Vol. 53, No. 11 December 2010
Gary Wunder, editor
Published in inkprint, in Braille, and on cassette by
The National Federation of the Blind
Marc Maurer, president
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place
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. 11 December 2010
Convention Bulletin 2011
Not Just Surviving the Disaster of September 11
but Providing Leadership in a Deadly Emergency
by Michael Hingson
by Lory Hough
Just a Helping Hand
by Steve Jacobson
Enabling Blind and Visually Impaired Patients to Achieve
Maximum Personal and Occupational Goals:
The Importance of Nonvisual Skills
by Marvin F. Kraushar, Vito J. DeSantis, James A. Kutsch Jr.,
Gaytha I. Kraushar, and Joseph J. Ruffalo
Planning to Make History in Daytona
by Anil Lewis
The Grand Vision of a Blind Soprano
by Alexander C. Kafka
Training Our Way to Business Opportunities
by Mary Ellen Gabias
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children
Award for 2011
by Cathy Jackson
The 2011 Blind Educator of the Year Award
by David Ticchi
Featured Book from the Jacobus tenBroek Library
Holiday Hints and Helps
by Barbara Pierce
Social Security, SSI, and Medicare Facts for 2011
by Lauren McLarney
Copyright 2010 by the National Federation of the Blind
Pictured here is last year’s tree with hundreds of lights decking its branches, an angel at the top, and wrapped packages underneath in preparation for the staff party. A large wreath can be seen in the window behind the tree. Happy Holidays to all.
It is time to begin planning for the 2011 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. This year we are going to Orlando and the beautiful Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, July 3 through 8. Remember we have recently made a significant change in our schedule, so please pay close attention to the dates and schedule so that you are not taken by surprise.
Once again our hotel rates are the envy of all. For the 2011 convention they are singles and doubles, $63; and for triples and quads, $67. In addition to the room rates there will be a tax, which at present is 12.5 percent. No charge will be made for children under seventeen in the room with parents as long as no extra bed is requested. Please note that the hotel is a no-smoking facility.
For 2011 convention room reservations you should write directly to the Rosen Shingle Creek, 9939 Universal Boulevard, Orlando, Florida 32819-9357. You can call the hotel at (866) 996-6338 after January 1. The hotel will want a deposit of $75 for each room and will want a credit card number or a personal check. If you use a credit card, the deposit will be charged against your card immediately, just as would be the case with a $75 check. If a reservation is cancelled before June 1, 2011, half of the deposit will be returned. Otherwise refunds will not be made.
Guest-room amenities include a thirty-two-inch flat-screen television with NXTV; two telephones; laptop safe; coffee maker; hairdryer; and, for a fee, high-speed Internet access. Guests can also enjoy a swimming pool and a golf course. The Rosen Shingle Creek has two fine-dining establishments: A Land Remembered and the Cala Bella Italian Bistro. Both received the AAA Four Diamond Rating. See later issues of the Monitor for details and information about other attractions in the Greater Orlando area.
The 2011 convention of the National Federation of the Blind will be a truly exciting and memorable event, with an unparalleled program and rededication to the goals and work of our movement. Make plans now to be a part of it. Remember that the schedule this year is the same as last year's in that it is a full day shorter than our longtime convention schedule. Preconvention seminars for parents of blind children and other groups and set-up of the exhibit hall will take place on Sunday, July 3, and adjournment will be Friday, July 8, following the banquet. Convention registration and registration packet pick-up for those who preregistered will begin on Monday, July 4, and both Monday and Tuesday will be filled with meetings of divisions and committees, including the Tuesday morning annual meeting, open to all, of the board of directors of the National Federation of the Blind.
General convention sessions will begin on Wednesday, July 6, and continue through the banquet on Friday, July 8. Note that Thursday, July 7, will include both morning and afternoon convention sessions. Saturday, July 9, will be available for tours for those who enjoy getting to know something about our convention city. To assure yourself a room in the headquarters hotel at convention rates, you must make reservations early. The hotel will be ready to take your call or deal with your written request by January 1.
Remember that as usual we need door prizes from state affiliates, local chapters, and individuals. Once again prizes should be small in size but large in value. Cash, of course, is always appropriate and welcome. As a general rule we ask that prizes of all kinds have a value of at least $25 and not include alcohol. Drawings will occur steadily throughout the convention sessions, and you can anticipate a grand prize of truly impressive proportions to be drawn at the banquet. You may bring door prizes with you or send them ahead of time (identifying the item and donor and listing the value in print and Braille) to Dwight Sayer, 259 Regal Downs Circle, Winter Garden, Florida 34787; phone (407) 877-8668.
The best collection of exhibits featuring new technology; meetings of our special interest groups, committees, and divisions; memorable tours suggested by the Florida affiliate; the most stimulating and provocative program items of any meeting of the blind in the world; the chance to renew friendships in our Federation family; and the unparalleled opportunity to be where the real action is and where decisions are being made—all of these mean you will not want to miss being a part of the 2011 national convention. We'll see you in Orlando in July.
by Michael Hingson
From the Editor: Michael Hingson is a name Monitor readers will recognize because his contributions to this magazine began with some regularity in the 1970s. Michael’s training is in physics and engineering, and he distinguished himself in his initial work on the Federation team that began our work with Ray Kurzweil. Today the machine Michael sells and guides in its development is much smaller and much more powerful than its predecessors, but many of the design features that made the initial unit a success contribute to making the knfbReader unique in its field.
Michael knows more than physics and engineering. He knows about finance and about public relations, and, more than all of this, he knows how to put blindness in its proper perspective as he lives a full and productive life. Often when we talk about the blind being integrated with the sighted, our emphasis is on eradicating barriers that prevent us from fully enjoying the benefits of society and giving back in equal measure, but, as Michael demonstrates, integration takes on another meaning when defined by psychologists as applying to one who melds the traits and tendencies of a personality into a harmonious whole. Michael has managed to integrate calm meditation with action, and leadership with humility. He inspires trust, while simultaneously demonstrating faith in those who trust him. The qualities that make Michael special are illustrated in the story he told on Tuesday afternoon, July 6, at our convention. Here it is:
Dr. Maurer, fellow Federationists, and friends: during the past few months we have seen the reprise of a phrase that rang out loud and strong after 9/11. Every time today I hear people say "We've got to get back to normal," I think about the fact that in reality we can't--because normal will never be the same again. Rather than trying to get back to normal, we need to find a new normal: a normal that incorporates that which happened to us and that which will help us move forward.
Sometimes a new normal becomes our way of life gradually. We got a new normal in our lives when we started flying in airplanes and transportation became easy for long distances. A new normal began to emerge when radio was developed. And, yes, a new normal emerged when television came on the scene. The new medium, it was called, although, as Fred Allen says, "I understand why it's called the new medium, because everything they do in television is only medium."
Normal is sometimes thrust upon us, as happened with 9/11. We in the National Federation of the Blind are involved in creating a new normal every day. Our opportunities to do that are regularly challenged, however, and I refer specifically to one instance that recently occurred when Dr. Richard Besser, ABC medical correspondent, reported on what could be a major breakthrough in stem cell research on June 23 of this year. Dr. Besser reported about stem cells and how one's own stem cells out of the eye could be used to regenerate corneas. But he started his report this way: "Imagine all the beauty of life gone in an instant. Suddenly blinded by a terrible accident, you can only see light and dark, but now, through a seismic breakthrough, using stem cells from one's own eye promises new sight to those blinded by burns."
The report was great; the report was fine. It is great to see stem cell research moving forward, especially using one's own stem cells to regenerate organs and parts of one's own body. But look at how he started his report. He did it on the backs of and at the expense of blind people by saying, "Imagine all the beauty of life gone in an instant." Dr. Besser made it very clear that blind people, in his estimation, cannot see the beauty of life; namely, he believes you can only experience the beauty of life through sight. In reality we know you experience the beauty of life by vision, which does not need sight. [applause]
Dr. Besser's report had shock value, but, as we have heard today, he (like many in the ophthalmological and medical profession) needs to learn a new normal. Oh, it's normal in many people's minds that blind people can't do a lick of work or do anything at all, but that's their perception. And I suppose from their perspective that makes it normal, but we know that the reality is different. We who are blind need to show Dr. Besser and others that the beauty of life goes far beyond sight. We need to show him that we do experience the beauty of life. Sitting in my backyard, I hear the hawks flying overhead, trying to find the baby ducks--and we save the baby ducks by shooing the hawks away. But we can hear them; we can experience them; we see the beauty of life in many ways. The beauty of life is here in this room, in this organization [applause]--an organization founded seventy years ago by a man who was born on July 6. Happy birthday, Dr. tenBroek. [applause]
But we also see the horrors of life. We, like those who have sight but not vision, see the horrors of life. We see it every time we experience discrimination. We see it every time blind parents are told they can't keep their children and have to fight to get them back. We see it every time a blind person is denied the right to fly or to enter a building.
We also see the horrors of life because we have grown as a people so much that we are out in the world like everyone else. Certainly for me the greatest horror of life I could ever have experienced was being in the World Trade Center on 9/11. I want to tell you this story because, out of the horror, out of all that happened, it also is a beautiful story. It's a story of teamwork, a story of people helping each other, and a story of growth that makes what happened in the World Trade Center so important and such a pivotal point for positive gains in all of our lives.
Every time I think of what happened on 9/11, I am reminded of the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who once said, "Interdependence ought to be and is as much the ideal of man as is self-sufficiency." On 9/11 everyone helped everyone else. For me it started at 1:00 in the morning when we started experiencing a thunderstorm. My guide dog at the time, Roselle, did not like thunderstorms. Today she's a little better about them, but we don't have many in California. Back then she was very fearful, and we had a thunderstorm early in the morning. So we got to go down to my basement, where we usually go, turn on the stereo, turn on the computer, do some work, and try to mask the noise for her. She hides under my desk. Especially, though, that morning it was a little bit frustrating because I had to prepare and be ready to go in to do some special work in our office. I worked at the time for Quantum Corporation and was the regional sales manager for the Mid-Atlantic region. We were going to be conducting special training sessions that day for some of our reseller partners. I was going to get up earlier than usual to be in the office before everyone arrived and still had to do it even though I had to be up for an hour and a half in the middle of the night.
I went to the office. The best laid plans always go awry in one way or another. I planned to take an early train, and the trains broke down, so I didn't get there early after all. I arrived just as a gentleman from the Port Authority cafeteria complex was bringing food that we were going to serve that day (as I tell people, some of the best ham and cheese croissants I have ever had—I still miss them terribly.) I went to my office. Soon David Frank, a colleague from our California office who was in that day, also arrived with some of our early guests. David was there because he had account responsibility for some of the people who were in that day. We set up the laptop to do the PowerPoint presentation. I was going to be doing that. It's great when a blind person does a PowerPoint presentation. Everybody thinks I can't do it. What's really fun is doing it and never turning around to look at the screen because I know what's on the slide, so all I have to do is point back. I have often been told, "You know, we didn't dare fall asleep when you were presenting because you kept looking at us. We had forgotten you were blind, and we thought you'd notice."
My response of course was, "I would have noticed. Besides, my guide dog Roselle takes notes, and we know who you are." [laughter]
Nevertheless, David was there; some early arrivals were there; we were all set up, waiting for the rest of the guests to arrive. At 8:45 in the morning David and I were in my office preparing a list of attendees for Port Authority Security when suddenly we heard a muffled explosion. The building shuddered, and then it began to tip. The whole building began to move in one direction: not shaking back and forth as we in California know earthquakes do.
As we learned later, that was as it should have been because the building had expansion joints that made it operate like a very large spring. Those of us in the physics world understand that. So the building kept tipping and tipping and tipping, and David and I said, "What's going on?" No noises were coming from our conference room. David and I speculated. Having grown up in California and being used to earthquakes, I moved to the doorway, recognizing that building moves, go to door. Doesn't matter whether it's an earthquake or not; it doesn't even matter that we are seventy-eight floors above the street--move to the door anyway, it's habit. I moved to the door. David stayed holding onto my desk. He's from New York; he didn't know earthquakes. Roselle was asleep under my desk. David and I said, "Are we going to fall to the street?" The building kept tipping. We moved about twenty feet. David and I said good-bye to each other because we thought we were going to fall seventy-eight floors to the street below. About that time the building stopped and began moving back the other way. It moved--hope against hope that we weren't going to fall--and suddenly the building was straight up again. I went back into my office, meeting Roselle coming out from under my desk. I took her leash. I told her to heel, which meant to get on my left side and sit, which she did, and about that time the building dropped straight down about six feet. That was also as it should have been, although we didn't know it at the time, because the expansion joints were contracting. The building worked perfectly.
As soon as the building dropped, David released his hold on my desk, turned around, looked out the window, and shouted, "Oh my God, there's fire and smoke above us, and there are millions of pieces of burning paper falling outside the window. We've got to get out of here right now." I could hear the paper falling outside. I wasn't smelling smoke, but I certainly believed what David was saying. Buildings don't do what ours had just done without something being wrong. He kept saying, "We've got to get out of here."
I said, "Slow down, David," because, you see, I had taken the Port Authority classes on emergency evacuation. I had also participated in fire drills, and, thanks to the Port Authority, I also had a copy of the Fire Safety and Procedures Manual in Braille. Somewhere along the line, after receiving that manual, I had taken it home. (It is still in a prized place on my bookshelf today.)
David kept saying, "We've got to get out of here."
I kept saying, "Slow down, David. We will, but we're going to evacuate in an orderly way."
He said, "No, you don't understand. We've got to get out of here right now."
I kept saying, "Slow down." Our guests began to scream. They started moving toward our exit. David was still yelling his warning. You get the picture. The sighted guy is seeing all this horrific stuff, and the blind guy is saying, "Slow down."
But I knew something that David didn't. I was observing something that David was not. It goes back to using all the skills that we have, all the wisdom that each of us has gotten from the National Federation of the Blind and our own life experiences. I was observing a dog sitting next to me who was wagging her tail and yawning and not indicating in any way that she felt nervous. Although our situation could have changed in a moment, at that instant I knew that we could evacuate safely, according to procedure. I finally got David to focus and said, "David, get our guests to the stairs and start them down, and then we'll leave." He did. He took them to the stairs and started them on their way down. Meanwhile I called my wife Karen to let her know that we were going to be evacuating because there had been an explosion or something and that I would call her as soon as I could.
I should explain that we both have disabilities. Karen is in a wheelchair. It works out great. She reads; I push. I always wanted to be a pusher, you know--California. So David came back. We took one sweep through the office. We tried to power down some equipment. We knew we weren't going to be back for days, so we wanted to save power, but we had no idea how bad it really was. We left, went to the stairs, and by 8:50 we started down. Almost immediately I began smelling a familiar odor, but I couldn't place it. People around me couldn't figure it out. Suddenly I realized that what we were smelling was the fumes from burning jet fuel; it was kerosene and propane. I said this, and people said, "Yeah, you're right. That's what it is." We assumed that an airplane had hit our building, but we didn't know why.
We all went down the stairs, and after a few floors somebody shouted from above us, "Burn victim coming through. Move to the side of the stairwell so that they can get by." Then a group of people passed us with a woman who was badly burned on her upper body. There were burns all over her, but she was ambulatory, able to walk.
David said, "She looks in shock," but she was moving down the stairs. After she passed us, we started down again, and a few floors later we heard it again: "Burn victim coming through. Move to the side." We did. The same scenario again: a group surrounding someone very badly burned passed us on the stairs.
Almost as soon as that second party had gone, a woman near us on the stairs stopped and said, "I can't breathe; I can't go on; We're not going to make it out of here."
All of us around her stopped, surrounded her, and had a group hug. We said, "Look, we're in this together. Of course you can go. We're with you." We kept going down the stairs, and so did she.
Soon after that, however, my friend David said, "Mike, we're going to die. We're not going to make it out of here."
So now I'm going "Oh sheesh." I said, "Stop it David. If Roselle and I can go down these stairs, so can you." He told me later that snapping at him like that brought him out of his funk. What he then did was something that today I think was truly remarkable. He left me and walked down a flight of stairs and then started shouting up to me everything that he saw: what floor he was on and if he saw anything on the stairs. But it wasn't I who needed this information the most; it was the other people around us for whom David became a scout, a beacon of hope as he shouted, "I'm at floor forty-eight, now forty-seven: everything is okay; forty-six, forty-five, floor forty-four. We're at the Port Authority cafeteria entrance," and he continued down. Up above, I knew that the fear was palpable; you could cut it with a knife, as they say.
I knew most of all that I had to keep Roselle focused, so I continued to praise her: "Good girl; you're doing great; keep going down the stairs; good girl; hop up; just keep focusing." I was told later that this ongoing praise also helped a bunch of people, but it really helped me because it kept me focusing on her, rather than on what was going on around us.
I kept an ear out for any noises from above that might say the building was going to fall on my head. A lot of good it would have done, but focusing on her and speaking confidently helped her focus, and her guiding down the stairs and not looking back at me and not acting fearful, in turn, told me that she was okay and that I could be okay.
We all helped each other going down those stairs; we were interdependent; it was teamwork. But you know, I did have a fear going down the stairs. I grew up thinking that blindness really wasn't the handicap people so often thought it was, and I knew that in certain situations my blindness could be an advantage. What really scared me was the thought that we might lose power and lights and I'd be on the stairs with thousands of functionally blind people who couldn't find their way out of a paper bag. So I said to people, "I don't want anyone to worry. If the lights go out, Roselle and I are here, and we're offering a half-price special: get you out safely--today only." (Got to sell too, you know.)
We continued down the stairs. We all helped each other. Sometimes we helped with humor, sometimes with speculations. We heard rumors that two planes had collided and that one had crashed into the towers. Someone else had heard that there weren't two planes but that one had gone out of control.
We also talked among ourselves. At one point I remember saying, just to lighten the mood because it sounded as if it was getting pretty somber, "Hey now, on the first day they allow us back, let's all meet on the seventy-eighth floor at 8:45 and walk down the stairs together. What a great way to lose weight, huh?" I was not dumb enough to suggest that we start at the bottom and work up. I know about gravity.
"Thirty-three, thirty-two, floor thirty-one," David called. "Hey, everybody, firemen are coming up the stairs. Move to the side. Let the firemen by." I went on down to where David was, and I asked him what he was seeing. He said, "I see firemen coming up the stairs. They are all dressed in their heavy protective clothing, and they're carrying all their equipment on their backs: the oxygen cylinders, fire axes, shovels--all the things they need to fight the fire."
Finally the first one got to us, and he stopped, the good New Yorker that he was, and said, "Hey buddy, you okay?"
I said, "Yes, I'm fine. We're good."
"We're going to send somebody down the stairs with you to make sure you get out."
I said, "Don't worry about it. We're okay."
He said, "Yeah, maybe, but we're going to send somebody with you."
I said, "Look, don't worry about it." It wasn't the time to give him the lecture about "blindness isn't the handicap you think it is."
He said again, "We're going to send somebody with you." But I was worried. I had this fear that, if he sent somebody with me who was really needed up above and something happened and they were minus one person who could have made a difference, I didn't want to be responsible for that.
Again I said, "Look' I've got my guide dog. We've come down from the seventy-eighth floor without any help. We're really okay."
"That's nice, what a nice dog." He started petting Roselle. It wasn't a good time to give him the lecture about not petting the working guide dog in harness. He said, "Yeah, we're going to send somebody with you," and I finally used my last gun.
I said, "Look, I've got a friend named David. David can see. We're really okay." He turned to David.
"You're with him?" he said.
David said, "Yeah, we're good. Don't worry."
"Okay." He gave Roselle one more pat. Roselle gave him some kisses--probably the last unconditional love he got in his life--and he went on up the stairs.
The firemen were truly heroes--all of these people we lost were heroes. We have to recognize that, but I never ask people to mourn their passing. I've spoken to many firemen since. I'm going to do what I've done with them and ask you not to have a moment of silence to mourn their passing, but help me celebrate the lives of the people we lost by giving them a round of applause. [extended applause]
While firemen continued to pass us going up the stairs and our wide stairwell was now cut in half, we continued down the stairs. David reassumed his scouting position: "Twenty-eight, twenty-seven," and we continued down the stairs, slower than before with more bodies on the stairs, but we kept going. It kept getting warmer because of all the humanity. Water bottles were passed up so that each of us could have a drink. We shared a bottle of water--Roselle, David, and I, and we kept going. David again took up his scouting position. Finally David got to the first floor. We were on the second floor, and he said, "Hey everybody, hey Mike, the water sprinklers are on in the stairwell at the bottom. You're going to have to run through the water to get out into the lobby," and then he was gone. We got to the bottom. There was this torrential downpour. I took Roselle's harness and said, "Forward," and then said, "hop up," which is a command to speed up. We burst through the downpour that was acting as a curtain to keep fire out of the stairwell or in the stairwell and out of the lobby if it came down the stairs.
I burst out into the lobby of Tower One ankle deep in water. With every step we took, we trudged through water and broken ceiling tiles that had fallen and pieces of marble that were cracked and broken. People were in the lobby shouting, "Go this way, go this way," never letting anyone go outside, but rushing everybody through the lobby, through the central doors, into the arcade that separated the towers.
The arcade was a typical shopping mall that had all the usual things that you'd find in a fairly small but very busy shopping center: a Hallmark greeting card store, a Radio Shack, a 24-hour passport photo. And then there were the important places--the ones that really mattered: Godiva Chocolate, the deli, all places that you'd find in a mall typically full of thousands of people at about 9:35 in the morning, but now totally quiet. I could hear my footfalls as I ran through the lobby, through the tower arcade, and finally up an escalator.
At 9:45 in the morning we burst into sunlight for the first time since leaving our offices.
As we got outside, we were told to leave the complex, but, before we did, David looked around and said, "Mike, I think I see fire in Tower Two."
I said, "What are you talking about?"
He said, "There's fire up there." We had no idea; we had heard nothing; no one had told us anything. We had no clue about what had happened. But, as we were told to do, we left the complex, circled back around to get onto Broadway, and started traveling north toward midtown Manhattan, crossing several streets, and then finally reaching Fulton Street, where we stopped. We would have been on the southwest corner when we stopped, which put Tower Two diagonally across the street from us, less than a hundred yards away. David wanted to take pictures of what he could see. I tried to call my wife Karen but wasn't able to reach her. David was just putting his camera away, and I had just put my phone away after getting another circuits-are-busy message, when a police officer nearby yelled, "Get out of here. It's coming down now." Then we heard this rumble that quickly turned into a roar: this incredible cacophony of sound that I can only describe as a combination of a freight train and a waterfall all together. It was Tower Two collapsing less than a hundred yards diagonally across the street from us. Keep in mind, it was four hundred yards tall, less than a hundred yards away, and everyone turned and ran for their lives. No one was helping anyone. David was long gone. I bodily turned Roselle around and started going back the way I had come.
I remember as I ran thinking, "God, I can't believe you led us out of a building just to have it fall on us."
I will tell you something I don't tell many people, but, because of some of today’s presentations, I will. I heard in my mind, as clearly as you can hear me, a voice that said, "Don't worry about the things that you can't control. Focus on running with Roselle, and the rest will take care of itself." I had that conviction of peace that, if we did as instructed, we'd be okay. So we ran. We got to the next street and turned right to try to put a building between us and Tower Two collapsing (as if it would really make a difference). I ran a little bit and suddenly caught up to David, who had realized that he had run and that we were separated. He had turned around and was going to come back. I caught up with him, and he apologized and said, "I'm sorry, Mike; I left you."
I said, "David, don't worry. The building is coming down. Let's keep going." So we ran.
Almost immediately we were engulfed in the dust cloud composed of the fine particles of Tower Two's break-up. The dirt and debris that David described were so thick that you could only see about six inches in front of your nose. I can tell you, it was so thick that we could feel it going down our throats with every breath we took. We were drowning in it, and we knew that we had to get out of that. We began looking for an entrance to a building on our right. Rocks and debris were falling around us. We were partially protected by an overhang, but still I was hit in the ear and in the head a couple of times by small rocks. We kept running. I kept telling Roselle, "Right right," which means that she should look for the next available turn. David was looking. I was listening for an opening. Suddenly I heard an opening, and Roselle obviously saw it because she turned right, took one step, and stopped dead.
All this time Roselle had been working appropriately. She had been doing everything that she should, so I knew that, if she stopped, there had to be a reason. Reaching out my foot, I discovered that we were at the top of a flight of stairs. She had done exactly what she was supposed to do. [applause]
We walked down the stairs and found ourselves in the small arcade to the Fulton Street subway station. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I heard a woman crying and saying, "Help, I can't see. My eyes are filled with dirt, and I don't want to fall into the subway."
I happened to be close to her when I got down the stairs. I reached out, took her arm, and said, "Don't worry, I happen to be blind, but I have a guide dog named Roselle. She's doing well. She will make sure that neither of us falls down the stairs. You're okay."
How quickly teamwork reasserted itself--helping others--working together.
I introduced myself to the woman. She said her name was Carol, and then a guy from the subway system came up the stairs and said "My name is Lou. I work for the subway. Come with me." There were about eight or nine of us there. We followed him down the stairs into the subway complex. He took us to an employee locker room, where there were benches, a water fountain, and a fan; Lou told us we could stay there.
After about fifteen minutes a police officer found us and said, "You need to leave now. The air has cleared up above." Without saying anything else, we followed him. He brooked no response at all--he was busy doing what he needed to do, and we followed him like sheep: up the stairs, through the arcade, and then up the final set of stairs, emerging into sunlight again.
The air was a little better than it had been when we went down. David looked around and said, "Oh my God, Mike: there's no Tower Two anymore."
I said, "David, what do you see?"
He said, "All I see are pillars of smoke hundreds of feet tall, but there's no Tower Two."
I said, "Are you sure?"
He said, "Yeah." We stood there in shock for a moment and then just turned and walked west on Fulton Street.
We walked for about ten minutes and then decided to circle back around to try to get to midtown Manhattan. As we started, suddenly we heard that freight-train-waterfall sound again. We knew it was Tower One collapsing. We thought that we were far enough away that we wouldn't be hurt and hit by debris, but David did see another dust cloud coming, so we ran to get out of the path of the main cloud, covered our faces, closed our eyes, and waited for it to subside. When it did, we opened our eyes, and David looked around. I remember what he said, "Oh my God: there is no World Trade Center anymore." I asked him again what he saw, and he said, "All I see are fingers of fire, pillars of smoke hundreds of feet tall--the World Trade Center is gone."
We just stood there in silence for a couple of minutes, and I tried to call my wife Karen on the phone. This time I got through. After tears on both ends of the line, she's the one who told us that two aircraft had been deliberately crashed into the Towers and one into the Pentagon, and a fourth was still missing over Pennsylvania. We had been attacked.
We started making our way toward midtown Manhattan. We got to Chinatown and stopped at a little Vietnamese restaurant for a while to rest. While there, we heard aircraft in the skies--this loud aircraft sound. Everyone gasped. Many ran outside and suddenly burst into applause as we saw that it was our guys controlling the skies again. [applause]
We finally made our way to midtown Manhattan, and later that day I was able to catch a train to Newark, New Jersey, and then later to Westfield. Meanwhile, a close family friend, Tom Painer, whom Karen had known since high school in California, had come to be with her, and, when he arrived, he didn't even know whether I was alive or dead. Later that day he drove Karen to the train station to pick me up. I heard the van as we arrived. I went down the stairs, across the sidewalk, up the ramp, into our van, and hugged Karen for the first time. As we compared notes later, we both had been thinking the same thing: what else had they planned that would have caused us never to see each other again? But we had been able to.
We went home and began trying to make sense of what had happened. Our story became visible in the media. I've had a number of opportunities to appear on television shows like Larry King Live several times, The Morning Show, Regis and Kelly Live, and others to tell the story: the story of horror but the story of beauty and the story of teamwork--the story that says we can survive disaster; we can survive change, and even the worst change, the most horrific change, may indeed be a way to bring about a change for good. But we need to work together to make change happen. We need to act as a team.
I tell the 9/11 story to help people understand what happened and how they might be able to survive change. I tell it to help them think about preparing for the change that you don't expect and to make the changes that you do expect. I tell the story so that people learn to expect change and to make it happen--in other words, to find a new normal.
Dr. Besser, the new normal really is here. You may not know it; you may not see it; but close your eyes and use your vision, and you'll learn a whole lot more than you now know. [applause]
One of the great satisfactions in life is having the opportunity to assist others. Consider making a gift to the National Federation of the Blind to continue turning our dreams into reality. A gift to the NFB is not merely a donation to an organization; it provides resources that will directly ensure a brighter future for all blind people.
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by Lory Hough
From the Editor: The following article is reprinted from the Fall 2010 issue of Ed., the magazine of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. With the exception of a little text at the top, the front cover is solid black, with the word “visionary” in raised Braille and white Braille dots a little below the center of the page. National Braille Press embossed the Braille for the Ed School publication. The editors write that they wanted readers to feel a bit in the dark when confronting the cover. On an inner page they also included the Braille alphabet in print dots so that the curious could decode the cover.
It always raises the spirit when we see one of our own recognized for his academic accomplishment, his positive attitude, and his insistence that blindness is but one of many characteristics that make him the person he is. Lori Hough tells the story of Federationist David Ticchi, whose educational triumphs came before the laws that would change the face of education for the blind. In this review of the history of reform in education for the disabled, she also captures the dream that inspired advocates to press for reform, the conflict between the language of the law and its implementation, and our ongoing struggle to determine how our country can best address the challenge of educating blind children to participate fully in the information age. This is what she says:
They didn’t have to take him. When David Ticchi’s parents approached school administrators at the West Bridgewater Elementary School about enrolling their six-year-old son, the administrators legally could have said no. It was 1951, and there were no laws on the books saying the town had to accept a blind child—or any disabled child for that matter.
There was, of course, some resistance and concern. But his parents pushed, says Ticchi, Ed.M. ’69, C.A.S. ’71, Ed.D. ’76, in part because the only other option was to send him to the Perkins School for the Blind, located almost forty miles to the north, just outside of Boston. “I would have had to board there, which my parents didn’t want,” says Ticchi, who was born legally blind with limited vision—he could see some light and vague shapes. His parents wanted their son at home, plus he was another helping hand on their small farm.
Their pushing worked. Ticchi enrolled that fall in the town’s four-room schoolhouse. At times, he admits, it was difficult. Recorded lessons were still in their infancy—reading David Copperfield involved listening to forty-two thick records, he says. He also didn’t learn Braille, a language system of raised dots, until he was a teenager. (Someone had convinced his parents that it was passé, so he had to rely on teachers and other students to read to him during elementary and middle school.) Occasionally kids would tease him. When he got older, he couldn’t drive a car like the other students. At dances it was hard to get around.
But something important also happened: Ticchi’s teachers set the academic bar as high for him as they did for every other student. He says that, if he got three wrong on a test, he got three wrong. According to the National Association of Special Education Teachers, this was unusual. At the time the few disabled students mainstreamed in public schools—no matter what their disability, physical or learning—were usually nudged toward manual work like bead stringing or weaving, not academics.
As a result Ticchi got something from his public school that every child deserves: a great education. It would be more than two decades before other disabled students would legally get the same chance.
Much of the credit goes to parents, at least initially. Around the time that Ticchi started school, a parents’ rights movement was starting to build in America, writes Joseph Shapiro in No Pity, his book about disabilities and civil rights: “As more children survived disability, more parents sought to keep them from being institutionalized.” Parents started key advocacy groups like the United Cerebral Palsy Association in 1948 and the Muscular Dystrophy Association in 1950. Parents also began lobbying Congress, which created the Bureau of Education for the Handicapped in 1966. A few years later the bureau started providing funds for the training of special education teachers.
Other factors contributed to the rise in rights for disabled students. By the late 1950s, for example, Denmark was integrating students with disabilities into the broader community. “This represented a significant shift in societal attitudes toward people with disabilities,” says Stephen Luke, EdD ’03, director of the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. “The spirit of this approach soon resonated across Europe and the United States.” Also critical, Luke says, was the passage of several landmark civil rights acts in the United States during the 1960s, which, while not specifically for the disabled, actually made it illegal to discriminate against certain groups.
And then two pieces of legislation forever changed education and disability rights in America. The first was a provision that was quietly tacked on to the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 saying it was against the law for groups receiving federal funds to discriminate against anyone “solely by reason of … handicap.” Known as Section 504, the wording in the provision “clearly was copied straight out of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ruled out discrimination in federal programs on the basis of race, color, or national origin,” writes Shapiro in No Pity. Surprisingly, there were no hearings held on this provision, and it received little fanfare—at least at first.
“Members of Congress were either unaware of it or considered it `little more than a platitude’ for a sympathetic group,” Shapiro writes, quoting sociologist Richard Scotch, who later studied the legislation. It didn’t take long, however, for politicians to realize the significance of what had just happened, especially when the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) estimated that compliance with the provision would cost billions. When signing of the bill was delayed, protests erupted, including a sit-in at the regional HEW office in San Francisco that garnered national media coverage.
Then, in 1975, a second bill called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA), or Public Law 94-142, was enacted. Where Section 504 was broad, protecting postal workers and highway construction crews as well as students and teachers, EHS was the first federal law that explicitly stated that children with disabilities aged five to twenty-one were entitled to receive a free, appropriate education. Eleven years later, an amendment expanded the legislation to cover children aged zero to five.
Professor Judith Singer, in a 1985 piece in Education Week marking the bill’s tenth anniversary, called it “a handicapped children’s Bill of Rights.” Shapiro says it was the disability movement’s “equivalent of Brown v. Board of Education.” And Luke says it was this act (later renamed the Individuals with Disabilities [Education] Act, or IDEA) that made it clear that all students mattered.
“This legislation really stands out as the game-changer for children with disabilities,” he says. “Prior to 1975 children with disabilities were commonly excluded from public schools.” Many states even had laws prohibiting children with disabilities from public schools, he says. “With the passage of EHA, public schools were now mandated to provide a `free and appropriate public education’ with the ultimate goal of preparing students for positive postsecondary outcomes such as employment or postsecondary education.”
Several provisions in the law, which is celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary this year, were key, says Luke. One states that education has to be provided in the “least restrictive environment”—that is, in regular classrooms, as much as possible. It was no longer enough for a school to isolate disabled students in special ed classes or pay to have a disabled child educated elsewhere. Another provision also hugely expanded parental rights. Parents got to see their children’s records, for example, and became equal partners with the school staff in creating a written blueprint for their child called an Individualized Education Program, commonly referred to as an IEP. Included in the IEP would be an extensive evaluation and a set of measurable goals. Due process also allowed parents the right to appeal any decision.
Advocates hailed the legislation, despite potential price tag concerns. According to a 2000 policy paper by the Brookings Institution, early supporters believed the number of students requiring extensive, and expensive, special needs services would be low and that “the financial impact on regular education would be slight.” The law originally said the federal government would pay schools’ excess special education costs at 40 percent of the national average per pupil. The fiscal year 2011 budget called for funding at 17 percent.
Back in 1975 the country was in a recession, and the fiscally conservative President Gerald Ford made his ambivalence about the bill clear during the signing ceremony. “Unfortunately, this bill promises more than the federal government can deliver, and its good intentions could be thwarted by the many unwise provisions it contains,” Ford said. “Even the strongest supporters of this measure know as well as I that they are falsely raising the expectations of the groups affected by claiming authorization levels which are excessive and unrealistic.” After the law was enacted, an estimated 1 million children who previously had not been in school were enrolled.
By this time David Ticchi was a grown man. He knew about the legislation and supported it, of course: “To be able to advocate for yourself, you have to have a knowing intellect,” he says. “I’ve tried to pay attention.” But he also knew from experience that getting legislation passed was one thing: The bigger hurdle was changing attitudes. As Harvard Law School professor Martha Field said at a disabilities panel discussion held at the Ed School in the spring, “Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that once the law is passed, it’s all right.”
Growing up, Ticchi never really thought of himself as different. “I’m a person, and blindness is a characteristic,” he says. “We’re all made up of certain characteristics, but it’s not all of who I am.” And his parents expected as much from him as they did his older sister, who is not blind.
“Growing up on the farm was a real blessing for me,” Ticchi says. “Parents have expectations for any kid—keep your room neat, set the table. Not only did I have to do those things, but I was also expected to contribute on the farm. Every day we had to feed the chickens, shovel manure, collect the eggs. It made me feel good about myself that I was contributing but also that I was competent.”
The farm also served as his first teacher. “We had a thousand chickens, and we counted the eggs every day,” he says. There was even a blind chicken that he coveted. “By the time I was in the first grade, I knew how to add, subtract, and divide. I grew up in an environment where my parents expected much of me, and now I expect much of myself.”
But when he was about to graduate from high school, he got his first real inkling that not everyone had such high hopes for him. Although his teachers had supported his intellect, a counselor assigned to him by the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind told him and his family that they could set him up with a fruit stand in the subway in Boston as a solid, lifelong profession. “They never mentioned a word about college,” Ticchi says, nor any other options. He ignored their advice and earned a bachelor’s in economics cum laude from Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts—a real feat, says his close friend and dormmate, Chris Matthews. “Holy Cross was a tough school,” says the host of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, who would read textbooks to Ticchi. “There was no grade inflation. You had to work for your grades.” At Harvard Ticchi earned both a master’s and a doctorate from the Ed School, and on December 17, 1969—he still recalls the date by heart—he became one of the first certified teachers in Massachusetts who were blind.
But again even those huge accomplishments weren’t enough when he started applying for teaching slots. He was blind. No one wanted to take a chance on him. “I don’t know how many résumés I sent out. And it wasn’t as easy as it is now,” he says. “Back then, you had to type out every envelope, make copies, put on the stamps. …”
When he applied for jobs, he didn’t, of course, say in his cover letters that he was blind. And by then it was illegal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to discriminate in hiring on the basis of blindness. “I knew in many cases that they’d be surprised by the white cane,” he says. He could usually tell by actions if the interviewer was interested or not: If he or she leaned forward during the discussion, something Ticchi could sense, it was a good sign. If the door to the office remained open after Ticchi sat down, it wasn’t. “I also knew that, if the subject of blindness didn’t come up, I wouldn’t be considered for the job. It’s normal to have questions.”
Eventually, in 1971—almost two years after he became certified—one principal gave him his chance. Van Seasholes, head of Day Junior High School in Newton, Massachusetts, knew Ticchi from his time student teaching at the school. Seasholes never doubted Ticchi could do the job, even when his superiors questioned the hire. “That’s how a good system works,” says Seasholes, now semiretired. “You have confidence in the people that are there. I knew Dave would figure out a way. Education has missed a lot of that—having confidence in people.”
And Ticchi did figure it out. He had students write on the blackboard. A personal reader would help him grade papers and tests. He earned the respect of the students. “Kids have to respect a teacher,” he says. “And you don’t have to have 20/20 vision to be respected.” Today, nearly four decades after he first started teaching, he says people still ask if his students cheated. “Oh sure,” he says, but he’s convinced that some kids would have cheated no matter how acute the teacher’s vision. “Cheating was alive and well long before there were blind teachers.” Over time he created a classroom culture based on the honor system that worked. “To this day, when I meet former students, they still talk about this.”
After six years at the school, Ticchi took a 10-year hiatus from teaching to work for a subsidiary of Xerox. The company had just come out with an optical scan system that digitized data and turned it into speech, primarily for the blind, but also for others with disabilities. The inventor, Raymond Kurzweil, lived in Newton at the time and recruited Ticchi.
Eventually he missed the students and returned to the classroom, this time to Newton North High School, one of the city’s two high schools, where he now runs their alternative school-to-career program. Jim Marini, the person who hired Ticchi for the program, says that some staff had initial concerns that troubled students would try to take advantage of a teacher who is blind. But, as he predicted, “The students loved him,” says Marini, now interim superintendent of Newton Public Schools. “Kids really recognized that David wasn’t a blind person. He was a person of substance.”
It was one example, says Ticchi, of adults—not the students—questioning his ability to teach effectively. He remembers another, earlier experience when Seasholes asked him into his office. A parent had called with concerns about her son having a blind teacher. Seasholes backed him up, telling the parent that he had 100 percent confidence in Ticchi or he wouldn’t have hired him. He also told her that her son would probably have an experience he’d never forget. “I felt we were lucky to have him,” Seasholes says. “I would never have jeopardized the kids. I hired another blind teacher later at Newton South High School but had to let him go. He didn’t have it with the kids. Dave always did.”
When talking about this time in his life and career, Ticchi, who also oversees the ethics program as a special assistant to the president of the Legal Sea Foods Corporation, gets misty. “When someone is behind you like that, you’d run through a wall for them,” he says, “with or without a helmet.”
The scene opens with a thirty-two-year-old Ticchi briskly walking down a tree-lined street wearing a scally cap and a thick, dark moustache, a red duffle bag in one hand, a white cane in the other. At the entrance to the school he opens the door for another teacher. In the next scene Ticchi is in the classroom taking attendance. Walking around, he calls out names: Allan is here? Rodney? Julie, Ronnie, and Eric. Where are Sherry and Donna? Is Julie getting her books?
He is relying on the students to participate, which they do. Other than Donna getting up to use the stapler, all of the students are in their seats. The noise level is low. During a voice-over, Ticchi explains that this is critical for him to know what’s going on in the classroom.
The 1977 documentary is called A Blind Teacher in a Public School and was part of Ticchi’s Ed School doctoral thesis. It was his personal contribution, he writes in the thesis, “to the struggle for enlightenment in the area of the blind as public school teachers of the sighted.” It ran on PBS. For years after, people still recognized him on the street.
His interest in highlighting the way life really is for someone with a disability was the reason he also made a second documentary, Out of Sight, with noted filmmaker David Sutherland in 1993 that focused on a feisty horse trainer who is blind and was once referred to as a “bad girl Huck Finn.”
Ticchi says, “Legislation is important, but what it comes down to is changing attitudes. I wanted to make a film that might be shown on TV that showed that blind people are regular people. We’re not superhuman or subhuman. We’re really not. If we are one of those, it’s not because we’re blind; it’s because of something else.”
Professor Tom Hehir spends a lot of time in the courses he teaches at the Ed School talking about these images—the superhuman and the subhuman. Both are harmful for those with disabilities, says Hehir, who was director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs and played a leading role in developing the Clinton administration’s proposal for the 1997 reauthorization of IDEA.
Referred to as “ableism,” this form of discrimination devalues disabilities, Hehir writes in Special Education for a New Century. Whether the image is of a frail, pitied person in leg braces (think poster child for a telethon) or of the inspirational disabled person (think quadriplegic who summits Kilimanjaro), there’s a failure to accept and value disabled people as they are.
Matt Underwood, EdM ’04, principal of the Atlanta Charter Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia, who took courses with Hehir, says that, in order to avoid ableism, the mindset in their school is that that everyone has learning differences. For this reason every student—not just the disabled—has a “personalized learning plan” similar to an IEP. “This helps to lessen the stigma sometimes attached to these sorts of supports because we make it clear that everyone needs help with something,” he says.
Hehir says that ableism in schools also takes time away from actual learning. When Ticchi was first learning to read and write, he did it the same way the other students were learning, despite the fact that it was a hard process. (He had to use large-sized print and a big magnifying glass.) “I’d get very close, so it was really slow going,” he says. Taking notes in class was extremely tedious. “If there was anything I would change, it would be that I learned Braille earlier. It’s critical. There’s a crisis today in Braille literacy. There’s a shortage of teachers and a misconception that technology will replace it.” Many blind students today rely on MP3 players, audiobooks, and computer software. According to a report released last year by the National Federation of the Blind, about half of all blind children learned Braille in the 1950s, compared with 10 percent today.
Ticchi points to current employment rates for the blind as good reason to utilize all methods of learning—technology and Braille. “The unemployment rate is about 70 percent for blind people. It’s outrageously high,” he says. “Of the remaining 30 percent who are employed, nearly 90 percent are Braille readers.”
A similar struggle has been brewing for years within the deaf community. Instead of learning American Sign Language (ASL), many children who are deaf or hard of hearing are encouraged primarily to use the language of the dominant culture by learning to read lips and speak or to “fix” their inability to hear by having a cochlear implant surgically installed, which provides a sense of sound. Unfortunately, as Shapiro writes, “even in the best of circumstances, only 30 percent of speech can be read from lip movements.”
Which is exactly why Jeremiah Ford, C.A.S. ’91, principal at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, a public school in Boston, makes sure that all of his students know and use sign language. Not only is it the language of the deaf, but also, as he’s seen many times since he started at the school in 2004, technology fails. “We had a young woman whose implant was damaged recently,” Ford says. “It had to go out for repair, and she was totally deaf. So she signed. It was advantageous that she could do that.” Even when parents express a strong interest in having their children learn orally, he points out the plus-sides to knowing ASL as well.
“Parents have a strong opinion on how they want their child to be educated,” he says. “My job is to bring the value of the deaf cultural experience, the value of ASL, regardless of whether you are being taught orally as well. It’s powerful to be multilingual.”
Thirty-five years after the Education for All Handicapped Children bill was enacted, stories are still being written in the press asking the question: Is it working? As Singer noted in her commentary, “Yes, P.L 94-142 is working across the country—but not uniformly.” In the absence of very detailed regulations, she said, individual states and districts have followed their own guidelines over the years. “Differences are found in almost all provisions of the law: who is identified, how they are evaluated, where they are placed, and which services are received.”
But, as Singer also noted, this kind of “research perspective” may not be the best vantage point from which to evaluate whether or not the legislation is working. Perhaps the stories of real people like Amanda Grant, EdM ’10, are what matter most. Diagnosed in second grade with a learning disability, Grant says she was supported in her public schools in Massachusetts and Kentucky and feels the legislation helped her get the accommodations she needed as both a student and later as a teacher. Now she wants to take the legislation a step further. “I taught for two years in Tanzania at a school for children with disabilities. There were no laws to help them. It’s all grassroots,” she says. “I’m looking at how laws like Section 504 and IDEA can be moved outward and can help children all over the world who have disabilities.”
And of course there’s the story of David Ticchi. Although his little four-room schoolhouse in West Bridgewater is gone, replaced by a more modern brick building, the legacy of what a quality public education offered him is clear, as shown in a letter written in 1973 by one of his junior high students to a superintendent in Poughkeepsie, New York, in support of a teacher who lost his vision and then his job: “Maybe, if we give people a chance, they just might jump out and shock us. Never after seven years of elementary school have I ever had the most respect for a teacher. I do admit I liked all my teachers and tried to be a good student, but never did I test myself for loyalty and truth as I do this year. Most of the people that got Mr. Ticchi, our English teacher, who is blind, thought how easy it would be to chew gum, sneak in when you’re late for class, etc. But they soon found out they always got caught. We soon grew to know and to respect Mr. Ticchi as a teacher and a human being.”
To watch a video interview with David Ticchi, go to <www.gse.harvard.edu/ed/extras>.
by Steve Jacobson
From the Editor: Those of us who care about changing the image of blind people often question what we should do when offered help. If we need the help, the answer is obvious, and we accept it. When the help offered isn't needed or when it is given without our asking, deciding how to deal with the situation becomes more difficult.
Steve Jacobson is known for his thoughtful introspection and courteous consideration of others, but he is also known for his assertiveness when the occasion dictates. The following article is condensed and reprinted from the Fall 2010 issue of the Minnesota Bulletin, a publication of the NFB of Minnesota. Here is what Steve has to say on the subject of help:
A good deal has been written lately in the pages of the Minnesota Bulletin about the help that blind people receive. This is an exceedingly important topic because it affects the way we interact with and are viewed by the public and even affects positions we take on governmental programs.
In all that I write here I need to clarify my two initial assumptions. As blind people all of us have our own particular sets of strengths and talents. This means that where help might be useful will vary from individual to individual. In that sense I am not claiming that one size fits all. Nothing here should be construed to mean that one should never request necessary help.
The second point is that each of us is an ambassador for all blind people when we interact with the public. We cannot decide whether or not we will be ambassadors; we can only decide whether or not we care about the job we do. Those who say that they don't choose to represent blind people when they interact with the public are simply saying that it doesn't matter to them that their actions may affect the rest of us. Being an ambassador means that I try to be patient when I am frustrated with the manner in which help is offered, and I view the experience as an educational opportunity. Being an ambassador also means that, unless I am careful, the help I accept will be understood as help that all blind people need. Being a part of a minority group whose lives are generally a mystery to the public at large means we understand that the way we deal with the public regarding help will reflect upon all of us, just as we need to remember that our reactions may also reflect on us as a group.
Truly to understand the nature of the help we receive, it is necessary to recognize that help comes from different sources and is generated for different reasons. Of course some help is offered by one friend to another, and we may well deal with it differently from help offered by a stranger. Yet a third, less personal, source of help can often be harder to manage because the source is not a single individual but is instead generated by a management policy or a rule. I call this "institutional help." Those who then convey this kind of help do it with conviction because it also fits their image of blindness.
Let us examine several events to see how this third category of help affects us. Recently an eighteen-year-old woman on a United Airlines flight was told that she should remain seated when the plane landed in Chicago. After everyone else had deplaned, someone would come and assist her in exiting. Airline staff forgot about her, and she believed that she should continue to wait as instructed. The plane completely emptied and was closed. Airline maintenance personnel discovered her some time later. The publicity about this incident was critical of the airline for forgetting her. While I do not know whether other circumstances caused this woman to remain seated, the reasons given mentioned only blindness as the reason for this instruction.
We live in a time when one thinks twice about not doing whatever the airlines say we should do, so each of us must consider what we will do when airline instructions conflict with what we know we need. In this context then I ask why no one questioned her responsibility at least to make her situation known as the airplane emptied. The answer is simple: those writing the news articles and the United Airlines staff believed that being blind, even as an adult, means we are not responsible for ourselves. In their minds they are responsible for us in the same way that they are responsible for children traveling alone. It can sometimes be easy to accept this assumption as truth without the support of other blind people.
Though being stranded on an empty plane is not a common occurrence, being requested to remain seated and wait to be escorted off the plane is quite common. This very request has been made of me a number of times, so I can speak from personal experience, and my course of action is obvious to me. Even if the help is being offered with my well-being in mind, it is not help that I believe I can in good conscience accept, and I generally ignore the request and deplane with the rest of the passengers. The problem here isn't that the woman in question might have needed help; the problem is that she was expected to wait because she was blind. To choose to take an independent course, as I do, means I must go against the instructions of the airlines, but the statement my independent action makes is so important that it must be made. Most blind people who have received training can safely and efficiently navigate the aisle of an airplane, so we need not let someone do for us what we are able to do for ourselves. Making such a statement is not always easy, however.
As Monitor readers know from the November issue, a blind couple recently experienced some difficulty feeding their newborn child while in the hospital. They requested and received assistance, and the feeding problem was resolved. However, the incident was reported to child protection services, and the baby was taken from the parents and placed in foster care. There were no general problems beyond issues faced by many first-time parents, blind or sighted. Children's services wasn't called on the assumption that they might have some help to offer the family. They were called because the hospital staff assumed that the blind couple were incapable of caring for their child and that their little girl needed the state’s protection. This mistaken assumption was confirmed by the agency when, in response to the call, they took the child. The basis for such official decisions is lack of information about blindness and the assumption that closing one's eyes provides all the information needed to determine the capabilities of blind parents. Again the assumption surfaces that these are blind people--not responsible adults.
The final event I will cite didn't make the news, but it offended me to such a degree that I asked Jennifer Dunnam if I could tell her story. She recently traveled to a concert in Chicago that took place in a small theater. Part of the experience was that fans could choose to stand near the stage rather than be seated. Having communicated with others attending the concert, Jennifer chose to stand near the stage. Theater staff first asked and then insisted that she take a seat in the handicapped section. Such language as "We'll put you in the handicapped seats" was used. Since different people approached her each time with progressively more insistence, it is clear that the theater's management was administering the so-called help. Yes, the word "put" was used: not assist, guide, aid, or direct Jennifer to a seat, but put, as if she were a piece of furniture. In their minds she needed the handicapped seats because her loss of vision meant loss of the ability to walk any great distance. No consideration was given to the fact that she had just traveled four-hundred miles by train independently to get to the concert. Accepting this seating would have meant giving up some of her enjoyment, and it would have reinforced the staff’s distorted view of blind people. She finally responded firmly and remained standing, enjoying with others the electric atmosphere afforded by being close to the stage. However, the experience detracted from her enjoyment of the evening--and why? Somebody at some level made some assumptions about her, and the stereotypes of blindness made the staff eager to act based upon those assumptions. They felt that, appearances to the contrary, Jennifer was blind and was therefore less able to stand. They knew, better than she, what was good for her, and who was she to question their rules?
While lack of information about blindness and blind people is at the root of all three of the above events, I maintain that the issue of offering and accepting help is also very much involved. Most offers of help include an element of generosity, of one human being’s reaching out to another. We need to nurture and encourage that part of the help we receive, and, equally important, we need to return it to others. However, we often confront an assumption that we are not as responsible as other adults, that help is to be given whether we think we need it or not, and that we should be grateful for whatever help we receive even if it inconveniences us or is given without consulting us. Particularly when that help is formalized in policies and management decisions, we need to do what we can to change the underlying assumptions.
Connections exist between events like these and our daily lives. Is it too bold to submit that there is a connection between the insistence that blind people should not stand when all seats are taken on a bus and that we should not stand at a concert? Is it plausible that a theater employee might have been asked to relinquish his or her seat for a blind person on the Chicago Transit system? Might it be that some United Airlines staff member had witnessed otherwise able-bodied blind people being moved to the front of a check-in or security line so that they wouldn't have to wait, fostering the notion that special help in leaving the plane is required? Might a social worker have been affected by his or her experience with another blind person who expected to be helped with tasks that he or she could have accomplished independently?We have a right to feel frustrated at times with the way the public sees us; however, we must also realize that things won't change unless we think about and are selective in the help we accept. As I said at the outset, each of us needs help at times. Though blindness has some unique challenges, all people need help from others. Even in our independence, all of us, blind and sighted, are interdependent. However, we need to be careful not to accept help that someone else believes is necessary just because it is convenient. Our doing so confirms the necessity for that help in his or her mind. We must try gently to educate as well, not just the public, but one another. This is the only way that things will change. Providing education isn't always easy, but we can help one another by thinking about and differentiating between what is needed and what is convenient, and how best to convey the right message to the public.
by Marvin F. Kraushar, Vito J. DeSantis, James A. Kutsch Jr.,
Gaytha I. Kraushar, and Joseph J. Ruffalo
From the Editor: In May 2010 a version of the following article was published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology. Its message is important for physicians with blind patients to read and consider. It was couched in the language of medicine. We also thought it might be helpful to Monitor readers who themselves deal with members of the medical community, so we asked permission to republish the text somewhat recast in lay people’s language. The authors gave us permission. They are Dr. Marvin Kraushar of the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; Vinto DeSantis and Gatha Kraushar from the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired; James Kutsch of the Seeing Eye; and Joseph Ruffalo, president of the National Federation of the Blind of New Jersey. Here it is:
When there is no effective treatment for a vision-damaging ocular condition or when treatment fails to prevent or restore vision loss, patients may experience blindness. Less severely affected patients may experience visual impairment. Depending on the patient, age at onset, personal and occupational goals may be altered or abandoned. Blind or visually impaired (VI) people under sixty-five often do not receive maximum vision rehabilitation. Only 41.5% of the blind population is employed. A second, smaller group are patients over sixty-five. With improvements in the management of extremely premature newborns and the increasing longevity of the population, both groups can be expected to grow significantly in the future. Many people in both groups spend their days sequestered in their homes or group facilities. Others may cope with their situations by setting unnecessarily limited goals.
But alternative, nonvisual skills are available to blind and VI people of all ages seeking higher education or attaining or maintaining competitive careers. These include orientation and mobility, Braille skills, and competence in technologies that improve communication and broaden access to information. No statistics are available demonstrating the impact of these skills on the individual’s ability to enter or remain in the workforce. Years of experience, however, have shown that the most motivated blind and VI people who have access to these skills achieve or maintain integration in their communities and retain the ability to compete with their sighted peers for higher education and employment. For them reading, writing, and communicating at the level of the sighted population are an absolute necessity and an attainable goal.
Low-vision aids are not an option for blind people who have little or no useful vision. While such equipment can be invaluable to visually impaired people when performing everyday tasks, reading ten to thirty words a minute with magnifiers or closed-circuit television systems is slow and insufficient for those intending to attain or maintain lives as satisfying and meaningful as those of their sighted neighbors.
Both patients under and over sixty-five are often told by their physicians, "There is nothing more I can do for you." While this statement may be medically accurate, a very real psychological benefit is associated with doing something that can provide desperately needed hope to these patients. The ability of ophthalmologists to provide information about the availability of vision rehabilitation services, specifically nonvisual skills acquisition, and to encourage patients to make use of such services can have a profound impact on their independence and productivity.
To increase independence, public and private agencies teach blind people orientation and mobility with the long cane and adaptive daily living skills such as personal grooming, dressing, grocery shopping, homemaking, and kitchen skills. It is generally recognized today that effective use of the long white cane or guide dog makes independent travel possible.
Such agencies also provide Braille skills and training in assistive technologies to blind and VI people, enabling many to communicate as effectively as the sighted. Braille is currently read by only 10 percent of blind people, but of those, approximately 90 percent are employed. This compares with only 30 to 40 percent of Braille nonreaders. Moreover, thirty percent of Braille readers have advanced degrees. Common myths about Braille include the following: only young children can learn Braille; Braille is too slow; it is a poor substitute for print reading; and Braille materials are not readily available. None of these statements is true. Although scientific data are not available, many blind and VI individuals of all ages have learned Braille and can read as fast as sighted people and with the same level of comprehension.
Recent innovations in assistive technology have dramatically increased opportunities for blind and VI people to compete successfully. Screen readers use software to read the information on the computer screen aloud. Other devices produce embossed or refreshable Braille. In addition to providing the portable document management, calendar, and other functions of a PDA, electronic notetakers provide access to email and the Internet through speech and Braille output. Jobs that had previously been beyond the reach of blind or VI employees—such as executive positions and jobs in information technology, medical transcription, and teaching, for example—are now open to blind and VI people with adaptive technology skills.
Most nonmedical people—even many ophthalmologists—do not know any truly independent blind or VI people and therefore harbor misconceptions about blindness. The sighted public's fear of blindness is exacerbated by people’s ability to close their eyes. They immediately panic and think, "How can I do anything without vision?" Sighted people unfamiliar with the independence afforded by nonvisual skills have low expectations for blind and visually impaired people. Understandably, people who have lost their sight and who don’t know the benefits and availability of nonvisual skills harbor these same misconceptions and low expectations of themselves.
Ophthalmologists naturally concentrate on stabilizing vision and maximizing remaining vision with emphasis on visual acuity rather than on visual function. They define blindness as 20/200 or less in the better eye and visual impairment as less than 20/40 in the better eye. Medical personnel often advise their patients of all ages to use their remaining vision, usually by employing low-vision aids. For blind people especially, emphasizing unreliable vision fosters dependence rather than independence.
If this unhealthy and unconstructive situation is to be reversed, physicians must stop thinking of vision loss as a deficiency and begin understanding what is possible. Thinking of capabilities instead of disabilities emphasizes strength and opportunity instead of weakness and limitation. Don't think, "Without a guide dog or a cane Mr. Jones cannot travel." Think, "With a dog guide or a cane Mr. Jones can travel." Blindness skills then become liberating rather than restricting.
Physicians must also understand what can be accomplished with nonvisual skills and learn where their patients can acquire them. The National Council of State Agencies for the Blind (NCSAB) maintains a continually updated Website, <www.ncsab.org>, which lists the state agencies serving blind and VI consumers in all fifty states. A link for physicians at this Website facilitates access to this information. Vision Serve Alliance, found on the Web at <www.visionservealliance.org>, is maintained by a similar organization of private agencies serving people losing vision. We urge ophthalmologists to make this information available to their blind and VI patients and encourage them to investigate the services that can enhance their quality of life.Motivated blind and VI people who learn nonvisual skills and are encouraged to make use of them can achieve independence, self-esteem, and productivity. However, as valuable as assistive technology and nonvisual skills are, Braille, the computer, the guide dog, and the cane can only give the person effective tools. The individual's positive attitude and ability will make him or her successful. The ophthalmologist has a responsibility and a unique opportunity to educate these patients. In the ancillary role of counselor and advisor, the ophthalmologist who has nurtured the physician-patient relationship can influence whether someone takes the first step toward attaining or retaining personal success.
by Anil Lewis
From the Editor: Anil Lewis is the past president of the National Federation of the Blind of Georgia and recently resigned from the NFB board of directors to become its director of strategic communications. One of his major projects is the publicity for the Blind Driver Challenge. Here is what he has to say about the debut of the first vehicle equipped with prototype technology to put blind people behind the wheel:
Where will you be when we demonstrate the most exciting technology ever to affect the lives of the blind? If you start planning now, you can be in Daytona Beach, Florida, with hundreds of other Federationists who will be on site to witness this truly momentous event. On January 29, 2011, the National Federation of the Blind's Blind Driver Challenge will be featured as part of the pre-race activities of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway. In front of tens of thousands of fans, we will debut our prototype nonvisual interface that will empower a blind person to drive a car without sighted assistance. Who will be the driver? How does the interface work? What driving functions will be performed? Members of the National Federation of the Blind will be present in a big way to find out.
In Federation fashion, we have planned a fun-filled weekend of activity to celebrate this historic event. We are encouraging members to arrive in Daytona on Friday, January 28, and stay through Sunday, January 30. We have secured room and ticket prices that will make it possible for our members to attend. The following is a summary of event activities along with travel, lodging, transportation, and ticket information.
On Friday evening before the race, members are invited to gather in the ballroom of the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel for an update on organizational matters. Topics will be the logistics for the Blind Driver Challenge demonstration, the Imagination Fund campaign, and the Text2Give program. The race environment will be quite thrilling, and we encourage all race attendees to come to this session.
We will have Blind Driver Challenge polo shirts to commemorate the event. Members should wear the BDC shirts on Saturday to demonstrate their support. A limited number of BDC shirts will be available for sale in Daytona, but members are urged to purchase shirts from the NFB Independence Market before the event.
Round-trip transportation between the hotel and Daytona International Speedway will be available for our members to attend the demonstration only on the day of the event. Pick-up for attendees wanting transportation to Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, January 29, will be at the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel. Buses will arrive at the track two hours before the yet-to-be-determined time of the demonstration. Buses will return to the hotel after the conclusion of the demonstration. Some buses will leave the track two hours after the event, and others will leave four hours after.
In addition to witnessing the actual Blind Driver Challenge demonstration, members are encouraged to visit the NFB Blind Driver Challenge at the Sprint FANZONE area of the Daytona International Speedway, which will be open on Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The second Blind Driver Challenge vehicle will be on display in this area, as well as information on Text2Give, bumper stickers and other surprises.
We will conduct a press conference immediately after the track demonstration of the Blind Driver Challenge vehicle, and we hope all members will plan to attend. Finally, on Saturday night we will gather in the ballroom of the Plaza Ocean Club Hotel to celebrate the events of the day.
For the race weekend we have negotiated discounted lodging at three hotel properties adjacent to each other. A minimum stay of two nights during January 28 to 30, 2011, is required. You can take advantage of the prices listed below as long as rooms are available under our block:
by Alexander C. Kafka
From the Editor: For almost a decade Federationists have recognized Jessica Bachicha as one of our young NFB leaders. She has been awarded two NFB scholarships, and she has sung several times at Federation events. In addition to working part-time at the National Center for the Blind, she is a doctoral student at the Catholic University of America. The last weekend of October she sang the extremely demanding role of the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute. On October 25 the following article about Jessica appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education. This is what it said:
When you’re teaching a blind soprano, the taboo against physical contact just doesn’t wash. “What we do,” says Sharon Christman, chair of the voice division at the Catholic University of America, discussing her work with doctoral student Jessica Bachicha, “is douse ourselves with Purell. … I’d have her touch under my tongue. Tongue tension is our worst enemy as a singer.” “So much for no touching and all that,” Christman says.
Such unorthodoxies have paid off for Bachicha twenty-nine, who will play the Queen of the Night in a Catholic University production of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute this weekend. “Touch is very important for me,” she says. “I was always really fortunate in that my mom encouraged me to explore things tactilely. I bring that to my musical life.”
She brings it to her Braille reading of music (as well as of English, Italian, French, and Spanish, and, for research, German and Latin, too). And on a larger scale she brings it to her stage preparation for this role.
Christman takes a conspicuously hands-on approach to guiding Bachicha’s gestures (see the rehearsal video to get a better sense of that). And while a production’s blocking is routinely marked by pieces of tape on the stage, for Bachicha, the crew put down thicker tape that she could feel through her shoes. That, she says, has helped her prepare for actual on-stage stairs. And, she says, she has a map of the set in her mind, which is how she orients herself anyway. “Real life on a small scale,” she calls the blocking.
An Albuquerque native, Bachicha has two bachelor’s degrees, one in foreign language, one in music, from the University of New Mexico. She’s done research in Leeds, England, on musical connections with the theology of marriage, and she earned a master’s in performance from the New England Conservatory. Although she was in a concert version of La Traviata, her Magic Flute part is Bachicha’s first role in a full operatic production, and Christman suggests that’s because Bachicha’s performance talents had been underdeveloped and underappreciated before she came to Catholic in 2008.
When she auditioned for Catholic, Christman said, Bachicha “had a beautiful voice, but her hands were clenched, she didn’t move, and her technique was not what it needed to be. But I could hear the potential.” “What do you want to do?” she remembers asking Bachicha.
“I want to do everything,” was the reply.
Former teachers and institutions “put limitations on her she would never put on herself,” Christman says. “There’s such a voice here, and we don’t have a right to hold it back.” They’d be working on, say, jaw posture, and Bachicha would say “I see” a lot, “which I had to get used to,” Christman said. The first year Bachicha “fought and fought” against old habits, “but nobody could have worked harder. She did everything that I asked her to do. … More and more she just came out of her shell.”
“‘If I say something wrong, there’s no mal-intent,” Christman recalls telling her. “‘Please,’” said Bachicha, “`I’ve heard it all. Say anything. Ask me anything.’” “We’ve just been closer and closer,” Christman says. “And her abilities have totally amazed.”
In contrast to the frequent ingénue roles for soprano, Bachicha says, as Queen of the Night, “I get to be a villain—it’s very exciting.” Emerging from a sarcophagus (Christman calls it the True Blood element of the production), the Queen goes from schemer to murderess, “from bad to worse,” says Bachicha. She enjoys the famed part Mozart wrote for his virtuoso sister-in-law, but also the physicality of the acting, down to being coached in detail about when and how to curl her fingers, or face her palms up rather than down, to help convey an emotion. “It’s fun for me playing with how to portray these differences,” Bachicha says, “so audiences can appreciate her as someone who grows—or shrinks, rather—through the opera.”
One role model for the portrayal has been close at hand, Bachicha says, because Christman herself performed the part with the Metropolitan Opera. (Christman has been affiliated with Catholic for twenty years, while performing with the Met, the New York City Opera, and regional companies.) Bachicha also likes Met star Roberta Peters’s interpretation of the role. With a father in medical sales and a dental-hygienist mother, Bachicha knew little about classical music before taking voice lessons at twelve with “an amazing first teacher” named Nancy Carpenter. Bachicha had been planning to be a judge, she recalls, but Carpenter “really helped me to see myself as a singer.” Bachicha learned to read and write Braille musical notation and software when she was sixteen at a program in Bridgeport, Connecticut, run by David Goldstein. “I wished I would have learned it earlier,” she says.
Bachicha also composes. A Gregorian chant-based piece she wrote for cello, viola, violin, percussion, and tenor and soprano vocalists is included in her CD, Illuminations. And she’s working with a pianist and her brother Ben, an electric-guitar player, on a November CD release called Christmas Presence, in which traditional carols are intertwined with text drawn from an encyclical on Christian hope by Pope Benedict XVI.
Melding music and story in innovative ways is a deep interest of Bachicha’s. She is trying to start a nonprofit, Harmonia Vitae, or harmony of life, that would combine narrative and music in performances primarily for children, not simply by adding music to story like a soundtrack, Peter and the Wolf style, but by mixing them in more profound ways, with music and narrative commenting on each other. For instance, she says, a work by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla about a weeping tree might be played along with a tree-climbing portion of Oscar Wilde’s story “The Selfish Giant.” Ideally, the organization would offer solo, group, and even full orchestra performances, says Bachicha, who is seeking grant money for the project.
After her expected graduation in spring 2011, Bachicha will also be on the job market for a university teaching position (she’d like to stay in the Baltimore-Washington area because her boyfriend works for the National Federation of the Blind in Baltimore). She wants to develop interdisciplinary courses for musicians working in a church setting to better understand the history behind the musical forms they are performing. And she’s interested, she says, in exploring philosophy through music and is especially taken with the work of the Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand. She’d like to sing with more symphonies and to perform in more operas as well.“It can be an inconvenience,” Bachicha says of her blindness, “but it’s just another characteristic that we deal with, like being tall or short.” In a rotating cast for the Catholic University of America’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Bachicha will play the Queen of the Night Friday and Sunday. Performances, at the university’s Hartke Theatre, 3801 Harewood Road, N.E., in Washington, will be Thursday, Oct. 28, 7:30 p.m., preview performance; Friday, Oct. 29, and Saturday, Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, Oct. 31, 2 p.m.
by Mary Ellen Gabias
From the Editor: At the convention last summer delegates were delighted to learn some of the details of the collaboration between the NFB and eBay that enables blind people to use the online marketplace efficiently. Longtime Federationist Mary Ellen Gabias has recently become the coordinator of the NFB eBay Entrepreneurs’ Project. In the following article she describes the program and the opportunities it will make available to blind people. This is what she says:
The NFB has always placed major emphasis on assisting blind people to become self-supporting. The pioneering work of Dr. tenBroek and others helped remove some of the worst work disincentives in the welfare system of his day. It was the NFB that first opened the federal Civil Service to blind applicants. Our Job Opportunities for the Blind (JOB) program in the 1980s successfully connected blind people with employers and with employed blind people who acted as mentors and role models. So, when the National Federation of the Blind, the world’s most dynamic organization of blind people, partners with eBay, the company that operates the world’s largest Internet marketplace, good things are bound to happen.
On September 15, in a joint press release, the NFB and eBay announced the NFB/eBay Entrepreneurs’ Project. The press release read:
EBay and National Federation of the Blind Partner to Increase
Ecommerce Job Opportunities
Innovative Partnership Aims to Empower Blind Americans to Gain Employment, Start Businesses While Buying and Selling on EBay
EBay, the world’s largest online marketplace, and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) today announced a partnership to create more opportunities for blind Americans to access eBay as buyers and sellers. EBay.com now includes enhanced features for users to buy, bid, and sell using the keyboard alone, as well as improved ways to navigate content using assistive technologies such as screen-access software. The blind can now more easily connect with eBay’s 92 million users and shop from 200 million live listings.
“We have great respect for the advocacy role the NFB plays in creating employment opportunities for the blind,” said John Donahoe, president and CEO of eBay, Inc. “EBay has built a reputation as a driver of job creation by helping entrepreneurs start up and grow their businesses. We are excited about connecting with an even wider audience through this partnership and providing blind Americans with easier access to our marketplace for both buying and selling.”
“EBay is demonstrating true leadership and commitment to accessibility, along with creating exciting opportunities for blind Americans,” said Dr. Marc Maurer, president of the National Federation of the Blind. “The National Federation of the Blind is thrilled with the accessibility of eBay’s buying and selling experience, and we look forward to working together with eBay on employment opportunities for blind Americans. This partnership demonstrates that, when the blind and business leaders work together, everyone wins.”
With 70 percent of blind Americans either unemployed or underemployed, job creation is critical to tackle the employment challenges facing the blind. The NFB and eBay aim to provide additional tools and support to the blind community to enable their success on eBay such as:
That was the substance of the press release. We are now seeking blind people who want to participate in this innovative pilot program in three areas.
Business Start-Up Pilot
The ninety-two million people participating on eBay range from casual sellers–people who use the system as a cyber garage sale--to serious entrepreneurs who make eBay the platform for profitable businesses. The NFB/eBay Entrepreneurs’ Project is looking for serious entrepreneurs who want to create new eBay businesses or expand existing businesses to include eBay selling. We will offer successful applicants intensive eBay training and connect them with successful blind business people and other experts who will provide assistance in specific areas such as business planning, development, and working with accessible accounting software.
Individuals chosen for the Business Start-Up Pilot will take part in an intensive three-day training program at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore. They will receive transportation, lodging, training classes, accessible training materials, and ongoing mentorship support.
The class will include:
If running your own eBay business appeals to you, please write us at <[email protected]> and request an Entrepreneurs’ Program package. Your letter of interest should include:
Because this is a pilot program intended to demonstrate the viability of eBay businesses run by blind individuals, we must select from applicants with the strongest plans and the greatest willingness to mentor the blind people who will follow. However, even if you do not yet have a perfectly developed business plan, we still want to hear from you. As eBay trainers receive certification, we will help connect you with them so that you can get started on the path to running your own eBay business.
Training the Trainers
In order to provide opportunity to as many people as possible, we will train interested blind people to be eBay-certified education specialists, people who buy and sell on eBay themselves and want to create a business teaching others how to do it. The trainers we train will be equipped to teach other blind people who use screen readers; they will also be certified to teach the sighted. With ninety-two million people already using eBay and more joining the community every day, the business opportunity for anyone who can teach them how to be more effective is enormous!
The certified education specialist training will consist of a three-day training program that will take place at the NFB Jernigan Institute in Baltimore, plus follow-up individualized support and group teleconference training. Those selected for the Train the Trainers program will receive, as a scholarship, transportation, lodging, training classes, accessible training materials, and ongoing mentorship support.
Is being an eBay-certified education specialist for you? If you have a deep desire to be of service to others, an entrepreneurial spirit, the aptitude to teach, and basic computer literacy using screen readers, we want to hear from you. Because selling on eBay has not been readily accessible to blind people in the past, you will not need to have experience as an eBay seller to take part in the first Train the Trainers class. However, you will need to demonstrate success in buying and selling on eBay in order to graduate and receive certification.
Because your pioneering spirit will help create opportunities for others, both entrepreneurs and future trainers, you need to commit to teach other blind people eBay success skills after completing the program. By “aptitude for teaching” we simply mean that you enjoy showing others how to do new things and that you can give clear and concise explanations. You will need some ability to use a screen reader to access Websites, though it is not necessary to be a screen reader power user.
To apply to enter the Train the Trainers inaugural class, send a letter to <[email protected]> explaining your background and qualifications (particularly your entrepreneurial and teaching experience) and telling us why you want to become an eBay-certified education specialist.
National Federation of the Blind eBay Marketplace
Federationists know the power of collective action. Working together, we can accomplish more than any one of us could do alone. EBay has demonstrated the power of networking millions of individual entrepreneurs together. By creating the NFB/eBay Entrepreneurs’ Marketplace, we will focus the combined capabilities of both the eBay and NFB networks to highlight the capacity of blind entrepreneurs and to drive traffic to their ecommerce businesses. As plans for the Marketplace develop, we will invite blind eBay entrepreneurs to become part of this network.
The economy of the second decade of the twenty-first century has changed dramatically from the Post World War II economy of the early Federation. Once again we have adapted to the changes and are leading the way by partnering with a second millennium company to create opportunities unimaginable a quarter century ago.
by Cathy Jackson
From the Editor: Cathy Jackson chairs the committee to select the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children for 2011.
The National Federation of the Blind will recognize an outstanding teacher of blind children at our 2011 convention next July. The winner of this award will receive an expense-paid trip to the convention, a check for $1,000, an appropriate plaque, and an opportunity to make a presentation about the education of blind children to the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.
Anyone who is currently teaching or counseling blind students or administering a program for blind children is eligible to receive this award. It is not necessary to be a member of the National Federation of the Blind to apply. However, the winner must attend the national convention. Teachers may be nominated by colleagues, supervisors, or friends. The letter of nomination should explain why the teacher is being recommended for this award.
The education of blind children is one of our most important concerns. Attendance at a National Federation of the Blind convention will enrich a teacher's experience by affording him or her the opportunity to take part in seminars and workshops on educational issues, to meet other teachers who work with blind children, to meet parents, and to meet blind adults who have had experiences in a variety of educational programs. Help us recognize a distinguished teacher by distributing this form and encouraging teachers to submit their credentials. We are pleased to offer this award and look forward to applications from many well-qualified educators.
Please complete the application and attach the following:
National Federation of the Blind
Distinguished Educator of Blind Children Award
Deadline: May 15, 2011
City, State, Zip:_________________________________________________
City, State, Zip:_________________________________________________
Use a separate sheet of paper to answer the following:
Attach the three required letters to this application, and send all material by May 15, 2011, to Cathy Jackson, Chairperson, Teacher Award Committee, 210 Cambridge Drive, Louisville, Kentucky 40214-2809; (502) 366-2317.
by David Ticchi
From the Editor: Dr. David Ticchi is an experienced educator in his own right. He was named Blind Educator of the Year in 1998. He chairs the 2011 Blind Educator of the Year Award selection committee. This is what he says:
A number of years ago the Blind Educator of the Year Award was established by the National Organization of Blind Educators (the educators division of the National Federation of the Blind) to pay tribute to a blind teacher whose exceptional classroom performance, notable community service, and uncommon commitment to the NFB merit national recognition. Beginning with the 1991 presentation, this award became an honor bestowed by our entire movement. The change reflects our recognition of the importance of good teaching and the impact an outstanding blind teacher has on students, faculty, community, and all blind Americans.
This award is presented in the spirit of the outstanding educators who founded and have continued to nurture the National Federation of the Blind and who, by example, have imparted knowledge of our strengths to us and raised our expectations. We have learned from Dr. Jacobus tenBroek, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, and President Marc Maurer that a teacher not only provides a student with information but also provides guidance and advocacy. The recipient of the Blind Educator of the Year Award must exhibit all of these traits and must advance the cause of blind people in the spirit and philosophy of the National Federation of the Blind.The Blind Educator of the Year Award is presented at the annual convention of the National Federation of the Blind. Honorees must be present to receive an appropriately inscribed plaque and a check for $1,000. Nominations should be sent to Dr. David A. Ticchi, 321 Harvard Street, Unit 306, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139. Letters of nomination must be accompanied by a copy of the nominee's current résumé and supporting documentation of community and Federation activity. All nomination materials must be in the hands of the committee chairman by May 1, 2011, to be considered for this year's award. For further information contact David Ticchi, (617) 530-9178.
From the Editor: With some regularity we spotlight books in the tenBroek Library. Here is librarian Ed Morman's description of a recent acquisition:
Fragrance and Fragrant Plants for House and Garden, by Nelson Coon. Grandview, Mo.: Diversity Books, 1967
During the past year each of the three successive Monitor editors has welcomed monthly contributions from the tenBroek Library staff. Among the books that have been discussed in this feature are one on sight (May 2010) and one on sound (April 2010). In this issue we look at a book about smell.
Although Fragrance and Fragrant Plants for House and Garden was not specifically written for the blind, its author was well qualified to write about plants in relation to blind people. An accomplished gardener and author of several other books on horticulture, Nelson Coon was also a staff member at the Perkins School for the Blind for more than a quarter century. He was aware that blind people can appreciate gardening and plants in many of the same ways as the sighted, but it was the fragrance of plants that struck him as most interesting when he came to work among blind people.
The first nine chapters of this book constitute Part I: “Scents and How They Are Used." Here Coon looks at the sense of smell and how people have tried to categorize odors. He discusses the importance of smell first to nonhuman animals and then to humans--as sexual creatures, as religious believers, as patients and healers, and as merchants and legislators. He concludes this part with two chapters on blindness and the sense of smell. In chapter eight he cites the Bible, Helen Keller, and a friend who reported paying greater attention to the olfactory environment after becoming blind. In chapter nine, "The Invisible Garden"--a short treatise on fragrance gardens for the blind--Coon points out that not every blind person enjoys plants and that creating gardens specifically for the blind can become an unacceptable form of segregation.
Part II, "Fragrant Plants for Every Garden," describes plants that will please the nose as well as the eye or fingers. Each of the twenty chapters in this part is about a category of plant: trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, and so on. Coon includes a chapter on "the malodorous garden" and concludes with some recipes for garden-based food and potpourri.
Federationists and other disability activists talk about universal design for technology: devices that are usable by the disabled, but equally useful by the general population. Here we have a book published more than forty years ago that is likewise of universal application. Surprisingly, though, Fragrance and Fragrant Plants for House and Garden is listed in neither the NLS catalog nor the APH's "Louis" database of accessible books. If any Monitor reader is aware of a source for accessible editions of this book, please let us know.
by Barbara Pierce
From the Editor: In the December 2005 issue we carried the following article. From time to time people have asked where to find the information and recipes, so we thought it might make sense to run it again. Here it is:
In October one of our Internet listservs developed a thread about baking, specifically how blind bakers can get good results. Some of the questions made their way to my inbox along with a request for particularly good recipes. My correspondent suggested that, with the holiday season fast approaching, this might be a good time to offer some of my favorite recipes and useful baking tips.
I do not pretend to be an expert on alternative techniques in the kitchen. As I have often confessed, I have never been rehabilitated; I certainly was never lucky enough to attend one of our NFB adult training centers. I have, however, been cooking for more than forty years now, and, being married to a college professor, I have necessarily collected a number of easy and popular cookie and bar recipes. The baking tricks and techniques I have devised for myself may not be the most efficient ways to accomplish the job, but they work for me and seem to be efficient. I trust that my experience will encourage you to have a try at working things out for yourself.
One of my favorite tricks during the holiday season has little to do with baking, but it fills the house with wonderful fragrance. In a large covered saucepan place a couple of cinnamon sticks, several whole nutmegs, about twenty whole cloves, a teaspoon of allspice berries, and the discarded peels of a couple of oranges and perhaps a lemon. Fill the pan with water and reduce the heat to low. Check on the pan from time to time to be sure it is not boiling dry. The citrus peel and spices will persuade anyone who drops in that your home is the scene of great culinary delights.
But now down to the real thing. The one hard and fast rule that every blind cook should follow is to wash hands early and often during kitchen activities. If you lick your finger, wash your hands again immediately. It goes without saying that you should never taste something from an implement and then continue using it without stopping to wash it thoroughly.
The question, I gather, that initiated the email discussion about baking was how to tell when cookies are golden brown and ready to be removed to a cooling rack without being either soggy in the center or too crisp to serve. It helps to have an accurate oven or at least a consistent one. If you know that it is always twenty-five degrees high, you can preheat to a lower temperature. Unless the recipe instructs you to do something different, bake with the rack placed in the center of the oven. Invest in a cookie sheet that is constructed to bake evenly. Work to make all the cookies the same size so that they will take about the same amount of time to bake. If you know that your oven bakes unevenly, rotate the cookie sheet halfway through baking. Keep accurate note of how long your cookies have been in the oven. When you determine what the perfect baking time is, you will then be able to repeat it with the next batch.
When you prepare to bake the first tray of cookies, study the recipe for any tips about baking time and handling. Some recipes say to leave the cookies on the sheet for a minute or two before removing them to the cooling rack. If you do not follow this advice when it is given, the cookies are likely to fall to pieces when moved because they have not had time to finish baking and become firm on the sheet. Other recipes warn you to remove the cookies after the stipulated cooking time and not to wait until they brown. You should follow this advice scrupulously for the first set of cookies, at least. If, when they have cooled, they are still too soft, increase the baking time a minute or two for the next batch. My favorite recipe warns that the cookies are done when they begin to crack on top. These cracks are easy to feel by touching the surface lightly. The cookies have the additional virtue of freezing well either before or after baking. When I found myself in London without cookie cutters or money to buy Christmas tree ornaments, I even resorted to burying one side of a loop of colorful yarn in the cookie dough so that we could hang the cookies on the tree. Here is the recipe:
Coffee Hour Molasses Cookies
3/4 cup shortening, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
Method: Beat sugar and cooled shortening with an electric mixer. Add molasses and egg. Then add soda, spices, and salt. Finally beat in the flour. The dough will be stiff but sticky. Chill at least a half hour before rolling into balls. Roll in sugar and bake on ungreased sheets at 350 degrees until cookies just begin to crack on top, about twelve minutes. Transfer to rack to cool completely. You can also freeze either the baked cookies or the balls before rolling in sugar and baking. I usually quadruple this recipe and still run short.
If the recipe you are using simply says something like, “Bake for twelve minutes or until cookies are golden brown and remove immediately to cooling racks,” you have to pay close attention to how long the cookies are actually taking to bake the way you like them. If you are unfamiliar with the recipe, begin by baking just a few cookies. Remove the sheet from the oven after the exactly recommended amount of baking time. Note how they smell. Touch them lightly. Try lifting one with your turner. If the cookies feel very soft, are obviously thick and not fully spread out, or do not smell as though they have yet begun to brown, you are probably safe returning them to the oven for another minute or two. Do not try lifting one until you are pretty sure it is done. If it crumbles or collapses, remove the evidence from the sheet and return the rest of the cookies to bake a bit longer.
Keep noticing how the cookies are smelling. If they smell distinctly done and you fear that they are going to over-bake before they seem to be ready to remove easily with a turner, let them sit on the sheet for a minute or two to set a bit before you try moving them. By the time you are ready to bake the second sheet, you will have a better idea of how long cookies of this size at the temperature you have set your oven will take to bake. This technique requires sampling of the product to assure that you are doing the job right. (One can always find excuses for tasting the product.)
If you have children to entertain or you like to hang Christmas cut-out cookies on the tree, you may want to try my spicy cut-out cookies. These are particularly tasty, decorate well, and freeze beautifully. When my three children were of an age to prefer going to the Christmas tree to select a cookie for dessert, I kept most of the cookies for the tree in the freezer, already strung with yarn loops for hanging. Then when the tree began to look a bit bare or someone could not find the shape cookie he or she wanted, we could restock with fresh cookies and keep staling to a minimum. Any sugar cookie recipe will do for this purpose, but I think this cookie is better than any other recipe I have tried.
Mikie’s Christmas Cut-Out Cookies
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup dark molasses
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
Method: Cream together with an electric mixer brown sugar, molasses, and shortening until mixture is light and well combined. Sift together (these days I usually just stir them together) the remaining dry ingredients. Alternately with buttermilk beat these into the sugar mixture. Halfway through this process, add the vinegar. This seems to improve this dough’s rollability. When dough is ready, you may wish to chill it for a few minutes to make it easier to handle. Roll all or part of the dough to about a quarter-inch thickness. Working from the edges in toward the center, press cookie cutters into dough. Carefully clear away dough between the edge of the cutter and the edge of the rolled dough. You can usually gently pick up the cutout and transfer it to an ungreased cookie sheet. As you work, be sure you leave an inch or so between cookies to allow for expansion as they rise during baking.
Before sliding cookie sheets into a preheated 375-degree oven, make a little hole near the top of each cookie with the tip of a skewer or clean tapestry needle. The hole should be a bit larger than you will need to thread the yarn through, because, as the cookie rises, it will decrease the size of the hole. Even if it closes up, you can usually slip a tapestry needle threaded with yarn through the place where the hole used to be. Organize the cookies so that larger ones are together; they will take longer to bake. These cookies take from ten to fifteen minutes.
Frosting holiday cookies is the part that children always remember with delight and parents usually with somewhat less enthusiasm. The simple truth is that for best color results you should try to have someone with enough vision to judge color decide when enough food coloring has been added. If you chill the food coloring, you can feel the drops more accurately, but I am never sure when I have added enough. Remember that children will always think that the colors should be darker than adults find appropriate.
I usually frost these cookies with confectionery sugar with about two tablespoons of softened margarine added to each cup of sugar. I stir with a fork to mix the two and then gradually add milk while continuing to stir until frosting is of spreading consistency. If you add too much milk, throw in a bit more sugar.
I divide the frosting into three bowls. I add red to one bowl and green to another. The third I leave white. I then assign one spatula to each bowl and locate them in different parts of the kitchen or table lined with newspapers covered by paper toweling. I divide the cookies, putting a stack beside each bowl. The children can move from bowl and spatula to bowl and spatula. The only rule is that no one can mix up the spatulas. This protects you a bit from frosting the cookies with mud-brown icing. Allow the cookies to dry thoroughly before tying on loops, stacking, and freezing any that are not consumed or given away immediately.
Yet no matter how efficient you are, baking cookies inevitably takes longer than making bar cookies, particularly if children are helping. Brownies are probably the all-time favorite bar cookie. I have probably made thousands of pans of brownies over the years. I occasionally try a new recipe, but I always come back to the one I found in the Better Homes and Gardens Dessert Cookbook forty years ago. Doubling it makes a thirteen-by-nine-inch panful. These brownies also freeze well if you by some miracle have any left over.
1 stick butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1-ounce squares unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional
Method: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat well with an electric mixer. When sugar has pretty well dissolved and mixture is very light, add eggs, beating well after each. Meanwhile melt chocolate in a glass measuring cup in microwave. When the eggs are well incorporated, add vanilla, then pour melted chocolate into mixture. Do not worry about cleaning out the cup. Pour the measured flour into the mostly empty chocolate cup. Stir it around with a fork or even your fingers. The chocolate will adhere to the flour. Using the flour to sop up the remaining melted chocolate, you can completely clean the glass cup and get every speck of chocolate into the brownies as you add the flour and beat batter until flour is completely incorporated; do not over-beat. (You can pour vanilla into a wide-mouth jar, and measure it accurately using a metal measuring spoon that you have bent to form a right angle. Dipping such a modified spoon into a pool of liquid enables you to measure the amount accurately. I usually pour directly from the bottle past my clean finger to estimate the amount required.)
Pour batter into a greased eight-by-eight-inch pan and bake for thirty-five minutes. Edges will begin to pull away from the pan when the brownies are done. The center should not quiver when the pan is gently shaken. Allow brownies to cool completely on rack before cutting and serving. If you are doubling this recipe, the baking time will be almost forty-five minutes.
One of the nicest and easiest holiday gifts you can give, assuming that you are already baking for your own family, is to make up small trays of holiday treats on decorative disposable plates. If you really want to impress the neighbors, add homemade chocolate truffles to your trays. These are even more spectacular than fudge, and they are incredibly easy to make, even if a bit messy. Here is my recipe:
Miss Whozit Truffles
1 cup heavy or whipping cream
1/2 cup Chambord or Grand Marnier
24 ounces German’s sweet chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted butter
Method: Subdue the impulse to substitute lower-calorie or less expensive ingredients. In a heavy pan reduce the cream to a half cup. I let the cream boil hard for a few minutes. When I think it may be reduced by half, I place a half-cup measuring cup in the center of a high-sided cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. I slowly and carefully pour the cream into the cup, trying to stop pouring just as the liquid reaches the top of the cup. If a little overflows, I can pour it back into the pan from the tray, which is going to hold the finished truffles. Assuming that I stop in time, I can then cautiously check with a quickly moving finger to see if cream is still collected at the bottom edge of the tipped pan. If it is, I pour the half cup of cream back into the pan and continue boiling it until I have just a half cup. If you go a bit too far, you can dribble a bit of water into the cup to make up the volume. After all, boiling is done only to drive off water from the cream. But watch the process carefully. I have managed to let the pan boil dry. This is not a good idea.
When the cream has been reduced, drop the heat to low and add the liqueur and break the chocolate into the pan. Whisk gently till the mixture is smooth. Then whisk in the butter. When mixture is homogeneous, pour it into the waiting, large, flat pan to cool completely. When it is room temperature, refrigerate it until it is firm.
Using a teaspoon, scoop up amounts the size of the truffles you wish to make and quickly form the chocolate into rough balls. They will begin to melt almost as soon as you touch them, so don’t worry about getting them smooth. Return them to the refrigerator to chill until firm again. Line a container with waxed paper or plastic wrap. Working quickly with small groups of truffles, smooth each truffle into a ball and roll in cocoa. Place each in the container. You may have to return everything to the fridge several times to chill again before you finish this process. But, when you are done, you will have a collection of incredibly rich candies to tuck among your brownies and cookies.
I could go on for hours describing the recipes I give as gifts in holiday seasons. I have not mentioned the Swedish coffee bread or sticky buns or German stollen that our friends and neighbors look forward to each year. With great restraint I have resisted writing out the recipe for white fruitcake with brandy that I give the Maurers and Mrs. Jernigan each Thanksgiving. This moist, fragrant cake filled with fruit and nuts bears no resemblance to the dry, cardboardy confection that gives fruitcake such a bad name.
Whoever you are and whatever you bake, I hope that your holiday season this year is filled with good cheer, good company, and good food.
by Lauren McLarney
From the Editor: Every December we publish the Social Security figures that have been announced for the coming year. Here is the 2011 information as prepared by Lauren McLarney of the NFB Governmental Affairs Department:
Once again we toast the passing of the old year while awaiting the new one. Along with the inevitable best-of lists and retrospectives, this passing of time is accompanied by annual adjustments to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Medicare programs. The changes traditionally include new tax rates, higher exempt earnings amounts, and SSDI and SSI cost-of-living increases, as well as alterations to deductible and coinsurance requirements under Medicare. Below are the updated facts for 2011.
FICA and Self-Employment Tax Rates: The FICA tax rate for employees and their employers remains unchanged at 7.65 percent. This rate includes payments to the Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Fund of 6.2 percent and an additional 1.45 percent payment to the Hospital Insurance (HI) Trust Fund, from which payments under Medicare are made. Self-employed people continue to pay a Social Security tax of 15.3 percent, which includes 12.4 percent paid to the OASDI Trust Fund and 2.9 percent paid to the HI Trust Fund.
Ceiling on Earnings Subject to Tax: During 2010 the ceiling on taxable earnings for contributions to the OASDI Trust Fund was $106,800. For 2011 the maximum amount of taxable earnings remains unchanged. All earnings are taxed for the HI Trust Fund.
Social Security Disability Insurance
For the second consecutive year there will be no cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for 2011, resulting in rates, benefits, and exempt earnings amounts unchanged from 2010.
Quarters of Coverage: Eligibility for Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (RSDI) benefits is partially based on the number of quarters of coverage earned by any individual during periods of work. Anyone may earn up to four quarters of coverage in a single year. During 2010 a Social Security quarter of coverage was credited for earnings of $1,120 in any calendar quarter. Anyone who earned $4,480 in 2010 (regardless of when the earnings occurred during the year) received four quarters of coverage. Because of the decrease in the national average wage index, these amounts will not increase for 2011. Therefore, in 2011 a Social Security quarter of coverage will be credited for earnings of $1,120 during a calendar quarter. Four quarters will be earned with annual earnings of $4,480.
Trial Work Period Limit: The amount of earnings required to use a trial work month is subject to annual increases based on changes in the national average wage index. In 2010 the amount was $720. Because of the decrease in the national average wage index, this amount will remain unchanged at $720 in 2011. In cases of self-employment, a trial work month can also be used if a person works more than eighty hours, and this limitation on hours worked will not change unless expressly adjusted.
Exempt Earnings: The monthly earnings exemption referred to as Substantial Gainful Activity for blind people who receive disability insurance benefits was $1,640 of gross earned income during 2010. In 2011 earnings of $1,640 or more a month, before taxes, for a blind SSDI beneficiary will continue to indicate Substantial Gainful Activity once any unearned (or subsidy) income is subtracted and all deductions for impairment-related work expenses are applied. The figure for 2011 has not changed. Just as in 2010, no COLA will be received.
Social Security Benefit Amounts: Again, the Social Security Administration announced that no cost-of-living increase will be applied to benefits paid in 2011.
Supplemental Security Income
Standard SSI Benefit Increase: Beginning January 2011, the federal payment amounts for SSI individuals and couples are as follows: individuals, $674 a month; SSI couples, $1,011 a month. These amounts are the same as the 2010 levels.
Student Earned Income Exclusion: The Student Earned Income Exclusion is generally adjusted each year, but, because of the absence of a COLA, the exclusion remains unchanged in 2011. In 2010 the monthly amount was $1,640, and the maximum yearly amount was $6,600. The SSI program applies strict asset (resource) limits of $2,000 for individuals and $3,000 for SSI couples, which can be changed only by Congress.
The Department of Health and Human Services has not announced the deductibles, coinsurance amounts, and premiums for 2011, but follow developments in the Braille Monitor to remain current on those data. Below are the known facts for 2011:
Medicare Deductibles and Coinsurance: Medicare Part A coverage provides hospital insurance to most Social Security beneficiaries. The coinsurance payment is the charge that the hospital makes to a Medicare beneficiary for any hospital stay. Medicare then pays the hospital charges above the beneficiary's coinsurance amount.
The Part A coinsurance amount charged for hospital services within a benefit period of not longer than sixty days was $1,100 in 2010. From the sixty-first day through the ninetieth day, the daily coinsurance amount was $275 a day. Each Medicare beneficiary has sixty lifetime reserve days that may be used after a ninety-day benefit period has ended. Once used, these reserve days are no longer available after any benefit period. The coinsurance amount to be paid during each reserve day used in 2010 is $550. The 2011 coinsurance amounts for services covered by Part A have not yet been announced.
Part A of Medicare pays all covered charges for services in a skilled nursing facility for the first twenty days following a three-day in-hospital stay within a benefit period. From the twenty-first day through the one hundredth day in a benefit period, the Part A coinsurance amount for services received in a skilled nursing facility was $137.50 in 2010. There has been no indication whether this amount will increase in 2011.
Most Social Security beneficiaries have no monthly premium charge for Medicare Part A coverage. Those who become ineligible for SSDI cash benefits can continue to receive Medicare Part A coverage premium-free for at least ninety-three months after the end of a trial work period. After that time the individual may purchase Part A coverage. The premium rate for this coverage during 2010 was $461 a month. Again, it has not yet been announced whether this premium will increase in 2011. The Braille Monitor will publish the 2011 Medicare Part A coinsurance amounts and premiums as soon as the information is made public.
In 2010 the Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductible was $155. This is an annual deductible amount. The Medicare Part B monthly premium rate charged to each new beneficiary or to those beneficiaries who directly pay their premiums quarterly for 2010 was $110.50 a month. It has not been announced whether this deductible will increase in 2011. For those receiving Social Security benefits, this premium payment is deducted from your monthly benefit check. Individuals who remain eligible for Medicare but are not receiving Social Security benefits because of working, must directly pay the Part B premium quarterly—one payment every three months. Like the Part A premiums mentioned above, Part B is also available for at least ninety-three months following the Trial Work Period assuming an individual wishes to have it and, when not receiving SSDI, continues to make quarterly premium payments.
Although there is no COLA for 2011, there is still a possibility that the Medicare Part B premium will increase. If the Medicare Part B premium does increase in 2011, the law contains a “hold harmless” provision that will protect more than 70 percent of beneficiaries from paying a higher premium. This provision is meant to protect beneficiaries from a reduction in net Social Security benefits that could occur when an increase in Medicare Part B premiums occurs without any change in benefits. According to the Social Security Administration, those not protected by the “hold harmless” provision include higher income beneficiaries subject to an income-adjusted Part B premium and beneficiaries newly entitled to Part B in 2011. The 20 percent of beneficiaries that have their Medicare Part B premiums paid by state medical assistance programs will see no change in their net benefits because the state will be required to pay any premium increases, should they occur. The Braille Monitor will publish the 2011 Medicare Part B premium as soon as the information is made public.
Programs That Help with Medicare Deductibles and Premiums: Low-income Medicare beneficiaries may qualify for help with payments. Assistance is available through two programs—the QMB (Qualified Medicare Beneficiary program) and the SLMB (Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary program). For the QMB program an individual’s income cannot exceed 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, also called the Federal Poverty Level. Individuals qualify for the SLMB program when income is greater than 100 percent, but less than 120 percent, of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The 2010 guidelines were delayed because of legislative action and then published with Alaska and Hawaii having higher amounts than are applicable to forty-eight of the fifty states and the District of Columbia. The 2011 guidelines are expected to be published in late January.
Under the QMB program states are required to pay the Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance) premiums, deductibles, and coinsurance expenses for Medicare beneficiaries who meet the program's income and resource requirements. Under the SLMB program states pay only the full Medicare Part B monthly premium. Eligibility for the SLMB program may be retroactive for up to three calendar months.
Both the QMB and SLMB programs are administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in conjunction with the states. The rules vary from state to state, but the following can be said: Resources, such as bank accounts or stocks, may not exceed $4,000 for one person or $6,000 for a family of two. Resources are generally things you own. However, not everything is counted. The house you live in, for example, doesn't count; and generally one car also doesn't count.
If you qualify for assistance under the QMB program, you will not have to pay:
If you qualify for assistance under the SLMB program, you will be responsible for the payment of all of the items listed above except for the monthly Part B premium, depending on your circumstances.
If you think you qualify but you have not filed for Medicare Part A, contact Social Security to find out if you need to file an application. Further information about filing for Medicare is available from your local Social Security office or Social Security's toll-free number (800) 772-1213.
Remember that only your state can decide if you are eligible for help from the QMB or SLMB program and also that the income and resource levels listed here are general guidelines with some states choosing greater amounts. Therefore, if you are elderly or disabled, have low income and very limited assets, and are a Medicare beneficiary, contact your state or local Medicaid office (referred to in some states as the Public Aid Office or the Public Assistance Office) to apply. For more information about either program, call the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on its toll-free telephone number (800) 633-4227, or go online to <http://www.cms.hhs.gov/ContactCMS>.
This month’s recipes have been contributed by members of the Writers’ Division.
Cherry Jell-O with Cream Cheese Topping
by April Lynn Enderton
April Lynn Enderton is the president of the Des Moines chapter of the NFB of Iowa, first vice president of the Iowa affiliate, and first vice president of the Writers' Division. She enjoys writing, reading, and Brailling books for children; preparing favorite family recipes; and giggles at the family mealtime motto, "Holler, reach, or starve."
2 packages cherry Jell-O
2 cups boiling water
1 can cherry pie filling
Method: Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water and stir in cherry pie filling. Pour into 9-by-13-inch pan and chill.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 package Dream Whip
Method: Prepare Dream Whip according to package directions. Beat together cream cheese and powdered sugar; fold into prepared Dream Whip. Spread over set Jell-O.
Salmon Stir Fry with Apricots
by Lori Stayer
Lori Stayer helped found the Writers' Division in 1982 and has been primary or staff editor for the quarterly publication, Slate and Style, since its inception. Currently she teaches a class in autobiographical writing for seniors. Since 1974 she has missed only one NFB national convention.
1/2 yellow squash or zucchini
Handful green beans or snap peas
3 or 4 large mushrooms
1 stalk celery
8 dried apricots
4 ounces fresh or frozen salmon
Fresh lemon or lime juice
Garlic powder to taste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Method: Chop or slice ingredients through apricots on the list. Cube the salmon. In a hot nonstick skillet with a few drops of vegetable oil, stir-fry onions and add mushrooms, squash, beans or peas, celery, and apricots. Sprinkle salmon with lemon or lime juice and garlic powder and add to the pan about five minutes before the vegetables are cooked tender crisp. Season with soy sauce. Total cooking time should be twenty to twenty-five minutes. Vegetables may be chopped ahead. Thinly sliced sweet potatoes or carrots may be substituted for some of the vegetables. If you double the recipe for a larger group, you will need a second skillet. Don't be tempted to leave out the apricots. They're a significant ingredient. Serve over rice.
by Robert Gardner
Bob Gardner is on the Writers' Division board, second vice president of the NFB of Illinois, and president of the Blackhawk Chapter in northwest Illinois. He writes fiction and some articles and has been published in the Braille Monitor and a Kernel Book.
1 packet graham crackers
½ pound (1 stick) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pecans, chopped
6 to 7 Hershey bars
A few chocolate chips
Method: Generously spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with Graham crackers. In a medium saucepan bring sugar and butter to boil and cook stirring for two minutes. Add chopped pecans. Remove pan from heat and pour contents over graham crackers. Bake for ten minutes in a preheated 350-degree oven. Remove pan from oven and arrange Hershey bars over surface. Fill in empty spaces with chocolate chips. Return to oven for one to two minutes to melt chocolate. Cut into bars while still warm.
by Jim Canaday
Jim Canaday is the president of the Jayhawk Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of Kansas. He blogs on his local newspaper's Website, writes articles about writing and other subjects, and is currently increasing his collection of fiction offerings. He submitted this low-carb recipe based on his own diet. He walks, dog and cane in hand, along the Kansas River Levee.
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef
1 cup rolled oats such as Quaker
2 cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope onion soup mix (plain or mushroom)
1 soup can whole milk
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon dried basil
10 garlic cloves, sliced thin
Approximately 1/4 cup catsup
Extra milk if needed
Sprinkles of paprika and basil
1 rib celery, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 or 2 sweet onions, chopped
5 large mushrooms, chopped
1 Anaheim, banana, and/or jalapeno pepper may be added if desired
1 can green chilies, drained
Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Crack eggs, breaking yolks, into a very large bowl. Add soups, milk, and spices. Mix well. Add meat and mix thoroughly. There should be no lumps. Add vegetables, then oats. Mix well and add extra milk if necessary to bind the loaf together. Spread loaf in a 9-by-13-inch pan generously sprayed with cooking spray. Top with catsup and sprinkles of paprika and basil. Bake in center of oven for about 80 minutes. Remove from oven when a knife comes out clean. Use drippings at sides and corners of pan as sauce on top of the loaf. Serve as three to four low-carb meals or six to eight meat dishes with other sides.
Mac and Cheese Plus
by Marilyn Brandt Smith
Marilyn Brandt Smith wrote for the Voice of the Diabetic and edited the disability anthology Behind Our Eyes. Her poetry and flash fiction often find homes in online publications. She spoke at the 1964 NFB national convention about her experiences as the first blind Peace Corps volunteer.
1 pound ground beef
2 regular boxes or 1 family-size box of Kraft or equivalent macaroni and cheese
1 can condensed cream of celery soup
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 16-ounce can or 2 cups frozen green beans
Method: Brown and drain ground beef and set aside. Prepare macaroni and cheese according to package directions. Place in a three-quart casserole dish. Mix in soups, green beans, and reserved ground beef. Cover and cook at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
by Nancy Scott
Nancy Scott, essayist and poet, is a past president and resource editor for the Writers’ Division. Ordinarily we do not reprint poetry, but it seemed appropriate to make an exception and include this offering.
Can creation bring
More pleasure than consumption?
Only the cook knows.
News from the Federation Family
Working Together for Student Programs and Braille Literacy:
Sean Whalen of the national student division recently sent us the following information:
The National Association of Blind Students (NABS) invites you to participate in an exciting fundraising effort to help students and promote literacy for all blind people. Our second annual Pennies for Pages event is being run in conjunction with the NFB’s Braille Readers Are Leaders contest. We believe that this fundraiser has a lot of potential, however, in order to realize it, we need help from all of you.
This is how it works. Students, or anybody else who is interested in helping to raise money for Braille literacy and our national and state student divisions, can sign up to participate in the Braille Readers Are Leaders program and then solicit donations from friends, family, or anyone else for Braille pages read for the duration of the contest. Donations of fixed sums are also gratefully accepted.
If you are already participating in either the K-12 or adult Braille Readers Are Leaders contests, you can simply register with NABS as a reader and find people to sponsor you for each page you read. To register as a reader with NABS, please fill out the online form at <www.nabslink.org/pennies_for_pages/pennies_form.php>, or contact Sean Whalen at <[email protected]> or (608) 332-4147.
If you are not yet signed up for the contest, no worries. The reading contest runs from November 1, 2010, through January 4, 2011, and registration for Braille Readers Are Leaders is open now and will remain open for the duration of the contest. To register for either the K-12 or adult Braille Readers Are Leaders Contests, go to <www.nfb.org/bral>. And remember, once you have registered for the contest, sign up with NABS to participate in our Pennies for Pages fundraising effort.
Register Now for Youth Slam 2011:
The following announcement comes from Mary Jo Hartle, director of education at the Jernigan Institute.
In the summer of 2011 the National Federation of the Blind will conduct its third NFB Youth Slam, a five-day experiential academy focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Whether or not science or technology is your thing, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Learn the science behind building apps for your iPod, use cutting-edge equipment and technology to determine reactions in chemistry labs, build robots, or learn how to use nonvisual techniques to perform a real dissection. We guarantee this summer program will be like no other you’ve ever attended.
While staying on a college campus, blind high school students will be mentored by blind adults as they participate in hands-on activities that will show them that STEM fields are possible as future careers. In addition students and mentors will take part in a variety of social events throughout the week. Come to the NFB Youth Slam and meet other blind and low-vision high school students from all over the United States.
If you are interested in attending the NFB Youth Slam either as a student participant or as an adult volunteer, visit <www.blindscience.org> to complete an online application, or call Mary Jo Hartle at (410) 659-9314, ext. 2407. Join us as we continue to make history at what promises to be the best NFB Youth Slam yet.
2011 NFB Writing Contest:
The annual youth and adult writing contests sponsored by the NFB Writers’ Division will open January 1 and close April 1, 2011. Adult contests (poetry, fiction, and nonfiction) are open to entrants eighteen and over. The youth contests are all about Braille, and all poetry and fiction entries must be submitted in Braille. The age groups are first through sixth grades, seventh and eighth grades, and ninth through twelfth grades.
Contest prizes range from $25 to $100 for adults and from $5 to $25 for youth categories. All contest winners will be announced at the Writers’ Division business meeting during the NFB national convention in Orlando, Florida, the first week of July 2011. In addition, shortly after convention a list of winners’ names will appear on the Writers’ Division Website. The names of first-, second-, and third-place winners in each category will appear in the summer and fall issues of the Writers’ Division magazine, Slate and Style.
For additional contest details and submission guidelines, go to the Writers’ Division Website, <www.nfb-writers-division.org>. If you have questions, contact NFB Writers' Division President Robert Leslie Newman, email: <[email protected]>.
At its convention held October 22 and 23, 2010, The NFB of Rhode Island elected the following officers to serve two-year terms: president, Grace Pires; vice president, John Pimentel; secretary, Rick Costa; treasurer, Anthea Cabral; and board members, Robert Pires and Jennifer Aberdeen.
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.
Blind People Perceive Touch Faster than Those with Sight:
In late October we received the following press release from the Society of Neuroscience:
Study Suggests Brain May Adapt to Vision Loss by Increasing Speed of Tactile Perception
People who are blind from birth are able to detect tactile information faster than people with normal vision, according to a study in the October 27 issue of Journal of Neuroscience. The brain requires a fraction of a second to register a sight, sound, or touch. In this study a group of researchers led by Daniel Goldreich, PhD, of McMaster University explored whether people who have a special reliance on a particular sense—in the way blind people rely on touch—would process that sense faster.
“Our findings reveal that one way the brain adapts to the absence of vision is to accelerate the sense of touch,” Goldreich said. “The ability to process nonvisual information quickly probably enhances the quality of life of blind individuals who rely to an extraordinary degree on the nonvisual senses.”
The authors tested the tactile skills of eighty-nine people with sight and fifty-seven people with various levels of vision loss. The volunteers were asked to discern the movements of a small probe that was tapped against the tips of their index fingers. Both groups performed the same on simple tasks, such as distinguishing small taps versus stronger taps. But when a small tap was followed almost instantly by a larger and longer-lasting vibration, the vibration interfered with most participants’ ability to detect the tap—a phenomenon called masking. However, the twenty-two people who had been blind since birth performed better than both people with vision and people who had become blind later in life.
“We think interference happens because the brain has not yet completed the neural processing required to fully perceive the tap before the vibration arrives and disrupts it,” Goldreich said. “The more time between the tap and the vibration, the more formed the perception of the tap will be, and the less interference the vibration will cause.”
The authors measured the minimum amount of time needed for participants to perceive sensory input by varying the period between the tap and the vibration. They found that congenitally blind people required shorter periods than anyone else. Those same individuals also read Braille fastest. The authors note that each blind person’s perception time was approximately equal to the average time that person took to move a finger from one Braille character to the next as they read.
The findings suggest that early-onset blindness leads to faster perception of touch. However, whether that advantage is due to the brain’s adapting to the absence of vision—a change called plasticity—or to a lifetime of practicing Braille is still unclear.
Richard Held, PhD, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an expert in the brain and visual development who was unaffiliated with the study, said the results suggest that a lack of visual experience changes how information acquired by touch is processed. “The heightened skill of tactile integration seems to account for the remarkable speed of Braille-reading demonstrated by some congenitally blind individuals,” Held said. “This work constitutes a solid step forward in our understanding of the interaction between senses.”
The research was supported by the National Eye Institute and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council in Canada. The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of more than 40,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system. Goldreich can be reached at <[email protected]>.
Middle School Essay Contest:
Lions Clubs International offers an essay contest for visually impaired students who were eleven, twelve, or thirteen years of age on November 15, 2010. One grand prize winner will receive an award and $5,000. If the student is able to travel, Lions Clubs International will provide accommodations and round-trip travel expenses to Seattle, Washington, for the winner and one parent to accept the award from International President Sid L. Scruggs, III, at the Lions International Convention, June 29 to July 3, 2011.
The theme for the essay is “Power of Peace.” Each essay must be submitted with a completed entry form. Essays must be no longer than 500 words, submitted in English, typewritten in black ink, and double-spaced.
A Lions Club must sponsor each participant. If students in your school or organization would like to participate, you must contact your local Lions Club. You can find information about the nearest club on the Lions Clubs International Website at <www.lionsclubs.org>. You will see a link to “Find a Club,” or you can simply keyword search “find a club” in the search box. Once again, please note that a school or organization cannot submit entries directly but must work with its local Lions Club.
Braille Alphabet Bracelet Wins Design Award:
The Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum presented its fifth People’s Design Award to the Braille alphabet bracelet Thursday, October 14, at its eleventh annual National Design Awards gala in New York. White House Deputy Social Secretary Ebs Burnough and fashion designer Cynthia Rowley announced the winning design and presented the award to Leslie Ligon, designer of At First Sight Braille Jewelry.
On the bracelet the Braille letters of the alphabet circle the wrist. The bracelet is composed of Braille-cell-shaped silver rectangles, each cell including large, raised silver dots, making one Braille letter. Between the cells are narrow silver bars, and a wider bar links the Z and the A. On the inside of the bracelet are incised and black print lower-case letters that correspond to the Braille letters on the outside. No clasp is visible.
To draw awareness to Braille literacy, Leslie Ligon designed the Braille Alphabet Bracelet as a simple way to learn the system. At First Sight Braille Jewelry you’ll find thoughtfully designed Braille jewelry, as well as information about the Ligon family and why Leslie does what she does. Order by emailing her at <[email protected]> or call (214) 675-4061 to place an order.
New Book Available:
Michael Hingson writes as follows:
At this year’s national convention I announced that I was writing a book about my 9-11 experiences and about my life lessons in general. Since July we have found a publisher, signed a contract, and written the first draft of the manuscript.
I am writing to let everyone know that the book has just become available for pre-order on Amazon.com. You can visit my Website, <www.michaelhingson.com>, in the weeks ahead to learn more about the book. You can also visit Amazon.com to place an order. We are excited about this project because it will help people understand blindness better, and we hope readers of Thunder Dog will come to have more positive attitudes about what it really means to be blind.
Marching Orders for Making Washington Seminar Hotel Reservations:
The following information comes from Diane McGeorge, who organizes much of the logistics of Washington Seminar. The event begins Monday, January 31, 2011, and ends Thursday, February 3. The great Gathering-In-Meeting is Monday at 5:00.
Please make your hotel reservations as soon as possible. We must have all reservations no later than December 30, 2010. Here is the information you must include to make your hotel reservations:
1. Your dates of arrival and departure.
2. First and last names of roommates sharing with you. Please spell first and last names of each person in the room, and please include arrival and departure dates for each person.
3. Specify smoking or nonsmoking room and the number of beds you want—two beds, one queen bed, or one king bed.
4. Indicate any special accommodations such as an accessible room.
5. If you request a rollaway bed, there will be a $10 charge per night.
6. According to the hotel contract, individual cancellations must be made seventy-two hours before the date of arrival to avoid one night’s room plus tax cancellation charge. You must get in touch with Lisa Bonderson or me to make changes to your reservation as soon as possible to avoid such a charge.
7. If any divisions wish to have space for meetings, contact me right away.
8. The rates are $164 for single, double, triple, or quad rooms, and the tax is 14.5 percent a night. The address of the Holiday Inn Capitol is 550 C Street, SW. Please do not contact the hotel to make your reservations. I will submit all reservations for the Washington Seminar. Call (303) 778-1130, ext. 219, to make your reservation, or email reservations to Lisa Bonderson at <[email protected]>. We will confirm receipt of your reservation either by return email or by telephone, so be sure to give us your telephone number and your email address.
My friends, let’s gather in Washington and make history.
The notices in this section have been edited for clarity, but we can pass along only the information we were given. We are not responsible for the accuracy of the statements made or the quality of the products for sale.
I have the following items for sale: Braille 'n Speak (carrying case is worn out), in good working order, June 2003 revision, asking $200; Braille 'n Speak disk drive accessory in good working order, asking $125; Book Port (not Book Port Plus) in good working order, asking $50. For additional information contact Rick Boggess at <[email protected]>.
Selling VoiceNote mPower with a QWERTY keyboard with standard laptop-style keyboard. Also includes the carrying case with shoulder strap; Keysoft version 7.0, installed on the unit; Keysoft version 7.0 CD-ROM; AC power adaptor; regular print user's guide; electronic version of the user's guide installed on the VoiceNote itself; large-print command summary; audio tutorial CD; headphones; nine-pin serial cable; and a nine-to-twenty-five-pin adaptor plug. The unit was purchased in 2006 and has been used only two or three times. It's in like-new condition. Asking $750 or best offer. Willing to negotiate. Contact Stacy at <[email protected]> or (708) 359-3301.
Never-used Pro 60 Braille Embosser. Features 40-character-wide embossing line and 60-character-per-second speed. It also includes two other standard features: single-sheet tractors and ET Speaks, its innovative speech system. Juliet Pro 60's standard features include regular (12.5 dots per inch) and high-resolution (17 DPI) graphics, dynamic Braille scaling for different Braille sizes (even within a document), ET Speaks for automatic speech feedback as you use your Juliet Pro 60. Single-sheet tractors let you emboss up to twenty-two lines on eleven-inch nontractor paper (such as letterhead or other special media) by hand-feeding one sheet at a time through the embosser, six- or eight-dot Braille, and multi-copies up to ninety-nine copies of a document. Measures 24.63 inches wide by 11.5 inches deep, and 8.63 inches high. It weighs 51 pounds. Machine typically sells for $4,600, but I am selling it for $3,800 or best offer. Free shipping within the United States. For more information email me at <[email protected]>.
NFB PledgeI 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.