Braille Monitor                                                 December 2010

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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 <>, 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 <>. 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 <> 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, <>. 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.

In Brief

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

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 <>. 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:
Award-winning Braille alphabet braceletThe 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 You can visit my Website, <>, in the weeks ahead to learn more about the book. You can also visit 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.

Monitor Mart

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.

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]>.

For Sale:
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.

For Sale:
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 Pledge

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

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