Vol. 53, No. 2 February 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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THE NATIONAL FEDERATION OF THE BLIND IS NOT AN ORGANIZATION
SPEAKING FOR THE BLIND--IT IS THE BLIND SPEAKING FOR THEMSELVES
Vol. 53, No. 2 February 2010
Dallas Site of 2010 NFB Convention
Listening to Braille
by Rachel Aviv
Providing the Fundamental Tools: Braille Books
by Brian MacDonald
The Internet Archive: An Untapped Resource for the Blind
by Daniel B. Frye
Web More Accessible to Those with Disabilities
by Alejandro Martinez-Carbrera
Participation in Extracurricular and Nonacademic Activities
The Blind Student Perspective
by Larry E. Streeter
Nipping Discrimination in the Bud
My Brooklyn Tabernacle Adventure
by Dennis Farro
Why Shouldn't the Blind Drive?
Touring England's Green and Pleasant Land
by Barbara Pierce
Blindness and My Struggle for More Exercise
by Sharon Maneki
Ask Miss Whozit
Featured Book in the Jacobus tenBroek Library
by Ed Morman
Ohio Blind Marching Band Heads to Rose Parade
by Jennifer Smith Richards
Diabetes Courtesy Tips
by Dr. Bill Polonsky
Convention Scholarships Available
by Allen Harris
Copyright 2009 by the National Federation of the Blind
The Betsy Zaborowski Conference Room in the NFB Jernigan Institute now features a fully accessible, interactive bulletin board. Developed by the Institute's Education team, the bulletin board serves two purposes: to showcase what the NFB Jernigan Institute is doing and to demonstrate for teachers how to make a fully accessible and attractive bulletin board.
The theme will change quarterly. This quarter the title of the bulletin board is "Braille Rocks." The board features all of the rock star Braille programs that the NFB Jernigan Institute currently operates. An electric-blue guitar is in the top right-hand corner of the display. Shooting out from the bottom of the guitar are three bands of colored fabric (purple, red, and green). Each band points to information about a Braille program, (the NFB BELL program, Braille Readers Are Leaders, and Braille Pals). Scattered across the black background are yellow wooden stars illustrating the twenty-six letters of the alphabet in print and Braille. A large button in the middle of the board provides an audio description of the Kenneth Jernigan Braille Books for Blind Children program and NFB ShareBraille. Small buttons scattered across the board provide additional facts about the code in an audio format. Posters in both print and Braille with information about the Institute's Braille programs appear throughout the display. Be sure to stop in to examine the board when you are next in Baltimore.
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 only. Call (214) 761-7500.
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, coffee pot, 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 in 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 Rachel Aviv
From the Editor: We print below the article "Listening to Braille" published in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday, January 3, 2010, to correct for the record some of the biases and ideological mischaracterizations about the National Federation of the Blind and our championship of Braille that the author promotes. The most notable fact about her article is that much of its content unequivocally affirms the value of Braille, despite Aviv's professional cynicism about the fervor of our advocacy. The article's persuasive facts and anecdotes testifying to the value of Braille alone would warrant reprinting this story, yet we are disappointed and perplexed by Aviv's decision to feature several accomplished blind people who have achieved success without relying on Braille and her overt effort to question our credibility by portraying our membership and policies as judgmental and zealous. We can only conclude that these tactics are the product of inexperienced journalism, dedicated to promoting controversy--even where little debate actually exists—and wedded to a strained commitment to balance—in which innuendo is used to marginalize a position when facts cannot achieve the desired end.
The NFB rejects Aviv's assertion that we "frown" or look down on blind people who cannot read Braille. Hers is an unfair and irresponsible characterization of our position. We dispute the article's assumption that we think that people who don’t read Braille cannot be successful, since many of us are living evidence to the contrary. Having lived with the social and educational consequences faced by a waning Braille-reading population, many of our members know firsthand the hardships and inefficiencies involved with devising alternative approaches to conventional reading. We congratulate blind people like Laura J. Sloate and New York Governor David A. Paterson on their success, and we pledge to do better by the next generation of blind people so that they do not have to work so hard to succeed without the advantages of Braille. We scoff at Ms. Aviv's statement that many of our members, including NFB First Vice President Fredric Schroeder, somehow perversely celebrate their illiteracy by publicly "declaring" this fact as a "rite of passage"; these successful people acknowledge that they cannot read Braille well or at all only to show the effects of illiteracy in their lives and to share their common struggle with thousands of other blind people. Finally, we dismiss Ms. Aviv's absurd suggestion that many of our members elevate the Braille code to some "talismanic status." Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, NFB president from 1968 to 1986, said in his 1993 address, "The Nature of Independence":
In conclusion, I say to each member of this organization: Hold your head high in the joy of accomplishment and the pride of independence—but not because of dog or cane or human arm, and not because of your ability to read Braille or use a computer. These are the trappings of independence, not the substance of it. They should be learned and used when needed—but they should be regarded only as means, not ends. Our independence comes from within. A slave can have keen eyesight, excellent mobility, and superb reading skills—and still be a slave. We are achieving freedom and independence in the only way that really counts—in rising self-respect, growing self-confidence, and the will and the ability to make choices. Above all, independence means choices and the power to make those choices stick. We are getting that power, and we intend to have more of it. That is why we have organized. That is why we have the National Federation of the Blind.
In addition to the foregoing, we print NFB President Marc Maurer's submitted letter to the editor of the New York Times Magazine. Here it is:
Dear New York Times Magazine Editor:
The article “Listening to Braille” in the January 3 issue of the magazine highlighted one of the most serious misconceptions faced by blind Americans: the idea that technology is a replacement for Braille literacy. No one would seriously argue that sighted children should learn exclusively by means of the spoken word, yet this is exactly the argument propounded by Laura J. Sloate and some others in the article who falsely believe that Braille has outlived its usefulness. The National Federation of the Blind, the nation’s oldest and largest organization of blind people, believes that all blind children must be given the opportunity to learn Braille for the same reason that sighted children must learn print: so that they are able to read and communicate using the written word. Braille is the key to literacy for the blind, and proper Braille instruction is essential if blind children are to receive an equal education.
Marc Maurer, President
National Federation of the Blind
With the foregoing as commentary, we invite readers to read the following article for the kernels of truth that can be found amid Ms. Aviv's journalistic excesses. Here it is:
At 4 o’clock each morning, Laura J. Sloate begins her daily reading. She calls a phone service that reads newspapers aloud in a synthetic voice, and she listens to the Wall Street Journal at three hundred words a minute, which is nearly twice the average pace of speech. Later an assistant reads the Financial Times to her while she uses her computer’s text-to-speech system to play the Economist aloud. She devotes one ear to the paper and the other to the magazine. The managing director of a Wall Street investment management firm, Sloate has been blind since age six, and, although she reads constantly, poring over the news and the economic reports for several hours every morning, she does not use Braille. “Knowledge goes from my ears to my brain, not from my finger to my brain,” she says. As a child she learned how the letters of the alphabet sounded, not how they appeared or felt on the page. She doesn’t think of a comma in terms of its written form but rather as “a stop on the way before continuing.” This, she says, is the future of reading for the blind. “Literacy evolves,” she told me. “When Braille was invented, in the nineteenth century, we had nothing else. We didn’t even have radio. At that time blindness was a disability. Now it’s just a minor, minor impairment.”
A few decades ago commentators predicted that the electronic age would create a postliterate generation as new forms of media eclipsed the written word. Marshall McLuhan claimed that western culture would return to the “tribal and oral pattern.” But the decline of written language has become a reality for only the blind. Although Sloate does regret not spending more time learning to spell in her youth—she writes by dictation—she says she thinks that using Braille would have only isolated her from her sighted peers. “It’s an arcane means of communication, which for the most part should be abolished,” she told me. “It’s just not needed today.”
Braille books are expensive and cumbersome, requiring reams of thick, oversize paper. The National Braille Press, an eighty-three-year-old publishing house in Boston, printed the Harry Potter series on its Heidelberg cylinder; the final product was fifty-six volumes, each nearly a foot tall. Because a single textbook can cost more than one thousand dollars and there’s a shortage of Braille teachers in public schools, visually impaired students often read using MP3 players, audiobooks, and computer screen-reading software.
A report released last year by the National Federation of the Blind, an advocacy group with fifty thousand members, said that less than 10 percent of the 1.3 million legally blind Americans read Braille. Whereas roughly half of all blind children learned Braille in the 1950s, today that number is as low as one in ten, according to the report. The figures are controversial because there is debate about when a child with residual vision has “too much sight” for Braille and because the causes of blindness have changed over the decades—in recent years more blind children have multiple disabilities because of premature births. It is clear, though, that Braille literacy has been waning for some time, even among the most intellectually capable, and the report has inspired a fervent movement to change the way blind people read. “What we’re finding are students who are very smart, very verbally able—and illiterate,” Jim Marks, a board member for the past five years of the Association on Higher Education and Disability, told me. “We stopped teaching our nation’s blind children how to read and write. We put a tape player then a computer on their desks. Now their writing is phonetic and butchered. They never got to learn the beauty and shape and structure of language.”
For much of the past century blind children attended residential institutions where they learned to read by touching the words. Today visually impaired children can be well versed in literature without knowing how to read; computer screen-reading software will even break down each word and read the individual letters aloud. Literacy has become much harder to define, even for educators.
“If all you have in the world is what you hear people say, then your mind is limited,” Darrell Shandrow, who runs a blog called “Blind Access Journal,” told me. “You need written symbols to organize your mind. If you can’t feel or see the word, what does it mean? The substance is gone.” Like many Braille readers Shandrow says that new computers, which form a single line of Braille cells at a time, will revive the code of bumps, but these devices are still extremely costly and not yet widely used. Shandrow views the decline in Braille literacy as a sign of regression, not progress: “This is like going back to the 1400s, before Gutenberg’s printing press came on the scene,” he said. “Only the scholars and monks knew how to read and write. And then there were the illiterate masses, the peasants.”
Until the nineteenth century blind people were confined to an oral culture. Some tried to read letters carved in wood or wax formed by wire or outlined in felt with pins. Dissatisfied with such makeshift methods, Louis Braille, a student at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in Paris, began studying a cipher language of bumps, called night writing, developed by a French army officer so soldiers could send messages in the dark. Braille modified the code so that it could be read more efficiently—each letter or punctuation symbol is represented by a pattern of one to six dots on a matrix of three rows and two columns—and added abbreviations for commonly used words like “knowledge,” “people,” and “Lord.” Endowed with a reliable method of written communication for the first time in history, blind people had a significant rise in social status, and Louis Braille was embraced as a kind of liberator and spiritual savior. With his “godlike courage,” Helen Keller wrote, Braille built a “firm stairway for millions of sense-crippled human beings to climb from hopeless darkness to the Mind Eternal.”
At the time blindness was viewed not just as the absence of sight but also as a condition that created a separate kind of species, more innocent and malleable, not fully formed. Some scholars said that blind people spoke a different sort of language, disconnected from visual experience. In his 1933 book, The Blind in School and Society, the psychologist Thomas Cutsforth, who lost his sight at age eleven, warned that students who were too rapidly assimilated into the sighted world would become lost in “verbal unreality.” At some residential schools teachers avoided words that referenced color or light because, they said, students might stretch the meanings beyond sense. These theories have since been discredited, and studies have shown that blind children as young as four understand the difference in meaning between words like “look,” “touch,” and “see.” And yet Cutsforth was not entirely misguided in his argument that sensory deprivation restructures the mind. In the 1990s a series of brain-imaging studies revealed that the visual cortices of the blind are not rendered useless, as previously assumed. When test subjects swept their fingers over a line of Braille, they showed intense activation in the parts of the brain that typically process visual input.
These imaging studies have been cited by some educators as proof that Braille is essential for blind children’s cognitive development, as the visual cortex takes more than 20 percent of the brain. Given the brain’s plasticity, it is difficult to make the argument that one kind of reading—whether the information is absorbed by ear, finger, or retina—is inherently better than another, at least with regard to cognitive function. The architecture of the brain is not fixed, and, without images to process, the visual cortex can reorganize for new functions. A 2003 study in Nature Neuroscience found that blind subjects consistently surpassed sighted ones on tests of verbal memory, and their superior performance was caused, the authors suggested, by the extra processing that took place in the visual regions of their brains.
Learning to read is so entwined in the normal course of child development that it is easy to assume that our brains are naturally wired for print literacy. But humans have been reading for fewer than six thousand years (and literacy has been widespread for no more than a century and a half). The activity of reading itself alters the anatomy of the brain. In a report released in 2009 in the journal Nature, the neuroscientist Manuel Carreiras studies illiterate former guerrillas in Colombia who, after years of combat, had abandoned their weapons, left the jungle, and rejoined civilization. Carreiras compares twenty adults who had recently completed a literacy program with twenty-two people who had not yet begun it. In M.R.I. scans of their brains, the newly literate subjects showed more gray matter in their angular gyri, an area crucial for language processing, and more white matter in part of the corpus callosum, which links the two hemispheres. Deficiencies in these regions were previously observed in dyslexics, and the study suggests that those brain patterns weren’t the cause of their illiteracy, as had been hypothesized, but a result.
There is no doubt that literacy changes brain circuitry, but how this reorganization affects our capacity for language is still a matter of debate. In moving from written to spoken language, the greatest consequences for blind people may not be cognitive but cultural—a loss much harder to avoid. In one of the few studies of blind people’s prose, Doug Brent, a professor of communication at the University of Calgary, and his wife, Diana Brent, a teacher of visually impaired students, analyzed stories by students who didn’t use Braille but rather composed on a regular keyboard and edited by listening to their words played aloud. One sixteen-year-old wrote a fictional story about a character named Mark who had “sleep bombs”:
He looked in the house windo that was his da windo his dad was walking around with a mask on he took it off he opend the windo and fell on his bed sleeping mark took two bombs and tosed them in the windo the popt his dad lept up but before he could grab the mask it explodedhe fell down asleep.
In describing this story and others like it, the Brents invoked the literary scholar Walter Ong, who argued that members of literate societies think differently than members of oral societies. The act of writing, Ong said—the ability to revisit your ideas and, in the process, refine them—transformed the shape of thought. The Brents characterized the writing of many audio-only readers as disorganized, “as if all of their ideas are crammed into a container, shaken, and thrown randomly onto a sheet of paper like dice onto a table.” The beginnings and endings of sentences seem arbitrary, one thought emerging in the midst of another, with a kind of breathless energy. The authors concluded, “It just doesn’t seem to reflect the qualities of organized sequence and complex thought that we value in a literate society.”
Our definition of a literate society inevitably shifts as our tools for reading and writing evolve, but the brief history of literacy for blind people makes the prospect of change particularly fraught. Since the 1820s, when Louis Braille invented his writing system—so that blind people would no longer be “despised or patronized by condescending sighted people,” as he put it—there has always been, among blind people, a political and even moral dimension to learning to read. Braille is viewed by many as a mark of independence, a sign that blind people have moved away from an oral culture seen as primitive and isolating. In recent years, however, this narrative has been complicated. Schoolchildren in developed countries, like the U.S. and Britain, are now thought to have lower Braille literacy than those in developing ones, like Indonesia and Botswana, where there are few alternatives to Braille. Tim Connell, the managing director of an assistive-technology company in Australia, told me that he has heard this described as “one of the advantages of being poor.”
Braille readers do not deny that new reading technology has been transformative, but Braille looms so large in the mythology of blindness that it has assumed a kind of talismanic status. Those who have residual vision and still try to read print—very slowly or by holding the page an inch or two from their faces—are generally frowned upon by the National Federation of the Blind, which fashions itself as the leader of a civil rights movement for the blind. Its president, Marc Maurer, a voracious reader, compares Louis Braille to Abraham Lincoln. At the annual convention for the Federation, held at a Detroit Marriott last July, I heard the mantra “listening is not literacy” repeated everywhere, from panels on the Braille crisis to conversations among middle-school girls. Horror stories circulating around the convention featured children who don’t know what a paragraph is or why we capitalize letters or that “happily ever after” is made up of three separate words.
Declaring your own illiteracy seemed to be a rite of passage. A vice president of the Federation, Fredric Schroeder, served as commissioner of the Rehabilitation Services Administration under President Clinton and relies primarily on audio technologies. He was openly repentant about his lack of reading skills. “I am now over fifty years old, and it wasn’t until two months ago that I realized that `dissent,’ to disagree, is different than `descent,’ to lower something,” he told me. “I’m functionally illiterate. People say, `Oh, no, you’re not.’ Yes, I am. I’m sorry about it, but I’m not embarrassed to admit it.”
While people like Laura Sloate or the governor of New York, David A. Paterson, who also reads by listening, may be able to achieve without the help of Braille, their success requires accommodations that many cannot afford. Like Sloate, Paterson dictates his memos, and his staff members select pertinent newspaper articles for him and read them aloud on his voicemail every morning. (He calls himself “overassimilated” and told me that as a child he was “mainstreamed so much that I psychologically got the message that I’m not really supposed to be blind.”) Among people with fewer resources Braille-readers tend to form the blind elite, in part because it is more plausible for a blind person to find work doing intellectual rather than manual labor.
A 1996 study showed that of a sample of visually impaired adults, those who learned Braille as children were more than twice as likely to be employed as those who had not. At the convention this statistic was frequently cited with pride, so much so that those who didn’t know Braille were sometimes made to feel like outsiders. “There is definitely a sense of peer pressure from the older guard,” James Brown, a thirty-five year old who reads using text-to-speech software, told me. “If we could live in our own little Braille world, then that’d be perfect,” he added. “But we live in a visual world.”
When deaf people began getting cochlear implants in the late 1980s, many in the deaf community felt betrayed. The new technology pushed people to think of the disability in a new way—as an identity and a culture. Technology has changed the nature of many disabilities, lifting the burdens but also complicating people’s sense of what is physically natural, because bodies can so often be tweaked until “fixed.” Arielle Silverman, a graduate student at the convention who has been blind since birth, told me that, if she had the choice to have vision, she was not sure she would take it. Recently she purchased a pocket-size reading machine that takes photographs of text and then reads the words aloud, and she said she thought of vision like that, as “just another piece of technology.”
The modern history of blind people is in many ways a history of reading, with the scope of the disability—the extent to which you are viewed as ignorant or civilized, helpless or independent—determined largely by your ability to access the printed word. For one hundred and fifty years Braille books were designed to function as much as possible like print books. But now the computer has essentially done away with the limits of form, because information, once it has been digitized, can be conveyed through sound or touch. For sighted people the transition from print to digital text has been relatively subtle, but for many blind people the shift to computerized speech is an unwelcome and uncharted experiment. In grappling with what has been lost, several Federation members recited to me various takes on the classic expression Scripta manent, verba volant: what is written remains, what is spoken vanishes into air.
by Brian A. MacDonald
From the Editor: Brian MacDonald is president of the National Braille Press (NBP), headquartered in Boston, Massachusetts. Here is a slightly edited version of the speech he delivered at our convention on July 7, 2009, on the status of Braille in America and NBP’s role in promoting the code.
Hello, everyone. Thank you, Dr. Maurer. I started as president of the National Braille Press on May 1, 2008, so this is my second NFB convention. It’s an honor to address you today and to see so many members and colleagues who share a common goal of independence, lifelong learning, and achievement.
Much of it all starts with a basic component—a book. If you think about it, any material that will hold and transmit a text or a code can be considered a book. A book is simply the receptacle or container--the method one conserves, stores, and keeps information in so that it can be referenced and shared with others. Of course the physical form of that book has changed over time based on materials available and technologies to produce it.
Let’s turn back, for those who remember the Wayback machine, and take a quick journey back in time to the first book. It wasn’t very portable, since it weighed a few tons and was made of stone. And you thought a Braille book was cumbersome. These go back to the caves, cave paintings in southwestern France from approximately thirty-two thousand years ago. Fast forward to five thousand years ago when hieroglyphics were started in Mesopotamia. The kings of Assyria had libraries there in the city of Nineveh, which today would be across the Tigris River from Mosul in Iraq. We found over twenty-two thousand clay tablets there. These hieroglyphic symbols were carved in soft, moist clay and then baked to make the tablets. It’s interesting to note that the depth and the way these unique symbols were carved might have been readable like a Braille graphic today.
Many other materials were used in different parts of the world, such as wax, tree bark, bamboo, and silk. One could even argue that tribal tattoos could be considered a book. Over time there have been lots of languages and codes that have been used, but the common denominator has been that authors wanted to pass on information through their experiences, stories, and knowledge to document religion, wars, and history that could be shared with future generations.
The National Braille Press has been printing Braille information for eighty-two years. We print literally millions of pages of Braille every year and thousands of tactile graphics for textbooks, children’s books, and educational tests. Our focus is Braille literacy for children and providing access to published information through adulthood for lifelong learning.
We often run a parallel quest with the great work of the National Federation of the Blind, because both of our organizations know the importance of Braille. Our Read Books program has provided free bookbags to families in fifty states and parts of Canada to explain why Braille matters to a child’s education.
You have just heard Dr. Schroeder talk about the debate regarding statistics on the number of potential Braille readers’ ages and demographics; even the unemployment numbers are debated. I will not go into that. Don’t worry. But we can see the changes in our customer database with the big gap in Braille literacy today. However, no one and no other organization should dispute the fact that Braille is a critically fundamental skill that has a direct correlation to employment. It’s a pathway that supports independence, helps build self-confidence, and improves and expands one’s education. Braille is literacy. [applause]
In tribute to its architect, Louis Braille, Euclid Herie said it well in his address last summer to the World Blind Union. His speech was titled, “Six Dots that Changed the World.” He said, when he was referring to Braille, “It has transformed lives, lifted millions out of poverty, enabled countless numbers of intelligent, hard-working people to perform responsible and meaningful work and contribute to their communities, provided for their families, and allowed people to enjoy rich and fulfilled lives.” We know that Braille books are the key to a fuller education, especially for studying language, math, and science. And these come with many challenges since printed textbooks today have more visuals, graphics, and diagrams than ever before. Quality tactile graphics are often needed as an important supplement to a Braille book today.
We also realize that segments of the blindness community have physical conditions or challenges that limit or prevent their ability to read Braille. But it shouldn’t stop some of them from learning Braille to take notes in meetings or classrooms on a notetaker with speech output if they can afford it. However, in spite of our knowledge concerning the importance of Braille, many direct and indirect threats to Braille books and using Braille in the future still exist.
To the older adults in this audience, which includes me unfortunately, for me a book is a virtual vacation, a relaxing mental escape from daily routine. There is something special about sitting in a quiet, comfortable room, getting engulfed in a book, and just turning your ears off. It’s a sanctuary for me. Unfortunately, today’s youth have many distractions that compete with reading a traditional book, and the paths of education in reading about cultures, history, and values are being threatened. One of my daughters is a fourth grade teacher, and she had to explain to her class recently what camera film was. Not one student had any knowledge of what the word “filming” even meant. They only knew digital cameras. So welcome to the growing digisphere of accessible technology; the black hole of the Internet; cell phones; constant texting; blogs; and the social networks of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Plaxo.
The Columbia Journalism Review recently published a study from the Associated Press on youth and technology. They noted at the time, which was two years ago, that there were already a hundred and fifty million Websites, seventy million blogs, and new Websites were expanding at the rate of ten thousand per hour. Terms like megabytes turned into terabytes. Now the latest is xabytes. The “x” prefix means one billion billion. The whole point of this is that the Associated Press study found that young adults suffered from news fatigue. I would take it one step further and say that young people have so many accessible social interactive options today that the concept of reading the basic novel outside of a mandatory classroom is being threatened. Thank goodness for blockbuster youth books like Harry Potter, which bring some revival to reading.
It’s easy to make the claim that technology is a double-edged sword since the advent of personal computers, speech recognition, and voice output devices. Today access to information has improved dramatically, and this is beneficial. The chairman of our board, my boss, Paul Paravano, is a Braille reader, and he uses computer software to read his email, since the volume he receives on a daily basis would take a long time to filter through. But he is the first one to emphatically state that he would not have the job that he has today in government relations at MIT without his ability to use Braille on a daily basis. [applause]
Last October National Braille Press founded the Center for Braille Innovation (CBI). We haven’t talked about it much. This is the first public announcement about it. The CBI's mission is to focus specifically on Braille technologies that can improve the Braille and tactile-graphic production process and to develop truly affordable Braille tools beyond our books for the blindness community. CBI is National Braille Press’s think tank, part virtual, part bricks and mortar, that wraps around our strategic plan and looks for these solutions.
We have put together a team of great engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and researchers that have made the commitment to bring affordable products to market, including refreshable Braille devices. Team CBI, as they have named themselves, includes people with backgrounds from IBM and Motorola. Members include the inventor of Bluetooth and the Razor phone, representatives from private engineering firms, and support from a list of distinguished universities in the United States and overseas. Yes, it’s like the crusades in the search for the holy Braille. I’ve heard that many times. For your reference some of these knights templars, staying with that theme, have names that may be familiar to some of you. One pioneer working with us is Deane Blazie. A positive side of this technology is that it’s changing more rapidly than ever before, and it’s these new technologies that provide the promise of new and affordable production methods and lower costs.
The National Braille Press is not a direct advocate for blindness, nor are we the voice of the nation’s blind. I think that’s covered pretty well in this room right here. No, we’re the toolmaker in the toolshed, tinkering away, and Braille books will always be that fundamental tool. [applause] Earlier I mentioned that the way one defines a book has changed over time due to material used and technologies developed. The Center for Braille Innovation is looking at every conceivable cutting-edge technology and resource to develop and create better, more affordable interactive tools for Braille literacy.
The world is in the early stages of another dramatic technological wave. The Kindle and Sony readers are getting traction, and major changes are around the corner. It’s hard to believe this. I’m dating myself again. Last Wednesday was the thirtieth anniversary of the great grandfather to the iPod, the Sony Walkman that used cassettes. [laughter] I personally loved eight-tracks myself. They sounded better. They died for cassettes. Computer media are changing from DVDs to CDs. Minis will soon replace laptops and notebooks. USB flash drives will be replaced with smaller, faster nano-somethings they haven’t even named yet. OLEDs (organic light emitting diode) and LEPs (light emitting palmers) will provide inexpensive light sources for homes. Bendable screens made of downloadable organic polymers will solve many problems.
The challenge to all of you Federationists out there in this room is to help us keep Braille alive. Yes, we support the need for NLS’s digital talking players and Victor Reader Streams and other speech technologies. They are useful and have an important market to serve, but it’s tempting to succumb to these types of technologies because they’re simple and easy to use. However, if one has the ability to read Braille, I urge you not always to settle for convenience. Every blind child and adult in this world has the right to read. [applause]
The other day I was in a lunchroom listening to three of our proofreaders, and they were talking about the importance of Braille. So I just sat down and listened, knowing I was going to speak to you today. One was saying that she liked Talking Books, but every time she would listen at night, she would fall asleep. Another proofreader responded saying she didn’t like Talking Books at all because, when she reads a Braille book, she likes to imagine the different sounds of the characters’ voices, and in her own mind she can create a better scene than by just listening to a narrator. The third person said he just doesn’t feel that he learns as much by listening versus actively reading Braille.
Braille will not become the next Latin. It is not and cannot become a dead language. But it must be integrated into future technologies and into mainstream devices. As National Braille Press and Team CBI collaborate with universities, companies, and organizations, a new generation of products will evolve. I’m confident that a future affordable book, an e-Book, will also evolve. However, as teachers, as friends, as mentors, and as parents of blind children, you must focus on the importance of that basic, fundamental tool—the Braille book. Whether it’s paper, electronic, or some future form that we cannot imagine today, it doesn’t matter. Within it lies the future of Braille itself and ultimately a more rewarding, knowledgeable, successful, joyful, and independent life. Enjoy the rest of the convention, and thank you for listening.
by Daniel B. Frye
Today blind people can and do access record amounts of written information through the emergence of scanning and digitization and assistive technology. We read newspaper articles, books, and other written materials using NFB NEWSLINE for the Blind®, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic, Bookshare, and Audible.com among other resources. Even when something is not available in an accessible format, current technology allows relatively easy access to printed texts. Because of the rapid evolution of access to information, some may even feel overwhelmed by the array of accessible reading options now available.
The Braille Monitor has recently learned of another Internet-based resource that makes more than 1.8 million digital books and other material freely available to everyone with access to the Internet. Founded by Brewster Kahle in 1996, the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library based in San Francisco, California, promotes universal access to knowledge. Although the Internet Archive management team did not have the needs of blind people in mind originally, they have been receptive to suggestions for making their vast content accessible to blind computer users. Toward this end the Internet Archive is exploring a partnership with the National Federation of the Blind to digitize and preserve our audio and video files through a grant application to the Institute for Museum and Library Services, a federal agency. The Archive is also negotiating with the NLS to use its disability-verification system so they can provide accessible formats of copyrighted materials to eligible blind and print-disabled people in the United States. Moreover the Internet Archive has already been producing its downloadable collection of books (most older and in the public domain) in the internationally recognized DAISY format.
According to Linda Frueh, the Internet Archive's regional director for Washington, D.C., Kahle and his wife established a foundation and launched the Internet Archive with the goal of recording the entire Internet. Frueh said that Kahle reasoned, "Here's an enormous, new technology changing from day to day, and nobody's recording it." Using Web-harvesting technology, a specially designed computer program that copies and saves Web pages, the organization has been preserving the evolving Internet. Kahle began by conducting a bimonthly Internet crawl. "We have one hundred and fifty billion Web pages archived since 1996," Frueh said. She explained further, "The way people access old Web pages is through the Wayback Machine, a search engine for all of the old Web pages archived at <www.archive.org>. On the results page you'll get a timeline of the various versions of the Web pages for which you are looking." Historians interested in the NFB, for instance, could use the Wayback Machine to review the evolution of our Internet site for the last fourteen years.
Having launched the Internet archiving project, the organization expanded its goals to digitize other media. Its online library now posts digital books, music, audio recordings, films, software collections, and more from its Website. Everything is made available free of charge. "We never have charged and never will charge for any of our content. Our goal is to make as much information as possible available to everyone who wants it; we're not invested in whether we provide information under our own name or as the behind-the-scenes resource for other Internet services," Frueh said.
Though much of this additional content may be of interest to blind people, the greatest benefit to the blind will be the large digital book collection it has already assembled. The most effective way to access these digital books from the Internet Archive is to visit its dedicated digital book Website <www.openlibrary.org>. Though visitors can reach the collection through the main Internet Archive Website, Frueh advises that both blind and sighted users who are interested only in downloading books will find it easier to go directly to the dedicated digital Website. The NFB is working with the Internet Archive to help evaluate and maximize the accessibility of its several Websites. These are clearly growing in popularity with a reported three million people a day visiting <www.archive.org> and two hundred and fifty thousand visiting <www.openlibrary.org>.
The Internet Archive's book collection reflects its history of working with academic institutions, libraries, and government agencies. It has 3,324 books in its children's collection at <http://www.archive.org/detail/iacl>. For examples of scientific literature scanned by the Archive from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, visit <http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org>. The Archive has scanned over thirty-three thousand items in this collection. Frueh says that the Internet Archive also has the largest Arabic collection outside of the Middle East and the Library of Congress. The Internet Archive digital library dwarfs the NLS digital collection, but Frueh reports that her organization would be delighted to explore expanding its partnership with NLS, allowing the national library to make all of these titles available through its frontline resources.
Readers should know that the Internet Archive, a member of the Open Book Alliance, opposes the currently proposed Google Books settlement. The Internet Archive and its supporters believe that the settlement as currently drafted creates an uneven playing field in out-of-print book publishing, an obscure area of debate among legal and academic scholars about one aspect of copyright law. Its objections, however, have nothing to do with the accessibility provisions and promise of rapid access to many digital books that the Google Book agreement would generate.
Blind readers now have another significant resource at our disposal that will enrich our lives. We can visit the Internet Archive and its related Websites for study, work, and recreation. The NFB looks forward to an ongoing and fruitful partnership with the Internet Archive.
by Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera
From the Editor: Lisamaria Martinez, president of the NFB's Sports and Recreation Division and a leader in our California affiliate, was the lead person quoted in a January 1, 2010, San Francisco Chronicle article that detailed both recent successes and continuing challenges blind people face with Internet access. This refreshing piece accurately portrays the advantages that we experience from well-designed Websites and fairly describes the hardships we encounter when our access needs are not considered. Here is the article:
During her high school years, Lisamaria Martinez, who has been visually impaired since she was five, carried a twenty-five-pound backpack to school crammed with books written in Braille. But once she was introduced to the Web at UC Berkeley, she started getting professors' class notes by email, using text-to-speech software, and trading heavy Braille tomes for a few words and a click on a search engine. A world without the Internet today, she said, is unimaginable.
"I'd cry. It's my job. It's how I find recipes, shop [for] my groceries, read the paper, and download my books. It's everything," said Martinez, now twenty-eight and a technology sales associate at the store run by San Francisco advocacy group, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
The Internet has brought enormous benefits to people with disabilities, allowing them to become more competitive when applying for jobs, lessen their dependence on others, engage more actively in public debates, and connect with their peers in ways that were impossible before. But at the same time, as society becomes more intertwined with digital media, the disabled struggle not to be left behind.
This year was marked by several success stories in the fight to improve accessibility in digital media. Amazon.com announced last month that it will add two features to improve the accessibility of its digital media reader Kindle after two universities said in November that they wouldn't consider widely adopting the device until it was easier to use for their blind and visually impaired students. In a boon for the deaf and hard of hearing, Google began offering an automated captioning system that allows YouTube users to switch on captions in many more of the site's videos. In June Twitter officials agreed to change their security tests—the garbled words many Websites ask users to type to avoid fake registrations—to a newer version that works better with screen readers the visually impaired often rely on. In that same month Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced legislation that would require captioning for all videos in U.S. Websites, just as is required of television. And three advocacy groups for the blind reached legal settlements with drugstore chain CVS and office supplies retailer Staples, which agreed to make their Websites compliant with widely accepted accessibility standards, said Lainey Feingold, the disability rights attorney who handled the cases.
Joshua Miele, a research scientist at Smith-Kettlewell Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center, knows firsthand how technology can improve the lives of people with limited or no sight. Miele, who is blind, has developed a Website that generates maps that can be printed in Braille and an audio-tactile periodic table that allows blind children to hear information on the elements by tapping on the table with a digital-recorder pen. However, he is also acutely aware of the uphill battle faced by those trying to turn promise into reality.
"It might seem things are more accessible than before, but you have to remember that new stuff always comes along that at its inception is almost always not accessible," Miele said. "If people designing new technologies planned better and took universal design and accessibility seriously, it really would be an amazing new world."
People with disabilities often depend on Web designers to program their sites with accessibility in mind, incorporating such features as compatibility with screen-reading software, video captions, color and font size options, and query suggestions for typing errors. More Web programmers are aware of the need for such options as advocates have become more effective in voicing their concerns.
Jennifer Yeagley, director of development at LightHouse, said the Bay Area is a perfect place to have a dialogue about Web accessibility because of the concentration of both technology companies and agencies that serve the disabled. LightHouse has hosted several focus groups with Silicon Valley tech giants Yahoo, Google, and Apple to discuss accessibility and give them feedback on applications. In turn the companies often host training sessions for LightHouse members on how to use new adaptive technology. "We give them a venue to speak about those components of their technology to their prospective buyers," Yeagley said. Businesses have also learned that they stand to benefit by meeting the needs of the disabled.
For example, they have a better chance of obtaining federal contracts because federal agencies, which are required to ensure that all their electronic and information technologies are accessible to people with disabilities, also are allowed to work only with contractors who follow the same guidelines. "This is a huge market that traditionally, quite frankly, has been underserved. From a business perspective that's another reason why we're very focused on this population," said Frances West, director of IBM's Human Ability and Accessibility Center. "This is changing very quickly from a charity and philanthropic perspective to a more mainstream and business-oriented opportunity."
In an effort to promote universal standards, the World Wide Web Consortium developed a set of guidelines for the way an accessible site should look. They include providing text alternatives for images, providing captions for audio and video, and enabling all-keyboard navigation. However, only a small portion of Web content meets the basic requirements for easy navigation, said Judy Brewer, director of the consortium's efforts.
"Most of us working in the Web-accessibility field almost always find some level of accessibility barriers in Websites. Businesses are doing better than they were doing some years ago, but there's still massive room for improvement," she said.
Advocates say making sites more accessible to disabled users often improves navigation for everyone. Font and spacing options, for instance, might also help children learn to read or nonnative English speakers comprehend better. "The misconception that has existed is that an accessible Website will be boring, and it's not true. You can have the look you want and, in fact, it will be a cleaner look that will benefit all readers," said Feingold, the disability rights attorney.
by Larry E. Streeter
From the Editor: Larry Streeter, a longtime Federationist, earned his PhD in education leadership from the University of Idaho in May 2007. He presently serves as an administrator at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Indianapolis, Indiana. Prior to assuming his current post, Dr. Streeter was assistant principal at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in North Carolina. Before leaving Idaho, Dr. Streeter was the dispute resolution coordinator for the Idaho Department of Education, and he served as president of our Idaho affiliate from 2000 to 2005.
The following article is a revised and abbreviated version of Dr. Streeter's doctoral dissertation on the correlation between the involvement of blind students in extracurricular and nonacademic activities and their educational experiences. It has been rewritten to appeal to the general readership of the Braille Monitor. Because certain portions of his paper have been omitted, specific details and some explanatory analysis that shows the relationship between the identified problems and his recommendations have been omitted from this document. Dr. Streeter's assumptions and conclusions have clearly been influenced by the Federation's perspective on blindness. In publishing his work, we hope that professionals and informed parents will adopt his recommendations for greater inclusion of blind students in all aspects of the educational journey. Here is what he says:
Blind people have long combated misunderstanding, prejudice, and discrimination from the public at large. These battles have been all too frequent. Many of the conflicts have taken place in the extracurricular and nonacademic arena at the high school and college levels. Dr. Kenneth Jernigan in 1965 explained the challenges of being blind:
When an individual becomes blind, he faces two major problems: first, he must learn the skills and techniques which will enable him to carry on as a normal, productive citizen in the community; and second, he must become aware of and learn to cope with public attitudes and misconceptions about blindness—attitudes and misconceptions which go to the very roots of our culture and permeate every aspect of social behavior and thinking.
The vast majority of blind high school students are now educated in public schools as opposed to residential schools for the blind. Although numerous blind students have overcome obstacles and soared to great heights by successfully pursuing extracurricular activities during high school and college, many others are isolated or insulated. They have been denied the chance to develop self-esteem and to experience teamwork, health and fitness, and sportsmanship. The lack of understanding and the misconceptions noted by Dr. Jernigan contribute to the barriers for blind students and may divert them from participating in various activities.
Involvement in extracurricular activities has a number of social and academic benefits for both blind and sighted students. Those so engaged tend to have greater satisfaction with school compared to those who are not involved. Engagement in sports, fine arts, clubs, or organizations promotes citizenship, develops positive school spirit, substantially decreases the drop-out rate, and adds educational value—which often influences student achievement. Athletic activity, for example, may not help, but does not obstruct the academic achievement of students; direct results of athletics include goal setting, physical fitness, self-discipline, and teamwork.
This dissertation examined one question. What are the supports in high school and college that influence and the constraints that impede blind student participation in extracurricular and nonacademic activities in three categories: organized sports and intramurals, clubs and organizations, and performing arts? The researcher contacted and provided information to consumer organizations of the blind, rehabilitation agencies, and schools for the blind. Eight male and eight female full-time college students from various collegiate settings and majors were selected to participate in the study. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. Individual profiles were drawn up and a group depiction developed. We identified the following five themes and three codes for each theme and analyzed them for similarities and recurrences:
1. Barriers are anything that restrains or obstructs progress. Barriers can be self-imposed, resulting in a lack of self-belief. Environmental concerns include difficulty or inability in accessing materials, technology, or transportation. Public attitudes encompass all levels of society, where expressed attitudes range from acceptance to discrimination.
2. Engaging is knowing how to react and what actions to take when overcoming barriers is critical. How engaged is a blind student willing to be? The student may be unwilling to participate. The challenge may be too great, or the student may lack knowledge of how to proceed. A student may decide to seek help but needs assistance to achieve inclusion in an activity. Self-advocacy occurs when the student knows what he or she wants, seeks the information without assistance, and arrives at the given activity ready to participate fully.
3. Influence is the process of producing effects on the actions, behavior, and opinions of others. Success for the blind student is influenced by interactions taking place within the family, school, and community. For any child, parent and family influence from birth is the most critical. The way family members adjust and react to the child is of primary concern. School personnel play almost an equally important role. Community influence involves interactions with friends, peers, and employers.
4. Skills are the alternative techniques of blindness—Braille, independent travel, assistive technology, and techniques of daily living. The underlying issue is the level of training the student has reached. A blind student may have been excluded from the opportunity to learn the techniques or is just now receiving initial training because of the recent onset of blindness. As training occurs, the student moves toward becoming proficient. The final phase is reached when the student achieves and maintains a confident and competent level in a given skill.
5. Freedom is the right to enjoy all the privileges of citizenship in a community and is characterized by the ability to exercise choice. Denial occurs when the blind person does anything to avoid being identified as blind and refuses to deal with blindness as a subject or use the techniques associated with blindness. Adjusting to blindness occurs when the individual begins to confront the condition through challenging daily experiences. As the blind person continues to read, discuss, and exchange ideas, a philosophy of blindness emerges.
Students in this study candidly discussed their involvement in various extracurricular activities and identified positive and negative forces in their quest for equal opportunity to participate. The researcher identified two of several exemplary participants, Sarah and Jason, who set the standard for others to follow.
Sarah was a member of the National Honor Society and the Spanish Club and participated in tandem cycling, choir, and voice. In college she joined the choir and the Spanish Club, participated in rock climbing, and served in student government. As a triplet, she had great support from her family. She recalled:
Literature is always an interesting thing. I’ve always been an avid reader. I’d read historical fiction or something and there would be somebody blind mentioned—a blind beggar or something like that. For some reason it didn’t bother me because I always thought, “Well, I don’t have to be in that position.” With my family being so supportive, it just didn’t seem like an option. I mean, I was in school; I was in all these activities. My family always told me that I could do things that I wanted to do, and they taught me how to do things. Sometimes we would all get frustrated, but that’s just part of life in general, I think.
During high school Jason participated in swimming, judo, karate, track and field, and band. He was also active in several clubs. In college Jason was active in rowing, debate, and rock climbing. He joined a fraternity. His philosophy was that blind people can compete with the sighted in the world as partners and equals, relying on hard work, effort, confidence, and competence. Jason stressed that socialization is critical for success. He explained his college rowing experience like this:
The team initially had problems with me participating. Blindness was equated with weakness, and some members of the team thought that I wasn’t physically fit to do it. A lot of that just broke down from my being assertive. The people in charge of the activity were skeptical, so had it not been for my own desire to become just as involved as anybody else, I think I would have just sat around and done nothing.
For Sarah and Jason inner strength and determination prevailed. Other participants shared facts of their encounters in attempting to integrate successfully. The comments that follow are a small sampling of many stories.
Christina was mostly inactive in extracurricular activities in high school and college, but she had wanted to throw the discus or javelin during high school. Her dreams were in vain because no one listened to her pleadings, and she was not strong enough to follow her aspirations. She ultimately gave up. She said:
During my sophomore year I talked to every coach that I could. Then, when a coach left, I went to their replacement and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about this event. I was told by the last coach that they would watch and see if it’s too visual an event, and they’d try to make some adaptations for me. I suggested using my cane as a line to the last coach. Would you watch your event and see if it’s too visual or if it can be adapted?” They just said, “Well, if the last coach didn’t know if it could be adapted, I don’t know if it can be.” I replied, “Well, why don’t you let me participate in the practices just to see if something is too much, because I did track in elementary school. I have a history of track and field.” I figured academics would take up a lot of my time, so I didn’t really worry about it, but I was pretty irritated.
In high school Samuel was on the wrestling team and joined the Spanish Club. His college activity was limited to being a member of the student government. He questioned each time he went to wrestling practice if he was being treated fairly and whether expectations were lowered to allow him in. He reflected upon his journey as a blind student and discovered fair treatment does not always exist:
So it was a pretty big team. I was generally put with a lot of freshman, a lot of underclassmen, even as an upperclassman. Other experienced people would take turns with the varsity wrestlers at their weight and stuff like that. This practice was just lowering the bar, I think.
The oldest participant, Lauren, was fully engaged in numerous activities in high school and college. Band, orchestra, choir, dance, judo, drama, and track and field took up her high school hours. She expanded her interests and talents during college by participating in ice-skating, rowing, rock climbing, yearbook, kayaking, tandem cycling, and student government. She articulated what it takes to be successful:
If you’re not a confident person in general, I think you need to develop confidence enough in your abilities to be able to advocate for yourself. Some people out there won't believe that you can do what you want to do. So you need to have enough belief in yourself. Confidence would be the first quality that you need to possess. Self-advocacy would be the next quality or characteristic that I think is really necessary for success. Also a lot of flexibility and imagination is required. You might want to do something, and you might not even know how you’re going to do it, but you have to have the creativity to figure out how to do it.
For years Scott had difficulty dealing with and adjusting to his blindness. Nevertheless he played football, wrestled, and competed in track and field in high school. In college he joined a political club, worked out lifting weights, and formed a band. His major obstacle was accepting and using a cane. His road to victory was long and challenging, but he ultimately prevailed. He recalled:
I didn’t like going around with a cane. Back when I was twelve or thirteen, I delivered papers on a paper route. My mom said, “Look, if you’re going on your paper route, you’re walking with a cane.” I said, “Fine, good." I’d walk out, get down the block, cross the street, fold it up, and put it in my newspaper bag. She got onto that and gave me a straight cane. Then I would walk down, cross the street out of sight, shove the cane down my pants and into my shoe, and walk around like that.
Rebecca competed in track and field events, was a member of the National Honor Society and student council, and participated in drama and choir. In high school and college she served on the yearbook staff. From the onset Rebecca was determined to work on her high school yearbook in some capacity. She commented:
In high school I did the yearbook, just because we didn’t have a newspaper. I did it during my junior and senior years. I can remember people on staff questioning whether I could really participate. I didn't know how I was going to do it. I knew, however, that I would figure something out. Taking matters in hand I said, “Look, obviously I’m not going to be much good with the pictures because I can’t see them, but if somebody can describe them to me, I can do captions. I can definitely write for you.” So that’s what I did. I worked with a friend who identified the pictures while we both wrote the captions. I also wrote the whole story part of the yearbook.
Matthew became extremely involved in the computer and business clubs and ran track during high school. In college his primary interest focused on his involvement in a fraternity, but he also made time for lifting weights. In making his final fraternity selection, Matthew looked at several on his campus and selected the one that made it clear that he would not get a free ride based on his blindness. He expressed his desire for freedom:
I joined that house because, of all the houses that I visited and all the recruiters that I talked to, those in the house I chose said, “You’re blind, but you know we’re going to expect you to do everything that everyone does here. If that’s going to be a problem, we don’t actually want you.” One house told me they’d exempt me from chores because I’m blind and obviously wouldn’t be able to do them. That’s what they told me. I said, “Well, I’m sorry. Is the door straight ahead, because I think I’m out.” I just left. Those people liked me, but I wasn’t about to let someone have that low an expectation of me.
The results of this qualitative study were not surprising. The extent of participation in extracurricular activities correlates with the way students cope with and confront barriers. Although barriers may obstruct participation, they are not insurmountable, whether internal, environmental, or attitudinal in society. The drive and motivation to be involved is critical. The blind student must reach a level of self-advocacy where he or she is able to stand and do battle if necessary, even against overwhelming odds. The participants concurred that positive support and influence must emerge from a variety of sources—family members, teachers of the blind, and members of the broader community. The greater the support, the more likely the student is to succeed. Students voiced the opinion that quality skills and positive attitudes are guiding forces that help to emancipate the blind person. They agreed that, generally speaking, in the long run society will not tolerate incompetence from the blind. Therefore blind students must consistently demonstrate their talents and abilities.
This study contained other noteworthy findings. At the college level, female participants were more actively involved in extracurricular activities than their male counterparts. Nevertheless, male students joined fraternities at a greater rate than females joined sororities. Approximately 75 percent of the participants became actively involved in a consumer organization of the blind, most notably the National Federation of the Blind. Much of the energy normally attributed to extracurricular activities on the college campus was channeled into the activities of the organized blind movement. As a point of interest, of the sixteen participants only one used people-first language during conversation with the researcher.
Educators of the blind must accurately assess the needs of students and encourage and teach alternative techniques. Mastery of these alternative techniques must be the default learning method for blind students. Too many students, specifically those with some residual vision, have been deprived of learning alternative techniques. Each student is entitled to receive quality training to be successful in a competitive society. Expectations must be elevated in order to bring about positive outcomes for students.
Throughout our society attitudes about blindness must change, but no single area needs more attention than university programs to train teachers of the blind. The traditional approaches, beliefs, and assumptions observed in education and rehabilitation programs, often based on the concept of the hierarchy of sight, must be cast aside if young people like those interviewed for this study are to have a fair chance to succeed. A philosophy which embraces and combines skills training and attitudes (as ably demonstrated in the NFB training centers) must be launched in all teacher-training programs. Course curriculum must include literature and philosophical viewpoints from blind consumers, open and honest discussions involving blind role models, mandatory use of sleep shades, assignment of mentors to teacher candidates, and attendance by trainees at state and national conventions of the blind. Frequent opportunities to observe, discuss, and interact with a single mentor or thousands of blind people can shape the attitudes of future teachers and change what it means to be blind.
Kenneth Jernigan declared throughout his advocacy career that blind people are normal, ordinary people who simply cannot see. The blind, he said, constitute a minority group with all of the implications that the word implies. According to Dr. Jernigan, the physical condition of blindness is a normal human characteristic that, when combined with others, shapes each person into a distinct human being. With training and opportunity blindness is not a tragedy and can be reduced to the level of an inconvenience. These few lines by Kenneth Jernigan are correct and true principles. Those who have come to understand and apply these principles have been successful and individually changed what it means to be blind, but the battle still remains to be won for our community as a whole.
by Dennis Farro
From Barbara Pierce: Dennis Farro is an ordained minister and a licensed professional counselor with an MA in clinical counseling from Eastern University in Pennsylvania and an M.Div. from Columbia Biblical Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina. He has served as an associate pastor in the Bronx, New York, for four years and has done drug and alcohol counseling and individual psychotherapy for about ten years. In mid-December he wrote an email to the NFB chapter presidents listserv. It caught my attention because the experience he reported was such a clear example of a church’s violation of Section 501(d) of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is the provision that the NFB insisted be included in the ADA before we would endorse it. It gives a person with a disability the right to refuse an accommodation if he or she wishes to do so.
I contacted Mr. Farro off list, and he encouraged me to contact the Brooklyn Tabernacle, which I did immediately. I did not manage to reach a live human being, but I did leave the Rev. Alex Burgos a message, inviting comment on the situation Dennis Farro describes in his email post. Here is Dennis’s email to the NFB chapter presidents:
For those of you unfamiliar with Brooklyn Tabernacle, it is a large, multiracial, multiethnic church in Brooklyn, New York, known for its choir, emphasis on intercessory prayer, and oft-expressed desire to serve others. The pastor, Jim Cymbala, is a reputable author, as is his wife Carol. I have attended services there three times in the past several years, most notably to hear guest speakers like Ravi Zacharias and David Jeremiah.
I anticipated a warm and friendly reception on my first visit, but I received a rude awakening. I entered the large sanctuary and made my way to the pews toward the front of the church. I sat down and slid my guide dog Duncan under my seat, anticipating the service to follow. It wasn't long before an usher informed me that I had to move because I was required to sit in the disabled section of the church. As calmly as possible I informed him that this would not be necessary, but he insisted that this was an inner-city church, and sometimes fights broke out in the pews. So, “You could get hurt.” I assured him that, if I had any indication that such a thing was taking place, I could and would quickly move out of the way. He left, and I assumed the situation had been resolved.
However, an associate pastor, Al Toledo, came over and insisted that moving was church policy. He added that, if an ambulance had to come and take someone out quickly, it would be a problem for me to remain where I was seated. Again I assured him that I could move as fast as anyone else if such a situation required it. He told me that I was not being cooperative and asked, if I claimed to be a Christian, why wasn’t I willing to submit to the church's policy. I don't recall my exact response, but, as things turned out, I stayed where I was. However, they warned me that the next time I'd have to sit in the disabled section.
I tried not to let this bother me, but it inevitably colored the way I experienced the service. I met some nice people where I was sitting, and I recognized that, had I obeyed Brooklyn Tabernacle policy, I would never have had the opportunity to meet them at all. I addressed this issue in a certified letter to Pastor Jim Cymbala but never received a response.
I wish I could tell you that this was an isolated incident, a onetime misunderstanding that was soon resolved, but I can't. Recently I again went to Brooklyn Tabernacle and was almost immediately commandeered by an usher who sought to redirect me to the disability section. Again I was told that this was protocol and that, if there was an emergency, an usher would be able to escort me out because he would know where I was. I again declined to move, but the head usher came over and insisted that I follow him to the disability section. My effort to convince him that this was unnecessary and presumptuous failed completely. I was seated by a very rude usher at the aisle end of the row, and, although I slid the dog well under the pew, the usher insisted that everyone entering the row go around and enter from the opposite side, even though there was ample room to step across in front of me, or I could have stepped out to let others in. I was told to “just sit there, sir."
The following day I contacted staff pastor Alex Burgos to report what had taken place. He informed me that the directive to enforce this policy came from his office and that he would stand by it. He said that it was a liability issue. I couldn’t, for instance, sit in a different section from the one prescribed because someone could fall over the dog while stepping across in front of me and sue the church. I pressed him on this issue, pointing out that the same thing could happen to someone stepping in front of a person with a purse or backpack on the floor, but this argument got me nowhere. He quickly informed me that the conversation was over and that nothing I could say would change the policy.
One is left to wonder who the people relegated to the disability ghetto are. Are they only those with overt disabilities? How severe does the disability need to be before one is redirected to those seats? What about the partially sighted, those on crutches, or even those with hidden disabilities such as epilepsy? If I were married, would I be separated from my wife and sent there, or would she be asked to sit there with me? Maybe I would be permitted to sit with her because they presumed that she would take the ushers’ role of supervising my safe conduct out of the church.
This entire experience has deeply troubled me for the following reasons:
1. It is based on a prejudicial perception of so-called disabled people, one that isolates and confines them to their own little ghetto, where they can be looked after by their would-be protectors in case any trouble should arise.
2. It stems from the erroneous notion that so-called disabled people are helpless and cannot handle themselves in the event of an emergency.
3. It violates the principle set forth in James chapter 2 of not showing respect or favoritism to one person over another in the church.
4. It communicates an obviously greater concern for insurance liability than for people on the part of the church leadership.
5. It points up the hypocrisy that infects many churches today, in which one message is declared from the pulpit or in promotional material, and the opposite message is demonstrated in the words and actions of those in leadership.
Chances are that, if what I have written doesn't bother you, it’s because you think it doesn't affect your life or seem relevant to your situation. So what, Dennis, just sit where they tell you to, or don't go back to that church. Sadly, this is the attitude of many today when they see injustice, yet turn a blind eye and a deaf ear because that is the easy thing to do. Ultimately this issue is not about me but about the way those in one minority group are treated in one of the premier evangelical churches in America.
I ask those of you who are outraged by what I've recounted here first to pray for Brooklyn Tabernacle and for me as I endeavor to address this issue further with the Rev. Jim Cymbala. Second I encourage you to express your concerns either to Pastor Cymbala <email@example.com> or Alex Burgos <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
If someone told you that, because you were black or overweight or too old or had one of a host of other characteristics, you'd have to sit in a special section, would that bother you? I think most people would agree that it would. This is exactly my point.
There you have Dennis’s message. I received a return call, not from Pastor Burgos but from Steve Rhoads, chief financial officer of the Brooklyn Tabernacle. It seemed an odd choice of staffer to follow through with this issue, but it turns out that Mr. Rhoads has a son who uses a wheelchair. It was clear from the beginning of our conversation that something odd had been going on. He assured me that the Tabernacle has neither a disability section nor a written policy requiring people with disabilities to sit together. He seemed genuinely shocked and distressed to think that a worshiper would have been treated in the way I described. At his request I sent him Dennis’s email post. Here is the substance of the message I received from Steve Rhoads the following day:
The only policy that the Brooklyn Tabernacle has adopted comes from our volunteer manual and states: “Be sensitive and use discretion with people or children in custom-made strollers or wheelchairs. Never make the person feel uncomfortable or draw attention to the person when you are seating him or her or looking for an available spot.”
We have now expanded this policy to include the following: “The Brooklyn Tabernacle is dedicated to extending the love of God and message of Christ to people who are affected by disability, whether it is the disabled person, a family member, or friend. Our objective is to meet the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of this group of people in practical ways. As a result, we will make every effort to accommodate the needs of those who have specialized challenges. While preferential treatment provisions are intended to protect the rights of the disabled, we also respect the right of each individual to refuse those provisions.”
I urged Mr. Rhoads to be sure that all volunteers and the full professional staff were fully informed about the actual policy. He responded that this had been done at the staff meeting Wednesday evening, December 16. So there you have it. In future Dennis Farro may find ushers who want him to move to some other seat, but he now has a written policy to which he can refer when he refuses to do so. Let us hope that the folks at the Brooklyn Tabernacle have learned an important lesson. The existence of Section 501(d) of the Americans with Disabilities Act provides disabled people an important protection from intrusive or inappropriate interference.
Making a charitable gift can be one of the most satisfying experiences in life. Each year millions of people contribute their time, talent, and treasure to charitable organizations. When you plan for a gift to the National Federation of the Blind, you are not just making a donation; you are leaving a legacy that insures a future for blind people throughout the country. Special giving programs are available through the National Federation of the Blind (NFB).
Points to Consider When Making a Gift to the National Federation of the Blind
Benefits of Making a Gift to the NFB
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Your gift makes you a part of the NFB dream!
From the Editor: The following article describes the work that students in the Virginia Tech engineering program are undertaking to create a vehicle that blind people can drive. Business Wire News Releases, in cooperation with Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corporation, published this release on November 16, 2009. Here it is:
Driving can be tedious if you can see. But for the blind driving is one of life’s most sorely missed conveniences. It means independence--the exhilarating possibility of simply going someplace without depending on friends, family, or public transportation schedules. A team of Virginia Tech students is trying to make this possible by helping blind drivers see with their hands and ears, and SolidWorks® CAD software is helping them.
“Many blind people prefer the concept of driving as opposed to being driven,” says Kimberly Wenger, senior and student leader of the Virginia Tech Blind Driver Challenge (BDC) project. “There’s really no reason the blind can’t drive someday, and they’re already proving it in our semi-autonomous vehicle. The next step is perfecting the technology so they can drive on the open road without endangering anyone. Admittedly that’s a big challenge.”
Blind individuals have been driving Virginia Tech’s specially equipped dune buggy in parking lots throughout the summer. They have full control of the steering, accelerator, and brakes. They follow computer-generated steering commands, e.g., “two clicks to the right,” delivered through headphones. The steering wheel emits an audible click for every five degrees it’s turned. A vibrating vest signals the driver to slow or stop. The on-board computer produces directions based on data about the car’s surroundings collected by a laser on the front of the car.
The Virginia Tech BDC team used SolidWorks to perfect the design of the roulette-style click wheel. “We used SolidWorks to design numerous concepts for the click wheel’s internal mechanisms and to conduct several structured-design reviews,” said Wenger. “SolidWorks helped us visualize everyone’s ideas, narrow them down, detect interference, and choose the best design. Thanks to the reviews, our consensus design has worked flawlessly from day one.” The team also used SolidWorks to design the dashboard panel and battery holder and drive the laser cutting of the parts.
As wonderful as it is for the blind to drive, the BDC team isn’t satisfied. Why should the blind be told how to drive by a computerized master, rather than make driving decisions themselves?
Consequently the next major feature on the BDC vehicle will be a breakthrough device that gives drivers a real-time tactile topographical map of their surroundings so they can make their own decisions on turning, slowing down, or stopping. Through this device, called the AirPix, drivers will detect terrain through their fingertips. AirPix works something like an air hockey table, with pressure being forced upwards through pin holes. Stronger pressures indicate obstacles. The team is using SolidWorks to design that device too.
“SolidWorks has an easy and intuitive user interface that is ideal for concept generation, visualization, and virtual prototyping,” said Wenger. “It’s making our design decisions much more objective and helping us eliminate errors. Every day we get a little closer to our ultimate goal.”
The Virginia Tech Blind Driver Challenge project team consists of twelve mechanical engineering students working under Dr. Dennis Hong in his world-renowned Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory (RoMeLa). The project is the school’s response to a challenge issued by the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute, which is dedicated to helping the blind achieve independence. Virginia Tech was the only organization that dared to tackle the challenge.
by Barbara Pierce
Those who are familiar with my history know that my husband Bob is a retired professor of Shakespeare and seventeenth-century poetry and prose. We have twice lived in London for a year, and together we have visited the United Kingdom eight times. We made our most recent trip as soon as I had put the December 2009 issue of the Braille Monitor to bed. I reasoned that, if I were going to cease being Monitor editor, I had better remove myself from the temptation of meddling with Dan Frye’s first days of Monitor editorship. Since I am going to continue helping him with the publication, I had left him a good bit of material for the January issue, but I didn’t think he needed to have me leaning over his shoulder, offering advice.
So on November 30 Bob and I left for London with no computer for checking email and no phone number where I could be reached. In the last decade or so I have been impressed with the strides in access that tourist-destination and transit personnel in the U.K. have made. The London Underground system is a good case in point. Our son, who lives in England, had warned us to buy Oyster cards and put money on them before we left the airport. This plastic card can be used on the London Underground system and a number of commuter trains. By next July travelers will also be able to purchase all train tickets using this card. When entering a transit station, the traveler swipes the card across a reader—always on the same side of the turn-style lane--and then does it again when leaving the station at the other end. You can leave the card in your wallet or small purse during this transaction. The correct amount for your journey is deducted from the amount you have deposited on the card. A blind traveler who cannot read an LED display and who needs to know how much credit is left on his or her Oyster card must ask an employee for help because the machines that provide this information do not talk. My experience is that plenty of transit workers are always around, and they are pretty constructive in offering help or information.
When we landed, we traveled directly to Salisbury, a cathedral city west of London, and toured the cathedral that afternoon. I have been told that every cathedral in the United Kingdom now displays a tactile model and a raised floor plan of the building. We discovered this fact several years ago in Winchester Cathedral, and I was delighted to find that Salisbury had a model available as well. These displays are immensely interesting and helpful. The only problem is that sighted cathedral guides want to hurry the blind visitor along so that they can get to what they consider the good stuff. Salisbury did not have a Braille pamphlet with tactile line drawings of the fan vaulting, windows, and pillars as Winchester does, but the floor plan and model were very interesting. The Salisbury Cathedral chapter house had a copy of the Magna Carta on display. This was the agreement that King John signed at Runnymede in 1215, which is considered to be the earliest British step toward democracy because the king ceded to his barons some of his authority, undermining the absolute monarchy.
The next day we took a tour bus to Stonehenge even though the weatherman promised nothing but rain. This was a double-decker bus with an automated tour of the area as we drove through it. At Stonehenge visitors were handed audio-guide speakers in their preferred language. I received a guide for blind visitors. It was similar to the general audio guide in English except that it gave more detail and the information was designed to be used by a blind visitor without a human guide. The huge stones are now roped off, and the tour instructions for the visually impaired depended on trailing the ropes, but at least the ropes in question had not been strung especially as guides for the blind. I must admit that early on Bob and I stopped our trudge through the downpour and stood under our umbrella listening to our taped descriptions. The rain was unremitting, and juggling umbrellas and listening devices in the cold and mud was more than either of us could be enthusiastic about.
On the way back to Salisbury we stopped to spend a bit of time in the Roman and then Medieval city of Sarum, built on a high hill above Salisbury. On this wet and windy winter day it was easy to understand why the monks in the eleventh century decided to move their cathedral down to the valley, where they would be somewhat protected from the cold and damp. We trudged up the hill as far as the tourist shop, where they promised us a sip of mead or mulled wine when we returned from the ruins. We appreciated the offer of a warming taste of something, but it seemed a bit early in the day for alcohol, and we had little heart for sliding on the wet grass and mud of the hill ruins, so we retreated to the bus stop and returned to Salisbury to dry out.
The following day we went to Bath, where we stayed in a bed and breakfast owned by a woman who once worked as an assistant housekeeper at Buckingham Palace. Before we set out on a guided walking tour of the city, which goes back to the Roman occupation, we explored the Abby Church of Bath and made a dinner reservation at the restaurant pictured above, which is housed in the oldest building in Bath. A building stood on the spot when Romans walked the streets of Bath, and the current structure was built in the fifteenth century. In 1680 Sally Lunn immigrated from France because of the French persecution of the Huguenots, and she settled in this house and started a baking business. She developed a bread that became famous as a Sally Lunn. In the photo here you can see the front of the restaurant with a Victorian sedan chair on display. The rider climbed in through the front and sat on a bench seat. Then two chairmen lifted the contraption and carried it through the streets to the person’s destination. Our tour guide told us the chairmen received eight pints of beer a day as part of their pay. One wonders how often they staggered into the ditch while working and what happened to the passengers trapped inside the metal boxes.
On our walking tour we visited the Royal Crescent, where wealthy and famous people have lived for centuries, and the assembly rooms and the Gravel Walk, both made famous by Jane Austen. I understand that one can actually still drink the waters and bathe in the hot springs that have made Bath famous for two thousand years, but the Pierces were not inclined to do so. Standing in the Assembly Rooms, it was easy for me to conjure up the eighteenth-and nineteenth-century ladies and gentlemen who gossiped and promenaded in the mornings and danced in the evenings in these beautiful rooms.
We spent the remainder of our vacation in London. We enjoyed a spectacular Messiah performed by the English National Opera orchestra and chorusat the Coliseum; Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the recently renovated Covent Garden Opera House; and Bertold Brecht’s Mother Courage with Fiona Shaw in the lead at the National Theatre. All of these were memorable productions by world-class performers.
We stayed with friends in South Kensington, within easy walking distance of Kensington Palace, the residence until her death of Princess Diana and still one of the Prince of Wales’s residences.
One of the most memorable things we did in London was to tour the Houses of Parliament, which somehow we had never done. On a whim I called Lord Colin Lowe’s parliamentary assistant to see if he could arrange a tour of the House of Lords and the House of Commons for us, and to my delight he agreed to show us through these buildings himself. Lord Lowe, who has addressed the NFB convention and is the retired CEO of the Royal National Institute of the Blind and Visually Impaired, was actually at the American Printing House for the Blind at the time we were in London, but his young assistant, Will Moy, was charming, well informed, and endlessly patient with our questions. Again we found a model and raised-line floor plan of the buildings that comprise this historic complex. Outside the House of Commons chamber, flanking the door facing the Members’ Lobby, the Central Lobby, and the House of Lords chamber, are statues of the two twentieth-century war prime ministers, David Lloyd George and a determined Winston Churchill standing, arms akimbo, on the rubble of the bombed out House of Commons during World War II. I was permitted to reach up to investigate these figures as high as I could reach, which was about to the knee of each statue. Encountering all this history was very exciting, and we were grateful to have the experience.
We had a delightful time visiting England even though the weather was cool and often damp. It may be that, because I was with my husband almost all the time, I did not find the public as difficult to manage this time as I have in past years. No one balked at my climbing independently to and from the top of double-decker buses. One finds twisting staircases everywhere in this country full of historic buildings, but no one grabbed me or warned me about the narrow treads. Perhaps they noticed that I was hanging on to the banisters for dear life, having no desire to travel home with a sprained ankle. England’s green and pleasant land was indeed still green in early December. Its gardens still included some roses, and its people were friendly and interesting. We spent a wonderful ten days and, as always, are eager to return soon.
by Sharon Maneki
From Barbara Pierce: Recently Sharon Maneki and I were roommates during a weekend meeting at the National Center for the Blind. She mentioned her water aerobics course, and I was immediately intrigued. I asked her some questions about the program and then asked her to write a brief article for the Braille Monitor describing her experience with this sort of exercise. Sharon chairs the NFB resolutions committee and is a past president of the NFB of Maryland. She also exercises regularly. Here is her article describing her experience:
As each year comes to a close and the new year begins, radio and television programs are filled with ads for diet products and exercise programs. Millions of Americans make New Year’s resolutions to do more exercise during the coming year. According to statistics I have heard, most people give up on these resolutions by the end of January or February. For many years I was guilty of doing just that. In the beginning of 2007, I decided to take my resolutions seriously and do something different. Sometimes we can let blindness get in the way of exercising. I am sharing this story with you because I hope it will be a source of encouragement.
Whether we are blind or sighted, getting enough exercise can be a struggle. It is hard to find the time and hard to stick to a schedule. I am not athletically inclined, so I need extra motivation. I thought that, if I signed up for some type of exercise class that I had to pay for, I would be more likely to stick with it. I have some blind friends who use the Curves program based on exercise machines for thirty-minute sessions. Curves did not excite me. I believe it is important to do something that you enjoy if you want to achieve long-term, regular exercise. I have always enjoyed water activities, so I decided to try water aerobics.
The next step was finding the right program. One of my readers told me that our local community college in Howard County, Maryland, offers several water aerobics courses. Enrolling in a community college has the advantage of lower course fees with no annual club membership charges. I chose the course on water jogging because it was held at a convenient time for me.
I was concerned about how the college and the instructor would react to my blindness. I registered online for the class. Then I sent a note to the college administrators telling them that I was blind and wanted to make sure that the instructor would describe the instructions along with demonstrating them. Eventually I found the right person to ask about this. Luckily my instructor was very helpful in announcing and describing all of the moves. The college administrators also told me that I could bring someone with me to explain the moves. I chose not to do this, believing that it would set a bad precedent for me as well as for future blind students. If my companion could not attend a particular class, I might be automatically excluded from participating.
I have to admit that I was nervous for much of the first semester. I was afraid I would bump into other students. I wondered if I would understand the instructions. I summoned up my courage and reminded myself that I was there to have fun. This was a noncredit course and had no quizzes, tests, or grades. My goal was not achieving perfection, but attaining better cardiovascular health than I would have had by simply staying at home. At this level nobody cares if you don’t do the moves exactly right. You are in this course to challenge yourself. As Federationists it is important for us to be out in the public, demonstrating that the blind can participate in all aspects of community life. By taking this course, I could promote a different attitude toward blindness and become healthier at the same time.
The biggest factor in helping me to overcome my fears in this class was time. Although I had to listen carefully and concentrate on not hitting or kicking others nearby, I found that it was not that difficult to keep from avoiding contact with other students. After all, we were always moving in the same direction, keeping one side of our bodies near a wall of the pool or the lane marker. I use the same lane every week because it is the one closest to the instructor, which helps me hear her voice over the music. Most students change lanes from week to week, but no one cares that I do not change lanes. I need a little help finding a noodle when the instructor throws them into the water. I need assistance in finding the right-size belt that everyone wears to remain buoyant in order to concentrate on exercise rather than keeping the head above water. I can do everything else on my own. The veteran students now tell the new ones that I am fine and can take care of myself.
Over time I also figured out the best way to work with the instructor. Some of her instructions were very clear. Moves such as “jump forward” and “jump back” were no problem. When she announced “forward shrimp” or “snow angels,” however, I had no clue what she meant. After a couple of sessions I went to the class early and simply asked her to explain what these things meant. It turns out that “forward shrimp” means move your arms and legs from the center of your body out to the sides and back to the center. “Snow angels” means move your arms out to the sides as if you had wings. At the same time you bend your knees and push them up to your chest. Now that I have been taking this course for almost three years, I just ask the instructor before the first class if she is doing anything new this time. I also sometimes ask her to remind me what a particular move means such as “flap like a whale.”
During a recent class the instructor said, “Stand on your noodle.” This is a little difficult because it requires some balance. I heard a student say, “I can’t do this; I am just going to do something and keep moving.” His statement was very reassuring to me. I now follow his philosophy. If I don’t know what the instructor wants, I just do something and keep moving. Blind or sighted, exercise is a struggle.
Find something you like to do. Don’t worry about how you look or about getting everything right. I miss a couple of classes every semester because of state or national conventions. The important thing is that I am moving more than I would have done if I were sitting at home.
From Barbara Pierce: In recent months Miss Whozit has answered reader questions about etiquette and good manners, particularly as they involve blindness. If you would like to pose a question to Miss Whozit, you can send it to the attention of Barbara Pierce, 200 East Wells Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21230, or email me at <email@example.com>. I will pass the questions along. Letters may be edited for space and clarity. Here are the most recent letters Miss Whozit has received:
Dear Miss Whozit,
My fiancé and I are planning to be married in June—if I live that long. My mother of course has always dreamed of giving me a church wedding with all the trimmings. In theory I don’t object to this plan, but things are already getting out of hand. Luckily the National Library Service has a few etiquette books that cover wedding planning, but they do not address blindness issues, which is mostly where I am running into conflict with my mother.
Miss Whozit, everyone agrees that shower and wedding gift thank you notes should be handwritten, which is out of the question for me. Mother says that she and my sister should copy over the text of notes I write on the computer. This seems silly to me and a lot of extra work at a time when we are all going to be really busy. So my first question is, how important is it that my thank you notes be in longhand?
The other big disagreement we are having is about using my white cane. Mother says that I should not use it because I will have my bouquet in one hand and my father’s arm in the other while going down the aisle and my new husband’s arm coming back. I can’t dispute her count of available hands, but my cane is a major part of my identity and a symbol of my independence. Without it in my hand or at least available to me, I know I will feel vulnerable and a bit panicky. Do I have to put myself through all that because my mother finds my cane distasteful and does not want it in the photographs or present at all as a reminder to our guests that her daughter is less than perfect? I know that this is the way she feels, and the knowledge is an ongoing source of pain for me. But if I have my way, she will be hurt, and I wonder if I am being selfish by insisting on using my cane during the service.
If you can shed any light of reason on this big emotional mess, I would be forever grateful.
Thinking of Eloping
If your mother wanted to downplay your cane during her wedding, Miss Whozit might—I say might—have a bit more sympathy for her. But wedding experts all agree that the couple being married are the stars of this particular extravaganza. Surely we can all agree that there is no good reason for blind people not to meet or exceed the standards of civility and correctness that the community holds generally. This does not require, however, spending money or effort to meet those standards in exactly the way that sighted people do. So, for example, if neither bride nor groom can see photos, why should they spend many hundreds or thousands of dollars for a photographer? Finding a friend to take some pictures so that family members or future children can occasionally enjoy them should be sufficient.
By the same token, if people have gone to the trouble and expense of sending a shower or wedding gift, they deserve a brief but sincerely written thank you. But Miss Whozit sees no reason why, in this age of powerful word-processing programs, a blind bride—or groom—cannot have a tasteful letterhead designed, perhaps with a wedding graphic incorporated, that can be used on a half-sheet-sized piece of stationery. I gather from your letter that your groom is sighted. If your mother’s aunt Penelope would be shocked into a fit if she received a printed note from you, your fiancé—who Miss Whozit firmly believes should be writing some of the notes anyway—might take on the responsibility of writing that thank you along with the ones to his family. In this day and age most people are so happy to receive thank you notes at all that they will hardly notice whether or not they are legibly printed from a computer or have to be decoded by a handwriting expert. In fact, they may well prefer the former.
As for using your cane during the wedding service, only you can decide whether family peace is worth compromising your identity and increasing your stress on the big day. Miss Whozit has a hard time believing that a loving mother of the bride would ask such sacrifice. If the groom were blind, you both would have to have and use white canes, so it is certainly acceptable for a bride to use her white cane and have her father and new husband both place their hands on her arm when they are required to walk together. The cane and the bouquet can be handed to the maid of honor at the appropriate time and can both be returned at the close of the ceremony. If Miss Whozit were making this decision for her own exceedingly correct nuptials, she would carry a brand new white cane and would plan very carefully where it is to be at every moment of the service. She might well choose a telescoping one that could be collapsed and placed by her foot in the receiving line. Remember that guests will accept the white cane as part of the ceremony if the bride and groom and wedding party are comfortable with its presence. If you are calm and firm in announcing that your cane is part of your wedding finery, like your shoes or your veil, your mother is likely to yield to the inevitable.
Dear Miss Whozit,
I freely admit that I am pretty much a slob. I hate wearing pantyhose, and I much prefer sweat suits or jeans to tailored suits or skirts and jackets. I work in an office that seems to have an unwritten dress code. I don’t have a lot of contact with outsiders coming into the reception area. I mostly sit at my computer in my cubicle and work. But I do occasionally move around, and I guess I can sometimes be seen by clients. My supervisor has told me that she would like for me to dress more professionally and has even suggested that someone from the office could go shopping with me to help me choose more appropriate clothes.
I am pretty angry about what I consider an invasion of my rights and privacy. I don’t have real friends on the staff, so she would be twisting someone’s arm to go shopping with me. I don’t think it is fair to insist that I dress in a way that is not me. On the other hand, I don’t want to lose my job. I don’t care what other people are wearing, and I don’t see why they should care about what I wear. Do you think I am being unreasonable?
Not Dressed for Success
Miss Whozit respectfully suggests that, if you want to dress like a slob while you are at work, you look for a job that will allow you to telecommute. The fact that your supervisor considers this enough of a concern to bring up the matter with you suggests that this is a serious issue and that you had better begin taking it seriously. The fact that she offered you the assistance of a coworker says pretty clearly that she presumes you are unable to choose appropriate clothing independently or make your own arrangements for getting help to do so. If I were you, I would be deeply concerned at this assessment of my competence.
Blind people are quite right to insist on our right to equal treatment, but we should also demand that we be held to the same standards of productivity and behavior as our neighbors. Unfortunately for you this means recognizing and abiding by the standard for dress in your office. Over and above your supervisor’s concern that your slovenly appearance gives visitors and staff alike a poor impression of the professionalism in the office, it leaves you open to the condescending conclusion that, because you are blind, you are unable to meet the standard set by others around you. Unfortunately you don’t have the luxury of acting in a vacuum; by your behavior you are shaping their views of all blind people. You may also be leaving yourself vulnerable to losing your job or being tucked away where you won’t be an embarrassment.
You are living in the sighted community, and in places like your office, standards of dress are important, whether you like that fact or not. If you really can’t stand business attire, I am serious about suggesting that you look for employment from home, where no one will care what you are wearing. The minute you step outside your door, you are teaching society something about blindness and blind people. Surely the responsible thing would be for you to be teaching something positive.
by Ed Morman
From the Editor: With some regularity we plan to spotlight books in the tenBroek Library. Here is librarian Ed Morman's description of a recent acquisition:
Users of JAWS or other screen-reading programs should not be troubled if the title of this book sounds mangled. The book is in French and was printed by students at the Paris Institution for Blind Youth two years before Louis Braille arrived there. We recently purchased our copy at a good price after a vigilant Federationist identified it on the Web. At 192 years of age it is not quite the oldest book in our collection, but we will wait until the next issue of the Monitor to discuss the oldest one.
The translation of the full title of this book is Essay on the Instruction of the Blind, or Analytic Exposition of the Methods Used to Teach Them. Dr. Guillié, an ophthalmologist, was director-general and physician-in-chief at the Paris Institution. The school he directed had been training young blind people to set type and operate a printing press since it opened in the 1780s. Printing was a useful trade to know, but it is ironic that the youngsters at the Paris Institution were producing books that they could not read.
While this book is in ink-print, the Institution also published books in tactile alphabet letters. As anyone who has tried to read raised letters by touch can verify, it is a difficult and slow process. Louis Braille did learn to read raised alphabet letters, and, because he understood how cumbersome this was, he set out to create an alternative tactile system. We justly celebrate his having made true literacy possible for the blind.
Although Guillié regarded the blind as generally inferior to sighted people, this book is still worth reading. Among other things it provides an insight into the way the blind were regarded on the eve of Louis Braille’s revolution of the world of blindness. Chapters are on topics such as:
Sighted readers can also appreciate the illustrations, which show blind students engaged in a range of activities from playing the harp to operating a printing press. The book concludes with a few poems by students at the Institution. Several of them are quite clever and merit translation into English.
This book was published in English in 1819 (without the students’ poems) as An Essay on the Instruction and Amusements of the Blind. An 1894 reprint of the English edition is available online on Google Books.
by Jennifer Smith Richards
From Barbara Pierce: The following story was circulated by the Associated Press on December 29, 2009. The Ohio State School for the Blind band spent six days in California seeing the sights and ultimately marching in the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day. Then they watched the Rose Bowl sitting immediately behind the Ohio State Marching Band. Students, parents, school officials, service organizations across Ohio, and both the NFB and ACB of Ohio helped to raise the money to make this trip possible. Here is the story:
"I used to have an old car that sounded like that when it started," the marching band director says. "Urr, urr, urr, blatt." The players crack up, throwing their heads back and having a good laugh at themselves.
Dan Kelley is always saying things like that to his players. They sound like an Amtrak train going off a cliff, they sound like a car engine dying, that note sounded like a giant, wet splat when it should sound like the surf rolling onto the beach. "It's audio imagery," he says. "I wanna keep it loose, too. I've got kind of a stern voice. If I say, `I want this, I want that' all the time, I feel like I lose them because they feel like they're not doing it right."
The thirty-two blind players, thirty-six volunteer marching assistants, two band directors, and one music assistant really, really want to do it right. The Ohio State School for the Blind Marching Panthers are going to Pasadena, California, to march in the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day. They'll be the parade's first blind marching band. The smallest band too. The invitation to march came more than a year ago, giving plenty of time to practice. It's also plenty of time to ponder a tough question: are we okay with being famous because we're blind?
Kelley believes in gentle honesty, but honesty nonetheless. This is going to be hard. Six miles is a long way, longer than the parades they've marched in to prepare for Pasadena. In the past year they've been playing and playing and playing. Performances in Lancaster, at churches, in Cincinnati, at the Ohio State University skull session, and in the Circleville Pumpkin Festival parade.
Practice has not made perfect. That's the honest truth. Eleven band members have perfect pitch (hearing them hum during marching-only practice is beautiful enough to make you hold your breath). But, when they pick up their tattered and battered and borrowed instruments, not every note is hit just-so.
Having perfect pitch "doesn't mean you have the finesse you need. It doesn't mean you have the articulation skills you need," says Carol Agler, the blind school's music director and codirector of the band. She turns no one away who signs up to play at the beginning of the year. No auditions are required, just desire. It hasn't made a lick of difference to the audiences who have heard the blind band play.
The typical response: They leap to their feet, clapping wildly, some with tears in their eyes. Amazing! Unbelievable! Inspiring! For the players, though, the experience is different. They want perfection, or near it. They are teenagers, after all, and they occasionally have bad attitudes and bicker at one another. So-and-so shouldn't get to go to Pasadena; he hasn't tried hard enough. He's playing the wrong notes. She's spreading rumors.
They have a lot of questions. Practices sound like a bustling cocktail party, with everyone lining up with the marching assistants who will guide them through the 5.5-mile parade route and a twelve-minute halftime show in which they'll perform their signature: Script Ohio in Braille. The twice-weekly practices after school and three-a-week band classes go too fast.
By the time Kelley scoots all the players through the side door at the school and into marching formation, the sun has set and the air is sharp with cold. His whistle tweets, and the band comes to attention. At his signal they honk out “Military Escort,” one of two songs they'll play in the first mile of the parade. The other is “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder.
Some of the marching assistants--they can see, because, as Kelley points out, keeping straight lines is a "visual thing"--stand beside their student and sling an arm across his or her shoulders. Others prefer to guide from behind, walking like Frankenstein's monster with one hand on each of the student's shoulders.
This is seriously taxing work. A few of the students have limited sight; they can see shapes or figures or have some light perception. Many see nothing. So, once the Marching Panthers make their way onto the school track for a mock parade route, the workout begins for the assistants. Pushing, pulling, steering. This is why there are more assistants than band members. You wear out after a while. The two songs sound over and over as the band makes five or six laps. In the pitch dark. There are no floodlights around the track and field. Why bother with something you don't really need?
The farthest the band has marched is four miles. The students won't make it to six until they're in uniform and in California. "If you can march four miles, you can march six," Kelley says. Excitement (and a heap of nerves) has been building in the weeks leading up to the trip. Hotel rooms and chaperones have been assigned; someone donated cool sunglasses, and those have been passed out. Rules and travel tips--keep a firm grip on your belongings, mind your manners--have been laid out.
Kelley has reminded everyone more than once that they're representing the Ohio State School for the Blind, the Ohio School for the Deaf, and the entire darned state of Ohio while they're out west. People are about to see exactly what blind musicians can do. "Even if they don't want to admit it, one of the reasons people say it's amazing is because we're blind," says Whitney Hammond, a fifteen-year-old who plays bass drum.
It's fair to say there's been a bit of discord among players as the band has become a public phenomenon. They put on their red-white-and-blue uniforms and march on, but the question of why they're so well received really gnawed at some of the kids. News crews from CBS, a Los Angeles CW network affiliate, and local TV stations have stopped in with their cameras. Writers from national magazines and just about every local paper have hung around. "It's really easy to say we're a unique story, a human-interest story. We're all that," Kelley says.
At the beginning of this school year, with the Rose Bowl months away and months of sweat and tears and bickering well behind them, something happened. The players started to make peace with the why. "Now we think it's because we're doing something good," Hammond explains at the last practice before the trip. Every player and marching assistant is on deck to, as Kelley says, make the practice count. "We said, 'No, we're actually doing work. We're working.' We have style," she says.
"There's nothing amazing about a blind person walking and playing an instrument with a guide," Kelley says. "I ask the kids to reflect on that kind of thing, and what they want to get out of it and not focus on `They're just taking us because we're a blind band.’"
Macy McClain, a nineteen-year-old who has played piccolo and flute for the band, thinks it is doing good by sending a message. "I just think there are some people who don't understand what truly blind people can do. Blind people go to college, have jobs--do things sighted people can do," she says.
That's the right thinking, Kelley says. "My philosophy is there's never been a bigger audience than what we're going to go out and play for. For me it's getting people around the country to see that these kids have talent. I don't care about abilities and disabilities, blindness or whatever. They're out here marching."
The thirty-two musicians, thirty-six marching assistants, two directors, and music assistant were scheduled to march onto a plane Monday. Then they'll do exhibition shows, the halftime show, and two-and-a-half hours of marching. Kelley will boom, "We proudly present the Ohio State School for the Blind Marching Panthers!" and the banner with their name in Braille will start moving.
The players won't see the crowd, but its reaction will be easy to read. Amazing. Unbelievable. Inspiring.
by Dr. Bill Polonsky
From the Editor: Mike Freeman, president of our Diabetes Action Network, regularly scours the Internet and other sources for informative diabetes-related material. He found the following constructive set of courtesy tips from a person with diabetes, and we offer it here for diabetic and nondiabetic readers alike. The author of these suggestions, Bill Polonsky, PhD, CDE, has served as chairman of the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators, as a senior psychologist at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, and as an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the founder and president of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute in San Diego, California. Here are his popular etiquette guidelines:
1. Don't offer unsolicited advice about my eating or other aspects of diabetes. You may mean well, but giving advice about someone's personal habits, especially when it is not requested, isn't nice. Besides, many of the popularly held beliefs about diabetes ("You should just stop eating sugar") are out of date or just plain wrong.
2. Do realize and appreciate that diabetes is hard work. Diabetes management is a full-time job that I didn't apply for, didn't want, and can't quit. It involves thinking about what, when, and how much I eat, while also factoring in exercise, medication, stress, blood sugar monitoring, and so much more—each and every day.
3. Don't tell me horror stories about your grandmother or other people with diabetes you have heard about. Diabetes is scary enough, and stories like these are not reassuring. Besides, we now know that with good management odds are good you can live a long, healthy, and happy life with diabetes.
4. Do offer to join me in making healthy lifestyle changes. Not having to be alone with efforts to change, like starting an exercise program, is one of the most powerful ways that you can be helpful. After all, healthy lifestyle changes can benefit everyone.
5. Don't look so horrified when I check my blood sugars or give myself an injection. I don't enjoy it either. Checking blood sugars and taking medications are things I must do to manage diabetes well. Hiding while I do so makes it much harder for me.
6. Do ask how you might be helpful. If you want to be supportive, there may be lots of little things with which I would probably appreciate your help. However, what I really need may be different from what you think I need, so please ask first.
7. Don't offer thoughtless reassurances. When you first learn about my diabetes, you may want to reassure me by saying things like, "Hey, it could be worse; you could have cancer." This won't make me feel better. And the implicit message seems to be that diabetes is no big deal. However, diabetes (like cancer) is a big deal.
8. Do be supportive of my efforts for self-care. Help me set up an environment for success by supporting healthy food choices. Please honor my decision to decline a particular food, even when you really want me to try it. You are most helpful when you are not being a source of unnecessary temptation.
9. Don't peek at or comment on my blood glucose numbers without asking me first. These numbers are private unless I choose to share them. Numbers that are too low or too high are sometimes normal to have. Your unsolicited comments about these numbers can add to the disappointment, frustration, and anger I already feel.
10. Do offer your love and encouragement. As I work hard to manage diabetes successfully, sometimes just knowing that you care can be helpful and motivating.
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, Pinson, Alabama 35126, or email the information to <firstname.lastname@example.org> or <email@example.com>.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>. You may also email Joy Harris at <email@example.com>. We look forward to seeing you in Dallas.
The division tapped to provide recipes this month was unable to pull them together over the holidays, so Barbara Pierce delved into her large file of recipes to come up with some that remind her of her recent trip to the United Kingdom.
In reality English muffins are an American creation. They are similar to the hot buttered muffins that people toast for tea in novels like Dorothy Sayers’s The Nine Tailors.
1/2 cup milk, scalded and cooled slightly
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, divided
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 envelope or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
4 cups bread flour
Method: For best results you should acquire eight English muffin rings. You can make your own by removing the tops and bottoms of tuna fish cans, leaving just the side of each can to form a ring. These are a bit smaller than commercial English muffin rings, so prepare nine tuna cans to be sure. You will be able to use them again for the Sally Lunn recipe below.
Cool the scalded milk a little and in a large bowl combine it with a cup of water, the sugar, and the salt. Dissolve the yeast in two tablespoons of water and add this to the rest of the liquid. Stir in two cups of flour and mix well. Cover the bowl and set in a warm place (about eighty-five degrees) until the sponge rises and falls back. Be sure to use a bowl large enough to contain the risen sponge so that you don’t find some of it spread across your stove or counter. Cut the butter into small pieces and stir into the sponge. Then add the remaining two cups of flour. You can stir this in with a wooden spoon or beat it with an electric mixer. You do not knead this dough. It is more a heavy batter or very sticky dough.
Grease the insides of the muffin rings and the surface of a large cookie sheet. Arrange the rings on the cookie sheet with as much space as possible between them. Divide the dough evenly among the rings. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm place until double in bulk. Remove the towel. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven till golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove muffins from rings to cool on a rack, or burn your fingers slicing and buttering them fresh from the oven. These are also delicious split and toasted. Try them with jam and clotted cream if you can find it in the store.
This recipe is not as good as the Sally Lunn we ate in Bath, but it is one I have had and used for many years.
1 1/4 cups milk
1 stick butter
1/3 cup sugar or honey
1 envelope or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/4 cups bread flour
Method: Melt butter and add milk. When the liquid is about 110 degrees, add honey, salt, and yeast. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Beat the eggs with a fork in a glass and add them to this liquid. In a large bowl beat the flour into the liquid with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer. The dough will be quite sticky. Do not try to knead it. Cover it with a damp towel and set it in a warm place for about an hour. Stir it down and spoon it into either a generously buttered and floured ten-inch tube pan or nine buttered and floured muffin rings on a cookie sheet. (See the recipe for English muffins for a description of the rings.) Cover dough with a damp towel and place Sally Lunn in a warm place to double in bulk. Bake at 425 till loaf or loaves sound hollow when tapped and are browned—about forty minutes for one loaf, twenty minutes for individual Sally Lunns. Remove from pan or rings and cool on a rack. Serve warm with butter and jam. Or slice the individual loaves in half horizontally and serve with melted garlic butter as they do in the restaurant by this name in Bath.
English tea often includes shortbread or other sweet biscuits along with tea sandwiches, muffins, or scones. Here is an easy, never-fail recipe for shortbread.
2 sticks butter at room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups flour
Method: Cream butter and brown sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour. If dough seems hard to handle, chill it for a half hour in the fridge. Roll out by halves on a lightly floured board till dough is between an eighth and a fourth of an inch thick. Butter a cookie sheet. Either cut the dough into triangles and transfer by turner to the cookie sheet or use a decorative cookie cutter to make the shortbreads and transfer them to the sheet. Roll scraps together so that you don’t waste any. Repeat with other half of dough. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for about twenty-five minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. These cookies will be quite crisp. Store in an airtight container.
Chicken Liver Pâté
English tea often includes savory sandwiches made with smoked salmon, cucumber, egg salad, or pâté of various kinds. Try this one on thinly sliced, crustless brown bread or crackers.
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 sticks butter
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) chicken livers
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
2 tablespoons brandy
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Method: Sauté onion and garlic in half stick butter until soft. Add chicken livers and simmer about seven minutes, till livers are done but still pink. Purée contents of pan in a food processor or blender or use a stick blender to do the job in the frying pan. Blend in remaining butter, mace, brandy, and thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Turn into dish and chill till ready to use.
Though it is now sometimes possible to find lemon curd in American supermarkets, most Americans have never experienced this delightfully tart and sweet treat. The English spread it on scones, but it is also delicious over fresh fruit or as a filling for cream puffs or cakes.
3/4 cup sugar or half Splenda
1 tablespoon lemon rind, grated
2 large eggs
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 large lemons)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
Method: Combine the first three ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Cook until sugar dissolves and mixture is light in color (about three minutes). Stir in lemon juice and butter; cook for five minutes or until mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cool. Cover and chill; the mixture will thicken as it cools. Yield: 1 1/3 cups. Note: lemon curd can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week. You can easily double the recipe and freeze half of it in a heavy-duty ziplock plastic bag. Thaw in the refrigerator and use within one week of thawing.
Finally here is my recipe for Yorkshire pudding, which is served with roast beef. Timing is important with this dish because it falls fairly soon after it comes out of the oven, so it must finish cooking just before serving time.
2 eggs, beaten
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
Beef drippings or melted shortening
Method: About a half hour before baking, beat the eggs and add the garlic, salt, and melted butter. Add the milk and then the flour. Beat till the batter is smooth. Allow it to rest until ready to pour into the pan or muffin cups. Heat enough rendered beef fat or drippings from the roast beef to cover the bottom of an eight- or nine-inch baking pan or twelve muffin cups. Heat the pan at 425 degrees till fat is sputtering. Quickly pour the batter into the pan or divide it among the muffin cups. Return the pan to the oven and bake for fifteen minutes. Then drop the oven temperature to 350 for another fifteen minutes or until the pudding is browned and very puffy. It must be somewhat firm to the touch. The muffins will take somewhat less time to bake. They can then be popped into a bread basket for serving beside the roast with gravy. The pan of Yorkshire pudding must be cut into squares for serving.
News from the Federation Family
In the January 2010 issue we incorrectly printed the name of the city in the mailing address to which letters for NFB Jernigan Scholarships should be sent. The correct city is Pinson, Alabama. The correct address appears in the announcement printed elsewhere in this issue. We regret the error.
Terri Rupp, president of our Nevada affiliate, gave birth to a daughter, Marley Jane Rupp, on Friday, November 6, 2009, at 1:12 p.m. The baby weighed seven pounds and measured 19.25 inches. Proud parents Terri and Aaron as well as Marley Jane are all doing well.
Performing Arts Scholarship Available:
The Performing Arts Division of the National Federation of the Blind is now accepting applications for its Mary Anne Parks Performing Arts Scholarship. The winner of this award will receive one thousand dollars and an all-expense paid trip to the NFB national convention in Dallas, July 3 to 8. Visit <http://www.padnfb.org> to download the application. The deadline to apply for this scholarship is March 31, 2010. If you have any questions, contact Lisa Ostro, scholarship coordinator, at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
2010 Jacobus tenBroek Law Symposium:
The 2010 Jacobus tenBroek Law Symposium, “Equality, Difference, and the Right to Live in the World,” will occur on April 15 and 16, 2010, at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez and former Congressman Tony Coelho head the list of distinguished law professors, practitioners, and advocates who will discuss the concepts of equality and difference as they relate to the disabled in employment, education, medical treatment, and access to technology. With an expanded format to incorporate workshops, the 2010 symposium will provide more time for discussion, collaboration, and networking.
The 2010 plenary session presenters include:
The 2010 workshop facilitators include:
Documentation for continuing legal education credits will be provided. The registration fee for the symposium is $175; registering students pay $25. A limited number of scholarships to cover the registration fee will be available to those with demonstrated financial need. To learn more about the symposium and sponsorship opportunities, view the agenda, and register online, visit <http://www.nfb.org/nfb/law_symposium.asp>. There you may also download a registration form to mail or fax. Hotel information is available on the symposium Website. For additional information contact Lou Ann Blake at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2221; <email@example.com>.
Communicating with NFB-NEWSLINE:
In order to communicate better with our subscribers, NFB-NEWSLINE® is now on Twitter. Our posts, or tweets, advise subscribers of new publications added and new features or system enhancements, such as the ability with NFB NEWSLINE Online to view publications on our Website or download them to your digital Talking Book player. We also occasionally post tweets bringing attention to interesting articles that subscribers might enjoy. If you would like to follow us, visit <http://twitter.com/NFB_NEWSLINE>. We also have a subscriber newsletter providing more information about NFB-NEWSLINE and to help our subscribers find the most value in our service. If you’d like to receive this newsletter, called the Newsliner, email Renee West at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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.
Announcing Independence 2010:
Blind Industries and Services of Maryland is pleased to announce Independence 2010--a six-week residential summer program for blind and vision-impaired high school teenagers, operating from June 20 to August 1. Students enrolled in Independence 2010 will participate in an action-packed, comprehensive program that will focus on teaching the nonvisual skills that must be mastered before transitioning from high school to college or employment. Independence 2010 participants will live in apartments supervised by blind mentors and instructors who will help students with budgeting, maintaining a home, preparing meals, doing laundry, and shopping for groceries.
Program courses will include cane travel, independent living skills, assistive technology, Braille, physical fitness, blindness philosophy, and career exploration. Students will be expected to participate in several confidence-building exercises, including playing goalball, attending a summer festival, watching movies under the stars, and exploring Baltimore's Inner Harbor and Little Italy. Attending the NFB national convention in Dallas, Texas, will be the ultimate confidence-building exercise and opportunity to apply the practiced blindness skills learned during the program. Legally blind high school students (sophomore level and higher) who have either an open case with their state's vocational rehabilitation agency or an alternative funding source may apply. For further information contact Amy Phelps at <email@example.com>; (410) 737-2642.
Participants for an Academic Study Survey Needed:
Caitlin Singletary, a doctoral student at Louisiana Tech University, is completing her dissertation with the help of NFB training centers. Specifically she is looking at psychological characteristics and how they are related to blindness skill sets. She is working with six national training centers, including the three NFB centers, using current students as study subjects. She also needs participants who have not been to a residential training center as a control group. If you have not attended a residential training center and would like to participate or to receive more information, contact her at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or (337) 263-2812. The survey takes approximately twenty to twenty-five minutes to complete on the telephone. Please note that, if you have completed blindness training through public school or summer programs, you can still help.
Hall of Fame Nominations Needed:
Blindness field Hall of Fame nominations for 2010 are now being accepted. Who should next be inducted into the Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field? If you are interested in learning more about the qualifications for nominees or the process for submitting a nominee to join the forty-four current inductees, visit <http://www.aph.org/hall_fame/nominate.html>. The nomination process will close Friday, March 26.
The Hall of Fame for Leaders and Legends of the Blindness Field is dedicated to preserving, honoring, and promoting the tradition of excellence that the specific inductees manifest and to showcasing the history of outstanding services provided to people who are blind or vision impaired. Visit the Hall of Fame Website <http://www.aph.org/hall_fame/index.html> to learn more about the hall and those it honors. For further information contact Jim Deremeik, chairman of the Hall of Fame governing board, at <email@example.com> or Bob Brasher, Hall of Fame curator, at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
Summer Braille Music Institute:
The National Resource Center for Blind Musicians is accepting applications for its seminar for blind college-bound musicians, which will be held July 11 to 17 at the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Designed for serious Braille-reading music students preparing for or already in college (average age seventeen to twenty-one), the program tailors instruction to each person's need to develop Braille music and theory skills and to learn to use technology to submit music assignments in print notation. Applicants must have already studied some music theory, have had several years of music lessons, and be able to present a polished and pleasing performance. They must be willing to put effort into Braille music study and demonstrate a commitment to use the Braille music and computer skills they will learn at the Institute when they return to school. Applicants must also show they have begun thinking realistically about reachable goals and that they have the independence skills, social readiness, and maturity to be a contributing part of a close-knit group.
Contact the resource center regarding the application and audition procedure. Deadline for all application materials to be completed and in the resource center office is May 5. We are happy to correspond with students, parents, music and vision teachers, or college students with an interest in working with blind students. We also invite parents and teachers of younger students to discuss visiting the Summer Institute for an evaluation and guidance. The resource center can help arrange customized distance learning throughout the year. Visit <www.blindmusicstudent.org>. Contact David Goldstein at (203) 366-3300, ext. 229 or at <email@example.com>.
Onkyo Braille Literacy Essay Contest:
Again this year the National Federation of the Blind will administer the Onkyo Braille Literacy Essay Contest in the United States on behalf of the North America/Caribbean Region of the World Blind Union. The contest was created to promote Braille literacy and to encourage the exchange of social and cultural information. Blind people in the United States and Canada are eligible to apply.
Essays must be written in Braille and must pertain either to the way one gains knowledge or independence through Braille or to world peace from the perspective of a disabled person. The contest has two categories: one for people twenty-five and younger and the other for people above twenty-five. Seven cash prizes will be awarded. The contest began February 1, 2010, and will end April 30, 2010. All entries must be received by April 30.
For more information about the Onkyo Braille Literacy Essay Contest or to obtain the entire application package, contact Trisha Tatam at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2510, or at <TTatam@nfb.org>.
Camp Siloam for the Blind:
The 2010 Camp Siloam for the Blind will be held from Saturday, May 22, to Saturday, May 29, at the Golden Cross Ranch in New Caney, Texas. New Caney is thirty miles north of Houston. The week of camp features daily Bible studies with Rev. Bruce Coonce and evening sessions with Rev. George Gray. This year's camp theme is "A Passion for Christ Is a Passion for Life." Other activities for the week include two hayrides, horseback riding, swimming, a field trip, games, and campfire time. You will remember the food and fellowship for the rest of your life.
The camp registration fee is $25. The total cost for the week is $220. Assistance with air transportation cost is available for first-time campers. For further information call toll-free (866) 251-5165 and enter mailbox number 7128 to learn more about Camp Siloam.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
I am selling a Juliet interpoint Braille embosser with its original carton (serial number J0056) in excellent working condition. The unit comes with its power cable, parallel and serial cables, and instruction manual. The unit's original price was $5,000; I am asking $2,500. For further information contact Albert Sanchez at (252) 757-3023 or at <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
I have the following items for sale: PAC Mate XQ400 with carrying case and strap, Quick Start cards in Braille and print, Quick Start guide, companion CD (contains MS ActiveSync 3.7 and Outlook 2002 software for desktop PC), AC adapter, mini to USB Cable, and user's documentation CD. Used only a few hours--too much for an old guy. Asking $1,700 plus $20 for shipping and insurance.
Brytech Noteteller2. It usually does not identify the new $5 bills. You sometimes have to tap it lightly to make it work, but otherwise it works superbly. Asking $150.
Canon CanoScan LiDE 25 Color Image Scanner. Asking $30, no charge for shipping and handling. Contact Larry Railey at <email@example.com> or (281) 444-0907.
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.