalk, and Keynote Gold which no one would mistake for human speech but which, to the trained ear, become quite comfortable and provide rapid and very understandable output. At the other end of the spectrum are some very human sounding text-to-speech programs which aren't nearly as fast or responsive but are preferable for the reading of material intended primarily for enjoyment. My take on the Intel Reader is that its speech falls somewhere in the middle, but this is not a compromise which serves anyone. The current speech software has the disadvantage that it does not really sound human, nor is it rapid or responsive. It represents an attempt to provide more than the robotic speech of the synthetic speech most of us use on personal computers but falls far short of speech offerings from ScanSoft, AT&T, Neo-Speech, or L and H. I understand the appeal in marketing for a system which does not sound like a machine, but I think having an option which is fast and responsive will attract serious users of text-to-speech technology. Continuing to search for something more human-sounding will also be helpful if the processor will allow for it; it will add not only to initial appeal but to reading for enjoyment which this unit may eventually provide.
I know I could have returned my machine without a response, but I'd like to see this machine mature and earn a place in the homes and workplaces of blind people. Our reading needs are not so well met that there is no place for another unit, but any new offering should at least meet and preferably exceed what is currently available. If the unit could do what it has the potential to do, the reader is something I'd be a fool to pass up. I believe HumanWare and Intel can make this machine become something really useful to blind people, and I stand ready to help with future testing if this is desired.
by Patti Chang
From the Editor: Patti Chang is senior corporation counsel for the city of Chicago, Illinois. She is also president of the National Federation of the Blind of Illinois and a member of the NFB national board of directors. Patti offered the following remarks during her presentation to the delegates at the 2009 NFB national convention on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 8. While unique to her life experience, her reflections tell a story familiar to many blind people. Here is what she said:
The old adage said, “One step forward and two steps back.” I want to talk to you about one step back and two steps forward instead. I know you are all expecting that I will share war stories about the infamous state of Illinois and the equally well-reputed city of Chicago. I have a few of those but would just as soon not perpetuate that particular myth. My state and city get enough bad press as it is. Instead I want to speak to you about something a little more personal that most of us can relate to in our everyday lives. I focus on blindness and its impact on representing the City of Chicago.
I have been with the city for more than twenty years. The first ten years I worked as an assistant corporation counsel. I started in traffic court, and I moved to housing court. In 1998 I was promoted to the position of senior assistant corporation counsel and assigned to supervise the administrative law unit. My unit handles housing issues before Chicago's Department of Administrative Hearings. If you’ve been listening this week, you would guess that on my job I use adaptive techniques. I travel to court and to work using a cane. I take notes with Braille. I access handwritten material with a reader. My screen-reading software is JAWS. These are essential tools. They allow me to handle cases and supervise others competently.
Beyond these tools how do I perform as a blind attorney? Most of the time blindness is not an issue. I prosecute housing court cases which allege that building owners have violated the building fire or zoning codes of the city of Chicago, and I supervise others who do the same. I serve on committees at work and provide advice and counsel to client departments. At any given time I am supervising from six to ten law clerks and from four to six attorneys. Most of them are new graduates from law schools and have been attorneys for fewer than three years. I usually don’t think about the use of adaptive techniques. When asking a question, my employees will often read some text to give a context. If they want to know if an upright that is pulling away from a building poses a danger, they read the text of the violation and ask their question. Neither of us thinks about how we’re doing it; we simply get the job done in whatever manner works.
If I stop and think about it, however, I realize that we have come a long way when one of us can be promoted by sighted people to supervise sighted people. We have come a long way when any of us has the authority to work to protect the public health, safety, and welfare. I make decisions every day that can affect people’s livelihoods, quality of life, and safety. Some of our cases involve life and death issues. Hence I marvel at our two steps forward. We can feel good about how far we have come. We thank those who have paved the way for us. I have heard that in one of his teaching positions Dr. tenBroek was not paid. He had to prove himself to the university without pay to earn a position. I have never had to do that. We as blind people took two steps forward.
My employer requires attorneys occasionally to inspect properties. Now we don’t prosecute the best properties in the city of Chicago. We prosecute property owners who own problematic properties. So you can imagine that I have walked a few bad porches. I have explored four-story buildings under construction. Many of them have no ductwork yet and boast numerous unprotected shafts. Imagine a property with four feet of sewage in the basement. Imagine a roach nest falling on your head. I can recall both vividly. I marvel that my boss never thought twice about sending me out on these inspections. I never heard that insurance might be a problem or that I might get hurt—two big steps forward, right?
Then consider my shock when the same boss informed me that in a fire or a fire drill, I was to wait for a fire marshal to escort me out of my office and down the stairs. I explained to no avail that I had children. I planned to get out like everyone else so I could be there for them. My boss remained unconvinced when the contradiction between sending me out on inspections and expecting me to wait was pointed out. I even offered to assist her in smoke and fire. After all, I would be better equipped to maneuver, since she was not used to maneuvering without her vision. I finally ended this argument by quoting the ADA and electing to opt out of the offered accommodation. She didn’t like it, but she had to live with it. [applause]
This situation still puzzles me. I have inspected terrible buildings in bad neighborhoods while quite pregnant. How can you send me out to climb unfinished buildings, which sometimes have no outer walls and have openings directly to the outer air, and not expect me to travel down stairs in my own place of employment? Two steps back? And what do you do? You don’t work alone. We keep working together. We keep changing attitudes. We join the National Federation of the Blind, which allows us to speak in tandem on these issues. [applause] We take two steps forward as the blind speaking for ourselves.
Then we experience the occasional punch to the solar plexus. I work predominantly in the area of administrative law. The Illinois State Bar Association has section councils upon which lawyers sit who are experts in their field. One of those is the administrative law section counsel of the Illinois State Bar Association. Since I work in such a specific area of law, I have been able to develop expertise, and I am a recognized expert in municipal administrative law in Illinois. In the 1990s I volunteered for several years to serve on the administrative law section council. Generally, when someone with expertise volunteers, they will be appointed. Somehow my appointment letter never came. I knew there were openings on the section council. The chair of that section council at the time and I had often fought in court. I knew her fairly well. She and I visited the president of the Illinois State Bar Association and asked him face to face why I could not gain an appointment. No answer was forthcoming, but despite the lack of an answer my appointment letter came shortly thereafter.
After being appointed, I diligently wrote articles, attended meetings, served on committees, and the like so that I could prove that the appointment had been appropriate. All of us are measured by one of us. I want to make it easier for the next blind attorney, just like Dr. Maurer, Dr. tenBroek, and others have paved a path for me and passed the torch to my generation.
Recently a different president of the Illinois State Bar Association appointed me to serve as secretary of the administrative law section council. Secretaries serve for one year. They are automatically promoted to the position of vice chair the next year and chair of the section council the year after that. I was pleased the Illinois State Bar Association, which had overlooked me I think because of blindness, now wanted me to chair a section council. [applause] Two steps forward, right?
We teach continuing legal education courses as part of our duties. In May we traveled to Springfield to teach a continuing legal education course. I was assigned to address the topic of Chicago’s Department of Administrative Hearings. Ten minutes into my presentation I hear, “Ma'am, Ma'am, do you know that you are only four inches from the edge of that platform?” What a punch, what a punch. This man could not see past my cane enough to listen to me, even when he has paid for the privilege. I had followed Dr. Jernigan’s practice of checking out the room ahead of time. I responded, “You don’t know this, but I came in and examined the room ahead of time, but I don’t mind making sighted folks a little nervous.” [laughter] I moved my foot four inches to the exact edge of the platform. I finished addressing this helpful gentleman by telling him that I would be more than happy to discuss blindness with him at the end of the presentation if he wished to stay. One step back? It's disappointing that someone could have watched me mount the stairs to a platform, read from a BrailleNote, and still fail to comprehend that I might have a clue about where I am in space.
Now he meant well; he really did mean well, but his misplaced assistance was no easier to swallow. I still felt as if I had been punched. I still felt that I had been sucker punched. On the other hand, maybe this was two steps forward too.
Bill Price is another attorney who serves on the Section Council. I had failed to break Bill of the habit of telling me of every step, every turn, and every rug, every time we walked anywhere together. Our discussion of the continuing legal education program allowed me to talk to Bill about it without his being defensive. He is now telling me about only every other turn and every other rug. [laughter] I’ll take my two steps forward where I can get them.
At this point I have probably supervised two hundred to two hundred and fifty new attorneys in the state of Illinois. All of them have seen a blind person as other than dependent and helpless. To put it bluntly, they have seen one of us in a position of authority with the power to affect their careers. I hope that I have evinced competency, but I hope even more that now at least some of them are willing to hire blind applicants. [applause] If so, we have collectively taken two steps forward.
Working to make the Kindle accessible without special registration or higher fees takes us forward into the mainstream of life. Our silent cars legislation moves us forward. The Braille campaign increases the literacy of our own. Better education leads to more opportunities to stride out and take those forward steps. We will continue to work for full and equal access to all aspects of life. We will not move forward with each and every step we take, but, whenever we join together, we are a force to be reckoned with. We take two steps forward more often than we step back. As a collective voice we will be heard, and we will keep the momentum moving in the right direction. Let us continue marching forward and taking those steps as the largest group of the organized blind in the world.
by Linda Zani
From the Editor: This article is unapologetically aimed at women, though men can certainly gain valuable information by reading it. Linda Zani is a member of the NFB of New Jersey. She serves on the board of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children of New Jersey. She has designed and made her own clothes and a line of jewelry called Sparkle Brilliant. Linda’s daughter Marisa is multiply disabled and lives with her parents. Last year Linda conducted a fashion workshop at the New Jersey convention. It was very popular, so she decided to put some of her useful tips down on paper. The following article is the result. This is what she says:
As a blind person you will have much more success in becoming a style and fashion icon than a sighted person. Oh yes, you heard me correctly. Vision can be misleading and in personal style just plain confusing. You see, we sighted people copy the fashion sense of those we admire, and this can really get us into trouble. Just ask one of us and we will give you a litany of fashion disasters, from dressing like Madonna to copying that popular girl in class who looked absolutely nothing like us to begin with. Chances are you look different from other members of your family, your friends, your fellow workers, or your classmates, and one of them wishes she looked like you. Trust me, having vision causes us to make lots of errors when we aspire to have the image of someone else instead of accepting and celebrating the physical gifts we already have.
Discovering and embracing your assets is the cornerstone of your unique style and image and will give you great self-confidence to become the best you can be. Being assured in your personal style helps others see you as smart, self-disciplined, a good decision maker, and someone who pays great attention to detail. Hmmm, sounds like someone who has a great social life and an excellent career—a real go-getter. As you become more comfortable in your skin, your self-confidence increases, putting others at ease, leading to better personal relationships. Your decision-making and attention to detail will help you land that job or promotion. Cultivating your own personal style is a discipline that will benefit you in all areas of your life.
In this article you will learn:
Ready? Come along with me for a style ride to looking good without looking.
Linda Zani Thomas is the mother of Marisa, a multiply disabled diva who rocks her signature color “butter yellow” as often as she can. Linda would love to hear stories of your personal style journey and will answer your questions at <[email protected]> or at (201) 314-8045.
Step 1: Find Your Natural Shape
For this all-important first step, you will need a measuring tape and a sighted person to read it or an adapted tape measure (tactile tape measure available at the NFB Independence Market, <nfb.org>, or at independentliving.com). Measure yourself in your underwear.
You will also need a small notebook and scotch tape for this and the other steps. This notebook will become your personal stylebook. Jot these numbers down in your stylebook so you will have them to show the salespeople when you go shopping.
You will need to record five basic measurements:
Now for the fun part—determining your body shape and figure type. There are five basic body shapes:
Hourglass: Bust and hip measurements are about the same, with waist at least 25 percent smaller. This shape is the most balanced figure type. Personal style goal: not to throw your look out of balance.
Linear: Bust, waist, and hips are all about the same measurement. Women with this body shape tend to be athletic looking or thin. Personal style goal: to add the illusion of curves.
Upper Curvy: Shoulders or bust is the widest part of the body. Personal style goal: to balance the upper and lower figure proportions by minimizing the upper figure or maximizing the lower figure.
Middle Curvy: Bust and waist are about the same measurement and are much larger than the hips, or waist is the largest measurement. Personal style goal: to minimize the waist and balance the upper and lower figure proportions.
Lower Curvy: Hips are the widest part of the body. Personal style goal: to balance the upper and lower figure proportions by minimizing the lower figure and maximizing the upper figure.
Step 2: Determine Your Clothing Size
Now that you know your measurements, you can determine your clothing size. Note—you may be two different sizes, one on top and another on the bottom. What follows are typical American sizing charts to help you get started:
Step 3: Choose the Right Silhouettes for Your Shape
Now for the fun part—choosing garments that give you the right silhouette to balance your figure or, for hourglass-shaped women, to keep you in balance. Here are some basic do’s and don’ts:
Hourglass: Fitted clothing looks great on you. Floaty tops are fine, but make sure they are fitted to the small of your back to emphasize your waist. Wear flat-front pants and skirts to keep a smooth line. Color trick: dark bottoms and lighter colored tops. Cropped tops, boxy miniskirts, short pleated skirts, crewnecks, dropped waistline, or empire waistline dresses are probably not going to work for you.
Linear: Create curves with floaty, ruffled tops. Shoulder pads work on you, as do jackets that cinch the waist and flare at the hip. V-neck and scoop-neck tops work well on you. So do belted looks. Your goal is to emphasize your waist in order to create a middle curve. Boxy, straight tops and dresses and fitted, spare tops are probably not best on you.
Upper Curvy: Your tops should contain minimal details; tunics look great on you. One-button jackets, long dusters and swing coat styles work well on you. Fit and flare skirts will work for you, as will wearing dark colors on top and brights or prints on the bottom. Lightly fitted sheath dresses look beautiful on you. Avoid pencil skirts or tops that are too fitted or tight.
Middle Curvy: Wear tops that skim the body and do not tuck them in. One-button jackets that reach your hip are a good choice, as are tops with U-, V-, or scoop necks. You will find belts difficult to wear. Try wearing light colors on top with darker colors on the bottom or monochromatic dressing (all shades in one color family). A-line, empire-fitted sheath dresses work well for you, as do flat-front, bias-cut skirts.
Lower Curvy: Balance your figure with boatnecks and cap sleeves—bell or flared sleeves are probably not best for you because they add volume when your hands are by your hips. Jackets and tunics should cover your derriere—shoulder pads are okay as are lightly fitted shirts. Boxy, double-breasted, or bolero jackets will probably not work on you. Tight tops with no structure will throw your figure out of balance—especially short tops. Flat-front, flared-leg pants are a good choice for you, as are A-line and wrap dresses. Avoid tops and dresses with empire waists. Try light colors on top, dark on bottom.
Experiment with what looks best on you. Then cut out and tape your do’s and don’ts sheet in your stylebook to help you find your best fashion styles quickly when you’re shopping. Most large departments stores like Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, and Nordstrom have personal shoppers who will work with you within your budget at no charge—and they mayoffer free alterations, including hems, on regular-price items.
Step 4: Choose the Perfect Outfit for Each Occasion
What styles say about you:
Before you attend your next meeting, go to a job interview, or head out with friends or a date, take a moment to consider what you want the outcome to be. How do you want to be perceived? How do you want to be remembered? Then dress accordingly. My own tip is that, if the thought even enters your mind while you are getting ready that maybe you should wear something else, listen to the thought. Change your outfit.
Control the message
When you feel confident and dressed right for the occasion, you control your message even before you open your mouth to speak. There is much truth in the old saying that you only have one chance to make a good first impression. The sighted make a judgment call on vision alone right from the get-go. The fact that a visually impaired person can nail that first perception with excellent wardrobe choices will be impressive!
Your choice of color can also bolster your image: experts suggest wearing charcoal gray or dark blue for a job interview, red to stand out when taking a leadership role or speaking in public, baby pink to be irresistible on a date, and ivory to project a feeling of serenity when hosting an event. For expert fashion advice read The Look by designer Randolph Duke. Not sure what to wear? Contact me, and I’ll help you decide. It will be my pleasure to be your personal style consultant: <[email protected]>.
Step 5: Finding Your Best Color Palette
Choosing the right colors to wear is as important as finding the right silhouettes for your figure. You can’t have one without the other to look your best. Color choices say a lot about the wearer, and, just like clothing silhouettes and styles, they telegraph to anyone with sight a lot about who you are. Seeing colors creates a different emotional reaction and assumptions in the viewer. It’s important not only to wear the colors that are most flattering but also to wear colors appropriate to the message you want to convey about yourself. Here is a list of colors and the emotions they elicit:
Red—excitement, confidence. Red draws attention to itself and stands out. If red were a scent, it would be a blooming rose or cinnamon. If it were a sound, it would be Pavarotti holding the final note of “Nessun Dorma.”
Yellow—happy, bright. Yellow also draws attention to itself. If yellow were a scent, it would be a lemon. If it were a sound, it would be Mariah Carey singing her highest note. Light yellow is a soft color and would taste like lemon custard.
Blue—serene, fresh, peaceful, spiritual. In its warmer tones, blue can be calming, and invigorating in its cooler tones. If blue were a scent, it would be the ocean. If blue were a sound, it would be rushing water.
Green—friendly, welcoming, relaxing, natural. If green were a scent, it would smell like mint or freshly mown grass. If you stand still in the woods in the summer and listen, that is the sound of green.
Purple—regal, sophisticated. If purple were a scent, it would be fragrant lilac. If purple were a sound, it would be a saxophone.
Orange—happy, welcoming. If orange were a scent, it would smell like an orange or an apricot. Orange feels like sunshine on your skin.
Light pink—gentle, feminine, soft. If light pink were a scent, it would be baby powder. It feels like a feather on your skin. Bright pink or rose is happy and feminine. It would taste like strawberry jam.
White—pure, heavenly, angelic, honest. If white were a scent, it would smell like clean sheets when they come out of the dryer. If white were a sound, it would be a breeze.
Ivory—warm, sophisticated. If ivory were a scent, it would be vanilla. If it were a flavor, it would be vanilla custard or dulce de leche.
Brown—warm, earthy, sophisticated. If brown were a scent or flavor, it would be warm chocolate cake. Brown sounds like James Earle Jones’s voice.
Black—serious, mysterious, intense. If black were a scent, it would be incense. Black feels like the night.
Gray—a sophisticated, elegant neutral. It conveys quiet confidence. Gray feels like a cashmere pillow or a fine mist on your skin.
Determining Which Shades Look Best on You
Each color has both warm and cooler versions or shades. Warm colors have a bit of yellow to them and work best on women with warmer skin tones. Cool colors have a bit of blue in them. To determine which ones look best on you, it is helpful to determine which category you are in, warm or cool.
Step 1: Hold two necklaces, one gold tone and the other silver tone against your face. If you cannot see your image in a mirror well enough to be sure, ask someone you trust which color is more flattering. If you look better in gold, your skin has a warm tone; if silver, your skin has a cool tone.
Step 2: Let’s break it down further. According to a great book called Life in Color by Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo, those with warm coloring can be divided into sun or earth groups; those with cool coloring are divided into moon and star groups. You can determine which of these groups you belong to by holding up two different colors to your face in natural light and choosing (or having someone whose taste and judgment you trust choose) which looks best. These colors correspond to Benjamin Moore paint swatch colors 2020-30 Sparkling Sun and 2169-30 Oriole for those with warm coloring, and 2061-60 Little Boy Blue and 2062-30 Blue Danube for those with cool coloring. You can get paint chips at any Benjamin Moore store to do this exercise. The book, Color Me Beautiful calls these groups winter, spring, summer and fall. Some salespeople may be familiar with those terms, so I have listed them below as well.
2020-30 Sparkling Sun: Sun/Summer
Suns look best in clear tropical colors with a yellow base such as saffron, coral, and apple green.
2169-30 Oriole: Earth/Fall
Earths look best in rich, deep hues with a yellow base like berry, moss, chocolate, and deep teal.
2061-60 Little Boy Blue: Moon/Spring
Moons look best in light, clear blue-based colors such as strawberry, sky blue, lavender, and pink.
2062-30 Blue Danube: Star/Winter
Stars look best in rich jewel tones with a blue base like ice blue, true red, and ultraviolet. Black looks best on Stars.
Once you’ve determined your color group, your best bet is to choose colors with either warm or cool tones that are in your color palette. Another thing I like about Life in Color is that the authors have removable color chips by group in the back of the book. For those without access to that book, don’t despair. You can hold scarves or pieces of material of different colors up to your face to determine which colors look best on you. Once you have a pile of color swatches or scarves that look great on you, you can bring those items in to the paint store and have the manager scan them into the computer to determine which paint colors correspond to them. Here’s where your stylebook comes in handy again. Tape your paint color chips or swatches into your stylebook to guide salespeople at your favorite clothing stores. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can take a snapshot of any item and use the ColorCapture application from Benjamin Moore or the ColorSnap application from Sherwin Williams to translate them to paint chip colors.
Streamline Your Wardrobe with Your Personal Signature and Basic Colors
The best way to build a wardrobe is to choose one or two basic colors, called “neutrals,” to showcase your silhouette and form the building blocks of your outfits. Neutrals are grounding and calming; certain neutral shades will work best for your color palette:
Suns look best in medium, warm brown; chocolate brown; and ivory. Grays are probably not ideal for you.
Earths look best in brown hues with a yellow base like chocolate or camel or medium light khaki. Medium or light gray and olive green are probably not a good idea.
Moons look best in cool grays and dark navy blue. Beige and brown colors are not good for Moons.
Stars look best in cool medium to dark gray or bright white. Beige, mustard and olive green will probably not work for you.
Suits, skirts, and pants in your basic colors will form a base for you to pop your tops and accessories with your signature colors. This is the fun part. Your signature color is whichever shade in your color palette (Sun, Earth, Moon, or Star), not a neutral, that gives you the most joy and makes you feel just right. It will be the color or colors that make you look the best when held up to your face and that fit your personality. Do let me know which is yours.
Step 6: Streamlining and Organizing Your Closet
First some basic tips:
Now you are left with what looks best on you. You will probably need to go shopping to fill in the gaps. You will also need to arrange the items in your closet so you can match them correctly each time. Some tricks to try are:
Linda’s Modern Wardrobe Basics for All Ages
These items will take you through your errands and leisure time:
Add these for working gals:
by Marcus Simmons
From the Editor: Marcus Simmons describes his love of cars and racing in this autobiographical story that marries passion with perseverance. He tells us of his adventures and accomplishments as someone who grew up deaf and later in life lost much of his vision. Here is what he says:
I am a product of the Detroit school system. I attended the Day School for the Deaf through the eighth grade. I then wanted to go to Cass Technical High School, at the time a premier college-prep high school in the city. No student had ever successfully made this transition. The administration refused to help me because several better-prepared students had tried in the past and had been forced to drop out. When it was apparent that I was not going to give up, the administration agreed to let me try, and I was admitted. One of the other reasons I wanted to go to Cass was that my older brother had gone to our neighborhood high school, and I was tired of following in his footsteps.
Attending this high school was my first real challenge. The Detroit Day School for the Deaf taught its students how to get along in society, not how to be prepared for college. I was in with the big boys now. My grades went from As and Bs to Ds and Es during those first difficult semesters. I developed better study habits fast. I graduated in 1963 in the automotive curriculum. In 1965 I purchased a brand-new high-performance Mustang convertible. I took delivery on my twenty-first birthday. I later learned that a subsequent owner of this vehicle was the Detroit chief of police, Ike McKinnon.
In 1966 I got a job at Bendix Industrial Controls on the drafting board, which prepared me to produce blueprints. For a long time my fellow employees thought that I was making my letters with a lettering template. Imagine their surprise when I told them I was doing it all freehand. I became a loyal Ford employee because my uncle put in forty-six years at Ford and my dad retired with forty-three years of service. A few years later, in 1967, I began designing my first drag race vehicle.
When I ventured into racing, I had a 1960 Falcon with a powerful V-8 engine. This vehicle was ironically named “Blue Magoo,” after the near-sighted cartoon character, since I did not then know what would happen to my eyesight in the coming years. In fifteen meets I only lost twice, and both times to the same car, a 1965 Mustang called “Cobra II” driven by Bob Corn, then the muscle parts program coordinator for Ford. He later went into partnership with Jack Roush at Roush Industries. One year he showed up running the quarter mile a whole second quicker, so I asked him what he had changed. Bob said it was the new Boss 302 engine to be released in 1969. My second new car was a 1970 Boss 302 Mustang ordered in November of 1969 for $3,258.
This vehicle was originally to have been painted Acapulco blue (medium metallic blue) with racing stripes, but Ford said “no,” and I had to pick a color over the phone without the benefit of actually seeing the pigments. I later learned that one other person ordered the same color on a 1970 model Boss 302, and it came through. If I had known about that person, I would have been more persistent. In any case, I picked bright gold metallic (called by some “baby-poop brown”). I was so excited about taking delivery that I was at the dealership less than two hours after it was unloaded from the transporter. The bribe of a six-pack convinced the dealership mechanic to stay late, and together we prepped the car for delivery that evening. At my first opportunity I switched the color to blue, and the stripes went to white.
Now my focus was on getting a degree to make myself a better hot rodder, so I went back to school. On my first attempt to enter Wayne State University, I was informed that I was not college material. The experts said that my best plan would be to complete a junior college degree and then reapply. In 1969 I entered Wayne County Community College. After two years and a 3.75 grade point average, I was allowed to enroll at Wayne State to pursue a degree in engineering, which turned out to be an even greater challenge. Landing on academic probation taught me that I had to develop more effective study habits. At this point attending school was a part-time proposition because I still had a full-time job at Bendix on the drafting board.
In 1971 I was laid off from Bendix, and to my joy I then found employment with Ford’s Engine Electrical and Engineering buildings Diagnostic Lab. The head of engineering said that Ford would plan my work around my classes. But apparently this message didn’t filter down to my supervisor. After I had put in a few years at the Diagnostic Lab, the supervisor asked me what my goal was. I responded without hesitation or consideration of the consequences, “ I want to be the diagnostic lab supervisor. ” I doubt that sat very well with him.
Then there was the time he came to me, voice dripping with smug condescension, to inform me that I had to replace an engine I had serviced the week before. The oil filter had been installed with both the old and new gaskets. While the owner was driving the car over the weekend, the old gasket failed, dumping the oil out, and as a result the engine had died. Since I had worked on the vehicle, he demanded that I replace the engine on my own time. However, I directed him to the work order, which showed that I did not do the oil change. The technician on the next shift had completed that task.
Later he approached me again. This time the question was, “ What is your focus, Wayne State or Ford Motor Company? It has to be one or the other, not both.” I picked a third option, an educational leave from Ford and a full-time load at Wayne State. Graduation from Wayne State and a B.S.M.E. came in 1977, another goal accomplished.
At the time the Boss was a street cruiser with 100-watt headlamps (regular vehicles use 55-watt lamps). Since I had no night vision, driving the Boss was the way I adapted to my changing vision. In 1972 I rebuilt the engine for more performance. Soon after the rebuild I broke in the engine on Route 66--start (Chicago) to finish (Los Angeles). On the return trip I soloed from LA to Detroit in thirty-three hours; however, I was still one day late for work.
After my employment with Ford, I moved to GM Truck and Coach in 1976 because they had a project engineer’s position available, whereas Ford did not. This job lasted until 1980 when GM laid off thousands of employees with less than five years of seniority, and I was furloughed. Until then driving to work consisted of 50 percent what I could see, 25 percent what I remembered, and 25 percent Lady Luck. It was a perfect time to quit driving. I gave up driving because of failing eyesight from retinitis pigmentosa.
This should have been the end of my story, but it is actually where it gets interesting. My next goal was to use my degree and build a car from scratch. I chose a replica 1965 427 Cobra. After a year of research I was ready to start. I welded together a frame of two-by-four steel tubing. I bought a fiberglass shell and prepared it for the frame and drivetrain. I decided to use the spare parts motor and transmission from my Boss 302 Mustang for this project. To add emphasis, I included a 600-horsepower Gale Banks twin turbocharger induction system. I also assembled a MGB front suspension and a Jag rear end because they contained knock-off wire wheels, much like the real Cobra used from 1962 to 1964.
The vehicle was designed to win on the show car circuit, not to compete. I got to the shows on Thursday night (move-in and set-up-your-display night). The shows are open to the public on Fridays, so by evening I had my first-place trophy. On the circuit I got first place in twenty events and missed the mark only three times. That feat earned me the class championship in hand-built sports in the Great Lakes Division of the International Show Car Association (ISCA). My four consecutive first-place wins at the prestigious Detroit Cobo Autorama inspired others to try to duplicate my feat. There got to be so many Cobras in the hand-built sports class that they had to create a special class for Cobras separate from the rest.
In 1985 I was hired at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. I got hired for this position strictly on the strength of my résumé. My first job at Truck and Coach had been as a sighted engineer. This time I came to work as a blind engineer. GM did not know I was blind; however, they figured it out when I reported to work, white cane and all.
The position had opened rather unexpectedly. The federal compliance coordinator developed a serious health problem and had to retire immediately. This caused some concern because GM needed a replacement in a hurry. The federal compliance coordinator is responsible for assembling all of the documentation so the automaker can sell vehicles to the general public. At the time no one but me was available who had this specialized knowledge. The department boss didn’t know the job; the other workers didn’t know how to do the job either. So I came in the door, tapping with my long white cane.
Shortly after that a Detroit businessman asked me to build a 1931 Chevrolet sedan for the ISCA show car circuit. The construction took me three years working at night. This vehicle was also a winner and not a competitor. We won every class we entered, finishing twenty-fifth in the nation. We traveled to shows from Chicago to Texas and to London, Ontario.
I decided to return to drag racing, so my next project was a Boss Mustang. I stripped the Mustang down completely to a bare shell, replaced all rust panels, and modified the car for very large (fourteen-inch-wide) rear tires. When I was finished, the Mustang sported a 560-horsepower Ford Motorsports crate motor. Best time was 10.79 seconds at 126 miles per hour in the standing quarter mile.
I then decided to open an engineering agency called Simmons Boss Creations, where I provide services to the show car, street rodder, and drag race community. Today I travel to local schools with one of my vehicles and offer presentations on topics such as goal-setting and careers in the motorsports field.
Sometimes my presentations seem unbelievable to the students. Animated discussions with teachers revealed that students were convinced that a blind person could not build a car. With the slogan in mind, a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still, I have changed my presentations a little by including this statement, "In my hand is a $50 bill. If someone can ask me a question that I can’t answer about this vehicle, the money is yours.” Since I have had and worked on this vehicle for over thirty-eight years, my money is safe. I don’t try to change students’ minds; I let them reach their own conclusions.
The Mustang has now been upgraded to a Pro-Streeter. It carries all of the required appendages: windshield wipers, turn signals, and a full exhaust system terminating under the rear valence panel.
In order to give back to our community, a group of businessmen including me from the Motown Automotive Professionals Car Club decided to create a 501(c)(3), public charity called Motown Automotive Professionals nonprofit (MAPn). You can see our video at <http://www.carcrazycentral.com/Video.aspx?VideoID=306>. This is an automotive vocational training facility that provides a route for economically and socially deprived youth, including the blind, as they leave the public school system. MAPn will provide them a way to become productive members of society. This facility will provide no-tuition training for the youth to obtain the skills of an Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), nationally certified technician. This is our way of improving the aggregate value of the neighborhood. By providing a productive outlet for kids who don’t finish school, we reduce the number of young adults who get into trouble. It is up to all of us to do what we can to leave this world better than we found it, and this has become my way of using my lifetime love affair with cars to do just that.
by Robert Leslie Newman
From the Editor: The Omaha Chapter of the NFB of Nebraska conducts a White Cane Banquet each October. Last year Dr. James Nyman addressed the assembled audience, and we reprinted his speech in the March 2009 issue of the Braille Monitor. This year, in honor of the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, the inventor of the Braille code, David DeCant, a blind actor, addressed the crowd as Louis Braille. This is almost exactly what he said:
Bonsoir. Good evening. I am Louis Braille, and I am proud to have been asked to be the keynote speaker for this White Cane Banquet. As we start this important time together, I have a question for you. I want to hear your answer. Messieurs et Mesdames, is it not true that being able to read and write is the heart and soul of literacy, and that all people, the sighted and the blind, must have this skill for a complete and meaningful life?
Ah oui, all of us are in agreement--reading and writing are important. I know we will also agree that my message, my story has relevance to everyone in this room, blind or sighted. Recall that I was once sighted and became blind. If life has taught me anything, it is that, no matter whether you are sighted or blind, with the proper methode and chance egale--tools and opportunity--you can compete with your fellow man. Ah oui, I will begin by telling you my story--where I lived, how I was blinded, how blind people once lived, how I invented the raised-dot system named for me, how Braille has spread across the globe, and how it is used. Then I will report on how Braille is faring today here in your country.
As you can tell, I am French. I was born on January 4, 1809, in a small French village called Coupvray. I was the baby of the family, the youngest of four children. My papa was a harness maker; his workshop was attached to our small stone cottage. I loved to watch my papa work his magic. From a shapeless hide, a large piece of leather, he could fashion a system of straps to harness the power of the horse. Like most little boys who watch their papas work, I wanted to grow up to be just like him. One day, when I was three, I sneaked into my papa’s workshop. I looked at and touched everything, picturing how my papa made the harness. The shiny tools were especially interesting. When I found my favorite one to watch him use, the awl that makes the little holes, I decided to try using it. I knew from watching my papa that I had to make the hole right in the middle of the strap. I looked very closely, placing the point of the awl just so, and I pushed. The leather was very tough, so I pushed and pushed and, mes amis, I do not know how it happened. I poked my eye; it hurt.
(Shrugging in resignation) Infection came, taking both my eyes. In those days we did not have the medicines of today, and I am lucky I did not die.
(Another expressive shrug) C’est la vie. Though my parents did their best for me, the only blind people they had ever seen were beggars on the streets. (Placing his hand over his heart with much emotion) Mes amis, God love them. They believed that, if only I had a good education, I might make something of my life. So at age seven I was enrolled in the village school. I did well for not being able to read and write. (Pausing for emphasis) But, Messieurs et Mesdames, I ask you, what is an education without literacy?
Mais oui, my parents wanted more. They had heard of a school in Paris, the Royal Institute for Blind Youth, where a blind youth could learn a trade. So at ten I left my home and family to go to the big city. I will not tell you the details of life in that damp and drafty old building with steep, winding staircases and long, narrow hallways, where the slightest noise echoed. And, mon Dieu, the food! This banquet food (making a broad, two-armed gesture meant to include his surroundings) in comparison is a feast. But that school had one advantage beyond price, books that could be read with the fingers. The print was raised. One traced each sentence, letter by letter, word by word. In many cultures well-meaning people have tried using such a system of embossing the language. (A shrug) Messieurs et Mesdames, though the blind can read the words, the system is very slow.
When I was twelve--for those of you who care for such things, it was 1821--we learned of a new raised system of reading. A soldier came to our school--I will never forget him, Captain Charles Barbier. He showed us his system called “night writing.” He had devised it to keep his soldiers safe when they had to read a message at night. The good captain thought his system might prove useful to the blind. Mes amis, you will not be surprised to hear that, like other boys and girls would be, we were fascinated by the raised dots and dashes of this new code. Alas, there was no punctuation or capitalization, and the symbols were not letters but sounds. All too soon everyone lost interest in night writing.
However, I could not stop thinking about the code and running my fingers over and over the dots, wondering what could be made of this idea; I knew something was there. Then success! By the time I was fifteen, I had streamlined the system, which I based on six dots in two vertical rows, like the “6” on a domino. And, for you English speakers, I added an extra letter to my new French alphabet, the “w,” so that it would work for you too.
(Pausing reflectively) Messieurs et Mesdames, those of you who know history know that my raised-dot system was not accepted with open arms. No, not even by my teachers, not until 1844. (After a tiny pause, brightening) However, the blind of the world did eventually receive the gift of literacy, the ability to read and write independently. I am proud to say that others have taken my French system of reading text, made it fit their languages, and developed additional codes, such as the one for mathematics. Now the blind in all cultures can be literate. Braille--ha—(looking self-conscious) I still find it awkward to use my surname for my code. But I think of what my English school friend once said: “Hey, Braille, better your surname than mine--Jones.”
But enough about me and the early history of Braille. It is time to look at the present and the future of literacy for the blind in America. (Pausing to lift a copy of the Braille agenda for the evening) I am holding up tonight's Braille agenda. So first I commend you for honoring the equality of the blind, providing us equal access to this evening’s written material. I ask you, is it true that the blind in the United States of America in the twenty-first century have equal access to your culture’s print texts? (Pausing for the shouts of No! to die down) Messieurs et Mesdames, what is it that you are telling me; what am I hearing? Let me review my research about where Braille literacy has been, where it is today, and where it must be in the future.
(Cocking his head and raising an eyebrow) You Americans do know that Braille was not your only touch system for writing? You too had your (hand tracing an imaginary curve to illustrate raised print writing, then tracing a block letter in the air) Roman letters. Messieurs et Mesdames, such writing is pretty to look at, easy for the sighted to read, but too slow to read with a finger; and one cannot write it by hand. Then there were the dot systems--you have had several. There was New York Point and American Braille. As a Frenchman who knows about revolutions, I remind you that, before you Americans could finally decide which code to settle on, you had what was called “The War of the Dots.”
Finally in 1932 you made Braille the accepted standard for reading and writing for blind people in the United States. By the 1940s and 50s many blind adults in rehabilitation were being taught Braille and 50 to 60 percent of blind children were learning to read and write Braille. Like me, the majority of these children lived in the schools for the blind, where blindness skills were deemed important. And oui, blind children learned to read at the same time as sighted children. There was equality--no difference in their ability to read rapidly--many words a minute--un, deux, trois—Ha, I was counting—excusez moi--when I get excited, I revert to French. As I was saying (counting on his fingers) Braille readers were reading one-, two-, three-hundred words a minute, and more--blind people reading as fast as their sighted brothers and sisters. Though, mes amis, (shrugging in resignation) back then Braille books were not as common as print; Braille readers of the last century were not like the fortunate Braille readers of today. Today you have the computer, the Braille printing machine, and the wonderful—qu’est ce que c’est?--the electronic Braille device with dots that move up and down to make the Braille symbols with no paper--the refreshable Braille display. Think of it, reading without paper! My research reveals that this beautiful machine was the invention of a Frenchman. Oui, then with this technology connected to the Internet, voila, you have at your touch in Braille everything that has been written. Braille readers have never had it so good in education, in employment, and for pleasure. Oui, let us talk about where Braille is being used in this culture.
(Referring to his notes) Pardon, I read my Braille notes. You need to help me here. Please answer this question. Do you agree, reading is a necessity? (Listens to the crowd's response) Ah, oui, Braille is used in the home to label things, take care of business, read books to our children, and more. In education we see Braille in the schools for reading textbooks, taking notes, and giving speeches, and it is especially good for math and—(eyebrows raised and mischievous grin)--for learning languages like English and French.
My notes next tell me that Braille is used for employment. Oui, as we witnessed this evening, young Adam helping his employer’s customers, reading information with his paperless Braille display, and Michael, who will use both print and Braille in his professional position. Of course many more blind people are using Braille for employment. You and I know that blind people can do many, many types of jobs, but you and I also know that it has always been hard for the blind to find employment. And, though more blind people are working today, my research shows that from 35 to 70 percent of blind people are still unemployed. And, mes amis, of the blind who are employed, 90 plus percent of blind people with jobs are Braille readers. (Slapping the table and shaking his Braille notes for emphasis) I say to you: what does this mean? Is it not literacy, Braille literacy, that has tipped the balance, making these blind workers successful?
(Waiting for the crowd to settle down) Messieurs et Mesdames, looking back at America’s record, I can see from the statistics that, since the blind have left their residential schools for public ones, the emphasis on blindness skills decreased. I saw this in Paris when I was young. If you can see a little, the sighted want you to use your vision. Can you believe it? When it comes to reading and writing, as those of us who know about blindness recognize that print is not always the better methode. (Looking serious and striking his fist on the table) And now there are reports of a Braille literacy crisis in your schools. Ninety percent of your blind students are not given the tool that will allow them to read and write. (Shaking the Braille agenda at the crowd with some heat) For shame! I hold this Braille up to the world and ask you: what is this? Is history repeating itself? In this modern age with more information to read and learn from than any other time in history, I find it incroyablex that you are moving blind people away from fluency, from complete literacy!
From its conception Braille has never been only for blind people who cannot see at all. It has always been for people blind or sighted who are unable to read print efficiently.
If I may speak, one blind person to other blind people, to the blind of this new century and to those who work with the blind, we have all understood that there are different levels of blindness. Some are like me, unable to see any light; for us print is not an option. But mes amis, most blind people are able to use their limited vision, so they can read some print. And we know that, if you resist the limitations of blindness and try to live using only your limited sight, you limit yourself. We also know that the person who embraces both blindness and sight and learns the methodes for both blindness and sight, he is the complete one. He is not limited. I have never met one of these blind-sighted people who has regretted learning both print and Braille. Before I let go this thought, let me remind you of the sighted man who created the touch system of reading and writing for sighted soldiers, Captain Charles Barbier. He knew the value of using a touch system when the visual one was dangerous.
(Starting in a reflective mood) I must back up for a moment to make an observation. I find it significant that in my travels around this century I do not find that those who use modern gadgets for reading have abandoned reading for themselves. The sighted have their monitors on and actively read the print. Granted, the blind use computers egalement with the sighted. However, when I stand nearby and listen to the words being read aloud to them, it is no different now than it was for centuries past--the blind are just listening; they are being read to. They understand the sentences, but not the punctuation or the look of the page. They can pronounce the words but not the spelling. These blind people cannot read that story to another person. They cannot read a book to a child. How will such people do math, in their heads? How will they read the labels on their food or medicine containers? On which side of the employment scale do blind people wish to sit, the unemployed or the employed?
Messieurs et Mesdames, my report is near its close. We must speak of the future, not of what may be, but of what must be. When you asked me to examine the history and use of Braille here in America, I did not know what I would find. I will admit, I did not expect to find that an efficient methode, a tool for reading, would fall from favor. I do not believe that I have identified all the reasons why this has happened. However, in some places Braille is viewed as a negative symbol, a stigma associated with the unacceptability of blindness. Some educators even say that Braille is slow and obsolete, which we know is not true.
In my research I also found forces for good, groups of people who believe that it is respectable to be blind. They recognize that a good methode of reading and writing is necessary. Messieurs et Mesdames, this group, the National Federation of the Blind, is speaking the loudest and is working the hardest to change what it means to be blind and to promote Braille literacy. I commend you! (Raising his arms and voice) I have read about your programs: Braille Readers Are Leaders--competing with other Braille readers so that later children can compete with everyone); your support of Twin Vision books--Braille and print text on the same page--your support for laws and rules to make teachers teach Braille when print is not a good option; your insistence that young students be taught by certified Braille instructors; your work with other countries to establish a unified Braille system; your Braille Buddies program; Braille letters to Santa Claus; your exciting commemorative Braille coin. And I know that you teach Braille in your blindness training centers. Your voices and your written words, both print and Braille, are in all corners of this big country.I stand with you. Just as I knew two centuries ago that to compete I needed a good methode for reading and writing for full literacy, I believe that we are of the same mind and heart today. Just as I found nearly two hundred years ago that it was a struggle to have Braille accepted even after it has been proven to be equal to print, I see you are faced with the same reality, same struggle today. Let my voice here tonight be remembered. Let us inform the world that we have joined hands in the effort to make this change for all systems of literacy are good. Braille literacy is equal to print literacy, and literacy is what makes people equal.
by Cary A. Supalo
From the Editor: The following article was adapted from remarks Cary Supalo made at a press conference in Port of Spain, Trinidad, on July 20, 2009. He is completing a doctorate in chemistry at Penn State University and is a leader in the NFB of Pennsylvania. This is what he said:
I lost the sight in my left eye when I was eighteen months old, and the eye was removed. I lost the sight in my remaining eye when I was seven years old. In short, I went to bed one evening and woke up the next day with no primary vision. I could still see objects and shades of color, but my ability to read print was gone. My parents took me to the eye doctor and found out that a blood vessel had hemorrhaged in my eye, causing my retina to detach.
At the time not much could be done to repair the damage. It’s possible that, if it had happened today, it might have been repairable, but over time the retina and the related brain cells died, and, as you probably know, brain tissue does not easily regenerate. Now my only hope for restoring my vision would be a complete eye transplant, but the state of medical science is years away from making such an operation feasible.
As a result of my experiences as a child, I developed a strong interest in medical terminology and scientific discovery. I hoped to go to medical school and possibly conduct the key research to restore my vision. However, once I discovered that biology classes entailed animal dissections, I switched my studies to chemistry. While a struggling undergraduate student at Purdue University, I was mentored by both faculty members and graduate students in the chemistry department, and they encouraged me to keep working hard on my chemistry, saying that I would eventually understand it if I worked hard enough. They were right.
I advanced from one chemistry class to another. I often conducted my laboratory activities simply by working with another person in the class but more commonly with an undergraduate student not enrolled in the class but paid an hourly wage to assist me. This is called the director-assisted approach to handling laboratory equipment. These paid assistants acted as my eyes and hands in the laboratory, carrying out the instructions I gave them, regardless of whether or not I was correct. Only when I instructed them to implement an unsafe procedure would they ask me to rethink that step. This rarely happened.
The director-assisted approach worked well for me throughout my undergraduate years and into my graduate studies at Pennsylvania State University. While working toward my master’s degree, I took an interest in inorganic chemistry and was included on a research project making transition-metal-supported catalysts for various reactions, including the water-gas-shift reaction and the dehydrogenation of toluene to methylcyclohexane. Eventually I began researching the methanol-steam-reforming reaction. It was this research that caused me to encounter the limitations of my traditional approach to working in the laboratory.
With catalysis, any small variation in technique can introduce new variables. Since I had up to five undergraduate students assisting me at any one time and they each had their own variations in technique, they all introduced their own variables. These differences might involve something as simple as the way the reagents were stirred together or the way they were poured into the reaction crucibles.
Although I completed my master of science in inorganic chemistry, my results were not anything to write home about, so I never published any of this work. Since the statistical analyses of my final results indicated no actual relationship between the variables I had selected, the only real conclusion I could draw was that relying on the director-assisted approach in the laboratory had clearly had a negative impact on my work.
This led my research advisor, Dr. Thomas E. Mallouk, and me to think of ways I could be more independent in the laboratory as I entered the PhD program at Penn State. I also recruited a group of other experts to assist in this effort, including Dr. H. David Wohlers, a blind chemistry professor at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, and Alan Roth, a science teacher at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Indianapolis, Indiana. We began discussing accessibility concerns in science classrooms and laboratories.
We decided to interface commercially available science probes from Vernier Software & Technology with the JAWS screen reader and script them to work with Vernier’s Logger Pro data collection software package. This project became the Independent Laboratory Access for the Blind (ILAB) at Penn State University, which I conceived, helped found, and currently manage. The research was funded for three years by the National Science Foundation. We worked with Mr. Roth’s science classes to collect feedback on our efforts, then received funding for another three years to expand our work into mainstream classrooms. We have since advanced the tool functionality to include real-time probe readings, data table navigation, reading of x-y Cartesian graphs, and access to statistical information on data collection runs.
As of early 2009, the only way a school could obtain these new technologies was by being a participating institution in the ongoing ILAB project. Consequently, I started my own company, Independence Science LLC, based in Lafayette, Indiana, in March of 2009, to find a way to support the development of new technologies once NSF funding concludes in 2010. The firm is a licensed Vernier Software & Technology distributor and offers the interface with the JAWS screen reader and consulting services for training on this equipment to students, science teachers, and outreach staff members throughout the United States and internationally. In fact, the company recently formed a partnership with the Torres Foundation for the Blind in Trinidad.The goal of Independence Science LLC is to provide cutting-edge access technologies to empower blind students to increase their roles in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professions. Providing this underrepresented population of lifelong problem solvers with the technologies they need to apply their skills to scientific problems is opening new doors of opportunity for the blind. Educators and students need to know that people with blindness or low vision can take fully active roles in science education and the science professions once they have the right tools in their hands.
by Natalie Shaheen
From the Editor: Natalie Shaheen, education program specialist with the NFB Jernigan Institute, offers the following report on the 2009 Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL) program. Here is what she says:
In schools across the country low-vision students are commonly thought to be sighted children who don’t see very well. Consequently these children are taught to read large print or standard print with magnification, no matter how slow and laborious this method may be. But low-vision children are not broken sighted children; they are blind children who can often benefit from Braille instruction.
To address the deficits in the Braille instruction of low-vision students in Maryland, members of the affiliate developed a program they named Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning (BELL). The Maryland affiliate implemented this program in the summer of 2008. The program flourished and was then adopted by the Jernigan Institute for further development and dissemination.
This past summer (2009) the national NFB BELL program was piloted in Maryland and Georgia. It targeted low-vision students ages four to twelve who would not normally receive Braille instruction because of their residual vision. It offered students two weeks of intensive Braille instruction through fun and interactive lessons. A core team of three licensed teachers of the blind (Paul Howard of Indiana, Jackie Otwell of Maryland, and Natalie Shaheen of Indiana) were responsible for the instruction. The core team traveled to the two host states to implement the program. The states handled the logistics, including securing meeting space, arranging transportation for students, and supplying all necessary instructional materials. The core team, state coordinators, and members of the Jernigan Institute’s education team ensured the success of the program at each site.
The Georgia NFB BELL program ran July 13 through 24 and included five participants. The NFB BELL program in Maryland took place August 3 through 14 and had ten students. Students in both programs spanned the age range. Most of the students entered the program with no knowledge of Braille. A few had limited knowledge of uncontracted Braille. Even fewer had a cursory knowledge of contracted Braille.
Students attended the program for six-and-a-half hours each day. Daily instruction included blindness attitudes; tactile discrimination; Braille reading; Braille writing, including the use of the slate and stylus; and nonvisual techniques for daily living. Lessons in each area were made enjoyable by using games that demonstrated to the students how exciting Braille can be. Braille twister, Braille musical chairs, drawing with the Braillewriter, and the skit “Captain Whozit Saves the Day” were among the students’ favorites. To ensure that students were honing their tactile skills and not using their residual vision, students often wore sleepshades during lessons.
The program also provided a great opportunity for students to interact with blind role models. Federationists in both states volunteered their time, assisting with instruction and taking the time to read to the students each day. The bonds formed between participants and volunteers were invaluable in shaping the students’ positive attitudes about blindness.
Throughout the day students rang a bell to celebrate their accomplishments. At the beginning of the program the adults recognized the students’ accomplishments and reminded them to ring the bell. By the end the students were pointing out each other’s successes. Students rang the bell when they learned a new contraction, successfully identified a letter, used the cane to find a drop off, and realized that, by using alternative techniques, blind people can do the same things sighted people do.
Students in both states had a blast throughout the two weeks of the program as evidenced by their comments. A number asked the core team, “Can I do BELL next year?” When asked on the last day of the NFB BELL program if blind people can bake cookies, one energetic little girl responded, “Yes, yes, they can. I am blind, and I made cookies last week!” One of the older students said, “I like Braille. It is like a secret code!”
Does your state have low-vision students who need better access to Braille instruction? Do you want to help kids in your state get excited about learning Braille? Contact Mary Jo T. Hartle, director of education at the NFB Jernigan Institute, to inquire about bringing the NFB BELL program to your state. She can be reached at <[email protected]> or by calling (410) 659-9314, ext. 2407.
by Katie Bunker
From the Editor: The following article first appeared in the November 2008 issue of Diabetes Forecast. It will be of interest to anyone who keeps track of blood sugar. Here it is:
So how’s your diabetes? One way to tell is by monitoring your blood glucose with a meter. By testing yourself when you wake up in the morning and before and after meals, you can get a quick look at whether your current regimen is keeping your glucose levels in the range you and your doctor have agreed is best for you. Depending on your particular situation, you may be doing this several times a day, a couple of times a week, or less frequently.
The other main way your health care provider can see how you’re doing is by ordering a lab test called an A1C. Most people with diabetes get this test—which gives a rough average of your blood glucose levels for the past 2 to 3 months—two to four times a year. It’s reported as a percentage, with normal levels between 4 and 6 for people who don’t have diabetes.
Pretty soon, however, another number may show up on your lab chart: the estimated average glucose, or eAG. Sound like the same thing as the A1C? It is, in a way, but the eAG will look a lot more familiar.
Why another number? The new number comes in part from new research. A large international study, called the A1C-Derived Average Glucose (ADAG) study, published in Diabetes Care in August, established that the A1C does, in fact, do what scientists have long believed it does: provide an accurate test of average blood glucose. “The results of the ADAG study should give people with diabetes increased confidence that the A1C…is, indeed, a valid measurement of their average blood glucose,” says Susan McLaughlin, BS, RD, CDE, CPT. McLaughlin, who is president-elect of health care and education at the ADA American Diabetes Association, cochaired the steering committee that is helping spread the word about eAG.
The study used many more glucose readings than prior studies, resulting in more blood glucose values to compare with each person’s A1C. This has allowed the A1C to be easily translated into a number that looks a lot more like what you see on your blood glucose meter: the eAG. So, in addition to being given a mysterious “6.7 percent” as your A1C, you’ll get an eAG of 146 mg/dl, which should be familiar based on the numbers you’ve been seeing on your meter.
In the past your provider may have shown you a chart that displayed what your average glucose was for the past two to three months based on your A1C. The new chart, shown below, is a more accurate rendering of how your A1C and average glucose correlate and will be the one used by the ADA and likely other medical organizations in the future. And making A1C easier to equate with day-to-day readings might just promote more blood glucose testing and improve glucose control, many experts believe.
Here's how the A1C relates to the new eAG:
A1C (%) eAG (mg/dl)
“The patients I’ve started talking to really like [eAG],” says Richard Bergenstal, MD, vice president of medicine and science at ADA, executive director of the International Diabetes Center at Park Nicollet in Minneapolis, and cochair of the eAG committee. “They actually say, `What should I do to get closer to the average glucose that would put me at the lowest risk? When should I test?’ It’s gotten us back into the patient’s logbook and back into the glucose meters, which sometimes never happens when you’re just talking about A1C.”
You and the lab, partners in care: the eAG can also help you easily determine whether or not the numbers you see on your meter are telling you the whole story. For example, your meter numbers might all be in the 90 to 130 range, but the eAG says 164. So what’s going on? It may be that you’ve only been testing at certain times, failing to capture the highs that occur undetected during the day or at night. “What I say to patients is, `Let’s change the testing schedule so we can pick up where blood sugars are going too high.’ Then we can adjust the treatment plan appropriately to lower the high values and improve the overall glucose control,” explains David M. Nathan, MD, of the Diabetes Center at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and lead author of the ADAG study.
Still, many diabetes experts who support the use of eAG stress the significance of using A1C too. “The major clinical studies were based on A1C,” explains David B. Sacks, MB, ChB, FRCPath, associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and medical director of clinical chemistry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Many clinical studies use A1C as an indicator of effectiveness of therapy. It’s also used for assessment of quality of management of people with diabetes.” Some providers feel that A1C has always worked for them and their patients—why make a change? They may choose not to discuss eAG with patients. There’s also a concern that the term “average glucose” is misleading, since it’s not a precise measurement of an average. That’s why the number is technically called the estimated average glucose.
“We understand that average isn’t everything, that variability in blood glucose and low blood sugars are very important,” Bergenstal explains. “But by getting people back into their logbooks more often and looking at their glucoses, eAG may help us address those issues more effectively than A1C has in the past.”
Teaching the Test
What the heck is hemoglobin A1C? Ever wondered what the A1C is really all about? First, the general idea: an A1C test measures the percentage of glucose-containing red blood cell molecules present in the bloodstream.
Now, to break it down. Hemoglobin is an important protein in red blood cells that’s used to transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. There are several types of hemoglobin, the most common of which is hemoglobin A. When glucose molecules combine with hemoglobin A in the bloodstream, the resulting molecule is called hemoglobin A1C. The more glucose in the bloodstream over a given amount of time, the more hemoglobin A molecules become hemoglobin A1C molecules. And of course, with diabetes you want to keep that level of glucose as normal as possible. The proportion of A1C molecules in the blood is measured by an A1C test—that’s why it’s reported as a percentage.
Here’s how David B. Sacks of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital describes it: “The way hemoglobin A1C forms is that glucose in the blood goes into the red blood cell and attaches to the hemoglobin. The more glucose in the blood, the more will stick onto the hemoglobin. The red blood cell lives in the blood for approximately 120 days because of the long lifespan of the red blood cell. So hemoglobin is there longer, and more glucose is stuck to it—so A1C is reported as a percentage of total hemoglobin in the blood. An A1C of 7 means that 7 percent of the hemoglobin has glucose stuck to it.” Pretty clever, huh?
by Ed Morman
From the Editor: We plan to frequently spotlight books in the tenBroek Library. Here is librarian Ed Morman's description of a recent acquisition:
Wilkie Collins was an important Victorian novelist of the second rank. His book The Moonstone is often regarded as one of the earliest modern mystery novels.
In Poor Miss Finch, first published in London in 1872, Collins takes on blindness, its cure by removal of cataracts, and its return as the result of emotional stress. “Poor” Miss Finch is in love with a man whose twin brother is identical to him in every way, including tone of voice—but not including moral standing. While blind, Miss Finch can distinguish between them, the result of a presumed sensitivity to the inner goodness of her fiancé as contrasted to the inner evil of his sibling. A substitution occurs before she regains her sight, and as a sighted person she is utterly confused by the conflict between what she sees and what she feels in her heart.
Kenneth Jernigan relegates Poor Miss Finch to a footnote in his superb 1974 banquet speech, “Blindness: Is Literature against Us?” because its portrayal of the blind does not fit into any of the nine categories of stereotypes he discusses. In a footnote he credits Collins’s work with being in a tenth category, where the blind are presented as “not only normally competent but normally cantankerous.” While a bit melodramatic and lacking in verisimilitude, Poor Miss Finch is worth a read if only because of Dr. Jernigan’s positive response to it.
Poor Miss Finch is available in an accessible format online on several Websites, including the Internet Archive, where it is marked up in DAISY (<http://www.archive.org/details/poormissfinchnov00colluoft>). This novel is also available through Bookshare. Several of Collins’s better literary efforts are available from the NLS.
by Angela Wolf
From the Editor: Even in the depths of winter preparations are under way for the NFB's 2010 national convention during the first week of July in Dallas. Angela Wolf, president of our Texas affiliate, brags in the following article about the wide array of cultural, historical, and recreational attractions for Federationists to experience this summer during the few free moments delegates find to relax during the full convention agenda. This piece should whet the appetites of all who are planning to join us for our seventieth anniversary convention. See details about the convention elsewhere in this issue, and make your plans to join us. Based on Angela's descriptions alone, it appears that the 2010 NFB national convention is one not to be missed. Here is what she says:
The Texas affiliate is proud to host the 2010 National Federation of the Blind convention, and we hope you are making arrangements to join us for yet another exciting gathering at the Hilton Anatole in the Big D. The old Texas expression, “It ain’t bragging if it’s true,” is particularly appropriate when you consider all that Dallas has to offer. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex boasts four professional sports teams and a plethora of art, culture, and dining. Here are some fun facts about the area:
The Dallas Arts District is the largest urban arts district in the United States. The district includes the following: the Dallas Museum of Art; the Nasher Sculpture Center; the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center; and the AT&T Performing Arts Center, which opened October 12, 2009. The $81.5 million Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, designed by the famous architect I. M. Pei, houses the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and one of the last handmade Fisk organs, by C. B. Fisk. The Dallas Museum of Art is home to one of the largest collections of post-1945 art in the country. Its newly opened Center for Creative Connections, a unique, twelve-thousand-square-foot learning environment, is a national model for engaging audiences with real works of art. Dallas has the largest bronze monument in the world, Pioneer Plaza, which includes more than forty larger-than-life longhorn steers, horses, and cowboys.
In addition to all of this art, culture, and history, Dallas has fantastic restaurants. According to the Texas Restaurant Association, the Dallas area has more than seven thousand restaurants to enjoy. In 2009 three of Dallas’s celebrity chefs opened new restaurants: Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen, Five-Sixty by Wolfgang Puck, and Stephan Pyles's Samar (coming soon).
For all of you shopaholics, Dallas has more shopping centers per capita than any other major U.S. city. Galleria Dallas offers more than two hundred premier retail stores and is home to the country’s tallest Christmas tree. Neiman Marcus was founded in Dallas, and its flagship store is downtown. The Dallas Market Center (featuring 5.5 million square feet of space) is the world’s largest market for wholesale merchandise.
Some other firsts, bests, and facts worth noting about the Dallas-Fort Worth region may be of interest to Braille Monitor readers. The University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, is home to four Nobel Laureates. The integrated circuit computer chip was invented in 1958 in Dallas. Currently the Texas Star Ferris Wheel at the State Fair of Texas is the tallest in North America. The frozen margarita machine was invented in Dallas. The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the number one visitor and leisure destination in Texas.
As you can see, Dallas offers a Texas-sized range of things to experience. Come on down and live large. We look forward to showing you some warm Texas hospitality.
by Allen Harris
From the Editor: Allen Harris chairs the Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund committee. He has an important announcement for those who would like to attend this year's national convention but find themselves short of funds. This is what he says:
The Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship Fund is looking for individuals who can use some financial assistance to attend our national convention in Dallas, Texas. In 2010 our convention will begin on Saturday, July 3, and run through Thursday, July 8. This will be only the second year that we have operated on this abbreviated schedule. The convention is a day shorter than you might expect, ending with the banquet Thursday evening.
Who is eligible to receive a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship?
If you are a member of the National Federation of the Blind, you are eligible to apply. Preference, however, will be given to first-time convention attendees. The scholarship selection committee is able to make an occasional exception, but first-time convention participants are the target group.
What do I have to do to apply for a Kenneth Jernigan Convention Scholarship?
You must do the following and are responsible for these application requirements:
1. Find out who your state NFB president is and get him or her to write a letter of recommendation for you, or you may have a chapter president or other officer write a letter of recommendation, but we must have a letter from a Federation leader who is familiar with you.
2. You must write a letter to the Kenneth Jernigan Fund committee expressing the reasons why you want a scholarship. Describe your participation in the Federation and what you think you would get and give to the convention. Please send all information to Allen Harris, 5209 Sterling Glen Drive, Birmingham, Alabama 35126, or email the information to <[email protected]> or <[email protected]>.
3. You must register for and attend the entire convention, including the banquet.
What else must I do to insure that my application will be considered?
We must receive all of the following:
1. Your full name
2. Your address
3. Your telephone numbers (home, business, cell)
4. Your email address (If you have one)
5. Your state president's name and the name of your local chapter, if you attend one
All applications must be received by April 14, 2010.
How do I get my scholarship funds?
You will get a debit card at the convention loaded with the amount of your scholarship award. The times and locations to pick up your debit card will be listed in the notice you receive if you are a scholarship winner. The committee is not able to provide funds before the convention, so work with your chapter and state affiliate to assist by advancing funds you can pay back when you receive your scholarship.
When will I know if I have been selected as a Kenneth Jernigan Scholarship winner?
The committee makes every effort to notify scholarship winners by May 15, but you must do several things to be prepared to attend if you are chosen:
1. You must make your own hotel reservation. If something prevents you from attending, you can cancel your reservation.
2. You will receive a letter with the convention details which should answer many of your questions. It is also helpful to find a mentor from your chapter or affiliate to act as a friend and advisor during the convention. Although you will not know officially whether or not you have been selected until mid-May, you must make plans to attend and then adjust your plans accordingly.
This past summer in Detroit the Jernigan Fund scholarship committee awarded seventy Kenneth Jernigan Scholarships. The average grant was $600. You can include in your letter to the committee any extenuating circumstances which the committee may choose to take into consideration. Above all, please use this opportunity to attend your first convention and join several thousand other blind Federationists in the most important meeting of the blind in the world.
If you have questions or need additional information, call Allen Harris at (205) 520-9979 or email him at <[email protected]>. You may also email Joy Harris at <[email protected]>. We look forward to seeing you in Dallas.
From the Editor: Having alphabetically made our way around our state affiliates, we will begin publishing recipes from several divisions and groups that have expressed an interest in sharing their culinary creations with the Federation family. Once we finish publishing these contributions, we will return to offering recipes from our affiliates.
This month's recipes represent the interests of members of the Diabetes Action Network (DAN, the diabetics division of the National Federation of the Blind). As you can imagine, these recipes are particularly suited to the needs of diabetics, but we know that everyone will enjoy and benefit from these offerings.
All six of this month's recipes are from Joanna Lund, a gifted cook who specializes in healthy home-style cooking. She was for a while a visiting columnist with the Voice of the Diabetic, our former quarterly publication for blind diabetics. These recipes are taken from the Winter, Spring, and Summer 2004 editions of the magazine, volume 19, numbers 1, 2, and 3. In addition to offering recipes in her column, Joanna provided general cooking strategies and detailed nutritional information about each dish. Consult these editions of the Voice of the Diabetic on the NFB Website for this information. Because she attributes specific nutritional values to each of her recipes, she cautions that people are free to vary from her instructions when she proposes specific brand-name items, but she advises that substitutions may have consequences for the nutritional details of each dish. Accordingly we have listed her specific recommendations. If she does not indicate a specific brand, cooks should use the brand of their choice. She also invites you to visit her Website, <www.healthyexchanges.com>, to explore a rich resource of diabetic-oriented recipes, cooking tips, and more.
Cherries Ahoy Cheesecake
2 8-ounce packages Philadelphia fat-free cream cheese
1 4-serving package Jell-O sugar-free vanilla instant pudding mix
2/3 cup Carnation nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup water
1 cup Cool Whip Light
1 20-ounce can Lucky Leaf no-sugar-added cherry pie filling
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 tablespoon mini chocolate chips
1 standard 9-inch pie crust
Method: In a large bowl stir cream cheese with a sturdy spoon until soft. Add dry pudding mix, dry milk powder, and water. Mix well using a wire whisk. Blend in 1/4 cup of Cool Whip Light. Spread mixture into pie crust. Refrigerate while preparing topping.
In a medium bowl combine cherry pie filling and almond extract. Evenly spoon pie filling mixture over set filling. Drop remaining Cool Whip Light by tablespoons to form eight mounds. Evenly spread chocolate chips and almonds over top. Refrigerate for at least thirty minutes. Cut into eight servings.
Hamburger Hot Dish
1 pound ground extra-lean sirloin beef or turkey breast
1 10 3/4-ounce can Healthy Request tomato soup
1 1/2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
1 1/2 cups frozen green beans, thawed
1 cup cooked potatoes, diced
1/2 cup shredded Kraft reduced-fat cheddar cheese
Method: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8-by-12-inch baking dish with butter-flavored cooking spray. In a large skillet coated with butter-flavored cooking spray, brown meat. Stir in tomato soup. Add corn, green beans, and potatoes. Mix well to combine. Spread mixture into prepared baking dish. Evenly sprinkle cheddar cheese over top. Bake for twenty-five to thirty minutes. Divide into six servings. This dish freezes well.
Hawaiian Fruit Meringue Pie
1 Pillsbury refrigerated unbaked 9-inch pie crust
1 4-serving package Jell-O sugar-free vanilla cook-and-serve pudding mix
2/3 cup Carnation nonfat dry milk powder
1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple packed in fruit juice, undrained
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, well drained and rinsed
6 egg whites
1/2 cup Splenda granulate
2 tablespoons flaked coconut
Method: Preheat oven to 415 degrees. Place pie crust in a 9-inch pie plate. Flute edges and prick bottom and sides with the tines of a fork. Bake for nine to eleven minutes or until lightly browned. Place pie plate on a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
Meanwhile, lower oven temperature to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan combine dry pudding mix, dry milk powder, undrained pineapple, and water. Cook over medium heat until mixture thickens and starts to boil, stirring often. Remove the mixture from heat. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon of coconut extract and mandarin oranges. Place pan on a wire rack and allow to cool five minutes.
In a large bowl prepare the meringue by beating egg whites with an electric mixer on high until soft peaks form. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon coconut extract and Splenda. Continue beating with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Spoon fruit filling into pie crust. Evenly spread meringue mixture over fruit filling, being sure to seal to edges of pie crust. Sprinkle coconut evenly over top. Bake for fifteen minutes or until meringue starts to turn golden brown. Place pie plate on a wire rack and allow to cool for fifteen minutes. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Cut into eight servings.
Company Chicken Stroganoff over Rice
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced
1 1/2 cups frozen cut green beans, thawed
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup Kraft fat-free ranch dressing
1/4 cup Land-O-Lakes no-fat sour cream
1 2.5-ounce jar sliced mushrooms, undrained
2 cups hot cooked rice
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Method: In a large skillet coated with butter-flavored cooking spray, sauté chicken, green beans, and onion for six to eight minutes or until vegetables are just tender. Add ranch dressing, sour cream, and undrained mushrooms. Mix well to combine. Lower heat and let simmer for five minutes or until mixture is heated through, stirring often. For each serving, place approximately 1/2 cup of cooked rice on a plate. Spoon approximately 1/2 cup of chicken mixture over the top of the rice. Garnish each serving with 1/2 tablespoon of parsley.
Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo
1/2 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen broccoli, thawed and chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked chicken breast, diced
2 cups cooked fettuccine noodles, rinsed and drained
1 10 3/4-ounce Healthy Request cream of chicken soup
1 2.5-ounce jar sliced mushrooms, undrained
1 2-ounce jar chopped pimento, undrained
1/4 cup Land-O-Lakes no fat sour cream
1/2 cup grated reduced-fat Kraft parmesan cheese
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Method: In a large skillet coated with butter-flavored cooking spray, sauté broccoli and onion for six to eight minutes. Stir in chicken and fettuccine. Add chicken soup, undrained mushrooms, and undrained pimento. Mix well to combine. Fold in sour cream, parmesan cheese, and black pepper. Lower heat and simmer for five minutes or until mixture is heated through, stirring occasionally. Serves four people comfortably.
French Apple Streusel Pie
6 small cooking apples, cored, peeled, and sliced (3 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons apple pie spice
1 cup Bisquick reduced-fat baking mix
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons Splenda granular
1/2 cup fat-free milk
2 eggs or equivalent in egg substitute
1 tablespoon Land-O-Lake no-fat sour cream
1/4 cup chopped pecans
4 teaspoons I Can't Believe It's Not Butter light margarine
Method: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a nine-inch pie plate with butter-flavored cooking spray. In a large bowl combine apple slices and apple pie spice. Evenly spoon mixture into prepared pie plate. In the same bowl combine 3/4 cup baking mix, 1/2 cup Splenda, milk, eggs, and sour cream. Mix well until blended. Spread mixture evenly over apple slices.
In a medium bowl combine remaining 1/4 cup baking mix, remaining 2 tablespoons Splenda, and pecans. Add margarine. Mix well using a pastry blender or fork until mixture is crumbly. Evenly sprinkle crumb mixture over top. Bake for forty to fifty minutes or until a knife inserted near center comes out clean. Place pie plate on a wire rack and let set for at least fifteen minutes. Cut into eight pieces.
News from the Federation Family
Gary Wunder, NFB secretary and president of our Missouri affiliate, reports the following news:
It is with deep sadness that I report the death of our friend and colleague Ed Bryant. He died on Saturday, December 5, after suffering a stroke. Ed's leadership in diabetes and blindness was unparalleled, beginning with the creation of the Voice of the Diabetic in 1986. He served as a member of the division board, as vice president, and for several terms as president of the Diabetes Action Network, which he spoke of with pride at every opportunity. The thousands of calls and letters of hope he instigated and answered all had one message: you can live a quality life as a blind diabetic, and we are here to tell you how it can be done. The high school basketball star who became a professional photographer could have quit when diabetes took his sight and his health, but instead he decided to give of himself and his experience, and for his gift we are all the richer. We extend our sympathy to his wife Gail.
Our Pennsylvania affiliate reports the following election results from its November 2009 convention: Jim Antonacci, president; Lynn Heitz, first vice president; Chuck Morgenstern, second vice president; Harriet Go, secretary; Connie Johnson, treasurer; and Alyssa Bates, James Baxter, Denice Brown, and Carlton Walker, board members.
During its October 16, 2009, meeting, the Cleveland chapter of the NFB of Ohio conducted elections with the following results: president, William Turner; vice president, Joanne Williams; recording secretary, Anita Psomas; corresponding secretary, Annie Dixon; treasurer, Paula King; sergeant at arms, Henry Butler; and board members Cheryl Fields and Effie Scott.
The NFB of Alaska reports the following election results from its recent state convention: president, Bill Packee; first vice president, Al Waldron; second vice president, Steve Priddle; treasurer, John Hebert; secretary, Fay Macamura; and board members Dan Bigley and Brian Blair.
2010 NFB Leadership and Advocacy in Washington, D.C., (LAW) Program:
The National Federation of the Blind announces the availability of the 2010 Leadership and Advocacy in Washington, D.C., (LAW) Program for students in grades six to nine or ages twelve to sixteen. This four-day experience (April 16 to 20, 2010) will provide blind and vision-impaired students with a unique opportunity to explore the inner workings of our country's government, history, and culture while staying at NFB national headquarters in Baltimore, Maryland. Participants will learn about advocacy work for blind people and available resources for blind students and adults in addition to learning about participating in grassroots legislative efforts and the way blindness-related legislation is developed and advanced through Congress. Highlights of the program will include visits to historical sites in Washington, D.C.; meetings with and presentations from influential government leaders; presentations from national leaders of the NFB; and tours of the NFB headquarters, including the International Braille and Technology Center for the Blind.
All accepted students will pay a one-time $250 fee to participate in the program. Other expenses, including transportation and room and board, will be provided. Students must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, teacher, or blind or vision-impaired mentor from their home state. No more than twenty-five students will be admitted to this competitive program. Applications for the LAW Program are due by February 1, 2010. To learn more about this exciting new program or to apply online, visit <http://www.nfb.org/lawprogram> or contact Mary Jo T. Hartle, director of education at the NFB Jernigan Institute, at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2407; <[email protected]>.
Town Honors Residents at Make a Difference Ceremony:
Longtime Federationist David Stayer was honored on November 10, 2009, at a ceremony in his hometown for his years of community service. The following is an excerpt from the citation read on this occasion:
Tonight we pay homage to men and women who have touched the lives of so many in our township. These individuals have never looked for recognition or rewards for their hard work and dedication. They simply enjoy the satisfaction that comes from helping others. Tonight we honor them and offer our thanks for all that they have done to improve the lives of others and to make our communities better places in which to live.
The honorees have all dedicated themselves to enriching the lives of others. Hundreds of nominations were received for the prestigious award. Those selected have quietly carried out acts of selfless generosity for many years.
Despite being blind since birth, David Stayer of Merrick has seen the way to be a true difference-maker for many years. Loss of sight has never proven a disability to our honoree, who remains a positive thinker with a powerful personality and a clear vision for helping others. David was the first disabled professional ever hired by Nassau County. For thirty-seven years he was a model public servant, impacting countless lives as a social worker at the Nassau University Medical Center. He has been a dedicated and emulated member of many local organizations, including the National Federation of the Blind Human Services Division, the Long Island Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind, the New York State Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, the Friends of the Merrick Library, and Young Israel of Merrick. Not only has David become a role model for other blind persons, but he has become an ambassador for those without sight. He has initiated a program with school-aged children to accentuate the abilities of blind people. David is also involved with the campaign to introduce accessible voting machines in the County of Nassau. David's beautiful and distinctive voice has regaled admirers at his synagogue and in concerts with the Freeport Chorale.
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.
Volunteer Braille Transcribers Needed:
The Iowa regional library for the blind, affiliated with the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) and housed in the Iowa Department for the Blind, is seeking volunteers to be trained as Braille transcribers. These volunteers will transcribe print materials into Braille using a Braille transcription program on a computer. Braille transcribers involved with this program will produce critical job-related and educational materials for blind and vision-impaired Iowans. Volunteer candidates must be dependable, detail-oriented, willing to accept varied assignments and constructive advice, and able to make a long-term commitment. All volunteer Braille transcribers are required to complete an NLS-sponsored Braille transcription correspondence course. The average training time to complete the entire Braille transcription training is one year. The Iowa regional library will provide all equipment and supplies for volunteers, but volunteers can use their own computers for the correspondence course, if desired. Braille transcription volunteers will enjoy the benefits of learning the Braille code, working independently on important projects, gaining knowledge through exposure to a variety of ideas and disciplines, and realizing personal satisfaction from supporting people who cannot use print. For further information about this volunteer opportunity, contact Roxanne Hensley at (515) 281-1304 or (800) 362-2587, or <[email protected]>.
Monthly Giveaway of Literary Classics in DAISY Format:
PLEXTALK®, producer of the PLEXTALK® Pocket and other digital talking book players, and ReadHowYouWant, an accessible digital publisher, are partnering to help vision-impaired readers discover literary classics in a convenient format. Beginning in November 2009, readers each month will be able to go to the PLEXTALK Website, <www.plextalk.com>, to download five free titles from ReadHowYouWant's classics collection. Readers can also visit <www.ReadHowYouWant.com/plextalk> to download the free titles. Visit the Websites of either company for additional information about this free program.
Progress on the Silent Car Front:
The following article demonstrates the progress that the National Federation of the Blind is making in our effort to reform thinking and practice in the silent car arena:
GM Works to Make Some Noise
by Chris Woodyard
USA Today, November 25, 2009--General Motors will announce today that it's working with one of the largest advocacy organizations for the vision impaired to find ways for the next-generation electric cars to make enough noise that pedestrians can hear them coming. GM says it's working with the National Federation of the Blind on technology to make sure that near-silent electric cars and hybrids don't sneak up on unsuspecting walkers or runners.
It's potentially a growing problem as the nation switches to battery-powered cars as an alternative to high-priced gasoline. A bill that would direct the Transportation Department to regulate a solution—the Pedestrian Safety Enhancement Act—was introduced in Congress earlier this year. One study already points to dangers. Walkers and bicyclists are being struck at a greater rate by hybrid vehicles than by conventional cars, concluded the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in September.
"I've had probably twenty-five blind people in the country tell me they've almost been hit by these cars," says NFB President Marc Maurer. Vehicles brushed up against some or crushed their white canes, he says. Maurer says he believes electric cars of the future will need to be equipped with a forward-directed sound device that operates without interruption while the car is in motion. All electric vehicles will have to make roughly the same artificial noise, he says, so that blind people will be able to distinguish them as moving vehicles.
Automakers balk at going that far for the moment. Toyota, the largest producer of hybrid cars, says it is still studying the issue. So is Nissan, which plans to introduce the all-electric Leaf next year. GM already is equipping its new Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car with a driver-activated warning system. The car will emit a short audible horn pulse about as loud as the ring of a telephone when the driver pulls back on the turn-signal switch.
"We want to make sure it is something friendly and not startling," says Volt's chief engineer, Andrew Farah. He says they already believed the sound had to be "clearly automotive" in nature. And the collaboration with the Federation is aimed at seeing if something more is needed.
Other automakers aren't so sure. Tesla, which already has sold about nine hundred all-electric Roadsters, is reluctant to make noise. "One of the top attributes that our customers bring up is that (the car) is so quiet," says spokeswoman Rachel Konrad. The majority of the sound is not from the engine. It's tire noise and wind resistance. As a result, she says, Tesla is monitoring research and regulations around the issue as it might affect its $109,000 two-seater, but probably won't add a noisemaker unless there is a "compelling reason."
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.
PAC Mate QX400 with accessories. Comes with one 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 $800 or best offer. Includes shipping. Contact Maureen at (727) 735-0797.
I pledge to participate actively in the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind to achieve equality, opportunity, and security for the blind; to support the policies and programs of the Federation; and to abide by its constitution.